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407. Job 40:6-14, God’s Invitation to Job to Take Over Management of the World
6 Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm and said,
7 “Now gird up your loins like a man;
I will ask you, and you instruct Me.
8 Will you really annul My judgment?
Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?
9 Or do you have an arm like God,
And can you thunder with a voice like His?
10 Adorn yourself with eminence and dignity,
And clothe yourself with honor and majesty.
11 Pour out the overflowings of your anger,
And look on everyone who is proud, and make him low.
12 Look on everyone who is proud, and humble him,
And tread down the wicked where they stand.
13 Hide them in the dust together;
Bind them in the hidden place.
14 Then I will also confess to you,
That your own right hand can save you.
Job has demonstrated two things in his brief reply to God in 40:3-5. First, he shows he is a master of polysemy or multiple meanings, just like God (i.e., Job’s use of the polysemic qalal in v 4 in response to God’s question of v 2 that also can be taken in several different ways) but, even more so, he has shown he won’t play along with the divine suggestion on how to proceed. Job shows no inclination either to drop the lawsuit or to reply to God’s speech in Job 38-39. He will simply place his hand on his mouth and neither “answer” (anah) nor “add to” (yasaph) his words.
God responds to Job’s act of defiance in this passage. In few words, it seems as if Job’s reticence to play on God’s terms has gotten under God’s skin and made God furious. One of the ways we know that God is angry is that he heaps up terms to suggest how Job is angry. In verse 11 God says that Job needs to scatter/pour out the “rages” of his “anger.” It is reminiscent of how Job’s anger in the First Cycle made him see God as an angry divinity, angry indeed since the beginning of time (9:13). Now the shoe is on the other foot. God is angry, and so God sees anger in Job.
In the divine anger God accuses Job of saying that God is morally confused (v 8). If Job is so convinced of that, why doesn’t he, God would like to know, take over the management of the world (vv 9-14)? It is not as if God will actually hand over the reins to Job; it is all a rhetorical ploy. Yet the tone of God’s words in this section is ‘You want to question my running of the world? Well, buddy, do you think you can do any better? Why don’t you try?’ After God responds in this way, He will go back to describing a few creatures in the world, this time perhaps more mythological than historical. But it will be more of the same, for God’s method beginning in 40:15 is not substantially different from the previous two chapters.
How is this likely to convince Job either that God is answering his complaint or that God is the least bit sympathetic to his questions? That is, how does berating or mocking one’s fellow litigant and then continuing to quiz Job on a topic that Job won’t contest (that the world is larger than Job imagines; that Job doesn’t know so many things about life) add to the persuasive appeal of God’s speeches? These are some issues to take into consideration when we ultimately move to Job’s response to the divine speeches in 42:1-6. But for now, we just have God on center stage after Job has bowed out (40:3-4).
God begins inauspiciously enough in these verses, with two verses that are identical to previous verses. Job 40:7 is identical to Job 38:1; Job 40:8 is the same as Job 38:3. The only thing God has dropped out from the introduction in Job 38 is a reference to Job’s bringing darkness by his speeches and questions (38:2, which will be reprised, with a different verb, in 42:3a). It is as if the author is preparing us for “God: Round II” that may be almost identical to “God: Round 1.” As I will argue below, when God asks Job questions about his knowledge of Behemoth and Leviathan, He pursues the same literary strategy as in Job 38-39, except that God delves more deeply into the nature of these creatures than He did of the wild ox or ostrich, for example.
After God’s introduction to the second divine speech in 40:6-7, He does two things: 1) Poses two questions to Job (v 8); and 2) Challenges Job, through a question and a series of statements, to show how he would run the world (vv 9-14).
God’s questions in verse 8 may literally be translated:
“Would you even break my justice? Will you show me wrong/evil so you might be justified/made right?”
The first question is usually rendered, “Will you annul my judgments/my cause?” or “Will you make void my judgment?” Before I ultimately adopt the “annul” translation, I want to make a point about the verb, parar, (50x/4x Job) in the first part of the verse. It normally means “to break” or “to shatter” something. Job most memorably used the verb in 16:12 where he talked about God’s “breaking me asunder.” Its most common appearance, however, is in connection with people “breaking” the divine “covenant” (e.g., Genesis 17:14; Leviticus 26:15, 44; Numbers 15:31, etc). Thus, it is a verb that has violent physical or spiritual implications.
God is accusing Job, here, of breaking/shattering the divine mishpat. Like the verb yakach in the Book of Job, whose meaning may include almost everything connected to a lawsuit, from the reasoning process to the evidence adduced to the judgment rendered, so the common word mishpat has numerous potential meanings in Job. It can refer to the case one brings, to the standard (justice) by which God runs the world, the laws by which the nation is run, the more abstract concept of “justice” or even correct action/right behavior (Genesis 18:19, 25).
