Old Testament: Job 38:4-18 (Pentecost 10: Series A)
It is important to see how the LORD does NOT answer the questions Job and his friends have been wrestling with.
he Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is written in the Book of Job. The text is Job 38:4-18 and is the part in Job frequently referred to as the first speech of Yahweh. In truth, this is the moment Job and his friends have been waiting for. They have been hoping the LORD will break His silence and set things straight, answer their questions, and reveal the “why” of what is going on in Job’s miserable life. However, it is important to see how the LORD does NOT answer the questions Job and his friends have been wrestling with. He ignores Job’s complaints and claims of innocence and refuses to support the accusations of Job’s friends. He just does not go there! This disappoints even the readers of Job today.
Job, as a book, is where most Christians turn in the hope of finding an answer to suffering. They also seek to understand the LORD’s role or power in all the slings and arrows we struggle with in this life. The term frequently used is “Theodicy,” which is an apology for God in the face of evil. What is God doing? What can God do? When will He do something? What is He trying to do? Why does He allow/put up with/bring suffering/give suffering? These are difficult questions.
The first place man tends to go is toward retribution theology (i.e., good things happen to good people – bad things happen to bad people). This is the argument of Job’s three friends, as well as Elihu. “Job, you must have done some terrible thing to be in the midst of this kind of suffering!” And, eventually, after a long struggle with his friends and with the suffering itself, Job even falls into this trap, but retribution theology is nothing more than works righteousness. Do good and God will love you, bless you big, and bring you to Heaven. Do bad and it is H-E-L-L for you… both on earth and in the bowels of Sheol. Human nature turns us this direction, but God turns us back, just as He is about to do to Job in our pericope.
Truthfully, Job does not answer any of our questions and neither does the LORD in His address to Job. The fact that the LORD answers Job is a great gift of love and mercy, but He does NOT provide the answer Job seeks. Rather, He teaches him about the relationship between God and man; who God is and who man is in relationship to Him. The first verses of the LORD’s speech, 38:1-3, basically say, “You wish to question me Job? Stand up, gird your loins (prepare for battle), I have some questions for you!” It is doubtful this is the direction Job was hoping the conversation would go!
The fact that the LORD answers Job is a great gift of love and mercy, but He does NOT provide the answer Job seeks.
The LORD begins His questioning using the language of construction concerning His creation of the world. God had a plan and implemented it, but no man, certainly not Job, was there to bear witness. The inference is clear: How can you question the LORD when you have no knowledge? Job, undoubtedly, is hearing the message loud and clear.
38:4 אֵיפֹה (ei-Foh) “where?”
בְּיָסְדִי (be-ya-se-di) root: יסד (yaw-sad) Qal: “to found; to establish”
בִינָה (vi-Nah) “understanding”
38:5 מְמַדֶּיהָ. (Me-mad-dei-ha) from: ממד (may-mad) “measurement; measure”
קָּו (Kav) “measuring line; string to stretch for measuring”
38:6 אֲדָנֶיהָ] (a-da-Nei-ha) from: אדן, (eh-den) “base; pedestal; foundation”
הָטְבָּעוּ (ha-te-Ba-u) root: טבע (taw-bah) Hophal: “to be sunk; to be planted; to be settled”
יָרָה (ya-Rah) Qal: “to set; to lay out; to cast”
פִּנָּתָהּ (pin-na-Tah) “corner; cornerstone”
38:7 בְּרָן (be-ron) root: רנן (raw-nan) Qal: “to rejoice; to give a ringing cry out; to break out in rejoicing”
יַחַד (Ya-chad) “together; altogether”
וַיָּרִיעוּ: (vai-ya-Ri-u) root: רוע (roo-ah) Hiphil: “to rejoice; to shout in triumph; to cheer”
38:8 וַיָּסֶךְ (vai-Ya-sech) root: סכך (saw-kak) Hiphil: “to shut off; to shut in”
בְּגִיחוֹ (be-gi-Cho) root: גיח (ghee-akh) Qal: “to burst forth; to burst out”
מֵרֶחֶם (me-Re-chem) “womb”
38:9 לְבֻשׁוֹ. (le-vu-Sho) from: לבושׁ. () “garment; clothing”
וַעֲרָפֶל (va-a-ra-Fel) “cloud; thick darkness; heavy cloud cover”
חֲתֻלָּתוֹ] (cha-tul-la-To) “swaddling band”
38:10 בְּרִיחַ. (be-Ri-ach) “bar”
38:11 יָשִׁית (ya-Shit) root: שׁית (sheeth) Qal: “to set; to place; to fix”
בִּגְאוֹן (big-on) “height; majesty”
גַּלֶּיךָ; (gal-Lei-cha) from: lG: (gal) “wave; roller”
38:12 צִוִּיתָ (tziv-Vi-ta) root: צוה (tsaw-vaw) Qal: “to command”
הַשַּׁחַר; (hash-Sha-char) “dawn; first light; morning twilight”
38:13 לֶאֱחֹז, (Le-e-choz) root: אחז (aw-khaz) Qal: “to seize; to grasp”
וְיִנָּעֲרוּ > (ve-yin-na-a-Ru) root: נער (naw-ar) Niphal: “to be shaken off; to be shaken out”
38:14 תִּתְהַפֵּךְ (Tit-hap-pech) root: הפך (haw-fak) Hithpael: “to transform oneself; to change oneself”
כְּחֹמֶר. (ke-Cho-mer) from: חֹמר (kho’mer) “clay”
חוֹתָם (cho-Tam) “seal; signet ring”
וְיִתְיַצְּבוּ> (ve-yit-yatz-tze-Vu) root: יצב (yaw-tsab) Hithpael: “to stand forth; to stand out; to take one’s stand”
38:15 וְיִמָּנַע (ve-yim-ma-Na) root: מנע (maw-nah) Niphal: “to be withheld; to be restrained”
וּזְרוֹעַ (u-ze-Ro-a) “power; force; arm”
38:16 נִבְכֵי (niv-chei) “source; spring”
וּבְחֵקֶר (u-ve-Che-ker) “object of deep searching; the deep”
38:17 צַלְמָוֶת (tsal-Ma-vet) “deep darkness; impenetrable gloom; death-shadow”
38:18 רַחֲבֵי: (ra-cha-vei) “expanse; broad area”
While the pericope ends here, the questioning of the LORD continues to 40:2. In other words, the LORD is just warming up! And, Job has no answers. Why does the LORD even bother to show up to question him? The LORD is teaching Job concerning who he is and who the LORD is and what their relationship to one another is. This is the important thing for Job to grasp, not the nature of suffering.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR
Jeffrey Pulse (STM, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN) is Associate Professor of Exegetical Theology, director of Certification and Placement, and Director of Continuing Education at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN.