God is going to speak. He spoke to Adam and Eve and they hid. When he spoke to Moses, he had to remove his sandals from his feet. Elijah wrapped his face when he met God in the gentle blowing of a wind. The voice, perhaps more than the apparition, reveals the person. A lot has been said about God in the previous conversations by Job and the friends and Elihu, but His actual presence was not felt. Now that God Himself is showing Himself, Job is going to change. So it is with us.
In speaking of God we will not hear an explanation of the problem with which Job has wrestled. The problem is not even mentioned. God does not defend Himself against Job’s accusations of injustice. He does not come as the next Speaker to make a new attempt to convince Job, but He comes as the One Who speaks the last and decisive word in majesty. God comes simply as the Supreme.
God does not come with “new witnesses” (Job 10:17) to Job, which he was so afraid of. He also does not come in a storm to sweep away Job and no longer to hear him (Job 9:16-18). God does not come to make his suffering greater, but to provide pastoral care for Job in a very personal way. He does not show that to others. But when God has done His work, His care, to Job, He presents him to His friends as a changed Job. We see something similar in what the Lord Jesus did to Peter (1Cor 15:5a; Lk 24:34; Jn 21:15).
Job wanted to sue God for His role in the suffering that afflicted him. But when God appears to Job, the roles are reversed. God calls him to account. He asks Job more than seventy questions to which he has no answers at all. This proves that Job is incapable of understanding God’s ways with nature, let alone having power over it. If he does not even know and understand the natural coherence of it, how could he expect to understand God’s ways with man? Finally, this leads to the conviction of Job and to his breakdown. He despises himself and repents in dust and ashes (Job 42:6).
God is known from His creation (Rom 1:20). He speaks of His wondrous works, not of the works of Job. No mention is made of Job’s good works. God lets Job know by His appearance to him that He has not abandoned him. Nor does God blame Job for certain sins as the cause of his suffering. God only blames Job for the incongruous words he spoke in his bitterness during his suffering. This is exactly what Elihu did before, which proves that Elihu spoke according to God’s will.
In their conversations, the three friends and Job discussed a difficult problem. Everywhere in creation it appears that everything is subject to fixed statutes and laws. If the Creator deals with the whole cosmos according to recognizable rules, why shouldn’t there be such reliable rules in His dealings with people? God now shows how much man overestimates himself when he claims to understand His actions as Creator and Sustainer. And if he does not understand God’s actions in natural things, how much less so than in His ways with men.
1 - 3 God Answers Job
1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,
2 “Who is this that darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
3 “Now gird up your loins like a man,
And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!
One of Job’s closing words was, “Let the Almighty answer me!” (Job 31:35; cf. Job 9:35; 10:2; 13:3). That answer comes now (verse 1). But nothing of Job’s intention to approach the Almighty “as a prince” (Job 31:37) comes to pass. The answer of “the LORD” comes “out of the whirlwind”, not to crush Job by that whirlwind, but to answer him (cf. Job 9:17). God answers as “the LORD”, the Name which is also used in Job 1-2 and which is characteristic of God’s relationship with man. The LORD comes to him in an impressive way. Job must acknowledge with Whom he has to do. But he comes to restore him, not to destroy him. When Job was plunged into misery, He also spoke through a terrible storm. It killed all his children (Job 1:19).
The first words of God immediately make clear what He blames Job for (verse 2). God begins with the question: “Who is this?” Therein already resounds the great exaltation of God and the great nothingness of man, Job. They are not words of contempt or of wrath, but a reproach. They are words of indignation, for Job has had the audacity to darken God’s counsel by misrepresenting His ways. This indignation of God is understandable when we remember that we do not appreciate it when things are said of us that are not true.
With his words, Job has darkened God’s counsel, which is His government of the world, including the disasters that have struck him. God reigns in disasters and plagues, in which His hand is clearly visible. But His counsel is darkened by human approaches, explanations and reasoning about them. Job has also given his explanation. In doing so he has come to accuse God of injustice, and by doing so he has darkened God’s counsel.
He has spoken “words without knowledge” about God because he misinterpreted God’s actions. He believed he knew what God should have done, but did not do. We, too, must be careful not to assume that we know God’s will and way about situations in which someone or ourselves have ended up and which we do not understand. We do not know all the facts that God takes into account and uses in His actions.
God calls Job to gird his loins like a man (verse 3; Job 40:6-7; cf. 1Kgs 20:11). In this way God says to him, as it were: ‘Brace yourself to listen to My questions and then give the right answer.’ Job expressed powerful language about what he would say to God (Job 13:22; 23:4-5). God will test the power of his words by questioning him, by asking him a number of questions. God’s questions will place the proportions in the right light.
They are not questions that a man cannot understand. They are not ‘quiz questions’ to test Job’s knowledge, but educational questions. God’s goal is not to deeply make Job aware of his ignorance and thereby sweep him away, which would be very simple, but to bring him to the true knowledge of himself and of God. To grow in that knowledge is to grow in the true knowledge. That God comes to Job in this way and speaks to him in this way shows His mercy towards Job.
4 - 7 The Foundations of the Earth
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell [Me], if you have understanding,
5 Who set its measurements? Since you know.
Or who stretched the line on it?
6 “On what were its bases sunk?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
7 When the morning stars sang together
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
In verse 4 God begins with the questions. Each question makes Job a bit smaller, until finally the last trace of pride is gone. The first subject God touches upon is the creation of the earth, the abode of man (verse 4). Job complained that God moves and reverses the mountains, makes the earth wobble, and eclipses the sun and the stars (Job 9:5-7). But in order to be able to answer questions about creation, he must have been a witness or be able to bring witnesses of the creation. Job believed he had knowledge of creation (Job 9:5-10). Can he also say where he was when God “laid the foundation of the earth?” ‘Well, Job, say it, let Me know, “tell” Me. If you can, show that “you have understanding”.’
But Job, of course, was nowhere to be found at the time of the creation of the earth; he didn’t even exist. In this respect, Bildad was telling the truth when he said to Job: “For we are of yesterday and know nothing” (Job 8:9). Well, if someone has no knowledge of the way the earth is founded, he also lacks knowledge of the way the earth and life on it functions and is governed. Anyone who, despite this lack of knowledge, makes statements about it can only speculate and speak foolishness.
No one, not a human being, has been present at creation. By faith we know that the Son of God is the Creator (Heb 1:2; 11:3). Through Him all things exist (Col 1:16-17). When God speaks here of ‘foundation’ and in verse 5 of ‘the line’, it is of course imagery derived from everyday life. The earth is not literally founded on anything, and no literal line to measure has been used in the design and creation of the earth (cf. Job 26:7). God uses these concepts to make clear to us what He means.
The question in verse 5 connects to the previous one in which we hear the Creator and Sustainer of the universe talking about its design and construction. God asks Job who has set its measurements. Has He given God a hand in the design, or given Him a tip in setting its dimensions and proportions, so that all parts of creation can be perfectly harmoniously joined together by a proportional and balanced form and quantity? In addition to the fact that the earth functions, does He know how and why it functions? The words “measurements” and “the line” mean that God works according to a perfect predetermined plan.
Job simply has to say it, because he “knows” how the earth works. In any case, that is what he said. Or perhaps he helped to carry it out, that he held on the line when God was setting everything in its place? Job didn’t. He has not been able to give God any advice as to the dimensions and characteristics He would attribute to the parts of His creation. The lesson we can learn from this is that God alone sets the measurements of everything, whether it is creation or our days, our possessions, our gifts, or our suffering (Ecc 3:1-8).
In verse 6, God does not ask for a person, but for the way of working. It is about the durability of the work of creation. Can Job also say how God has worked to give the earth the stability it has? Can He make something that remains? Here too God uses imagery when He speaks of “its bases” and “its cornerstone”. Bases support a building and the cornerstone makes sure that the foundation is laid well. Through these images, God shows Job that everything He has built is solid and stable.
Those who were present at God’s creation works are the angels, who are called “morning stars” and “sons of God” (verse 7; Job 1:6; 2:1). Angels are sons of God – not by birth or adoption like New Testament believers, but – because of their creation by God. In the same sense, this is only said of Adam in the case of men (Lk 3:38). Angels were created before God created the visible universe. When God created creation out of nothing, that is, out of what is invisible to the eye, they saw it and cheered and shouted about it.
