JOB 38-39
God's First Speech
Use the BWHEBB.TTF font to view the Hebrew on this page!

The purpose of God is not to destroy Job, but to restore him and save him from his pride.  Therefore, God is going to appear violently and speak harshly to Job.  In ministry to a person who is caught in the webs of suffering. self-pity, and pride it is sometimes necessary to speak harshly to tear them from the web.

He will show Job his limitations: space, time, knowledge, and power.  He will reveal to Job the paradox of good and evil.  It is a paradox that only God can resolve.

It is of interest that at the beginning of the book God granted Satan two audiences concerning Job and now at the end of the book  Job is granted two audiences with God to discuss the problem of evil.  In these audiences God will speak cryptically of Stan and evil.  The point is not to reveal Satan to Job but to enable Job to deal with the concepts of evil as it exists under the sovereign reign and constraints of God.

I. Job is Humiliated by God Revealing Job's Inadequacies Concerning the Physical Universe.

A.  The Speaker
Notice two things: 
1) The personal name of God (Yahweh) is used. 
2) Notice the manner in which Yahweh chooses to reveal himself--a heightened form of the calamity that took away Job's children. Instead of a big wind (hl'AdG> x;Wr ruach gedolah), as in chapter 1, the LORD appears in the whirlwind (hr'['s.searah: violent storm).  This shows the greatness of the paradox of life and suffering: at one moment it is Satan who is in the event and at another it is God!  Humans are too frail and limited to know the difference.  Satan was in the strong wind but Yahweh was in the violent storm.
Then Yahweh answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, 
B.  The Identification of the Recipient
The idea is that if a king were to ask Job for advice then the advice in the council chamber would be darkness.  But, it must be remembered that Semitic people think in the comparative more often than western thinkers. The comparison is truth versus Job's words. Later when God compares Job to his friends he is said to have spoken what was right. 

In II Samuel the word counsel was used to describe Ahithophel as the kings counselor.

Who is this that darkens counsel 
By words without knowledge? 
C.  The First Challenge
This appears to be a scene similar to the two found in chapters 1-2 where God brings the angels (sons of God) and Satan before him to give account.  In those scenes God would ask Satan questions and Satan had to answer.  The difference is that instead of Job being called to the heavenly court, the king of the universe comes to Job.
Now gird up your loins like a man, 
And I will ask you, and you instruct Me! 
D.  Questions Concerning the Creation
1)  God will draw elements from the Genesis 1 creation story and poetically reuse them to make his point.

2) Job has not lived long enough and does not have enough knowledge to answer the question.

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? 
Tell Me, if you have understanding, 
Who set its measurements? 
Since you know. 
Or who stretched the line on it? 
On what were its bases sunk? 
Or who laid its cornerstone, 
When the morning stars sang together 
And all the sons of God shouted for joy? 
E.  Questions Concerning the Sea
1)  In poetic literature inside and outside the Bible, the sea is the symbol of primordial chaos.

2)  In Genesis one the subject of the sea dominates most of the early part of the creation story.

3)  Is God speaking only of the sea or is He speaking metaphorically of the real problem Job has--Satan?  What God is doing is that very thing, but Job probably does not understand.  God limits the sea and we learn from Job 1-2 that God limited Satan.

Or who enclosed the sea with doors 
When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb; 
When I made a cloud its garment 
And thick darkness its swaddling band, 
And I placed boundaries on it 
And set a bolt and doors, 
And I said, 'Thus far you shall come, but no farther; 
And here shall your proud waves stop'? 
F.  Questions Concerning the Sky
1) One of the first creation acts in Genesis 1 was to establish light and darkness to divide night and day.  Here God is not only the creator of these things but uses them as his servants to judge the wicked.

2)  Job not only lacks dynamic power but also ruling authority that he can command things to serve him.

Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, 
And caused the dawn to know its place, 
That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, 
And the wicked be shaken out of it?
It is changed like clay under the seal; 
And they stand forth like a garment. 
From the wicked their light is withheld, 
And the uplifted arm is broken. 
G.  Questions Concerning Distant Places in the Cosmos
1)  These places are not only distant to Job, but to one another.  Some are physical and some are spiritual.

2)  Job's limitations are those of space and knowledge.

Have you entered into the springs of the sea 
Or walked in the recesses of the deep?
Have the gates of death been revealed to you, 
Or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
Have you understood the expanse of the earth?

Tell Me, if you know all this. 

H.  Questions Concerning Light and Darkness
1)  As with many of these items there is a literal significance to the item but also a spiritual.  Light and darkness are often equated with good and evil; peace and calamity (cf. Is. 45:7)

2)  Job's limitations are those of space, time,  and knowledge.

3)  There is a new a twist here.  Job has not been to certain places.  Not can he not go to these places, but he surely can not lead the proper inhabitant home.

