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the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Job 9

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-20

Job Speaks (9:1-10:22)

But I Cannot Reach God (9:1-20)

As was noted in the Introduction, the speakers in the discussion usually do not address themselves directly to the questions raised by the immediately preceding speaker. Sometimes they move in entirely new directions, sometimes they speak to a point raised several speeches before. Job’s speech here begins with a consideration of major issues in the speeches of both Eliphaz and Bildad. In 4:17 Eliphaz has asked, "Can mortal man be righteous before God?" Bildad in 8:3 has asked, "Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert the right?" Job’s "I know that it is so" may be taken as agreement with the truth in these fundamental points. No man is absolutely pure in relation to God, and God does not twist justice. But Job’s question is not answered by either truth. That question is: How can a man, a frail human being, establish his own relative justice before God? How can his righteousness be argued, or even presented as a case?

Job proceeds to a statement of the massive power of God, so complete that man has no handhold on him, no point at which to approach him. If one wished to enter a legal suit with God ("contend," vs. 3) he would find it impossible. The contest would be too unequal if it involved the God who causes earthquakes (vss. 5-6), who controls the forces of nature (vss. 7-8), and whose works are marvelous beyond understanding (vss. 9-10). This catalogue of evidences of God’s power has parallels to other doxologies in the book (see, for example, Job 5:9-11 and comment), and it is, in fact, somewhat like the great closing speeches of the Lord himself (chs. 38-41). Here, however, the whole point is that the God of such power is really unapproachable. The climactic expression of his power is in verse 12: when God snatches no one can stay him, and no one can even question him. But it must be noted that Job is now presenting the popular attitude and not his own. The answer to the question "Who will say to him, ’What doest thou’?" is of course, "Job!" He is doing just that — questioning the purpose of God. His determination, moreover, is to force the question where it can find a proper answer — in the presence of God himself.

In the following verses Job comes back to the impossibility of his task. Verse 13 in the Revised Standard Version means that God is set in anger against Job. It is possible, however, to understand in the first line "a god" rather than "God." In this case the reference would be to the old view of creation, where God overcame the forces of chaos and conquered the primeval monster. Even "a god" could not divert the Lord, since even the "helpers of Rahab" yielded to him at creation. (See the comment at 3:8. The poet’s use of the language of ancient mythologies does not mean that he accepted the thought of these mythologies. It is evident that the author of the Book of Job was a strict monotheist.

If even "a god" would be powerless before God, Job would have no chance of answering a charge made by him. His dilemma is that the condemned must appeal, not to an impartial judge, but to the very one who has caused his misery (vs. 15). So far has Job’s skepticism advanced in his own relationship with God, that now he would not be able to credit it even if God were to answer him (vs. 16). This skepticism is evident also in his bitter exclamations in verses 19 and 20. God can best him in any contest, so that before such a judge even his protestation of innocence would become evidence of guilt.

Verses 21-24

God’s Actions Seem to Be Indiscriminate (9:21-24)

Job has just given expression to almost complete skepticism about his personal relationship to God (vss. 13-20). Now he expresses an even more serious skepticism about God’s governance of the world. In anticipation of the fact that his words will skirt out-and-out blasphemy, he begins (vs. 21) with an avowal that he is not concerned with saving his life, at least not at the expense of truth. The truth, as he sees it in verses 22-24, is that there is no difference in the lot of the righteous and that of the wicked. This is not the simple statement that good and bad alike die (as Ecclesiastes 9:2) but the charge that destruction, or calamity, overtakes them both without discrimination. Moreover, God himself mocks the calamity of the innocent. Finally, instead of establishing justice, God supports wickedness.

The charge ends with the pointed question: "If it is not he, who then is it?" And everyone must echo, "Who, indeed?" Job’s view of life is as extreme and as false in its exaggeration as that of the friends. But it has one advantage which theirs lacks: it takes evil seriously. It takes it so seriously, in fact, that faith in God is imperiled; but it is honest. To the author it was apparently not sufficient to answer the question in the way of the Prologue, "It is Satan!" Job’s question must stand — either until God gives it answer or until the force of evil is somehow blunted.

Verses 25-35

There Is No Arbiter Between Us (9:25-35)

In verses 25-26 there are three moving images of the brevity of life and of the swiftness with which Job’s own life is coming to an end without resolution of his problem. He cannot by any means put that problem aside, either by forgetting it or by minimizing it (vss. 27-28). His whole prospect is despairing, for even though he were to establish his innocence, washing in snow water and lye, such innocence would not affect the God who plagued him so.

Verse 32 has often been cited as a remarkable anticipation of New Testament truth. It is clearly an indication that Job not only knew the exact nature of his problem but also knew that any solution, to be satisfactory, would have to be given on a level which man could understand, or at least accept. His complaint that God is not a man, so that the two of them might come together, points to the need for God’s mightiest act of all when, in his Son, he did become man, so that he might bring us together to glory (see Hebrews 2:10-18). Verse 33 points us in an even more direct way to the New Testament. If we read the first line, as in the margin, "Would that there were an umpire between us," we catch Job’s desperate longing that there be One who could stand as an Arbiter between God and man, not merely to settle a dispute but even, by laying his hand on both, to bring them into complete reconciliation.

The last two verses of chapter 9 are difficult to understand. They are probably transitional, leading to the direct appeal to God which comes in chapter 10, and represent Job’s disappointment that there was for him no such arbiter and that in himself there were no resources for meeting the crisis he faced.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Job 9". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/job-9.html.
 
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