[N.B. The word “sang” (verse 7) is not a good translation. Angels do not sing. Neither did they in the fields of Ephrathah. Singing is reserved for people who have been redeemed by God from their bondage and their sins. See for example Exodus 15, where we hear about singing for the first time in the Bible, and the book of Revelation, where singing is mentioned for the last time in the Bible (Exo 15:1; Rev 5:9; 14:3; 15:3].
God did not create from nothing, but out of Himself. The angels had never seen anything of substance and everything that goes with it, such as form, color, and size. And suddenly it was there. They saw it because God called “into being that which does not exist” (Rom 4:17b), He called them forth. This brought them to an exuberant expression of their admiration for the wisdom and power of God, their Creator.
8 - 11 The Limits of the Sea
8 “Or [who] enclosed the sea with doors
When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb;
9 When I made a cloud its garment
And thick darkness its swaddling band,
10 And I placed boundaries on it
And set a bolt and doors,
11 And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther;
And here shall your proud waves stop’?
In verses 8-11, God is changing the subject. He goes from the earth to the sea and asks Job some questions about it. In those questions He shows that He is both the Maker and the Master of it. He dominates and controls the sea. The origin of the earth has been compared by God to building a house. For the origin of the sea He uses the picture of a birth (verse 8). Immediately at birth the sea shows its temperament of wildness and ferocity that must be controlled by God.
God does not ask Job any further questions about the sea, but describes His way of dealing with it. This shows His complete mastery of it and also His care for it. He even compares the sea to a newborn child who is completely dependent on His care (cf. Eze 16:2-4). He clothes the sea with “a cloud” and gives her “thick darkness” as “its swaddling band” (verse 9). This garment gives an appearance that increases the threat that has always existed to man from the sea. It makes him even more aware of his powerlessness and nullity in the face of that power full of threat.
If God does not set a limit on the sea and He who does not control it (verse 10), no one can prevent the sea from doing an all destructive work. Great floods by storms, tsunamis and spring tides are impressive proof of this. The water raged in the most terrible way when God used a worldwide flood to judge the earth (Gen 7:11; 8:2).
Is there a man who can tame or limit the sea? Man, with his abilities, can make all kinds of arrangements to prevent a flood disaster, such as the enormous Delta Works in the Netherlands, to protect its coasts. But a guarantee that a new flood disaster is out of the question cannot even give such masterly performances. Only God has the power to stop the water. He has set limits, and placed bolts and doors so that it will not go beyond the limits without His will (cf. Psa 104:9-10; Jer 5:22; Pro 8:29).
God never loses control of the sea (verse 11). He may occasionally allow the sea to break through those boundaries. Then He opens the doors to remind man of his total inability to exert any influence on the devastating mass and power of the water. Then He gathers the waters back into the storehouses designated by Him for that purpose (Psa 33:7) and brings them to rest.
God reigns over the sea simply because He “said” to the sea, that is, by His word. The waters obey the word of God (2Pet 3:5-6). He speaks to them as if they were a person who stands before Him, with their own rebellious will, and to whom He lets know what their limit is to keep it.
If God has complete control over the sea, what right does man, who did not create the sea and cannot control it, have to criticize God for the way He deals with it? We can apply this to the trials and sufferings that can affect the life of a believer. They do not happen by chance to him, but arise from ‘the womb of God’s counsel’ for him. But God is and remains with us in the trials (Isa 43:2). He has set a limit to need and misery so that the believer does not perish (1Cor 10:13). With His trials He keeps the pride of men in check, just as He keeps the pride of the waters in check.
There has been one moment in history when God has removed all bars and doors, bringing boundless misery upon Someone. That was when the Lord Jesus was made sin on the cross in the three hours of darkness. Then He proclaimed it: “Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me” (Psa 42:7). There He was immersed in the wrath of God over sin. We cannot gauge what that meant to Him. But we will worship Him eternally for undergoing God’s wrath over sin in our stead.
12 - 15 Day and Night
12 “Have you ever in your life commanded the morning,
[And] caused the dawn to know its place,
13 That it might take hold of the ends of the earth,
And the wicked be shaken out of it?
14 “It is changed like clay [under] the seal;
And they stand forth like a garment.
15 “From the wicked their light is withheld,
And the uplifted arm is broken.
After questions about the beginning of creation, the next topic on which God questions Job is the beginning of the day. Has Job, since he was alive, ever caused the day to dawn, that the morning began to shine, and the dawn to be seen (verse 12)? Has he been able to influence the alternation between day and night? Has he determined when and where that would happen? Also this question is not answered. God does not expect an answer either. All questions must lead Job to the only correct answer and that is that he no longer has any response to God’s government in his life. If he acknowledges God’s guidance, he doesn’t need answers.
Job and we too would never have come to that question. The rising and setting of the sun is so mundane, so self-evident, that we don’t even think about Who is behind it. Nor do we dwell on the fact that this process has been going on since creation, when God said: “Let there be light” (Gen 1:3). No man can make it day, and no man can break through that daily recurring miracle. Day and night belong to God (Psa 74:16).
The dawn of the day also has an effect on the wicked (verse 13). When it becomes light, it is to “to take hold of the ends of the earth”. When the sun rises, the whole horizon is suddenly illuminated. This gives the picture that it is as if the light is taking hold of the earth like a tablecloth to shake the crumbs off. The wicked are then seen here as the crumbs being shaken off the earth.
Here we see the effect of light on those who love the works of darkness. They hate the light (Jn 3:19-20), for it reveals their evil works (Eph 5:13). As soon as it becomes light, they flee the light; they fear the light and are driven away by it (cf. Job 24:17). God asks Job if he has commanded them to do so at dawn.
Another consequence of the dawning of the day after night is that the form of all things becomes visible again (verse 14). In the night everything is dark and the outlines fade away. The earth then seems to be a shapeless and colorless piece of “clay”. But just as the impression of a seal in the soft clay changes the shape of the clay into something recognizable, so the dawn of the day changes the shape of the earth into something recognizable. The “garment” of the earth, where we can think, for example, of the trees and flowers that we do not see at night, is seen. In the morning light we see the whole structure and beauty of the earth.
Opposite the recognizability of God’s creation works in the light is the disappearance of the wicked (verse 15). The daylight breaks through, but they do not benefit from it. On the contrary, they do not want the light and crawl away from it. Because they do not want to see the light, but prefer darkness, they will never see the light. Their “uplifted arm”, a picture of their rebellion against God, will be broken forever (cf. Num 15:30; Psa 10:15; 37:17). In the realm of peace, when Christ has risen as the Sun of righteousness, He will wipe out all the wicked from the land every morning (Mal 4:2-3; Psa 101:8).
16 - 18 Unprecedented Depths and Widths
16 “Have you entered into the springs of the sea
Or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 “Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
Or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
18 “Have you understood the expanse of the earth?
Tell [Me], if you know all this.
God asks Job if he knows anything of “the springs of the sea” and “the recesses of the deep” (verse 16). Has he seen and searched the recesses of the deep, so that he has discovered the springs from which the sea springs? And is he so at home at the recesses of the deep that he has walked there? The sea contains unprecedented depths where it is completely dark, where man cannot come, and if he could come there he could see nothing.
But to God these inaccessible depths hold no secrets. He walks there in perfectly familiar territory (Psa 77:19). Man lacks the knowledge of those depths, because he cannot get there. If he doesn’t know the natural depths, what does he know about God’s way in his life with the depths He sometimes leads him through? It may be enough that God knows his path of life and purpose, right through the sea and great waters of trials.
In verse 17 God asks Job about an even greater and darker depth than that of the sea, the depths of the realm of the dead. As long as someone is in the land of the living, it remains a mystery what exactly “the gates of death” are, how he should imagine them. He has no view or insight into them. By also speaking of “the gates of deep darkness” God adds to the state of death the aspect of darkness.
To be able to answer these questions, a person must first experience it. But once he has experienced it, he cannot go back to telling it because he is dead. Man doesn’t know from experience what death is or how he leaves life and how it feels. For God, however, death knows no secrets (Job 26:6). He knows exactly how death works.
The New Testament believer also does not know exactly how death works. What he is allowed to know is that death no longer has authority over him. It can happen that he dies. He doesn’t know how it goes, but he does know where he is going, namely to his Lord and Savior in paradise (Lk 23:43; Phil 1:23). The believer belongs to the church of which the Lord Jesus said, “and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Mt 16:18b).
