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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Job 40

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The Power of God, the Power of Job, and the Power of Behemoth

A. God's challenge and Job's response.

1. (Job 40:1-2) God asks Job: "Will you now challenge Me?"

Moreover the LORD answered Job, and said:
"Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?
He who rebukes God, let him answer it."

a. Moreover the LORD answered Job: This continued God's challenge to Job, where God answered Job's heart without specifically answering Job's questions. It came after the extended time of fellowship, wonder, and teaching described in Job 38 and 39.

b. Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? Job, speaking from what he felt to be his God-absent agony, longed to contend with God. Yet after God appeared in His love and glory, Job now felt humbled about his previous demand. He rightly felt he was in no place to contend with the Almighty, much less to correct Him or rebuke Him.

i. We might say that Job and God had a wonderful time together in Job chapters 38 and 39; God taught Job all about His greatness using the whole world as His classroom. Yet in it all God remained God and Job remained a man.

2. (Job 40:3-5) Job is speechless before God.

Then Job answered the LORD and said:
"Behold, I am vile;
What shall I answer You?
I lay my hand over my mouth.
Once I have spoken, but I will not answer;
Yes, twice, but I will proceed no further."

a. Then Job answered the LORD: Job had prayed often throughout the dialogue with his friends; he was the only one of the five to speak to God. Yet now Job spoke after God's great revelation of Himself, and will speak with a quite different tone than he had before.

i. The different tone was not because Job's circumstances had substantially changed. He was still in misery and had lost virtually everything. The tone changed because while he once felt that God had forsaken him, now he felt and knew that God was with Him.

ii. Job also spoke with a completely different tone than he had with his companions. "It was Job's turn to speak again. But there would be no long speeches, no more rage, no more challenging his Creator." (Smick)

iii. "What a different tone is here! … The Master is come, and the servant who had contended with his fellows takes a lowly place of humility and silence." (Meyer)

b. Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? Job once wanted to question God and with great passion demanded to be brought into God's court (Job 31:35-37). Now, after the revelation of God and the restoration of a sense of relationship with Him, Job sensed his own relative position before God, and that he could not answer God.

i. Behold, I am vile: This "was a perfectly correct translation in the time of King James, because then vile did not mean what it has come to mean in the process of the years. In the Hebrew word there is no suggestion of moral failure. Quite literally it means, of no weight. Job did not here in the presence of the majesty of God confess moral perversity, but comparative insignificance." (Morgan)

ii. We must all be caused to see our "lightness" next to God. "Surely, if any man had a right to say I am not vile, it was Job; for, according to the testimony of God himself, he was 'a perfect and an upright man, one that feared God and eschewed evil.' Yet we find even this eminent saint when by his nearness to God he had received light enough to discover his own condition, exclaiming, 'Behold I am vile.'" (Spurgeon)

iii. "Job said, 'Behold, I am vile.' That word 'behold' implies that he was astonished. The discovery was unexpected. There are special times with the Lord's people, when they learn by experience that they are vile." (Spurgeon)

iv. All of the arguing of Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu could not bring Job to this place. Only the revelation of God could so humble Job and set him in his right place before the LORD. Job made his strong and sometimes outrageous statements when he felt, to the core of his soul, that the LORD had forsaken him. Now with his sense of the presence of the LORD restored, Job could better see his proper place before God.

v. It is important to remember that God never did forsake Job; that while He withdrew the sense of His presence (and this was the cause of profound misery to Job), God was present with Job all along, strengthening Him with His unseen hand. Job could have never survived this ordeal without that unseen, unsensed hand of God supporting him.

vi. To bring Job to this place, we need not think that God was angry and harsh with Job in chapters 38 and 39. It is still entirely possible - likely, indeed - that God's manner with Job in those chapters was marked by warm and loving fellowship more than harsh rebuke. We remember that it is the goodness of God that leads man to repentance (Romans 2:4).

vii. "Standing in the midst of the universe, a being conscious of the majesty and the might of the wisdom and power of God, I say with perfect honesty and accuracy, 'I am of small account.' Standing in the presence of the Son of God, and listening to His teaching, I find that I am of greater value than the whole world, and to the heart of God of such value, that in order to my recovery He gave His only begotten Son." (Morgan)

c. I lay my hand over my mouth: Job was now ashamed at the way he spoke about God and his situation. He would use his hand to stop his mouth, and he would proceed no further.

i. "Perhaps one of the most worshipful gestures of all is the uncommon one that Job here performs: covering the mouth with the hand. The act is a demonstration of total submission. One can fall on one's face and yet continue to blubber and babble. But to yield the tongue is to yield everything." (Mason)

B. God once again teaches Job.

1. (Job 40:6-7) God's challenge to Job.

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:
"Now prepare yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer Me:"

a. Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: God was still present with Job in the midst of the strong, untamable storm. He had not morphed into a gentler presence.

i. "The whirlwind was renewed when God renewed his charge upon Job, whom he intended to humble more thoroughly than yet he had done." (Poole)

b. Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer Me: In using the same phrasing that began this encounter (Job 38:3), God indicated to Job that He was not yet finished. There was more to show Job and to teach him from creation.

i. "Resume new strength, and prepare yourself for a second encounter; for I have not yet done with you." (Trapp)

2. (Job 40:8-14) God asks, "Job, are you fit to prove Me wrong or to save yourself?"

"Would you indeed annul My judgment?
Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?
Have you an arm like God?
Or can you thunder with a voice like His?
Then adorn yourself with majesty and splendor, and array yourself with glory and beauty.
Disperse the rage of your wrath;
Look on everyone who is proud, and humble him.
Look on everyone who is proud, and bring him low;
Tread down the wicked in their place.
Hide them in the dust together,
Bind their faces in hidden darkness.
Then I will also confess to you
That your own right hand can save you."

a. Would you condemn Me that you may be justified? Throughout Job's questioning of God, it could be said that he seemed more concerned with the defense of his own integrity rather than God's. This was natural (Job's integrity was under harsh attack), but not good.

i. We might say that Job fell into the trap of thinking that because he couldn't figure God out, that perhaps God wasn't fair. Yet in this larger section of God's revelation of Himself to Job, God has demonstrated that there are many things that Job doesn't know, and therefore was not a fit judge of God's ways.

b. Have you an arm like God? God here again reminded Job of the distance between Himself and Job. Yes, the sense of fellowship had been restored to Job; but it did not mean that God and Job were on the same level. There was still the distance that exists between God and man.

i. "In spite of its aggressive tone, this speech is really not a contradiction of anything that Job has said. In many respects it is very close to his own thought, and endorses his sustained contention that justice must be left to God. But it brings Job to the end of his quest by convincing him that he may and must hand the whole matter over completely to God more trustingly, less fretfully. And do it without insisting that God should first answer all his questions and give him a formal acquittal." (Andersen)

c. Then adorn yourself with majesty and splendor … look on everyone who is proud, and humble him … tread down the wicked in their place: God challenged Job to do these things that only God can do. As Job recognized his inability, it reminded him of his proper place before God.

i. " 'Can he,' he is asked, 'assume the royal robe of the Universal Monarch, can he array himself with honour and majesty? Can he with a glance abase the proud, and tread down the wicked? Has he the knowledge, has he the wisdom, has he the power, to seat himself in God's seat, and right the wrongs of the earth.' " (Bradley)

d. Then I will also confess to you that your own right hand can save you: With this, God strongly brought the point to Job. Since he could not do these things that only God could do (described in Job 40:9-13), neither could he save himself with his own right hand.

i. "In other words: Salvation belongeth unto the Lord; no man can save his own soul by works of righteousness which he has done, is doing, or can possibly do, to all eternity. Without Jesus every human spirit must have perished everlastingly. Glory be to God for his unspeakable gift!" (Clarke)

ii. "These verses are presented as an aggressive challenge to Job. . . . But they are lovingly designed to shake Job's spirit into realizing God is the only Creator and the only Savior there is." (Smick)

3. (Job 40:15-24) An example of God's might and Job's relative weakness: Behemoth.

"Look now at the behemoth, which I made along with you;
He eats grass like an ox.
See now, his strength is in his hips,
And his power is in his stomach muscles.
He moves his tail like a cedar;
The sinews of his thighs are tightly knit.
His bones are like beams of bronze,
His ribs like bars of iron.
He is the first of the ways of God;
Only He who made him can bring near His sword.
Surely the mountains yield food for him,
And all the beasts of the field play there.
He lies under the lotus trees,
In a covert of reeds and marsh.
The lotus trees cover him with their shade;
The willows by the brook surround him.
Indeed the river may rage,
Yet he is not disturbed;
He is confident, though the Jordan gushes into his mouth,
Though he takes it in his eyes,
Or one pierces his nose with a snare."

a. Look now at the behemoth: God gave Job a remarkable survey of the wonders of creation in Job 38-39, including a look at many remarkable animals and their ways. Now lastly, God gives Job a look at two remarkable creatures: Behemoth (Job 40:15-24) and Leviathan (Job 41).

i. The precise identity of this animal named behemoth is debated. Most think God had in mind what we would call the hippopotamus, one of the largest, strongest, and most dangerous land creatures in the world.

b. He eats grass like an ox … his power is in his stomach muscles: God seems to rejoice in His own creation as He describes the wonder of this remarkable animal, noting its strength, size, appetite, and habits.

i. The picture is clear. If Job cannot contend with this fellow creature, how could he ever contend with the God who created the Behemoth?

© 2007 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

Study Guide for Esther 1 ← Prior Book
Study Guide for Psalm 1 Next Book →
Study Guide for Job 39 ← Prior Chapter
Study Guide for Job 41 Next Chapter →
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