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Sunday, June 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Job 9

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



In this chapter, Job replies to the false theory of Bildad that every person gets exactly what he deserves in this life. If he does right he will be rich and prosperous; and if he is wicked, he will suffer disease and hardship. The only thing wrong with that theory was its being absolutely false: (1) No man is righteous enough to deserve all of the blessings which are poured out upon all men; and (2) “Such a theory makes every poor man, and every martyr, a wicked sinner,”(F1) and every wealthy person a saint of God. No fair-minded person could accept such a theory.

The response of Job begins with a sarcastic agreement with Bildad on the greatness of God; “But it closes with a vehement contradiction of Bildad’s closing and dominant contention,”(F2) namely, that Job’s misfortunes are due to his wickedness. Both this and the following chapters are essentially, “A monologue in which God is addressed in the third person, although occasionally directly.”(F3)

The thing missing from this whole central section of Job is the knowledge of Satan, the great enemy of mankind. If, as we believe, Moses was the author of the prologue and the conclusion, that leaves Job and his friends apparently in total ignorance regarding the part that Satan had in the fall of mankind. Not one of them made any reference whatever to Satan. This is a significant link in the chain of evidence that makes Job a far older book, even, than the Pentateuch. It indicates that Job lived and wrote his book at a time and in a part of the world which had no knowledge of the Books of Moses.

Verses 1-12


“Then Job answered and said, Of truth I know that it is so: But how can man be just with God? If he be pleased to contend with him, He cannot answer him one of a thousand. He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: Who hath hardened himself against him and prospered? - Him that removeth the mountains, and they know it not, When he overturneth them in his anger; That shaketh the earth out of its place. And the pillars thereof tremble; That commandeth the sun, and it riseth not, And sealeth up the stars; That alone stretcheth out the heavens, And treadeth upon the waves of the sea; That maketh the Bear, Orion and the Pleiades, And the chambers of the south; That doeth great things past finding out, Yea, marvelous things without number. Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not: He passeth on also, but I perceive him not. Behold, he seizeth the prey, who can hinder him? Who will say unto him, What doest thou?”

Job not only extols the greatness and power of God, but he also indicates his knowledge that no man, in the infinite sense, can be just in God’s sight (Job 9:1). He perceives that God is the Creator of all things, even the great constellations, and that God is a spiritual being, invisible to mortal man, even when he “goeth by” him (Job 9:11). “Job is here saying some wonderful things about God. Man is so insignificant, and God is so great”!(F4)

“He commandeth the sun, and it riseth not” “The word here has the meaning of `to beam’ or `to shine forth’ and is not confined to the literal rising of the sun. It refers to abnormal obscurations of the sun such as those caused by heavy thunderstorms, dust storms, or eclipses.”(F5)

“He maketh the Bear, Orion, and Pleiades” These are among the best known constellations. The Bear is Ursa Major, generally known as the Great Dipper. Orion dominates the winter skies, and the Pleiades those of the spring.

Verses 13-24


“God will not withdraw his anger; The helpers of Rahab do stoop under him. How much less shall I answer him, And choose out my words to reason with him? Whom, though I were righteous, yet would I not answer; I would make supplication to my judge. If I had called, and he had answered me, Yet would I not believe that he hearkened unto my voice. For he breaketh me with a tempest, And multiplieth my wounds without cause. He will not suffer me to take my breath. But filleth me with bitterness. If we speak of strength, lo, he is mighty! Who will, saith he, summon me? Though I be righteous, mine own mouth shall condemn me: Though I be perfect, it shall prove me perverse. I am perfect; I regard not myself; I despise my life. It is all one; therefore I say He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked. If the scourge slay suddenly, He will mock at the trial of the innocent. The earth is given into the hand of the wicked; He covereth the faces of the judges thereof: If it is not he, who then is it?”

If one accepts the ancient view that whatever happens is God’s will, because he allows it; and reasons from this view that God actually does all things that are done, then Job was profoundly correct in his statement here that God had turned the world over to the wicked, that the crooked judges had no regard for justice, and that the innocent and the guilty alike perish together in the great scourges that have plagued humanity. A flood, an earthquake, a deadly epidemic, a tornado, or the wholesale destructive bombing of a great city - all of these are bona fide examples of the innocent and guilty perishing together without discrimination. With this observation, Job completely destroyed the basic argument of his friends. What is wrong with the theory? It is false.

