Job 38 Commentary: Well, something really interesting happens at this point. Elihu has been focusing on storms and clouds and lightning. And now all of a sudden – the Lord appears in one of those storms.
KJV Job 38:1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
So, two things to note.
First, it seems like this whirlwind was nearby. The author phrases it as if the whirlwind is there and God just starts speaking to Job from it.
And I think we also need to have in our minds an accurate picture of what this would have looked like.
When you hear “whirlwind” you can think of a tornado. And that very well could be the case here. But the word in the Hebrew could refer to a storm in general – any storm – not just a tornado.
But it’s not just any storm. This is a storm or whirlwind with God’s voice is coming from it. Like he spoke from the burning bush later on in history.
So, those are some thoughts about the appearance of this storm.
Also, I think that the transition from Elihu to God is another piece of evidence that tells us that God is in favor of what Elihu said. The narrator didn’t have to tell us that God came to correct Elihu – like he earlier explained when Elihu came on the scene to correct Job and the friends. It’s like God comes and simply serves to continue Elihu’s points that he’s already made – confirming that what Elihu has been saying has basically been God’s message to Job and his friends.
Or you can look at it the other way – God sent Elihu ahead of himself to speak on God’s behalf.
Job 38 Commentary: Q1: Who is this?
Whatever the case, God is now speaking. And he continues questioning Job just like Elihu was doing. And here’s his first question.
2 Who is this that darkeneth counsel
[by/with] words without knowledge?
3 [Gird up now thy loins/Get ready for a difficult task] like a man;
[for I/and I/I] will [demand of thee/ask you/question you],
and [answer thou/you instruct/you will inform] me.
And of course, this first question of God’s is not looking for an answer. In fact, most of God’s questions to Job are not expecting an answer. Really, Job doesn’t give any answer to anything God asks.
But this question serves to put Job in his place. Who are you – who have no knowledge of all sorts of areas – to speak of what you don’t understand – and in so doing, you give counsel that is dark – that doesn’t help at all?
And then God challenges Job to get ready for a difficult task. Since Job feels that he is in the position to judge the Judge of the Universe, then he needs to act the part and answer God in these numerous questions that God has for him.
And of course, God is being sarcastic. He knows that Job won’t have any answer. He’s saying this to Job to show him how little he really does know. And when it comes down to it, the only answer Job can give to most of these questions is either “No, I can’t do whatever you just asked.” or “I don’t know the answer to your question.”
Job 38 Commentary: Q2: Foundations of the Earth
So, here’s the second question that God asks – but the first one that really deals with how much Job actually knows about anything in this world.
4 Where wast thou when I laid the [foundations/foundation] of the earth?
[declare/tell me], if thou [hast/possess] understanding.
So, this question has to do with origins – the origin of Job and of the world.
God pictures the creation of the world as if he laid it on its foundations – like you would do for a house or other building.
And then he asks Job where he was when God did that. Of course, the answer is that Job would not have existed at that time.
And the point is that Job has been acting as if he was around for that event. By questioning God’s justice and goodness – Job is behaving as if he were equal with God – even a bit superior to him!
Job 38 Commentary: Q3-4: Measuring the Earth
So, next God wants to ask Job about the measurements of the earth.
5 Who [hath laid/set] [the measures thereof/its measurements], [if/since] thou knowest?
or who hath stretched [the line/a measuring line] [upon/on/across] it?
Now, God is not asking Job to recite the measurements of the earth. People today can in fact measure the earth based on mathematical calculations and such.
That’s not it. Instead, God is asking about who decided how big the earth would be. Who stretched out a measuring line on the earth like a builder would do to something he’s building.
Who did it? – God asks. The answer of course is God – and is certainly not who? Certainly not Job. And certainly not you, either. And not me, as we ever start to question God’s dealings in our life.
God knew what dimensions the earth should have. Job didn’t and doesn’t. Job can leave this detail to God – and he can leave every other detail to him as well.
Job 38 Commentary: Q5-6: Foundation and Corner Stone of the Earth
Next God asks Job about the foundation and corner stone of the earth.
6 [Whereupon/On what] [are/were] [the foundations thereof/its bases] [fastened/sunk/set]?
or who laid [the corner stone thereof/its cornerstone];
7 When the morning stars sang [together/in chorus],
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
So, what is the earth laid on? And who laid the cornerstone of the earth? Again – God is picturing the earth as his handiwork. Like a builder, God created this place and everything. While Job wouldn’t even know the beginnings of how God did it.
