1 "Then Job answered: 2 "Today also my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy despite my groaning. 3 Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling! 4 I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. 5 I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me. 6 Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; but he would give heed to me. 7 There an upright person could reason with him, and I should be acquitted forever by my judge."
A. Why is Job bitter now? Is this just the residual bitterness from earlier (e.g., 10:1) or does he have new reasons to be bitter?
B. Note Job's careful use of language. Literally the Hebrew says "my hand" in v.2. So, it is "my hand is heavy..." In 22:30 Eliphaz had tried to encourage Job (but what kind of encouragement is it?) by saying that he would escape because of the cleanness of his hands (translation uncertain). What is Job doing with the image of hands?
C. Bildad has said earlier (8:21) that God would one day fill Job's mouth with laughter. Now Job fills his mouth with arguments (v.4). Is this a response to Bildad as well as an approach to God? What would be Job's "best arguments" in your judgment?
D. Job really has hope in this passage for a hopeful resolution of his complaint. Where does this hope come from? Is it a genuine hope or simply a passing thought?
E. In ch.16 he had a "witness" in heaven and in ch.19 a redeemer/avenger to help him out. But here he stresses (and the Hebrew confirms it) that God himself ("hua" in Hebrew) would give heed to Job's complaint. Where did the mediators go?
8 "If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; 9 on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him. 10 But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold. 11 My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. 12 I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured in my bosom the words of his mouth. 13 But he stands alone and who can dissuade him? What he desires, that he does. 14 For he will complete what he appoints for me; and many such things are in his mind. 15 Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. 16 God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me; 17 If only I could vanish in darkness, and thick darkness would cover my face!"
A. Job's frustration returns. Why?
B. God knows Job's way but Job doesn't know God's way. Is this really fair? Does God hide from Job because God is afraid of Job, in Job's mind? Why is God so slow in responding?
C. Look at the word "gold" in v.10. In 22:24-25 Eliphaz encouraged Job to consider the Almighty his "gold." Here, however, Job wants to be his own gold. Is he responding to Eliphaz and if so, how?
D. Job has accused God of favoritism, of perverting justice, of blinding the eyes of judges, but now he seems to have a different and new allegation to add to his charges against God. Read 23:13. What is it?
E. Doth Job protest his righteousness to excess (vv.11-12)? Or, alternatively, is he just stating what he, God and everyone else knows or should know is the sober truth?
F. There is a rather chilling tone to v.14, isn't there? What does Job think God has appointed for him?
G. Now we return to the theme of Job's fear of God (v.15). The word in Hebrew is very strong. Job is absolutely petrified of God. Why?
H. The last verse is untranslatable in Hebrew. Three renderings are that above, (2) "But I am not destroyed by the darkness; he has concealed the thick darkness from me"; and (3) "But I am not silenced before darkness, before the throne of gloom" (Professor Good). Job is retreating into unclarity again. Why? Is he overwhelmed by the emotions of the moment? Do you ever become incoherent when you are overcome? Why might Job be overcome by the flow of ch.23?
If Job 3 and 14 were wonderful examples of the workings of a great mind in distress, ch.23 is yet another one. But here the flow of the passage is different. How would you characterize the flow of Job's thinking here? How does it compare with that of Job 3 and Job 14? I think that if we patiently comb through the workings of Job's mind as he deals with distress, we will gather deep knowledge concerning the human process of coming to grips with lacerating pain. And, Job is such a spunky and confident man, too, so that if we are patient enough we will see a great mind which is also a fighting mind, a defiant mind, a mind that will not accept the simple inherited answers, a mind that just doesn't give up. Is that how you read him?