Job 39 Summary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 38 42:6. The Lord answers Job out of the Storm
We are now to witness the last act of the drama. And to understand it we have to go back to the starting-point and recall the idea of the Poem. This idea is expressed in the question, Doth Job serve God for nought? Or, as otherwise put, the idea is, The trial of the Righteous. This trial has been observed proceeding throughout the whole Book. Now it approaches its conclusion. The Lord, who caused it or permitted it, and has watched it from afar, must now interpose to bring it to an end, and bestow on Job the fruits of it. The trial has been successfully borne: for though Job has sinned under it, his sin has not been of the kind predicted by the Adversary; he has continued to cleave to God, and even sounded deeps of faith profounder than ever he had reached before (ch. 19), and tasted the sweets of righteousness with a keener delight than during his former godly life (ch. Job 17:9).
At the point at which we are now arrived the sole object of interest is Job’s mind in its relations to God. The speculative question discussed between him and his friends concerning the meaning of his sufferings, or the meaning of evil in general in the providence of God, has no importance, except so far as the conclusions which Job has arrived at have left his mind in a condition of perplexity in regard to the ways of God. The Author’s didactic purpose in raising the discussion between Job and his friends has been served (ch. 21, 23 24.). Job himself now remains the problem.
Though the trial has been successfully borne upon the whole, Job has not come out of it scatheless. His demeanour towards God, especially in presuming to contend with Him, has been at many points profoundly blameworthy. And the thought, which he refuses to abandon (ch. Job 27:2-6, Job 31:35 seq.), that God is unjust in His rule of the world, even though he maintains it more as a theory and necessary construction of facts as he observes them, without allowing it much to influence his life, or destroy his larger faith in God, is a thought not only derogatory to God, but one that must cripple every religious movement of Job’s heart. So long as such a feeling remains his trial cannot be said to be ended. But nothing that Job himself can do, nor anything that his friends can urge, is able to remove it. It was God, by His mysterious providence, who raised this dark doubt in His servant’s mind, and He must interpose to drive it away.
It might be supposed at first that the simplest way of restoring Job to peace would have been to reveal to him that his afflictions were not due to his sin, but were the trial of his righteousness, and in this way solve the problem that perplexed him. But the elements of blameworthiness in Job’s conduct forbade this simple treatment. The disease had spread in his mind, and developed moral symptoms, which required a broader remedy. Besides, it is God who now speaks to Job; and in His teaching of men He never moves in the region of the mere understanding, but always in that of the religious life. He may remove perplexities regarding His providence and ways from men’s minds, but He does not do so by the immediate communication of intellectual light, but by flushing all the channels of thought and life with a deeper sense of Himself. Under the flow of this fuller sense of God perplexities disappear, just as rocks that raise an angry surf when the tide is low are covered and unknown when it is full. This is the meaning of God’s manifestation to Job out of the storm. He brings Himself and His full glory near to Job, and fills his mind with such a sense of Him as he had never had before “Now mine eye seeth thee” (ch. Job 42:5). At this sight of God his heart not only quivers with an unspeakable joy, but he abhors his past thoughts of Him, and his former words, and repents in dust and ashes.
The object of the Lord’s answer to Job out of the storm is twofold, to rebuke Job, and to heal him to bring home to his heart the blameworthiness of his words and demeanour towards God, and to lift him up out of his perplexities into peace. The two things hardly differ; at least both are effected by the same means, namely by God’s causing all His glory to pass before Job.
The Lord’s answer to Job out of the storm consists of two parts, or contains two questions:
The two questions, however, are hardly kept apart, for the first implies the second, inasmuch as a man’s contention with God will naturally be because of His unjust treatment of himself. And Job, in his final words of penitence (ch. Job 42:1-6), refers back to ch. Job 38:2.
In the beginning of His first address Jehovah invites Job to enter upon that contention with Him, which he had so often sought, “Gird up thy loins like a man; and I will demand of thee, and answer thou me” (ch. Job 38:3). The point aimed at by the Divine Speaker is the presumption of Job in desiring to contend with the Almighty. Then the Lord causes a panorama of creation, both inanimate and living, to pass before Job (ch. Job 38:4 to Job 39:30). Having done so He demands, “Will he that reproveth the Almighty contend with Him”? (ch. Job 40:2.) Does Job, now that the glory of God has been made to pass before his eyes, continue to desire to contend with Him? To which Job replies, “Behold I am too mean; how shall I answer thee? I lay mine hand upon my mouth” (ch. Job 40:4). The exhibition of the great panorama of creation was but a method of revealing God, not in one attribute but in all His manifoldness and resource of mind. It was designed to abase Job before God, and rebuke his presumption. And this was its effect: “Behold I am too mean”! But the revelation of God had another design besides abasing Job. It was given to Job that he might know God, and be at peace (ch. Job 22:21).
The process, however, is not yet complete. In a second address the Lord again commands Job to gird up his loins and answer Him. But now He is more specific: “Wilt thou condemn me that thou mayest be in the right”? (ch. Job 40:8.) And He ironically invites Job to clothe himself with the attributes of the Supreme Ruler, and conduct the rule of the world himself. The invitation brings home to Job a still deeper feeling of that which the Almighty is, and he exclaims, “I had heard of thee with the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee” (ch. Job 42:5). And in this light of God his own past thought of Him seems the darker: “I abhor it, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Thus the solution to Job’s problem given in God’s answer from the storm is a religious solution, not a speculative one. It is a solution to the heart, not to the intellect. It is such a solution as only God could give; a solution which does not solve the perplexity but buries it under the tide of a fuller life and joy in God. It is a solution as broad as Job’s life and not merely the measure of his understanding; the same solution as was given to the doubting Apostle, making him to exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” and teaching him that not through his sense of touch or his eyesight, but through a broader sense, God makes himself felt by man.
The passage has three general divisions:
First, ch. Job 38:1-38, a review of inanimate nature, the wonders of earth and sky, all revealing the manifoldness of the Divine mind, and suggesting by contrast the littleness of man.
Third, ch. Job 40:1-5, the impression produced on Job by this vision of the glory of God in creation he is abased and brought to silence.
This first address to Job touches simply the presumption of a man seeking to contend with God. Hence it is taken up with presenting God and man in opposition to one another. The vivid pictures of the inanimate creation, with its wonders, and the world of animal life, with its instincts and properties all of them originated and bestowed by God are but the means used for displaying God. And the sharp, ironical questions put to Job, where he was when God laid the foundations of the earth; whether he hunts her prey for the lioness; or combined such contradictory qualities in the ostrich; or created that wonder of beauty and fierceness, the war-horse these questions but serve to bring out by contrast with God the feebleness and meanness of man.
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The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges is a biblical commentary set published in parts by Cambridge University Press from 1882 onwards. Anglican bishop John Perowne was the general editor. The first section published was written by theologian Thomas Kelly Cheyne and covered the Book of Micah.
Perowne exercised limited editorial control over the writers of individual commentaries: his aim was "to leave each contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment".