Because of the length of chapter 38, we will examine it in two parts – the first of which in this blog will be verses 1-21. All throughout the book, Job has been requesting an audience with God, in order to plead his case. And God comes abruptly to him in this chapter. The first verse starts out -with “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:…” But it is the second verse that is the source of some debate.
The second verse reads “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” At first reading, it appears that in that sentence, He is referring to Job, and that seems to be the majority opinion. But some good arguments have been made that God is actually referring to the words of Elihu. As one commentator wrote, assigning these words to Job is a direct contradiction of Job 42:7-8, which clearly states that Job has spoken correctly of God. The debate goes on, and there are merits to both arguments (although some have even questioned the authenticity of the Elihu speeches, alleging that they were not part of the original text. We flatly reject that suggestion).
Arguments on both sides of this question are compelling, and although we lean toward the position that the Lord was indeed addressing Elihu, we must confess uncertainty. In the end, despite some truth, Elihu just got too much wrong (see previous posts on Chapters 35 and 37). Either way, the lessons of chapter 38 are the same, so the point is largely academic. That Elihu’s speeches add value to the book, is a concept we support for reasons listed in previous posts on those chapters.
The Lord begins His dialog with Job, asking in several different ways where Job was when he gave birth to the universe, and what Job understands about the undertaking. Some take the statements about the earth’s foundation, where its “bases” were sunk, and the cornerstone being laid (verse 6) to mean that the Bible is assuming the world is flat. But like much of the “Wisdom Literature” the Book of Job is full of imagery; and like any poetry, one should consider that when studying these verses. Written long before mankind in general knew the word was round, many passages in the Bible demonstrate that God’s word was far ahead scientifically. For examples of passages about a round earth, see Job 26:10 and Isaiah 40:22.
Verse 7 speaks of the “sons of God” shouting for joy when God created the world. For this term, we can refer back to Job 1:6, which makes the same reference. See this previous post about chapter one for our comments about that. Keep in mind also that there is much we would like to know about many things not of this world, such as angels and demons, cherubim and seraphim, and urum and thummin that the Bible does not fully explain. God has His own reasons for what is included in the Scriptures and what is not. Such explanation is not necessary for salvation and instruction in same.
At first look at the remaining verse leading to verse 21, we may think that we know much more about some of those things than they did in Job’s time. But verse 17 reminds us that we know nothing about the experience of such things as death, and the state of our awareness in the immediate time afterward:
“Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
Declare, if you know all this.”
When we take up this chapter again, we will begin at verse 22.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com. For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.