New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Job 9:1 Then Job answered- The interpretation of this chapter depends upon discerning connections with the previous speech of Bildad.

Job 9:2 Truly I know that it is so, but how can man be just with God?-
We naturally ask what Job is agreeing with. Perhaps it is simply the statements immediately preceding this, that God will not cast away the blameless [AV "perfect"] and will judge sinners (Job 8:19-21). But Job has been driven further in his thinking- as an imperfect but relatively righteous man who is suffering the apparent judgment of God. And so he asks the question which is at the root of the book: "How can man be just with God?". Paul spends Romans 1-8 discussing this question, because it is at the heart of the Christian Gospel (see on :10). His answer is that which Job finally reasons himself towards, and which is finally revealed at the end by God's answers: by God's grace, through faith in imputed righteousness.

Job 9:3 If He wishes to contend with him, he can’t answer Him one time in a thousand-
The idea of God in legal contention is quite a theme of the restoration prophets. And the story of Job was, I have suggested, rewritten (under inspiration) for the exiles. God had contended with Judah and found them guilty (Is. 3:13; Jer. 2:9), but He would not contend for ever (Is. 57:16). All contention or answer back against Him, counter accusing Him, placing God in the dock, was clearly wrong and useless (Is. 45:9).  Instead He by grace would contend legally against the abusers of His people (Is. 49:25; 51:22; Jer. 50:34), so that the suffering servant would be justified / counted righteous by God, so that all legal contention against him was powerless (Is. 50:8). But this contention by God against Israel's enemies depended upon their repentance (Mic. 7:9). All this was finally seen in Job's experience; he was set up as a pattern for the exiles to follow, although ultimately they didn't follow it to the end.

LXX "God would not hearken to him, so that he should answer to one of his charges of a thousand". Job appeals for ‘witnesses’ (Job 9:33–35; 16:18–22; 19:20–27), an advocate in Heaven (Job 9:33), denies his guilt and demands a legal list of his sins (Job 13:19), he wishes for God to come to trial (Job 9:3), and thus Job is described as a man who has taken out a ‘case’ with God (Job 23:4; 40:2). Job 29–31 is effectively Job’s declaration of legal innocence and an appeal to God to hear his case more sympathetically (Job 31:35). And of course God pronounces a final legal verdict at the very end (Job 42:7), in response to Job’s earlier plea: “Sleeplessly I wait for His reply” (Job 16:22). It’s as if the whole experience of Job was [at least partly] in order to test out the Canaanite theories of ‘Satan’, suffering and evil in the court of Heaven; and also the various theories which arose to explain Judah's captivity in Babylon. The friends represent the traditional views of evil, and often make reference to the myths of their day about ‘Satan’ figures. They speak as if they are the final court – Eliphaz speaks of how the judges and elders of their day, the “holy ones”, had concluded Job was guilty, and that they, the friends, were right: “To which of the holy ones will you appeal [legal language]?... we have [legally] examined this, and it [Job’s guilt] is true” (Job 5:1,27). This is of great comfort to those who feel misjudged by man – above them in Heaven the ultimate Heavenly court is considering our case, and that is all that matters.

Job 9:4 God who is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who has hardened himself against Him, and prospered?-
As explained on :3, all attempts to put God in the dock by refusing to repent, or by simply accusing Him of injustice against sinners, were therefore inappropriate and pointless. Job is effectively denying Bildad's implication that Job had "hardened himself" against God. The same word is used of Pharaoh hardening himself against Yahweh (Ex. 7:3). It was Israel who hardened themselves against God (Dt. 10:16), leading to their exile (2 Chron. 36:13; Neh. 9:29; Jer. 19:15). Job was accused of having done this and was apparently treated as if he had done so; again in the spirit of the Lord Jesus, being treated as a sinner, experiencing the judgment for sin, when personally innocent.

Job 9:5 He removes the mountains, and they don’t know it, when He overturns them in His anger-
"Mountains" plural can be read as an intensive plural; the one great mountain which was to be removed into exile was as it were mount Zion; and it was the house of Judah which was to be overturned- but until "He come whose right it is" (Ez. 23:25-27). The friends only dealt with present realities before their eyes, as did the exiles- they failed to see the longer term perspective. What was removed and overturned could be returned and revived. That was the Divine plan. See on :6.

Job 9:6 He shakes the earth out of its place. Its pillars tremble-
Language used of the shaking of the earth and heavens of Israel and Judah at the hands of their invaders. See on :5.

Job 9:7 He commands the sun, and it doesn’t rise, and seals up the stars-
Language used in the apocalyptic message of darkness and destruction of the kingdom of Judah (e.g. Is. 13:10). The simple point is that all that was done by the hand of God and His word of prophetic command, and not because of supernatural forces of radical evil in the cosmos.

Job 9:8 He alone stretches out the heavens, and treads on the back of Yam-
God is therefore seen as far greater than the legendary sea monster Yam; see on :24. "He alone" has power; He doesn't share power with any cosmic 'Satan' being, all is under His control.

Job 9:9 He makes the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades, and the rooms of the south-
The surrounding culture believed (as many do today) that the stars influence life upon earth; Job emphasizes that God is the creator of the stars, and the present tense "makes" suggests that Job even perceived that the stars were not fixed but are part on an ongoing creation- something modern cosmology has finally come to realize. "The bear", Heb. 'the fool', alludes to the myth that there had been a rebellion against God in Heaven, and 'the bear' had been chained up in the sky for all to see. Job is deconstructing these myths; quite simply, God had "made" these constellations and placed them as they are by His sovereign power.

Job 9:10 He does great things past finding out; yes, marvellous things without number-
Job is moving closer to the great truths which God Himself will make explicit at His appearance at the end of the book. The friends assumed that meaning could easily be attached to event by "the wise"; whereas Job is driven to conclude by his sufferings that God's ways are "past finding out", and yet all of His ways are wonderful. I suggested on :2 that Paul's arguments in Romans 1-8 about 'how a man can be just with God' are consciously based upon the book of Job. In Romans 9-11 he cites Israel as the parade example of what he has been saying in chapters 1-8. And so it is appropriate that he concludes that section by quoting these words of Job: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past tracing out!" (Rom. 11:33). The "marvellous things" which Job sensed were somehow going on are verbalized and made explicit in Romans- they are the things of God's saving grace.

Job 9:11 Behold, He goes by me, and I don’t see Him. He passes on also, but I don’t perceive Him-
This is not so much a glum lament as an extension of the argument of :10; God is doing wonderful things, things connected with His grace, which are beyond human comprehension. And Job cites his own lack of perception as proof enough of that.

Job 9:12 Behold, He snatches away-
Perhaps a reference to the snatching away of Job's cattle. He doggedly insists that all his sufferings were from God.

Who can hinder Him?- The dramatic story of Job thrice uses the same phrase as in Is. 43:13, concluding that "who can hinder...?" God's way (Job 9:12; 11:10; 23:13). The exiles were to understand that no human opposition or discouragement can turn back or hinder God's purpose to save His people, even if they are as Job in suffering. His saving and restorative purpose will not be hindered, if we wish to identify with it.

Who will ask Him, ‘What are you doing?’- It is for God to ask this of sinful man (s.w. Gen. 3:13; 4:10); but not for man to demand this of God. It is for man to ask himself "What have I done?", and repent (s.w. Jer. 8:6). And yet it could be argued that Job does indeed ask this of God, and has to lay his hand upon his mouth at the end. In the restoration context, Israel as the clay were not to ask the Divine potter "What are You doing?" (s.w. Is. 45:9). To do so would be to strive with our maker.

Job 9:13 God will not withdraw His anger. The cohorts of Rahab stoop under Him- "Rahab" is a symbol of both Egypt and Babylon. GNB "God's anger is constant. He crushed his enemies who helped Rahab, the sea monster, oppose him". This language is clearly alluding to the helpers of Tiamat in the Babylonian myth; see on :24.

