Job 41 Commentary: We’ll be in the 41st chapter of the book of Job today.
I anticipate at most two more lessons after this one.
As we enter Job 41, we look back and realize that we’ve been through a lot so far.
We were introduced to a man named Job back in chapter 1 who was upright and blameless. Then a being known as Satan accused God to bribing Job to worship him. So, God allowed Satan to afflict Job in numerous ways.
Then Job’s three friends came to comfort him. But they just ended up arguing with him and accusing him of secret sin.
Finally, Elihu came and began to set these men straight. And then of course the section we’re in right now has God finishing the job that Elihu began in correcting Job.
And that correction has come in two parts.
First, God has asked Job sixty-some questions about how stuff works in this world. Or whether or not Job can do this thing or that thing that only God can do. And so, of course, Job’s first response to God was one of contrition and repentance. That was the first section of God’s confrontation of Job.
We’re now in the second part of God’s confrontation of Job. And so far we’ve seen God basically tell Job that if he thinks he can do a better job at “Godding” or being God than God is able to do – well, then go right ahead and try it.
After that, God turned Job’s attention to Behemoth. And Job and you and I are supposed to imitate Behemoth. Behemoth lived free of anxiety with the strength that God gave him. And Job and you and I are supposed to live that way, too.
And now for the final speech of God in this book to end this second section of God’s rebuke of Job. And God is going to bring to the attention of Job another creature. His name is Leviathan. He’s not a land animal like Behemoth – but is rather a sea creature. And whereas we’re supposed to imitate Behemoth, it seems that God has a different purpose for Leviathan.
With Leviathan, we’re supposed to think of God the way we think of Leviathan. We’re supposed to approach God the way that we approach a dangerous, unpredictable, uncontrollable animal like Leviathan. And I trust that we’ll see that emphasis as we start studying Leviathan today.
Job 41 Commentary: Q64-65: Control
So, the first issue that God wants to point out in regard to this creature is that it’s impossible to control him. But God phrases it in the form of a question. So, verse 1 contains the 64th and 65th questions that God has asked Job thus far if my counting it accurate.
KJV Job 41:1 Canst thou [draw out/pull in] leviathan with [an hook/a fishhook]?
or his tongue with a [cord/rope] [which thou lettest down/can you (press/tie) it down]?
So – no – Job cannot catch Leviathan with a hook or tie down his tongue with a rope. He cannot control this animal.
And Job would have known this. He would have answered these questions in the negative.
And so, what God wants Job to do then is to recognize that Job has no control over God. If Job can’t control one of God’s creature, how would he ever think that he can control God?
And yet, isn’t that what Job had been trying to do? By demanding God show up to a court room and explain his ways to Job, wasn’t Job trying to control the uncontrollable – not uncontrolled, I say but – uncontrollable God?
And where do you try to control God in your life? Do you recognize where you might be doing that? Where you’re trying to make him do your will rather than submitting to do his will?
Job 41 Commentary: Q66-67: More Control
Well, the next two questions also focus on Job’s total inability to control Leviathan.
2 Canst thou put [an hook/a rope/a cord] [into/in/through] his nose?
or [bore/pierce] his jaw [through with a thorn/with a hook]?
So, neither can Job pierce Leviathan’s nose or jaw in order to capture him.
Once more, Leviathan – and Leviathan’s Creator – are unable to be controlled by man.
Job 41 Commentary: Q68-69: Begging for Mercy
But God seems to assume for argument’s sake that Job could catch Leviathan. Because in verse 3, the Lord pictures Leviathan as pleading for mercy and he asks Job if that picture is even possible in real life.
3 Will he make [many/numerous] supplications unto thee? [i.e., will he keep begging you for mercy?]
will he speak [soft/tender/gentle] words unto thee?
And of course, the picture that God paints is ironic. A creature that’s like God describes Leviathan to be in this chapter would never be put in the position of being captured by Job – let alone be found pleading for mercy from this imaginary captor.
And God is implying here that he also will not be at the mercy of any man. And that sounds like a superfluous statement to make – like why does God need to bring that point up? It’s a given, right?
Well, it is. And yet in times of trial and suffering and uncertainty, we – like Job– can get to the point where we start talking and thinking as though we could get God into some strangle hold where he has to plead with us for mercy.
But not even the patriarch Jacob who wrestled with God got this kind of response from the Lord. The Lord merely told him to let him go. There was no pleas for mercy. No cajoling. It was a straightforward statement. And when it comes down to it, all God had to do to make Jacob let him go was to touch his thigh. That worked pretty well.
So, God is not at the mercy of any.
Job 41 Commentary: Q70-71: Serving
And yet, once again, God is going to go along with his farcical pretend scenario of the helpless Leviathan pleading for mercy from Job in verse 4. And now, God pictures Leviathan as promising to serve Job forever as a servant.
4 Will he make [a covenant/a pact/an agreement] with thee?
[wilt thou/so that you/for you to] take him [for a servant/as your slave] for [ever/life]?
And once more, the answer to God’s questions is “no.” Creatures like Leviathan don’t enter into covenants and they don’t make an intentional agreement to serve humans.
And God himself is not required to serve any. Now, amazingly he does serve his creatures – and he did so preeminently in the person of Jesus Christ who took on him the form of a servant – who came not to be served but rather to be the servant.
And yet, God is under no compulsion whatsoever to serve anyone. He’s not anyone’s slave. No one has any claim over his person to make him do anything.
And I’m afraid that Job and his friends basically got to the point where they conceived of God as being someone who was obliged to serve them and do their will. If they do good, then in their minds God was obliged to serve them good things.
But that’s not why God gives good things – not because somehow he’s our servant. But rather he gives us good things because he is merciful. And slaves aren’t merciful – they’re just doing what they must do. And that’s not how God operates. Not for Job and his friends – and not for us.
The moment we get this formula mixed up is the moment we depart from reality. We are God’s servants. We are his slaves. Not the other way around.
Job 41 Commentary: Q72-73: Leviathan a Domesticated Pet?
And yet, God continues the ridiculous scenario between Job and Leviathan in verse 5. And this time, God speculates that perhaps Leviathan would be willing to become Job’s pet!
5 Wilt thou [play with/make a pet of] him as with a bird?
or wilt thou [bind him/tie it on a leash] for thy [maidens/girls]?
Now, my family has no pets. We almost got one when a kitten crawled into our engine compartment the other night after prayer meeting – but we were resolved not to take that cat home!
Anyway, you might have a pet. They apparently had pets in Job’s time – at least some people did.
And most people who have pets in this country might have a dog or a cat. Maybe you might have a bird – like God mentions here.
But I guarantee you that no one has ever had a pet Leviathan. And even though we don’t exactly know what this creature was – my best guess from the text is that he’s something like a giant crocodile that breathes fire!
And even though I’ve never seen that kind of beast in real life, I would venture to say that that kind of animal doesn’t make a very good pet – a fire-breathing super-sized crocodile!
And do you know what would make an even more bizarre unlikely pet? God. You and I cannot put God on a leash. He won’t fetch for us like a dog. You would be insane to think that you can make him beg. You certainly won’t teach him how to play dead.
And you’re not going to be able to impress anyone with the control you have over God like you would a tamed animal on a leash. The realty is – you have no control over God. He does according to his will in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth and none can stay his hand or say unto him “what doest thou?”
Job 41 Commentary: Q74-75: Roast Leviathan???
Well, back to Leviathan. And, you know, in our culture we typically don’t eat animals that would otherwise be pets – right? The typical American diet does not consist of cat and dog and gerbil and guinea pig.
And so, if Leviathan can’t be Job’s pet - maybe he can be Job’s dinner. Verse 6.
6 [Shall/Will] [the companions/partners/traders] [make a banquet of/bargain for] him?
[shall/will] they [part/divide up] him among the merchants?
Now, that second line pictures Job’s companions – who would apparently be traders or merchants – divvying-up Leviathan amongst themselves – either for food or as a rare commodity – like “Look, I have a piece of Leviathan!”
And yet, God – as he suggests this – is doing so in a way that we could characterize as absurd. Like – this would never ever happen.
And God is going to get to his main point eventually in this chapter. But for now, we need to keep taking in the absurdity of God’s questions. And they’re intentionally absurd. And we’ll see the reason for it in a few verses.
But just like Leviathan, no one is able to divvy-up God. No one is able to devour and consume him. No one can trade him or bargain for him. He’s not for sale.
Job 41 Commentary: Q76-77: Kill Leviathan?
Alright, so if you can’t catch or enslave or domesticate or eat or trade Leviathan – maybe you can just kill him. God asks whether that’s possible in verse 7 – with the implied idea that this indeed would not be possible.
7 Canst thou fill his [skin/hide] with [barbed irons/harpoons]?
or his head with [fish/fishing] spears?
And these two rhetorical questions imply the slaying of this animal. Filling his skin with harpoons and spears would mean death for Leviathan. And yet, God implies that this cannot happen.
And though the phrase “God is dead” was coined around the end of the 1800s and is an idea that some assert, God cannot die. He never will die.
And yet, he allowed himself to be killed in the person of Jesus Christ. But even then, God cannot remain dead. Jesus Christ rose from the dead and lives to his day and is coming back any time now.
So, no one can kill Leviathan. No one can kill God.
Job 41 Commentary: Fighting Leviathan
And now – after so many of these questions that expect a negative answer – God is going to cut to the chase and he tells Job what would happen if anyone were to try to do any of these things to Leviathan.
8 [If you…] Lay thine hand [upon/on] him,
[you will…] remember the [battle/fight/struggle],
[do no more./you will not do it again!/and you will never do it again!/and never do it again!]
So, if anyone were to try to lay hands on this creature, they would certainly remember that battle and they’d never do it again.
And now, as Job is listening to God’s rebuke, I wonder if Job feels the same way. He wrestled with God. He questioned God’s goodness and justice. And he’s now experiencing a little bit of wrestling back from the Lord. And we’ll see at the end of this book – he’ll never do that again!
Job 41 Commentary: Q78: No Hope
Ad even though Job is resigned to never approach God like this, some really tough guy might think that he could in fact subdue this beast. And God says in response, “That’s a vain hope!”
9 Behold, [the hope of him/your expectation/his expectation/any hope of subduing him] is [in vain/false/wrong]:
shall not one be [cast down/laid low/overpowered] even at the sight of him?
So, just looking at this creature is enough to lay a person low. You dare not even look at Leviathan!
And this is where God begins to reveal the purpose behind mentioning Leviathan at this point in his response to Job.
Job 41 Commentary: Q79: God vs. Leviathan
And the purpose is in the next verse – verse 10. God is going to point to the unparalleled fierceness of this creature in the first line. And then...God speaks of himself in relation to this creature.
10 None is so fierce [that dare stir him up/when it is awakened/to rouse him]:
who then is able to stand before […"him?” … Leviathan? No! God says...] me?
Ah hah! So, there it is. This is where God begins to meld together our conception of Leviathan and himself. I’ve been assuming this for the whole chapter because I knew this was coming. But up to this point God has not made it very clear why he’s mentioning Leviathan. But he just connected the dots here in verse 10.
So, we’re to think of this awesome, mighty, fierce creature. And we can’t catch him. We can’t enslave him. We can’t have him as a pet. We can’t eat him. We can’t kill him.
And we’re supposed to compare this creature and how we think of him to how we think of the awesome Creator of this awesome creature.
And recall, we studied Behemoth last time. And the point of Behemoth was that we were supposed to imitate him. He lived fearlessly with the strength that God gave him. And that’s what Job and we are supposed to do with that beast.
But Leviathan is different. With Leviathan we’re not to imitate him. We can’t! Just look at how he’s described – can the same things be said of you? No – instead, we’re supposed to think of God like we would think of this creature. We are like Behemoth – or should be. God is like Leviathan – only even bigger and better and stronger and more dangerous and more uncontrollable!
We fear Leviathan – or we would if it existed today. But, do we grant God that same healthy fear?
We’re aware that man can in no way manipulate Leviathan for his own purposes. But, are we aware that no man may manipulate God for his own selfish purposes?
Job and his friends had been acting as if God can be manipulated. You want good from God? Well then, just do good. It’ll work like clockwork! Like sliding your credit card into the gas pump and getting a full tank of gas in return.
Now, Job didn’t approach God that way in reality. He really did serve God for nothing – contrary to what Satan accused him of. But the way that Job was thinking of how God ought to treat him bordered on that way of thinking. God was giving him bad even though Job was still being good. And that bothered Job immensely. And so, Job needs to be warned here to stop treating God like that.
Job 41 Commentary: Q80: God Owes No Man
Because to think that if I give God something, he owes me in return is just foolish. To think that if I do good then God will give good in turn is not the way this world works and it’s not how God works – and that’s what he says in verse 11.
11 Who [hath prevented/had given to/has confronted/has a claim against] me, that I [should/must] repay him?
[whatsoever is/whatever is/everything] under [the whole heaven/heaven] [is mine/belongs to me].
So, to whom does God owe anything? Is God obliged to treat Job or us in a certain way beyond what he has actually stated in his word? Is God obliged to give you health and wealth and ease? Have you given him enough to the point where he would be constrained to repay you?
No, no one is in that kind of position with God. And that’s amazing when you think about it. Because most of us are in a position of some sort of obligation to someone. You need to pay your school bill or your property taxes or your rent. You and I are obliged to someone. We owe someone something.
But not God. God owes no man anything.
And that’s because God owns everything. There is nothing that is not his.
And that includes Job’s life and your life and mine. If we were somehow able to give our life to God – literally, not in a metaphorical sense – if we gave our life to God, we’re only giving back to him what’s rightfully his. He made us. He gave us breath. He owns us!
And so, this is the message of Leviathan. Let’s treat God with respect and dignity. Let’s not act like we can somehow manipulate the Almighty for our own purposes. Let’s give him the fear and reverence that is due even one of his creatures. How much more worthy of such respect is the Creator than the creature?
May the Lord help us to interact with him more on this level than we’ve known to this point in our lives.