God’s Questions for Job: Chapter 39
God begins this chapter by asking about Job’s knowledge of wild animals. While many of these answers might have been available with some simple observation, the knowledge level God speaks of here is pretty simple… yet incredibly beyond Job’s own true knowledge. He reminds Job, with these words, that there is a natural order to everything. And did Job have a part in that design?
No, he did not.
Not only was Job fairly ignorant of the deep knowledge, he was also made to understand that there was no power in him over these animals either. That was reserved for God.
The “onager” was a wild donkey, very admired in the Old Testament for its freedom ability to survive nearly anything. God knew everything about it, how it managed to live, how it was provided for. But Job didn’t.
Was That Really A Unicorn?
Scholars seem to dislike the translation of the word “unicorn” here in the ninth chapter. Other translations use “wild ox”, but that doesn’t really fit the language God is using here either.
The animal God is describing is fearsome. It’s a mighty creature. And it is extinct, or so they think. The animal they believe God is referring to here is the aurochs. The aurochs was a massive beast, the most powerful of any hoofed animal, and trumped in size only by the hippo and elephant. Extinct since about 1627, this animal was enormous and truly the strong animal that God referred to here (and 8 other times in the Old Testament).
Other Wild Animals
God speaks first of the Ostrich, her inability to fly, and to her cruel mannerisms towards her young as a perfect example of more things Job has no wisdom to explain.
The horse, too. While Job could admire the majestic animal for its strength and power, he had nothing of his own to give the animal. Only God could give such things, especially its fearless nature.
God turns next to the hawk to describe a noble and wise bird that was still as mysterious in its ways as all the others He’d spoken of so far. As much as He wanted Job to see how utterly powerless he was, he also wanted him to think about the dominion He’d given man over all creatures.
However, even in that dominion, man would neither make them nor sustain them. So, how could Job control life events? He couldn’t. And that’s something God wanted him to see clearly.
And Now, Eagles
In telling Job that he had no power over the eagle either, and couldn’t give it commands, some might think God was harsh. However, if Job’s friends had had their way, God would have been harsher still.
For instance, God did not come as a judge. He didn’t come as an accuser. He actually came as a teacher, with love and power. It was enough, though, that Job simply had God with him again.
What God Left Out
As it turns out, satan was wrong when he spoke of the reasons for Job’s righteousness. At the same time, Job’s friends were wrong that Job was creating his own suffering. Because of this, there was no indictment on God’s part. And there was no calling out of sins that Job committed either.
Not once in God’s conversation towards Job did He ever offer a “reason” for the suffering, for the loss, for the anguish and agony. Still, there is no lack of an answer. It’s just that the Lord, Himself, is the answer.
Through all of this, the main take away from chapter 39 is clear: there are plenty of mysterious goings-on in the world, but all we need to do is trust the One to created and rules it.
POWER: Chapter 40
After all of the conversation of the last chapter, God concludes his speech with a question. Will you challenge me? It wasn’t an answer to the questions Job was asking, but rather an answer to his very heart.
The communion between the two was good in the last two chapters. But when it came right down to brass tacks, God was still the great and mighty One True God, and Job, just a man.
During the talks with his friends, Job was the only one to actually speak directly to God. He was the only one to pray. And as he readies himself to answer God on the charge of challenge, there is a sudden and swift change in his tone.
It wasn’t that anything, really, had changed. He was as miserable as ever. Everything he had was still gone. But there was one thing that truly HAD changed. Before God’s arrival, Job felt forsaken, cast away, and completely out of God’s sight. At least now he knew that God was here and he was not alone any longer.
It was, once again, Job’s turn to speak. Only this time, his speech wouldn’t be long. It would contain no rage, and certainly no kind of challenge.
Another word lost in translation between King James’ day and ours is the word “vile”. According to Merriam-Webster, vile means “morally despicable, or physically repulsive”, and Job was neither.
We have to go back to Strong’s concordance to find that the actual word translated here for “vile” (qalal, H7043) means “of little account, lightly esteemed, insignificant”. To be vile, in King James’ day, was to be “not heavy”. The same word “qalal” is translated in Genesis 8:11 as “abated”:
…so Noah knew that the waters were abated (H7043, qalal) from off the earth. (Emphasis mine)
We should ALL see our “vileness” in relation to the great and mighty God we serve! Even as righteous as Job had been, he still said this, and it was still true. The good news of the GOSPEL, however, is that our vileness is covered now by the shed Blood of Jesus Christ! Praise God!
Hand Over Mouth
When God asked if Job was challenging Him, Job had very little to say. In fact, the entirety of his answer is right there in verses 4 and 5:
Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further.Job 40:4-5
Laying a hand over the mouth is an act of total submission. In fact, a person can fall prostrate on the floor, but yet continue to speak. Shutting off the tongue means much more.
God Continues His Lesson
Now, God spoke from a whirlwind, from the very midst of an actual storm. At the same time, he offered a new charge to Job, telling him to prepare, to gird up.
Again, God is not challenging Job in preparation for judgment, but for the lesson. Look at verses 8 through 13. He is questioning Job about things both He and Job know are fully outside of Job’s human power.
As Job spoke, in reference to the attacks from his friends, he did so in defense of not God’s integrity and character, but his own. It may have been a natural response to the attacks, but it was neither good nor right. When we come against attacks, we should always consider that it is usually God IN us that is under attack, and not we, ourselves. And to react as such is simply unnecessary.
Your Own Right Hand
Not only could Job not do all of those things God could do, neither could he save himself “by his own right hand”. Salvation comes by God alone. There is no salvation in man, for himself or any other.
God comes back to pointing out His own creation, and all the power in it, to declare that even the most dangerous creatures and completely under His control.
But the answer is completely clear. Job could not even control the creatures of the earth. It’s a sure thing, then, that he couldn’t control the God who created them… and him… and the earth on which they all live together.
I cannot imagine what Job went through, and I’m sure you couldn’t either. There’s just a mountain of things that no one has ever really had to go through before.
But can you imagine if God showed up, in all His power, and asked US these questions? It just gives me cold chills to think about it! I don’t think we often think just how truly “vile” we are in relation to a complete and Almighty God.
Lord Jesus, I just want to take a minute to thank You for your great gift of mercy and grace! Thank You that we are not forsaken, and that Your Arm is not shortened, and Your ear is not deafened. Thank You that no matter what, You are there. Cover us under the shelter of Your Wings, Lord, and keep us in Your Way. In Jesus Name, I ask, Amen.