Job -
The problem of suffering


In the New Testament, Job is presented as an example for the Christian community - James 5:11 - the steadfastness of Job.

In the book of Job, Job ans his (three) friends are not Israelites.

The sacred name of God is only mentioned once (Job 12:9) in chapters 3-31.

The event’s of Israel history are not referred to.

The book of Job never has recourse to the sacred tradition.

The discussion is being conducted on the level of (international) wisdom - a reader from any background can participate in the discussion.

The problem of retribution in the Bible

Gen 18:22-32 - the questions addressed by Abraham to God;

Jer 12:1-4 - the “confessions” of Jeremiah;

Hab 1:4,13 - why does God use Babylonians as the tool of his wrath?

Psalm 37 and 73

The book of Job and retribution

The author does not attempt to impose the answer.

He looks at the problem from different angles in order to shed as much light as possible on the issue of human suffering and divine justice.

The traditional answer to the question - the sinners suffer and the righteous are blessed - is not applicable to Job (Job 42:7). Moreover, in the case of the suffering of Israel for their sins, the suffering exceeded the guilt (Is 40:2).

But, does it mean that that traditional answer is entirely wrong?

The book ends with a blessing that God lavished upon Job (Job 42:10-17).

After all God rewards Job’s steadfastness.

The prologue

Job 1:1-5 - Job’s piety and prosperity;

Job 1:6-12 - the interview between the Lord and the Satan in the heavenly court;

Job 1:13-19 - the disasters that wipe out Job’s possessions and children;

Job 1:20-22 - Job’s reaction

The prologue

Job 2:1-6 - the second interview between the Lord and the Satan in the heavenly court;

Job 2:7-8 - the affliction of Job’s person;

Job 2:9-13 - Job’s reaction.

The main question

“Does not Job have good reason to fear God?” (Job 1:9).

The adversary questions the motives of Job’s sanctity.

Why is Job blameless and upright?

Why does he fear God and shun evil?

After all God blessed him so much (Job 1:10).

The main question

Is it possible for a human being to be pious and righteous without asking anything in return?

Can we love more the Giver than his gifts?

The Satan doubts it.

The entire book tries to prove him wrong.

The main question

Job is mentioned in Ezek 14:14.

“The Satan” - “Ha Satan” - in Hebrew - one of the “sons of God” (Job 1:6) - means adversary. The noun, but not yet a proper name - seems to indicate his office - a kind of prosecuting attorney, who “roams the whole earth” (Job 1:7).

Does he do it in order to find fault in us and accuse us before God (Rev 12:10)?

He is also mentioned in Zech 3:1; cf. 1 Chron 21:1.

The argument

There are three main point which are interrelated.

Point 1

Human suffering is not necessarily deserved.

Yes, we may bring our own suffering about by neglecting our health or engaging in risky behaviour, by sin or immorality.

But, there are many cases in which someone’s pain, sorrow or distress are not related to anything they have done or failed to do.

This is the point that Job argues against his friends.

Point 2

All suffering is deserved.

If person suffers, the suffering is somehow deserved.

Job’s friends argue that Job is a sinner, deserving his punishment.

But, Job claims that the Lord has acted unfairly and is indifferent to human suffering.

Who is right?

Point 2

It is easier to accept the position of Job’s friends (see Rom 3:23). But, then we undermine the character of Job.

On the other hand, if Job is right than the character of God is being questioned.

Point 3
There is no way of understanding the meaning of suffering.

This is the most difficult point from theological point of view.

At the same time, it gives the book that sense of profundity.

But it also leaves the discussion inconclusive.

Point 3

In the Lord’s argument, the reason for suffering - if there are any - are simply beyond human comprehension.

The problem of suffering shall be taken by the New Testament in Jesus’ passion and the persecution of Christians.

When was the book written?

It is suggested that it was composed in the Persian period (539 - 332 BC).

Ha-satan is used in the book of Zachariah 3 - that was also composed in that period - at least the first Zachariah (1-8).

Job’s wife

She speaks in Job 2:9 - urging Job to “curse God and die!”

But what she actually says is “bless God” which is a euphemism for “curse” - 1 Kings 21:13; Job 1:5.

We do not know her name, but St. Augustine compares Job and his wife to Adam and Eve.

Both men were urged by their wives to transgress, but unlike Adam, Job withstood the test.

