Day 17 of our lockdown (I think; starting to lose count!)
1 And Job answered, saying:
2 “Surely I know that it is so.
But how can humankind be in the right before God?
3 If someone would wish to contend with Him,
he could not answer Him once from a thousand.
4 Wise of heart and mighty of strength!
Who has hardened against Him and gained peace?
5 The One who moves mountains yet they do not know,
who overturns them in His anger.
6 The One who shakes the earth from its place, so its pillars shudder.
7 The One who commands the sun and it does not rise,
And encloses the stars.
8 Stretching out the heavens to Himself,
And treading upon the waves of the sea.
9 He makes Ash, K’sil, Kimah (the Bear, Orion and Pleiades),
and chambers of the southern [sky].
10 He does great things beyond searching,
Marvellous things beyond number.“
- The word “contend” in verse 3 could also mean “contest a lawsuit”. The first stirrings of Job wanting to make a case to God starts with him denying that it’s possible, based on God’s immense strength and wisdom (v4).
- Job rehearses God’s amazing attributes and abilities. What strikes me afresh is how much these descriptions also resonate with what we now know about God’s Son, Jesus: the one who treads upon the waves of the sea (v8, Mark 4), who was present as agent of Creation (Col 1:15-17), and accomplished marvellous things beyond number.
11 “Look, he passes over me but I cannot see,
He goes by, but I cannot fathom him.
12 Look, he snatches, who can turn him back?
Who will say to him, “What are you doing?”
13 God will not turn back his anger,
Under him bowed those who helped Rahab.
14 Indeed how can I answer him?
Let me choose my words with him.
15 Though I am in the right, I cannot answer [Him],
To my accuser I shall plead for mercy.
16 If I summoned him and He answered me,
I would not believe that he was hearing my voice.
17 [He] who with a storm bruises me,
and multiplies my wounds for no reason.
18 He does not let me catch my breath,
But fills me with bitterness.
19 If for strength, behold [Him] the mighty!
If for justice, who can summon Him?”
- Job is saying in verse 11 that — like the mountains that have quaked, God has passed by and shaken his life asunder. But the reasons for it remain elusive to him (and will remain so).
- From verse 14, Job begins to talk about mounting a case against God, to “take him to court” as it were. Notice the range of “justice”-related words (bolded).
- The word for “for no reason” (hinnam) appears here again in verse 17. The main question of the book of Job is whether he loves God hinnam (for no reason), or for the benefits He gives him (1:9). Ironically, here Job says he has been afflicted in the same way.
20 “Though I am in the right, my mouth condemns me;
I am blameless, yet he would declare me twisted.
21 I am blameless, [yet] I know not myself;
I despise my life.
22 It is all the same, so I say:
blameless or wicked, he destroys.
23 When disaster brings death suddenly,
Regarding the calamity of the innocent, he mocks it.
24 The earth is given into the hand of the wicked;
The faces of its judges He covers,
if not – then – who – he?”
- Job is blameless (said twice, literally: “Blameless I am”). But he feels resigned to the fact that it doesn’t make a difference to the suffering God has brought upon him.
- For Job to “despise” his life is similar to what he expressed in chapter 3. In the epilogue, Job will similarly “despise” (himself) and repent in sackcloth and ashes (42:6).
- The last phrase in v24 is so broken up in Hebrew, it’s as if Job couldn’t bear to say it.
25 My days are swifter than a runner,
They flee; they see no good.
26 They go along with ships of reed,
Like an eagle swooping over food.
27 If I say: “Let me forget my complaint,
Let me put off my sad face and be cheerful,”
28 I would become (pf.) afraid of all my sorrow;
I know that you would not hold me innocent.
29 I would be condemned.
Why then in this “hevel” do I work?
30 If I wash myself with snow, and cleanse my hands with lye,
31 Then in a pit you will plunge me,
And my clothes abhor (pf.) me.
32 For He is not a man, as me, [that] I might answer him,
[that] we come together in judgement.
33 There is no arbiter between us,
to lay his hand upon us both.
34 Let him turn away his rod from me,
And let not his dread terrify me.
35 Then would I speak to and not fear him,
But it is not so with me.
- Oh Job. He goes back to pondering his mortality (v25-29). He describes his life as flashing past before his eyes – this time not like a weaver’s shuttle (see 7:6) but like a runner.
- Job concludes that there is no arbiter (or mediator) between him and Yahweh (verse 33), and laments his inability to seek justice. He will return to this theme in future chapters. And we know that, this side of the cross, we have in Jesus the Suffering Servant who is “one mediator between God and man”. Thank God for Easter.