“Evil is Make-Believe” – Book of Job p3

Is God intimidating Job?

In Yahweh’s speech, He does not charge Job with any sin that brought about his suffering or try to explain why Job suffered.  He does, however, raise the issue of Job condemning Yahweh in order to justify himself.[1]  One thrust of Yahweh’s speeches is to question Job saying, “Will you even put me in the wrong?  Will you condemn me that you may be justified?” (40:8).  Yahweh’s intimidating questions were designed to point out Job’s status as a created being made by Yahweh and one with limited experience; it was also to broaden his perceptions of his moral world view.[2] 

The Leviathan is the “king of all the beasts” (41:26) who stands against Yahweh.  Since Job claimed Yahweh was not ruling the world to the moral standard Job thought was right, Yahweh pressed Job to begin his moral governance with this primal beast.  Yet Job can’t perform this task any better that those listed in the first speech.  Even though Job cannot, Yahweh can and does master the Leviathan.  The Leviathan and the evil he symbolizes is still alive in the world, but are not removed from Yahweh’s lordship.[3]  

Yahweh does not answer Job’s “why,” but He does assure him that there is no part of this universe out of His control.  Job can’t understand the “why” of human suffering because he does not have an omniscient mind that can comprehend all the complexities of this universe in order to understand the answer. 

Yahweh’s point is that if Job is so small and insignificant, then what makes him think he could understand his own suffering (Isaiah 55:8-9).[4]    However, if Job is assured that nothing is outside of God’s loving control, he can live with his questions unanswered.  Yahweh wants Job to trust Him without having all the answers.[5]

When Yahweh reveals Himself, He does not attempt to justify His ways with Job.  Job raises ethical questions of Yahweh’s judgment and it seems Yahweh only answers Job through intimidation by flexing His muscles.[6]  Lacocque describes Yahweh’s response to Job’s complaints as a “crushing demonstration of power through a divine display of the creation’s wonders.”[7]  Lacocque says this causes Job to undergo yet more aggravation after experiencing calamity, despair, sorrow, and depression.[8]  It seems when Job raises a question about Yahweh’s justice, he is crushed by the reply from the deity. 

Another way of explaining it would be to say that when Yahweh is questioned by Job about his moral decisions, Yahweh diverts Job’s attention from the “moral indefensibility” of His actions by intimidating Job.  It appears that the creature is more concerned with ethics than the Creator.  Job was humbled into submission, forced down rather than reasoned with.  Job answered, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?  I put my hand over my mouth.  I spoke once, but I have no answer— twice, but I will say no more,” (Job 40:4-5).  This raises the question, is Job really able to understand what happened to him, were his questions really answered or did Yahweh merely force Job into submission?[9] 

On some level, it was Yahweh’s intent to humble Job, but Yahweh’s speech was serving another purpose also.[10]  Though the subject of Yahweh’s reply was not ethical in nature, it produced an ethical result.  Job repented saying, “Therefore I have uttered what I do not understand, things too wonderful for me to know,” (42:3).  It is true, Yahweh did not answer any of Job’s questions but that was because Job was asking the wrong questions.  

Instead Yahweh let Job know Him more fully through His creative activity.  Yahweh let Job see who He was by what He has done and continues to do.  Job’s questions about Yahweh’s ways could not be answered satisfactorily until he actually knew Yahweh.  By knowing Yahweh, Job’s perspective changed.  The same is true in a human relationship.  One can more easily accept another’s behavior if they are known to the person rather than just a stranger.  Although Job does not know the “why” of his suffering, he is able to accept his plot because he knows the “who” behind it and knowing the “who” without knowing the “why” leaves room for faith.[11]

[1] D. A. Carson, “Mystery and Faith in Job 38:1-42:16”.  In Sitting with Job:  Selected Studies on the Book of Job, Ed. Roy B. Zuck, (Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1992), 374.

[2] Brown, 90.

[3] Henry Rowold, “Mī hū’ – lī hū’ : Leviathan and Job in Job 41:2-3,” Journal of Biblical Literature 105 no 1 (Mr 1986):  108-109.

[4] Carson, 376.

[5] David McKenna, “God’s Retribution and Job’s Repentance.”  In Sitting with Job:  Selected Studies on the Book of Job, Ed. Roy B. Zuck (Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1992), 403.

[6] William E. Hulme, Dialogue in Dispair:  Pastoral Communication on the Book of Job, (Abingdon Press:  Nashville, 1968), 143-144.

[7] André Lacocque, “The Deconstruction of Job’s Fundamentalism,” Journal of Biblical Literature 126 no 1 (Sp 2007):  83.

[8] Lacocque, 83.  It seems Job’s predictions about how Yahweh would answer Job were correct.  Job predicted Yahweh would answer in a storm (9:16-17).

[9] Hulme, 143-144.

[10] Job referred to himself as a prince (31:37) yet the Leviathan exists as proof to the insignificance of human kings.  Ancient Near Eastern Kings liked to see themselves as hunters, and this text shows no one can hunt the Leviathan, (Mark W. Hamilton, “In the Shadow of Leviathan in the Book of Job,” Restoration Quarterly 45 no 1-2 (2003):  37).  Job was not a prince like he supposed, nor was he a maggot like his friends suggested (25:6) but Yahweh saw him as a man (38:3).

[11] Hulme, 145,146.

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