1 And the Lord said to Job:
2 “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
He who argues with God, let him answer it.”
3 Then Job answered the Lord and said:
4 “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
5 I have spoken once, and I will not answer;
twice, but I will proceed no further.”
6 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
7 “Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
8 Will you even put me in the wrong?
Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?
9 Have you an arm like God,
and can you thunder with a voice like his?
10 “Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity;
clothe yourself with glory and splendor.
11 Pour out the overflowings of your anger,
and look on everyone who is proud and abase him.
12 Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low
and tread down the wicked where they stand.
13 Hide them all in the dust together;
bind their faces in the world below.
14 Then will I also acknowledge to you
that your own right hand can save you.
15 “Behold, Behemoth,
which I made as I made you;
he eats grass like an ox.
16 Behold, his strength in his loins,
and his power in the muscles of his belly.
17 He makes his tail stiff like a cedar;
the sinews of his thighs are knit together.
18 His bones are tubes of bronze,
his limbs like bars of iron.
19 “He is the first of the works of God;
let him who made him bring near his sword!
20 For the mountains yield food for him
where all the wild beasts play.
21 Under the lotus plants he lies,
in the shelter of the reeds and in the marsh.
22 For his shade the lotus trees cover him;
the willows of the brook surround him.
23 Behold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightened;
he is confident though Jordan rushes against his mouth.
24 Can one take him by his eyes,
or pierce his nose with a snare?” – Job 40:1-24 ESV
God takes a brief pause in His rhetorical interrogation to give Job a chance to respond. God demands that this “contender” or “complainer” explain himself. Since Job seems to enjoy arguing with God and questioning His ways, then he must have a lot to say. This is the moment for which Job has been waiting. He has an audience with the Almighty and the opportunity to defend himself but Job finds himself at a loss for words. Suddenly, when faced with the overwhelming sense of God’s presence and power, Job is speechless.
“I am nothing—how could I ever find the answers?
I will cover my mouth with my hand.
I have said too much already.
I have nothing more to say.” – Job 40:4-5 NLT
Wiser words have never been spoken. Job didn’t say much and yet, he spoke volumes. He acknowledges his own ignorance and inadequacy when standing before the God of the universe. He recognizes that he has spoken too freely and flippantly. In his pain and despair, Job allowed himself to vent his frustration to God but in doing so, he had spoken out of turn and failed to show God the reverence and honor He deserved.
But while Job’s reticence to speak was a wise decision, it did not defuse God’s anger or absolve Job from a further tongue-lashing. In fact, God informs Job that silence is not an option. The one who was so quick to criticize the ways of God must answer the questions of God.
“Brace yourself like a man,
because I have some questions for you,
and you must answer them.” – Job 40:7 NLT
God seems to be accusing Job of doing the same thing his friends had done to him. In his effort to defend his innocence, Job had overextended his understanding of what his suffering was all about. He was convinced that it wasn’t the result of some sin he had committed, so that led him to make false assumptions about the justice of God. He questioned God’s goodness and righteousness. Job’s perception was limited and his understanding was incomplete. He was unaware of all that was going on behind the scenes so that left him with no other option than to base his conclusions on circumstantial evidence, just as his friends had done.
In his zeal to defend himself and prove his own innocence, Job had falsely accused God. He was so determined to prove himself right that he was willing to accuse God of doing wrong, and God was not happy.
“Will you discredit my justice
and condemn me just to prove you are right?” – Job 40:8 NLT
This led God to sarcastically suggest that Job reveal his own glory. After all, if he was righteous and morally blameless, then he must be nothing less than a god.
“All right, put on your glory and splendor,
your honor and majesty.
Give vent to your anger.
Let it overflow against the proud.
Humiliate the proud with a glance;
walk on the wicked where they stand.
Bury them in the dust.
Imprison them in the world of the dead.
Then even I would praise you,
for your own strength would save you.” – Job 40:10-14 NLT
God demands that Job display his glory and power by pouring out his judgment on the wicked and prideful. He challenges Job to demonstrate his wisdom and righteousness by judging justly and rightly. In a sense, God is demanding that Job prove that he knows what is best and can effectively determine the fate of all those who live on this planet.
But Job is not a god; he is just a man, and that seems to be God’s main point. In all of God’s verbal reprimands of Job, He never specifies a single sin that Job has committed. God never questions Job’s assertion of innocence. The Lord’s primary complaint with Job is his suggestion that God was somehow unfair or unjust. Job didn’t like the state of affairs surrounding his life and he had demanded that God explain Himself. Job knew that God was sovereign over all things so God was somehow responsible for his losses. And since Job had done nothing wrong, God must be the one who was at fault. Job never said those words directly but he inferred them, and God found them offensive and worthy of a stern response.
At the heart of Job’s complaint was his suggestion that God was somehow failing to do His job properly. Job had certain expectations of God that he felt had not been met. In his estimation, the most recent history of his life was out of step with his understanding of God’s character. So, God must course correct and fix the problem. But God found Job’s assertion that He was somehow in the wrong or guilty of mismanagement offensive. There was no basis for that conclusion. That’s why God launched into yet another illustration from nature that proved His impeccable credentials as the overseer of all creation.
God draws Job’s attention to the “Behemoth,” a creature of almost mythical proportions that is the byproduct of God’s imagination and creative power.
“Take a look at Behemoth,
which I made, just as I made you.
It eats grass like an ox.
See its powerful loins
and the muscles of its belly.
Its tail is as strong as a cedar.
The sinews of its thighs are knit tightly together.
Its bones are tubes of bronze.
Its limbs are bars of iron.” – Job 40:15-18 NLT
We have no idea what animal God is talking about. Some believe this to be a reference to a mythical creature that never existed, but God seems to contradict that conclusion when He states, “It is a prime example of God’s handiwork, and only its Creator can threaten it” (Job 40:19 NLT). No, this is no make-believe creature formulated in the minds of men; it is an actual flesh-and-blood animal that God brought to life and over which He holds complete control. This beast was so large that it had no equal and faced no threat from predators. Its only adversary was God Himself.
God asserts that “No one can catch it off guard or put a ring in its nose and lead it away” (Job 40:24 NLT). The point? This animal was completely cared for by God. It owed its existence and ongoing sustenance to God. Only God could protect it or threaten it. Its life was in the hands of the Almighty and so was Job’s. No one could harm Job unless God allowed it. No one could threaten his life without God’s permission. Which brings us back to the opening chapters of this book.
They describe an interaction between God and Satan, man’s primary and powerful adversary. In response to God’s declaration of Job’s righteousness, Satan replied:
“Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!” – Job 1:9-11 NLT
Satan admits that God cared for and protected Job but he argues that Job would respond differently to God if that protection was removed. God had a different opinion of Job and provided Satan with limited access to test his theory.
“All right, you may test him,” the Lord said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” – Job 1:12 NLT
God gave Satan permission but he didn’t give him carte blanch. Satan was not free to do whatever he wanted to do. His actions were limited. God was still in control.
When Satan’s plan failed and Job refused to curse God, he came up with a second challenge. He asked God for permission to attack Job’s physical well-being. He believed that was the source of Job’s faithfulness and so he sought to take away Job’s health and cause him to curse God. And, once again, God permitted Satan to take his best shot.
“All right, do with him as you please,” the Lord said to Satan. “But spare his life.” – Job 2:6 NLT
God never relinquished control. At no point was He impotent or incapable of protecting Job’s life. And at no time, was God’s assessment of Job’s righteousness threatened or in question. He knew how Job would respond. He knew that Job would survive. God stated that Behemoth is “not disturbed by the raging river, not concerned when the swelling Jordan rushes around it” (Job 40:23 NLT), and that was what he expected from Job. The great beast that God created was capable of enjoying the peaceful respite provided by the shade of the Lotus plant, but it also accepted the storms that occasionally accompanied life. How much more so should Job trust in the goodness and graciousness of God? He had enjoyed great blessings for the vast majority of his life and now, when trials had come, he had lost his faith in God. But now was the time when he needed to know and understand that he too was “a prime example of God’s handiwork, and only its Creator can threaten it” (Job 40:19 NLT).
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.