So, when God asks Job whether he will “break” God’s “justice” in verse 8, it most likely means whether Job will destroy/bring to nought/annul the judgments that God has made in running the world. This, then, would be a great prelude question for verses 9-14 where God, as it were, asks Job how he would run the world. Job obviously finds fault with the way God runs the show. Can he do any better? That seems to be the flow of these verses.
It isn’t as if God plucks the questions in verse 8 from nowhere. In his speeches, Job has not simply asked for an explanation of his distress but has also implied that God is a morally confused creator, one who has “removed” Job’s “right” (27:2). In 27:2, Job uses the same word as God uses in 40:8 (mishpat). Job alleges that God has taken away Job’s case/justice/standard of right. Job therefore does accuse God of “breaking justice.” God’s words in 40:8 are derived from the way Job has spoken. Job has accused God of breaking justice, Job’s justice; from God's perspective Job has, as it were, condemned/treated God as evil (the common rasha) so that he, Job, would look good (the common tsadeq).
Then, in verses 9-14, God turns to consider how Job might do things differently. A literal rendering of verse 9 is not too different from most translations:
“. . .If your arm is like God? Or with a voice like His can you thunder?”
Job’s “arm” (zeroa) is mentioned in verse 9; the last verse of this passage will have a reference to his “right hand” (yamin, literally “right”, v 14). These two bodily parts represent strength. They open and close the passage. It will be all about Job’s strength, and whether his strength matches that of God. The second question in verse 9, regarding thunder, employs a verb (raam, 13x) that Elihu used in 37:4, 5 to refer to the majestic divine thunder. The noun for “thunder” (also raam, 6x), appears twice in Job (26:14; 39:25). Just as the appearances of rogez (“trouble”) are dominated by the Book of Job (5/7 appearances in Job), so “thundering,” through the use of raam, is disproportionately present in Job.
“Thundering” by itself may be impressive, but God is playing for higher stakes in verses 10-14 than Job’s mere demonstration of a God-like characteristic. God will now fixate on Job’s weakness in a mocking way. God will now ask Job, as it were, to take charge of the world, even though there isn’t any indication that God will give Job the special divine powers to do so.
But first, before Job actually actually takes over and shows the “Joban glory” in the world, God mocks Job’s attire. No doubt Job is in tattered rags, worn through by suffering, by vermin, by the uncomfortable life on the ash heap. So God then asks Job, in verse 10, to put on the rich garments of regal authority:
“Adorn yourself with majesty and splendor; clothe yourself with glory and majesty."
The verb for “adorning” (adah, 10x) is both synonymous with the common verb “to clothe” (labash, 110x/8x Job), which we will see in the second half of the verse, and also points to elaborate dressing that a person might put on. A bride, for example, “adorns” (adah) herself with jewelry (Isaiah 61:10); others “deck/adorn” (adah) themselves with ornaments (Ezekiel 16:11, 13). The four words describing the adornment are two sets of alliterative words: gaown and gobah in the first part, and hod and hadar in the second. Almost any word for majesty, splendor, honor, height, glory, might, beauty, dignity will do to render any of the four words. In order to try to keep consistent with the Hebrew words, I might say, “Deck yourself with majesty and might. . .with beauty and bounty.”
You wonder for a moment how we are to read these divine words. Are they an example of God’s further attempting to humiliate Job, this time not by showing his ignorance or impotence, but his ugliness or unsightliness? Some might say, ‘Job asked for a legal encounter; thus he has to be willing to accept all that comes with that—the humiliation, aspersion and attack,’ but others might, with equal or even more justice respond, ‘Isn’t this something like a powerful person mocking a disabled person or a rich person making fun of a poor person?’
In verses 11-13 then, God encourages Job to 'show his stuff,' even though this urging partakes of the mocking flavor of the rest of the passage. God asks Job whether he can, in the overflowing of his rage, bring the high people low. The language is brutal as well as powerful. Literally, verses 11-13 read:
“Scatter/spread out/disperse the fury of your anger; look on everyone who is proud and bring
him low; look on everyone who is proud and humble him. Stomp the wicked in their place.
Hide them all together in the dust; bind up their faces in hidden darkness.”
This is the only place in Scripture where the evocative phrase “fury of your anger” appears, even though, as will be shown below, the two words for anger/fury appear near each other in Genesis 49 (as well as in Psalm 7:6; 78:43). We have often seen the word for “anger” (aph, which can either be one’s nostrils, face, or anger), but the word rendered “fury” here, ebrah (34x/also in Job 21:30), is particularly strong, and is generally rendered “wrath” or “rage” or “fury” or “overflowings.” In giving his “blessing” to his sons in Genesis 49, Jacob had some choice words for Levi and Simeon, who had led a murderous rampage against Shechem and his people (Gen 34). Then he tells them in 49:7,
“Cursed is their anger (aph) for it is strong, and their fury (ebrah) because it is cruel/severe."
