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Bible Commentaries
Job 40

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-2

1. God’s first speech 38:1-40:2

God’s first speech "transcends all other descriptions of the wonders of creation or the greatness of the Creator, which are to be found either in the Bible or elsewhere." [Note: Samuel R. Driver, Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, p. 427.]

Verses 1-2

God’s concluding challenge to Job 40:1-2

God’s first speech began and ended with a challenge to Job. Job had found fault with God for allowing him to suffer when he was godly. He had said he wished he could meet God in court to face Him with His injustice and to hear His response (Job 13:3; Job 13:15). Now God asked Job if he still wanted to contend with Him after God had reminded him of His power and wisdom. "It" (Job 40:2 b) may refer to the question in Job 40:2 a, though it could refer to all the evidence God had presented in chapters 38-39. [Note: Reichert, p. 209.]

"Yahweh ironically challenged Job to teach (or correct) Him in the matters of the universe to prove that he was equal to God and thus capable of arguing with God in court." [Note: Parsons, p. 150.]

"Since Job is not knowledgeable enough to discover why things take place on earth as they do, he is left with a decision-either to trust Yahweh, believing that he wisely rules his created world, or to pursue his complaint that exalts himself above Yahweh. Yahweh leaves the initiative with Job either to believe him or to continue to accuse him." [Note: Hartley, p. 517.]

Verses 3-5

2. Job’s first reply to God 40:3-5

Earlier in the book Job had hesitated to confront God (Job 9:14). Gradually he became more confident and demanded an audience with God (Job 13:22 a). Still later, he spoke almost as God’s equal, boasting that he would approach God as a prince (Job 31:37). Now, having discovered his own "insignificance" (Job 40:4), he had nothing more to say to God (Job 40:5). God had humbled him. Job felt no need to speak more since he had repeated himself earlier (Job 40:5; cf. Job 33:14). However, Job did not confess any sin. Therefore God proceeded to speak again. He, not Job, found it necessary to speak "even twice" (Job 40:5).

Verses 6-14

God’s challenge 40:6-14

God introduced this second challenge much the same as He did His first, out of the whirlwind, and with a demand that Job refute Him if he could.

"Yahweh confronts Job with the major flaw in his accusations. In defending his own innocence so emphatically and lashing out so vehemently at God because of his suffering, Job has essentially charged God with acting unjustly. For a mortal to presume himself guiltless and to impugn God’s just governance of the world approaches the sin of presumptuous pride.

"It is important to observe that Yahweh does not accuse Job of any specific sin, thereby agreeing that Job has lived a righteous life. Nevertheless, if the relationship between himself and his servant is to be restored, Job’s self-righteous attitude must be altered and his complaint against God’s just governance of the world must be corrected." [Note: Hartley, p. 519.]

Job had claimed God was unjust. In answering this challenge God did not argue with Job. He simply asked Job questions that made it obvious to Job that he was unable to do what he had blamed God for not doing. In criticizing God, Job had placed himself in a position over God. Therefore God now reminded Job that he was not superior or even equal to God (Job 40:9; Job 40:11-13). If he were superior or equal, Job could deliver himself from his own misery, which he could not do (Job 40:14). Because Job was inferior to God, he had no right to criticize God for behaving as He did (cf. Romans 9:20).

It may be that God used the Hebrew word translated "gird up your loins" in a forensic sense in Job 38:3 and Job 40:7 to heighten the irony of His interrogation. [Note: Parsons, p. 149.]

Verses 6-34

3. God’s second speech 40:6-41:34

This second divine discourse is similar to, yet different from, the first. It began as the first one did with a challenge to Job (Job 40:6-14; cf. Job 38:1-3), but it did not end with one (cf. Job 40:1-2). In the first speech Yahweh spoke of His inanimate creation and of His animate creation, specifically 10 animals. In the second speech He concentrated on only two creatures: Behemoth and Leviathan.

"The second speech is not a mere afterthought about two creatures left out of the first speech. Here God accomplishes more than in the first speech, where He merely humbled Job by showing him how He is Creator and Sustainer of the natural world. Now He will convince Job He is also Lord of the moral order, one whose justice Job cannot discredit. And appropriately Job’s response this time is repentance (Job 42:1-6)." [Note: Smick, "Architectonics, Structural . . .," p. 99.]

"In spite of its aggressive tone, this speech is not really a contradiction of anything that Job has said. In many respects it is very close to his own thought, and endorses his sustained contention that justice must be left to God. But it brings Job to the end of his quest by convincing him that he may and must hand the whole matter over completely to God more trustingly, less fretfully. And do it without insisting that God should first answer all his questions and give him a formal acquittal.

"Here, if we have rightly found the heart of the theology of the whole book, is a very great depth. There is a rebuke in it for any person who, by complaining about particular events in his live, implies that he could propose to God better ways of running the universe than those God currently uses." [Note: Andersen, p. 287.]

Verses 15-34

God’s questions 40:15-41:34

Yahweh’s purpose in directing Job’s attention to such inexplicable animals on land (Behemoth) and in the water (Leviathan) seems to have been almost the same as His purpose in His first speech. He intended to humble Job by reminding him of his very limited power and wisdom, compared with God’s, so Job would submit to His Lordship.

Scholars disagree on the question of whether the Behemoth and Leviathan that the writer described here were real or mythological creatures. Some of the descriptions, if taken literally, could hardly refer to real animals that are alive today (e.g., Job 41:18-22). Nevertheless, this is poetic literature and these descriptions may be figurative, specifically: hyperbole (overstatement to emphasize one or more characteristics, similar to a caricature).

"Our poet can hardly write a line without including a simile, a habit which many critics censure as artistic over-kill." [Note: Andersen, p. 291.]

Those who prefer the mythological monster interpretation do so mainly because Leviathan almost certainly describes a mythical creature in Job 3:8, Psalms 74:14, and Isaiah 27:1, and perhaps elsewhere in Scripture. Also the description of Leviathan in Job 41:18-22 seems to picture an unreal sea monster. Furthermore, there are similar descriptions of this sea monster in ancient Near Eastern mythology. Nevertheless, it seems to many of the commentators, and to me, that Leviathan here, but not everywhere in Scripture, describes a real animal for the following reasons. The details of the description point to a real animal. Moreover, both Behemoth and Leviathan occur elsewhere in Scripture apart from mythical connotations (e.g., Joel 1:20 where the Hebrew word translated "Behemoth" in Job 40:15 reads "beasts"; cf. Psalms 104:26). Additionally, Scripture states that God created Behemoth (Job 40:15) and Leviathan (Psalms 104:26) as well as Job.

Yahweh reminded Job that Behemoth was a creature as he was (Job 40:15). Job was not the Creator; he was on a lower level. The Hebrew word translated "Behemoth" is the plural of the word usually rendered "beast." Consequently, some believe Job 40:15 a is an introductory statement for what God says about both animals that follows. However, in Job 40:15-24, God had one particular animal in view. Since He gave a name to the second animal (Job 41:1), He probably intended that we understand "Behemoth" as a name for the first animal.

Bible students have nominated several animals as Behemoth because of its description in Job 40:15-24. Some of these are the elephant, [Note: R. Laird Harris, "The Book of Job and Its Doctrine of God," Grace Journal 13 (Fall 1976):20-21.] the extinct rhinoceros that had no horn, [Note: Bernard Northrup, "Light on the Ice Age," Bible-Science Newsletter, June 1976, p. 4.] the extinct brontosaurus dinosaur, [Note: "Dinosaurs and the Bible," Five Minutes with the Bible and Science (supplement to Bible-Science Newsletter, May 1976), p. 2.] the water buffalo, [Note: B. Coureyer, "Qui est Behemoth?" Revue Biblique 82 (1975):418-43.] and most popularly the hippopotamus. Many commentators hold this view. Perhaps both Behemoth and Leviathan refer to dinosaurs species, or perhaps other ancient animals that have now become extinct.

Job 40:19 a probably means Behemoth is the first in size and strength, perhaps among animals of its kind, or among animals in Job’s area.

"The adult hippopotamus weighs up to eight thousand pounds." [Note: Zuck, Job, p. 179.]

Job 40:19 b may mean that only its Maker should dare go near it for hand-to-hand combat; no human being would defeat it. [Note: Reichert, p. 212.] The definite article "the" before "Jordan" in Job 40:23 b is absent in the Hebrew text. This may mean that God had any swift river in mind, any Jordan. [Note: Rowley, p. 257.] "When he is on watch" (Job 40:24 a) is literally "by the eyes," the only parts of a submerged hippopotamus, along with its nose (Job 40:24 b), that are visible above the water.

Various writers have identified Leviathan in Job 41:1 as a mythical sea monster, [Note: Pope, pp. 329-31.] a marine dinosaur, [Note: "Dinosaurs and . . ."] a whale, a dolphin, even a "tunny" (tuna?) fish, and most commonly a crocodile.

This section (ch. 41) contains the longest and last description of an animal in the book. As such it is climactic. God first drew Job’s attention to the fact that Leviathan was very hard for people to capture and use (Job 41:1-11). Since Job could not challenge Leviathan successfully, he should hardly expect to challenge its Creator successfully (Job 41:10). Job should not think that because he had a little wisdom and strength he could get the best of God in a contest. He could not even overcome Leviathan, one of God’s creatures. "Given to" (Job 41:11 a) is literally "anticipated."

"The argument to the superior strength of God is made, not to discourage men from trying to have dealings with God, but to enhance God’s capability of managing the affairs of the universe so that men will trust Him." [Note: Andersen, p. 290.]

Job 41:12-24 emphasize Leviathan’s anatomy. "His sneezes flash forth light" (Job 41:18 a) may mean that in the proper light the spray from his nostrils looked like jets of light. [Note: Reichert, p. 216.] Its eyes may be like the "eyelids of the morning" (Job 41:18 b) in that they were the first part of the animal to become visible as it rose to the water’s surface. [Note: Ibid.] Job 41:19-21 may describe its release of "pent-up breath together with water in a hot stream from its mouth [that] looks like a stream of fire in the sunshine." [Note: Rowley, p. 262.]

The last section of this description (Job 41:26-34) emphasizes man’s inability to capture Leviathan. Job 41:31 b may allude to the foam that formed on the top of a pot when someone was preparing ointment. [Note: Zuck, Job, p. 183.] The deep appeared grey-headed (Job 41:32 b), perhaps when the animal’s wake made whitecaps on the dark water. The section concludes by stressing this beast’s fearless confidence. If people cannot shake the confidence of one of God’s creatures, how foolish it was for Job to think he could intimidate God.

To some degree Job, his three friends, and Elihu had all based their arguments on the rationality of God’s acts. God reminded them of Behemoth and Leviathan partially to teach them all that His actions transcend our ability to explain everything rationally.

"Animals independent of man (Job 38:39 to Job 39:30) and animals dangerous and repulsive to man (Job 40:15 to Job 41:34) were all a grand zoological exhibition to help Job sense that because he had nothing to do with making, sustaining, or even subduing them, it was unthinkable that he could question their Creator." [Note: Ibid.]

Another writer advocated a different view with which I do not agree.

". . . the beasts themselves celebrate instead Job’s triumph." [Note: John G. Gammie, "Behemoth and Leviathan: On the Didactic and Theological Significance of Job 40:15-41:26," in Israelite Wisdom: Theological and Literary Essays in Honor of Samuel Terrien, p. 231.]

One might conclude after reading these speeches of Yahweh that God is not very compassionate. He may seem more concerned about establishing His own glory than about Job’s suffering. However, we need to remember that God could have said nothing. Furthermore, by directing Job’s thinking as He did, God did what was best for Job, the truly loving thing. He did not just give him answers to specific questions but a vision of Himself that would transform Job’s life forever after. God’s words to Job may sound harsh, but He was simply responding to Job in the same vein as Job had been addressing Him (cf. 2 Samuel 22:26-27; Psalms 18:25-26). He did not do this to mock him but to make a forceful impression on him. The forcefulness of His words harmonizes with the forcefulness of His revelation and the forcefulness of His person. [Note: See Robert Gordis, "The Lord out of the Whirlwind." Judaism 13:1 (Winter 1964):48-63.] God wants us to understand Him as best we can within our finite human limitations. That is evidently why He spoke to Job, and that is why He preserved this record of His revelation in Scripture. [Note: For seven different explanations of the meaning of Yahweh’s speeches to Job, see Donald E. Gowan, "God’s Answer to Job: How Is It an Answer?" Horizons in Biblical Theology 8:2 (December 1986):85-102.]

"That no summary challenge was needed at the end of the Lord’s second speech is indicative that Job’s second response (Job 42:1-6) was a willing one in contrast to his initial reluctant reply (Job 40:3-5)." [Note: Parsons, p. 141.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Job 40". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/job-40.html. 2012.
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