9 Then Job replied:
2 “Indeed, I know that this is true.
But how can mere mortals prove their innocence before God?
3 Though they wished to dispute with him,
they could not answer him one time out of a thousand.
4 His wisdom is profound, his power is vast.
Who has resisted him and come out unscathed?
5 He moves mountains without their knowing it
and overturns them in his anger.
6 He shakes the earth from its place
and makes its pillars tremble.
7 He speaks to the sun and it does not shine;
he seals off the light of the stars.
8 He alone stretches out the heavens
and treads on the waves of the sea.
9 He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion,
the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.
10 He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted.
11 When he passes me, I cannot see him;
when he goes by, I cannot perceive him.
12 If he snatches away, who can stop him?
Who can say to him, ‘What are you doing?’
13 God does not restrain his anger;
even the cohorts of Rahab cowered at his feet.
Job did not disagree with Bildad’s speech. But he thought that Bildad’s advice was too simplistic. Bildad seemed to think that a man, by his good behaviour, can force God to help him. Of course, nobody can control God.
This appeared to be less a response to Bildad and more a direct response to God. Here, he introduces a need for a “mediator” to stand before Yahweh to plead his case. Job wanted an occasion to speak to God about the injustice of his suffering.
Job counter argued Bildad’s arguments about God’s nature, he began to rationalize something about which he would later admit he knew dangerously little.
Job concluded that God is holy, wise, and strong (verses 4-10); but he wondered if He is fair (verse 22) and why He wouldn’t make Himself known to him. Before the mighty God, Job felt only despair. If God is not fair, all is hopeless, he thought.
Job expressed his sense of futility about finding vindication before God. He could not dispute God; he could not discern God’s ways; and now he was unsure whether he could depend on God.
In verses 2-5 it is useful to note that the “sea” was viewed as a force of evil in the ancient world (38:8-11) and the “Stars” were objects of worship for some. Job realized that the greatness and wisdom by which God created the world were the very things that would prevent any mere mortal from winning a case against Him (Psalm 104:2-3; Isaiah 40:22).
That God does not “pervert justice” (Job 8:3). But even though he was certain of his own righteousness, how can a mere man assert his right, and “be just” with God.
Job complains that a man cannot argue with an infinite God about justice; God could ask a thousand unanswerable questions.
If a man would be so foolish to try to contend with God, the man would not be able to answer one of a thousand things that God would ask.
Job makes his theological position clear.
Who is man that he should contend with God? God is all powerful. He is the source of all strength. He is Wisdom at its most complete. No man who hardens his heart against God could ever prosper.
In order to show how vain it was to contend with God, Job refers to some examples of his power and greatness. The “removal of the mountains” alludes to the changes which occur in earthquakes and other violent convulsions of nature. This illustration of the power of God is often referred to in the Scriptures (Judges 5:5; 1 Kings 19:11; Psalms 65:6; 114:4; 144:5; Isaiah 40:12; Jeremiah 4:24 are a few examples).
The main thing we see in this section is that God is in total control of all the elements of the earth. Job knew this.
“Pillars tremble” in verse 6 described the supporting power that secured the position of the earth in the universe. Job is using the figurative language of the day.
Job’s narrative expresses the greatness of God in a beautiful poetic way. This is the God that he knew. He adopted the words of Eliphaz (Job 5:9). Job knew all of the greatness of God that his friends had mentioned, and even more. He never questioned the greatness of God.
Verses 11-12 are an expression Eliphaz had used in Job 4:15. Here in words of great sublimity Job depicts the unapproachable majesty of God omnipotent, but invisible, and shows the utter hopelessness of entering into judgment with Him.
If he decides to take away from any man his children, or servants, or estate, who is able to restrain him from doing it? Or, who dares to challenge him for it? And, therefore, Job says far be it for me to quarrel with God, this is your true accusation!
Verse 13 mentions Rahab. This is not the Rahab of Joshua 2 but rather could be translated as “proud”. Most English translations translate it as a name.
It is a reminder that no enemy can successfully oppose God. (See also Psalm 2).
Some translations refer to an ancient mythological sea monster in verse 13.
And God does not restrain his anger. Even the monsters of the sea are crushed beneath his feet. – New Living Translation
According to the Jewish Encyclopaedia a Rahab is an ocean dwelling dragonish creature. Which is also known as Tiamat.
(Whatever the interpretation of Rahab, the point is that God smiting the proud was a poetic way of saying that if the mythical monster of the sea (a metaphor for powerful, evil, chaotic forces) could not stand before God’s anger, how could Job hope to? In a battle in God’s court, he would lose. God is too strong (verses 14-19).
When the anger of God is toward those who rebel against Him, there is only one outcome.
14 “How then can I dispute with him?
How can I find words to argue with him?
15 Though I were innocent, I could not answer him;
I could only plead with my Judge for mercy.
16 Even if I summoned him and he responded,
I do not believe he would give me a hearing.
17 He would crush me with a storm
and multiply my wounds for no reason.
18 He would not let me catch my breath
but would overwhelm me with misery.
19 If it is a matter of strength, he is mighty!
And if it is a matter of justice, who can challenge him?
20 Even if I were innocent, my mouth would condemn me;
if I were blameless, it would pronounce me guilty.
Job realised that God is the greatest judge. Job wanted to explain his problems to God. But Job struggled in knowing how to approach him and did not know what to say to him.
In these verses it is apparent that Job was unaware of God’s intimate involvement in his life. He could not even imagine that God might speak to him. Or, that God might help him in his trouble.
Job thought in verse 17 that God might use a terrible storm to punish him. He was aware of his power and awesome nature. There would indeed be a storm before God spoke in Job 38:1. But this storm was not a punishment for Job. Instead, God used the storm to teach Job about God’s great wisdom (Job 38:34-38).
Job was having great difficulty even in breathing. Somehow, he was beginning to be filled with bitterness toward life itself.
Job would not have said such things if he knew God’s words in Job 2:3. The truth was that Job would not need to explain his troubles to God. God already knew Job’s problems. God cared. And God would rescue Job in the end (Job 42:10-17).
Job was theologically on point to some degree as he asserted that God is so perfect even an innocent man would feel guilty.
God is so holy that even his special servants in heaven cover their faces (Isaiah 6:2). But, what Job didn’t seem to have a clue about was that in the future, we shall live with God (Revelation 21:3). We shall know him perfectly, and we will be in awe of that moment of great unveiling (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Job 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.
He lived in a Holy fear of the Lord understanding that he was awesome and powerful beyond comprehension. He understood that to approach God would be futile.
What he did not understand was God’s intimate interest in his life and his desire for relationship with his people.
21 “Although I am blameless,
I have no concern for myself;
I despise my own life.
22 It is all the same; that is why I say,
‘He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.’
23 When a scourge brings sudden death,
he mocks the despair of the innocent.
24 When a land falls into the hands of the wicked,
he blindfolds its judges.
If it is not he, then who is it?
25 “My days are swifter than a runner;
they fly away without a glimpse of joy.
26 They skim past like boats of papyrus,
like eagles swooping down on their prey.
27 If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint,
I will change my expression, and smile,’
28 I still dread all my sufferings,
for I know you will not hold me innocent.
29 Since I am already found guilty,
why should I struggle in vain?
30 Even if I washed myself with soap
and my hands with cleansing powder,
31 you would plunge me into a slime pit
so that even my clothes would detest me.
The problem of suffering comes up often in discussion about faith and religion. It’s a major question that atheists and those who have trouble understanding the existence of God bring to the table and is in fact a fair question to ask.
Suffering is part of life. It can be caused by our own bad decisions or the bad decisions of others around us in a broken world, it can be caused by natural disaster or even something going on in the spiritual realms that we have no idea about, as was the case of Job.
Suffering can actually be a blessing through which we discover growth and a renewed spiritual life.
