Job gagged Bildad (Job 26:1-4) and overruled Bildad’s insight into the majesty of God over the lights in the sky with his praise of the majesty of God over the realm of death (Job 26:5-14). After that the friends remain silent – they have finished.
Job now begins a monologue that runs through to Job 31. In Job 27 he addresses his three friends in a few sentences one more time. His tone is calmer than in the previous chapters; the language remains fascinating.
1 - 6 Job Maintains His Righteousness
1 Then Job continued his discourse and said,
2 “As God lives, who has taken away my right,
And the Almighty, who has embittered my soul,
3 For as long as life is in me,
And the breath of God is in my nostrils,
4 My lips certainly will not speak unjustly,
Nor will my tongue mutter deceit.
5 “Far be it from me that I should declare you right;
Till I die I will not put away my integrity from me.
6 “I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go.
My heart does not reproach any of my days.
The words of verse 1 appear here for the first time (cf. Job 29:1). It means that the usual order of speech is broken here. It would have been Zophar’s turn, but he is silent. So Job takes the word “continues”. But it is not an answer to a speech of one of the friends that would have preceded it.
Job begins his monologue with swearing an oath (verse 2), but in his words his struggle and incomprehension about what God has done to him resounds. He is firmly convinced of God as the Living. What has happened to him, has been done to him by God. But he does not agree. God has taken away his right. This is incomprehensible to him, because he sees no reason for it in his life. Although he struggles with that, he knows that God as the Living keeps him alive and supports him. The Almighty has caused him bitterness, but he does not know for what he has earned it. Similar words can be found with other believers, for example with Naomi (Rth 1:20).
What Job says is the saying of someone who has a good conscience. But there is a self-righteousness in it that does not match the self-knowledge of someone who is in God’s presence. Job is not there yet. He struggles and at the same time has the certainty that God has given him life. As long as he lives, he knows that God keeps him alive (verse 3). He owes his life, his breath, to God.
As long as he lives, he will not speak injustice with his lips, nor will his tongue utter deception (verse 4). He will never give up the conviction of his innocence. His friends have tried everything to convince him that he is wrong. But there is no question of him agreeing with them (verse 5). The friends have taken as their starting point the misery in which he finds himself. Their reasoning was simple: God punishes sins with suffering; Job suffers, so he must have sinned; he even suffers very much, so he must have sinned very much.
Job will reject this accusation until his last breath, until he gives up the spirit. If he did agree with them, he would lie, he would cheat with his tongue, he would give up his righteousness, for he really has not done what they claim. He will hold on to his righteousness and underline that statement by adding that he will not let it go (verse 6).
Job can look back on every day of his life as a day on which he has served God in sincerity. There is no contempt in his heart for a day that would not have been well spent. His life is an open book, against which there can be no accusation. As long as he lives, he will hold on to his righteousness and thus to the fact that he suffers innocently.
7 - 12 Contrast With the Character of a Wicked
7 “May my enemy be as the wicked
And my opponent as the unjust.
8 “For what is the hope of the godless when he is cut off,
When God requires his life?
9 “Will God hear his cry
When distress comes upon him?
10 “Will he take delight in the Almighty?
Will he call on God at all times?
11 “I will instruct you in the power of God;
What is with the Almighty I will not conceal.
12 “Behold, all of you have seen [it];
Why then do you act foolishly?
In verses 7-10 Job speaks of the fate of the wicked and the godless or hypocrite as always presented by the friends and applied to Job. He agrees with what the friends have said, for this is indeed the general rule. God is a judge of evil. Job, however, applied this truth in a very different way than the friends did. We see this from verse 11 onwards, when he teaches about “the power [or: hand] of God”, i.e. the acts of God.
Job describes his friends as “my enemy” and “my opponent” (verse 7). They have addressed him “as the wicked”, “as the unjust” and in this way approached him as an enemy and an opponent. He wants to make it clear to them how impossible it is to confuse someone like him with a wicked one and someone who does wrong. He is not such a person.
Indeed, for the godless or the hypocrite – for the friends Job is such a person – there is no hope if God cuts off his life and takes away his soul, his life (verse 8). But Job is not godless or a hypocrite, nor is he without hope. He keeps hoping for God, right through all the questions he has about his suffering.
God does not hear the cry of the godless or hypocrite for help when he calls to Him in his distress (verse 9). The reason for this is that the godless has no real relationship with God, the Almighty. He doesn’t want that either, he doesn’t rejoice in Him (verse 10). That is why he does not call upon God at all times, but only when distress comes upon him. This is different with Job. Job does indeed delight in the Almighty and calls upon Him at all times. He did the same when he lived in prosperity. Although Job does not (yet) receive an answer to his call for help, he knows that God hears him.
Instead of being taught by friends about the ways of God, Job can give them some instruction “concerning the power [or: hand] of God” (verse 11). He reverses the roles. He knows the Almighty and will not hide from them what he knows of Him. Surely they have seen for themselves what he used to be like, that there was no injustice with him (verse 12)? Why then, do they hold fast to their acting “foolishly” or, as it also can be translated, their speaking “vanity”, their empty talk, their hollow phrases?
13 - 18 The Sure Destiny of the Wicked
13 “This is the portion of a wicked man from God,
And the inheritance [which] tyrants receive from the Almighty.
14 “Though his sons are many, they are destined for the sword;
And his descendants will not be satisfied with bread.
15 “His survivors will be buried because of the plague,
And their widows will not be able to weep.
16 “Though he piles up silver like dust
And prepares garments as [plentiful as] the clay,
17 He may prepare [it], but the just will wear [it]
And the innocent will divide the silver.
18 “He has built his house like the spider’s web,
Or as a hut [which] the watchman has made.
Job clearly tells them that the reason everything was taken away from him by God does not lie in the fact of a sinful life that deserved God’s wrath. He is not a wicked man. God has another part for “the wicked man” (verse 13). “The tyrants” receive from God “the inheritance.” Zophar has already stated this in his second speech (Job 20:29). It is something they do not necessarily receive now, in this life, but it may also be after their death. But the Almighty keeps it with Himself until the moment of the account, irrespective of whether that moment is already on earth or only after this life (cf. 1Tim 5:24).
The wicked and the tyrants may have numerous descendants, but they will die a violent death or starve to death (verse 14). We have an example of this in what happened to the children of Haman, the hater of the Jews (Est 5:11; 9:6-10). “Be buried because of the plague” means to die by the pestilence (verse 15). The widows will not shed a tear. They may even be happy to be rid of him.
Of his “silver” and his beautiful “garments”, both of which he has in enormous quantities, he himself will have no lasting pleasure. They will be for “the just” and “the innocent” (verses 16-17; Pro 13:22; Est 8:1-2).
A house built “like the spider’s web” is a house that collapses just as quickly and easily as the web of a spider (verse 18; cf. Job 4:19). It is no more than a makeshift hut that a watchman makes in the vineyard during grape harvest time. Thus is the house of the wicked.
19 - 23 Driven Away in His Malice
19 “He lies down rich, but never again;
He opens his eyes, and it is no longer.
20 “Terrors overtake him like a flood;
A tempest steals him away in the night.
21 “The east wind carries him away, and he is gone,
For it whirls him away from his place.
22 “For it will hurl at him without sparing;
He will surely try to flee from its power.
23 “[Men] will clap their hands at him
And will hiss him from his place.
The wicked rich lays down to sleep without realizing that it may be for the last time (verse 19). When he opens his eyes, everything is gone. The Lord Jesus tells of such a person in the parable of the rich fool (Lk 12:16-21). His eyes, which for so long were closed to all that bears witness to God, will open in another world. The Lord Jesus tells of another rich man who lifted up his eyes in Hades, in the pains (Lk 16:23), which, by the way, is not a parable, but the real condition after death. Job describes this end calmly, because he knows that this is not his end.
Verses 20-21 are reminiscent of the parable the Lord Jesus tells of a house built on the sand by a fool (Mt 7:24-27). When the water currents and winds crash against it, it collapses. There is also a sudden aspect. The wicked man is suddenly struck and taken away by a scorching wind or a violent storm. The horrors come upon him, while it is impossible to avert them or resist them. It says so impressively: “And he is gone.”
All these disasters are sent by God over the wicked (verse 22). He will want to flee quickly, but that is impossible. If God does not spare, there is no escape. Thus God has not spared His Son, but judged Him in the place of all who believe in Him. But He does not spare the stubborn sinner who continues to resist Him (2Pet 2:4-5; Jn 3:36).