DESPAIR OVER INABILITY TO RESOLVE UNDESERVED SUFFERING RAISES 3 TROUBLING FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS
Elmer Smick: In these chapters Job’s words move from extolling God (9:1–13)—perhaps as a display of theological acumen to impress the counselors—to blaming God. Would God ever treat him justly? He doubts it (vv.14–31). Does God mock the innocent? Job thinks probably so (vv.21–24). “If it is not he, then who is it?” (v.24). These are hard words, but his question instead of a statement implies doubt. These words are followed in vv.32–35 with a yearning for someone strong enough to take up his cause with God. But in chapter 10 Job decides to plead his own cause and direct all his words to God. How can God, who has created him, want to destroy him—and that without any formal charges?
John Hartley: Job gives vent to the deep agitation of his inner thoughts. In this speech he tends to state a position boldly, then abandon it when he sees its difficulty and jump to another idea, which is also quickly abandoned. Other times he reverts to despair, almost the utter despair of his opening curse-lament (ch. 3). His jumping about reflects his frustration at the lack of any insight into the reasons for his plight.
Derek Kidner: Job’s grief process reaches another stage here. We have already noted in response to Eliphaz’s speech how Job moved on from silence to questioning, to depression and to anger. Now he slides into despair. Job feels powerless and trapped. He has in addition a sense of being persecuted by God, that God is not merely watching him, but watching him with the intent of fastening guilt upon him. Death seems the best option and, in Job’s view, it cannot be a long way off. If only God would leave him alone for the last few days of his life, so that he might die in peace, free from his burdens and pain!
David Clines: Viewed from the aspect of function, the speech as a whole has the form of controversy with oneself, Job debating the wisdom or possibility of legal disputation with God (9:2–24), and of reproach against God (9:25—10:22).
Warren Wiersbe: From this point on, the emphasis in the discussion is on the justice of God; and the image that is uppermost in Job’s mind is that of a legal trial.
Parsons: The Book of Job uses legal terms and metaphors extensively in the sections that deal with Job’s disputes with God. Job had previously served as a judge in his town (29:7-17), and he wanted justice (Heb. mispat) from God. Therefore he used legal terminology frequently in his dialogues. These legal metaphors are one of the key features of the book, since they help us identify its purpose.
Tremper Longman: In this, Job’s second speech in the first cycle, he begins by speaking to the friends about God (9:1–24) and then continues by speaking directly to God (9:25–10:22).
(:1) PROLOGUE – RESPONSE OF JOB
“Then Job answered,”
I. (9:2-13) QUESTION #1 — HOW CAN A MAN BE INNOCENT BEFORE GOD?
A. (:2) Key Question – How Can a Man Be Declared Innocent?
“In truth I know that this is so,
But how can a man be in the right before God?”
Elmer Smick: His opening remark—“Indeed, I know that this is true” (v.1)—is a grudging admission that what Bildad has said contains the right theology. After all, Job does share the same basic idea as Bildad and the other three friends—that suffering is the result of sin—though he believes God is unjust to apply it in his case.
Warren Wiersbe: This is not a question about salvation (“How may I be justified?”) but about vindication (“How can I be declared innocent?”).
John Hartley: The interrogative indicates that Job does not think there is any likelihood of winning a case against God. Yet his conviction that God does not pervert justice prods him to contemplate the impossible, i.e., of pursuing litigation against God.
David Clines: Job’s hopelessness stems not from a sense that God is arbitrary but from a sense of his own powerlessness against the divine decision and his own incapacity to refute the divine judgment (cf. 9:3, 14, 19).
B. (:3-4) God Holds Every Advantage in Any Dispute
1. (:3) No Refuting God in a Debate
“If one wished to dispute with Him,
He could not answer Him once in a thousand times.”
Elmer Smick: Job fervently believes that he is innocent of any sin that might warrant the kind of punishment he is enduring. But he is frustrated in his attempt to vindicate himself. God’s wisdom is too profound and his power too great for Job to debate in court (9:3–4).
Robert Alden: Job’s phrasing of his frustration with the divine silence will take many forms. God cannot be found. God will not respond. God always wins any argument. God plays all the roles in the courtroom: accuser, witness, bailiff, jury, and judge. Elsewhere in this chapter Job used such terminology in vv. 14-16, 19-21, 24, 32 and in chap. 10:2, 14-15, 17. At least at this point Job had no lawyer, no advocate, no defender, and no hope.
