40 The Lord said to Job:
2 “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
Let him who accuses God answer him!”
3 Then Job answered the Lord:
4 “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
5 I spoke once, but I have no answer—
twice, but I will say no more.”
God challenged Job to answer his questions. Of course God did not need to know the answers but he wanted Job to acknowledge his position in all of this and who he was speaking to.
Job spoke to his friends confident that he had thought carefully about his suffering and that he was perplexed despite having wisdom and knowledge of God.
But then God spoke …And Job’s ideas did not seem so important.
Job’s immediate response was one of confessing his insignificance in the presence of the Lord. He had no answer. How could he answer the living God? All his complaints against God were empty and futile.
6 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm:
7 “Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
8 “Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
9 Do you have an arm like God’s,
and can your voice thunder like his?
10 Then adorn yourself with glory and splendour,
and clothe yourself in honour and majesty.
11 Unleash the fury of your wrath,
look at all who are proud and bring them low,
12 look at all who are proud and humble them,
crush the wicked where they stand.
13 Bury them all in the dust together;
shroud their faces in the grave.
14 Then I myself will admit to you
that your own right hand can save you.
God again spoke from the whirlwind, daring Job to try running the universe according to the retribution principle. If Job could do it, then he would vindicate himself. Job had partially capitulated to his friends’ perspective on retributive judgment.
In his speeches, Job spoke as if he were wiser than God. Job even made a list of things that God should do. Job could not explain why God was not doing such things. So Job would complain about God’s behaviour.
God had given Job space to speak or answer his questions, Job had nothing to say, so here God resumes the argument.
God unleashed another torrent of crushing rebukes to Job, in which He mocked Job’s questionings of Him by telling the sufferer that if he really thought he knew what was best for him rather than God (verse 8), then he should take over being God! (Verses 9-14).
God pointed out Job’s main error. Job imagined that God was unfair. Job said that he himself was right, rather than God.
So it turns out that Elihu’s opinion about Job was correct (Job 32:2). Elihu may not have delivered it in a particularly helpful way but he was right.
Firstly, God reminded Job about God’s great power. Job was not as powerful as God (verse 9).
God is at all times “clothed with majesty and strength” (Psalm 93:1). “With glory and beauty” (Psalm 104:1). He “decks himself with light as with a garment” (Psalm 104:2). Job is challenged to array himself similarly.
In verse 10 God was describing his own dress. He is Majesty and Strength at all times. God is engulfed in Light so bright, it is above the light of the sun. God showed Job that he could not dress himself with such as this. God had dressed Job in his robe of righteousness however.
Then God gave a list of how Job would like God to act (verses 11-13). God can do such things. But Job could not do these things. So Job was in no position to be telling God to do these things.
Job could not and would not try to right all the wrong in the world. That is of course God’s work. So God uses humour in verse 14. If Job could carry out his great ideas, then even God would respect Job!
God in effect was saying that he would turn over the universe to Job and see if he could do better! It’s really so unbelievably absurd and inconceivable that man should run the universe and yet that is exactly what we have tried to do and is the core of our sin problem. We choose to be God because we either don’t trust that God will do it the way it should be done or that he will not act with our best interests at heart.
Things have not changed that much since the time of Job. Even the righteous amongst us have the same issues as Job himself. The gap between those that are perceived righteous and those perceived to be wicked is very fine line indeed. We invest a lot of time investigating this micro divide when there is an impossible chasm between all of us and God. It may benefit us somewhat to spend more time looking at the chasm than the hair that separates us as humans.
15 “Look at Behemoth,
which I made along with you
and which feeds on grass like an ox.
16 What strength it has in its loins,
what power in the muscles of its belly!
17 Its tail sways like a cedar;
the sinews of its thighs are close-knit.
18 Its bones are tubes of bronze,
its limbs like rods of iron.
19 It ranks first among the works of God,
yet its Maker can approach it with his sword.
20 The hills bring it their produce,
and all the wild animals play nearby.
21 Under the lotus plants it lies,
hidden among the reeds in the marsh.
22 The lotuses conceal it in their shadow;
the poplars by the stream surround it.
23 A raging river does not alarm it;
it is secure, though the Jordan should surge against its mouth.
24 Can anyone capture it by the eyes,
or trap it and pierce its nose?
The rest of the speech is taken up with a description of “behemoth (40:15-24), and “leviathan (41:1-34). I assume that these are most likely literal, rather than mythical, creatures since they are observable and because the rest of the God’s questions deal with real animals.
There has been much speculation and many suggestions about the identity of these creatures, with the most likely being the hippopotamus and crocodile, respectively.
The descriptions of both are filled with hyperbole: “he drinks up a river” (40:23); “a flame goes out of his mouth (41:21), compare the earlier hyperbolic description of the horse in 39:19-25.
The point of referring to these animals is this: if Job cannot master just two marvels of physical strength within God’s creation, how can he expect to stand as a combatant humbly and trusting in a God who knows infinitely more than he.
Behemoth is a generic term used commonly in the Old Testament for large cattle or land animals, the description in this passage suggests an extraordinary creature, the hippopotamus as a result of the details in the passage (verses 19-24).
However, the short tail of a hippo is hardly consistent with verse 17, where tail could be translated “trunk”. It could refer to an elephant, who could be considered “first” or chief of God’s creatures whom only He can control (verse 19). Some believe God is describing a dinosaur.
The word is a transliteration of a Hebrew word that means “super-beast”. No person could contend with such a creature. So how could Job pretend to be God’s equal when he could not even control what God had created?
The word in Hebrew is really the natural plural of behēmāh, which means domestic cattle. And this fact would suggest the idea that more than one animal may be meant in the description (Job 40:15-24).
There is a word in Coptic (p-ehe-emmou, meaning water-ox), used for the hippopotamus, which may, perhaps, lie concealed in behemoth. Then the difficulty is to make the description answer throughout to the hippopotamus (e.g., Job 40:20), since the hippopotamus does not frequent mountains, neither does it exactly eat grass like an ox (Job 40:15).
But the hippo behaves as God describes. It is a large animal that lives near the river. It is strong (verse 16). It eats plants (verse 15). It is not cruel to other animals (verse 20). And the hippo can swim (verse 23)
Verse 24 suggests that it would be difficult to snare him. It would be almost impossible if he saw you coming. He would fight with his nose. This would be true of either the elephant or the hippopotamus.
Whatever the animal is supposed to be whether a dinosaur, hippopotamus, elephant or some mythical creature it is something of an impressive beast that has great strength and would be fascinating to observe.
Job does not even measure up to that and yet God created it and controls it!