Job 9:14 How much less shall I answer Him, and choose my words to argue with Him?-
Job argues that God is sovereign in Heaven, with no evil rival (contrary to the view of the friends, and of many today). Therefore, who is a single man like Job to argue back with God?

Job 9:15 Though I were righteous, yet I wouldn’t answer Him. I would make supplication to my judge-
LXX "For though I be righteous, he will not hearken to me: I will intreat his judgment"; GNB "Though I am innocent, all I can do is beg for mercy from God my judge". The ambiguity of the original is perhaps intentional; for Job teeters between accepting his sinfulness, and yet claiming he is without sin. See on :35 for another example.

Job 9:16 If I had called, and He had answered me, yet I wouldn’t believe that He listened to my voice-
Here is spiritual depression in its classic form. The cup is always seen as half empty rather than half full. Even answered prayer is seen as irrelevant and no proof that the God who appears so distant has in fact responded to little me. The weight of suffering and the sense that we are suffering at God's hand "without cause" (:17), with no discernible meaning attached to event, outweighs all the evidence of His intense love and interest in us. 

Job 9:17 For He bruises me with a storm, and multiplies my wounds without cause-
"Bruises" is the same word translated "bruise" in Gen. 3:15, thus implying that he is receiving the result of the covenant in Eden for no reason. Therefore he is finally led to acceptance of his sinfulness. The Lord Jesus must have been sorely tempted to adopt the same false reasoning of His great antitype, but He surely had learnt the lesson that Job like Himself was suffering as representative of God's people and not as a consequence of personal sin. The references earlier in Job 9 to God spreading out the Heavens and creating the stars show Job's mind at this time was set early in Genesis (:8-10). See on Job 10:9; 13:20-22. This is yet another lesson which comes out of Job- we are suffering the results of living in a fallen creation. The only ultimate answer to that is through the work of the seed of the woman, the Lord Jesus, and the resolution is not going to come completely in this life.

God had accused the Satan figure of wanting to have Job suffer "without cause" (Job 2:3 s.w.). And here Job repeats this. Again we have the impression that he had been present at these discussions between the Satan and God; and the view of the Satan was in fact the view now of the friends, who effectively acted as the Satan figure who had influenced their thinking. The Lord Jesus likewise suffered "without cause" (Ps. 69:4; 109:3 s.w.). Israel did suffer for a "cause" or reason- they had indeed sinned (s.w. Ez. 6:10; 14:23). Job as their representative, like the Lord Jesus, suffered those same judgments but without a cause.

Job 9:18 He will not allow me to catch my breath, but fills me with bitterness-
"Catch" is the usual word for "return"; the complaint is that God doesn't allow Job to die, to return his breath or spirit to Him in death. The suggestion is that because God has total control over the moment of human death, there is absolutely no point in arguing back with Him. 

Job 9:19 If it is a matter of strength, behold, He is mighty! If of justice, ‘Who’, says He, ‘will summon me?’-
No human strength or argument about justice is relevant; God cannot be summoned to court by man and placed in the dock. Therefore, one can only accept His ways and trust that He is ultimately right. That isn't what Job explicitly says nor wishes to recognize at this point, but his sufferings and reflections upon them lead him to be just moments away from this conclusion. And when God expresses this more specifically at the end of the book, He is only verbalizing what Job has already come to tacitly realize. And for us too, God's revelation in His word often simply confirms the understandings He has led us to through our sufferings in life.

Job 9:20 Though I am righteous, my own mouth shall condemn me. Though I am blameless, it shall prove me perverse-
This can as well be rendered as AV "Though I be blameless", i.e. 'even if I were blameless', and likewise in :21. The ambiguity of the original is perhaps intentional; for Job teeters between accepting his sinfulness, and yet claiming he is without sin. See on :11,15 for other examples. God's opinion of Job was that he was "blameless" (Job 1:1). But as the drama progresses, Bildad argues that if Job were in fact "blameless" then God would not cast him away (Job 8:20 s.w.). Job absorbs this reasoning, and confesses that he is not "blameless" (Job 9:20,21 s.w.), and yet he is driven to the conclusion that the "blameless" and sinner are "destroyed together" by God (Job 9:22 s.w.). It's quite possible that in depression and periods of suffering, we can come to have a lower view of ourselves than that which God has of us; just as at other times we can have a higher view of ourselves spiritually than we ought to. There is true guilt, the guilt which we should take, and false guilt. And Job seems to have picked up the false guilt thrown upon him by Bildad. We too need to learn this difference between false and true guilt.

Those who are sure they won’t be condemned, taking the emblems with self-assurance, come together unto condemnation. Job knew this when he said that if he justifies himself, he will be condemned out of his own mouth (Job 9:20- he understood the idea of self-condemnation and judgment now). Isaiah also foresaw this, when he besought men (in the present tense): “Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty”, and then goes on to say that in the day of God’s final judgment, “[the rejected] shall go into the holes of the rock...for fear of the Lord and for the glory of His majesty when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth” (Is. 2:10,11,19-21). We must find a true, self-condemning humility now, unless it will be forced upon us at the judgment.

Job 9:21 I am blameless. I don’t respect myself-
LXX "For even if I have sinned, I know it not in my soul" may be alluded to by Paul in 1 Cor. 4:4. Even if we have a good conscience, it is not our conscience which will stand and judge us at the last day. It is before God's word that we stand or fall. Or perhaps along with GNB we can read this as simply the nadir of spiritual depression: "I am innocent, but I no longer care. I am sick of living. Nothing matters; innocent or guilty, God will destroy us".

Here and by implication in other places, Job effectively says that there is no point in serving God or striving for obedience to God. This is what the priests of Israel later said after the restoration, to whom this book was partly addressed in its later rewriting: "It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance?" (Mal.3:14). Elihu claimed that Job "hath said, It profiteth a man nothing that he should delight himself in God" (Job 34:9)- i.e. keep the commands of God, seeing that  the Hebrew for " delight" often occurs in the context of obedience to the word. The Malachi passage is more specifically alluding to Job 21:7,15: "What is the Almighty that we should serve Him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto Him?". These are the words of Job, complaining about the prosperity of the wicked who had such an attitude, and the carefree happiness of their lives: "Their children dance. They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ" (Job 21:11,12). It is in this that the Malachi context is so significant, for Mal. 3:15 continues: "We (the Israelites) call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up" . This was also Job's view. Notice that Job is probably implying that his prosperous three friends were among the wicked whom he is describing, thus associating them with the corrupt Jewish priesthood.

I despise my life- The grace of it all was that although he wanted to cast away his life (Job 7:16; 9:21), just as God's people cast away His covenant (Is. 8:6; 30:12; Jer. 6:19), God would not cast away His people in their exile and depression (s.w. Lev. 26:44), even if they cast him away. Job felt despised or cast away by God (Job 10:14) just as the exiles did, but this wasn't the case; God will not despise or cast away His servant people (Job 36:5; Is. 41:9; Jer. 31:37; 33:26).

Job 9:22 It is all the same. Therefore I say that He destroys the blameless and the wicked-
This and :21 are in response to the statement in Job 8:20 "Behold, God will not cast away a blameless man". Job appears to argue with this in his reply, insisting that he is not "blameless" or (AV) "perfect" (Job 9:20,21). He realizes through this false statement of Bildad's that in fact God cannot require utter perfection in order to save a man; and at the same time, He clearly blesses the sinful and brings calamity to the righteous. The conclusion therefore is that there is no direct connection between sin and present suffering; and the salvation of the righteous, none of who are "perfect", is by grace. And the narrative of the book of Job takes us beyond even that, suggesting that being blameless or perfect is only by God imputing that status to believers. For God's opinion of Job was that he was "blameless" (Job 1:1). But as the drama progresses, Bildad argues that if Job were in fact "blameless" then God would not cast him away (Job 8:20 s.w.). Job absorbs this reasoning, and confesses that he is not "blameless" (Job 9:20,21 s.w.), and yet he is driven to the conclusion that the "blameless" and sinner are "destroyed together" by God (Job 9:22 s.w.). It's quite possible that in depression and periods of suffering, we can come to have a lower view of ourselves than that which God has of us; just as at other times we can have a higher view of ourselves spiritually than we ought to. There is true guilt, the guilt which we should take, and false guilt. And Job seems to have picked up the false guilt thrown upon him by Bildad. We too need to learn this difference between false and true guilt. See on Job 8:6.

Job 9:23 If the scourge kills suddenly, He will mock at the trial of the innocent-
What began as what I called "the nadir of spiritual depression" in :21 now moves beyond that to outright false accusation towards God. For He does not mock at the "sudden" suffering of His people, such as Job experienced in the sudden loss of all he had. We marvel the more at God's final statement that Job had spoken rightly about Him (Job 42:7,8). That Divine comment may indeed simply be upon Job's statement of repentance. But all the same, we would expect God to clarify that was what He intended, and to offer some note that Job has indeed falsely accused Him. But God doesn't. He doesn't need to. He has completely justified Job by faith, clothing him with imputed righteousness. And His demonstration of His ways has in any case made the required point, and Job recognized that.

Job 9:24 The earth is given into the hand of the wicked. He covers the faces of its judges-
Again Job is driven towards an understanding that God will finally bring about a day of justice when He gives the earth into the hands of the righteous. He realizes that all creation is to some extent in his situation- groaning for the manifestation of the sons of God, as Paul puts it.

If it be not He, then who is it?- I noted on Job 1:1; 3:8 that a major theme in the book of Job is the deconstruction of the ‘satan’ myth. A key passage is Job 9:24: “If it be not he, who then is it?” (R.V.); or as the G.N.B. puts it: “If God didn’t do it, who did?”. After all the theories of ‘Who’s responsible for all this evil in Job’s life?’, Job concludes that the source simply has to be God – and not anyone else. If He truly is all powerful, then who else could ultimately be responsible? Job states that “the cohorts of Rahab [a Canaanite ‘Satan’ figure] shall stoop under [God]” (Job 9:13), clearly alluding to the helpers of Tiamat in the Babylonian myth. “God alone stretches out the heavens, and treads on the back of Yam” – the sea, or sea–monster (Job 9:8). See on Job 10:8.


Job 9:25 Now my days are swifter than a runner. They flee away, they see no good-
Seeing no good was the punishment upon God's exiled people because of their sins (s.w. Jer. 17:6; 29:32). Again we see Job suffering the judgment of sinners when he himself had not sinned. This was exactly what happened to the Lord on the cross.

Job 9:26 they have passed away as the swift ships, as the eagle that swoops on the prey-
Heb. "ships of reed", alluding to the swift skiffs on the river Nile. Perceiving how quickly life has sped by is typical of the thoughts of dying men. I argued on Job 1:1 that Job was indeed a historical person, and the language he uses in his depression and illness is poetically formulated, but all the same has absolute verisimilitude to the thoughts and feelings of an actual person in his situation.

Job 9:27 If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint, I will put off my sad face, and cheer up’-
As noted on :26, these thoughts are exactly true to life of a real historical person. He realizes that putting on a brave face and forgetting his sufferings for a moment- is just not going to work. He still suffers from a nagging sense of being wrong before God (:28), and it is this which is preparing the way for his final repentance at the end of the book.

Job 9:28 I am afraid of all my sorrows, I know that You will not hold me innocent-
LXX "I quake in all my limbs". That quaking was apparently in prospect of the future judgment which he feared, although at other times Job longs for that judgment day to come. This again as noted on :26 is absolutely psychologically credible. Job may be using the term translated "innocent" in the sense of 'acquitted' as it is in Job 10:14. He fears God will not forgive him at the final judgment; and this is all part of the build up towards the final bursting of the tension at the end of the book, when God appears, condemns Job and then justifies and restores him. And all Job's fears are proven ultimately unnecessary- but only because of God's grace.   