Where is the way to the dwelling of light? 
And darkness, where is its place, 
That you may take it to its territory 
And that you may discern the paths to its home? 
You know, for you were born then, 
And the number of your days is great! 
I.  Questions Concerning the Elements God has Reserved for Judgment Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, 
Or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, 
Which I have reserved for the time of distress, 
For the day of war and battle?
J.  Questions Concerning Forces that Take Unpredictable Paths Where is the way that the light is divided, 
Or the east wind scattered on the earth? 
Who has cleft a channel for the flood, 
Or a way for the thunderbolt, 
To bring rain on a land without people, 
On a desert without a man in it, 
To satisfy the waste and desolate land 
And to make the seeds of grass to sprout? 
Has the rain a father? 
Or who has begotten the drops of dew?
From whose womb has come the ice?
And the frost of heaven, who has given it birth?
Water becomes hard like stone, 
And the surface of the deep is imprisoned.
K.  Questions Concerning Constellations Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, 
Or loose the cords of Orion? 
Can you lead forth a constellation in its season, 
And guide the Bear with her satellites? 
Do you know the ordinances of the heavens, 
Or fix their rule over the earth?
L.  Questions Concerning Storms
Note that it is in the storm that Yahweh is revealing himself.
Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, 
So that an abundance of water will cover you? 
Can you send forth lightnings that they may go 
And say to you, 'Here we are'? 
Who has put wisdom in the innermost being 
Or given understanding to the mind?
Who can count the clouds by wisdom, 
Or tip the water jars of the heavens, 
When the dust hardens into a mass 
And the clods stick together? 

II . Job is Humiliated by God Revealing His Inadequacies Concerning the Realm of Animals.

Questions Concerning Death
The paradox revealed:

1)  God feed hungry animals which is good, but he feeds them with the carcasses of other animals.

2)  When the lion is done eating the raven cleans up his mess.  God makes even the violent messy things fix themselves.

3) This unit must be compared with the next.  In this one is the processes of death and in the next the processes of birth.

Can you hunt the prey for the lion, 
Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
When they crouch in their dens 
And lie in wait in their lair? 
Who prepares for the raven its nourishment 
When its young cry to God 
And wander about without food?
Questions Concerning Birth
Job does not know the answer to these questions, but God does.
Do you know the time the mountain goats give birth? 
Do you observe the calving of the deer? 
Can you count the months they fulfill, 
Or do you know the time they give birth? 
They kneel down, they bring forth their young, 
They get rid of their labor pains. 
Their offspring become strong, they grow up in the open field; 
They leave and do not return to them. 
Questions Concerning Wild Free Animals
Who sent out the wild donkey free? 
And who loosed the bonds of the swift donkey, 
To whom I gave the wilderness for a home 
And the salt land for his dwelling place?
He scorns the tumult of the city, 
The shoutings of the driver he does not hear.
He explores the mountains for his pasture 
And searches after every green thing.
Will the wild ox consent to serve you, 
Or will he spend the night at your manger? 
Can you bind the wild ox in a furrow with ropes, 
Or will he harrow the valleys after you? 
Will you trust him because his strength is great 
And leave your labor to him? 
Will you have faith in him that he will return your grain 
And gather it from your threshing floor?
Questions Concerning a Wild Stupid Animal that is Very Fast
1)  An ostrich is a paradox in themselves.  Joyous at the birth of her young, but she allows her eggs to be crushed.  Stupid but swift.

2)  God has made this system that is filled with seeming contradictions at every level of existence.

3)  Some think that animals are not being discussed at all in this section, but rather people who act like animals.   This is one of the few places that the theory works fairly well.  Some parents adore their children at birth, but virtually destroy the child through inattention.  Even though it is attractive here, I doubt the theory and think it is merely a coincidental item.

The ostriches' wings flap joyously 
With the pinion and plumage of love, 
For she abandons her eggs to the earth 
And warms them in the dust, 
And she forgets that a foot may crush them, 
Or that a wild beast may trample them. 
She treats her young cruelly, as if they were not hers;
Though her labor be in vain, she is unconcerned;
Because God has made her forget wisdom, 
And has not given her a share of understanding. 
When she lifts herself on high, 
She laughs at the horse and his rider.
Questions Concerning a War Horse
1)  God made the horse powerful, fearless, and beautiful, but man made him an instrument of war and death.  Some evil is not the doing of God but is the product of men.

2)  This section must be linked with the next. 

Do you give the horse his might? 
Do you clothe his neck with a mane?
Do you make him leap like the locust? 
His majestic snorting is terrible.
He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength; 
He goes out to meet the weapons.
He laughs at fear and is not dismayed; 
And he does not turn back from the sword.
The quiver rattles against him, 
The flashing spear and javelin.
With shaking and rage he races over the ground, 
And he does not stand still at the voice of the trumpet.
As often as the trumpet sounds he says, 'Aha!' 
And he scents the battle from afar, 
And the thunder of the captains and the war cry.
Questions Concerning Birds of Prey
1)  In the previous section man made a bloody mess of life, but like in the first section, God cleans it up through the birds of prey.

2)  The beginning of this section on animals began with the role of birds of prey and this section returns to it.

Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars, 
Stretching his wings toward the south?
Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up 
And makes his nest on high? 
On the cliff he dwells and lodges, 
Upon the rocky crag, an inaccessible place. 
From there he spies out food; 
His eyes see it from afar. 
His young ones also suck up blood; 
And where the slain are, there is he.

(hr'['s.searah): The word for whirlwind appears in the passages listed below.  It is never used of a mild storm. When used as a metaphor to describe divine activity it is usually associated with wrath and judgment.  Job's friend would assume initially and all the way through the speeches that Job was the main recipient of the anger implied by the theophany.  But when God explicitly says who he is made at it is Eliphaz (the charismatic) and his two friends!
2 Ki. 2:1
2 Ki. 2:11
Job 38:1
Job 40:6
Ps. 107:25
Ps. 107:29
Ps. 148:8
Isa. 29:6
Isa. 40:24
Isa. 41:16
Jer. 23:19
Jer. 30:23
Ezek. 1:4
Ezek. 13:11
Ezek. 13:13
Zech. 9:14