Let’s turn in our Bibles to Job chapter 13 (for our Job 13 commentary).
Review of Job 1-12
As we enter this 13th chapter of Job, let’s briefly review what we’ve seen in this book.
We’ve had the first two chapters declaring that Job is righteous and that he’s suffering as a result of Satan challenging God about both Job’s character and the character of God. So, a lot is at stake.
Then, Job’s three friends came to comfort the suffering Job. And instead of comforting, they’ve been aggravating Job. Why? Because they keep telling Job to start praying to God and to stop sinning.
The problem is that Job is not suffering because of his sin. He’s suffering for reasons unknown to him. God’s ways in his life – therefore – make no sense to him.
But his friends are trying to help him understand God’s ways. And they believe that God’s ways go like this – do good and be blessed, do evil and be punished – always, and usually immediately.
And the thing is that Job would usually believe that, too. Only now all of a sudden he finds himself in the position of serving as the exception to that rule. He seems to be being punished. Which would usually mean that a man is unrighteous. But the problem is that Job is not unrighteous.
And so, all of a sudden, Job is having to come to terms with a God who is not acting like Job thinks he should act. And it’s a jarring experience for him.
And these friends should be helping him – but instead they’re making matters worse for him.
And so, we’ve seen Eliphaz speak and give his opinions and tell Job to stop sinning. And we’ve had Job respond, telling him that’s not why he’s suffering.
Then Bildad took his turn trying to explain to Job that he’s suffering because of his sin. And Job responded, denying that that’s why he’s suffering.
And last, we had Zophar speak and tell Job to stop sinning and to start praying. And Job is now in the middle of three chapters (starting in chapter 12) where he responds to this last friend – and really, to all three of these men.
And so, that’s how we enter into chapter 13 today.
The friends aren’t wiser than Job
And Job starts by reasserting something he’s said already in chapter 12. Job claims that his friends’ knowledge doesn’t surpass his at all.
KJV Job 13:1 Lo, mine eye hath seen all this,
mine ear hath heard and understood it.
2 What ye know, the same do I know also:
I am not inferior unto you.
And this has been the impression these friends have left Job with – that they’re superior to him in wisdom and understanding. But Job here is flatly denying that.
And we do need to be careful – as we counsel others and try to explain God’s ways to them – that we don’t come across as know-it-alls. Especially when the knowledge we’re trying to convey is really more just personal opinion based on something other than Scripture.
Job wants to speak to God
Now, because speaking with these so-called friends of his has been so unhelpful, he wants to take his matter straight to God.
3 [Surely/But] I [would/wish to] speak to the Almighty,
and I desire to [reason/argue/argue my case] with God.
And perhaps, Job is partly conceding here to the demands of his friends. He says, “Sure I’ll pray to God – like you guys think I’ve never done before in my life! But when I pray it’s going to be for the purpose of reasoning my case before him! Because he’s not acting in the way that either you three or I expect.”
Job’s friends are worthless
And the reason that Job wants to bypass these friends of his and take his matter straight to God is due to the fact that while God is the only one who can help him – his friends are – in Job’s increasingly belligerent words – worthless.
4 But ye [are forgers of/smear with/are inventors of] lies,
ye are all physicians [of no value/worthless].
Some of us know what it’s like to visit a doctor’s office and perceive that there’s something very wrong with us – only to have the doctor proclaim a clean bill of health.
Others of us have had the opposite experience. I went to the doctor when I was in high school for a slight pain I had once in one of my knees. And the doctor immediately ordered a very expensive exploratory procedure that revealed nothing.
When I came back for a follow-up I apparently met with the doctor’s supervisor, who told me the procedure was unnecessary and seemed baffled as to why I’d even have had it done. When I explained that “Doctor so-and-so told me I needed to have it done” the doctor shot back to me – he’s not even a doctor!
I somehow on a subsequent visit managed to be placed with that guy – whatever he was since he apparently was not a doctor – and I had some sinus problems that could be remedied by using some decongestants. Well, this man almost immediately recommended surgery!
And so, by that point, my parents and I caught on to the fact that this guy was something like what Job is accusing his friends of – being worthless physicians.
For me, this man’s remedy was always something more extreme and expensive and dangerous than was really needed. And he seemed to be the only one who didn’t see that.
For Job, his friends keep prescribing him prayer and the ceasing of committing sin – things that will not at all help a man who already prays and is not being punished due to his sin.
Job wants his friends to be quiet
And therefore, Job advises these men to just stop talking.
5 O that ye would [altogether hold your peace/keep completely silent]!
and it [should be/would become] your wisdom.
So, these men think they’re so wise and we’ve seen that demonstrated through this first cycle of speeches. But Job is telling them that if they really want to be wise, they’ll be quiet and stop communicating lies on God’s behalf.
