Sunday, September 26
Job 35: Elihu gives a fair paraphrase of JobŐs position Ń namely, that his own righteousness exceeds GodŐs! (verse 2) Job may not have said it just that way, but it amounts to the same thing (verse 3; cf. 4:17; 13:18; 15:3; 19:6-7; 21:15; 27:2-6). Is this likely? asks Elihu.
He turns JobŐs gaze upwards, then, to the physical symbols of GodŐs transcendence (verse 5). God is not, in Himself, altered by either manŐs virtue or his vice (verses 6-9). God does what He does, simply because He is righteous. Therefore, He is to be trusted (verse 14). On the other hand, no one has a forensic claim on God; indeed, even to voice such a claim is, in some measure, to attempt to put oneself on GodŐs level. This, says Elihu, is what Job has done.
Monday, September 27
Job 36: God, says Elihu, does not hate (verse 5). Nor is God capricious; He gives judgment (mishpat) for the poor (verses 6,15). When God does chastise, it is ever with a view to manŐs correction and repentance (verses 8-10,22). The time of trial, therefore, is the proper occasion of taking stock of oneŐs conscience. However, not to receive the judgment of God with repentance is most serious (verses 11-14). It is Job who has failed in this regard, not God (verse 16), and his present path is parlous. He must exercise caution, says ŇElihu, lest his mind be lured into total rebellion (verses 17-18).
At this point, Elihu waxes poetic, and the chapter closes with his praise of God in creation (verses 26-33), which continues into the following chapter (37:1-13). Virtually all the lines of this paean of praise have parallels in the Book of Psalms and elsewhere in Holy Scripture.
Tuesday, September 28
Job 37: The first half of this chapter continues ElihuŐs praise of God. This is ElihuŐs way of exhorting Job, similar to the way that St. James exhorts us: ŇÓIs any among you suffering? Let him prayÓ (James 5:13). The deliberate praise of God is the proper and godly response of a faithful soul to the experience of suffering.
For example, Martin RinckartŐs well known hymn, Nun danket Alle Gott (ŇNow thank we all our GodÓ) was composed as his response to the horrible trials of the city of Eilenburg, which suffered from a devastating plague, failed harvests, and the three different times it was sacked during the Thirty YearsŐ War. The popular choice of this hymn for Thanksgiving Day reflects the attitude of those pilgrims who first celebrated that holiday in our country. They too knew how to praise God for His mercy in the midst of adversity.
The section of ElihuŐs hymn of praise in this chapter dwells especially on the imagery of the storm. He finally closes his discourse by exhorting Job to dwell more on what he knows of God and to assess his own suffering in the light of that knowledge.
What, finally, is to be said of ElihuŐs contribution to this discussion about suffering and justice? It is worth remarking that his lengthy discourse prepares the way for GodŐs revelation to the Job in the bookŐs closing chapters. It should also be noted that God does not reprimand Elihu as He does Job and the three comforters.
Elihu never arrives on the scene, nor does he leave it; he has neither beginning of days, nor end of life. Like Melchizedek, he is one of the more mysterious characters of the Bible.
Wednesday, September 29
Job 38: Now the Lord Himself will speak, for the first time since Chapter 2. After all, Job has been asking for God to speak (cf. 13:22; 23:5; 30:20; 31:35), and now he will get a great deal more than he anticipated. With a mere gesture, as it were, God proceeds to brush aside all the theories and pseudo-problems of the preceding chapters.
God does not answer JobŐs questions. He does not so much as even notice those questions; He renders them hopelessly irrelevant by His own series of questions to Job.
GodŐs providence over JobŐs life is even more subtle and majestic than these easier questions which God proposes and which Job cannot begin to answer, questions about the construction of the world, the courses of the heavenly bodies, the marvels of earth and sea, and animal life. Utterly surrounded by things that he cannot understand, will Job still demand to know mysteries even more mysterious?
Implicit in these questions to Job is the reminder of GodŐs affectionate provision for all His creatures. If God so cares for the birds of the air and the plants of the fields, how much more of Job!
Moreover, the world itself contains creatures that seem improbable and bewildering to the human mind. Should not man, then, expect to find that there are even more improbably and bewildering aspects to the subtler forms of the divine providence? God will not be reduced simply to an answer to JobŐs shallow questions. Indeed, the divine voice from the whirlwind never once deigns even to notice JobŐs questions. They are implicitly subsumed into a mercy vaster and far richer.
Thursday, September 30
Job 39: Having surveyed for Job the myriad manifestations of divine wisdom and power in the realms of physics and botany, the Lord now (beginning in 38:39) commences to examine the animal world.
Several examples are considered, in varying degrees of detail: the lion and the raven, both of which, powerful hunters though they be, depend on GodŐs provision; the mountain goat and wild ass, both characterized by the freedom of their migrations; the r”mu (verses 9-12), a now extinct species of ox that man never managed to tame; the ostrich (and perhaps the peacock, both of them missing in the Greek text), renowned for both its stupidity and its speed, and evidently placed here to be in proximity to the next animal; the mighty war charger, whose neck, larger than its head, is Ňclothed with thunder,Ó and who revels to be again in battle; and finally the hawk and the eagle, accomplished hunters who see from afar.
The greatest detail is devoted to the only domesticated animal in the list, the destrier, or war horse. The horse in antiquity was reserved for combat. It was not used for ploughing (the work of the ox), nor for carrying burdens (the work of donkeys), nor for ordinary riding (the work of mules and donkeys). The horse, this most noble and impressive of all the animals that man has tamed, was employed exclusively for battle. Originally, equestrian warfare was by chariots, but fighting from horseback was introduced by at least the seventh century B.C. This latter case is what the Book of Job seems to have in mind, since the text does not mention chariots.
Friday, October 1
Job 40: This chapter, unlike the two preceding, permits Job to put in a word of his own, but he uses the occasion simply to confess his vileness and to state his resolve to remain silent before the Lord (verses 3-5). His earlier aspirations have really been answered, after all, because God is now speaking, and this is essentially what Job had sought. God continues, then.
As the two preceding chapters dealt with the mysteries of GodŐs activity in the realm of nature, the first part of this chapter turns to GodŐs presence in the order of conscience (verses 8-14). If Job understood next to nothing about the first, he knows even less about the second.
Job is queried about who, on the evidence, is more just, himself or God? Does Job really want a forensic setting to determine this question? Is Job capable of dealing with the myriad moral dilemmas involved in every manŐs life, as God must do?
Then, dramatically, GodŐs discourse goes from the realm of ethics and conscience to a consideration of two symbols of chaos, fearsome and incomprehensible: Behemoth and Leviathan. Although ŇBehemothÓ is simply the plural of the Hebrew word for ŇbeastÓ or Ňanimal,Ó its description here seems largely to be drawn from the hippopotamus (hippos=ŇhorseÓ and potamos=ŇriverÓ Ń so Ňriver horseÓ), huge, strong, invincible, even unchallenged, rightly afraid of nothing (verses 15-24).
Saturday, October 2
Job 41: The second beast, the Leviathan, is a water monster, the description of which is drawn largely from the crocodile. This latter animal obviously served as a chief model for the classical picture of the fearsome dragon, because of its very large mouth (resembling, in this respect, the hippopotamus), many sharp teeth, impregnable hide, and powerful tail that can knock down the very stars in heaven (Revelation 12:4). It takes only a little imagination to think of this creature as breathing fire (verses 19-21). In short, the Leviathan makes a rather unsatisfactory pet (verses 4-5) and an even worse conversationalist (verse 3).
The Leviathan, that is to say, cannot be domesticated by man. He is resistant to all human efforts to control him and thus remains in this world the symbol of all in existence that is recalcitrant to manŐs ability, especially his rational ability, to take it in hand.
What does this say to Job? Well, Job has been treading on some very dangerous ground of late, and he had best manifest a bit more deference before things he does not understand.
But there is another consideration as well. Both Behemoth and Leviathan are GodŐs household pets, as it were, creatures that He cares for with gentle concern. Moreover, God is pleased with them. Do not these truths hold a lesson for Job?
It is remarkable that GodŐs last narrative to Job resembles nothing so much as a fairy tale, or at least that darker part of a fairy tale that deals with dragons. This dragon, nonetheless, is only a pet to God.