In this chapter, Job asks a number of questions, which we know are rhetorical from his climax in Job 19:25 – that he knows his Redeemer lives. These questions are found in the following verses:
- Who is there who will put up security for me? (v.3)
- Where then is my hope? Who will see my hope? Will it go down to the bars of Sheol? Shall we descend together into the dust? (v.15-16)
Interlaced with these questions are his woes as the Christ-figure, all of which are examples of the Son of God who Job knows will die on the cross as Job’s kinsman-redeemer. So Christ preaches when he is nailed on the cross: “My spirit is broken… the graveyard is ready for me. Surely there are mockers about me… He has made me a byword of the peoples, and I am one before whom men spit. My eye has grown dim from vexation, and all my members are like a shadow.” (v.1, 2, 6, 7) Yet, throughout his experience, he also distinguishes that which is his own entirely, and that which is of Jesus – for Job, it would seem his hope from this persecution is found in Sheol (v.13-14); yet he recognises that those who are truly righteous will hold his way, and he who has clean hands grows stronger and stronger. Only Jesus is the righteous man who can hold his way, who grows stronger in the midst of his weakness, whilst he hung on the cross. In the midst of our pain, should we not also look to Jesus the balm of our wound? He is the Lord whose clean heart and clean hand brought him through the wrath of the Father, so that we do not need to look to Sheol for comfort. Where is my hope? Who will see my hope? The Lord Jesus, who was also once called a worm (Psalm 22:6). We need only look to our kinsman redeemer, who grows stronger and stronger having walked through the valley of death as our eternal intercessor.
So Bildad (“son of contention“), the Shuhite (from Shuah, a name of one of the sons of Abraham from his marriage to Keturah, whose brother was Midian and whose nephews were Sheba and Dedan – c.f. Genesis 25:2, 1 Chronicles 1:32; the latter being a place in Edom or Arabia), now speaks. Similar to Eliphaz’s contention in chapter 15, so also Bildad questions – “Why are we stupid in your sight?” (v.3). Again, he does not recognise that even the wicked can flourish, albeit for a while (Psalm 92:7) – and though it is true that the wicked deserve the judgment as described by him in this chapter, his assessment is again misdirected like Job’s other friends. For a Christian, these words do not apply – but one who is not rooted in Jesus indeed will have roots which dry up, will have branches which wither, will have perishable memory, will have no name in the street, will remain in darkness, will not bear new life, and will forever be filled with fear and horror until he goes to Sheol, the eternal prison where such man belongs (v.16-21). Yet, the one who trusts in the Son who died as the innocent Lamb, the man who had no sin who became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) – covers us that we are not counted among the “unrighteous” (c.f. v.21).
So Job’s reply is the most obvious one yet, pointing to the kinsman Redeemer he alluded to in all his responses to his misguided “friends”. He understands our Lord very well – for he re-interprets the words of his “friends” as words of clear accusation. Are they not ashamed to wrong Job, who appears already to be disgraced, when (even should he err) his error remains with himself alone (v.3-5)? V.6 onwards is therefore the reality of what Job’s friends are doing against Job, should they be right. V.5 begins: If indeed you magnify yourselves against me… know then that God has put me in the wrong and closed his net about me. The word for “magnify” is stronger in Hebrew (gaw-dal’) which means “to promote oneself”, to “vaunt”. The words of Bildad and the others are but words of self-exaltation, placing themselves in the place of God (ironically, as if they actually knew God’s will when he had apparently not known! c.f. – Job 11). They are preaching a hateful and vengeful God without love and mercy, a God who apparently, in Job’s disgrace:
- Ignores Job’s call (v.7);
- Walls up Job’s way so that he cannot pass and set darkness in a disgraced man’s path (v.8)
- Strips men of glory (v.9);
- Breaks such men down on every side, removing their hope (v.10);
- Kindles wrath against Job, making him not His friend, but his adversary (v.11);
- Removing fellowship and family from Job (v.13-19);
- Removing such man’s health (v.20)
If such is the God whom his friends describe, then God is already doing His “job”. There would be no need for his friends to amplify such pain, such punishment, such judgment – why would they not have mercy on Job (v.21) if they believed in such a God (v.22)? It is because they believe in a judgmental merciless God of works that their mercy and love is shallow and a work in itself. So Job ends his theoretical vision of God with the real God who is, as the Hebrew translates, Job’s kinsman redeemer (v.25) who at last will stand upon the earth on the Day of Resurrection. He is the Christ whom Job will meet face to face, in Job’s flesh (c.f. 1 Corinthians 15 – the bodily resurrection) (v.26-27). Job’s friends now need to tread carefully for mis-describing the Lord – they should be afraid of the sword for accusing Job of evil, for they too shall be punished and subject to judgment.
Despite Job’s assessment of his “friends'” misunderstanding of the LORD, Zophar (“sparrow“) the Naamathite (from Naamah, name of a woman listed in Cain’s genealogy – Genesis 4:22, from whom the Kenites were descendants – Genesis 4:22; the Kenites are mentioned in connection with the Midianites in the Sinai and Arabian deserts – Numbers 10:29, Judges 4:11) speaks. This is immediately contrasted by Job in chapter 21 later, where he clarifies that evil does prosper. Zophar fails to understand, as he states in this chapter, the fallen nature of this world which has led to such discord that the innocent should die for the guilty – the true reason for Christ’s first coming.
So Zophar states – “out of my understanding a spirit answers me (v.3). Do you not know this from of old, since man was placed on earth (v.4), that the exulting of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless but for a moment? (v.5)” This assessment is indeed true of the prowling enemy, that he is like Baal – like dung, to perish forever; the though he reaches lofty heights temporarily, he will fly away like a dream and not be found. The entire chapter describes an enemy who will not dwell in eternity. These words are indeed all true. Yet, for all of Zophar’s knowledge and implication, he is ultimately alluding these descriptions of the evil one to Job, the Christ-figure. Zophar’s knowledge essentially condemns Christ also, for Christ to hang on the cross – according to Zophar and Job’s other friends’ logic – it must be Christ’s own sins which led him to such predicament. Does Christ, the man whom Job is a type of, hide evil in his mouth (v.12); has Jesus crushed and abandoned the poor and seize a house that he did not build (v.19)? What extreme accusations of Job, the man whom God was very pleased with.
Yet, it is also true that the Father sent his burning anger against the Christ, and rained it upon him into his body. Such is the work of the propitiation, which is lost on Job’s friends, that an innocent man shall take the place of the guilty. At no stage does Zophar acknowledge such gospel truth which underlines the meaning of true righteousness and evil.
Yet, Job’s response is sobering. His opening words are to have his friends listen, so that his words would be comfort to his friends. A man with such lack of health, having borne such persecution, still acts with such grace! Such is the love of one’s enemies.
Job spends much of this chapter mourning the apparent livelihood of the wicked (starting with v.7), whilst such men continue to say to God “Depart from us! We do not desire to acknowledge of your ways” (v.14) – a common refrain of man with much to lose this day. So Job accurately recounts that it is not often that the lamp of the wicked is put out (v.17), and it is also not often that the Lord places his wrath on men. Yet, Job acknowledges that our Lord is Love, the Lord who redeems “evil” men like Job – “that the evil man is spared in the day of calamity, that he is rescued in the day of wrath?” (v.30) His friends words are therefore not words of comfort (as their words against the wicked are, in any event, directed at Job), but also words without meaning for they have failed to understand the mysterious nature of the flourishing of the wicked but the snuffing out of the innocent.
Eliphaz returns from having accused Job in chapters 4 and 5, and continues with stronger words in this chapter, outright alleging that Job’s iniquities know no bounds, and that he has:
- Stripped the naked of their clothing (v.6);
- Given no water to the weary to drink (v.7)
- Withheld bread from the hungry (v.7)
- Sent widows away empty (v.9)
In natural conclusion to these (false) allegations, his logic will only allow the restoration to come through Job’s necessary actions, just as Job has allegedly undone himself. Job must:
- Agree with God (v.21);
- Receive His instruction (v.22)
- Return to the Almighty (v.23-24)
- Lay gold in the dust, then the Almighty will be Job’s gold, will be Job’s delight (v.25-26)
- Make prayer to God, and Job to pay his vows (v.27)
- Job to decide on a matter and it will be established for Job (v.28)
- That Job’s actions shall deliver those who are not innocent (v.29-30).
In particular, the irony resounds more distinctively for the last two lines. Does Eliphaz consider himself as among those whom, should they be “clean” and make their prayers to God, that they the Lord would bless them with the redemption of a man like Job (for Job’s redemption would mean that he was delivered “through the cleanness of [Eliphaz/Bildad/Zophar’s] hands“)?. Their words do not encourage, but rather function as a sting against any man who is disgraced because the Lord chose to maximise His glory through him (John 9).
Job however understands Eliphaz’s theology is laced with focus on Job‘s actions to effect his own salvation, rather than God’s unilateral power. “Would He contend with me in the greatness of His power? No; he would pay attention to me. There an upright man could argue with him, and I would be acquitted forever by my judge.” However, Job’s search for God in explanation of his circumstances is responded to with silence (v.8-9) in north, east, south and west. “He is not there… I do not perceive him… I do not behold him… I do not see him” – a common refrain of a man who seeks God’s clarification; but Job’s response is that of a man of faith: “But he know the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold (v.10)” Such faith of a man who understands fully that this is the LORD’s refinery, and not punishment. Job’s clear conscience, being a man who has held fast to his steps and kept the LORD’s way (v.11) is a direct address to Eliphaz’s false allegations.
Adam Clarke states in relation to v.1:
“Mr. Good translates: “Wherefore are not doomsdays kept by the Almighty, so that his offenders may eye their periods?” Doomsdays are here used in the same sense as term times; and the wish is, that God would appoint such times that the falsely accused might look forward to them with comfort; knowing that, on their arrival, they should have a fair hearing, and their innocence be publicly declared; and their detractors, and the unjust in general, meet with their deserts. But God reserves the knowledge of these things to himself. “The holy patriarch,” says Mr. Good, “has uniformly admitted that in the aggregate scale of Providence the just are rewarded and the wicked punished for their respective deeds, in some period or other of their lives. But he has contended in various places, and especially in Job 21:7-13, that the exceptions to this general rule are numerous: so numerous, as to be sufficient to render the whole scheme of providential interposition perfectly mysterious and incomprehensible, Job 23:8-12; so in the passage before us: if the retribution ye speak of be universal, and which I am ready to admit to a certain extent to be true and unquestionable, I not only ask, Why do the just ever suffer in the midst of their righteousness? but, Why do not the wicked see such retribution displayed before their eyes by stated judgments, so that they may at one and the same time know and tremble?“
This translated phrase, “Wherefore are not doomsdays kept by the Almighty, so that his offenders may eye their periods?” certainly suggests a stronger indication that the LORD may bring his wrath down on the evildoers, and bring comfort to the falsely accused, at a time which neither parties can anticipate. Just as Christ has said that he himself does not know the day, so also both the parties of Job’s friends and Job himself cannot speculate – only the Father in the Triune One knows (Matthew 24:36).
The rest of this chapter describes the acts of those who are evil, whose evil is not judged during their lifetime – thus Job recognising the time for judgment is not now but in the LORD’s timing when Christ’s Second Coming is due to arrive. Such that even those who are:
- Oppressive (v.1-6);
- Cruel to the poor (v. 7-13);
- Murderers (v.14);
- Adulterers (v.15);
- Thieves and plunderers (v.16-17);
- Have accursed portions, and their memory perish (v.18-20)
- Abuse power (v.21-24)
… will not be punished until the Day to come. As v.23-24 states, such is the status of Satan also – that the LORD has given him security, that he is supported, and that he is exalted a little while, and then will be gone. The evil one will be brought low and gathered up like all others, cut off like the heads of grain. Job, however, stresses that he is no liar and implies that as such words are facts of life, he cannot therefore be among the evil for the simple reason that his friends’ logic regarding necessarily immediate punishment is unsound.
Bildad, the next in line after Zophar, responds with the theme that man cannot possibly be in the right before God, that a man who is born of a woman cannot possibly be pure. While such words are true, again he ignores the atonement of God through the “Son of Man”. While Bildad describes the son of man here as a mere worm (not unlike Jesus’ description of himself in Psalm 22:6), the term “Son of Man” returns time and time again throughout the Psalms and Ezekiel in various contexts and predominantly referring to the Christ in the book of Daniel. Yet, while any son of Adam shall not escape original sin and the impurity of the fall, Bildad does not look forward to the coming of The Son of Adam who has the power to forgive sins and make a man pure by His blood.
So Job responds for the first time with rebuke (which will last until chapter 31), v.1-4 a marker that Job’s friends have attempted to help, save, counsel and declare words of wisdom and acts of encouragement –without power and authority (1 Thessalonians 1:5). They have not sought the help of the LORD, nor have they relied on the Holy “Breath” of God, the Holy Spirit – they relied only on themselves and on their own spirit. The remainder of this chapter shows Job providing examples of God’s true work, ending with the gospel in v.11-14: the shattering of Egypt/Rahab (Isaiah 30:7; 51:9) as a symbolism of the destruction of the dragon, the evil one, the serpent; followed closely by the Holy Spirt ruah Who made the heavens fair, the LORD’s hand piercing the fleeing serpent indicating Christ, the right hand of God (Psalm 48:10; Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 10:12; 1 Peter 3:22), piercing the fleeing serpent by destroying his head (Genesis 3:15). Behold, Job says, these are but the outskirts of his ways! And yet, as proven by the fruitless words of apparent wisdom of his friends, they do not even understand these outskirts.
Now Job “retaliates” with his own theology of the wicked and the righteous. “As long as … the spirit of God is in [Job’s] nostrils” – so Job will continue to speak words of truth against the falsehood of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. He describes how God will not hear the cry of the unrighteous for such man will not take delight in the Almighty (v.8-10), and that he will teach his friends regarding Jesus, who sits at the right hand of God (v.11) Who is the Revelation of God and is unconcealed (v.11). Just as the meek will inherit the earth, so also silver and clothing of the wicked will be heaped up for the righteous to wear, and for the innocent to divide (v.16-17; c.f. Matthew 5:5); and it will be the Spirit from the east – the same Spirit Who brought the locusts (Exodus 10:13), Who divided the waters (Exodus 14:21); Who shattered the ships of Tarshish (Psalm 48:7); the very Spirit of the LORD (Hosea 13:15), rising from the wilderness — this is the same Holy Spirit who brings judgment on man, and Who will remove the wicked (v.21-23).
Job goes on to contrast the search for wisdom against the search for gold and silver. In v.1-11, man searches out to the “farthest limit” the ore in gloom and deep darkness, opening paths which are forgotten and mysterious to the commoner (v.3-4), seeking every precious thing and making every effort to obtain it (v.8-11). However, he begins in v.12, “…Where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its worth, and it is not found in the land of the living. The deep says, ‘It is not in me’, and the sea says, ‘It is not with me’“. No precious material which man can find can exchange or equal this Wisdom, the Spirit of God, Who is the East Wind Who brings destruction on the wicked and rejoicing to the righteous. “From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? It is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air (v.20-21).” Even Abaddon (“destruction“) and Death have heard of such Wisdom. Only the LORD knows the way to such Wisdom, looking to the ends of the earth, seeing Him and declaring Him, establishing Him, and searching Him out (v.27) – behold – “the fear of the LORD, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.” (c.f. Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 8; Proverbs 9:10). Wisdom was therefore at the head of creation at the time when He hovered over the waters with Christ (distinguishing Wisdom from Jesus, Whom Wisdom is commonly interpreted as, in Proverbs 8). However, it is also important to note that the Hebrew (and the English) both do not personify Wisdom as the Book of Proverbs does – here, wisdom appears to be portrayed as a concept rather than the Third Person of the Trinity.