The Dialogue - Few Comments

There are three cycles of speech (Job 3-14; 15-21; 22-27).

Job alternates with each of the friends.

The purpose of the dialogue is to develop fully the best thought on the problem of the suffering of a just person.

The friends echo the ideas present for example in Ps 37.

The Dialogue - Few Comments

The dialogue moves from sympathy (Job 4:1-11 - Eliphaz) to accusation against Job (Job 22:1-11 - also Eliphaz).

They accused him of doing away with piety (Job 15:4).

He tells them to better keep silent (Job 13:5) and that lying for the sake of God (Job 13:7-9) is dangerous business.

The three friends lecture Job directly and never speak to God.

Job, on the other hand, often turns from them to address God.

The Dialogue - Few Comments

Job oscillates between despair and ardent faith.

He argues with God,

And even if he cannot find God (Job 23:8-9), he never stops yearning for a confrontation (Job 9:32-35; Job 13:3,16,22; 16:18-22; 31:35-37).

He firmly rejects the indication of his friends that he sinned (Job 22:6-11).

The Dialogue - Few Comments

Thus, he wants to know “why?” And challenges God;

Job 7:12-21 - sarcastically;

Job 10:1-12 - lovingly.

He does not understand but he never gives up on God as his vindicator (or go’el; Job 19:25).

remarkable sentence

Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face. (Job 13:15).
Actually, the first part in Hebrew Bible is interesting. It is written with two versions:

remarkable sentence

“He may well slay me; I may have no hope” (Job 13:15a).

“Though He slay me, yet I will trust in Him” (Job 13:15a).

The difference in Hebrew is between

[ל֣וֹ] - to him - qere - is is read

(לא)- no/ not - kethib - it is written

Two Jobs?

Some biblical scholars speak about “two Jobs”.

1. The Book of Job the Impatient or the one complaining (Job 3:2-26:14);

2. The Book of Job the Patient (Job 27-28).

The friends

Eliphaz - Job is in the wrong.

Job 4:17 and 5:17 - cf Prov 3:11-12.

Job does not accept it (Job 6:14-30; 7:7-21).

The friends

Bildad defends divine justice (Job 8:3, 20).

It will come true at the end of the book.

Job will be vindicated.

The friends

Zophar anticipates God’s speech in Job 38-41.

The mystery of God is higher than the heavens and deeper that Sheol - what can Job do (Job 11:7-8)?

God can offer Job respite only if Job repents of his sinfulness.

Confrontation with God

Job 9:2-20 - here Job sees no advantage in this: one cannot win against God (see Job 9:20).

Job 13:3, 16, 22 - Job insists on arguing his case before God.

Job 16:19-21 - Job speaks about ‘my witness in heaven’ - our thoughts go immediately to Jesus (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25).

My Redeemer Lives

Job 19:25-27 - “my Redeemer lives”. The famous phrase.

Hebrew “Go’el” can be also translated as Vindicator or Avenger. It is a legal term for the person in the family responsible for avenging the murder of other members (Num 35:19; Deut 19:6).

But it also refers to a relative who should take care of a impoverished relative. In the book of Ruth, Boaz is called by Ruth - “Go’el” (Ruth 3:9).

Chapter 3

Job’s lament is similar to Jer 20:14-18.

Job 3:21 - death not wisdom (Prov 2:4) is compared to treasure.

Job 3:23 and Job 1:10 - in both cases, it is God who “fenced” Job.

Eliphaz opens the debate - Job 4:1-5:27

It is interesting to notice that at first Eliphaz stresses Job’s good deeds (Job 4:3-4; cf Job’s speech Job 29:12-17), but then in his third speech he will accuse Job of being without mercy (Job 22:6-7).

Job 4:6-7 - the conventional wisdom that good people prosper and do not suffer.

Job 4:12-21 - a vision of the night.

The night vision - 4:12-21

Perhaps it is Job’s dream and not of Eliphaz.

Job 4:17 - a question that is often seen as a plea for mercy.

Job 4:18 - cf. Job 15:15; 25:5. Everything is in need of God’s mercy.

Job 4:19-21 - the frailty of human life.

Eliphaz - 5:1-27

Eliphaz becomes critical and strong.

