Thursday, November 20, 2003

Job: Final Thoughts

This essay is #52 of an ongoing series concludes the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning.

Final Thoughts in Random Order

When I began this study of the book of Job, I did not know what to expect. I knew that once I began it, I had to finish it. But I am a new blogger and I worried that readership to drop off. In the first case, not all of my visitors would be interested in the subject matter. In the second case, new comers would come to a series see the many posts before it and be unwilling to catch up. On the other hand, I believed the study to be important and I believed that the topic was one that I needed to do. I believed my approach to the book was important and valuable. I had taught this book twice before in a live setting and the students benefited from seeing the characters as real people and the situation as a real situation. The poetic form and slow pace of the book hides these things from the casual reader. So the guided tour approach proved effective in the classroom. I can only now hope that I have succeeded in the written form.

My favorite parts of this book are these:

  • Job's initial lament (Job 3). So often our emotional outbursts move from the irrational to the rational, and it was interesting to see how this fact played out with Job. He began by wanting the night of his conception cursed so that it never was. He ended telling everybody that he just felt bad. You watch him give ground.
  • (Job 28) The image of an ancient miner swinging by a rope as he enters the depths of the earth looking for treasures. The poetic imagery that contrasts the effort to acquire the treasures of the earth with the pursuit and attainment of wisdom is brilliant.
  • Elihu's conceit (Job 32-37). The youth of Elihu is so apparent in his speeches, and yet by the Spirit of God, he had a wisdom to share.
  • The Lord's questions (Job 38-41). Who can not read these and not be moved to worship our Creator.
  • Songs in the Night (Job 35: 10,11) In these verses, I find the theme and direction of the entire work. God our Creator gives us songs in the night. A reason to sing during our dark nights of the soul.
  • Watching the pride in Job gradually move to the forefront, and realizing that not all sin is visible.

My readership has continued to show a slow but steady increase during this series. I cannot tell you how much you mean to me. Sometimes when it was late at night and I would think of postponing a post just one more day--a potentially fatal decision, I would think of specific IP addresses that I see every day. Those would urge me on, and I would write and then go on to bed.

My plans are to take these 52 lessons and use them as starting notes for a published book.  Suggestions from y'all are welcome.

We should not think that Job exhausts the reasons for suffering. It does not, for example, cover suffering because you are a person of faith and the joy that this should cause.


I will be taking the weekend off from blogging. On Monday, I will start a new series. I just have not decided the topic yet.

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Job 42: Epilog

This essay is #51 of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning.


The first two chapters of Job are written in prose style. From chapter 3 through the first verses of chapter 42, the style is poetic. The final verses revert to prose. The change underscores and emphasizes that the resolution of the issues is with Job's repentance in spite of not receiving any direct explanation for his sufferings, but rather he moved to greater trust and worship. At that moment the tension surrounding Job's life are over.

But there are secondary strands that also need resolution. What about Job's friends? What happened to Job? Did he get well? And so the final prose section serves to finish the story.

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar

The Lord has harsh words for Job's friends:

After the Lord had spoken these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My anger is stirred up against you and your two friends, because you have not spoken about me what is right, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job will intercede for you, and I will respect him, so that I do not deal with you according to your folly, because you have not spoken about me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7-8)

There are some surprises here. First, the Lord tells Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar that He is angry with them. There is no evidence in the book of Job that the Lord was ever angry with Job. We are then told that the reason that He is angry is that they had not spoken "what is right" about God, as Job had. What does this mean? Was Job accurate in everything that he said? Was he right after all when he tried to declare God guilty so that he could be right? Obviously not! So what does the Lord mean here? To answer this, it might be good to ask what was not right about what Eliphaz and the others had to say. This is a little easier. None of them could break away from their traditions and opinions to recognize the facts before them and struggle with the issues. They perceived life to be governed by simple rules of reward and retribution. In so doing they greatly aggravated Job's pain. Job on the other hand faced the facts head on: the innocent sometime suffer and the wicked sometime prosper--so what does this say about the nature of God? Although Job may have been wrong on the paths he traveled to resolve these questions, he at least asked them and wanted true answers.

What this means for us is that it is ok for us to struggle with the such issues. It is ok for the world to be complex and hard to understand. It is ok for us to be angry with God as we struggle for deeper faith and relationship.  What is not ok is for us to imagine that we have all of life figured out and then go beat people up with our truth. What is not ok is to withhold kindness and compassion when a friend is hurting even if it is his fault.

So it was right for Job to struggle and wrong for the friends to judge. Consequently, the Lord was angry with the friends.