Modern men, as well as did Job, have trouble accepting such facts as those just cited. And the definitive answer to the problem lies in the existence and malignant activity of Satan. The evil one was responsible for what happened to Job; and there’s many a disaster today that must be laid squarely at the feet of him who is viciously angry with mankind, “Knowing that he hath but a short time” (Revelation 12:12). It is amazing to us that so few of the writers we have consulted take any account of the true source of Job’s wretchedness.

“The helpers of Rahab do stoop under him” The reference here is to an ancient Babylonian myth. “Rahab here, like the dragon in Isaiah 51:9 is the ancient mythological name of Tiamat, the original Chaos, whom God conquered in the Creation.”(F6) In Hebrew literature it was sometimes used as a synonym for Egypt. However, “Ancient allusions to mythology by the sacred writers no more implies their acceptance of such myths than does John Milton’s allusions to classical mythology imply his acceptance of it.”(F7)

Job’s argument here is that, in spite of his certainty that it is not his wickedness that has resulted in his distress, he nevertheless feels that he is too weak to contend with God about the matter. `If great dragons like the helpers of Rahab were utterly crushed and destroyed by God, how could any mortal man hope to contend with God, regardless of the justice of his case’?

“In his heart, Job is still convinced that he has wrought no evil; but he will not say so.”(F8) The great marvel is that even in the bitterness of his bewilderment, he nevertheless clings to that integrity from which Satan was powerless to remove him. Job must be hailed indeed as that faithful man who trusted where he could not see.

Van Selms wrote that, “God, yes, God is the cause of all these wretched conditions. If he is not, then what is he? A God who cannot rule the world? Are not all things that happen on earth the effects of his will”?(F9) Philosophical observations such as this betray a fundamental ignorance. God gave unto men the freedom of the will; and therefore, when evil men will to do that which is contrary to God’s will, they are, of course, permitted to do it. It was that freedom of the human will that led to Adam’s election to forsake the government of God and accept in the place of it the government of the devil. The scholars who do not understand that, will never be able to make any sense out of Job. Due to Satan and to wicked men who follow him, countless things contrary to God’s will occur constantly. Yes, God could prevent such things, but not within the context of the freedom of the human will.

Verses 25-35


“Now my days are swifter than a post: They flee away, they see no good. They are passed away as the swift ships; As the eagle that swoopeth on the prey. If I say, I will forget my complaint, I will put off my sad countenance, and be of good cheer; I am afraid of all my sorrows, I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent. I shall be condemned; Why then do I labor in vain? If I wash myself with snow water, And make my hands never so clean; Yet wilt thou plunge me in the ditch, And mine own clothes shall abhor me, For he is not a man that I should answer him, That we should come together in judgment. There is no umpire betwixt us, That might lay his hand upon us both. Let him take his rod away from me, And let not his terror make me afraid: Then would I speak and not fear him; For I am not in myself.”

“I shall be condemned” Job was prepared to accept condemnation, even though, in his heart, he was not conscious of having clone any wickedness that deserved it. It is the glory of that patriarch that his attitude toward God remained one of submission and not one of rebellion.

“There is no umpire” This is one of the great lines in the whole book. “Here, when Job’s faith is at its lowest ebb, there emerges in this complaining negative, the conception of the Mediator, which afterward became for Job a positive conviction, a conviction that attained its grandest expression in that marvelous speech of Job 19. which, in a sense, is the glorious climax of the Book of Job.”(F10)

“We may view this cry for a daysman (umpire), for God with his majesty laid aside, as an instinctive prophecy of the Incarnation, although Job had no such thing in his mind.”(F11) “This passage is strongly looking forward to Bethlehem. There was really no answer to Job’s problem short of the Incarnation. In this cry for an umpire between God and man, we see a prophetic reaching out for that One Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).”(F12)

“For I am not so in myself” The meaning of this is quite obscure; but, “The New English Bible renders it, for I know I am not what I am thought to be, that is, deserving of all his suffering.”(F13)

Honoring that immortal hope for an umpire, we wish to close this chapter with these words:

“’Tis the weakness in strength that I cry for! my flesh that I seek
In the Godhead! I seek, and I find it. O Saul, it shall be
A face like my face that receives thee; a Man like to me,
Thou shalt love, and be loved by, forever; a Hand like this hand
Shall open the gates of new life to thee!
See the Christ stand!”(F14)
- Robert Browning, Saul.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Job 9". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/job-9.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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