Job 5:7 - This verse begins to develop one of the friends’ main claims, that humans are fundamentally sinful (Gen 8:21; Psalm 14:1-3; Rom 3:23), and thus Job must have sinned.

Eliphaz - 5:1-27

Job 5:8 - Eliphaz introduces an important theme of the book: God’s great power.

For the friends, God’s power implies God’s fairness (Job 5:15). This theme will come out in chapters 38-41.

But, Job seems to indicate that God sometimes uses his power in a negative fashion (Job 12:13-25).

Job 5:17 - cf. Prov 3:12 - suffering should be welcomed - a proof of God’s love (Heb 12:5-13).

Eliphaz - 5:1-27

Job 5:18-26 - cf. Ps 91 - an assurance of God’s deliverance.

Job 5:27 - it is worth noticing, that the verse indicates that human inquiry rather than revelation is sufficient source for understanding how things work in the world.

Job responds to Eliphaz - 6:1-7:21

Job 6:2-7, 11-13.

Eliphaz has suggested that:

1. Job brought his suffering upon himself (Job 4:7-9; 5:2-16);

2. Job should look upon his sufferings as God’s way of discipling him in preparation for his reward (Job 5:17-26).

But Job asks that God would end his misery granting him death (Job 6:8-10).

Job responds to Eliphaz - 6:1-7:21

Job 6:14-30 - Job rebukes his friends for their lack of loyalty and support in his time of need.

Job 6:24 - foreshadows God’s answer in Job 38:2-3.

Job 7:1-14 - Job sees all life as a struggle and says how hopeless is his suffering.

Job responds to Eliphaz - 6:1-7:21

Job 7:17-19 - cf Ps 8:5-10. But, how different is the two.

Psalmist praises God for making humans and caring for them.

Job, on the other hand, would prefer that God be less concern with him (Job 7:19).

He sees God as an overprotective parent who constantly meddles in one’s child life.

Job responds to Eliphaz - 6:1-7:21

Job 7:20-21 - Does Job indicate that after all he is guilty of something? But, we know from the prologue (Job 1:1-2) that he is not.

See Job 6:29-30; 9:17-21; Job 13:23; 23:4-12; Job 24:25; 31:3 - about Job’s innocence.

Job 7:21 - powerful request!

Bildad’s first speech - 8:1-22

Job 8:2 - Bildad begins with criticising Job for his speech.

In Job 11:2-3 - Zophar will do the same

In Job 15:1 - Eliphaz will follow.

Bildad’s first speech - 8:1-22

Bildad insists that God acts justly and if one is suffering, it must be because he has sinned.

Nevertheless, Bildad urges Job to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness.

It is God who sustains the world.

Job 8:8-12 - the source of wisdom - former generations.

Job 8:13-19 - The impious may look prosperous, but his “growth” is in a ruined place and if uprooted, he has no future.

Job responds to Bildad - Job 9:1-10:22

Job 9:2 is the answer to Job 4:17.

Some suggest that it would be better to translated Job 9:2 as a question:

“Can man win a (law) suit before God?”
Did Job intend to bring God to the court?

Job responds to Bildad - Job 9:1-10:22

Gen 18:25 - “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

Job feels that he is treated unfairly (Job 9:3).

Job 9:5-10 - God’s power presented in negative fashion.

Job 9:12 - Humankind is too insignificant to understand an explanation of how God rules the cosmos even if such an explanation were to be given.

Job 9:22-24 - Very strong words ended with a question: “If it is not He, then who?”

Job responds to Bildad - Job 9:1-10:22

Job 9:25-35 - returns to the theme of Job 9:2-3, the fundamental unfairness of a case brought by God against Job, a human.

Job 10:2-22 - a speech that Job would like to address to God if indeed Job should be granted a day in court.

Job 10:4-6 - powerful words. Job states that God should act like God and not like a human being.

Job responds to Bildad - Job 9:1-10:22

Job 10:8-12 - see creation stories Gen 2.

Job 10:18-22 - cf. Job 3:11-12.

Zophar’s first speech 11:1-20

Zophar, being in the house of Job, who is bereft of his children (Job 1:18-19) and infested with maggots (Job 7:5), dares to tell Job that he speaks too much. (insensitive?)

Just because a person talks a lot, says Zophar - does not mean that he is right. (correct)

Zophar’s first speech 11:1-20

Job 11:7-11 - Can Job, or any person, really understand God?