But now Job had to choose to forgive his friends. He became the intercessor for them. This saved Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar from suffering the logical consequences of their folly, which is that their own words would return to them:

Eliphaz: I myself have seen the fool taking root, but suddenly I cursed his place of residence. (Job 5:3)

Bildad: If your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin. (Job 8:4)

Zophar: But O that God would speak, that he would open his lips against you, (Job 11:5)

Or as Paul wrote, "Therefore you are without excuse, whoever you are, when you judge someone else. For on whatever grounds you judge another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge practice the same things. (Romans 2:1)"


Job accepted the offering of his three friends.

So they went, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, and did just as the Lord had told them; and the Lord had respect for Job. (Job 42:9)

Then the Lord again blessed Job:

So the Lord restored what Job had lost after he prayed for his friends, and the Lord doubled all that had belonged to Job. So they came to him, all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house. They comforted him and consoled him for all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring. (Job 42:10-11)

Let us note again that Satan was just the instrument through which the Lord brought on Job's troubles. But they achieved purposes in Job's life that could not have been achieved any other way. 

We are told that the Lord restored to Job double what he had lost. Here is the accounting:

So the Lord blessed the second part of Job’s life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand female donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. (Job 42:12-13)

Compare this to chapter 1:

  • 7000 sheep times 2 is 14000
  • 3000 camels times 2 is 6000
  • 500 yoke of oxen times 2 is 1000
  • 500 female donkeys times 2 is 1000
  • 10 children times 2 is 10 children (????)

What is the meaning of this last line? Job started with 7 sons and 3 daughters. He lost them and now he has 7 sons and 3 daughters. Why were these not doubled also? The answer is, they were. Here is the oldest Biblical hint of eternal life. Job's original sons and daughters are still alive, but they are with the Lord. so Job indeed has also doubled his children

The final lines of Job are also interesting:

The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land could women be found who were as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance alongside their brothers. (Job 42:14-15)

What are we to make of this? Just that Job, in the end, valued people more than possessions. In particular, he valued his daughters. Against tradition, he included them in his will. 

And so,

After this Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so Job died, old and full of days. (Job 42:16-17)

Thursday: Some final thoughts

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Job 42: Reconciliation

This essay is #50 of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning.


We began with Job's lamentation where he called for someone to curse the night of his. We cycled through the speeches of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar as they accused Job of wickedness. Job defended himself, became stronger, and finally argued his critics into bitter silence. Then he spoke one more time and we started to like him less as he paraded the glories of his former life and hinted at hypocrisy. Then young Elihu provided some illumination and sanity to the affair.

Now the Lord has spoken of his wisdom and majesty. And Job still covered with worm encrusted sores says this:

Then Job answered the Lord: 

I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted; 

You asked, ‘Who is this who darkens counsel without knowledge?’ 

But I have declared without understanding things too wonderful for me to know. 

You said, ‘Pay attention, and I will speak; I will question you, and you will answer me.’ 

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye has seen you. 

Therefore I despise myself, and I repent in dust and ashes! (Job 42:1-6)

Each of these lines is important.

I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted; This is a major admission on Job's part. At the lowest level, it gives back to God the moral high ground that Job had claimed for himself. Beyond that, it acknowledges that the catastrophes that assaulted Job were not beyond the power of God to avert. Beyond that still is the assurance that those catastrophes worked the purposes of the Lord. And yet beyond that is the confidence that those purposes are good. Job has still received no explanation. He still has no clue about the court of heaven. In does not matter; Job has laid aside the need to know.  It has been replaced by trust in the Trustworthy One.

You asked, 'Who is this who darkens counsel without knowledge?' This connects what Job is about to say with the first section of the Lord's speech. "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth," the Lord had asked. Question after question hints at the marvel of the Lord's design and making of the heavens and the earth.

But I have declared without understanding things too wonderful for me to know. Job now lays aside all his arguments. He has been given a glimpse of the awesome diversity and intricacies of the Creation. Job has been moved to worship. The Lord is greater and more wonderful than he ever imagined. Job's eyes have turned from himself to his Creator. Job has learned to rightly fear the Lord.

You said, 'Pay attention, and I will speak; I will question you, and you will answer me.' This connects what Job is about to say with the second section of the Lord's speech. "Will you declare me guilty so that you may be right?" is the thrust of this section. Through Behemoth and Leviathan, the Lord lays out two destinies for Job. He can relent and become like Behemoth or persist and become like Leviathan.

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye has seen you. Religion and its practices provide an abstract theological and doctrinal view of God. It is the stuff of debate and higher learning. At one level, the study is helpful: there is real truth to discern and know. But when doctrine is the goal and we fail to push on to numinous of God--His manifested presence--we fall short of a knowledge of Him that will carry us through difficult times. Doctrine proclaims the omnipresence of God; the numinous brings awareness that He is with me now. Doctrine proclaims the omniscience of God; the numinous gives His wisdom to meet the situations that I face. Doctrine proclaims the omnipotence of God; the numinous inspires complete trust that the events of the day happened just as the Lord purposed. Doctrine proclaims the holiness of God; the numinous initiates worship of His majesty.

Therefore I despise myself, and I repent in dust and ashes! Job voluntarily humbles himself before the Lord. He regrets the attitudes that he has had in his heart. He know longer requires that the Lord do anything about his condition. Job is now in the place of safety. No man can receive mercy he does not think he needs, and the Lord delights in mercy. The rise of humility in Job marks the completion of the Lord's chastening work. Mercy can now flow.

Job was a man unlike any on the face of the earth. He was blameless and upright. he feared God and turned away from evil. He did these things to a degree unequaled by any other on the earth. But that achievement began to interfere with the relationship. He believed that his prosperity came because he had earned it from the man upstairs. God owed him the life that he led. He was concerned for the sins of his children, but had no concern for his own sins: He had stopped looking: He had arrived at perfection. The Lord brought Job to a place where he knew that he needed salvation from some other hand.

At this point, we must understand that what is about to follow has nothing to do with Job's repentance. Job had not finally earned the Lord's good will again in his life. Rather Job is able to receive whatever the Lord has for him. Job is at a place where it does not matter what the Lord does next, because what ever He does will be for His purposes in His Creation and those purposes are good. Doctrine says, "All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purposes;" the numinous brings assurance that this is true.

It's all about the Lord. We do best to seek His face and not His hand. He delights in our asking for daily bread. So, we must always be ready to give thanks.

Wednesday: Trickle down reconciliation.

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

Monday, November 17, 2003

Job 40, 41: Behemoth and Leviathan

This essay is #49 of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning.


The Lord asked Job about the nature of creation and then asked him about the nature of the animal kingdom. After this came a distinct break as the Lord challenged Job to match Him in glory and majesty. 

Now he directs Job's attention to Behemoth and Leviathan, which seemingly have no physical counterpart on the earth today. When I read their descriptions, I picture a triceratops and a fire breathing dragon. Although the triceratops did not live during Job's day, the reference to its being among the "first of the works of God" leaves room for the Lord giving Job a vision of such a creature. I have no problem with associating the other with a fire breathing dragon because the Lord says that it "is not on earth."

The more important issue is that these two animals lead Job to repent in dust and ashes. What did the Lord communicate to Job by using these creatures?

Here is the description of Behemoth:

Look now at Behemoth, which I made as I made you; it eats grass like the ox. Look at its strength in its loins, and its power in the muscles of its belly. It makes its tail stiff like a cedar, the sinews of its thighs are tightly wound. Its bones are tubes of bronze, its limbs like bars of iron. It ranks first among the works of God, the One who made it has furnished it with a sword. For the hills bring it food, where all the wild animals play. Under the lotus trees it lies, in the secrecy of the reeds and the marsh. The lotus trees conceal it in their shadow; the poplars by the stream conceal it. If the river rages, it is not disturbed, it is secure, though the Jordan should surge up to its mouth. Can anyone catch it by its eyes, or pierce its nose with a snare? (Job 40:15-24)

What are we to make of this beast?

  • God made him as He had made Job, and presumably us as well. Although some call for Behemoth to be a mythical beast, this suggests a very real animal.
  • It eats grass like an ox. The animal is a vegetarian. The reference to the ox implies a gentle nature. Leviathan, which is described next, is a carnivore.
  • It is incredibly strong an sturdy. It seems to be quite muscular, large boned, and stable.
  • It is among the first animals created (Genesis 1:24). The word for cattle in Genesis 1:24 is behemah. You can see the semantic association between behemah and behemoth. In fact behemoth is the plural of behemah. Its use in Job is one that implies greatness rather than plurality.
  • It has been furnished with a sword. It is a strange turn of phrase. The Net Bible suggests that it is a horn of tusk on the animal.
  • It eats its food on the hill surrounded by wild animals. This creature has no fear of them because of its size.
  • It likes to sleep in the shade of lotus trees.
  • It is large enough and stable enough to stand firm in a raging river.
  • It has no fear of being trapped.