Adam Clarke comments:
We know that the fear of the Lord is often taken for the whole of that religious reverence and holy obedience which God prescribes to man in his word, and which man owes to his Maker. Hence the Septuagint render chochmah, wisdom, by θεοσεβια, Divine worship; and as to a departure from evil, that is necessarily implied in a religious life, but it is here properly distinguished, that no man might suppose that a right faith, and a proper performance of the rites of religious worship, is the whole of religion. No. They must not only worship God in the letter, but also in the spirit; they must not only have the form, but also the power of godliness: and this will lead them to worship God in spirit and truth, to walk in his testimonies, and abstain from every appearance of evil; hence they will be truly happy: so that wisdom is another word for happiness. Now these are things which man by study and searching could never find out; they are not of an earthly origin. The spirit of a man, human understanding, may know the things of a man-those which concern him in his animal and social state: but the Spirit of God alone knows the things of God; and therefore WISDOM-all true religion-must come by Divine revelation, which is the mode of its attainment. Wisdom finds out the thing, and understanding uses and applies the means; and then the great end is obtained.
Job continues, providing the context of his righteousness, the robe which he wears (v.14; c.f. Isaiah 61:11). The LORD was his light and his lamp, the young men saw him and withdrew, the aged rose and stood – Job was such a kingly man. He also delivered the poor and the fatherless (v.12), blessing the widow (v.13), becoming the eyes to the blind and feet to the lame (v.15), he was a father to the needy (v.16), breaking the fangs of the unrighteous (v.17); men opened their mouths to receive wisdom and freshness from Job (v.23), as he smiled on those without confidence (v.24). What a large contrast to the false allegations in chapter 22, providing further colour to Job’s blamelessness and righteousness and indicated in the opening lines of this book (Job 1:1-5) – such is the glory which only a Christ-figure can enjoy, as an example of Christ before He took on flesh to be one of us.
Yet, he contrasts his days of glory (as described in chapter 29) to the woes he now faces, just as he describes his days as comparable to Christ incarnate. It is Jesus of Nazareth, not the Angel of the LORD, who was laughed at by men younger than Him, driven out from human company (v.1, 5), making Jesus a byword of abhorrence (v.9-10), with Christ’s prosperity passing away like a cloud (v.15), His soul and spirit poured out within Him, days of affliction taking hold of Him (v.16; c.f. Psalm 31:5; Luke 23:46). This is the Christ who hung on the cross, crying out “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani ” (v.19-23; c.f. Matthew 27:46), every blessing and light turned into a curse and darkness (v.25-31).
So Job has made a covenant with his eyes, not to gaze at a virgin or a neighbour’s wife (v.1, 9-10). His final words (before Elihu steps in, in chapter 32) work towards the climactic self-curse – that should he have walked with falsehood (v.5), stepped aside from the way and gazed with a darkened heart just as David had with Bathsheba (v.7), enticed by his neighbour’s wife (v.9), rejected the cause of his manservant or maidservant (v.13), withheld anything that the poor desired (v.16), seen anyone perish for lack of clothing or needy without covering (v.19), raised his hand against the fatherless (v.21), made gold his trust (v.24), secretly enticed by the sun and the moon in an idolatrous fashion (v.26), rejoiced at the ruin of him who hated Job (v.29), concealed his transgressions by hiding iniquity in his bosom (v.33) – then each potential sin would be equally matched by a curse and punishment; that such “calamity [is] for the unrighteous, and disaster for the workers of iniquity” (v.3). Job is indeed a man of righteousness, who walks in the LORD’s ways and trusts in his Kinsman-Redeemer, the true Boaz – and continues to look to the One who may hear him (v.35; c.f. Job 19:25).
So Job quotes Leviticus 25:1-7 to end his self-defence – that his land is blessed and would not cry out against him. The Israelites’ land is one of the most precious of hopes and inheritance (c.f. Exodus 20:12), the first commandment with a promise (Ephesians 6:2).