And should God’s actions be limited to those that human beings find rational or just?

Zophar suggests that God’s great power (Job 11:7-10) shows that He is a fair judge, who punishes iniquity only (Job 11:11).

Zophar’s first speech 11:1-20

Job 11:12 - a proverb.

Zophar seems to indicate that Job is “a hollow man” and that he will never get understanding.

Job 11:17 seems to be a response to Job’ gloomy ending of his previous speech (Job 10:21-22).

Job responds to Zophar - Job 12:1-14:22

The three friends rely on the authority of their own experience - “I have seen” (Job 4:8; 5:3) and the teaching of the sages or what they “have inquired” (Job 5:27; cf. Job 15:17-18 for Eliphaz; Job 8:8-10 for Bildad; Job 20:4 for Zophar).

But, Job also knows as much as they and he has his own experience(Job 12:3,9; Job 13:1-2). And he sees something that they seem to ignore (Job 12:6).

Job responds to Zophar

Job 12:13-25 - the theme of God’s power again seen a negative fashion.

Job 13:4-6 - Job asks his friends to listen to him. Apparently, they do not. Apparently, when each of them replies, he is not actually replying to what Job had just said, but as if want to present their own ideas.

They even put false statements into Job’s mouth (Job 22:13 - apparently, Job never said such thing).

Job responds to Zophar

Job 13:5 - cf. Prov 17:28.

Job 13:9-10 - correct. That is what happened in Job 42:7.

Job 13:27-14:6 - cf Job 7:12-21 - Job again states that God watches people too closely.

Job 14:7-12 - trees better than humans? Irony?

Job 14:13-14 - “If a man dies, can he live again?” It seems that when the book of Job was written, the belief in the resurrection was not yet developed. But here might be the seed of it.

Job 14:18-22 - The theme of God’s power again.

Eliphaz’s second speech 15:1-35

Job 15:2-10 - these rhetorical questions to which the answer is “no” aim to undermine Job’s claim in Job 12:2-6, 11-12; Job 13:1-5 - namely that he is wise and his three friends are foolish.

Job 15:9 - cf. Job’s Job 13:2.

Job 15:15 - cf. Job 4:18

Job 15:20-35 - one of the longest description of the fate of the wicked.

Job’s reply to the second speech of Eliphaz - 16:1-17:16

At first Job criticises his friend for lack of sensitivity (Job 16:1-6).

Then, he shifts to God.

God has become Job’s foe ruining his life (Job 16:11-17). Those are very powerful statements.

Job 16:18-17:16 - Job returns to the idea that he has no recourse against God and that all he can wait is death.

He seems to have lost his hope.

Bildad’s second speech 18:1-21

Bildad suggests that Job makes himself too important, takes his suffering too seriously.

Then, he repeats the traditional view about the fate of the wicked (cf. Job 15:20-35).

Job’s reply to Bildad’s second speech - 19:1-29

Job gets tired with his friends speeches.

Job 19:6 - Job maintain his stand that God has wronged him.

Job 19:13-20 - Job describes his feeling of alienation from his family, friends, and servants.

Job 19:21-29 - a cry for pity and a wish that his state be recorded for posterity, so that in the future he will be vindicated.

Job’s reply to Bildad’s second speech

Job 19:8-13 - powerful statements describing how God treated Job;

Job 19:23-24 - Job is so certain of his innocence that he wants his case to be inscribed on a monument, and not just on a papyrus used in those times.

Job 19:25 - “My redeemer lives!”. Not all hope is lost, after all.

Zophar’s second speech - Job 20:1-29

As if all Job’s previous words meant nothing, Zophar speaks about the fate of the wicked again.

He allows for the possibility that the wicked may triumph, but only briefly (contrast Ps 1).

But, does the speech imply that Job who is suffering all those ‘punishments’, is therefore wicked?

Job’s reply to Zophar’s second speech - 21:1-34

Here, Job insists that contrary to what his friends have been saying, the wicked do prosper.

Job 21:2-3 - the best consolation the friends can offer (Job 2:11) is to listen to him and not to lecture him and criticise him.

Job 21:7-34 - cf. Jer 12:1

Some Jewish ancient commentators apply these verses to the generation before the flood (Gen 7). Apparently, they were prosperous but wicked and so they perished. Only the righteous Noah was saved.

