Job 9, Exegetical Notes from Abner Chou

Job 9

Job responds to both Eliphaz and Bildad. Bildad’s argument was basically cause-and-effect as we see it in science and nature. And Job agrees with him, fundamentally (Job 9:2-3).

Job 9:2-3, The Thesis

How can man be right with God? Job is restating both of their questions. He agrees that he can’t understand how man can be right with God. But here again, there seems to be no clash; it’s as if Job is talking around Bildad’s arguments. But his reasoning is different.

Job 9:3 shows his difference. The other two say man is always wrong and God is always right, therefore Job is wrong. But Job says he can’t be right with God because God is too smart and too powerful. Cause-and-effect does occur, but that assumes you understand the Cause, and the Causer, and Job says they don’t understand that even remotely enough.

This is the major limitation of science. We can observe effects and causes, but if the cause is too complicated, we can’t be too sure and guarantee the effect. Example: medical drugs and their potential side-effects. The cause is very complicated, so they can’t control the way it will effect your body, so they have a huge tag-line of possible effects. Another example: this is why evolution is simplistic. We try to wrap our minds around the causes in the world which have brought about all these effects, and in the end all we have are overly simplistic theories that don’t measure up to the full complexity of the data. The only way we can understand the cause is if the Causer tells you—this sets up the need again for divine revelation.

Job 9:4-10

Job starts to smack Bildad around. He talks about creation a lot, because he’s proving he is able to do science just as well—if not better—than Bildad. Job’s descriptions are some of the best in the Bible about God’s power over creation. God is both strong and smart, a paradox in man’s culture where it’s either braun or brain—well, God is both.

Job 9:4-7

Job shows how God transcends different levels of creation, from earth to the universe. He begins with the mountains (Job 9:5) which are the biggest, most stable thing on this planet. God transcends that.

Then he moves from mountains to the earth itself. God transcends that.

Then he moves to the stars, space, and the universe. God transcends that.

Job’s argument is that since God transcends the earth and space itself, we only see a little bit. Our observation is mega-limited. We don’t have the full picture like He does, and we never will. It’s part of our inherent limitation as finite creatures.

Job 9:8

Here he talks about God’s ordering power. His control over creation. God “smooths out the waves of the sea.” He literally has the power to control water in all its chaos and motion. Meditate on that.1

Job 9:9

God arranges stars to His liking. His transcendence is ultimate, and His control is perfect. His creation is only a fragment of who He is and does.

Job 9:10

“Great things, unfathomable…” denotes extreme quality, and “without number,” extreme quantity. God is a complex Causer and we can’t understand everything that’s going on. We are tempted to put God in a box, but we can’t. (As C. S. Lewis wrote in the Narnia series, He’s not a tame lion.) The danger here is that we reduce God to a cause-and-effect vending machine.

Job 9:11

If Job wanted to talk to Him, he’d have to find God first. He doesn’t even have access to God, so he can’t argue with him.

Job 9:12

Neither, certainly, can he restrain God! He just can’t win.

Job 9:14

How can you argue against God?

Job 9:15

God will always win. Even if Job was always righteous, God will always win.

Job 9:16

If God is so great, why would He even pay attention to my voice? It doesn’t matter if God is right or I am right or wrong. Job now lapses into anarchy.

Job 9:21-22

He says that God deals with the wicked and innocent in the same exact way. In the immediate sense, that’s true, but in the long run, this is completely false.

Job 9:27-28

The problem isn’t Job’s physical pain, it’s that he just doesn’t understand. He feels like God is not nice, that He doesn’t care about him. Job just wants to know that God is kind. How could God be good in this situation? (Answer: God could provide a mediator: Job 9:32).

Job 9:29-35

Job wants someone in heaven to talk to. The problem with God is that he is so high and lifted up, He is not like a man. Job is saying God has no empathy for me! I just want a guy who can put a hand on both of us. Job needs a man who is God in order to know that God cares. He needs a mediator to condescend and tell Job the Truth. This is Jesus.

The question isn’t about injustice and fairness—those are shallower questions of authority—but the deeper question is Does God still care, or is He sadistic, just laughing and joking about Job’s pain? A mediator could communicate that.

We should be asking ourselves these questions so that when we get to Gen 3:15 we see Job’s answer which God promised from the very beginning.

Application to Counseling

People often forget the power of the incarnation, and thereby lose the Gospel and its power. The Gospel shows us God really does care. The reality of the incarnation shows you the extreme lengths God went through to understand your pain, to communicate with you. Job went through pain just like you, but he didn’t know what you know, so you can learn from him.

The DR Principle doesn’t work because we can’t see the whole picture. You can’t factor in everything, including what Job doesn’t know, in order to get out the right result. So don’t try to make sense of pain in that way; you will only fail and offend. The answer is the Gospel.

  1. In the NT (Mark 4:35-41), a man actually does this, for us to behold and marvel, in the Sea of Galilee. ↩︎

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