After the depths it is about the widths. God asks Job whether he has “understood the expanse of the earth” (verse 18). The meaning of the question is whether Job gave special attention to the widths of the earth, i.e. the surface of the earth (as opposed to the sea), so that as a result he gained a thorough and extensive knowledge of them. Job had no knowledge of the fact that the earth is a globe and that the widest place on earth is the equator. For him the widths of the earth were what he saw around him. It should bring Job to understand that man’s field of vision is limited to the horizon, but that God oversees everything.
God concludes this series of questions with an invitation, or perhaps more of a challenge, to Job to make it known to Him if he knows “all this”. To Him it is not about the concrete answer to the individual questions, but about the answer to all questions, about their coherence, for all questions are interrelated. Job is silent and does not answer. In the light of what God asks of him, it begins to dawn on him that he has spoken “words without knowledge” (verse 2).
19 - 21 Where Does the Light Come From?
19 “Where is the way to the dwelling of light?
And darkness, where is its place,
20 That you may take it to its territory
And that you may discern the paths to its home?
21 “You know, for you were born then,
And the number of your days is great!
After an earlier question about the light (verse 12) God now asks Job if he knows where the light is when it retreats because of the incursion of darkness (verse 19). Where does the light dwell? Can he show the way that leads to that dwelling place? And can he also show the dwelling place of darkness? When it becomes light again, darkness retreats. If Job knows the abode, then he can guide the light to his area (verse 20).
God uses beautiful imagery here. He presents the light as on a journey. Light is always in motion and has no fixed abode, but is on its way. In contrast, darkness, the absence of light, is limited to one place, “its place”. By the way God speaks about this, it becomes clear how impossible it is for man to point out where light abides when it is night and where darkness abides when it is day.
“But,” says God ironically to Job, “of course you know, for you were there when they were created (verse 21). After all, you have been on earth for so long that you remember that light and darkness were separated’ (Gen 1:4). God thus says in a gentle and at the same time clear way that Job knows nothing about it at all. Here too we hear no reaction from Job. His silence tells a lot.
We know by faith that God is the source of light and that He created light and darkness (Gen 1:3-5). We know the difference between light and darkness through experience, through the laws we observe every day. But how one replaces the other, the cause of it, we do not know. That cause is God Himself, and He is unfathomable. That awareness leads us to adoration (Rom 11:33-36).
22 - 30 The Weather
22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
Or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 Which I have reserved for the time of distress,
For the day of war and battle?
24 “Where is the way that the light is divided,
[Or] the east wind scattered on the earth?
25 “Who has cleft a channel for the flood,
Or a way for the thunderbolt,
26 To bring rain on a land without people,
[On] a desert without a man in it,
27 To satisfy the waste and desolate land
And to make the seeds of grass to sprout?
28 “Has the rain a father?
Or who has begotten the drops of dew?
29 “From whose womb has come the ice?
And the frost of heaven, who has given it birth?
30 “Water becomes hard like stone,
And the surface of the deep is imprisoned.
God points out to Job “the storehouses of the snow” and “the storehouses of the hail” (verse 22). The storehouses are the clouds. There are no supplies of snow and hail in them, but there is the water vapor to form them. God only has to direct the weather conditions to create snow and hail in the clouds. Has Job taken a look at them to see how they are made?
We now know physically how snow and hail originate, but do we know why the weather conditions are such that they can originate? Man already knows a lot about weather phenomena, but is still far from understanding all phenomena, let alone causing or preventing them.
God’s use of natural forces is explained for Job in His use of hail. He informs him of the purpose He has with it (verse 23). That aspect is certainly not what a person thinks about. God says here that He reserves them in order to bring a “time of distress” over His people and thereby call them to repentance. Then He uses the hail as a disciplinary rod. He will also use the hail on “a day of war and battle” to judge the enemies of His people and deliver them. We have some examples of this in Scripture (Exo 9:23; Jos 10:11; Psa 18:12-13; Isa 28:17; Eze 13:13; Rev 16:21).
Can Job also say where the way is where the light is divided (verse 24)? When the day comes, the light will spread on earth. It seems to come from a gathering place in the east and then suddenly spreads over the earth. Can Job say anything about how this works? Does he know why in one season on one hemisphere of the earth the day is increasingly longer and in the same season on the other hemisphere the day is increasingly shorter? In fact, at the North Pole and the South Pole, it is alternately six months of day and six months of night. Man can observe this and, by studying the laws of nature, also indicate how the process proceeds, but the cause of this process is known only to God.
What applies to daylight also applies to the east wind. The east wind blows from the direction where the sun rises. It takes the sun’s heat and spreads it across the earth. What causes the wind to blow can also be explained physically. This makes it reasonably predictable from which angle the wind will blow and with what force. The fact that this wind comes from the east says something about the direction of the wind, but not which way the wind takes. It remains a mystery how the wind will spread. No one knows of the wind “where it comes from and where it is going” (Jn 3:8).
In verse 25 God speaks of cleaving a channel for the flood. This is also beautiful imagery, in keeping with God’s customary use of speech among men. People dig trenches to direct a large amount of water to places where it is needed. But who digs that channel in the air to disperse the mass of water of the flood? No human can do that. But to God, that’s a small thing. He “cleaves” the clouds, causing them to break. That’s how He makes the flood come down in various places.
Does Job have any idea who cleaves a way for the light of thunder? God suggests that a path in the dark cloud is opened for lightning. Lightning suddenly seems to break through the dark cloud. As if the path has been cleared of obstacles, it follows a zigzag course down through the sky. The question is, who gives it freedom and has prepared its way, which it then goes. Who else could that be but the Almighty?
The breaking open of the clouds has a purpose. It is “to bring rain on a land without people, [on] a desert without a man in it” (verse 26). This may in our eyes be a senseless action, a waste of precious rain that is so desperately needed elsewhere. But such an assessment proves our short-sightedness. Then, like Job, we are busy and judge God. Like Job, we then speak “words without knowledge”.
In verse 27 God explains why He does this. The realm where there is no man is a “waste and desolate land”. This description indicates that it is an exceptionally desolate area, desolate of people, but not of God. If there are no people to cultivate that desolate area, He Himself takes care of it. He saturates it with water, for there is greenery rising up there. That greenery serves as food for the animals that are there (cf. Psa 104:13-14a). God not only cares for the people, but also for the animals in the desert.
God asks Job if the rain has a father (verse 28). By this He means if Job knows what the origin of the rain is, who will make it rain. And does Job know who brings forth the countless drops of dew? Neither one nor the other is the work of man. Nor can people explain how they come into being. For faith it is simple. The God-fearing confesses as follows: “Are there any among the idols of the nations who give rain? Or can the heavens grant showers? Is it not You, O Lord our God? Therefore we hope in You, For You are the one who has done all these things” (Jer 14:22).
God is the father or progenitor of the rain, and He is also the mother of the drops of dew. In the same sense God also speaks of the origin of the natural phenomena “ice” and “frost” (verse 29). Both are the counterparts of rain and dew. The hailstones are rain frozen in the air and fall to the ground. The frost comes from the freezing of dew, which causes the formation of ice crystals. This is a beautiful sight and produces beautiful pictures. But is anyone able to lay the frost on all the trees? It is the work of God alone. He presents it as if He were its mother. The ice comes out of His womb and He gives birth to the frost of heaven. The result is that “the water becomes hard like stone” and “the surface of the deep is imprisoned” (verse 30; Job 37:10).
We are so accustomed to the idea that ice comes on the water when the temperature falls below freezing, that the miracle of it escapes us, and even more so that we don’t think about Who does it. But isn’t it a great mystery that a liquid mass of water is hidden, “imprisoned”, under a layer of ice in a short time? What created power is capable of making such a big change without making any noise? This can only be done by an almighty Creator Who shows His power in an inaudible way. The water through which ships used to pass now becomes as hard as a stone allowing one to walk on it, even with heavy loads.
31 - 33 The Celestial Bodies
31 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades,
Or loose the cords of Orion?
32 “Can you lead forth a constellation in its season,
And guide the Bear with her satellites?
33 “Do you know the ordinances of the heavens,
Or fix their rule over the earth?
God directs the gaze of Job upward, to the starry sky (verse 31). He places Job face to face with the vast universe. No one has ever been able to fathom the universe. With ever stronger telescopes one can look deeper and deeper into the universe. The numbers mentioned about the distances and sizes of stars and planets and the space of the universe are dizzying. We can’t comprehend that. And new galaxies are constantly being discovered. All those stars He created with His fingers and gave a place in the Universe. It determines man by the indescribable greatness of God and his own absolute nullity (Psa 8:4-5).
In his unbridled curiosity, man wonders where the boundary of the universe is. Many galaxies have already been mapped out, but, it is said, it is only a millionth part of the universe, at least of what they think the universe or cosmos is. And a boundary has never been discovered.
For faith, it is again simple. God created heaven and earth, the universe. He has covered the heavens with countless stars. He knows the name of every star (Psa 147:4-5; Isa 40:26). He mentions to Job the names of “the Pleiades” and “the Orion” (cf. Job 9:9). To this He connects the question of whether Job can bind the chains of one and loose the cords of the other. Can Job bind these celestial bodies so that they are stopped in their movement through the universe, or can He loose them so that they follow a path other than that prescribed to them by God?
Can Job cause “a constellation” to appear at the time appointed for him (verse 32)? Possibly it is southern stars who, when they appear, announce the summer. Or is he so powerful that he can “lead the Bear with her satellites”? That is a northern constellation of which the Bear is the brightest star and “her satellites” the less bright.
God has placed the constellations as “ordinances of the heavens” in the universe (verse 33). The ordinances are the laws He has set, the fixed location of stars relative to each other, and the fixed regularity with which the celestial bodies move in the universe (Psa 148:6; Jer 31:35-36). Does Job know these ordinances? Does he have insight into how they work?
When God created the stars, He said that they would be, among other things, “for seasons” (Gen 1:14). We can think of the seasons mentioned in Genesis 8 (Gen 8:22). This means that God determines His policy on earth through the ordinances of heaven. The appearance and disappearance (no longer being visible) of stars is also connected with the changing of the seasons. Can Job contribute to the execution of that policy established by God? Here, too, asking the question at the same time is the answer.
34 - 38 The Clouds and the Control Over Them
34 “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
So that an abundance of water will cover you?
35 “Can you send forth lightnings that they may go
And say to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 “Who has put wisdom in the innermost being
Or given understanding to the mind?
37 “Who can count the clouds by wisdom,
Or tip the water jars of the heavens,
38 When the dust hardens into a mass
And the clods stick together?
In verse 34 God comes back to the weather, to the clouds and the rain. He asks Job if he can shout so loudly that the clouds hear him and obey him, so that a downpour comes over him. Of course Job cannot do that. He can shout as loudly and as long as he wants, but the clouds will continue their way impassive without dropping a drop of water. They only listen to the voice of God. If we want it to rain, we must ask Him (Zec 10:1; Jam 5:18).
Neither is Job involved in sending and commanding the flashes of lightning (verse 35). God alone has authority over this (Lev 10:2; Num 11:1; 16:35; 2Kgs 1:10,12). They go and come at His command and stand in His service.
All that a man can see of creation, all the wisdom he has about it, has been laid in his innermost being by God (verse 36). No one has any insight into the works of God other than through the insight that God puts into his heart. Man is naturally darkened in his mind (Eph 4:18). As a result, he gropes in darkness about the origin of creation. Only when God gives him wisdom and insight, is he able to see how everything was created and also how everything is maintained.
Despite the wisdom and insight God can give a man, man remains incapable of counting the clouds by wisdom (verse 37). Only God can count the number of clouds, so that there are enough to pour out somewhere an amount of rain determined by Him. Also, no man can “tip the water jars of the heavens”, meaning that the clouds are like jars filled with water and to tip them to let the water out (cf. Job 26:8).
What the rain does with the dust and the clods is and remains a miracle for man (verse 38). The incoherent dust clumps through the water, and when it dries up, it “hardens into a mass”. Lumps that are hard become soft through the water and stick together. Man cannot imitate this process as such. It has not been invented by man. God has incorporated that process into His creation.
