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Job 38:1-18 – God Finally Speaks to Job

Summary

After being silent throughout the dialogues between Job and his friends, God finally speaks to Job out of the whirlwind. God does not answer their questions about Job's guilt or innocence, but rather speaks about the created order and contrasts what God can do with what humans are able to do.

Analysis

All through the book, Job had been hoping for an audience with God. He wanted some answers directly from the Almighty. The explanations from his friends connected his suffering with some sins (known or unknown) that he had committed. Job wants God to straighten this out. If Job is innocent, God should acquit him. If he is guilty, God should tell him what is the offense so that he can confess, change, and maybe end the suffering.

God does not declare Job innocent or guilty. God changes the subject and begins to talk about the wonders of the world that God had created. God formed the earth, set its structure, put bounds to keep the sea under control, created all the heavenly bodies, and even controls the weather. All through this speech, God reminds Job--using what sounds like sarcastic asides--that mere humans could never accomplish all of this.

So, what is the purpose of this creation talk? Job remains in the dark about why he, or any human, should suffer. As often happens, we form questions for God, and when the answer comes, it does not deal directly with the questions that we raised. Perhaps the questions were unanswerable. The most common understanding of God's response is exactly this point. Job and his friends have been trying to answer a question that they can never solve. There are mysteries beyond human comprehension, such as, how to make a world or how to explain suffering. Job is advised to recognize human limits and trust that God will take care of what Job and others cannot know or do.

Further, the creation talk also suggests that one can look for signs of God's work in the created world. The order of seasons, the power of waves and storms, the beauty of trees and flowers and lakes and mountains--all point to a benevolent Creator who made and sustains this world. We can find something about God by looking carefully at the world that God has made.

Job 38:1-18

The Lord Answers Job

38Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
2 ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3 Gird up your loins like a man,
   I will question you, and you shall declare to me.


4 ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
   Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
   Or who stretched the line upon it?
6 On what were its bases sunk,
   or who laid its cornerstone
7 when the morning stars sang together
   and all the heavenly beings* shouted for joy?


8 ‘Or who shut in the sea with doors
   when it burst out from the womb?—
9 when I made the clouds its garment,
   and thick darkness its swaddling band,
10 and prescribed bounds for it,
   and set bars and doors,
11 and said, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
   and here shall your proud waves be stopped”?


12 ‘Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
   and caused the dawn to know its place,
13 so that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth,
   and the wicked be shaken out of it?
14 It is changed like clay under the seal,
   and it is dyed* like a garment.
15 Light is withheld from the wicked,
   and their uplifted arm is broken.


16 ‘Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
   or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
   or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
   Declare, if you know all this.

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10 February 2011

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