Job now blamed God for the inequities of His world. He accused God of treating all the same way, unfairly (verses 21-23), and of even covering the eyes of earthly judges so that they would not see injustice. These are the charges that bring about God’s eventual rebuke of Job (chapters 38-41) and in turn Job’s repentance (Chapter 42:1-6).
At this point in the dialogue, the ills of the world were now pinned on God. Job blamed God.
In verses 25-27, we read about couriers running with messages, ships cutting swiftly, and eagles swooping rapidly. These illustrations all convey the blur of painful, meaningless days of despair that move by.
Job could hardly remember the time when he was successful. And he thought that he would die soon. So his life seemed very short and fleeting.
Job was saying that it appeared that even as a person’s life began it was headed for the end. Job was so despondent at this moment, that he saw no good in life.
The description of “Swift ships” were ships of reed. These skiffs, constructed of a wooden keel and the rest of reeds, are the “vessels of bulrushes” ( noted in Isaiah 18:2). They carried one or two people, and being light were extremely swift. The ancients were familiar with them.
Job was speaking of the swiftness of the passing of his life here. The ships leave the port, not to be seen again for a long time. The eagle swoops down and gets his prey and flies away.
In the latter verses of this section we read that Job knew that God was his judge. But he thought his situation was hopeless and did not think that he could defend himself.
He believed that God had already judged him and found him guilty of some sin he was not even aware of. He was asking, why he should labour to try to find out what he had done, if he was already condemned?
He was saying that all the cleansing in the world could not make him clean with God. This was a point of being despondent and without hope.
I have had times when I felt that God was against me and that I was without hope but this was always because I knew that I was in a darkness of my own doing, usually sexual sin, dishonesty, some violation that left me feeling less than authentic.
The focus in those moments has been on me to get “good again” and that of course is futile. The focus is all on me to “get better” but this is not possible. It has to be an acceptance of who I am before God and a humble approach to God to say “here I am, broken and flawed …please accept me, I have nowhere else to go”
Job here seems to be certain of his own goodness but is struggling to see the goodness of God.
One of the biggest problems with the outside world accepting Christianity is the Christians themselves adopting a mind set of “I used to be bad but now I have changed” and dismissing their continued brokenness and the ongoing redemption story in their lives.
32 “He is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him,
that we might confront each other in court.
33 If only there were someone to mediate between us,
someone to bring us together,
34 someone to remove God’s rod from me,
so that his terror would frighten me no more.
35 Then I would speak up without fear of him,
but as it now stands with me, I cannot.
This is an amazing passage. Job wanted someone, like a lawyer, to help him to speak to God. He longed for a mediator to approach the unapproachable God.
When Job said, “for he is not a man, as I am”, he did not anticipate that one day God would become a Man – a mediator, to bridge the gap that Job so painfully described. Fully God, Jesus could reach out one hand to His Father in heaven. Fully man, He could reach out His other hand to humanity.
“We should come together in judgment”: Job acknowledges that, as a mere man, he had no right to call on God to declare his innocence or to contend with God over his innocence. Job was not arguing that he was sinless, but he didn’t believe he had sinned to the extent that he deserved his severe suffering. Job held on to the same simplistic theology of retribution as that of his accusers, which said that suffering was always caused by sin. And he knew he was not sinless, but he couldn’t identify any unconfessed or sin that he had not repented of. “Where is God’s mercy?” he wondered.
God is not a man, except in Jesus Christ who took on the form of man that He might experience man’s problems.
The word used for mediator in verse 33 means a court official who sees both sides clearly and understands the source of disagreement.
Job cries out for an advocate or impartial judge who could arbitrate the case between himself and God. His yearning was for Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).
These verses describe Jesus’ work. Jesus is God (Hebrews 1:3). But he became a man (Hebrews 2:14). He suffered like us (Hebrews 2:18). He is the great priest who helps us to meet God (Hebrews 4:15-16).
This is the work of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21). Job expressed his yearning revealing what was to come in the future.
We are in a position where can come before God with confidence and approach him with boldness, because Jesus opened the way for us. Job admitted he was not in such a position with God at that time.