The Word Made Fresh
1Job replied, 2“I know all this is true, but how can a mere mortal be perfect before God? 3If you wanted to argue with God you wouldn’t be able to answer one question in a thousand. 4Wisdom is God’s very nature, and God’s strength can’t be measured. Who has ever succeeded in an argument with God? 5God can sweep away mountains, and they don’t even realize it when they are cast aside by God’s anger. 6God can shake the earth out of its orbit and the forces that guide it tremble with fear. 7God can tell the sun not to rise, and it won’t; or tell the stars not to shine and they won’t. 8God alone stretches out the sky and walks on the waves of the sea. 9God made the Bear, Orion, the Pleiades, and the star formations of the south, 10and does things we can’t possibly understand – marvelous things we can’t even count. 11God can walk right by me without me noticing it and move on without me being aware of it at all. 12If God sweeps something away, who can do anything about it? Who would dare ask God, ‘What are you doing?’ 13God’s anger cannot be turned back; even Rahab’s servants trembled with fear.
14“How can I choose the right words to answer God, then? 15I’m innocent, but how can I defend myself? All I can do is beg for mercy. 16Even if God should answer my call, I don’t believe my voice would be heard. 17God quashes me with a storm and continues to wound me for no reason. 18I can’t catch my breath for all this bitterness that has come upon me. 19God is my better in any contest of strength or any matter of justice. 20Though I am without fault my own mouth would betray me, and though I am not to blame, God would pronounce me guilty. 20But I am innocent! I don’t know how to defend myself. I hate my life! 22It’s all the same. Whatever I say, God can do away with the innocent as well as the guilty. 21When calamity brings death God ignores the harm it does to the innocent. 24The wicked are allowed to control the world. God shuts the eyes of the judges. If it isn’t God doing it, who is it?
25 “The days fly by, and there is nothing good in them. 26They float by like rafts made of weeds, like eagles swooping down on the prey. 27If I try to forget my troubles and put on a happy face, 28I soon am filled with dread because I know God will not pronounce me innocent. 29I will be condemned. Then why should I make any effort? 30If I bathe my body with snow and my hands with lye, 31God will throw me into filth and my own clothes will recoil from me. 32God is not a mortal like me. I can’t answer God. God would never even come before the court with me. 33There is no one who can serve as an umpire between us without any bias.
34“If only God would take this suffering away from me and take away also this dread I have of God that so terrifies me, 35then I would have no reason to fear God because I know I am not what am I accused of.”
1-12: Job agrees with Bildad’s last statement but argues that it is not possible for a mere mortal to be blameless before God. God is wise and inscrutable. He describes God’s might in ever ascending images: God cannot be resisted by the mountains, or by the earth, or by the sun, or by the stars in their constellations. And then, coming back down to earth he declares that God can walk right past him without his knowing it.
13-24: Rahab in ancient literature was a sea monster that symbolized the awesome power of the tides and waves. But even this mythological beast cannot stand up to the power of God, says Job. Given all that, what hope does Job have of even being granted an audience with God, let alone of having God hear his defense? Job’s misery convinces him that God is too aloof to bother with distinguishing between the wicked and the good. After all, if God doesn’t allow the innocent to suffer then who is responsible for the suffering of the innocent?
25-35: Job trembles before God because he is afraid that God considers him to be as nothing, a creature so small and insignificant that God doesn’t notice whether he is blameless or not. He begs for a mediator, someone who can make a connection between him and God. If he weren’t suffering, he wouldn’t be so afraid to defend his life. He insists that his state is not justified but feels that he cannot argue his case before God, for God is too mighty and too distant.
Job puts into words the utter helplessness that befalls us when we suffer with no hope of rescue or recovery.