Behemoth represents a gentle, sturdy, and unshakeable beast. The question is, "Why does the Lord describe this animal?" I have my thoughts about this, and I must caution you that I have not read them anywhere else. This happens to me on occasion and I am usually delighted to find someone, with better credentials than I, who can confirm it. It is usually not good to have insights into Scriptures that no one else has had. Job has been around for a few thousand years, and I should not presume to have a new insight. On the other hand, my thoughts are not strange and they connect with the story and provide an answer to the question. So here it is: The Lord is offering to Job the heart of Behemoth. A character that is able to withstand the floods of life, be surrounded by its troubles and dangers, and still exhibit a gentle nature. The heart will trust that the Lord will bring him what he needs (hills that bring food), and provide wisdom for self-preservation (tusks). This is what the Lord wants Job to become.


If Behemoth poetically describes what Job could be, Leviathan represents what Job is in danger of becoming:

Can you pull in Leviathan with a hook, and tie down its tongue with a rope? Can you put a cord through its nose, or pierce its jaw with a hook? 

Will it make numerous supplications to you, will it speak to you with tender words? Will it make a pact with you, so you could take it as your slave for life? 

Can you play with it, like a bird, or tie it up for your girls? 

Will partners bargain for it? Will they divide it up among the merchants? Can you fill its hide with harpoons or its head with fishing spears? 

If you lay your hand on it, you will remember the struggle, and you will not do it again! 

(See, his expectation is wrong, he is laid low even at the sight of it.)

Is it not fierce when it is awakened? Who is he, then, who can stand before it? 

(Who has confronted me that I should repay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.)

I will not keep silent about its limbs, and the extent of its might, and the grace of its arrangement. Who can uncover its outer covering? Who can penetrate to the inside of its armor? Who can open the doors of its mouth? Its teeth all around are fearsome. Its back has rows of shields, shut up closely together as with a seal; each one is so close to the next that no air can come between them. They lock tightly together, one to the next; they cling together and cannot be separated. Its snorting throws out flashes of light; its eyes are like the rays of dawn. Out of its mouth go flames, sparks of fire shoot forth! Smoke streams from its nostrils as from a boiling pot over burning rushes. Its breath sets coals ablaze and a flame shoots from its mouth. Strength lodges in its neck, and dismay runs before it. The folds of its flesh are tightly joined; they are firm on it, immovable. 

Its heart is hard as rock, hard as a lower millstone. When it rises up, the mighty are terrified, at its thrashing about they withdraw. Whoever strikes it with a sword will have no effect, nor with the spear, arrow, or dart. It regards iron as straw and bronze as rotten wood. Arrows do not make it flee; slingstones become like chaff to it. A club is counted as a piece of straw; it laughs at the rattling of the lance. Its underparts are the sharp points of potsherds, it leaves its mark in the mud like a threshing sledge. It makes the deep boil like a cauldron and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment, It leaves a glistening wake behind it; one would think the deep to be a hoary head. 

The likes of it is not on earth, a creature without fear. It looks on every haughty being; it is king over all that are proud. (Job 41:1-34)

Here we have described for us a fire breathing dragon. The Lord does claim to have made this beast as an earth dweller. Indeed what is described here is familiar in Mesopotamian mythology as a great sea serpent. Job spoke of him in his opening lament when he cried, "Let those who curse the day curse it— those who are prepared to rouse Leviathan. (Job 3:8)" Now we see that Leviathan is not a thing to be casually aroused..

The clue to Leviathan is in the last line, "The likes of it is not on earth, a creature without fear." Leviathan is not a creature of the earth. "It looks on every haughty being, it is king over all that are proud." 

The Lord has just said, "Hail to your king Job." Look back over Job's last monolog and see how he misses all the attention and honor he used to get. He was becoming proud of his own achievements. Through Leviathan, Job sees his heart as the Lord has been seeing it. This is why I have indented and parenthesized the words above "(See, his expectation is wrong, he is laid low even at the sight of it.)"

So Job has a choice between Behemoth and Leviathan. He can submit to the Lord as King, because of his wisdom and majesty. Or he can continue his course and have Leviathan driving him where he wills.

Although it is not specifically connected in Job, Leviathan is the Satan of chapters 1 and 2. This is why there is no final view of the court in heaven where Satan comes before the Lord. Satan has been watching Job all these days. It would seem as if the Lord gave job eyes to see him lurking nearby. 

Job 41 belongs in the stream of revelation between Genesis 3:1 (the serpent) and Revelation 12:3 (the dragon).

If we humble ourselves before the Lord, we can become like Behemoth: able to withstand raging rivers. If we become proud, Satan has the power:

In the same way, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. And God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you. Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour. Resist him, strong in your faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are enduring the same kinds of suffering. And, after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ Jesus will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him belongs the power forever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:5-11)

Which Animal are you?

Tuesday: Job Responds

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>