Job 38 – God Speaks to Job
A. God speaks to Job.
1. (1) The Lord speaks to Job from the whirlwind.
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:
a. Then the Lord: Over the previous 35 chapters (since Job 2), God has been directly absent from the account. We read nothing of God’s direct role in comforting, speaking to, or sustaining Job in the midst of his crisis. Over that time, Job has ached repeatedly for a word from God.
i. Elihu saw the coming storm and spoke about God’s presence in such powerful phenomenon (Job 36:22-37:24). Yet now we hear God Himself speak to Job.
ii. God will indeed settle this dispute, but He will do it His way. Job wanted God to settle it by proving him right and explaining the reason for all his afflictions; Job’s friends wanted God to prove them right and for Job to recognize his error. God will not satisfy either one of these expectations. Significantly, God did not obviously answer Job’s questions.
iii. “At least, on first inspection, they do not seem to have anything to do with the central issue of why Job has suffered so severely when he has done everything humanly possible to maintain a good relationship with God. The Lord apparently says nothing about this.” (Andersen)
b. The Lord answered Job: Significantly, God did not immediately or directly answer Job’s friends; not the older friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar) and not the young friend (Elihu). God answered Job.
i. Perhaps this was because Job was the one wrongly accused and though he was wrong, he was more right than any of his friends.
ii. Perhaps this was because Job was the only one of the group to actively cry out to God and pray through the ordeal. Only Job talked to God; now the Lord will only speak to Job.
c. The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: Elihu saw an approaching storm and described it as an example of the power of God (Job 36:26-37:24). When he described the clearing of the storm, he probably spoke before the storm actually had cleared; now in this same storm God speaks to Job.
i. “Doubtless, it refers to the storm which Elihu seems to see approaching (Job 37:15-24). The article refers to something known or already intimated to the reader.” (Bullinger)
ii. Repeatedly in the whirlwind is associated with the divine presence. It speaks to us of the powerful, unmanageable nature of God; that He is like a tornado that cannot be controlled or opposed.
· God brought Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:1-11)
· God’s presence is in the whirlwind (Psalm 77:18; Nahum 1:3)
· God’s coming is like a whirlwind (Isaiah 66:15; Jeremiah 4:13 and 23:19)
· God appeared to Ezekiel in a whirlwind (Ezekiel 1:4)
iii. “Job’s troubles began when a great wind killed his children (Job 1:19). The Lord was in that storm, and now He speaks from the tempest.” (Andersen)
2. (2-3) God calls Job to account.
“Who is this who darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
Now prepare yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer Me.”
a. Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? We may justly wonder to whom God asked this question. It might have been mainly directed to Elihu, who was the previous speaker interrupted this word from the Lord, and who claimed to speak for God (Job 36:1-4).
i. “This has been variously interpreted as applying to Job, or to Elihu. Personally, I believe the reference was to Elihu.” (Morgan)
ii. Yet we can rightly say that all the characters in this drama did darken counsel by words without knowledge. Each one of them – Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu – spoke without accurate knowledge of what the reader knows from Job chapters 1 and 2.
iii. We shouldn’t think that God expected them to know what they could not know; rather, He expected them to appreciate that there were aspects to the matter known to God but hidden to man, and these aspects made sense of what seemed to make no sense.
b. Now prepare yourself like a man: Job had previously complained that God was battling against him in a great contest (Job 16:7-14 is one example). We might say that Job, without knowing, was really battling against Satan. Now he would indeed wrestle with God, and God challenged him to prepare yourself like a man.
i. “When a man acts like a man, God can speak to him, and he to God. That is a declaration of dignity.” (Morgan)
c. I will question you, and you shall answer Me: Job had insisted that God bring answers to him. God turned the matter around and told Job that before He would answer questions for Job, Job had some questions to answer before God.
i. The questions God had for Job were simply unanswerable and were meant to show Job that he really had no place to demand answers from God. Yet to see this appearance of God to Job only as a rebuke is a grave mistake. God has now appeared to Job. Job’s greatest agony was that he felt God had abandoned him, and now he knew he was not abandoned. Like any true revelation of God there were plenty of elements that would make Job feel small before the greatness of God; yet it could not take away from the massive comfort Job felt in simply being once again consciously in the presence of God.