And one reason that Job doesn’t know how it happened is because he wasn’t there. But God was, and he recounts that there was singing and great joy when he created the world. The morning stars and the sons of God sang and rejoiced when God created the earth.
This is the same group that was seen convening twice at the beginning of this book. And Satan appeared among them.
But God doesn’t mention that detail – the detail of how they all met in Job chapters 1 and 2. Instead, he points Job to a time when this group sang and rejoiced at God’s creative power.
Now, I do want to note that if God is putting the creation of the earth and angels singing in the same time frame… then we have a little bit of a problem. Either God created angels before the first day of creation. Or God here is just saying that he created the earth in the same general time frame as when he created angels.
Now, we’re not told specifically in Scripture when angels were created. I think the best we can do is to equate the creation of the angels with the creation of the heavenly bodies – which was day 4 of creation week.
So, I think it’s best to see God here speaking of the creation of the earth and the rejoicing of angels as happening in the same general time frame – that four day span of time between “in the beginning” and day 4 of creation week.
Anyway, this shows the glory of God’s creation – his power and his knowledge and his eternality. He is completely uniquely excellent – to the point where angels sing of his work.
But sometimes we human creatures see his work – especially when it’s maybe not as pleasant as we’d like – and we don’t sing. We gripe. We complain. We even question the wisdom and justice and goodness of this amazing God.
Job 38 Commentary: Q7: The Sea
Well, God moves on to ask Job about the sea.
8 Or who [shut up/enclosed] the sea with doors,
when it [brake/burst] forth, [as if it had issued/coming] out of the womb?
9 When I made [the cloud/a cloud/the storm cloud] the garment thereof,
and thick darkness [a swaddlingband for it/its swaddling band],
10 And [brake up for it my/I placed its/prescribed] [decreed place/boundaries/its limits],
and [set/set in place its] [bars/bolt/bolts] and doors,
11 [And/And I/when I] said,
[Hitherto/Thus far/To here] [shalt thou/you may] come, [but/and] no further:
and here shall thy proud waves [be stayed/stop/be confined]?
So, God pictures himself as setting limits on the sea. And what’s the answer to God’s question in verse 8? [read it…] God, of course. God set the limits on the sea. He even admits it eventually in verse 11.
God pictures the sea as having been born – along with imagery of new birth – issuing from the womb and swaddling bands.
God set those limits for the sea. And he sets limits for us as well. In Job’s life, he limited Satan’s attack on Job. And as a result, Job felt limited in his life and was dissatisfied about it.
But the sea isn’t dissatisfied with God’s limits. He puts those limits in place wisely. And we need to be like the sea in that respect – satisfied with the limits that God places on us.
Job 38 Commentary: Q8: Bring the Morning
Well, the next question that God asks is about bringing in the morning.
12 Hast thou commanded the morning [since thy days/ever in your life];
and [caused/made] the [dayspring/dawn] to know his place;
13 That it might [take hold of/seize] the [ends/corners] of the earth,
[that/and] the wicked [might be shaken/shake X] out of it?
14 [It/The earth] [is turned/is changed/takes shape] [as/like] clay [to the/under a] seal;
[and they/its features] [stand/stand forth/are dyed] [as/like] a garment.
15 [And/Then] from the wicked [their/the] light is [withholden/withheld],
and the [high arm/uplifted arm/arm raised in violence] [shall be/is] broken.
OK, so the answer to God’s question in verse 12 [read it…] is “no.” Job has not commanded the morning to come.
And catch what God says about what happens as a result of the morning coming. It shakes the wicked out of their place. And I think that’s God picturing the wicked as dwelling in darkness. They do their evil at night. But then God commands the dawn to spring forth and they need to disperse.
And as night turns to day, verse 14 happens – things look different. Things change. The appearance of everything – even temperature – changes as night turns into day time.
And again, God points to the effects that that has on the wicked. Even though he sends light on the earth, yet somehow he withholds light from the wicked.
And I think it’s interesting that God has noted that group of individuals – the wicked – twice in this section. God is acknowledging that he indeed does deal with the wicked. Job was starting to question that – whether God ever deals with these people!
But he does deal with them in his time according to his wisdom. And not how Job or his three friends think that God should deal with them.
Job 38 Commentary: Q9-10: Source of the Seas
So, not only can Job not make the morning happen, he also doesn’t experientially know anything about the source of the seas.
16 Hast thou [entered into/gone to] the springs [of/that fill] the sea?
or hast thou [walked/walked about] in the [search/recesses] of the [depth/deep]?
So, God says that there are springs of water that fill the sea. I’m not sure of the location of these springs. Is he saying that these springs are at the bottom of the seas or is he picturing them as on the land somewhere and the water from them flows into the sea?
Whatever the case, God is pointing beyond the springs to the idea that he himself fills the seas. And Job does not. If it was left in Job’s hands to fill the seas – or our hands, for that matter – the seas certainly would not get filled. We would have no clue what to do or how to do it.
And then God speaks of walking in the recesses of the deep. Has Job ever found himself walking around on the bottom of the ocean? Have you?
Well, with various achievements that humanity has made since the writing of this book, maybe you can go to the bottom of the ocean. That’s possible.
But God isn’t asking if you’ve gone to the bottom of the ocean in a submarine or some other vessel. He’s asking Job – and you – whether you’ve walked around down there. And actually, that would be an impossible feat – and I think it will be forever.
Why? It’s called “pressure.” Let me read for you something I found on the website of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/pressure.html]…
At sea level, the air that surrounds us presses down on our bodies at 14.5 pounds per square inch. You don't feel it because the fluids in your body are pushing outward with the same force.
Dive down into the ocean even a few feet, though, and a noticeable change occurs. You can feel an increase of pressure on your eardrums. This is due to an increase in hydrostatic pressure, the force per unit area exerted by a liquid on an object. The deeper you go under the sea, the greater the pressure of the water pushing down on you. For every 33 feet (10.06 meters) you go down, the pressure increases by 14.5 psi.
Many animals that live in the sea have no trouble at all with high pressure. Whales, for instance, can withstand dramatic pressure changes because their bodies are more flexible. Their ribs are bound by loose, bendable cartilage, which allows the rib cage to collapse at pressures that would easily snap our bones.
And so, as God challenges Job regarding whether or not he’s been to the bottom of the seas, he’s really pointing to Job’s own limitations and frailty. Before we would even get close to the bottom of the seas our bones would snap!
And implied in all of these questions is an admission by God that he can do these things. That he has done them. Things that are so difficult or actually impossible for us – God does easily.
Job 38 Commentary: Q11-12: Death and Darkness
And most of what God has been asking Job about deals with things of this life – the earth, the sea, morning and dawn, and such.
But now God is going to ask Job about his knowledge of something that is at one time part of life in this sin-cursed world – but it’s also beyond this life. He’s going to ask Job about… death.
17 Have the gates of death been [opened/revealed] unto thee?
or hast thou seen the [doors/gates] of [the shadow of death/deep darkness/deepest darkness]?
What is death like? What will it be to have your physical body shut down operations?
That’s a pretty morbid question and therefore it’s one that we tend to not consider very deeply or often. And yet, even if we really wanted to know about death – what does it feel like? What’s on the other side of death? We don’t know those answers experientially. And finding anyone to answer those questions is impossible because everyone who has experienced death is not around anymore to answer questions!
But God knows about death. He’s the one who instituted it – because of sin.
And in the midst of God’s dealings in our lives we can feel like he’s messing up when it comes to our lives. And we even have opinions about our death – maybe you have a preference for how you’d like to die or when.
My grandma who is 89 years old and will turn 90 in November, Lord-willing, has expressed several times to various people that she just wants God – in her words – “to take” her. But he hasn’t yet. It’s not his time.
Can you figure out why God wouldn’t want to take the soul of an 89 year old woman who wants to die – but at the same time just over a year ago he took the life of one of the kids on the soccer team that I was coaching who was my oldest son’s good friend? So much life ahead of him – so much sorrow left behind – so many questions…
Questions… Why? Why all the questions? Because we don’t understand God’s ways.
But do you know who does understand God’s ways? You’ve got it – God does! God knows when people should die. He tells us in Ecclesiastes that there’s “a time to die.” But he tells us that that’s “in his time.” He has made all things beautiful in his time. But it’s his time and not ours.
And ultimately, we don’t know a thing about death – beyond what God has been pleased to reveal to us in his word. So, we can – and really have no other choice but to – trust him even with death.