We don’t really know if Job is seething at this point in Job 40, but God very well may be. And, because God may be furious, He can tend to see that characteristic in Job. So, God challenges Job, in what is really not a challenge, to “scatter” (puts, 67x) his anger.
God wants Job to scatter his anger so that it will subdue the proud. The second half of verse 11 is straightforward:
“And look upon everyone that is proud and bring him down/abase him.”
The word for “proud” (geeh, 8x), like many words in the Hebrew lexicon beginning with g-a/e or g-b, has to do with being lofty or lifting up or being exalted or being proud. We have just seen gaown and gobah in the previous verse describe the “high” or “mighty” garments that Job should be wearing. Geeh in verse 11 is derived from gaah, (7x, “to be exalted”), and together the verb and noun bear the ambiguity of many of the g-a/g-b words. In its seven appearances, gaah is used four times to mean “to be exalted” in Miriam’s Song at the Sea (Exodus 15:1 (twice), 21 (twice)) but then it also means to “grow” or “be lifted up” or “rise” in its other appearances (Job 8:11; 10:16; Ezekiel 47:5). Yet geeh, in its eight appearances, is always best rendered “proud” (it appears again in the next verse).
God would like Job to look on (the common raah) these and “make them low” (shaphel, 29x). Job has used shaphel once previously (22:29), but it is a verb beloved by Isaiah. It appears four times in the poem about the Day of the Lord to describe this day which will bring low (shaphel) the pride of people (e.g., Isaiah 2:9, 11, 12, 17). The most memorable appearance of the word, thanks to GF Handel, is in Isaiah 40:4, where every valley will be exalted and every mountain and hill made low (shaphel). The lowlands in Israel are called the Shephelah—now you will never forget the verb!
Verse 12 begins by repeating the last thought of verse 11, but with slightly different words, and adds one thought. In addition to humbling/making low (now it is kana, 36x) the proud (geeh), God would like Job to “crush” (the hapax hadak) the “evil" (rasha, the noun form of the verb used in verse 8 to describe God) in their place (literally “under them”). Just as shaphel found its natural home in another place in the Bible (Isaiah), so kana is most comfortable in the Chronicler, especially II Chronicles, where it is used to describe kings who “humbled” themselves before God (e.g., II Chronicles 12:6, 7, 12, etc). It can also have a more active meaning of “subdue.”
There is a lot of crushing going on in Job, but here God uses another word to get at the concept: hadak. In truth, it might just be a different form of the verb daka (18x), a favorite word in Job (6x). People are crushed before moths (4:19) or crushed in the gate (5:4). Job asks God to crush him (6:9); he accuses God of crushing him with words (19:2). The concept of crushing also includes the related verbs dakah (5x) and daqaq (12x). Those who are pulverized or crushed or oppressed can either be the dak or the daq. God’s repeated thought, with some intensification in verse 12, makes it seem like God is also really getting into the Joban groove of crushing things. Perhaps we aren’t wrong in stressing God’s anger at this point.
God not only wants Job to crush these wicked and proud folk but to make sure their faces really eat dust. Verse 13 has a literary flair to it, beginning and ending with the verb taman (31x, 6x Job, “to hide”):
“Hide them together in the dust; bind their mouths in hidden darkness.”
Clines, following a long interpretive tradition, sees the “hidden darkness” as actually a place, which he calls “the Dungeon.” One may hide all kinds of things in the Scripture using taman, such as a dead body (Exodus 2:12) or the spies of Canaan (Joshua 2:6), but in the Psalms the verb seems especially connected with snares or traps that are hidden for the unwary (e.g., Psalm 35:7). God wants Job not simply to bring these proud/evil people low but to make them eat dirt. They are hidden and they are “bound” (chabash, 33x). Because it isn’t really clear what it might mean that Job is to “bind” these people in hidden places, some have rendered the chabash as “imprison.” One might almost get the impression in this passage (vv 11-13) that God takes a certain delight in punishment/humbling/crushing/binding. At least He speaks very eloquently about it.
Were Job to do all these things, then God would give Job praise/thank him (the common yadah) and acknowledge that Job’s “right hand” (literally “right”) has saved him. Why wouldn’t God’s equipment of Job to show a power akin to God’s be manifested in deeds of mercy rather than deeds of destruction? Works of salvation rather than works of judgment? Maybe because, as has been hypothesized above, God is furious with Job at this point. Job doesn’t want to play the divine game of answering a God who doesn’t really answer him. But God hasn’t finished with Job, and so now God turns to describing a few more of the creatures He has made.