Lecture 13: Job responds to Bildad
Course: The Book of Job
Lecture: Job responds to Bildad
Bildad has just given his complaint against Job and now Job responds, speaking not only to Bildad, but also to what Eliphaz has said.
The outline is before you. God is powerful. No-one is just before Him (9:2-10). God is ferocious. I am innocent, but it does me no good (9:11-24). No matter what Job does, God treats him as guilty (9:25-35). But then again, Job prays in chapter 10:1-22.
II. God is Powerful, No-one is Just Before Him
Let’s begin by looking at chapter 9, verses 2-10. God is powerful, no-one is just before him. He says: “Indeed I know that this is true. But how can mere mortals prove their innocence before God? Though they wish to dispute with him, they could not answer him one time out of a thousand. His wisdom is profound, his power is vast. Who has resisted him and come out unscathed? He moves mountains without their knowing it. He overturns them in his anger. He shakes the earth from its place. He makes the pillars tremble. He speaks to the sun and it does not shine. He seals off the light of the stars. He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the seas. He is Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.”
We should begin with the second part of Job’s speech here. Notice everything he says about God is all orthodox, it is all correct, it is all completely in agreement with what the friends believe about God. He is Almighty, he is the Maker of heaven and earth. He is the One who causes the earth to tremble (verse 5 and 6). He controls the heavens (verse 7). He is the One who made the heavens and the sea (verse 8). He made the constellations. Of course, the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades are various constellations in the sky. He has done all kinds of wonders. God is powerful. God is mighty.
First thing to see here is Job does not abandon God. When Job says this, he is not being sarcastic. He is saying what he absolutely believes. The attack that has been made upon Job, such as just by Bildad, that he needs to turn to God, that he needs to have faith in God, is hollow because Job never lost his faith in God. He never lost his faith that God was almighty and that God was powerful and good. So Job is not by any means an unbeliever. He thoroughly believes in God the Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth. But there is a second thing. He turns the words of Bildad and Eliphaz on their heads. For them, the fact that God is almighty and all-powerful basically means that well, you have nothing to worry about, everything is taken care of. God will handle it all. God is just. God is good. So, no fears, no worries. Job turns that around to say, “God being so powerful, there is no escaping him. If he decides to become very harsh, if he decides to become very arbitrary, if he punishes someone who does not deserve to be punished, who can check him? Yes, Job believes in God and we do need to understand again, Job is still struggling, he is still questioning, he is still trying to figure out what is going on. But for him, the doctrine of the power, the omniscience, the omnipotence of God; the fact that God is Maker of heaven and earth, has become terrifying because he now thinks there is no check on his power if he should just decide to slam someone for no good reason. Therefore, God just does what he wants to do and we just suffer the consequences and Job doesn’t understand. He is still struggling.
III. God is Ferocious
Then he says God is ferocious. I am innocent, but it does me no good in 9:11-14: “When he passes me, I cannot see him; when he goes by, I cannot perceive him. If he snatches away, who can stop him? Who can say to him, ‘What are you doing?’ God does not restrain his anger; even the cohorts of Rahab cowered at his feet.” We should pause right there. Obviously Job is now saying that God is arbitrary and there is no check on his power. Rahab is another kind of dragon creature, mythological creature of power and terror, similar to Leviathan, a creature of death, a creature of chaos. So he is saying, “Nobody can stand up to God.” Of course that is true and that will become very important when God talks about Leviathan. For now, the fact that nobody can be a check to God is frightening to Job.
So he says in verse 14:”How then can I dispute with him? How can I find words to argue with him? Though I were innocent, I could not answer him. I could only plead with my judge for mercy. Even if I summoned him and he responded, I do not believe he would give me a hearing. He would crush me with a storm and multiply my wounds for no reason. He would not let me catch my breath, but would overwhelm me with misery. If it is a matter of strength, he is mighty. If it is a matter of justice, who can challenge him? Even if I were innocent, my mouth would condemn me. If I were blameless, it would pronounce me guilty. Although I am blameless, I have no concern for myself. I despise my own life. It is all the same, that is what I say. He destroys both the blameless and the wicked. When a scourge brings sudden death, he mocks the despair of the innocent. When a land falls into the hands of the wicked, he blindfolds his judges. If it is not he, then who is it?”
This is all extremely blunt, once again. God is omnipotent. God is all-powerful. Normally these would be reasons to praise him, but now Job is saying, “You know what? I could be totally innocent, in fact I am, and it doesn’t matter. I still get hammered by God. There is no check on God’s power, there is no holding him back.” Job is telling the friends: “The source of the comfort that you are offering me is for me a source of terror because if I have nothing to repent of and he still treats me this way. What can I do?”
