A. What Job would say to God if he could.
1. (1-7) Job would ask God, “Why are You doing this?”
“My soul loathes my life;
I will give free course to my complaint,
I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.
I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me;
Show me why You contend with me.
Does it seem good to You that You should oppress,
That You should despise the work of Your hands,
And smile on the counsel of the wicked?
Do You have eyes of flesh?
Or do You see as man sees?
Are Your days like the days of a mortal man?
Are Your years like the days of a mighty man,
That You should seek for my iniquity
And search out my sin,
Although You know that I am not wicked,
And there is no one who can deliver from Your hand?
a. I will give free course to my complaint: It seems that Job believed that he had not yet begun to complain. He will, in the bitterness of his soul, say what he would say to God if given the chance.
i. “Such a poem is called a complaint, a moaning appeal to God’s compassion. The parallel phrase the bitterness of my soul describes misery, but not sourness.” (Anderson)
b. Do not condemn me; show me why You contend with me: Job would say to God, “Put your cards out on the table. Make your case against me to show why I deserve this disaster in my life.”
i. “The meaning of [do not condemn me] is literally ‘treat a person as wicked.’ That was Job’s problem with God. It appeared to him that the Almighty was giving him what a wicked man deserved when he knew Job was not a wicked man.” (Smick)
ii. “This Job desired to know, not to satisfy his curiosity, but his conscience, as one well observeth.” (Trapp)
iii. “It is a remarkable fact, apparently unobserved by commentators, but very revealing of Job’s mind, that in none of his petitions does he make the obvious request for his sickness to be cured. As if everything will be all right when he is well again! That would not answer the question which is more urgent than every other concern: ‘Why?’” (Anderson)
iv. The tried saint may ask as Job did, “Show me why You contend with me.” Spurgeon suggested several answers:
· It may be that God is contending with you to show you His power to uphold you.
· It may be that God is contending with you to develop your graces.
· It may be that God is contending with you because you have some secret sin that is doing you great damage.
· It may be that God is contending with you because He wants you to enter the fellowship of His sufferings.
· It may be that God is contending with you to humble you.
v. The seeking sinner might also ask as Job did, “Show me why You contend with me.” Spurgeon suggested several answers to the seeking sinner:
· It may be that God is contending with you because you are not yet thoroughly awakened to your lost condition.
· It may be that God is contending with you in order to test your earnestness.
· It may be that God is contending with you because you are harboring one sin that you will not turn over to Him.
· It may be that God is contending with you because you do not yet thoroughly understand the plan of salvation.
vi. Though it was not the case with Job, it is true that God often contends with both saints and sinners to deal with their sin. “Trials often discover sins — sins we should never have found out if it had not been for them. We know that the houses in Russia are very greatly infested with rats and mice. Perhaps a stranger would scarcely notice them at first, but the time when you discover them is when the house is on fire; then they pour out in multitudes. And so doth God sometimes burn up our comforts to make our hidden sins run out; and then he enables us to knock them on the head and get rid of them.” (Spurgeon)
c. Does it seem good to You that You should oppress, that You should despise the work of Your hands: Job vented more and more to God. “Does this make You happy? I am the work of Your hands, and look at how You are treating me!”
d. Do You have eyes of flesh? Or do you see as man sees: Job clearly knew that God was not limited in His vision as humans are; yet by the facts Job had seen and experienced, it seemed like God saw him with the same shallow and superficial vision that his friends used.
e. Although You know that I am not wicked: Job appealed to God’s knowledge of Job and his character. Of course, God agreed with Job’s self-estimation, even saying that Job was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1).
i. “A sinner I am, but I allow not, wallow not in any known sin; there is no way of wickedness found in me; hypocrisy reigns not in my heart.” (Trapp)
ii. Yet Job’s present distress twisted his perception of God, to the point where he could not see what could only be seen by the eye of faith that goes beyond the sight of present circumstances.
2. (8-12) Job would ask, “I am Your creation: Why do You afflict me?”
“‘Your hands have made me and fashioned me,
An intricate unity;
Yet You would destroy me.
Remember, I pray, that You have made me like clay.
And will You turn me into 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 have granted me life and favor,
And Your care has preserved my spirit.’”
a. Your hands have made me and fashioned me, an intricate unity: Job was a smart scientist and knew that God was the author of creation and specifically of mankind. He had the same understanding as the Psalmist who said, I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well (Psalm 139:14).
i. In mentioning You have made me like clay and will You turn me into dust again, Job even seemed to understand that mankind came from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7).
ii. In wonderful poetry, Job illustrated the fashioning of his body by three pictures:
· Man is like a vessel of clay, shaped by a potter (Job 10:9).
· Man is like a cheese, poured out by a cheesemaker (Job 10:10).
· Man is like a garment, woven by a weaver (Job 10:11).
iii. Perhaps the most interesting among these three is the idea of man being like a cheese. Some commentators see this as reference to man’s humble state: “Man is a very mean thing in his first conception, modestly here set forth by the making of cheeses.” (Trapp) Yet other commentators see a reference here to the act of conception: “Thus he modestly and accurately describes God’s admirable work in making man out of a small and liquid, and as it were milky, substance, by degrees congealed and condensed into that exquisite frame of man’s body.” (Poole) In fact, Adam Clarke explained the meaning of Job 10:10 only in Latin because he felt so awkward with the subject matter; after his explanation he wrote, “I make no apology for leaving this untranslated.”
b. Yet You would destroy me: Job knew that God created him; now he felt that God wanted to destroy him. What Job did not know is that God had strictly forbade this calamity to end in death (Job 2:6). We can sympathize with what Job felt, and we understand that he could not know this; yet we also know the truth from the heavenly scene behind the earthly scene.
i. “In creation first, and now in Job’s recent disasters, the might of God is seen. That God Himself did it all is indisputable. Job does not question God’s right to do it. But God’s reasons for His actions Job cannot detect. Why should He create only to destroy?” (Anderson)
c. You have granted me life and favor, and Your care has preserved my spirit: Job could not deny God’s past work in his life as creator and as preserver; yet all that made things more problematic, not less. The depth of his experience told him, “Why has the same God who created me and preserved me now so obviously abandoned me?”
i. Job 10:8-12 would seem to argue against the sometimes Reformed or Calvinistic idea that God created man and – at least for the vast majority of those not elect for salvation – immediately destined these intricately, wonderfully designed and fashioned creatures for eternal damnation. This seems to be a strange and offensive idea to Job, especially considering the care lavished upon these creatures after their glorious creation (You have granted me life and favor, and Your care has preserved my spirit).
ii. In Job 10:12, Job actually thanked God for three wonderful things:
· Life (You have granted me life).
· Divine Favor (You have granted me… favor).
· Divine Visitation (Your care has preserved my spirit).
B. Job’s agonized question: “Why, God?”
1. (13-17) Job asks God to reveal a sinful cause within Job himself.
And these things You have hidden in Your heart;
I know that this was with You:
If I sin, then You mark me,
And will not acquit me of my iniquity.
If I am wicked, woe to me;
Even if I am righteous, I cannot lift up my head.
I am full of disgrace;
See my misery!
If my head is exalted,
You hunt me like a fierce lion,
And again You show Yourself awesome against me.
You renew Your witnesses against me,
And increase Your indignation toward me;
Changes and war are ever with me.
a. These things You have hidden in Your heart; I know that this was with You: Job begins to touch on the core of the problem that stirred inside of him. He knew that God knew all the causes and answers for Job’s condition; yet God did not tell Job.
i. Again, because of Job 1 and 2, we are in the curious position of knowing what Job did not know. The causes and intentions of Job’s present calamity were hidden in God and were hidden to Job, but God has shared with the reader of the Book of Job what Job himself did not know.
ii. It is easy to read the Book of Job assuming that Job himself knew what happened in the heavenly realms as recorded in the first two chapters of the book. The reader of the Book of Job must resist this assumption and instead empathize with Job, knowing that it was just as difficult for him to comprehend the workings of the spiritual realm as it is for us.
b. If I am wicked, woe to me: Job’s friends insisted that the disasters of his life came upon him because of some particular iniquity or wickedness within him. Job protested that this was not the case; and here he again states the thought.
i. I am full of disgrace; see my misery: “I have abundance of shame in the disappointment of all my hopes, and the continuance and aggravation of my misery, notwithstanding all my prayers to God to remove or mitigate it; and I am confounded within myself, not knowing what to say or do. Let my extremity move thee to pity and help me.” (Poole)
c. You hunt me like a fierce lion, and again You show Yourself awesome against me: Job felt as though God were no help to him at all in his present distress. Instead, he felt as though he were prey for God, who came against him like a fierce lion.
i. “As the hunters attack the king of beasts in the forest, so my friends attack me. They assail me on every side.” (Clarke)
d. Changes and war are ever with me: “It is literally ‘changes and a host are with me’ (rsv mg.). If the first phrase means ‘relieving troops’ (Rowley) or ‘fresh forces’ (neb), then this resembles and illustrates the statement in verse 16b that God is full of surprises and His resources are limitless.” (Anderson)
i. “I am as if attacked by successive troops; one company being wearied, another succeeds to the attack, so that I am harassed by continual warfare.” (Clarke)
2. (18-22) Job asks God to leave him alone.
‘Why then have You brought me out of the womb?
Oh, that I had perished and no eye had seen me!
I would have been as though I had not been.
I would have been carried from the womb to the grave.
Are not my days few?
Cease! Leave me alone, that I may take a little comfort,
Before I go to the place from which I shall not return,
To the land of darkness and the shadow of death,
A land as dark as darkness itself,
As the shadow of death, without any order,
Where even the light is like darkness.’”
a. Why then have You brought me out of the womb: Job here returned to a theme first found in
Job 3. He felt that it would be better if he had never been born.
i. It is important to say that Job was not suicidal, but his wish that he had never been born is something like a wish for suicide. Job felt these almost suicidal thoughts because he could not see any sense in His suffering. His friends saw sense (Job suffered because he has sinned, and this is his proper correction), but Job knew they were wrong. We see sense because we know what Job did not know from the first two chapters of the book. Even though Job could not see it, it was real nonetheless.
ii. It would have completely changed Job’s situation if he could see by faith the invisible, or at least comfort himself in the understanding that there were invisible dynamics in heavenly places that made sense of his situation.
b. Cease! Leave me alone: At this point in the story, Job would simply prefer that God would leave him alone. He did not recognize that it was only because God did not leave him alone that he had endured this far and was not completely destroyed by either the devil or despair.
i. In asking “Are not my days few?” Job reflected on how fast his life seemed to pass. “My life is short, and of itself hastens apace to an end; there is no need that thou shouldst push it forward.” (Poole)
ii. “As we read it we feel that the suggestions which Job made about God were entirely wrong: but we remember that they were not wicked, because they were honest.” (Morgan)
iii. “Job will not accept anything that contradicts the facts he knows; he is not splenetic, he does not say God is cruel, he simply states the facts – ‘It looks as though God is rejecting me without any reason, all the facts go to prove this and I am not going to blink them.’” (Chambers)
c. To the land of darkness and shadow of death: The Book of Job well reflects the difficult apprehension of the truth of the afterlife in the Old Testament. Statements of murky, near-despair like this are combined with occasional declarations of triumphant, confident faith (as in Job 19:25, I know that my Redeemer lives… and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God).
i. “He piles up a heap of gloomy terms, including four different words for darkness, to indicate how dreary Sheol is.” (Anderson)
ii. “Finally he resorts to using no less than four different Hebrew words for ‘darkness,’ translated variously as ‘midnight black,’ ‘the shadow of death,’ ‘the land of murk and chaos,’ ‘where confusion reigns,’ ‘where light itself is like the dead of night,’ and so on. Job masses these words together, piling one on top of another for a cumulative effect as solemn and impressive as anything in Shakespeare.” (Mason)
iii. “The shadow is the dark part of the thing, so that the shadow of death is the darkest side of death, death in its most hideous and horrid representations; the shadow of death is the substance of death, or death with addition of greatest deadliness.” (Trapp)
iv. Adam Clarke tried to explain the futile and frustrated sense in Job and other Old Testament writers: “But what is this? And where? Eternity! How can I form any conception of thee? In thee there is no order, no bounds, no substance, no progression, no change, no past, no present, no future! Thou are an indescribable something, to which there is no analogy in the compass of creation. Thou are infinity and incomprehensibility to all finite beings.”
v. This cloudy understanding of the afterlife in the Old Testament does not surprise the reader of the New Testament, who knows that Jesus Christ brought life and immortality to light (2 Timothy 1:10).
vi. “This represented the highest thinking of that age about the future. There were gleams now and again of something more; but they were fitful and uncertain, soon overtaken by dark and sad forebodings… The patriarch called the present life Day and the future Night. We know that in comparison the present is Night, and the future Day.” (Meyer)
©2019 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission