This blog post is going to explain the book of Job. If you want to know why Job suffers, I’ve got your answer. You want to know about Behemoth? I’ve got the answer. You want to know about Leviathan? I can explain. If you want to know what the speeches in Job mean? I can explain. If you want to know why God says what he says to Job? I can show you. You want to see how this fits into the rest of the Bible? I can tell the story.
It’s a long explanation, but I can do it. But first, we need to take a short detour. We need to talk about the book of Hebrews in the Bible and Harry Potter. Yes, Harry Potter.
The Author and Finisher of our Faith
In the book of Hebrews, the author gives a stirring account of the heroes of the Old Testament, concentrating on the patriarchs, who had faith in the Lord of heaven and earth, and how their faith was credited to them as righteousness. That is Hebrews, chapter 11. But after concluding this section, the author says something that captured my attention years ago, and I haven’t ever been able to fully comprehend how important it is. The verse is Hebrews 12:1-2:
Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Other translations render that description of Jesus in different ways. Some call him the “pioneer and perfector” others “the founder and perfector” or “the originator and perfector” of our faith, but I cannot get my mind around the description of Jesus an an AUTHOR.
The reason I cannot get it out of my head is that it so perfectly encapsulates how God relates to this world. For example, think of a simple question: What is the cause of Albus Dumbledore’s death in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince?
There are many answers, all of which are true. One answer is that Severus Snape killed him, because he is the one who cast the Avada Kedavra curse that killed Dumbledore. Another answer is that Draco Malfoy killed him, because the only reason Severus Snape stepped in to do this is that Snape was protecting Draco Malfoy from Voldemort. Another answer is that the real cause of Dumbledore’s death is Dumbledore himself, because (we later realized) he knew that he would need to die in order to kill Voldemort once and for all. Another answer (which is rather stupid) is that the true “cause” of Dumbledore’s death is the Avada Kedavra curse. This answer is stupid because it applies a naturalistic logic to a book about wizards and magic. All of these answers are “true,” as well, despite how ridiculous it is to offer.
But the most “complete” answer is that VOLDEMORT is the real cause of the trouble. Right? Well, yes, all of those answers are true, but there is only one answer that is both complete and accurate:
J.K. Rowling killed Albus Dumbledore.
We must admit: this is the most true answer that can be offered. The originating force behind every action in the world of Harry Potter – right down to the moment when Albus Dumbledore is killed – is CAUSED by J. K. Rowling. The idea came from her mind. Every intervening detail came from her pen. The story was put forth in her book. She is the one who both authored and perfected this event. Rowling killed Dumbledore.
And not only did she kill Dumbledore, but she killed everyone else, too. Every event is caused by her. She is the one who tortured Nevil Longbottom’s parents. She is the one who killed Harry’s parents. She is the one who brought Voldemort into existence. She made the horcruxes. She is the true leader of the Death Eaters. She laid the foundations of Azkaban. It’s true. She did it all.
She is the author. J.K. Rowling is the source of every ounce of pain and sorrow in the entire Harry Potter series, as well as every moment of love and triumph, as well.
This is powerful to me, because it makes sense of that verse about the “witnesses”:
Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. . .
What witnesses is he talking about? What “witness” is looking at us? Is there anything in the Bible that gives any hints about this “cloud of witnesses”? There actually is an answer, but it is hard to understand. Look at the following verse, speaking of this same faith that is the subject of Hebrews:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10)
We are “his workmanship,” that is, the workmanship of Jesus Christ, the creator of heaven and earth. And in a similar way, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Snape, Dumbledore, Neville, and even Voldemort himself are also “Rowling’s workmanship,” the creator of the entire wizarding world. This explains how we are the “workmanship” of Jesus Christ.
But how does this answer the question of who the “witnesses” are? Who are these “witnesses” that are going to marvel at what Jesus Christ has done for us? Where are they? Are they our friends? Are they our neighbors? Not at all. Think of it in terms of J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter. The “witnesses” are not any muggles or tertiary characters, and they aren’t the main characters either. The witnesses of the works of J.K. Rowling are you, the reader of the book. You are not an author of the book, but you – like the author – are outside of the wizarding world, looking in.
It works the same way with Jesus Christ. The “witnesses” are heavenly beings who will marvel “in coming ages” at the awesome work that Jesus Christ has done to save us from the jaws of death.
And just as J.K. Rowling created Voldemort – a creature of supreme evil – just to “play with” at his ultimate defeat, we also see the following message about Satan himself:
There go the ships,
and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it. [footnote: or “formed to play with.”]
The point of this post is going to show how God – in the book of Job – has “played with” Satan, just as J.K. Rowling created Voldemort so that this literary character could be defeated and reviled for generations to come in our real world.
But we need a lot of context to explain in the book of Job to do it.
The Context of the Book of Job
In order to understand the context of the book of Job, you need to understand what is happening at the beginning of Job. The book of Job starts out with a man on earth. His name is – as you may have guessed – Job. Nobody needs to explain sheep, camels, donkeys, and servants. You know that. That’s because this is the story on Earth.
But in the second paragraph, the story moves elsewhere. The second paragraph takes place in the heavenly places. This is where things get weird, and this is where we need to start explaining things.
The Sons of God Present Themselves
In the second paragraph of Job, we read this:
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” (Job 1:6-7)
What is a “son of God”? Well, that’s a complicated question, but I’ll try to answer it simply. “Son of God” is a category of being that is directly created by God. We can call them “angels,” but they also include demons. We can call them “watchers” (see Daniel 4:17), because those are other heavenly beings created by God. We know that Adam – who was directly made by God himself – is a son of God (see Luke 3:83). We also know that “Satan,” who shows up here in Job among the sons of God, is also called a “god” in the New Testament (see 2 Corinthians 4:4), so that’s kind of weird. But even weirder is that these “sons of God” can also have sexual relations with human beings and produce mighty giants (see Genesis 6:1-4), and that’s even weirder.
The point is that these “sons of God” are powerful beings in the heavenly realm.
If you want the best example of a “son of God” other than Jesus, take note of Melchizedek. He is explicitly described as “having been made like” (ἀφωμοιωμένος) the Son of God. In other words, his substance was not “dust,” which is what man is made out of. Instead, his substance is the same stuff of whatever Jesus Christ was made out of. This is how he is described:
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of God Most High, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham divided a tenth part of all (being first, by interpretation, King of righteousness, and then also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God), abideth a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth out of the chief spoils.
The point is that Melchizedek is a REALLY BIG DEAL. He’s greater than Abraham. In other words, he IS a son of God, just like Jesus Christ was a Son of God. The difference is that Jesus Christ is the “only begotten” son of God, which means he is the only “son of God” who inherits the power, authority, and essence of God the Father, who is the Almighty. Melchizedek is of the “same substance” as Jesus in the same theological sense that the beasts of the field are made of the same substance – “the dust of the earth” – as mankind. It’s not equality of importance. It’s only a significant similarity.
Now, modern interpretations say he “resembles” the Son of God, it is curious that he “resembles” Jesus Christ by having no genealogy (though Jesus has two of them), no beginning of days (though Jesus has a birth), no end of life (though Jesus died on Good Friday), and no mother (though the Bible says Mary was the mother of Jesus) and no father (though Jesus has a father, and possibly two, depending on how you count). The easier interpretation of this passage is that there is a category of being – a “son of God” – that is powerful and NOT A NORMAL HUMAN BEING. If this is shocking or curious to you, I’ve written about it here, here, and here, if you care to see more.
So this is what it means that the “sons of God” come before God.
The Governing Authority of the Lord God in the Book of Job
But back to Job. This is a scene of God exercising governing authority over the Earth THROUGH the sons of God. At this point in history (which is not how it works now, by the way) the Lord God ruled the earth, but not directly. Instead, he ruled through OTHER heavenly beings. These other heavenly beings were often called “the sons of God” or just “gods” in the Old Testament.
This is a HUGE contextual point in the book of Job, and you need to understand it to break through the confusing themes in Job. If you want a scholarly explanation of this (and not just a blog post), see Michael Heiser’s book “the Unseen Realm” by clicking here.
However, let’s get back to the strange claim that God – in ancient times – ruled the Earth THROUGH other heavenly beings. While that sounds strange (Aren’t we monotheists?), we need to recognize that this is a fairly clear point in the Old Testament. Look at how God describes himself in Deuteronomy:
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. (Deuteronomy 10:12-15)
Wait a minute, Did Moses say the Lord God is the God… …of GODS? Yep. That’s exactly what he said.
And so you know what that means? Well, let’s first cover what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that he’s God over non-existent beings. Instead, he is God over REAL beings that ACTUALLY EXIST. He also calls these beings “lords,” meaning that they have some sort of authority. While it may seem strange that other heavenly beings have some sort of governing authority on the Earth, this is quite explicitly stated in scripture:
Remember the days of old;
consider the years of many generations;
ask your father, and he will show you,
your elders, and they will tell you.
When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God.
But the Lord’s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage.
In other words, lots of other nations have their own rulers who are among the “sons of God.” But Israel has its own “god.” That would be THE God. That would be the Lord God. Every other nation has a second-tier god. Israel has THE REAL DEAL.
This organization is further described when God tells the Israelites what they should and should not do when they enter the land, and what they should and should not worship:
“Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.
Quite predictably in this passage, God completely dismisses out of hand the idea of making the likeness of any animal or beast or male or female image, and worshipping that. That’s pretty easy to understand when he commands Israel to do no such thing.
BUT FOR SOME STRANGE REASON, when he moves to warning them against looking to and serving the sun and the moon and the stars, and “all the host of heaven,” God’s answer for why Israel should not worship them is shocking. He doesn’t say they are “fake” or “not real” or “not gods at all.” Instead he says this:
“the Lord your God has allotted [them] to all the peoples under the whole heaven. But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day.” (Deuteronomy 4:19-20)
In other words, “of course” those other nations worship the sun and moon and stars. These were “allotted” to them, meaning they were “assigned” to them.
In other words, when Israel becomes a “thing,” the Lord God is entering into a world that is ruled by a bunch of second-tier gods, who have individual claims over individual nations. But the Lord’s portion is not “the whole world.” Instead, the Lord’s portion is Israel ALONE.
You can see this elsewhere, too. This is why even God himself claims that certain “nations” have specific “gods”:
They set out from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month. On the day after the Passover, the people of Israel went out triumphantly in the sight of all the Egyptians, while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had struck down among them. On their gods also the Lord executed judgments. (Numbers 33:3-4)
Did you catch that? In the book of Numbers, the Bible explicitly acknowledges the existence of the “gods” of other nations.
Usually, we miss this, because most of the time, these other gods are only mentioned when they are getting their ASSES KICKED by the Lord God of Israel (see for example 1 Kings 20). If you REALLY want to see this understanding of a plurality of gods, you need to read it in Psalm 82:
God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”
Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!
In other words, when God brought the nation of Israel out of Egypt, he is entering a world that is crowded by individual nations ruled by individual second-tier gods. However, these gods are unjust. They do not act rightly. In truth, they are TERRIBLE.
But with Israel, God is going to take a weak and small nation, enter into the same “game” that they are all playing, and he declares that he…
…WILL KILL THEM ALL, AND ESTABLISH JUSTICE ON EARTH.
And as you can imagine, the other heavenly beings don’t really like this idea.
However, this is an important piece of context in the book of Job. It explains why there are some VERY STRANGE things being said as if they are just common knowledge, even though they are NOT common knowledge for us. Note how Elihu in the book of Job makes a STRANGE claim when Job declares that he wants to bring his case to the Most High God because of his troubles on Earth:
Who gave him charge over the earth,
and who laid on him the whole world?
Huh? Who laid on him the whole world? HE DID! Right? Well, yes for us, but not at this point. This is the first thing we need to get about the context of the book of Job:
THE BOOK OF JOB HAPPENED A REALLY REALLY LONG TIME AGO.
It was after the Flood of Noah and after the Tower of Babel, but it was before Jesus, before David, before Israel, before Abraham. Things back then that were “normal” to them are STRANGE to us. And so when we see that “the Lord” is a character in Job, we do not need to view him as some solo character. Instead, there are MANY heavenly characters that are relevant to the story. And the role and relationship of the Lord to these other characters is described in the scriptures:
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. (Deuteronomy 10:17)
And as such, the strange thing (to us) that is happening in the first part of Job is that God is exercising this supervisory authority – not his direct governing authority – over the other heavenly beings that directly govern the Earth.
And then…. ….Satan shows up. And this is where things get interesting.
The Heavenly Showdown Between God and Satan in Job
When Satan shows up in Job 1, this is a key plot point. So let’s notice what happens. God asks Satan where he came from. His response is pointed and insulting, but it’s easy to miss. This is what Satan says, and we should notice the particular Hebrew verb that explains where he has been:
“From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down (halak) on it.”
While that may sound like a bland answer, we need to realize how striking it is. It is a call-back to the last time the Lord spoke to Satan in scripture. This is HIGH DRAMA:
The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go (halak),
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15)
In other words, God is coming to supervise those who rule the Earth. Satan was never “given” his governing authority over Earth. But in this supervisory meeting, Satan just SHOWS UP. Why? When God asks him why he is there, Satan’s answer is a sly way to say that even though God cursed him and threw him down to Earth, now, SATAN RULES THE EARTH. He conquered it through his might, guile, and cunning.
Satan is saying that the Earth is QUITE LITERALLY HIS TERRITORY, and if God wants to speak to those who rule over the Earth, God needs to speak to Satan. In other words:
“Look at me. I am the captain now.”
And it is not a bluff. Remember in the gospels when Satan offers Jesus the nations?
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8-9)
That is not an empty offer. Satan is offering them, because he owns them. He owns them, because he stole them. He conquered them by cunning, by guile, and by force over the other “gods” on Earth. If these gods were wise, then they would fear the Lord, because the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. However, for whatever reason, it is now Satan who holds sway.
So get the context. This scene in Job is the most epic show-down in the history of epically cosmic show-downs. The book of Job is a show-down between God and Satan.
The story of Job continues:
And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8)
In other words, “If you rule this world, then why does this man serve me, rather than you?” And Satan answers:
Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” (Job 1:9-11)
In other words, Satan accused Job of being something like a puppet. The only reason Job serves God is because God has blessed him. There is no righteousness in Job. There is no true devotion to God. Satan claims that if God removes the supports, Job will fall. God takes the bet.
This is the time when people wonder why God would do this to Job. We’ll return to this question at the end.
The Plight of Job and the Temptation of Job’s Friends
The story of Job’s suffering is well known. But what most people do not realize is that Satan never really goes away in the story. Satan is seen in heaven, but he doesn’t seem to be present on Earth. But HE IS present on Earth.
Job’s friend Eliphaz explicitly explains his interaction, which sets up the whole interaction between Job and his friends. Eliphaz doesn’t realize what’s going on, but we should from our perspective. Read the following passage, and do not take it metaphorically. Instead, take it for what it is, a very real interaction between human and heavenly beings:
“Now a word was brought to me stealthily;
my ear received the whisper of it.
Amid thoughts from visions of the night,
when deep sleep falls on men,
dread came upon me, and trembling,
which made all my bones shake.
A spirit glided past my face;
the hair of my flesh stood up.
It stood still,
but I could not discern its appearance.
A form was before my eyes;
there was silence, then I heard a voice:
‘Can mortal man be in the right before God?
Can a man be pure before his Maker?
Even in his servants he puts no trust,
and his angels he charges with error;
how much more those who dwell in houses of clay,
whose foundation is in the dust,
who are crushed like the moth.
Between morning and evening they are beaten to pieces;
they perish forever without anyone regarding it.
Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them,
do they not die, and that without wisdom?’
Notice that the content of what this “spirit” says to Eliphaz is EXACTLY WHAT SATAN CLAIMED BEFORE GOD ABOUT JOB. Notice the frightening nature of the fact that this message is delivered by a FRIEND of Job
Though Eliphaz cannot see or perceive it, these are the words of Satan himself. The next torment of Job by Satan comes through the lips of his friends who kindly, then persistently, then viciously accuse Job of evil. The accusations start kind, but devolve to brazen insults. The following is the shortest chapter in Job, where all reason and kindness departs, and pure insult flows from their lips:
Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said:
“Dominion and fear are with God;
he makes peace in his high heaven.
Is there any number to his armies?
Upon whom does his light not arise?
How then can man be in the right before God?
How can he who is born of woman be pure?
Behold, even the moon is not bright,
and the stars are not pure in his eyes;
how much less man, who is a maggot,
and the son of man, who is a worm!”
“You are a maggot, Job.” That is the forked tongue of Satan in action. And let’s not forget that we know that this is the behavior of Satan, even outside of the book of Job:
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers [Footnote: or “brothers and sisters”] has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. (Revelation 12:10)
What does Satan do? He ACCUSES mankind before God. And in the book of Job, Satan is accusing Job, desiring to break him so that he will turn away from God in his suffering. And he is doing it through Job’s friends.
Job’s Complaint and Belief
In his suffering, Job asks for help from the Lord, but he is not answered. We do not know how long the suffering of Job happened, but based on the descriptions of family and friends scorning him (see Job 19:13-22), it could have lasted for years. And in this time, there is only silence from God. This is the core of Job’s complaint and cry. Job knows that his oppression must be coming from God somehow, but when he cries out, his cry goes unanswered:
Behold, I cry out, ‘Violence!’ but I am not answered;
I call for help, but there is no justice.
By the end of the dispute, Job cries out for help, pleading for someone who could plead with God on his behalf. Knowing that he would have nothing to say before the Most High God, Job instead begs for this:
My friends scorn me;
my eye pours out tears to God,
that he would argue the case of a man with God,
as a son of man does with his neighbor.
For when a few years have come
I shall go the way from which I shall not return.
He asks for someone who could speak to God “as a son of man does with his neighbor.” By the end of his friends accusations, Job does not care if the verdict comes against him. If he could only see what he has done, this would be enough for him:
Oh, that I had one to hear me!
(Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!)
Oh, that I had the indictment written by my adversary!
Surely I would carry it on my shoulder;
I would bind it on me as a crown;
I would give him an account of all my steps;
like a prince I would approach him.
That is all he wants he wants an ANSWER. If the answer falls back on him, he is content with that. He wants “relief” but an explanation will do. In other words, Job asks for JUSTICE. Job seeks justice on Earth from the Most High God.
The True Temptation of Job through His Friends – The Importance of Translation
We are about to get to the speeches of Job’s friends, but we first must return to the fact that at this stage in history, Israel does not exist, and the entire world is ruled by a second-tier level of “gods” who are supervised by the Most High God. But remember that three friends of Job are speaking on behalf of Satan, who has CONQUERED the world, which is supervised by these second-tier “gods.”
And this is where translation comes into play. For most of the Old Testament, when the Bible wants to refer to “God,” it uses the term “Elohim” (אֱלהִים) which is a plural noun. This word is used more than 2500 times in the Bible, and it is used in a variety of ways. Often times, if a point needs to be made, the Hebrew singular “el” (אֵל) can be used, which can also be made plural by turning it into “elim” (אֵלִ֔ים) (see Daniel 11:36). The word “el” is used a grand total of 248 times.
As such, the most common way to describe “God” is to use the plural noun “elohim.” And one must use context to find out if this plural noun is REALLY supposed to be plural or if it REALLY means something that is singular. For example:
Plural: Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods (elohim), because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people. (Exodus 18:11, interlinear text here)
Singular: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God (elohim), the Lord is one. (Deuteronomy 6:4, interlinear text here)
That is the pattern of language about “God” or “gods” in the Old Testament. But there are other ways to make the point. There are lots of ways to refer to the individual we know as “God.” God gives Moses a personal name (see Exodus 3:15). That is why Job – even though it is a story long before Moses – it was obviously written AFTER Moses, because it identifies God by his “personal name” of YHWH (יְהוָֹה), which was not yet revealed at this point in history. As an interesting side-note, the name “YHWH” is only used in two verses outside that of the narrator. That is by Job in Job 1:21 and in Job 12:9. This gives a clear literary hint about the authorship and the timing. The point is being made that even though the characters are clearly TALKING ABOUT the God of Israel, this is during a time when no one would actually call the God of Israel by that name. Instead, these non-Israelite characters mostly just use a general name for “God” throughout.
But here is the real exception to how God is described in Job. And while “elohim” is littered about everywhere in the Old Testament, it only appears 14 times in the book of Job:
- Job 1:1
- Job 1:5
- Job 1:6
- Job 1:8
- Job 1:9
- Job 1:16
- Job 1:22
- Job 2:1
- Job 2:3
- Job 2:9
- Job 2:10
- Job 5:8
- Job 20:29
- Job 28:23
- Job 32:2
- Job 34:9
- Job 38:7
The pattern that we see in the examples above (in the places that will not be described below) is that Job has a good relation to “elohim.” That is why we see the introduction of Job in this way:
There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. (Job 1:1)
On the other hand, it is important that there is the persistent use of a unique word for God in the book of Job. That word is the Hebrew “eloah” (אֱלוֹהַּ). This is the EXPLICITLY SINGULAR version of “elohim.” This word appears only 60 times in the Old Testament. It appears twice in Deuteronomy, once in 2 Kings, once in 2 Chronicles, once in Nehemiah, once in Habakkuk, four times in Daniel, once in Isaiah, once in Proverbs, seven times in Psalms, and FORTY-ONE TIMES in the book of Job. As such, the NORMAL way to refer to “God” in the book of Job is EXPLICITLY SINGULAR and the not-normal way to refer to “God” in the book of Job is PLURAL. We can get a sense of the significance of this SINGLULAR version of “god” in the following example from Psalm 18:
For who is God (eloah), but the Lord (YHWH)?
And who is a rock, except our God (elohim)?—
(Psalm 18:31, interlinear version)
In this Psalm, David is identifying the “name” of YHWH with the MOST HIGH GOD who is the SINGULAR GOD above all other gods. That is the significance of this word “eloah.” While Job may “fear elohim” in a general sense, Job’s one loyalty is to “eloah.” THAT is the faith and practice of Job.
On the other hand, look at some key verses in Job that show the UNIQUE AND IMPORTANT use of the plural “elohim” in the speeches of Job’s friends. Look what Eliphaz says – who is a mouthpiece of Satan – (the bad-guy tempter of Job) to Job about how Job can escape his hardship. Look at his advice to Job in his first speech:
“Call now; is there anyone who will answer you?
To which of the holy ones will you turn?
Note that this is an EXPLICIT REFERENCE to multiple gods to whom Job can call to help. Eliphaz is saying “Do you need help, Job? I’ve got friends who can help you. Take your pick.” And Eliphaz continues:
Surely vexation kills the fool,
and jealousy slays the simple.
I have seen the fool taking root,
but suddenly I cursed his dwelling.
His children are far from safety;
they are crushed in the gate,
and there is no one to deliver them.
The hungry eat his harvest,
and he takes it even out of thorns,
and the thirsty pant after his wealth.
For affliction does not come from the dust,
nor does trouble sprout from the ground,
but man is born to trouble
as the sparks fly upward.
In other words, “Only fools suffer, Job. Suffering does not come ‘from the dust.” Instead, suffering comes from heaven and your opposition to heaven.” And then look at his next sentence, and see how important it is when you notice the singular “eloah” and the plural “elohim” for “god” and “gods”:
In other words, Eliphaz is saying this:
I serve God BY INQUIRING OF OTHER GODS. And you should, too, Job.
The key thing to understand about the book of Job is that his friends are not asking him to call on “eloah,” singular, which is a stand-in for the LORD. They are not asking him merely to “repent” of some trespass of YHWH. Instead, the context of their speeches is that they are trying to persuade Job that his rejection of the OTHER GODS is contempt of heaven itself.
“Why are you suffering, Job? It’s because you’ve rejected your rulers.”
And THIS IS THE CONTEXT of the showdown in heaven that is playing out on Earth in the book of Job:
WHO IS THE TRUE RULER IN HEAVEN ON THE EARTH? IS IT SATAN AND HIS GODS OR IS IT THE LORD GOD, THE CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH?
That is what the book is about. To understand the book of Job, you need to understand that there is a showdown between God and Satan happening in the mouth of Job and his friends.
Satan, the Crafty Liar in Job
One of the reasons the book of Job is so hard to understand is that the lies of Satan through the mouths of Job’s friends are CRAFTY. They are sandwiched between truths that are hard to deny. In this sense, the weapons of Satan against Job are not “fair.” Satan is not an “arguer.” He is a LIAR, and he’s darn good at it.
And he is speaking through Job’s friends. Look at the following speech of Eliphaz, and notice the lie. Eliphaz is going back to the singular prepositions for explaining what God does, and most of it is true, but in the midst of some truths about what the SINGULAR God does, notice the small and tiny lie that is inserted:
. . .who does great things and unsearchable,
marvelous things without number:
he gives rain on the earth
and sends waters on the fields;
he sets on high those who are lowly,
and those who mourn are lifted to safety.
He frustrates the devices of the crafty (arum),
so that their hands achieve no success.
He catches the wise in their own craftiness,
and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end.
They meet with darkness in the daytime
and grope at noonday as in the night.
But he saves the needy from the sword of their mouth
and from the hand of the mighty.
So the poor have hope,
and injustice shuts her mouth.
“Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves;
therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty.
See the lie? There are two of them in bold.
We know the first one is a lie from the plot. In the previous throne-room scenes in heaven, we learn something strange. Satan GETS HIS WAY. And look at the significance of that Hebrew word “crafty” (arum). This is the same word to describe the serpent in Genesis 3. So Eliphaz, speaking on behalf of Satan, is saying that the “crafty” are frustrated in their devices, and Satan never achieves success. Except that this is a story when Satan IS achieving his devices!
And look how crafty this gets. What is general wisdom that we know from the Bible:
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
or be weary of his reproof,
for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
as a father the son in whom he delights.
But what do we know from the story? This is NOT the discipline of the Lord. This is oppression by Satan. And here, Eliphaz, acting as the mouthpiece of Satan, says “you are being disciplined BY GOD.” Therefore, Job should not “despise” the discipline of the Almighty (even though it is from Satan).
Satan is not only torturing Job, he is driving him to despair by saying that Job SHOULD LIKE IT.
A similar invocation of the singular and plural “eloah” and “elohim” comes from Zophar. This is what he says in Job 20:
The heavens will reveal his iniquity,
and the earth will rise up against him.
The possessions of his house will be carried away,
dragged off in the day of God’s wrath.
This is the wicked man’s portion from God (elohim, PLURAL),
the heritage decreed for him by God (eloah, SINGULAR).
(Job 20:27-29, interlinear version here)
In other words, Zophar is saying that the wicked are punished by God in this world, and “the gods” carry this out. This is very important based on what happened to Job:
While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God (elohim, PLURAL) fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” (Job 1:16)
And therefore, if Job is suffering from THE GODS, claims Zophar, his suffering is decreed by the Most High God. It is another deceptive bid for Job to turn to “the gods” and recognize that his supposed loyalty to “God” is folly.
This is the frightening deceptive craftiness of Satan.
The Perseverance of Job.
And we should also note the perseverance of Job. Job does not give sway to these invitations to look at “the gods.” This is revealed by the complaint of Elihu. Look at why he is angry:
So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God (“elohim,” PLURAL). (Job 32:1-2)
While the overwhelming majority of the back-and-forth between Job and his friends is about God in an explicitly SINGULAR fashion, the anger is that Job does not justify the GODS in a PLURAL fashion. Notice how Elihu charges Job with error:
Then Elihu answered and said:
“Hear my words, you wise men,
and give ear to me, you who know;
for the ear tests words
as the palate tastes food.
Let us choose what is right;
let us know among ourselves what is good.
For Job has said, ‘I am in the right,
and God (“el,” singular) has taken away my right;
in spite of my right I am counted a liar;
my wound is incurable, though I am without transgression.’
What man is like Job,
who drinks up scoffing like water,
who travels in company with evildoers
and walks with wicked men?
For he has said, ‘It profits a man nothing
that he should take delight in God (“elohim,” PLURAL).’
Elihu is different from the three friends. He does not ask Job to submit his complaint to “the gods,” as Eliphaz does. But he does get angry that Job accuses God (singular) of doing wrong through “the gods” (plural), who God (singular) put in charge of the Earth. This is the substance of Elihu’s speech in chapter 34.
But then, Elihu gives the most tragic description of Job’s trouble, and gives him the hardest explanation of why God does not listen to his cry.
And Elihu answered and said:
“Do you think this to be just?
Do you say, ‘It is my right before God (“el” SINGULAR),’
that you ask, ‘What advantage have I?
How am I better off than if I had sinned?’
I will answer you
and your friends with you.
Look at the heavens, and see;
and behold the clouds, which are higher than you.
If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against him?
And if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to him?
If you are righteous, what do you give to him?
Or what does he receive from your hand?
Your wickedness concerns a man like yourself,
and your righteousness a son of man.
Don’t let the poetic language hide the tragic weight of this answer. “Hey Job,” he says, “Do you want to know why God does not answer you in your pain? Here is the reason. Look at the clouds. Remember that the Lord is higher than the clouds. If you wanted to help God, how would you do that? You can’t, and you know it. If you wanted to hurt God, how would you do that? You can’t, and you know it. The reason God does not answer you is because his ways are higher than yours. You do not matter, and that is why you do not matter to God. Your wickedness concerns a man like yourself, not God. Your righteousness concerns a man like yourself, as well. You are of no concern to God. God is not listening to you, because God does not care about you.”
There is another interesting part of Elihu’s speech, in which he declares what would happen if Job’s request was granted:
If he should set his heart to it
and gather to himself his spirit and his breath,
all flesh would perish together,
and man would return to dust.
Keep in mind that after the flood, Shem lived for 500 years. In other words, Shem lived UNTIL THE TIME OF ABRAHAM. As such, when the book of Job occurs, the flood is STILL WITHIN LIVING MEMORY. As such, Elihu has a not-so-crazy warning for Job, who is asking for justice from the Most High God on the Earth: “Hey Job, remember the last time that happened? Remember how literally everyone died? Are you really asking for him to do that AGAIN? Nah, Job. Be cool. Really. Be cool.”
And that is why Elihu finishes his speech with a firm declaration that God does not care about Job, or any man for that matter, not despite God’s righteousness, but BECAUSE of God’s righteousness:
The Almighty—we cannot find him;
he is great in power;
justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate.
Therefore men fear him;
he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit.”
And that is the end of Elihu’s speech. His point is this:
“God does not care about you, Job. That’s the way things are. So bear your pain, and do not cry to God. He is righteous, even if you do not understand how. If he answered you, the earth would pass away. Therefore, in his righteousness, he does not need to answer you. And in his righteousness, he won’t.”
That is a powerful message. At the end of the book, Elihu escapes the firm rebuke of the Lord, requiring sacrifice to appease God’s anger at the end of the book. But what we should notice is that Elihu does not completely escape the rebuke of God.
The Lord Answers Job
After Elihu explains that God does not care about Job, the rebuke of Elihu comes in THE VERY NEXT SENTENCE after Elihu declares that God cannot be found by men:
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
To get this, you should see Job as a coherent narrative. It is a story. Things do not need to be explicitly stated for them to be true. Elihu says God cannot be found. But God is seen. Elihu says God does not listen. But he was listening. Elihu says that God is just and righteous and powerful. But Elihu forgets that God is loving and kind and compassionate. So notice how God rebukes Elihu:
GOD SHOWS UP, EVEN THOUGH HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS AND POWER PUTS NO OBLIGATION ON HIM TO DO SO.
Next come the speeches of God to Job.
The Speeches of God to Job
The first thing that God does is declare his own majesty and justice and power. But there is something unique about it. This is what makes Job such great literature. If you read carefully, you can see that God is CONSTANTLY referencing previous things said by Job. For example, earlier in the book, Job says this about God:
He is wise in heart and mighty in strength
—who has hardened himself against him, and succeeded?—
he who removes mountains, and they know it not,
when he overturns them in his anger,
who shakes the earth out of its place,
and its pillars tremble;
who commands the sun, and it does not rise;
who seals up the stars;
who alone stretched out the heavens
and trampled the waves of the sea;
who made the Bear and Orion,
the Pleiades and the chambers of the south;
who does great things beyond searching out,
and marvelous things beyond number.
Behold, he passes by me, and I see him not;
he moves on, but I do not perceive him.
Behold, he snatches away; who can turn him back?
Who will say to him, ‘What are you doing?’
But God – who was listening the whole time – invokes this same stellar imagery, but makes the point even stronger than Job did:
“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades* [that is, the Zodiac constellations. See here for more that I’ve written on that subject.]
or loose the cords of Orion?
Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth [*] in their season,
or can you guide the Bear with its children?
Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?
Can you establish their rule on the earth?
In other words, Job pointed to several constellations both seen and unseen, and said “God made them! Therefore, he is mighty!”
But God answers Job and moves beyond the mere appearances of the constellations and goes to the “ordinances of the heavens,” saying “Listen, son of man: Not only did I make the constellations, I invented physics. Don’t short-change my majesty, bro.”
But beyond the amazing one-upmanship that God delivers to Job, realize how this rebukes Elihu. When God is referencing the dialogue between Job and his friends, this shows something amazing and redeeming for Job:
GOD WAS LISTENING THE WHOLE TIME. HE WAS JUST WAITING FOR THE RIGHT MOMENT TO SPEAK.
And the speeches to Job continue. God reveals to Job that he is mightier that Job knows. But that is not all.
God is not only mighty in his creation and might and power, he is also mighty in the way that he can care for living creatures. While Job cried out that God did not notice his suffering, God gives Job a question from the animal kingdom:
“Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
Do you observe the calving of the does?
Can you number the months that they fulfill,
and do you know the time when they give birth,
when they crouch, bring forth their offspring,
and are delivered of their young?
Their young ones become strong; they grow up in the open;
they go out and do not return to them.
It’s poetic, and not explicit, but it is powerful, nonetheless.
God is pointing out to Job that there are mountain goats who give birth, and their kids become strong and prosper and live in the remoteness of the mountains. God reminds Job that HE is the one who cares for them. Can Job care for a little mountain goat? Maybe. But does Job even know the location where they give birth? No he does not. Does he know their delivery date? Not really. Can Job send rains to water them? Not really. Can he grow grass to feed them? Nope. Not at all. But God makes this point with donkeys that live in the wild, and oxen that are too mighty to be challenged.
In other words, this is an Old Testament version of what Jesus reminds his followers who are anxious about life and death and what will happen tomorrow:
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31)
Then God moves away from the ability to “care” for animals. He then moves to the ability to give justice. He asks if Job can bring an ostrich to justice – that is, an unclean bird – because of its crimes:
“The wings of the ostrich wave proudly,
but are they the pinions and plumage of love?
For she leaves her eggs to the earth
and lets them be warmed on the ground,
forgetting that a foot may crush them
and that the wild beast may trample them.
She deals cruelly with her young, as if they were not hers;
though her labor be in vain, yet she has no fear,
because God has made her forget wisdom
and given her no share in understanding.
When she rouses herself to flee,
she laughs at the horse and his rider.
Think of how poetic this is. Satan was thrown down to earth, and he is a “serpent.” An ostrich is an unclean and FLIGHTLESS bird – whose nest is ON THE EARTH AND NOT IN A TREE – that is evil in the way that it fails to care for its young (much like how Job has been abandoned). It also has a very “serpentine” neck. Are you getting the picture?
Then God asks Job if he can catch an ostrich (which can run 43 mph) for its crimes. God asks Job if he can catch an ostrich if he had a horse (whose average speed is 30 mph). No, he can’t. And don’t forget. God made the horse, not Job. This is how CAREFULLY CHOSEN the speech of God is. It’s amazing drama.
But then, things get REALLY interesting.
Behemoth – the Dry Run for a Battle With Satan
We’ve moved past the ostrich, which is somewhat Satan-like, but next comes Behemoth. And here is where things get weird:
which I made as I made you;
he eats grass like an ox.
Behold, his strength in his loins,
and his power in the muscles of his belly.
He makes his tail stiff like a cedar;
the sinews of his thighs are knit together.
His bones are tubes of bronze,
his limbs like bars of iron.
“He is the first of the works of God;
let him who made him bring near his sword!
For the mountains yield food for him
where all the wild beasts play.
Under the lotus plants he lies,
in the shelter of the reeds and in the marsh.
For his shade the lotus trees cover him;
the willows of the brook surround him.
Behold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightened;
he is confident though Jordan rushes against his mouth.
Can one take him by his eyes,
or pierce his nose with a snare?
To make sense of this, you just need to understand this. I don’t need to argue for it. I don’t have time for that. I’ll just say it.
BEHEMOTH IS A LITERAL SAUROPOD DINOSAUR.
But wait a minute! You might say. Dinosaurs died millions of years ago! How could this be a dinosaur? Well, notice the word that appears twice here, but not in reference to any other animal God mentions. That’s the word “Behold.” Behold means “Look.”
In other words, God did not need to “show” Job an ostrich or a donkey or a mountain goat. He knew what those were. But now, God needs to ACTUALLY SHOW JOB this creature Behemoth.
In other words, God LITERALLY SHOWS JOB A DINOSAUR TO MAKE A POINT. And this also explains the introduction God gives before he brings up Behemoth:
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
“Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
Will you even put me in the wrong?
Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?
Have you an arm like God,
and can you thunder with a voice like his?
“Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity;
clothe yourself with glory and splendor.
Pour out the overflowings of your anger,
and look on everyone who is proud and abase him.
Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low
and tread down the wicked where they stand.
Hide them all in the dust together;
bind their faces in the world below.
Then will I also acknowledge to you
that your own right hand can save you.
In other words, “Buckle up, buttercup. This s***’s about to get real.”
And we should also note how HILARIOUS this scene is, as well.
Remember how God is referencing the previous conversations between Job and the others? Look at what Elihu says at the beginning of his speech:
“But now, hear my speech, O Job,
and listen to all my words.
Behold, I open my mouth;
the tongue in my mouth speaks.
My words declare the uprightness of my heart,
and what my lips know they speak sincerely.
The Spirit of God has made me,
and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
Answer me, if you can;
set your words in order before me; take your stand.
Behold, I am toward God as you are;
I too was pinched off from a piece of clay.
Behold, no fear of me need terrify you;
my pressure will not be heavy upon you.
Here, Elihu is trying to comfort Job by telling him that he is “made like you,” and that he too is made from the dust, and therefore, Job doesn’t need to be afraid. He just needs to give an answer.
And, IN REFERENCE TO THESE PREVIOUS WORDS OF ELIHU, God says:
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
. . .
which I made as I made you;
he eats grass like an ox.
(Job 40:7, 15)
In other words, “Get ready for this next one Job. I’m about to show you a thing called Behemoth:
But don’t worry…. I MADE HIM LIKE YOU, FROM THE DUST. AND GOOD NEWS: HE’S A VEGETARIAN.”
And to all of you trolls, who will comment that dinosaurs died millions of years ago in a mass extinction event, let me point out that God basically acknowledges this in a poetic way in the text:
He is the first of the works of God;
let him who made him bring near his sword!
In other words:
“I got rid of tons of these guys with a giant asteroid a while back. But let’s talk about this one, Job. How would you plan to to kill this guy?”
And after God goes on a little bit about how tough the battle with this guy would be, he gives Job some advice, which is bad advice, but extremely pointed, and quite hilarious:
Can one take him by his eyes,
or pierce his nose with a snare?
In other words:
“Hey, why don’t you try to throw a blanket over his eyes, or try to put a ring in his nose like you do for your oxen?”
When you remember that this is A LITERAL DINOSAUR THAT GOD SOMEHOW BROUGHT OUT OF THE BLUE TO SHOW JOB, this is LITERALLY ONE OF THE FUNNIEST PASSAGES IN THE BIBLE. God’s reason for bringing out Behemoth is to say “Here’s your dry run against Satan. If you come out on top, then maybe we can talk about how you can deliver yourself from the trouble that is on you.”
It’s DOWNRIGHT AWESOME, and this is why Job is one of the coolest books in the Bible.
But the real climax comes when God moves from creation, and talks about Leviathan. To understand this, you need to understand something quite simple:
LEVIATHAN IS SATAN HIMSELF.
And why did God move from Behemoth to Leviathan?
BECAUSE BEHEMOTH, AS A LITERAL DINOSAUR, IS THE MOST SATAN-LIKE ANIMAL THAT EVER EXISTED ON EARTH.
To understand the book of Job, you must understand that Satan does not disappear from the narrative. He is ALL OVER the narrative. It’s just that he’s not called “Satan.” The book of Job starts with Job’s prosperity and ends with Job’s prosperity. But in the same place, the book shows the contest between God and Job, both at the beginning of the book AND THE END. That’s because Leviathan IS SATAN. Let me prove it.
Descriptions of Satan in the Bible
The most detailed description we get of Satan in the New Testament comes in Revelation, where we read the following:
And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. . . . Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
(Revelation 12:3-4, 7-9)
In other words, we get Satan explicitly described as A GREAT RED DRAGON. We are told that this is the same “ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.” So if you ever wonder “how a snake can talk” in Genesis, what you need to realize is that the Bible explicitly says that the “serpent” is not a “snake.” Instead, the “serpent” is QUITE LITERALLY A DRAGON.
This is very important to understanding Job. We get a few scenes with God and Satan, and then the book moves to Job and his friends, but then Satan seems to disappear from the story. Except, that’s not what happens.
Job and his friends are talking about Satan the whole time. In fact, Satan comes to Job’s friends in the form of a dark spirit, to tell them what they should say to Job (see Job 4:12-21). The book ends by God describing Satan in the most detailed version we get of him, not only in the Old Testament, but in the entire bible. That’s because Satan IS LEVIATHAN.
And if that point is difficult for you to understand, remember that Satan is a dragon with seven heads and ten horns. With that in mind, look at these descriptions of Leviathan outside of Job:
Yet God my King is from of old,
working salvation in the midst of the earth.
You divided the sea by your might;
you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters.
You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea. (Isaiah 27:1)
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
Here is the sea, great and wide,
which teems with creatures innumerable,
living things both small and great.
There go the ships,
and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.
In other words, Leviathan is a dragon with multiple heads. God defeated this dragon in the past, and you just read about it in Revelation 12. Jesus himself talked about this when he said this to his disciples:
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Satan was thrown from heaven to the Earth. And here, Satan goes about and persecutes mankind. But here is the point of God to Job:
I HAVE DEFEATED SATAN ONCE IN HEAVEN, AND I WILL DO IT AGAIN ON EARTH.
After assuring Job that he is listening, he is there, and he is powerful, THAT is the message that the Lord delivers to Job.
The Description of Leviathan in Job
However, before God promises Job that he will defeat Satan, first he describes him. And yes, he is described as A LITERAL DRAGON:
“I will not keep silence concerning his limbs,
or his mighty strength, or his goodly frame.
Who can strip off his outer garment?
Who would come near him with a bridle?
Who can open the doors of his face?
Around his teeth is terror.
His back is made of rows of shields,
shut up closely as with a seal.
One is so near to another
that no air can come between them.
They are joined one to another;
they clasp each other and cannot be separated.
His sneezings flash forth light,
and his eyes are like the eyelids of the dawn.
Out of his mouth go flaming torches;
sparks of fire leap forth.
Out of his nostrils comes forth smoke,
as from a boiling pot and burning rushes.
His breath kindles coals,
and a flame comes forth from his mouth.
In his neck abides strength,
and terror dances before him.
The folds of his flesh stick together,
firmly cast on him and immovable.
His heart is hard as a stone,
hard as the lower millstone.
Yep. That’s TOTALLY A LITERAL DRAGON. That is who God is fighting.
And he is no small foe. But something else you should notice is this. While Behemoth (a literal dinosaur) is described as a vegetarian and a being that is “made like you,” no such description is given about Leviathan. He is not “from the dust.” He is greater than that. This is why Peter describes Satan follows:
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
That “like a roaring lion” is not hyperbole. The technical term is “litote,” which is the OPPOSITE of hyperbole. Satan is “like a lion” because he IS a dragon. And he is NOT a vegetarian. He devours entire worlds. And notice that when Satan is described, it also references the fact that all of these second-tier gods who “govern” the Earth are LITERALLY AFRAID OF HIM. The description of Leviathan continues:
When he raises himself up, the mighty [Footnote: or “the gods”] are afraid;
at the crashing they are beside themselves.
Though the sword reaches him, it does not avail,
nor the spear, the dart, or the javelin.
He counts iron as straw,
and bronze as rotten wood.
The arrow cannot make him flee;
for him, sling stones are turned to stubble.
Clubs are counted as stubble;
he laughs at the rattle of javelins.
His underparts are like sharp potsherds;
he spreads himself like a threshing sledge on the mire.
He makes the deep boil like a pot;
he makes the sea like a pot of ointment.
Behind him he leaves a shining wake;
one would think the deep to be white-haired.
On earth there is not his like,
a creature without fear.
He sees everything that is high;
he is king over all the sons of pride.”
That’s who Satan IS. He is mighty and terrible. A creature without fear? You bet. He stood before the creator of heaven and earth and mocked him to his face. He stood in defiance of the Most High God without fear. God affirms that he is “a creature without fear.” And not only that, he is “king over all of the sons of pride.” In other words, is there anyone who has anything to brag about? Satan is more powerful than them. What ever great work you’re doing, Satan was made bigger and stronger than you.
The Faith of Job
So here’s the question. How do you DEFEAT a being like this, who has captured the entire Earth?
God gives Job no answers on how how Satan will be defeated. But what God does reveal is that he is mighty enough to do it. And that is how the speeches in Job end. But let’s look at how the book of Job ends – not with his fortune being restored (we all know that part), but instead, let’s look at Job’s answer to God:
Then Job answered the Lord and said:
“I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘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.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent [footnote: or “and am comforted”] in dust and ashes.”
Here’s the key thing to understand about the book of Job. All of his friends were trying to get him to see his “sin.” And for some reason, Job eventually does – IN OUR ENGLISH TRANSLATION – seem to “repent” and therefore recognize some sort of sin. That seems weird.
But Job “repenting” is the wrong way to look at this. Job WASN’T IN THE WRONG. That’s the whole point of the book of Job. We need to explain this. The point of the book of Job is that JOB IS RIGHTEOUS.
Job is Righteous and Therefore Does Not Repent
Now, if that troubles you, I don’t intend to disturb any doctrine of total depravity you may have. Instead, I just want to point out the fact that GOD HIMSELF DECLARED JOB TO BE UPRIGHT:
And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8)
And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” (Job 2:3)
And if God says Job is righteous, then JOB IS RIGHTEOUS. “How can that be?” asks the total-depravity believing Christian. Well, the answer is simple. First recognize that Job had faith. Then, READ YOUR BIBLE:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. (Hebrews 11:1-2)
Job is one of these “people of old.” He came BEFORE THE LAW. So, look what else we read:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)
The point of the book of Job is that HE HAD FAITH IN THE LORD GOD, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH, AND PUT HIS TRUST IN NO OTHER GOD. And this was credited to him as righteousness by the God he believed in, WHO IS THE SAME BEING AS JESUS CHRIST.
That is what JOB DOES NOT “REPENT” in the way that we think of “repentance” as turning from sin. Job’s repentance was demonstrated at the beginning of the book when he REPEATEDLY sacrificed and REPEATEDLY turned away from evil. He was ALWAYS repenting.
So notice the significance of Job not “repenting” and notice how the text supports this (despite you translation). The word “repent” in the Bible is normally a Greek word μετανοέω (metanoeó), which means to “turn back.” However, the Old Testament rarely has a word translated as “repent.” Instead, it uses a word to “turn back,” which is the Hebrew word shub (שׁוּב). But that is not the word describing what Job does at the end of the book. Instead, the word is nacham (נָחַם), which means to console oneself, just as much as it means to “be sorry.”
The story of Job is not a story of “repentance.” Instead, the book of Job is about BEING COMFORTED IN TROUBLE by SEEING THE POWER OF GOD WITH YOUR OWN EYES. At the end of the book, Job thinks very little of himself (“therefore I despise myself”) and he thinks much of God (“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.”)
The Application of the Book of Job
This is how the book of Job applies to you. It is not an exploration of “sin.” It is not a “theodicy.” It does NOT explain why bad things happen. It explains the majesty of God and the evil of our adversary.
So if you need to “apply” the book of Job, you need to read the rest of your Bible, because I don’t know about you, but I haven’t ever been shown a literal dinosaur by God himself to make a point about his power. But regardless, in whatever trial or sorrow you face, you too should be comforted like Job. Why?
BECAUSE THE LORD JESUS CHRIST WAS RAISED FROM THE DEAD.
He has ALREADY demonstrated his glory and power. He was literally swallowed by Satan, and he defeated Satan FROM THE INSIDE OUT:
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:38-40)
As I explained in another post, which you can read here. Jesus was not in the grave for three days and three nights. So that’s not what Jesus was talking about. Instead, Jesus is counting from the time when this happens:
After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. (John 13:21-30)
This is the moment when Jesus was – in a cosmic sense – SWALLOWED BY SATAN. But when Jesus rose, he defeated the dragon FROM THE INSIDE OUT, killing him, and giving the spoils to the entire world.
And therefore, just as Job knew that Leviathan would be defeated, we too can know with assurance that God has given the same promise to us:
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (Romans 16:20)
But there is one more loose end I need to tie up, before this post is over. That’s all nice and good, but we need to answer the central question that people have about Job. This is when things get REALLY wild.
Why Did God Allow Job to Suffer?
One question I have not covered is this: Why did God do things this way? Why did God allow Job to suffer? Well, I would like to make the point I began with about Harry Potter.
We have already covered the fact that as the author of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling “plays with” Voldemort to defeat him on a stage larger and grander than the literary “wizarding world” of her books. The downfall of Voldemort has been visited billions of times, and will be seen for hundreds of years in this world.
What you need to understand about Job is that God is THE AUTHOR AND FINISHER OF OUR FAITH, and in the same way, God is “playing with” Satan to defeat him on a stage that is larger and grander than the entire physical universe. It will be replayed for countless ages, trillions of years, and through measurements of experience that transcend time itself.
And he’s has declared that he will do it with YOU.
Remember that the God of peace will soon crush Satan underneath…. whose feet? YOUR FEET. To understand this, realize how Job fits into the rest of the Bible.
Chronology of Job in Relation to the Bible
This is too long to explain fully (maybe another post will do it), but we need to remember that Job lives a RIDICULOUSLY LONG TIME. The book says that Job lived a full 140 years AFTER his troubles. As such, he is in the timeframe of the Bible that is BEFORE ABRAHAM.
So think of what this means as far as the timeline of the Bible. The world is being BADLY governed by a bunch of second-tier heavenly beings BEFORE ABRAHAM. And Satan challenges God to his face, declaring that the world is HIS.
But using Satan’s pride, God lets Satan torture Job. But notice what happened:
God allowed Satan to torture Job so badly, that Job did not care if he died. Job did not care if the entire world passed away. He did not even know if he was righteous himself. But in faith he cried out to the Most High God, rejected an appeal to any other God, and said “my eye pours out tears to God, that he would argue the case of a man with God, as a son of man does with his neighbor.” And because Job cried out, GOD ANSWERED.
If you want to know how dramatically the Lord God answered, realize the next chronological event in the Bible concerning God. It’s the call of Abraham:
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:1-8)
This promise is further developed with King David, a descendant of Abraham, and ruler of his people:
Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” (2 Samuel 7:8-16)
And the completion of this promise was fulfilled in an announcement to a girl in Nazareth:
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
The wonderful, shocking, amazing, joyful, and amazing thing to notice is that God ANSWERED Job’s plea:
“my eye pours out tears to God, that he would argue the case of a man with God, as a son of man does with his neighbor.“
He did it with Jesus. And let’s remember how significant this is. We were never told HOW God would defeat Satan. But notice what Jesus said about his own work to his disciples:
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. (Matthew 13:16-17)
In Job, we saw how mighty Satan was. But what we didn’t know was how to defeat such a powerful, fearless, cunning, well-armored, well-equipped, and vicious opponent who is willing to destroy the entire world to spite the creator God?
How does one defeat a supernatural and cosmic “king over the sons of pride”?
This is what the disciples saw, and what prophets and righteous people (like Job) longed to see:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)
Jesus Saves Man And Kills Gods
The grand part of this story is that this defeat was a COMPLETE SURPRISE to Satan himself and all of the “second tier” gods who were governing the Earth. Jesus Christ forcibly took it back from them and rescued the entire world:
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-10)
Those “rulers of this age” are not human kings. They are not even human beings. Instead, these are “angels” and “cosmic powers.” Or as the Old Testament would call them, they are “elohim.” They are in league with Satan.
They are “gods.” And Jesus killed them.
That’s the level of warfare that Jesus Christ won on the cross. This is why there is so much COSMIC language around the event:
For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:15-21)
So if you want to know the power of Jesus Christ, you need to realize that Jesus is not someone who “helps you with your problems.” He’s not someone who lets you be the “best version” of yourself. He also doesn’t merely “save you from your sins.” He saves you from far more than that. As he promised David, he establishes a heavenly kingdom on Earth that gives men rest from all their enemies — not all their human enemies, but ALL OF THEIR ENEMIES. What the book of Job reveals is this:
Jesus Christ literally imprisons a cosmic dragon and kills gods to save those who believe in his power. And by the time he is finished working, our God and our king will crush the dragon underneath YOUR feet.
So THAT is the story of the book of Job.
Between “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” there are exactly 4100 pages of story from J.K. Rowling. That is about the same number of YEARS between Job and today.
Therefore, look to the author and perfecter of your faith. Trust in him, and get ready for whatever is coming next.