As an application we can see here a loving act of God with man. It is He who gives the rain. Man is dust (Gen 3:19; Job 30:19) and responds naturally with hardening (Eph 4:18) to the gift of God. God must first do a work in man; He must plow and prepare the ‘ground’ of his heart so that His word is accepted (cf. Mt 13:3-9,18-23). Job’s silence shows that God’s plow has already drawn deep furrows in his heart.
39 - 41 The Lions and the Raven
39 “Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
40 When they crouch in [their] dens
[And] lie in wait in [their] lair?
41 “Who prepares for the raven its nourishment
When its young cry to God
And wander about without food?
Until now God has spoken about different weather elements. From now on He is going to speak about His providential care for the animal world. From caring for and governing the innumerable celestial bodies in the immeasurable firmament, God now passes on to the world of animals. There, too, it appears that He cares for and controls everything in a way that cannot be copied by man.
Not only has He created the universe, He has also filled the earth with creatures that depend on Him in everything. They are found in all kinds of places, such as in the caves, in the field, in the mountains, in the sky and on a rock. God points Job to all kinds of animals. There are wild, ferocious, helpless, timorous, strong, bizarre, fast and fearless animals. God gives some examples and asks Job questions about them.
1. About the lions and the raven, He asks the question: How do they get food? (verses 39-41)
2. About the mountain goats and the deer He asks the question: How do they get young? (Job 39:1-4)
3. About the wild donkey and the swift donkey He asks the question: Why are they so free? (Job 39:5-8)
4. About the wild ox He asks the question: How can you tame it? (Job 39:9-12)
5. About the ostrich he asks the question: Why is she acting so strange? (Job 39:13-18)
6. About the horse He asks the question: Where does it get its strength and fearlessness from and why does it serve man so selflessly? (Job 39:19-25)
7. About the hawk and the eagle He asks the question: How do they know where to fly? (Job 39:26-30)
These animals illustrate God’s inimitable creativity and providential care. The animal world consists partly of species whose reasons for their existence are unknown to us. This has to do with the fact that they are species that live in the wild. They are not directly subservient to man. Humans cannot explain why animals live as they do. This is another mystery that only God fully understands. It also says something about the selfishness of man who wants to perceive the usefulness of everything for himself and only then can appreciate its existence. God shows that He creates such creatures because He wants them to, and they increase His glory, regardless of whether man has any use or appreciation for them.
God has equipped all these different animals with as many different qualities. In many cases, we don’t know how or why He did it. He also cares for each species and gives each animal what it needs. In the same way God has created a great diversity in the human race. Every human being is different. Every human being has a different course of life and experiences different circumstances. Why this is so, we do not know in many cases. One thing we can be sure of is that the “only wise God” (Rom 16:27) controls everything in this way. Whoever acknowledges this can rest in it.
The animals that God mentions are characterized by independence. They are wild, unrestrained and decide for themselves what they do. Man cannot subjugate them to himself; he rules over the animals in so far as God entrusts him with the dominion over them. But God rules them. It is the same with man. He feels autonomous in his thinking and acting and yet he is completely in God’s hand. And satan seems to enslave people arbitrarily, but he too can only go as far as God allows him. This thought will be continued in the coming chapters.
He begins with the lions, the king of animals (verse 39). Can Job give “the lion” what he needs? If you see how he hunts, he cannot be imitated. Or is Job able to “fulfill the desire of the young lions”? These young lions are blind for the first few weeks. They are helpless and unable to hunt prey. They are in a hiding place lurking around them (verse 40; cf. Psa 10:8-9). There God cares for them in response to their cries to Him (Psa 104:21).
The question of who prepares nourishment for the raven is also meant to show both the inability of Job and the omnipotence in God’s care (verse 41). Like the young lions, the young of the raven cry out to God for help (Psa 147:9). When they wander around without food and cannot find anything, God hears their cries as well as the cries of the young lions.
If man had to make sure that these animals got their food, they would die (Psa 104:27-28). Man is completely failing in this. He has no insight into what the animals need and he has no power and wisdom to provide for it if he knew. God possesses everything and gives the animals what they need. The Lord Jesus sets God’s care for the ravens as an example for us not to worry about food and clothing (Lk 12:24). He cares for us even more than He cares for the animals. Therefore it is better not to criticize Him in His care for us when things are different in our lives than we think they should be.