ii. “Job learned through the theophany that God had not abandoned him. And it gradually dawned on Job that without knowing why he was suffering he could face it, so long as he was assured that God was his friend.” (Smick)
iii. We might imagine a small smile on the face of Job throughout this questioning, though it did appropriately humble him and bring him to repentance. Yet he smiled as a child who longs for his long-gone father might smile upon his father’s return, even while being corrected – the child smiles because his father is here again.
iv. “Let us grant that the speeches of Yahweh at the end of Job do not have anything essentially new or surprising to offer. This is not what makes them stand out. What does? Only one feature sets these chapters apart, and that is the simple fact that it is the Lord Himself, and no one else, who speaks them.” (Mason)
v. “That God speaks at all is enough for Job. All he needs to know is that everything is still all right between himself and God. . . . To that extent it does not matter much what they talk about. Any topic will do for a satisfying conversation between friends. It is each other they are enjoying.” (Andersen)
B. God questions Job regarding what he doesn’t know.
1. (4-7) Do you know the secrets of the creation of the world?
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
To what were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
a. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? The intention of this question is obvious. Job was nowhere to be found when God laid the foundations of the earth. God was ancient in His power, wisdom, and might and Job could never be considered to be on the same level as God.
i. God is essentially saying: “Job, if you can answer these things, then you are fit to question Me. If you cannot answer these things, then you do not have a place to demand answers from Me.”
ii. “Job was simply overwhelmed with mysteries and paradoxes for which he had no answers; but in the midst of it all he came to understand what was too good to be told, that God knows what he is doing in his universe.” (Smick)
iii. These questions also served the purpose of reminding Job that there were many things that he did not know. “Is this difficulty, against which his soul is beating itself so fiercely, the one dark spot in a universe radiant elsewhere and transparent to his view? Or is he surrounded on all sides with could which his eye cannot penetrate?” (Bradley)
iv. This statement also reminds us that God indeed did lay the foundations of the earth; He is the creator of heaven and earth just as the Genesis record states (Genesis 1).
b. Who determined its measurements . . . To what were its foundations fastened: Job was not present at the creation of the world, so he had no understanding of the measurements or foundations of the earth. The earth indeed has measurements and foundations; yet Job did not know them.
i. “What can Job give a reason why God made the earth of such a length and breadth, and no more, when he could so easily have done it? How much less can he of God’s secret and unsearchable judgments?” (Trapp)
c. When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy: This tells us that angelic beings (here called morning stars and sons of God) did in fact witness the creation of the earth, and the rejoiced at the glory, power, and wisdom of God in the creation.
i. “Shouted for joy; rejoiced in and blessed God for his works; whereby he intimates that they neither did advise or any way assist him in his works, nor dislike or censure any of his works, as Job had presumed to do with the works of his providence, which are not inferior to those of creation.” (Poole)
ii. Since God said that all the sons of God shouted for joy, we can take from this that Lucifer fell from his exalted position as the anointed cherub who covers at sometime after God created the earth.
2. (8-11) Do you know the boundaries of the sea?
“Or who shut in the sea with doors,
When it burst forth and issued from the womb;
When I made the clouds its garment,
And thick darkness its swaddling band;
When I fixed My limit for it,
And set bars and doors;
When I said, ‘This far you may come, but no farther,
And here your proud waves must stop!’”
a. Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst forth: This is probably a reference to God’s work on the second day of creation (Genesis 1:6-8) when God divided the waters and separated the land from the sea. Job wasn’t around when God did this, and therefore had no idea how it was done.
i. “In the ancient Semitic world, control of the boisterous sea was a unique symbol of divine power and authority.” (Smick)
b. When I said, “This far you may come, but no father, and here your proud waves must stop!” Job had no understanding of how God set the boundaries for the sea. He knew such boundaries existed, but could not explain how or why exactly they were set.
3. (12-18) Do you understand the nature of the earth?
“Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
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 takes on form like clay under a seal,
And stands out like a garment.
From the wicked their light is withheld,
And the upraised arm is broken.”
“Have you entered the springs of the sea?
Or have you walked in search of the depths?
Have the gates of death been revealed to you?
Or have you seen the doors of the shadow of death?
Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth?
Tell Me, if you know all this.”
a. Have you commanded the morning since your days began: This was a wonderful question for God to ask. “Job, have you made morning to come even once all the days of your life? Is this in your power to do?”
b. Have you entered the springs of the sea? Job probably didn’t even know there were springs of the sea, much less ever enter them. He certainly didn’t know other hidden things, such as the gates of death or the breadth of the earth.
4. (19-24) Do you comprehend the nature of light, darkness, and the sky?
“Where is the way to the dwelling of light?
And darkness, where is its place,
That you may take it to its territory,
That you may know the paths to its home?
Do you know it, because you were born then,
Or because the number of your days is great?”
“Have you entered the treasury of snow,
Or have you seen the treasury of hail,
Which I have reserved for the time of trouble,
For the day of battle and war?
By what way is light diffused,
Or the east wind scattered over the earth?”
a. Where is the way to the dwelling of light? It was as if God asked, “Job do you know where light comes from? Do you know its nature and its source?”
i. “Here light and darkness are personified and associated as mysterious beings whose place is beyond man’s reach. They need a guide to help them find their way home. God can do this, but Job cannot.” (Andersen)
b. Do you know it, because you were born then, or because the number of your days is great? Perhaps Job was so old and so wise that he did indeed know these things. If this were the case, God invited Job to speak up at any time.
c. Have you seen the treasury of hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war? On several spectacular occasions in the Biblical record, God used and will use hail as bombs and missiles from heaven against those hostile to Him and His people.
i. Hail is frequently a tool of judgment against God’s enemies, as seen against Egypt (Exodus 9:24), the Canaanites (Joshua 10:11), apostate Israel (Isaiah 28:2), and Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38:22), and against a rebellious earth in the Great Tribulation (Revelation 16:20-21).
ii. “Here it is supposed that God has them stored in His treasuries (the Lord thinks about snow the way a man thinks about gold!).” (Andersen)
5. (25-30) Do you understand the nature of rain and its effects?
“Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water,
Or a path for the thunderbolt,
To cause it to rain on a land where there is no one,
A wilderness in which there is no man;
To satisfy the desolate waste,
And cause to spring forth the growth of tender grass?
Has the rain a father?
Or who has begotten the drops of dew?
From whose womb comes the ice?
And the frost of heaven, who gives it birth?
The waters harden like stone,
And the surface of the deep is frozen.”
a. Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water: In the previous section God spoke of His wisdom in the management and use of snow and hail; here He spoke of His ability engineer drainage systems and a channel for the overflowing water.
b. Has the rain a father? Or who has begotten the drops of dew? In Job 36:22-37:24 Elihu used the water cycle (as displayed in an approaching storm) as an example of God’s greatness. Here God took credit for knowing how these things are designed and maintained, and asked Job if he had similar knowledge.
i. God showed Job that man was completely unable to cause rain. Charles Spurgeon took this idea and likened rain to the grace of God. “If both Houses of Parliament were to be called together, and the Queen were to sit upon her throne of state, and they were unanimously to pass an act ordering the rain to fall, he that sitteth in the heavens would laugh, the Lord would have them in derision, tot the key of the rain is in no hand but that of Jehovah. It is exactly so with the grace of God. You and I cannot command it. The presence of the most holy men in our midst would not of itself bring it. The most earnest preaching, the most Scriptural doctrine, the most faithful obedience to ordinances, would not make it necessary that we should receive grace. God must give it; he is an absolute Sovereign, and we are entirely dependent upon him.” (Spurgeon)
6. (31-33) Do you know the nature of the constellations?
“Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades,
Or loose the belt of Orion?
Can you bring out Mazzaroth in its season?
Or can you guide the Great Bear with its cubs?
Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?