2. (:4) No Competing with God’s Wisdom, Power and Sovereignty
a. God’s Wisdom
“Wise in heart”
b. God’s Power
“and mighty in strength,”
c. God’s Sovereignty
“Who has defied Him without harm?”
Tremper Longman: who can challenge such a powerful God in court concerning the injustice that he is showing Job, and come out unscathed?
C. (:5-10) God’s Cosmic Activity Manifests His Unsurpassed Power and Majesty
“It is God who removes the mountains, they know not how,
When He overturns them in His anger;
John Hartley: He moves the mountains, which are symbolic of antiquity and stability (cf. Gen. 49:26; Deut. 33:15).
Robert Alden: In this hymn Job made several commendable statements about God’s majesty and power, but the point is not so much to give God glory as to paint a backdrop for his own feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. God may be great; but to Job he was removed, unconcerned, unreachable, and incomprehensible. Job had earthquakes in mind and assumed that the accompanying noise and shaking was an evidence of God’s wrath.
6 Who shakes the earth out of its place,
And its pillars tremble;
John MacArthur: In the figurative language of the day, this phrase described the supporting power that secured the position of the earth in the universe.
7 Who commands the sun not to shine,
And sets a seal upon the stars;
8 Who alone stretches out the heavens,
And tramples down the waves of the sea;
John Hartley: Each day God stretches out the heavens like a great tent (cf. Ps. 104:2; Zech. 12:1; Isa. 44:24; 51:13). This metaphor means that God prepares the heavens as his canopy under which he displays his reign in theophanic splendor. There he manifests his kingly authority: he treads on the back of the sea. Since in the OT the sea is symbolic of chaotic powers hostile to God, this expression means that he has subdued the sea and is its master.
9 Who makes the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades,
And the chambers of the south;
10 Who does great things, unfathomable,
And wondrous works without number.”
David Guzik: Job praised the great might of God, who created the worlds and put the sun and stars in the sky. Yet the might of God was no comfort to Job; it just made him feel that God was more distant than ever.
John Hartley: God continues to be actively involved within the created order, and all of his wonders bear witness to his wisdom (cf. Isa. 28:29). Whereas Eliphaz employed these same lines to God’s judicious governance of the world (Job 5:9), Job’s thoughts gravitate toward God’s sheer power and cunning, which may be manifested in remarkable, enigmatic upheavals in nature.
David Clines: Certainly the whole of God’s cosmic activity, at creation and in the realm of nature, is viewed by Job entirely from the perspective of how that activity impinges on him. He is not concerned with questions of God’s governance of the universe, but wholly with God’s treatment of him.
Derek Kidner: Four features of God’s innate sovereignty are described.
– God is incomprehensible (9:10)
– God is invisible (9:11; Ex. 33:22-23; 1 Kings 19:12-13)
– God is unaccountable (9:12)
– God is also unrestrainable (9:13; cf. 26:12)
Job feels as though every aspect of God’s being is now against him. God has withdrawn and in his misery Job feels desperately lonely. No one understands him. There is no one to sympathize, to put their arms around him and comfort him. These are words of utter despair.
D. (:11-12) God’s Transcendence Makes Him Unapproachable
“Were He to pass by me, I would not see Him;
Were He to move past me, I would not perceive Him.
John Hartley: Even though nature reacts to God’s presence with violent upheavals, God himself is not visible in the natural phenomena (cf. 1 K. 19:11–13). He transcends the elements. As a result, even when God draws near, no human being ever beholds him. All a person perceives are the effects of God’s presence. Consequently, one who has a concern with God does not find any opportunity to speak to or argue with him.
12 Were He to snatch away, who could restrain Him?
Who could say to Him, ‘What art Thou doing?’”
Tremper Longman: He is so powerful and ineffable that no one can question him; even if he carries someone off, no one has the authority, power, or even possibly the opportunity to question him. Job may allude here to the carrying off of his property and his children.
John Hartley: He can take a person without anyone stopping him. No victim can call God’s actions into question by asking, What are you doing? When a bystander puts such a question to a person, he is challenging the rightness of what that person is doing. He is ordering that person to stop and give an account of his actions. But no one can so challenge God.
E. (:13) God’s Angry Opposition Cannot Be Stopped
“God will not turn back His anger;
Beneath Him crouch the helpers of Rahab.”
Thomas Constable: Rahab (lit. pride, v. 13) was a name ancient Near Easterners used to describe a mythical sea monster that was symbolic of evil. Such a monster, also called Leviathan (7:12), was a major character in the creation legends of several ancient Near Eastern peoples, including the Mesopotamians and the Canaanites. The Israelites also referred to Egypt as Rahab because of its similarity to this monster (cf. 26:12; Ps. 87:4; 89:10; Isa. 30:7; 51:9).
John Hartley: Proof of God’s incontestable might is his victory over the forces of chaos represented by the helpers or cohorts of Rahab. Rahab is one of the monsters along with Leviathan (see 3:8; 40:25–41:26 [Eng. 41:1–34]) and Tannin (see 7:12; 30:29; Gen. 1:21; Ps. 74:13; Isa. 27:1) who were thought to inhabit the depths of the sea. By reason of their role in the myths of Israel’s neighbors, in the OT these creatures symbolize the forces of chaos in opposition to God. It is always affirmed that God has defeated them as a testimony to the belief that God is master over all cosmic forces, including those that are hostile to his rule.
II. (9:14-35) QUESTION #2 — HOW CAN I ANSWER GOD IN COURT?
A. (:14-24) No Possibility of a Fair Hearing Before God
1. (:14-19) Interaction Has No Chance of Success
a. (:14-15) Key Question – How Can I Answer God in Court?
“How then can I answer Him,
And choose my words before Him?
15 For though I were right, I could not answer;
I would have to implore the mercy of my judge.”
John MacArthur: He means here, not sinless, but having spiritual integrity, i.e., a pure heart to love, serve, and obey God. He was affirming again that his suffering was not due to sins he was not willing to confess. Even at that, God found something to condemn him for, he felt, making it hopeless, then, to contend with God.
b. (:16-18) God is My Attacker – Not a Neutral Arbiter
“If I called and He answered me,
I could not believe that He was listening to my voice.
17 For He bruises me with a tempest,
And multiplies my wounds without cause.
David Guzik: Job felt that God’s might was against him, not for him. In this sense, it did no good for Job to consider the awesome power of God, because that power seemed to be set against him.
18 He will not allow me to get my breath,
But saturates me with bitterness.”
John Hartley: Job intensifies his complaint, declaring that God does not allow him any opportunity for his spirit to be restored. The spirit means his inner resourcefulness and attitudes. He keeps Job in constant emotional turmoil by continually filling him with bitter things. As a result, he is so worn down that he lacks the inner strength to bear himself with dignity. The bitterness that churns deep inside him favors his speeches.
c. (:19) God is Too Powerful to Be Confronted
“If it is a matter of power,
behold, He is the strong one!
And if it is a matter of justice,
who can summon Him?”
David Clines: vv. 17-20 — Job and God are not equal before the law: God’s assaults upon Job make it impossible for Job to reach even the first phase of a formal attempt to gain vindication. And even supposing a lawsuit could be started, the majesty of God would surely overawe Job into misspeaking himself (v 20).
2. (:20-24) Innocence Has No Value
a. (:20-21) Vindication is Impossible
“Though I am righteous,
my mouth will condemn me;
Though I am guiltless,
He will declare me guilty.”
I am guiltless;
I do not take notice of myself;
I despise my life.”
Lawson: When Job says he is guiltless, he is not claiming to be sinless. He’s not espousing moral perfection. Just relative innocence. He doesn’t believe he’s done anything to deserve this kind of treatment.
John Hartley: Feeling that he has no possible escape from his anguish, he vents his hatred for life. The oblique, literal language, “I do not know myself,” may be understood as “I do not care for myself.” The conviction of his own moral purity does not ease the deep sense of meaninglessness he feels from his anguish, fed by the lack of any sense of God’s presence or any insight into his design.
Tremper Longman: As he himself says in v. 25b, even though the days go fast, they do not go well. They are filled with pain and distress. Apparently, he both hates his life (9:21) and also feels that it passes quickly, but with pain. Both are common reactions to life by those who suffer.
b. (:22-24) Vengeance of God is Indiscriminate
1) (:22) Charge of Injustice = Destroying All Indiscriminately
“It is all one; therefore I say,
‘He destroys the guiltless and the wicked.’”
Peter Wallace: This is Job’s version of “common wrath.” Just as there is “common grace” – where the rain falls upon the just and the unjust; so also there is a common wrath: destruction, disaster, calamity – come upon the blameless and the wicked. . .
God’s attitude toward humanity is one of unrelenting hostility. God destroys the wicked and the blameless together! So what was the point of being blameless?
2) (:23) Proof from Calamities
“If the scourge kills suddenly,
He mocks the despair of the innocent.”
3) (:24a) Proof from Oppression
“The earth is given into the hand of the wicked;
He covers the faces of its judges.”
4) (:24b) Proof from God’s Sovereignty
“If it is not He, then who is it?”
Thomas Constable: Job came to the point of concluding that it did not matter whether he was innocent since God destroys both the guiltless, like himself, and the wicked (v. 22). He came very close to accusing God of injustice here. Further evidences of God’s injustice include the facts that innocent people die in plagues (v. 23) and the wicked prosper in the earth (v. 24).
Elmer Smick: All God’s sovereign acts are rooted in his righteous character, even when they are outside the bounds of human ability to evaluate them. And that applies especially here as Job struggles to understand.
John Hartley: Given the fact that injustices exist throughout the land and that there is only one God, one can only conclude that God himself is the cause of these injustices. Job’s questioning leads him to wonder if God is really just.
David Clines: vv. 21-24 — Job puts aside for the time being his dream of a satisfactory confrontation with God, and muses on his present sorry state and what it proves about God’s attitude to humankind. The facts about Job are two: he is blameless, and he is in despair. A God who can allow that combination of conditions can only be cruelly disposed toward humankind. Two examples follow of how God only exacerbates the misery brought about by natural (v 23) and social (v 24) calamities.
B. (:25-35) Impediments to Removing God’s Scourge of Undeserved Suffering
Elmer Smick: Verses 25–31 combine as an expression of deep despair. Job is unable to suck sweetness from a single day; there is not a glimpse of joy, not a smile (v.27), only one unending blur of suffering (v.28). Since God has arbitrarily chosen to treat him as a criminal, what can he do to purge himself (v.29)? Even if he were able to purge himself (v.30), God would plunge him again into a slime pit so that even his clothes would detest him (v.31).
1. (:25-26) Despair of Positive Resolution Due to Brevity of Life –
3 Illustrations of Fleeting Life of Unrelenting Misery – Can’t Slow Life Down
a. (:25) Land – Fast Runner
“Now my days are swifter than a runner;
They flee away, they see no good.”
b. (:26a) Sea — Speedboat
“They slip by like reed boats,”
c. (:26b) Air — Stalking Eagle
“Like an eagle that swoops on its prey.”
John Hartley: Each of these speedy creatures is spurred on by a desired end. But for Job his days are passing by even more swiftly, yet without the hope of any reward at the end that would encourage him to blot out the pain of the journey.
John MacArthur: Couriers running with messages, ships cutting swiftly, and eagles swooping rapidly convey the blur of painful, meaningless days of despair that move by.
David Clines: It has seemed strange to many commentators that so soon after declaring that he cared nothing for his life (v 21), Job should be lamenting the brevity of his days. Some have seen in the sudden shift of mood the hand of “a master of the psychology of suffering” (Terrien; similarly Duhm), others evidence of Job’s inconsistency. But as we have noted on 7:1–3, 6 (and cf. the apparent contradiction of mood between 7:6 and 7:16), the theme of the brevity of life can be employed for various purposes; here the only purpose that blends with the context is uncovered if we regard the phrase “they have seen no good” as the center of this sketch. The days of one’s life may be expected to yield varying experiences; Job, unlike other people, must affirm that the rapid succession of days that has unfolded before him have brought to him only one experience: no good. Every day the same deprivation of joy lies in store for him; no matter how quickly one day gives place to the next, the one unvarying aspect marks them all. The theme of this vignette, then, is not the brevity of life as such but the misery of life that is in no way relieved by the progression of the days.
2. (:27-28) Positive Thinking Not a Viable Solution – Can’t Escape the Pain
“Though I say, ‘I will forget my complaint,
I will leave off my sad countenance and be cheerful,’
28 I am afraid of all my pains,
I know that Thou wilt not acquit me.”
John Hartley: But Job’s resolution comes to a sudden end. His effort at positive thinking falters before a surge of pain. The appalling reality of his pain convinces him that God will not acquit him. No amount of hopeful thinking can calm his thoughts, which are troubled by God’s seemingly capricious power.
3. (:29-31) Pursuit of Holiness Would Be Futile – Can’t Remove the Stench
“I am accounted wicked,
Why then should I toil in vain?
30 If I should wash myself with snow
And cleanse my hands with lye,
31 Yet Thou wouldst plunge me into the pit,
And my own clothes would abhor me.”
John Hartley: The word uselessly (heḇel) means literally “vapor, mist,” that which is fleeting, lacking in substance (cf. Eccl. 1:2). The word toil (yāḡaʿ) stresses the weariness that comes from hard work. The juxtaposing of toil and uselessly captures the despair Job feels when he contemplates taking a strenuous course of action to prove his innocence, a course that seems doomed to fail.
David Guzik: Spurgeon saw the washing with snow water as a description of the vain things that sinners do to justify themselves and cleanse themselves of their sin.
• Snow water is hard to get, and therefore considered more precious.
• Snow water has a reputation for purity and is thought therefore to be more able to cleanse.
• Snow water comes down from the heavens and not up from the earth and is thought to be more “spiritual.”
Snow water and soap each speak of great effort to be pure. One can use the purest water and the strongest soap, but it is still impossible to cleanse one’s sin by one’s self.
Yet You will plunge me into the pit: The more Job considered the greatness of God, the more he felt plunged into a pit of depravity. God may plunge a man into the pit to see his true sinfulness in many different ways.
• He may bring the memory of old sins to remembrance.
• He may allow the man to be greatly tempted and thus to know his weakness.
• He may reveal to the man how imperfect all his works are.
• He may make the man to understand the spiritual character of the law.
• He may display His great holiness to the man.
David Clines: The image Job uses for God’s expected ignoring of his claim to innocence is a striking one: God will take him, as he stands freshly clean from his washing, and will plunge him mother-naked into a filthy pit or cesspool, so that his very clothes will shun him.
4. (:32-33) Power Disparity But No Mediator – Can’t Connect to God
“For He is not a man as I am that I may answer Him,
That we may go to court together.
33 There is no umpire between us,
Who may lay his hand upon us both.”
Thomas Constable: Job’s frustration, expressed in verses 32-33, is understandable since God was both his legal adversary and his judge. This accounts for his urgent, yet hopeless, cry for a neutral party (mediator, umpire) to arbitrate a settlement between himself and God. In the ancient Near East this arbitrator was a judge whose verdict was more often a settlement proposal that the litigants could either accept or reject (cf. 13:7-12; 16:18-21. Job had no hope of receiving justice from God—only mercy (v. 34). He felt that since God was so great, he could not vindicate himself.
Francis Andersen: This is the persistent problem, the real problem of the book: not the problem of suffering, to be solved intellectually by supplying a satisfactory answer which explains why it happened; but the attainment of a right relationship with God which makes existence in suffering holy and acceptable.
David Guzik: We have a great promise of a Mediator that Job did not yet know of: For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). What Job longed for is fulfilled in Jesus. He fulfills all the qualifications for a mediator, someone to stand between two parties in disagreement:
• The mediator must be accepted by both parties.
• The mediator must be allowed to fully settle the case.
• The mediator must be someone able to relate to both parties.
• The mediator must have the desire to see a happy settlement.
John Hartley: Again Job’s reasoning comes up against an insurmountable wall. There is no way for him to settle his complaint with God. Nevertheless, the genuineness of his yearning for God shines through this line. Job is grasping after any means to restore his relationship with God. His sense of meaninglessness before inexplicable suffering is deepened by God’s absence from his life. That is why his search for vindication is essentially a search for God again to make himself known to him.
Tremper Longman: Now he thinks once more about going to court with God. Again, however, he recognizes that he is not prepared to go one-on-one with God in court. There is a power disparity. He is not God’s equal that they could meet together in court. What Job needs is a mediator, here described as an umpire. The mediator “would set his hand on both of us.” He would not take sides, but he would even out the playing field. God’s rod of punishment was on him, and thus Job was afraid of God, but the “umpire” would remove the rod and the dread. If this were the case, then he could enter into a proper interchange with God. In the end, though, Job recognizes that there is no such umpire (“though this is not the case with me”).
5. (:34-35) Paralyzed by the Dread of God – Can’t Even Express Myself
“Let Him remove His rod from me,
And let not dread of Him terrify me.
35 Then I would speak and not fear Him;
But I am not like that in myself.”
III. (10:1-22) QUESTION #3 — WHY WAS I EVEN BORN TO SUCH A CONFUSING EXISTENCE?
David Clines: The structure of these verses is fourfold:
(1) program for the speech (vv 1–2);
(2) possible motivations for God’s treatment of Job (vv 3–7);
(3) the contradiction between the apparent and the hidden purpose of God in creating and sustaining Job (vv 8–17);
(4) appeal for release from God’s oppressive presence (vv 18–22).
Thomas Constable: This whole chapter, another prayer (cf. 7:7-21), is a cry to God for answers: “Let me know why …” (v. 2). God’s silence intensifies suffering.
Francis Andersen: It is a remarkable fact, apparently unobserved by commentators, but very revealing of Job’s mind, that in none of his petitions does he make the obvious request for his sickness to be cured. As if everything will be all right when he is well again! That would not answer the question which is more urgent than every other concern: ‘Why?’
John Hartley: Job’s charges against God flow out of conflicting emotions: fear, frustration, anger, and bitter disappointment. He is revealing his distaste at the way God has allowed him to be tested. Unnerved by God’s apparent disloyalty, he feels so disgraced that he cannot even lift up his head in public. He concludes that God is either an incompetent judge or a malicious tyrant bent on torturing him without letting him have any rest, not even in Sheol. But God is such a powerful opponent that Job feels there is no way for his misfortune to be changed.
Tremper Longman: Chapter 10 begins with Job again talking about how bitter his life has become (v. 1), telling the friends that he wants to tell God to stop accusing him (vv. 2–5). He believes God is accusing him because God is oppressing him. This connection between his suffering and God’s accusation again reveals Job’s agreement with the doctrine of retribution. Job believes that God knows that he is innocent but causes him to suffer anyway. God is truly unjust (vv. 6–7). Job challenges God’s seeming intention to destroy him, a creation of God’s own hands (vv. 8–11). Job feels that God is after him no matter whether he is righteous or wicked (vv. 12–15) and will bring a legal case against him (vv. 16–17). Finally (vv. 18–22), he beseeches God to leave him alone so he can experience a bit of happiness before he goes to his death, a place of darkness and gloom.
Derek Kidner: In the guise of a courtroom lawyer, he interrogates the Almighty with a series of searching questions.
– Has God taken any delight in Job’s downfall? (10:3).
– Has God misread the facts? Does He not see Job’s innocence? (10:4).
– Has God failed to catch the guilty, taking it out on Job instead? (10:5-6).
– Does the Creator destroy his creation, even when he has expended such skill in its making? (10:8-17)
– Has God really made Job with such singular care and providence, only to stalk him like a lion for not good reason?
– Is Job in the grip of a God who is angry and determined to make Job his target, whether he is guilty or innocent? This is what Job now thinks.
There are no answers: just an empty silence. Job longs that God’s attention be diverted from him. He just wants to be left alone. “Turn away from me,” he pleads (10:20).
A. (:1-2) Confusion Spurs Bitter Complaining from Job
“I loathe my own life;
I will give full vent to my complaint;
I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.
2 I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me;
Let me know why Thou dost contend with me.’”
David Guzik: The tried saint may ask as Job did, “Show me why You contend with me.” Spurgeon suggested several answers:
• It may be that God is contending with you to show you His power to uphold you.
• It may be that God is contending with you to develop your graces.
• It may be that God is contending with you because you have some secret sin that is doing you great damage.
• It may be that God is contending with you because He wants you to enter the fellowship of His sufferings.
• It may be that God is contending with you to humble you.
Peter Wallace: When you are at your wits end – and you cannot see any light at the end of the tunnel, (except what appears to be a train barreling down on you!) then continue your complaint to God.
B. (:3-7) Confusion Raises 3 Questions Regarding God’s Judgment of Job
David Clines: vv. 3-7 — In three questions Job now speculates about the motives that lie behind God’s treatment of him. If God were a human being, his actions would be intelligible, though not necessarily excusable. But Job is convinced enough that God does not act for human reasons. And so the question must be put: Why does God act as if he were a human?
– The first question (:3) asks whether God’s treatment of him is in any way for God’s profit. “Is it good for you?”
– The second question (:4) asks whether God has simply the vision and outlook of a mortal, which is necessarily short-sighted and may see error where there is none, or take a small error for a large (Duhm).
– The third question (:5-6) asks whether God has so limited an expectation of life, no more than a mere human’s, that he feels himself under pressure of time to discover some fault in Job before he (God) is dead.
1. (:3) Is God Acting Justly?
“Is it right for Thee indeed to oppress,
To reject the labor of Thy hands,
And to look favorably on the schemes of the wicked?”
Tremper Longman: Here he appeals to God by describing himself indirectly as “the labor of your hands.” It makes no sense to Job that God would turn against the very creature he had made.
2. (:4) Is God Responding as a Man with Limited Perspective?
“Hast Thou eyes of flesh?
Or dost Thou see as a man sees?”
David Guzik: Job clearly knew that God was not limited in His vision as humans are; yet by the facts Job had seen and experienced, it seemed like God saw him with the same shallow and superficial vision that his friends used.
Tremper Longman: In the final series of questions (vv. 4–5), Job raises the possibility that God’s perspective is no better than a human’s. A human perspective is limited, while God’s is supposed to be total. Further, a human is a finite being with a limited life span, whereas God is not bound by birth and death. Humans thus will sometimes or even often misjudge things because of their partial perspective. These limitations should not affect God, but Job is here charging that God’s perspective is limited, and that is why he makes the kinds of misjudgments that Job feels he is making in his case.
3. (:5-6) Is God Rushing to Judgment?
“Are Thy days as the days of a mortal,
Or Thy years as man’s years,
6 That Thou shouldst seek for my guilt,
And search after my sin?”
4. (:7) Conclusion: God’s Opposition Doesn’t Make Sense
“According to Thy knowledge I am indeed not guilty;
Yet there is no deliverance from Thy hand.”
David Clines: It would be much more comfortable to believe that God had overlooked his suffering, or even that he had made a mistake about Job’s innocence; to believe that God knows he is innocent and punishes him all the same is to feel utterly trapped. To an absent-minded or mistaken God one could appeal, but from one who knows what he is doing there is indeed “no escape.”
C. (:8-17) Confusion Regarding God’s Purpose in Creating Job
1. (:8-11) Beauty of Creation
a. (:8) Personal Design Inconsistent with Purpose of Destruction
“Thy hands fashioned and made me altogether,
And wouldst Thou destroy me?”
Elmer Smick: Job cannot understand how God, the Creator, who looked on his original creation and considered it good, can turn his back on the work of his hands (v.3). Has not Job dedicated his life to God, in contrast to the wicked who received God’s smile? Job knows that God is not limited like human beings, who have mere eyes of flesh and a certain number of years (vv.4–5). Does God have to search out Job’s faults when he knows that he is innocent (vv.6–7)? Job puts God on the witness stand and plies him with questions. Job cannot understand how the God who so marvelously made him in the womb, who gave him life and showed him such providential care, could be willing to destroy him (vv.8–12).
b. (:9-11) Three Supporting Images of the Artistry of the Creator –
Inconsistent with Purpose of Destruction
1) (:9) Image of Potter Shaping the Clay
“Remember now, that Thou hast made me as clay;
And wouldst Thou turn me into dust again?”
2) (:10) Image of Cheesemaker
“Didst Thou not pour me out like milk,
And curdle me like cheese;”
David Guzik: Perhaps the most interesting among these three is the idea of man being like a cheese. Some commentators see this as reference to man’s humble state: “Man is a very mean thing in his first conception, modestly here set forth by the making of cheeses.” (Trapp) Yet other commentators see a reference here to the act of conception: “Thus he modestly and accurately describes God’s admirable work in making man out of a small and liquid, and as it were milky, substance, by degrees congealed and condensed into that exquisite frame of man’s body.” (Poole) In fact, Adam Clarke explained the meaning of Job 10:10 only in Latin because he felt so awkward with the subject matter; after his explanation he wrote, “I make no apology for leaving this untranslated.”
Tremper Longman: That semen is a milky fluid may be behind v. 10a. The semen coalesces or congeals (curdles) into a solid, “like cheese,” suggesting the embryo. Job questions God in such a way as to again remind him that he is God’s own creation. This embryo is clothed with skin and holds together with bones and sinews. See Ps. 139:13 for a similar idea of the “knitting together” of human beings.
Robert Alden: The verse impinges on the abortion debate because it suggests that from the point of conception Job was a person for whom God cared.
3) (:11) Image of Weaver
“Clothe me with skin and flesh,
And knit me together with bones and sinews?
2. (:12) Blessing of Providential Preservation
“Thou hast granted me life and lovingkindness;
And Thy care has preserved my spirit.”
David Guzik: In Job 10:12, Job actually thanked God for three wonderful things:
• Life (You have granted me life).
• Divine Favor (You have granted me… favor).
• Divine Visitation (Your care has preserved my spirit).
3. (:13-17) Bitterness of Present Distress
a. (:13) Present Confusion over God’s Purposes in Afflicting
“Yet these things Thou hast concealed in Thy heart;
I know that this is within Thee:”
Elmer Smick: The NIV takes v.13 with what follows, but some do not agree (cf. Andersen, 153–54). If the NIV is correct, then in v.13 Job is saying that God brought him into being so that he might hound him over his sin and let no offense go unpunished. It seems that Job is saying that it does not make any difference whether he is innocent or guilty because he is full of shame and drowned in affliction anyway (vv.14–15). No matter how much he tries to assert his integrity, it seems that God insists on stalking Job like a lion, showing his awesome power in wave after wave of oppression (vv.16–17).
b. (:14) Acceptance of Link between Sin and Suffering
“If I sin, then Thou wouldst take note of me,
And wouldst not acquit me of my guilt.”
c. (:15-16) Resistance to God’s Opposition to the Innocent
“If I am wicked, woe to me!
And if I am righteous, I dare not lift up my head.
I am sated with disgrace and conscious of my misery.
And should my head be lifted up,
Thou wouldst hunt me like a lion;
And again Thou wouldst show Thy power against me.”
Tremper Longman: Job has felt attacked by God. That is why he believes he suffers such horrible afflictions. Job here uses a series of different comparisons to describe God’s assault. The first is that of a lion: God will show his terrible power against Job like a lion attacking his prey. In Ps. 7 the psalmist appeals to God to protect him against the lions that attack. In the psalm, the lions represent the wicked who unjustly attack the psalmist (see vv. 1–2). The lion also represents the violence and power of the wicked in Pss. 10:9; 17:12; and 91:13 (here God will give the psalmist the ability to trample down the lions). But Job is not the only one to use the lion metaphor to describe God’s judgment. Both Hosea (5:14; 13:7–8) and Amos (3:4, 8; 5:19) picture God executing his judgment against his people as a lion rends its prey.
d. (:17) Lament over Unrelenting Divine Attacks
“Thou dost renew Thy witnesses against me,
And increase Thine anger toward me,
Hardship after hardship is with me.”
John Hartley: Job laments God’s continuous and mighty effort to increase his suffering. He complains that God keeps sending fresh witnesses to testify to his guilt. Each new complication in his illness serves as a witness of his guilt. Like a general who keeps ordering fresh troops into the fray against his foe, God gives Job no moments of relief. God multiplies his anger against Job by sending reinforcements of troops against him. Job feels that his situation is hopeless before such a great general. God’s hostility overwhelms him.
D. (:18-22) Confusion Cannot be Resolved so Job Desires to Be Left Alone to Die in Peace
Robert Alden: This section is replete with thoughts on death, disorder, and darkness.
1. (:18-19) Why Did You Bring Me Out of the Womb?
“Why then hast Thou brought me out of the womb?
Would that I had died and no eye had seen me!
19 I should have been as though I had not been,
Carried from womb to tomb.”
2. (:20-22) Why Can’t You Leave Me Alone to Die in Peace?
“Would He not let my few days alone?
Withdraw from me that I may have a little cheer
21 Before I go– and I shall not return—
To the land of darkness and deep shadow;
22 The land of utter gloom as darkness itself,
Of deep shadow without order, And which shines as the darkness.”
Robert Alden: Job’s complaint ends with a thesaurus of terms for darkness.
Tremper Longman: Since he believes that his suffering is caused by God, he beseeches God to back off and give him room to have just a little pleasure in the few days that remain to him.
David Clines: Like other speeches of Job’s, this one comes to an end with a prospect of death. Here the particular characteristic of death is not that it provides a release from pain (as in 3:20–22) or as a permanent hiding from God (as in 7:21b), but that it envelops one in darkness (see H. Ringgren, TDOT 5:255–56). Job has cried out for darkness (“Would that I had died before any eye had seen me,” v 18b); he knows that darkness is for the moment denied him. But he desires the darkness; life before death can be “comfortable” only if God’s gaze can be turned away from him (v 20b), if he can secrete himself from the glare of the divine attention or rather inquisition.