But, it does not solve the problem and Job’s challenge.

Job’s reply to Zophar’s second speech

Job 21:19 - would that indicate that Job’s children died for his guilt (Job 18:19)? Or did they die for their own sins (Job 8:4)?

But, Job does not accept such explanation (Job 21:20; see also Ezekiel 18:2 and Jer 31:29).

Job 21:30-33 - the evil man is even honoured in death (Job 21:32).

Eliphaz’s third and final speech 22:1-30

Job 22:2-4 - refers to Job’s begging in Job 10:2; 13:23 that God tell him just where he has gone wrong so as to deserve the loss of children, wealth, and health.

Eliphaz insists that God is unbiased.

Job 22:5-7, 9 - What happened to Job indicates that he must be very wicked (how different from Job 4:3-6).

Job 22:12-14 - “You say . . .” - When did Job say it?

Eliphaz’s third and final speech 22:1-30

Job 22:15-30 - a repetition of the previous statement that justice in the end will prevail (Job 5:17-27; 15:17-35; job 8:13-22; 18:5-21; Job 11:13-20; 20:4-29).

Moreover, if Job is innocent he will be vindicated and prosper.

Job 22:15-18 - an interesting statement about the wicked who cannot realise that their prosperity comes from God (Job 22:18).

Job’s reply to Eliphaz’s third speech - 23:1-24:25

Job 23:2-17 - complaining about God

In Job 23:2-10 - Job insists that God is hiding (Ps 13:2)

In Job 23:11-17 - God has terrified Job.

Job’s reply to Eliphaz’s third speech

Job 24:2-12 - many examples how the unjust prosper and God seems to do nothing about it (Job 24:1, 12).

Job 24:15-25 - (cf. Job 21:7-34) - Job complains that the wicked prosper and that the success of the unjust demonstrates that justice does not prevail in the world.

Moreover, the success of the wicked is achieved at the expense of orphans (Job 24:3,9), widows (Job 24:3), and the poor (Job 24:5-8, 14).

Job’s reply to Eliphaz’s third speech

Job 24:5-14 - the majesty of God’s power should preclude Job from challenging God to account for Job’s allegedly undeserved suffering.

Job wants the wicked to be punished (Job 24:18-22).

Job 25:1-6

This chapter (Job 25:1-6) should be assigned to Job and not to Bildad.

The ideas expressed here are similar to Job 4:12-21 - the words of Job.

Thus, it would be the continuation of Job’s speech

Job 26:1-14

It is better if this chapter (Job 26:1-14) be assigned to Bildad.

Job 26:2-4 - seems yet another attack on Job (cf. Job 4:3-4).

Job always addresses his friends in plural and they always address him in singular as it is here.

Job 26:5-14 - it expressed the ideas characteristic of Job’s friends.

Job 27:1-28:28 - the continuation of Job’s speech

This part can be seen as a long reply to the suggestion of his wife in (Job 2:9).

Job 27:2-6 - Despite all his losses and suffering, Job will not utter wrong words (cf. Job 2:10).

Job 27:7-23 - Job here agrees with his friends that the wicked will be punished and the righteous will be rewarded (Job 27:17);

cf. Job 4:7-11 for Eliphaz; Job 8:3-22 for Zophar; Job 11:13-20 for Bildad.

28:1-28 - About Wisdom

It is difficult to acquire it.

Job praises two virtues: fearing God and shunning evil (Ps 111:10; Prov 1:7; 9:10).

This virtues prepares someone to be blessed by God with knowledge that surpasses other wise people in the world.

28:1-28 - About Wisdom

Gold is extracted at great effort from the earth, but where can wisdom be found? (Job 28:12).

Job 28:12-19 - wisdom is more precious than gold and precious gems.

Job 28:20-28 - unlike gold or precious gems, wisdom cannot be found in the physical world. Even death does not know where it resides.

Only God, who created the world and the source of all things, knows where wisdom is.

28:1-28 - About Wisdom

He gives it to those who fear the Lord and shun evil.

Thus, fear of the Lord is a condition for attaining wisdom.

And fearing God and shunning evil are the attributes of Job.

Job 29:1-31:40 - Job’s speech continues

Job 29 - Job recalls the good all days;

Job 30 - Job laments his current physical and social afflictions;

Job 31 - Job insists on his innocence.

