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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Job 40

Verses 1-5

Job Humbles Himself

God has pointed out to Job the wonders of His creation. It has been shown that only He knows, understands and constantly cares for and maintains everything in all their depths, in their details and in their coherence. Man has only a very limited understanding of God’s actions and then becomes small. It has become apparent that Job has made no contribution whatsoever to God’s actions and could never and never will be able to do so. God is so great and he is so small.

Before God presents the conclusion in the form of a question to Job in Job 40:2, we are first reminded that God is in the process of speaking to or answering Job (Job 40:1; Job 38:1). God’s answer after His speech is a challenge to Job. Job is suing Him, “the Almighty” (Job 40:2; Job 13:3; Job 13:15). After all, he has accused God of injustice, because He makes him suffer while he is innocent. He wanted to call God to account for this.

‘Well’, says God, ‘here I am. But first prove that you are capable of this lawsuit by teaching Me and answering Me all the questions I have put to you in the preceding chapters.’ God challenges Job to teach or correct Him with respect to His rule of the universe. By doing so, he would prove that he is an equal party for God and thus able to sue with God. Whoever criticizes God, as if he knows things better than He does, must be able to answer these questions from God, otherwise he must keep his mouth shut.

God does expect an answer to this question, He even demands that Job answers (“let him ... answer”). Because it has turned out that Job is completely ignorant about the course of events in creation, he must now choose. The choices are: Trust God in the awareness that He rules the world with wisdom, or persist in his accusation against God by which he elevates himself above God. What will Job do: trust Him or persist in accusing Him? The word is up to Job.

Then Job answers the LORD (Job 40:3). He recognizes that he is too little, too insignificant (cf. Genesis 32:10) to say anything against that great, exalted God and answer Him (Job 40:4). Seeing God in His creation and the care He spends on it, he puts his hand on his mouth, indicating that he is silencing himself. God has humbled him. He acknowledges that it is inappropriate to speak against God. He has done this again and again, but he will not do it again (Job 40:5). No further defense comes out of his mouth. Here the goal of God seems to have been achieved.

Yet God will speak further with him, for His purpose has not yet been achieved. Job does stop accusing, but that is because he recognizes that this is inappropriate towards Someone infinitely greater and more powerful than he is. However, he has not yet confessed this as sin. Job’s answer is too poor to God. Job wouldn’t say a bad word about God’s policy anymore, but could always have his own thoughts about it. That is why God continues His work on Job in grace, because Job still has to come to repentance. Only when that has happened will God have reached His goal.

God has spoken to Job once, but He sees the need to speak to him a second time. We will hear this in the following verses and chapters.

The LORD speaks in His first speech to Job about His care for His creation and His creatures (Job 38-39). In His second speech He points out the control He has over all creatures that man cannot control (Job 40-41). As an extreme example, He points to two creatures that man is completely powerless and defenseless against. They are types or examples of the irresistible power and pride that control man by nature and against which he is utterly powerless and defenseless. The two beasts that God presents to Job point above themselves to “the spiritual [forces] of wickedness” (Ephesians 6:12), especially to the power of satan. These “rulers” and “powers” are also subject to the authority of the Creator (Colossians 1:16).

The intention here goes far beyond showing Job that God is the Creator and Sustainer of the world of nature. He does this in His first speech. In His second speech it is about convincing Job that God is also Lord of the evil spiritual powers that turn His good order upside down and overthrow it. In a way Job has been their mouthpiece by objecting to God’s government, because he felt that God did not take the right attitude towards evil (cf. Matthew 16:22-Isaiah :).

In the introduction to the second speech (Job 40:6-2 Chronicles :), God talks about His power and His ability to crush evil. He looks down upon every proud power to humble and subdue it. In the two beasts that symbolize evil, we see that God is Lord and Master of evil, and deals with it as He wills and not as Job sees fit. When Job is convinced of the wrong of his criticism of God’s government, this time his answer is a response of profound repentance (Job 42:1-Joshua :).

Verses 6-14

God Continues With Job

After Job’s answer to the first speech, the LORD begins His second speech. As said, this is necessary because Job has not yet taken the place before the LORD that suits him. A deeper work has yet to be done in him. It is a proof of God’s grace that He does not lose His patience with Job, but continues to answer with him (Job 40:6; Job 38:1). God’s aim is not to crush and destroy Job, but to teach and persuade him, for which He is lovingly bending down to him.

Like His first speech, the LORD answers Job “out of the storm” (cf. Job 38:1). Also the challenge with which God turns to Job in Job 40:7 is similar to His challenge with which He began His first speech (Job 38:3). Again He advises Job to gird his loins like a man. Job must gather new strength and position himself in his masculine power, for God will continue to “ask” him. After all, Job himself has challenged God with the words “call, and I will answer” (Job 13:22). There will be new subjects that will demand all his attention. He will have to listen carefully and then answer.

God has also asked him questions in the previous chapters. But the tone in which He now speaks to Job is stricter. This is necessary to reach the depths of Job’s heart. We already see this in the first question God asks (Job 40:8). In the previous chapter God said that Job darkened His counsel with words without knowledge (Job 38:2). Now God is pointing out to Job that things are even worse for him, because he wants to annul His judgment, i.e. to declare it invalid. Job has said that God turns things around by not punishing the wicked who deserve punishment and punishing him who does not deserve punishment.

Job has declared God guilty of committing injustice, bending the law (Job 27:2). For God has punished him, an innocent one. Job has made this accusation because he sees himself as a righteous one. According to his conviction there is nothing wrong with him and despite that, God is punishing him anyway. Then there is something wrong with God. He accuses God in order to prove himself right. God is going to make it clear to Job that he considers himself to be righteous, which neither is his right nor true. Someone who is righteous gives everyone what is due to him and above all to God. That is where Job went wrong. Only he still has to see this for himself, and that is what God is doing.

God cannot simply ignore this serious accusation. However, he does not confront Job with his erroneous statements, but with Himself, with His power and omnipotence (Job 40:9). If Job thinks he has to take the floor against Him, he must first prove that he is His equal, that he is a match for Him. Let him show his arm. The arm of God symbolizes His power in salvation and in judgment (Psalms 44:3; Psalms 89:13; Isaiah 59:16; Ezekiel 20:33-Nahum :). What does the “arm of the flesh” (2 Chronicles 32:8) of Job mean? Is he as strong as God? If so, then Job can be a judge, because power is needed to do justice.

And what about the voice of Job? Can he thunder with his voice like God (Job 37:4-Deuteronomy :)? When God speaks, creation vibrates. In His voice “the thunder of His power” sounds (Job 26:14). And what happens when Job speaks? Nothing at all. Both His physical strength and the power of His words vanish into nothingness compared to the power of God’s deeds and words.

Let Job stand up as a judge and adorn himself “with eminence and dignity”, so that everyone can see that he is above the matter with which he must concern himself (Job 40:10). He should act like God and, like God, clothe himself “with honor and majesty” (Psalms 104:1). Then he can sit on the throne and show that he can rule the world better than God.

When he is adorned and clothed with such excellences, he can act against evil and “pour out the overflowings” of his anger (Job 40:11). Then he can do what God fails to do. After all, God makes nothing of it. His government is no good. This is evident from the way He treats Job. Well, Job has to show that he can eradicate all injustice in the world. If he knows so well what to do with the proud, let him look “on everyone who is proud” and humble them by his gaze, without overlooking one.

The word “look” means to look harshly and threateningly, so that the one who is looked on realizes that the judge knows him through and through and that he cannot hide anything from him. God can. This humbles the proud one. He has nothing left to hold on to, nothing he can boast about or hide behind, because the Judge sees through him. With this God points to one of the many examples of His power and asks Job to imitate Him in this.

