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Explaining the Book

Bible Study Guide

Job

Job 9 Explained

Welcome to our Job 9 explained article, where we’ll study Job chapter 9, verses 12 through 23. If you’d like to study verses 1-11 read our Job 9 commentary and our Job 9 summary for verses 24-35.

So, God can hide himself, according to verse 11. In addition though, if God positively wants to do anything, no one can stop him. Verse 12.

9:12 Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him?
who will say unto him,

What doest thou?

Job 9 Explained | Anger

And furthermore, no one can stop God’s anger. Verse 13.

9:13 If God will not withdraw his anger,
the [proud helpers/helpers of Rahab] do stoop under him.

Now, some versions have instead of “proud helpers” the “helpers of Rahab.” That’s because rahab in Hebrew means proud. But it can also be referring to the raging sea that God tamed at creation.

And I know that that’s sort of confusing. So, here’s what we really need to take away from verse 13.

Apparently, these proud helpers or helpers of Rahab are very strong. Not as strong as God, but stronger than men.

Job 9 Explained | Weakness

Because moving into verse 14, Job contrasts their apparent strength with his own weakness – and he feels that he has no chance of holding back God’s seemingly-unjust anger at him.

9:14 How much less shall I answer him,
and choose out my words to [reason/argue] with him?

And, so far what we’ve seen from Job is basically despair. He is just at a loss to understand this God whom he’s been serving and obeying and trusting.

He thought that God was just. He still knows he’s just. But now Job is struggling to understand how a just and powerful God can treat him the way he’s treating him.

The way that God is working doesn’t fit into Job’s theology.

And I want to ask  if we know what that’s like.

Do you know what it’s like to feel that God requires something of you that he himself is making impossible for you to do?

Do you know what it’s like to do what you think to be the right thing with full confidence in God – only to have it make you look like a fool and lead to all sorts of pain and sorrow?

Sometimes God doesn’t fit into our theology. And the solution is not to adjust God – but to adjust our theology – our thinking about God – to match what he really is like.

And that’s what I think we witness in Job’s life throughout this book – Job’s theology being adjusted to God’s reality.

Job 9 Explained | Innocence

Now, moving on, it’s one thing to defend yourself when you’re actually guilty. It’s another matter to have to do this when you’re innocent. And yet, even though Job is innocent, he finds it impossible to defend himself before God. Verse 15.

9:15 Whom, though I were righteous, yet [would/could] I not answer,
but I [would/could only] [make supplication to/plead for mercy with] my judge.

So, if Job could find God he would offer a plea for mercy – a supplication. That’s all he can do because in Job’s experience, God is not answering his prayers, he’s not relenting of the supposed punishment, and he’s not revealing to Job why he’s punishing this righteous man.

Job 9 Explained | Amazement

And yet, if God were to actually answer Job’s pathetic cries, Job would be amazed. Verse 16.

9:16 If I had called, and he had answered me;
yet [would/could] I not believe that he had hearkened unto my voice.

And, why would Job be amazed if God were to answer him?

Job 9 Explained | Violent Oppression

That’s what he explains in verses 17 and 18. Job wouldn’t believe it if God finally answers him – because Job feels that God has been – not only aloof and distant – but actually violently oppressive to him.

9:17 For he [breaketh/bruises/crushes] me with a tempest,
and multiplieth my wounds without cause.

9:18 He will not suffer me to take my breath,
but filleth me with bitterness.

And it’s interesting to remember that God admitted to the truth of Job’s second statement in verse 17. God did tell Satan that he moved God to harm Job “without cause.”

And what this feels like to Job is as if he was being smashed and blown against by a fierce storm with raging winds. And in the context of that storm there would be high winds.

Now, have you ever stuck your head out the window of a car that’s moving fast? If you have, then you know what it’s like to feel the pressure of the wind hitting your face and making it almost impossible to take a breath.

And that’s what Job asserted in verse 18 – it’s like God is sending a storm with raging wind – as it were – upon Job and the result is that he feels as though can’t breathe.

Job 9 Explained | Circular Thinking

Well, moving on, I think we see in the next three verses Job engaging in more of his circular thinking where he recognizes his own innocence – and then he looks at the suffering God is sending and he thinks that God seems to be doing him wrong – but then he recognizes that God is always good and right – and so, he ends that way of reasoning in verse 21 with a few statements that seem to make him sound as if he was beside himself. Start in verse 19.

9:19 If I speak of strength, lo, he is strong:
and if of [judgment/justice], [he will say…] who shall [set me a time to plead/summon me]?

So, God is strong and if someone wants to argue his justice, God would just ask him a rhetorical question that indicates that that person has no right to argue with him – because God is always right.

Job 9 Explained | Mouth Condemns

Then, Job indicates that even though he himself is innocent, his own mouth and even God himself – in his mind – will find reasons to accuse him in verse 20.

9:20 [If/Though] I [justify myself/am righteous/am innocent], mine own mouth shall condemn me:
if I say, I am [perfect/guiltless], [it/he] shall also [prove/declare] me [perverse/guilty].

And, it’s like at this point Job is starting to entertain the thought that maybe he really is guilty of something he’s not aware of.

Because there seems to be all this evidence against him – especially the fact that God is seeming to punish him without relenting.

And we all know that God allows bad things to happen to only bad people. And so, Job starts thinking that maybe he is really committing some evil he doesn’t know about.

As if Job’s mouth would somehow be able to prove that he’s worthy of punishment – even though Job himself is utterly unaware of anything that would be in his life calling for God’s dealing with him the way he has. And yet – in Job’s mind – there must be something that’s causing God to deal with him so harshly and punitively.

Job 9 Explained | Confused Desperation

So, you can sense the confusion in Job’s heart. And, I think Job ends this little section with making three assertions that express his confused desperation in verse 21.

9:21 [Though I were perfect/I am guiltless/I am blameless], [just as he thought about saying in verse 20, but now he comes right out and declares it here…]
[yet would I not know my soul/I don’t know myself]:
I [would/do] despise my life.

So, Job is blameless but he feels like he doesn’t even know himself anymore. And therefore, he despises his life because he just can’t understand God’s ways in his life.

Job 9 Explained | Recap

And because of these confusing realities, Job justifies his previous statements thus far in verse 22.

9:22 [This is one thing/It’s all one], therefore I said it,
He destroyeth the [perfect/guiltless/blameless] and the [wicked/guilty].

So, in this way, Job is disagreeing with Bildad. Bildad claimed that God punishes the wicked and rewards the righteous. And Job would tend to agree. But now Job is starting to say “No, that can’t be the way it always is. Yes, I understand that’s generally the way God works. But that’s not what’s happening in my situation!

Job 9 Explained | Injustice in Life

And, it’s not just that these Retribution Theology principles don’t work out in Job’s situation only. No – this kind of seeming injustice happens all over the world – as Job starts to recognize in verse 23.

9:23 If the scourge slay suddenly,
he [God…] [will laugh at/mocks] the [trial/despair] of the innocent.

Now, does God really laugh when difficulties hit innocent people? I’m not so sure that he does. I think Job is not quite right here. The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loyal covenant love.

And yet, isn’t Job’s assessment of things exactly how it appears when you know that God is sovereign and all-powerful and yet he causes suffering in this world?

Think of children in war zones dying of starvation. Think of the millions of babies killed by the abortion industry in our country. Think of those suffering under brutal repressive regimes throughout the world.

And by just looking at these realities on the surface, you can start to think that God just callously laughs at his creation’s catastrophes.

But that’s just from the bare appearance of things. That’s why we need God’s revealed truth that tells us more about our God than nature – and the happenings that we can see around us – reveal to us.

So, mass deaths of innocent people – according to Job – God laughs at.

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