Day 21. Some interesting questions in this chapter so I only made it halfway.
Translation (Job is still speaking):
1 “Look – all [this] my eye has seen,
My ear has heard and understood it.
2 Like your knowledge, I know — I too,
I am not inferior (lit. falling) to you!
3 But I speak to the Almighty, and to argue with God I desire.
- Job is closing off his response to his friends’ first round of speeches (ch12-14). In chapter 12 he waxed lyrical about his observations of God’s sovereignty over creation.
- His speech is emphatic in verse 2 as he insists his knowledge is not inferior to his friends. But He wants to talk to God, not them right now.
- The word inferior is translated from our frequent friend niphal (to fall) – just as calamities fell from above, and Job fell to the ground and mourned (see discussion in chapter 1). The sense here from Job is: “I’ve fallen, but I haven’t fallen so far as to lose my mind yet!”
4 “But you (pl.) are smearers of lies;
healers of worthlessness (lit: idols) are you all!
5 Who would give for you to keep completely silent?“
- I wonder if there is more to “worthless healers/physicians” in verse 4. The Hebrew word for “worthlessness” could also mean idols (see e.g. Lev 19:4, Isaiah 2:8, Ps 97:7). Is Job comparing his friends’ wisdom to the idolatrous advice that pagan doctors and faith healers dispense? That’s not so distant to us in an age of faith healers and prosperity teachers, who prey on our idols of wealth and comfort to sell us false gospels. Perhaps our modern day equivalents to Bildad, Zophar and Eliphaz are Benny, Crefo and Osteen.
- Verse 5, in our vernacular, could be translated: “I wish you would just shut up!” No need to sanitise how hurt Job is right now.
6 “Listen now to my argument,
And to my lip’s contentions give attention.
7 To God would you speak iniquity, and to Him would you speak deceit?
8 Will you lift up His face? Or to God will you contend?
9 Is it good that He searches you?
Or as one deceives a man, can you deceive Him?
10 Surely He will rebuke you (pl.),
If you show partiality [lit: lift up faces].
11 Will not His splendour terrify you (pl.)?
And the dread of Him fall upon you?
12 Your memorised sayings (lit: remembrances) are proverbs of ashes; defences of clay are your defences.“
- Job revives his legal language from verse 6 and press his case.
- Instead of spouting more “wisdom”, Job wants his friends to “listen/hear” (v6).
- He then essentially charges his friends for being more interested in defending God (v8, “lifting up His face”) rather than searching for what’s actually true. Job taunts them to try it and see: surely they will be terrified by God instead (v10-11)
- Job colourfully paints his friends’ advice as “proverbs of ashes” (v12). They sound good, but have no substance. Their words are as sturdy as mud pies in a rising tide.
13 “Be silent with me, and let me speak,
And let whatever pass over me.
14 Why do I take my flesh in my teeth? And my life place in my hand(s)?“
- Having lambasted his friends’ trite words, Job puts his case forward, Though fearful that it could cost him his life to argue against God, Job is willing that “whatever pass over” him.
- Verse 14a is a curious expression (it’s what the Hebrew literally says). Perhaps in his grief he is reaching for self-harm language. Maybe it’s literally describing what he does with his boils — biting his flesh. Maybe he’s evoking the image of being caught like prey in a lion’s jaws (but hard to understand why he does it do himself).
15 “Look, if He slays me, I will not hope (or yet I hope in Him),
Surely I will argue my ways to His face.
16 Furthermore, this to me [is] salvation, for no godless person would go before His face.“
- Verse 15 is popularly read as Job expressing hope and trust amidst God’s sovereignty in his suffering: e.g. Shane and Shane’s “Though You slay me, yet I will trust You”. But it’s more complicated than that. The Hebrew text actually reads: “…I will not hope” (לֹא, lo), but the early scribes have suggested it be read as “I will hope in Him” (לו, also lo). Both sound the same! Does Job lose hope, or does he keep hoping in God? The text could go either way.
- Remember that God hasn’t actually slayed Job — He’s preserved his life. And also remember that Job has just announced he’s about to say some things that might cost Him dearly before God. That’s the context.
- I think in Job’s grief, he says things which are messy and can’t be turned into a systematic theology proof-text about God’s sovereignty.
- When suffering is a riddle (as we saw with the puzzling use of barakh in the prologue) it presses us to keep reading to see whether Job’s wailings will be vindicated. Job is caught between hope and despair as he longs to hear back from God. I think that’s a better way to read verse 15.
- We don’t need to sanitise our friends’ sorrows one way or another, but keep listening to their cries, as doubtful or messy as they seem.
- Job believes “salvation” (v16) comes from having the opportunity to plead his case. But in Christ, we have a greater salvation who has pleaded our hopeless case for us. Because of His despair on the cross, we have real, lasting hope that no one can argue away.