Can you set their dominion over the earth?”
a. Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades: God did not merely challenge Job on his lack of knowledge; He also exposed Job’s lack of might and greatness in comparison to God. Obviously, Job was not able to manage or master or change any of the stars or constellations in the sky; yet God can.
i. With these high and almost outrageous examples pointing out what Job did not know, we should remember that God’s purpose here was not to humiliate Job. Instead, God seems almost playful here in making the point that God is omniscient and man is not.
ii. Can you bring out Mazzaroth in its season? “This is generally understood to mean the signs of the zodiac.” (Clarke)
iii. “Whatever they are, the point is clear: they are bound and fettered by God, who leads them around the sky as He pleases, a thing no man can do.” (Andersen)
b. Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Like many in the ancient world, Job probably understood the arrangement and patterns in the starry sky. Yet he could not even begin to explain the natural forces which governed this arrangement (the ordinances of the heavens).
7. (34-38) Do you know the nature of clouds, weather, and the human mind?
“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
That an abundance of water may cover you?
Can you send out lightnings, that they may go,
And say to you, ‘Here we are!’?
Who has put wisdom in the mind?
Or who has given understanding to the heart?
Who can number the clouds by wisdom?
Or who can pour out the bottles of heaven,
When the dust hardens in clumps,
And the clods cling together?”
a. Can you lift up your voice to the clouds: Job was not only powerless over the starry sky and constellations, he was also powerless over the clouds and lightnings. He was powerless over natural phenomenon, both far and near to him.
b. Who has put wisdom in the mind? Or who has given understanding to the heart? Job knew that man had intelligence and wisdom, and that this intelligence must have been given by an Intelligent Designer. Like all men, Job’s intellectual capacity was not the product of random chance or mysterious processes; it was designed by a great Designer.
i. It is interesting to consider that modern science has made amazing progress on answering some of the questions God set to Job.
· Modern science understands much more about the measurements of the earth (Job 38:5).
· Modern science understand much more about the gravitational forces that keep the earth suspended (Job 38:6).
· Modern science knows much more about the meteorological and hydrological systems of the earth (Job 38:8-11, 38:16, 38:25-30).
· Modern science knows much more about the nature of light (Job 38:19-20).
ii. This increased knowledge is a wonderful and glorious thing, and scientific inquiry is to be applauded. It is a wonderful fulfillment of our abilities as creatures made in the image of God that we can investigate and better understand the natural world. Indeed, it is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter (Proverbs 25:2).
iii. Yet with all this increased knowledge – as wonderful and glorious as it is – mankind is really not much closer at all to answering these questions that God set to Job. We have filled in small details around the edges, but there is still a vast gap between the knowledge and wisdom of man and that of God.
iv. We might say that God’s approach to Job in this section undercuts much of modern thinking. Enlightenment thinking (emanating from the 18th century) freed man from much superstition, but it also exalted man’s reason (wisdom) as the measure of truth. It can be observed that God eloquently destroyed this overconfidence in human wisdom in this presentation to Job. It makes us ask the question, “What does man, with all his reason and wisdom, really know about his world?” Man does not know very much, and therefore must pursue knowledge with a humble trust in the God who does know all.
8. (39-41) Do you understand and master the animal kingdom?
“Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
When they crouch in their dens,
Or lurk in their lairs to lie in wait?
Who provides food for the raven,
When its young ones cry to God,
And wander about for lack of food?”
a. Can you hunt prey for the lion: In his speech to Job, God moved from the distant expanse of the constellations, down to the clouds, down to the human mind, and here still further down to simple animal instinct such as the ability to hunt prey for the lion. Job could not even do this; therefore it was presumptuous for him to demand answers from God the way that he did.
b. Who provides food for the raven: God provides food for the birds (Matthew 6:26); it would be impossible for Job or any other man to do so. God here is reminding Job of the distance between Himself and Job.
i. “The choice is somewhat random, as if Yahweh is saying, ‘Here are only a few specimens of all my creatures, great and small, winged and earthbound, wild and tamed – but all are under my care and dominion.’” (Smick)
© 2007 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission