Job 40 Commentary

A direct challenge (40:1-14)

God now challenges Job to present his arguments (40:1-2). Although God’s speech has not specifically dealt with the problem of Job’s suffering, Job has no argument to present. God has not solved Job’s intellectual problems, nor has he confirmed or denied the theories of the three friends. He has said nothing against Job, but he has shown Job that people cannot expect to understand everything about the activity of God in the complex world he has made. Job is sorry for his former rash words and has nothing more to say (3-5).

However, God is not yet finished with Job. He asks about Job’s accusations of injustice in God. Does he still want to make God wrong merely to prove himself right? Does he want to be like God, to take God’s place and govern the moral order of the universe, to decree what is right and what is wrong (6-9)? If so, let Job clothe himself with God’s magnificent robes and sit in judgment on all who are proud and wicked. Then God will acknowledge Job’s assessment of himself as correct (10-14).

Two beasts (40:15-41:34)

Before Job accepts the challenge to govern the moral order, God warns him that it is far more difficult than governing the natural and physical order. Therefore, Job must first consider what power he has over, for instance, the beasts. Two examples are sufficient to impress upon Job that he faces an impossibility. The first of these is the monster Behemoth, generally thought to be the hippopotamus. It is among the strongest creatures of God’s creation (15-18), all-powerful on the land, untroubled in the water and very difficult to capture (19-24).

The second beast described to Job is Leviathan, the mythical sea monster or, possibly, the crocodile. Can Job catch one with a hook as he catches a fish? Can he make it talk, or make it work for him, or make a pet of it? Can he sell it in the market (41:1-6)? Even if Job were able to catch one he would be sorry. He would never do it again (7-8)! If, then, no person in his right mind would dare stir up Leviathan, how unthinkable to try to stand up against God (9-11).

God then describes some fearsome features of this dragon-like beast: its armour of tough skin, its strong jaws, its terrible teeth (12-17). When it blows air and water out of its nostrils, it appears to be blowing out fire and smoke (18-21). The animal is so fearfully strong that just the sight of its movements fills even the strongest with terror (22-25). No weapon can pierce its iron-like skin (26-29). When it moves from the land into the water its movements dig up the mud like a threshing-sledge and whip up white foam on the water (30-32). This fearsome creature is the king of beasts, unconquerable by human power, yet it is part of the world God has created (33-34).

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