Job’s speech continues

Job 29:12-17; 30:25 - the good deeds that Job performed.

Job 30:20-23 - powerful complain.

Job’s speech continues

Job 31:1-40

Eliphaz accused Job of failing to provide for the needs of the impoverished (Job 27:7) and of adding to the suffering of widows and orphans (Job 22:9).

Job here answers these and other charges (Job 31:16-21) and with this confession of innocence ends his speech (Job 32:1).

14 sins

There is a list of 14 sins from which Job claims innocence.

Job 31:1 - not coveting a maiden.

Job 31:5-6 - not cheating in business.

Job 31:7-8 - no coveting things of others

Job 31:9-12 - no adultery.

Job 31:13-14 - helping his slaves.

Job 31:16-19 - helping the poor, widows, and orphans (cf. Job 22:6).

Job 31:21a - no harming orphans - physical violence

14 sins

Job 31:24 - not trusting in his riches.

Job 31:26-27 - no worshipping sun and moon.

Job 31:29 - did not rejoice over his enemy’s misfortune.

Job 31:30 - not cursing anyone by wishing anyone’s death

Job 31:32 - helping traveler who has no place to stay.

Job 31:33 - no hiding his transgressions like Adam.

Job 31:38 - exploitation

Elihu Job 32-37

Elihu addresses four speeches to Job:

Job 32-33;

Job 34;

Job 35;

Job 36-37


1. Elihus is not mentioned in the narrative sections in chapters 2 and 42;

2. Neither Job nor God replies to him;

3. He speaks in a Hebrew that differs from both the prose and the poetry of other parts of the book;

4. He seems to add nothing to what has been said before.

Although this (4) can be also said about the other friends in the course of the dialogue. They also do not advance the argument in any way.

Elihu Job 32-37

Elihu is a very good listener.

In Job 33:9 and Job 34:5 he quotes Job from Job 16:17.

In Job 33:11, he quotes Job from Job 13:27;

In Job 33:12-13, he responds to what Job said in Job 9:3-4;

In Job 34:3, he quotes Job from Job 12:11.

Elihu Job 32-37

One contribution of Elihu can be his elaboration of a thesis presented by Eliphaz in Job 5:17-26 (see Job 33:16-30; 36:16).

According to this thesis, suffering is a divine gift comparable to parents disciplining their children.

Such discipling enables people to correct their behaviour and thereby to secure and not to lose their just reward.

Elihu Job 32-37

What he says is closely parallel to the following speeches of the Lord (Job 38:1-41:26).

Elihu - is a variant of “Eliyahu” - Elijah - “My God [is] the Lord”.

Most scholar think that the speeches of Elihu are later addition by a different author.

Elihu seems to resemble a reader who has gone over the dialogue and then prepared his answer.

1. First speech - 32:6-33:33

He was not speaking because he is younger and so presumably less wise that the other friends.

But, he finds the words of the friends unsatisfying and offers his own answer to Job.

He rejects Job’s statement that God is not fair.

He suggests that the suffering is God’s way of warning people, and that God will bring back the sufferer from the brink of death.

A similar idea that chastisements reflects God’s love is found in Prov 3:11-12.

Job 33:24 - We could say that Jesus speaks these words to the Father on our behalf.

2. Second speech - 34:1-37

He again defends God against Job’s complains that God is unfair.

Job 34:14-15 - God’s power holding the universe in existence.

Job 34:18-20 - God is not partial to anyone.

Job 34:28 - God hears the cry of the poor.

3. Third speech - 35:1-15

God surely sees everything that transpires on earth. If he seems indifferent, that is because his response is not immediate.

Job 35:2-8 - God is impartial judge.

Job 35:10-11 - failing to call upon God.

4. Fourth speech - 36:1 - 37:24

In this speech Elihu glorifies God in a way that anticipates God’s speech in Job 38-39.

He describes God’s supremacy over the natural world.

Job 36:5-6 - God is powerful and just.

Job 36:17 - “you are obsessed with the case of the wicked man . . . ” -

Job 36:26 - we should never forget this statement.

4. Fourth speech - 36:1 - 37:24

Job 37:1-13 - God’s power in nature.

Job 37:23; 36:5-6 - as he began his speech so he also closes it with the same statement.

