“Evil is Make-Believe” – Book of Job p2

Basic Structure of Yahweh’s speeches

The reader can see how earlier themes in the book were brought up again in Yahweh’s second speech.  At the beginning of the book (ch. 3) Job curses his birth and by extension creation.  So it is natural that Yahweh’s discourse would also address the theme of creation as He did in His first speech to refute Job’s curse on creation.[1]  Yahweh also uses the Behemoth and the Leviathan in chapters 40-41 as examples for Job to instruct him. 

One can see how Yahweh compares these creatures with Job because the language Yahweh uses to describe these two creatures is very similar to the description of Job.  Yahweh does this because He wants the Behemoth and Leviathan to be “caricatures of Job himself, images put forth not only to put him down, but also to instruct and console.”[2]  If Job is able to see himself in these creatures then he might be more apt to learn what these creatures are able teach him.

A direct link can be seen when Job refers to his lack of strength.  Job says in 6:12-13 says, “Do I have the strength of stone?  Is my flesh bronze?  Do I have any power to help myself, now that success has been driven from me?”  Then the same language is used to talk about the Behemoth’s strength, “What strength he has in his loins, what power in the muscles of his belly! … His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like rods of iron,” (40:16, 18).[3]  One can see how Job’s strength is being compared to the Behemoth by using the same type of speech.  Also, the Leviathan is discussed at length in chapter 40.  But this is not the first time he is mentioned in the book.  He is brought up at the beginning of the book when Job refers to the Leviathan in 3:8 and asks the Leviathan to destroy the day he was born. 

Later on, Job’s speeches are compared to what proceeds from the Leviathan’s mouth.  The Leviathan has flaming torches, smoke, and flames come out of its mouth (40:19-21).  The Leviathan burns everything in his path and no one wants to get in the way of its mouth.  Similarly, Job incinerated his friends’ arguments to ashes, “Your maxims are proverbs of ashes,” (13:12a).  And again he refers to himself and compares his speech to the Leviathan in 7:11-12, “Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.  Am I the sea, or the monster of the deep, that you put me under guard?” 

Also, another comparison can be found in the fact that Job is bold and lacks fear when he speaks contrary to traditional wisdom and orthodox piety.  Similarly, the Leviathan is unique among all the creatures because it also lacks fear (41:33).[4]  Therefore, one can see why Yahweh would use the example of the Behemoth and Leviathan to instruct Job.  Yahweh does not come up with these examples randomly but picks them for the parallels they have with Job.  Job is able to see and identify himself with these creatures and is able to learn from them. 

            The speech of the Leviathan is written in a contrapuntal structure (it is written with a theme and counter-theme in mind).  Yahweh’s speech of the Leviathan can be broken up like this:

Theme A – difficulty in capturing the beast (41:1-3)

Transition –  verse linking invincibility of animal with description of bodily structure (41:4)

Theme B – description of the animal’s body in repose (41:5-17)

Theme A – invincibility of power to cast terror (41:18-21)

Theme B – description of animal in action and movement (41:22-24)

Theme A – unique power and unconquerability of the Leviathan (41:25-29)5]            

Yahweh’s speeches accomplish many things.  They reject Job’s arguments, rebuke his friends, and point to Job’s seeming insignificance in the universe.[6]  When Yahweh answers Job, He does not address Job’s claim of innocence nor does He rebuke Job for some wrongdoing.  Instead He tries to teach Job and open him up to a better understanding of the created order and Yahweh’s care of it.  By understanding Yahweh’s governance of creation, He wants Job to understand his suffering more fully and his place within creation.[7] 

Yahweh’s speech is saying, “you may think you know a great deal, as a matter of fact, you know little and understand even less.”[8]  While this is the main message, the intended outcome is to push Job to surrender his formal complaint of innocence.  This means Job would have to trust his destiny and honor to Yahweh, trusting that Yahweh rules with kindness and justice.  This belief would reverse his claim that Yahweh did not rule with kindness or justice.[9]

[1] William P. Brown, Character in Crisis:  A Fresh Approach to the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1996), 91.  This creation theme is found in Yahweh’s first speech when He asks Job a series of questions about creation but it can also be found in the second speech because the Leviathan was known as a primordial sea creature that Yahweh had to subdue when creating the universe.  When Job spoke to his friends he would commend himself for his personal experience and integrity and so when Yahweh addressed Job he too looked at Job’s experience and character, (Brown, 90).

[2] John G. Gammie, “Behemoth and Leviathan:  On the Didactic and Theological Significance of Job 40:15-41:26,” Israelite Wisdom (1978):  218, 222.

[3] While the Behemoth is a great beast it is no match for the Leviathan.  The Behemoth is described as having “tubes of bronze” for bones and “limbs like bars of iron” (40:18) yet the Leviathan “counts iron as straw, and bronze as rotten wood,” (41:27) (Brown, 101).

[4] Brown, 106.

[5] Robert Gordis, The Book of Job:  Commentary, New Translation, and Special Studies, (New York:  Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1978), 568.

[6] David Neiman, The Book of Job:  A Presentation of the Book with Selected Portions Translated from the Original Hebrew Text, (Peli Printing Works, Israel, 1972), 130.

[7] Hartley, 487-488.

[8] Neiman, 136.

[9] Hartley, 489.

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