IV. No matter what Job does, God treats him as guilty (9:25-35)
Then he turns and says that no matter what he does, God is going to treat him as guilty, verses 25-35: “My days are swifter than a runner, they fly away without a glimpse of joy. They skim past like boats of papyrus, like eagles swooping down on their prey. If I say I will forget my complaint, I will change my expression and smile, I still dread all my suffering. I know you will not hold me innocent. Since I am already found guilty, why should I struggle in vain? Even if I washed myself with soap and my hands with cleansing powder, you would plunge me into a slime pit so that even my clothes would detest me. He is not a mere mortal that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.”
This is a very powerful statement that Job has made. First of all, what he said I think is very clear to any reader. Job says he is innocent. He is clean. And no
matter how much he works to maintain his innocence and his righteousness before God – as he says, scrubbing himself with soap, metaphorical for of course maintaining a clean life – it doesn’t matter because God can still treat him as guilty, can still punish him, can still plunge him, as he says, into the slime.
We need to understand once again, these are words that are born of great pain and great confusion. We read this and we think, “Oh my goodness, Job is a
blasphemer!” What Job is really doing is struggling and trying to find an answer; and when he finds his answer, he will accept it. So we need to be careful not to be too severe on Job at this point.
Notice here, he mentions the idea of a mediator. This is the first time he speaks of this concept, of this topic. He wants there to be someone to stand between himself and God because he is now conceiving of it as like a courtroom where Job is saying he is innocent and God is saying, “No, you are guilty.” And Job doesn’t have anyone to stand up for him, to plead his case. He says, “If only there were someone to stand between me and God.” At this point he does not believe that there is. He just thinks he is on his own, he is all alone. But this is the next stage in Job’s pilgrimage of faith to deeper understanding. Full understanding of the issue will come when he confronts God himself, but along the way he develops the idea of the mediator, the idea of resurrection, the idea of a heavenly redeemer who can save him from his condition.
We as Christians obviously understand this to be Jesus. But at this point Job is still just struggling with the idea of the heavenly mediator. We will see him develop it in full later in his speeches.
V. Job Prays (10:1-22)
He then moves and makes a prayer to God. Once again, Job is the only one who prays, the three never do. So he begins, chapter 10, verse 1: “I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint. I will speak out in the bitterness of my soul.”
We should pause right there and understand. This is what Job is doing. He is very bitter. He is very confused. He is speaking freely what is on his mind, which is again something that is typical in Israelite prayer. You don’t conceal how you feel before God when you are in great distress in the prayers of the psalms.
Then he goes on, verse 2: “I say to God, ‘Do not declare me guilty, but tell me what charges you have against me. Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands while you smile on the plans of the wicked? Do you have eyes of flesh? Do you see as a mortal sees? Are your days like those of a mortal, or your years like those of a strong man, that you must search out my faults and probe after my sin, though you know that I am not guilty and that no-one can rescue me from your hand?’”
Once again it is very clear he is saying, “God, I’m innocent. You know I’m innocent, yet you treat me as guilty. I don’t understand why.” He makes a point of, God, do you know what it’s like to be human? Do you know what it’s like to have flesh and blood, to be mortal, to be weak, to get sick, to be dependent on
food and air and water to survive? Do you know what it is like to be in a frail, mortal body, God? He has just spoken of his idea of a mediator, someone to
stand between himself and God; so the essence of being a mediator is, you can speak to both parties. So we could say, well on the one hand the mediator has to have standing to speak to God. But on the other hand, Job says, the mediator has to be someone who knows what it is to be human, who knows what it is to be weak and frail, to be tempted, to be in pain, to be wondering where your next meal is going to come from, all of these things. Job says, if you knew what it was like to be human, then maybe you wouldn’t treat me the way you treat me; and maybe I could speak to you and persuade you that I am innocent and you should not pummel me the way that you do.
Again, we can see as Christians where this is going. Job himself will ultimately come to a great confession of a heavenly redeemer. But we can see here the
necessity of someone to stand between humans and God, someone who is both human and God; someone who can speak to God on equal terms; not just an angel, but like God Himself, and yet someone who absolutely knows the meaning of human pain and human frailty. So we can see in this complaint a hint of the great salvation that is part of the answer to Job’s prayer, the coming of Jesus Christ.