Job must not only look on and make low everyone who is proud, he must also look on everyone who is proud and humble or subdue him (Job 40:12; cf. Isaiah 2:11-2 Kings :). Making low takes away from him in his pride. Humbling him means compelling him to do his will. Job must also deal with the wicked. He must tread them down “where they stand”. This means judgment without delay. Wherever they are, it must be done so that they can no longer commit any wickedness. Isn’t that what Job expects God to do, but what He doesn’t do? Then he must show it himself.

After the execution of the judgment Job must ensure that the proud and wicked are hidden “in the dust” of the earth together (Job 40:13). They must disappear completely out of sight. To underline the definitive of their judgment, Job must bind them, or: their faces, in the hidden. In this way he places a double darkness on these criminals. They are already hidden in the dust, and now a blindfold is added. In this way they are no longer seen by anyone, and they can no longer see anyone. Someone whose face is wrapped, sees nothing anymore. It happens to those condemned to death (Esther 7:8).

‘Look Job’, God says, ‘if you can do this with the wicked, I will confess to you (Job 40:14) that you are the powerful man who can turn his words into deeds. Your own right hand has so much power that you have saved yourself from the wicked and from all kinds of difficult situations. You don’t need help from anyone. Then it is proved that you are a party for Me and that you can sue Me for a lawsuit.’

We can summarize the message of this introduction in such a way that Job cannot be saved by his own right hand, but only by God’s right hand, and that he is absolutely no match for God, for he is not equal to God. Job must acknowledge God not only as Creator, but also as Savior. God is the only One worthy of all praise, not Job.

Verses 15-24

Behemoth

There is, of course, no response from Job to what God said to him in the previous verses. He can practice nothing, but nothing at all, of what God has told him. God is the only One Who can do everything to which he has called Job. Job is not God. He is only a creature, while God is sovereign and omnipotent.

God is going to demonstrate that sovereignty and omnipotence even further by presenting two of His greatest works of creation to Job:
1. Behemoth, a beast that lives mainly on the land, and
2. Leviathan, a beast that lives more in the sea.

They show His power and majesty like no other of His works of creation.

God reminds Job of the first beast: “Behold now, Behemoth”, that mighty beast (Job 40:15). It is not clear what kind of beast it was. It cannot be compared to any beast we know. It has been assumed that it was an elephant or a rhino. But if we read the description, it must take some imagination to recognize either beast in it. The most plausible explanation is that it concerns a certain kind of dinosaur, which we know were enormous beasts. We don’t know those beasts, but apparently Job does, because God can point them out to him.

In any case, God made that beast, which in size and power far surpasses Job. That beast is a creature of Him, just like Job is: “Which I made as well as you.” That enormous beast and Job both emerged from His hand on the same day of creation, the sixth, and are constantly in His hand. God is their Lord, He is above them.

Then God is going to describe the characteristics of this beast. He begins with the food. Behemoth is an herbivore, for “he eats grass like an ox”. The meaning of His name also points to this. The Hebrew word behemoth is the plural of behema and means ‘cattle’. The plural form is used here to emphasize size and importance. This indicates that ‘cattle’ should be understood as ‘giant cattle’.

The fact that his vegetable food is mentioned as a special characteristic seems to mean that this would not be expected of such a giant monster. It does not mean that we have a sweet little beast in front of us, but that we see God’s creative wisdom in this. God created this beast in such a way that it eats grass “like an ox”, just like the cattle from which its name is derived.

From the further description we can conclude that the power of that beast far surpasses that of man. Job should take a look at his loins (Job 40:16). What a strength they radiate. And then the muscles of his belly, what a power. The beast is also able to make his tail, that usually will drag over the ground, like a cedar, turning it into a kind of battering ram (Job 40:17). This characteristic also makes it clear that this cannot be a rhino, as some biblical translations suggest by translating the word ‘behemoth’ with rhino. It is difficult to say that the short, blunt tail of a rhino resembles a cedar tree.

The sinews of its thighs resemble braided cables. The sinews connect the muscles to the bones. His individual bones resemble tubes of bronze and the whole of his bones resemble a skeleton of bars of iron (Job 40:18). The beast has a metal frame.

What God tells Job about this beast must make him deeply impressed by the Creator of it. God has given this beast this unparalleled massiveness, strength and size. What man can measure up to such a beast? Who is capable of subjugating such a beast? It was already impossible with almost all the beasts mentioned in the previous chapters. But here it is totally excluded. Only God has power over this beast.

In the middle of the description of the beast the testimony sounds: “He is the first of the ways of God” (Job 40:19). Of all the beasts that God has made, Behemoth is the largest and most impressive. A comparison with two remarkable passages in the Bible may help to understand the meaning of “the first of the ways of God”. In Isaiah 14 the judgment is announced about the king of Babylon and in Ezekiel 28 about the city of Tyre (Isaiah 14:1-2 Kings :; Ezekiel 28:1-2 Samuel :). In both cases, the message of the judgment begins with the reference to the real places and people, just like many other judgments in the chapters before and after.

But then the description suddenly goes far beyond earthly relations (Isaiah 14:12-Ezra :; Ezekiel 28:11-Psalms :). Clearly, in both cases, God refers to the driving force behind and uses the self-satisfied, proud, and ungodly systems. He refers directly to satan.

We can assume, with due caution, that satan is the creature rightly titled “the first of the ways of God”. The invincibility of Behemoth by man is therefore a picture of the much stronger adversary satan, who can also use beasts for his purpose (cf. Genesis 3:1-Deuteronomy :).

But the deadly power, the sword, God Himself has given to the beast, while He still has complete control over it. The first two chapters of Job clearly show that satan can go no further in his destructive acts than God allows him.

When He made Behemoth, God also provided him with “his sword”. This means one of the fingers of his paw that looks like a sword. He finds his food on the mountains, where all the beasts of the field play (Job 40:20). That conjures up a lovely scene. There seems to be no threat emanating from this beast.

On the contrary, the colossal beast radiates calmness. The colossus looks for a place where he finds protection from the burning sun and lies down to sleep under shady trees (Job 40:21-Song of Solomon :). He looks for “the covert of the reeds and the marsh”, which is an area rich in water. When the weather turns and the river Jordan becomes wild, you will not see it tremble (Job 40:23). He is not impressed by rushing water, but remains calm. The mention of the river Jordan is interesting, because it is a further indication that the land of Uz where Job lived (Job 1:1) was in the area of the later Edom.

Although there seems to be no direct threat from this giant beast, no one will dare attempt to capture it (Job 40:24). “capture him when he is on watch” means to catch him while he is looking, not sleeping. Nobody can pierce his nose with barbs to take him away. His strength is so great that no one dares come near him.

The overall impression of this mighty creature is that it is full of power and afraid of no one. The greatest violence of nature does not bother him. At the same time, he seems to mean no harm. This makes him a striking picture of satan as “an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Satan was created by God as the chief angel. He “had the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (Ezekiel 28:12). But he abused what God gave him for himself and became satan.

Behind the kind face satan can show a devastating and destructive force is hidden. He is the “friendly” liar, who is out to murder, for he is also the murderer of men from the beginning (John 8:44). His destructive power is presented in the next beast, the Leviathan. None of mankind fathoms satan, and no one is able to tame him or bind him. Only God has complete authority over satan.

Also the believers who live in fellowship with God and have His Word as a guideline for their lives, see through him, because they are not ignorant of his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11). But they are no match for him either. The only safe place to be preserved from the deceptions of satan is Christ. Christ has bound satan, “the strong one”, in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-1 Kings :; Matthew 12:29) and has overcome him on the cross (Hebrews 2:14-Ezra :).

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Job 40". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/job-40.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.