The speeches of the Lord (Job 38:1-41:26)

The speeches of the Lord are not what Job or the reader expect.

Job wanted to have an encounter with God and now he gets it.

After presenting himself as the God of all creation (Job 38-39), the Lord challenges Job to play the role of king of creation (Job 40:7-14).

The speeches of the Lord (Job 38:1-41:26)

Job’s powerlessness is shown in a challenge of overcoming , “behemoth” (Job 40:15) and Leviathan (Job 40:24) - symbols of chaos (unruly power).

Job cannot do it. Only God can.

But, the main point of those speeches is their impact on Job - they transformed him.

There are two divine speeches and two reactions of Job.

At the close of the first speech the Lord challenges Job to reply (Job 40:1-2), but Job is unable to find an answer (Job 40:3-5).

Then, comes the second speech of God (Job 40:6), after which Job responds (Job 42:1-6).

Job acknowledges the divine purpose and his own ignorance.

He quotes God - Job 42:3a = Job 38:2; Job 42:4 = Job 38:3 and Job 40:7

Two divine speeches and two reactions of Job.

Job 42:5 - a classic line - cf Job 19:25-27 and Job 23:9 - finally his wish is fulfilled.

Job’s experienced of God achieved what the speeches of his friends could not accomplish.

Job 42:6 - The meaning of this verse remains unclear. Job’s repentance should be understood as the change of mind.

“Therefore, I recant and relent, being but dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

The Lord’s first speech (Job 38:1-39:30)

Job 38:4 - Since Job was not present at the creation, and does not know how the rising of the sun occurs (Job 38:12), he has no right to demand explanation.

Apparently, God will not give neither Job nor a reader a straight answer to the question: why bad things happen to good people and how justice reigns in the cosmos.

The Lord’s first speech (Job 38:1-39:30)

The series of rhetorical questions aimed to put Job in his place, namely that he is just “dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

The description of the creation is so magnificent that not only Job but also a reader should acknowledge the power and wisdom of God.

From the creation we know the Creator (see Rom 1:20).

Job’s first answer (Job 40:3-5)

Why does Job not reply?

Does he refuse to reply?

Is he afraid to reply?

Difficult to know.

The Lord’s second speech (Job 40:6-41:26)

Job 40:11-14 - Can Job do it?

Job 40:15-24; 41:1,25-32 - Some scholars indicate that behemoth refers to a mythological hippopotamus and Leviathan designates crocodile.

They both symbolise the powerful forces of chaos which God overcome (Is 27:1; Ps 74:14).

Job’s second reply (Job 42:1-6)

Job 42:5 - Job suggests that before he had only indirect knowledge of God, but now he has direct knowledge.

Job 42:6 - this verse may be the key to understand the book as a whole.

Job recant/despise something but it is not said what, because the verb has no direct object.

In the second part of the verse, Job - still mourning on a dust-heap (Job 2:8) - acknowledges that, unlike God, he is a mere mortal.

God seems to be satisfied with Job’s answer and the discussion ends.

Prose epilog (Job 42:7-17)

The epilog returns to the stile of the prologue (Job 1-2).

The Lord is angry with Job’s friends - (cf Job 32:1-5 - Elihu was angry with Job) - and the reason is in Job 42:7.

But, how did Job spoke rightly about God?

And, how did his friends not speak rightly about God?

Prose epilog (Job 42:7-17)

It is a surprising statement after all the powerful statements that Job uttered in the course of the book and after all the statements of Job’s friends who always spoke in favour of God.

Does it mean that Job was closer to the truth than his friends?

The book does not give as an answer.

But, there is one thing worth noting.

Prose epilog (Job 42:7-17)

When Job stopped complaining about his life and prayed for his friends, his fortunes were restored.

Job 42:8 - seven bulls and seven rams.

A bull for the sin or purification offering (Lev 4:1-21)?

A ram for a guilt offering (Lev 5:15-26)?

It seems that the offence of Job’s friends was their insistence that Job brought his suffering upon himself.

Prose epilog (Job 42:7-17)

So, now they have to offer a sacrifice for their sins - Lev 5:17.

This indicates that the author of the book knew the Torah.


God is powerful but apparently there is one thing that He cannot do:

What is it?

God cannot coerce the love and service of mortals.

So, why do we love and serve God (Job 1:10-11)?