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Job 42:1-6 – Job Accepts His Limits and Will Not Continue to Protest

Summary

After God's speeches, Job seems reluctant to continue his complaints. His direct confrontation with God has caused him to stop asking unanswerable questions and to reject what he has been saying about God's justice.

Analysis

This short section between God's speeches and the final narrative (42:7-17) is very important for understanding what Job thinks and feels after experiencing all that is recorded in the book. He was wealthy and privileged, he had terrible calamities in his life, his friends came with unhelpful explanations for his suffering, and, finally, God appeared and talked to him in a way quite different from the way he and his friends had posed the questions. So what does Job think after all of this? Has he discarded some old ideas? Is he satisfied? Does he still trust God, or is he just pouting because it is useless to take on God in a serious argument?

The usual interpretation of this passage is that Job realizes it is fruitless to ask questions that are beyond human understanding. Further, after God honored him by speaking to him directly, his relationship with God has been restored and he can live with uncertainty, because he now can trust God again. Some scholars have disputed this conclusion, thinking that Job has decided to shut up but is not happy about it.

There are some problems in understanding verse 6. Why should Job have to repent if, as we know from the prologue, he was innocent and his suffering was not punishment for any sin? The matter is a bit complicated, but one possible solution is to look carefully at the word "repent." This could be read as "to change one's mind." Maybe Job has changed his mind regarding his doubts about God's justice, and he despises and rejects all the terrible things he has said about God's perversion of justice (as in chapter 9).

Job 42:1-6

Job Is Humbled and Satisfied

42Then Job answered the Lord:
2 ‘I know that you can do all things,
   and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?”
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
   things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
4 “Hear, and I will speak;
   I will question you, and you declare to me.”
5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
   but now my eye sees you;
6 therefore I despise myself,
   and repent in dust and ashes.’

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10 February 2011

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