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Bible Commentaries

Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Job 40

Verses 1-5

A short dialogue between the Almighty and Job, ending in the latter’s confession and submission.

2. Cox renders, ’Is he who contended with the Almighty corrected? Let him who disputed with God reply.’

4. Vile] RV ’of small account.’ Job confesses that in view of these marvellous works of God, it was presumption to think of criticising His actions.

Verses 1-24

The Speeches of the Almighty

When the human debate was over, and Job had proudly asserted his readiness to confront God, conscious of his innocence (Job 31:35-37), there was nothing left, if the contest was to be decided, except a direct intervention of God. This Job had himself again and again demanded. He had challenged God to meet him and justify the treatment He accorded to him. He complains bitterly that God evades him, and lets him suffer, though He knows that he is innocent. Now at last God speaks. But not at all as Job had demanded. For he had implored God to remove His hand from him, in other words, to release him from pain that he might not be distracted by it, and not to make him afraid with His terror, since otherwise he might be driven, though innocent, to confess to guilt. God does not heal him, and He speaks out of the storm. Nor does the matter of His utterance conform to what Job had demanded, any more than the manner of it. For He does not deal with the question of Job's sin, or tell him the reason of his affliction. He puts question after question to him, challenging him to explain the mysteries of the universe. These he cannot comprehend; with what right then does he criticise God's government of the world?

It is a surprise to some that God should be represented by the poet as taking this line. Why should He speak with such irony, and why not offer the man who had suffered so deeply some explanation and comfort? Partly because Job had brought deserved rebuke on himself for his attack on God's rule of the world. Partly because he needed to rise to a higher point of view from which he could see the complexity of the problem. Moreever, God does not explain to Job the cause of his suffering, since the supreme lesson of the book is that he becomes so sure of God that he knows his affliction to be in harmony with God's righteousness, though he is wholly incapable of reconciling the two intellectually. But after he has reached this position God restores him to health and prosperity.
The vital element in his experience is not the speech of God, but the vision of God. It is in a true relation to God, which is possible only to him to whom the divine vision is vouchsafed, that Job learns to trust God utterly. And as he looks back on the charges he has brought against Him, whom in this deep, mystical manner he has just come to know, he loathes the words he has uttered, and repents in dust and ashes. 'I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee.'

Verses 6-24

The Second Speech of the Almighty

Job, we know, in his anxiety to prove his integrity had been led into casting doubts on the justice of God's government of the world. He is here ironically invited to take God's place as ruler of the universe, and to display a wisdom as great as that of God. If he proved himself competent to do this, then, and not till then, he may consider himself independent of God and criticise His actions.

8. Disannul my judgment] deny my righteousness.

13. In secret] RV 'in the hidden place'; Sheol, the abode of the dead.

40:15-41:34. In this passage the mightiest beast of the earth and the one most dreaded in the water are portrayed to Job, and he is asked if he can subdue them. Many scholars regard these descriptions as a later insertion.

15-24. The Elephant or Hippopotamus.

15. Behemoth] the word means 'a large beast.' Most scholars consider that the hippopotamus is meant, but some regard the description as more applicable to the elephant. Buxtorf, the great Hebraist, renders 'elephas.' He has a 'nose,' i.e. a trunk, and swings a tail 'like a cedar.' Elephants were known on the Euphrates about 1550 b.c. Thothmes III of Egypt is represented as receiving one from Syria. Which I made with thee] i.e. it and Job are alike God's creatures. Or render, 'which is with thee,' i.e. you can see him.

16. Navel] RV 'muscles.'

17. Like a cedar] it is so firm and strong.

17b. RV 'The sinews of his thighs are knit together.'

19b. RM 'He that made him hath furnished him with his sword'; i.e. his tusks or teeth.

20. Mountains] Unlike the hippopotamus, the elephant is found in hill forests.

23. RV 'Behold, if a river overflow, he trembleth not: He is confident though Jordan swell even to his mouth.' Jordan] means a river as swift and strong as Jordan.

24. RV 'Shall any take him when he is on the watch, or pierce through his nose (or, his trunk) with a snare?'

Verses 6-34


The Second Speech of the Almighty

Job, we know, in his anxiety to prove his integrity had been led into casting doubts on the justice of God’s government of the world. He is here ironically invited to take God’s place as ruler of the universe, and to display a wisdom as great as that of God. If he proved himself competent to do this, then, and not till then, he may consider himself independent of God and criticise His actions.

8. Disannul my judgment] deny my righteousness.

13. In secret] RV ’in the hidden place’; Sheol, the abode of the dead.

40:15-41:34. In this passage the mightiest beast of the earth and the one most dreaded in the water are portrayed to Job, and he is asked if he can subdue them. Many scholars regard these descriptions as a later insertion.

15-24. The Elephant or Hippopotamus.

15. Behemoth] the word means ’a large beast.’ Most scholars consider that the hippopotamus is meant, but some regard the description as more applicable to the elephant. Buxtorf, the great Hebraist, renders ’elephas.’ He has a ’nose,’ i.e. a trunk, and swings a tail ’like a cedar.’ Elephants were known on the Euphrates about 1550 b.c. Thothmes III of Egypt is represented as receiving one from Syria. Which I made with thee] i.e. it and Job are alike God’s creatures. Or render, ’which is with thee,’ i.e. you can see him.

16. Navel] RV ’muscles.’

17. Like a cedar] it is so firm and strong.

17b. RV ’The sinews of his thighs are knit together.’

19b. RM ’He that made him hath furnished him with his sword’; i.e. his tusks or teeth.

20. Mountains] Unlike the hippopotamus, the elephant is found in hill forests.

23. RV ’Behold, if a river overflow, he trembleth not: He is confident though Jordan swell even to his mouth.’ Jordan] means a river as swift and strong as Jordan.

24. RV ’Shall any take him when he is on the watch, or pierce through his nose (or, his trunk) with a snare?’

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Job 40". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/job-40.html. 1909.