Then he goes on, verse 8: “Your hands shaped me and made me. Will you now turn and destroy me? Remember that you molded me like clay. Will you now turn me to dust again? Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese, clothe me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews? You gave me life and showed me kindness, in your providence watched over my spirit. But this is what you concealed in your heart, and I know that this was in your mind. If I sinned, you would be watching me and you would not let my offense go unpunished. If I am guilty – woe to me! Even if I am innocent, I cannot lift my head, I am full of shame and drowned in my affliction. If I hold my head high, you stalk me like a lion and again display your awesome power against me. You bring new witnesses against me and increase your anger toward me, your forces come against in wave upon wave. Why then did you bring me out of the womb? I wish I had died before any eye saw me. If only I had never come into being, or had been carried straight from the womb to the grave! Are not my days almost over? Turn away from me so I can have a moment’s joy before I go to the place of no return, and to the place of gloom and utter darkness, to the land of deepest night, of utter darkness and disorder, where even the light is like darkness.”
Several things in this part of his prayer are important. One thing is that he has a large number of allusions, Biblical allusions to other parts of the Bible. For
example, what he says is very similar to Psalm 139. Let’s take a quick look at that, it is a fairly short psalm. Psalm139: “You search me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise. You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down. You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you Lord know it completely. You hem me in behind and before; you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?”
Notice, up to that point, where the psalmist has said, “Anywhere I go, anywhere I turn, you are there, you are watching.” Again, for the psalmist this is a word of great comfort. You care for me. You’re always there. I’m never alone. You are always with me. For Job, it’s terrifying. You never leave me alone. You never let a single misstep go without punishment. You pummel me and there is no escaping you.
We can drop down in this psalm to verse 13: “For you created my inmost being. You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful. I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Notice in the psalm, this is a wonderful thing. God is the one who put me together. God is the one who knitted my bones in the womb. He was there from
the moment of my conception until my birth. He knows my inner being. He cares for me. He watches over me. God is good and his care for me is wonderful.
Job says pretty much the same thing, except again he turns it on its head. Job says, “You are the one who knit me together. You are the one who gave me flesh. You are the one who put me together in the womb.” But then Job says, “Why didn’t you just let me die? My life is so miserable, it is so full of pain, I would have rather you let me die than let me experience what I am going through now.”
This is to a great degree Job simply voicing his confusion, his pain, his struggle to figure out what is going on. So we should read it in those terms. But it is
remarkable how he takes a great deal of Psalm 139 and kind of turns it on its head.
Job also kind of echoes Moses’ intercession for Israel. Exodus chapter 32: When Israel had committed the sin of the golden calf and God told Moses, “Step aside, Moses, I’m going to destroy them all.” Moses then interceded for them and he said in chapter 32, verse 12: “Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them from the face of the earth? Turn from your fierce anger, relent and do not bring disaster on your people.’” That is Moses speaking to God, interceding with God not to destroy Israel after the sin of the golden calf.
Job kind of echoes the same thing. He says, “God, you have pursued me; you have threatened to destroy me. Why don’t you just let me go? Why don’t you just release me instead of tormenting me as you do?” Job refers to the creation narrative, chapter 10, verse 9: “Remember, you molded me like clay. Will you now turn me to dust again?” That obviously alludes to the creation narrative in Genesis in 2:7 when Adam was formed from the clay of the earth. And in Genesis 1:31 God looks upon all that he has made and says that it was very good. The Hebrew word for good is towb. Job asks, “Is it good, towb, that you persecute, that you disdain the works of your hands?” That is chapter 10, verse 3.
So where God looks upon the whole creation as good, Job sees himself as a creation of God, as the man who has been formed from the clay, as the man who has been shaped in his mother’s womb and he says: “God, is this really towb? Is this really good what you are doing to me?”
He returns to something at the end of his prayer that he began with in chapter 3. In chapter 3 he cursed the day of his birth. Here, he once again says, “I just wish I had died when I was born and not lived any longer.” But again we have seen where Job has begun a remarkable pilgrimage of faith. Out of all of his complaining and all of his grief, he begins to look for a redeemer and he begins to discover a profound truth that will be realized in Jesus Christ.
Question: In your reference to Job’s prayer where he alludes to Psalm139, would that be a good evidence that Job lived after David or when that psalm was
written, or do you think that is a coincidence?
Dr.Garrett: I don’t think it is a coincidence. I think the stronger case for allusion is earlier where he alludes to Psalm 8 and the verbiage there, the words are so similar. I think it has to be a deliberate allusion, it cannot be accidental. One could say that what he says in comparison to Psalm 139 is that they just happen to be similar, kind of coincidental. I do not think that is the case. I do think that it is probably deliberate, that it is written in awareness of Psalm 139. But I certainly think what he said earlier, referring to Psalm 8, was written with awareness of Psalm 8. So yes, I do consider Job to be written after the time of David, so I would say the early monarchy, probably the reign of Solomon would be the earliest we should probably put the writing of Job.