Job 38:1-40:5 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. When God reveals Himself to Job how does He describe him? See chapter 38 verses 1-3 (printed below)

Then Jehovah answered Job out of the tempest. He said, (2) Who is this who darkens deliberations with words that lack knowledge? (3) Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. (Job 38:1-3)

The Lord describes Job as one who “darkens deliberations with words that lack knowledge” (38:2). As Job has spoken from his position of limited knowledge, he has produced darkness rather than enlightenment with regard to the issue of God’s justice and His just governance of the world. Job has “darkened deliberations” because he lacks a broad comprehensive perspective of God’s ways (The Book of Job, Hartley, p. 491). The Lord will now proceed to demonstrate Job’s ignorance by interrogating him with regard to the creation and maintenance of the world (38:3.)

2. About what does God question Job in chapter 38 verses 4-7 (printed below?)

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you have understanding. (5) Who marked off its dimensions? Tell me, if you know. Who stretched a measuring line across it? (6) On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—(7) while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God sang for joy? (Job 38:4-7)

The Lord begins by questioning Job about the formation of the world, using the imagery of the construction of a major building (38:4-7). The Lord asks Job, Who marked off the dimensions of the earth? (38:5a)—the site for this “building” (i.e.; the world) was carefully surveyed. A “measuring line” was stretched out (38:5b) to ensure that the world, or the earth, was constructed exactly according to the Lord’s “blue prints”—by implication it is being said that everything created corresponds precisely to God’s plan (Hartley, p. 495). The footings were set and the earth’s cornerstone was laid in place (38:6). The marvelous, mysterious, incomprehensible “construction” of the world testifies to the awesome wisdom of the Creator—a wisdom that is beyond the scope of man’s ability to understand. This should cause man to bow in humble trust before the Lord, as opposed to charging God with unrighteousness based upon man’s finite knowledge and limited understanding.

3. On what subject does the Lord interrogate Job in chapter 38 verses 16-24 (printed below?)

Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? (17) Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death? (18) Have you contemplated the underworld’s vast expanse? Tell me, if you know all this. (19) What is the way to the dwelling place of light? And where does darkness reside? (20) Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings? (21) Surely you know, for you were already born; the number of your days is so large! (22) Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, (23) that I reserve for times of trouble, for the day of war and battle? (24) What is the way to the place from where the west wind is dispersed, or the place from where the east wind is scattered over the earth? (Job 38:16-24)

The Lord now interrogates Job about his acquaintance with the extremities of the creation: has Job ever traveled to the outer limits of the world? (38:16-24). The Lord asks if Job has ever entered into “the springs of the sea” (i.e.; the origins of the sea) or walked in “the recesses of the deep” (38:16). Beyond the depths of the sea lie “the gates of death” (38:17); this, too, is unknown to Job and is beyond his experience and comprehension. Nor has Job “contemplated the underworld’s vast expanse” (38:18), that whole realm that is beyond the present realm of earthly life is foreign to Job. Moving from the depths of the sea to the far off horizons, the Lord asks Job if he knows the way to “the dwelling of light” or the place where “darkness resides” (38:19-21). Next the Lord questions Job about the remote heavenly “storehouses” where the snow and the hail are kept (38:22-23). Finally, the Lord asks Job about the gentle west wind that brings the much-needed rain; and the east wind, the mighty sirocco, that parches the earth (38:24). The Lord wants Job to understand that there are vast dimensions of reality that are beyond Job’s comprehension and, therefore, due to his very limited knowledge and experience, it is wrong for Job to make definitive and disparaging statement’s about God’s governance of the world.

4. What kind of creatures does the Lord single out for consideration in 38:39-39:30 (printed below?) What does He want Job to understand?

Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of her whelps (40) when they crouch in their dens or lie in ambush in a thicket? (41) Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander around without food? 39 Do you know the time when the mountain goats give birth? Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn? (2) Do you count the months until they bear their young? Do you know the time they give birth? (3) They crouch down and bring forth their young; their labor pains are ended. (4) Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds; they leave and do not return. (5) Who let the wild donkey go free? Who untied his ropes? (6) I gave him the desert to be his home, the salt flats to be his habitat. (7) He scorns the commotion of the city; he does not hear the driver’s shout. (8) He ranges the hills as his pasture and searches for any green plant. (9) Will the wild ox be willing to serve you? Will he stay by your manger at night? (10) Can you hold him to the furrow with a harness? Will he plow the valleys for you? (11) Will you rely on him because of his great strength? Will you assign your heavy work to him? (12) Can you trust him to bring in your grain and gather it to your threshing floor? (13) The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully, though her pinions lack feathers for flight. (14) She lays her eggs on the ground and lets them warm in the sand, (15) unmindful that a foot may crush them, that a wild beast may trample them. (16) She treats her young harshly, as though they were not her own, not fearful that her labor may have been in vain, (17) for God did not endow her with wisdom or give her a portion of understanding. (18) Yet when she spreads her feathers to run, she laughs at the horse and rider. (19) Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? (20) Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting? (21) He paws in the valley, rejoicing in his strength, and charges into the fray. (22) He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; he does not shy away from the sword. (23) The quiver rattles at his side, along with the glittering spear and lance. (24) In frenzied excitement he devours the ground; he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds. (25) At the blast of the trumpet he snorts, “Aha!” From a distance he catches the scent of battle, the shout of commanders and the battle cry. (26) Does the hawk take flight because of your understanding and spread its wings toward the south? (27) Does the eagle soar at your command and build its nest on high? (28) It dwells on a cliff and stays there all night; a rocky crag is its stronghold. (29) From there it spies its prey, its eye sees it from a distance. (30) Its young feast on blood, and where the slain are, there she is. (Job 38:39-39:30)

The creatures singled out for consideration are those especially associated with the wilderness, animals that are for the most part beyond man’s ability to domesticate: animals that are incorrigible, like the wild donkey and the wild ox; animals that are dangerous, like the lioness; animals that are inaccessible, like the mountain goat; animals that enigmatic, like the ostrich. These are all God’s creatures who serve His inscrutable purpose and who are objects of His care. Thus the Lord confronts Job with the fact that He is the all-wise and caring Sustainer, governing His creation and providing for all His creatures, each one uniquely endowed and fitted by their Creator to serve His purpose and display His majesty.

5. How does God reveal Himself to Job? What does not happen to Job? See chapter 38 verse 1 and chapter 40 verses 1-5 (printed below)

Then Jehovah answered Job out of the tempest. (Job 38:1)

Furthermore, Jehovah inquired of Job: (2) Shall the one who raises frivolous objections contend with the Almighty? Let him who would instruct God now give an answer. (3) Then Job answered Jehovah by saying, (4) “I am insignificant, how can I answer you? I put my hand over my mouth. (5) I have spoken once, but I cannot answer—twice, but I will say nothing more.” (Job 40:1-5)

When He confronts Job, God reveals Himself by His covenant name: JEHOVAH, or, the LORD (cp. Deuteronomy 7:9). Although the Lord (JEHOVAH) answers Job “out of the tempest” (38:1), Job is not swept away; the significance of this fact is two-fold. First, Job is justified before God. Job’s standing before the tempest demonstrates his innocence, his righteousness (note Proverbs 10:25, “When the tempest has swept past, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever.”) Second, God is justified before the world. Job’s standing before the tempest demonstrates God’s justice, God’s righteousness; it demonstrates that God does make a distinction between the righteous and the wicked (cp. Malachi 3:17-18). Although Job is reduced to silence, he does not tremble in terror (contrast this with Isaiah’s experience as recorded in Isaiah 6:5). Because of his devotion to God—and that produced in him by the grace of God—God has made His servant Job to stand secure (cp. Romans 14:4, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”)