Job 9:29 I shall be condemned. Why then do I labour in vain?-
Job's reliance on works to bring justification with God is clearly seen here, as if to say 'If I've been condemned, all these good works I've done are vain- they won't give me the salvation I thought'. This again is part of the build up towards the final declaration of salvation by grace which we find in God's final revelation at the end.

Job 9:30 If I wash myself with snow, and cleanse my hands with lye-
This was apparently the attitude of the exiles. The question "How can a man be just with God?" is the same question as 'How can a man ever be clean before a perfect God?', and is repeated in this form in Job 15:15; 25:5.     They had considered themselves cleansed whiter than snow because of their obedience to some parts of the Mosaic law (Lam. 4:7), but failed to accept that such cleansing to be whiter than snow is only possible by doing what David did, and casting ourselves upon God's grace outside of justification by works (Ps. 51:7). Job was to learn this lesson at the end. It was this offer which was made to Job just as it was to Judah under judgment (Is. 1:18).

Job 9:31 yet You will plunge me in the ditch. My own clothes shall abhor me-
This again is Job allowing his depression to lead him to unreasonable statements about God, and not speaking right about Him. The fact we are sinners doesn't mean that God makes us dirty; we make our own clothes dirty. The word translated "ditch" is usually used in Job about the grave or "pit" (Job 17:14; 33:18,22,24,28,30); so the idea may be that all the same, for all his efforts to be righteous and cleanse his own sin, God will plunge Job into the grave at the end.   

Job 9:32 For He is not a man, as I am, that I should answer Him, that we should come together in judgment-
Job in his own righteousness and amateur attempts to fix up his own sins was unable to come "together" or "at one" with God in judgment. Job is driven to realize his need for outside help (:33), but by the nature of his situation that help needed to be somehow also "a man" who still could approach to God as his advocate. He was driven to his need for the Lord Jesus, who is presented as the ultimate answer to this need- a man of human nature, but sinless Son of God.

Job 9:33 There is no umpire between us, that might lay his hand on us both-
The word for "umpire" suggests 'one who is right', a reasoner, an advocate, one who pleads (s.w. Job 16:21), a reprover (Job 40:2 s.w.). Job's request is not simply for a mediator; he would have used a different word if so. He seems to want to put God in the dock, but knows this is not appropriate; he wants someone else to do this who can legitimately do it. And he is rebuked for this in Job 40:2.

Job 9:34 Let Him take his rod away from me-
"Take His rod away" is the very same phrase used in Gen. 49:10, promising that the sceptre (s.w. "rod") would not be taken away (s.w.) from Judah. Judah would always have God's rod or sceptre with them; David likewise takes comfort from the fact that God's "rod and staff" remained with him and were not taken away from him (Ps. 23:4 s.w.). We see here God's grace in not in fact answering every prayer of a depressed or misunderstanding believer; we can likely look back in our own lives and see examples of this. The exiles experienced God's "rod" (s.w. Lam. 3:1), and only those who passed beneath it could enter the restored Kingdom (s.w. Ez. 20:37). The desire to not experience the rod was therefore precluding a necessary step towards entrance into the Kingdom.

Let His terror not make me afraid- Job repeats this fear in Job 13:21, and Elihu alludes to it when he uses the same phrase in assuring Job that his terror will not make Job afraid (Job 33:7). The terror is perhaps "the terror of the Lord", the fear of condemnation at the last day (so Paul uses the phrase, 2 Cor. 5:11). That terror should "persuade men" to accept grace, Paul argues. To have that terror unexperienced by men would mean they had no persuasion toward grace.

Job 9:35 then I would speak, and not fear Him; but I am not in such a position within myself
- LXX "So shall I not be afraid, but I will speak: for I am not thus conscious of guilt". The ambiguity of the original is perhaps intentional; for Job teeters between accepting his sinfulness, and yet claiming he is without sin. See on :15 for another example.