Job wants his friends to listen to him
And, so, instead of talking, Job now demands that these men start listening to him.
6 Hear now my [reasoning/argument],
and hearken to the [pleadings/contention] of my lips.
And yet, Job is not going to immediately give these men his reasoning and pleadings.
Why are these friends not listening to Job?
Instead, Job communicates that he feels like there’s a hidden reason behind why these men are not listening to him and instead they’re speaking lies about him. Job thinks that they are showing partiality and are secretly against him.
7 Will ye speak [wickedly/what is unjust] [for/on the behalf of] God?
and talk deceitfully for him?
8 Will ye [accept his person/show partiality for (or to) him]?
will ye [contend/argue the case] for God?
9 [Is it good that/Will it be well when/Would it turn out well if] he [should search you out/examines you]?
or as one man [mocketh/deceives] another, [do/will/would] ye so [mock/deceive] him?
And so, Job just challenged these friends that what they’re saying on God’s behalf is not right – they’re showing partiality against the innocent Job.
And when God gets wind of this fact, it’s not going to go well for these men.
And actually, we see that very reality happen to them at the end of this book. Things don’t go well for them because they did not speak what was right about God like Job did – and that’s according to God himself.
God will deal with these friends
And Job continues to lay out before these men the consequences of speaking wrongly on behalf of God – as if they understood perfectly God’s ways.
10 He will [surely/certainly] [reprove/rebuke] you,
if ye do secretly [accept persons/show partiality].
11 Shall not his [excellency/majesty/splendor] [make you afraid/terrify you]?
and [his dread/the fear he inspires] fall upon you?
Job insults his friends’ sayings
Then Job turns from warning them about God being displeased with the wrong things these friends are telling Job – to now just berating their canned wisdom that each one of them one-by-one has been rehashing and trying to make apply to Job’s situation.
12 Your [remembrances/memorable sayings/maxims] are [like unto/proverbs of] ashes,
your [bodies to bodies/defenses are defenses] of clay.
And of course, the problem with the counsel of these men – that good is always rewarded and evil always punished in this life – is that they are so stuck in that way of thinking that they are obliged to accuse Job of secret sin in order to make their man-made theology work.
Job again urges silence
And that doesn’t help Job. And so, Job again admonishes them to stop talking lies to him.
13 [Hold your peace, let me alone/Be silent before me/Refrain from talking with me], [so…] that I may speak,
[and/then] let come on me what will.
And I think what Job means is that – even if he’s wrong – his friends should still just be quiet and let God personally deal with him.
Job considers if he were wrong
And then Job considers what would happen if he is somehow wrong and God really is punishing him and will deal with him severely.
14 [Wherefore/Why] do I [take my flesh in my teeth/put myself in peril],
and [put/take] my life in mine hand[s]?
So, Job told him to leave him alone and let come on him what will from God. Let God be the one who deals out justice – not these three friends in their mistaken view of God and Job and the world.
But Job realizes that this is not a light statement. He fully realizes the truth that’s stated in Hebrews – that it’s a fearful thing to fall into the hand of the living God.
To deliver himself from the judgement of his friends into the judgement of God is no minor thing. It’s like taking his flesh in his teeth or taking his own life in his hands.
Because Job knows that God knows everything and that he’s ultimately right. You can’t fool this judge.
Job will trust God
But then Job reminds himself that this is the best place for him to be – in God’s hands. Job confesses to being fully in God’s control – and so he will trust him.
15 [Though/Even if] he slay me, yet will I [trust/hope] in him:
[but/nevertheless] I will [maintain mine own/argue my/surely defend my] ways [before him/to his face].
So, Job will trust. But at the same time he doesn’t feel the ability to just rest. He will trust and he will – simultaneously – argue his case before God.
Job trusts – but he’s still willing to defend himself against the God whom he thinks is mistreating him and perhaps doesn’t have all the facts.
A sign of Job’s innocence
And Job says that this is a sign – the fact that he’s willing to approach God and plead his case with the Almighty – that’s a sign that he is innocent.
Because wicked people don’t approach God sincerely.
16 [He/This] [also/moreover] shall be my [salvation/deliverance]: [why?…]
for [an hypocrite/a godless man] [shall/may/would] not come before [him/his presence].
Job again demands his friends to be quiet
In light of these realities, Job once more demands that his friends listen and withhold their speaking.
17 [Hear diligently/Listen carefully to] my [speech/words],
and [hear…] my [declaration/explanation] with your ears.
And I think we’re justified in reading between the lines a little bit here. What do I mean by that?
Well, why does Job keep telling his friends to stop speaking and to rather listen to him? I think this is at least the second time he’s urged them to be quiet – maybe the third.
One possibility is that they’re actually trying to break in while he’s speaking! And so Job is practically having to beat them back because he wants to keep talking.
Job would be vindicated before God
Now, Job is going to tell these friends that he is certain that if he were able to address God directly that he would be vindicated – he’s hiding no secret sin that would earn him God’s punishment in his life.
18 [Behold/See] now, I have [ordered/prepared] my [cause/case];
I know that I [shall be justified/will be vindicated/am right].
19 Who [is he that will plead/will contend] with me? [he shouldn’t ask this – he’s got three men right there who will do just this – and if they do…]
for [now/then/if anyone can], [if I hold my tongue, I shall give up the ghost/I would be silent and die].
So, Job is absolutely sure that if he only had an audience with God, he would be proven innocent.
Job addresses God
And so, at this point, Job lifts his eyes from his friends – whose counsel is so useless to him and whose power is so limited to help him in any way – and Job lifts his eyes and directly address God.
20 Only do not two things unto me: [O God…]
then will I not hide myself from thee.
And here are those two things that Job wants God to not do to him so that he doesn’t have to hide himself from God.
21 [First…] [Withdraw/Remove] thine hand far from me:
and [Second…] [let not thy dread make me afraid/stop making me afraid with your terror].
And if God does that for Job, Job is more than willing to commune with God like he used to.
22 Then call thou, and I will answer:
or let me speak, and [answer thou/reply to/respond to] me.
Maybe Job has sinned…
But since God is not in the practice of calling and answering Job anymore, Job starts considering whether perhaps he really has grievous sins in his life that Job doesn’t know about – but God does. What else would explain God’s absolute silence in the midst of sending such terrible suffering into the life of a man who is so apparently righteous?
23 How many are mine iniquities and sins?
make me to know my [transgression/rebellion] and my sin.
Why does God hide?
But then Job transitions from asking God about what may be hiding in Job’s own heart – and instead he starts asking God about God’s reasons for hiding himself from Job in the hour of his greatest need yet in his long life.
24 Wherefore hidest thou thy face,
and [holdest me for/consider me/regard me as] thine enemy?
Because when bad things happen – they’re happening surely because God is angry. When the sun doesn’t shine, it’s because God is displeased. This is how our natural minds tend to think – especially apart from God’s special revelation.
Job is not worth God’s pursuit
But Job wants God to know this – that God’s constant punishing of Job is as significant a pursuit for God as would be the crushing of a windblown leaf or the chasing of dry chaff. Which is to say, this kind of thing is so far beneath God’s level that he should just cease to pursue punishing Job.
25 Wilt thou [break/cause to tremble/torment] a leaf [driven to and fro/windblown]?
and wilt thou [pursue/chase after] the dry [stubble/chaff]?
And you can picture a leaf blowing around in your yard.
And a little bit more distant to us is the picture of chaff, because most of us are not working in agriculture. But it’s a similar picture. Something small and light – not substance to it. And it’s just flying around in the breeze. So powerless, so helpless. No threat to anyone.
And yet, Job is picturing God as basically making great efforts to try to chase and crush such an object. And Job wants to question whether this is really a very good use of God’s time and effort.
But the question is – is that really what God is doing? Is he really pursuing Job – this windblown leaf?
Well, Job thinks so. That’s what it seems like from the outer appearance of things – which is all Job has to work with.
God is punishing Job for old sin
And Job continues to express what it seems to him that God is doing to him.
And here’s one idea that Job calls to mind. Maybe God is punishing him for old sins – for sins committed in the past that he can’t remember anymore.
26 For thou writest [down…] bitter things against me,
and makest me to [possess/inherit] the [iniquities/sins] of my youth.
God is… a bully?
And if God is punishing Job for some minute hidden sin, Job starts picturing God as … almost an overbearing bully.
27 Thou puttest my feet also in the stocks,
and [lookest narrowly unto/watch] all my [paths/movements];
thou [settest a print upon/set a limit for/put marks on] the [heels/soles] of my feet.
So, God – in Job’s mind – is so ultra-scrutinizing of Job’s ways.
You can note the control that Job thinks God is exercising in his life – and really, the extreme degree of it.
Job can’t move. And if he does, God is watching him so closely. So, Job is like an ancient slave who has been given a mark on his foot to indicate that he should be returned to his master if he ever escapes the master’s tight control.
God makes Job rot
And ultimately, God – through all of this – is just causing Job to rot away.
28 And [he/I], as a rotten thing, [consumeth/decay/waste away],
[as/like] a garment that is moth eaten.
So, Job thinks that God is causing him to waste away as if he were some rotten piece of food or garment of clothing chewed away at by moths.
And so, that’s Job chapter 13. Job has basically told his friends to be quiet and to listen to him. And what he wants them to listen to is the fact that he’s innocent and he can’t figure out why it seems like God is punishing him. That arrangement contradicts everything that Job and his friends have believed about how God works.
And so, next time in chapter 14 we’ll see the last statements from Job – until his friends make their rebuttals.