1 "Then Job answered the LORD: 2"I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 'Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.' 5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; 6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
A. When Job says "I know" in v.2, it reminds us immediately of his words in 19:25: "I know that my redeemer lives." What is the effect of this kind of knowledge for Job? Does it make the redeemer unimportant? more important? What is it that Job now claims to know?
B. Hadn't Job known all along that God could do all things? Read his words describing God's attributes in chs. 9 and 12. Isn't the God described there an omnipotent God? Thus, what could be the meaning of this verse (v.2)?
C. In v.3 he repeats God's words from 38:2. Elihu has quoted Job, but this is the first time that Job seemingly has quoted anyone. Why does he quote God here? Actually, he softens the word "darkens" in 38:2 to "hides" in 42:3. Is there any significance in this softening? Or is it a softening?
D. Job's quotation of God emphasizes Job's knowledge (or lack thereof). What is it Job uttered that he didn't understand? What is it about God's speech in 38-41 that enabled/compelled Job to say "I have uttered what I did not understand"?
E. What emotions does Job feel as he says v.3? Is he embarrassed? Just simply confessing ignorance?
F. The phrase "too wonderful for me" is reminiscent of Ps.139:6 where the Psalmist's awareness of God's complete knowledge of him leads him to say that such knowledge is "too wonderful for him." Earlier Job had either turned Ps.139 on its head (see 3:1-10) or had deepened its meaning (10:9-11). Now how does he use the Psalm?
G. After confessing his ignorance he again quotes God from 38, this time from 38:3. These words also appear in 40:7. What is the effect of the twofold quotation of Job 38 and Job 40 on Job and on the reader?
H. V.5 is one of those verses that is fraught with meaning. Job contrasts the hearing about God with seeing God. How had his former life been characterized by hearing about God? If you had told Job in his pre-disaster condition that he only had a "hearing" knowledge of God, would Job have disagreed? Would Job have been offended?
I. The force of "but now my eye sees you," is incredible. What could Job possibly mean?
J. What is the effect on Job of his vision of God? The first verb in 42:6 is the Hebrew "maas," which appears without an object in 7:16 and here. There I suggested that when Job says "I despise," he is referring not simply to his life, but to his total situation in life--to God, to the friends, to his situation, to himself. What does Job now despise (note again, there is no object in the Hebrew)?
K. Is it too much to say that since Job's first use of "maas" without an object in 7:16 led to an emotional collapse and a reversal of Scriptural meaning, his use of "maas" here also signals another such collapse? Indeed, the word 'collapse' to describe a person's emotional state is metaphorical, but almost every word we choose to characterize deep emotions is pictorial or metaphorical. How would you explain what happens to Job internally when he says "I despise"?
L. He then "repents." Some scholars translate the next phrase "in dust an ashes" (emphasizing the ritual nature of his repentance); one renders it "from dust and ashes" (to emphasize that Job may be "giving up" the religious life). I think it makes most sense to take the last few words of 42:6 literally--as indicating that Job repents "upon" (Hebrew 'al') dust and ashes. That is, he now is so overwhelmed, challenged, and depleted, with his life categories so stretched and tweaked, that all he can do is to return to that dust heap on which he had his former thoughts and hope to "put it all together." Which interpretation do you prefer? Why?