In chapter 41, God gives His fullest explanation as to why evil exists in a creation made by a good God.
The fall of Satan (i.e. Leviathan) as imagined by William Blake.
Just as man cannot master Behemoth, he cannot master Leviathan. For reasons we already covered in chapter 3, we can be confident that Leviathan is a type for Satan. The picture here is one of a dragon, used to great effect in the Book of Revelation.
When God asks Job whether he can “draw out Leviathan with a fish hook” or “put a rope in his nose” (Job 41:1-2), we can infer two things. First, God can and man cannot. Second, God can draw out Satan and put him to work like an ox with a rope in its nose.
We saw this in chapters 1 and 2. God set Satan up, encouraging him to target Job and even gave Satan great leeway in his work. We are nearing the end now and we are about to see the resolution: God is glorified, Satan is proved wrong, and Leviathan has been used again to work out the sovereign purposes of God even when he did not want to.
The scene in heaven appears to permeate the early section of chapter 41. Satan will not speak kindly to man out of fear or beg him for anything (Job 41:3). Yet, this is exactly what Satan did to God in chapters 1 and 2! While man cannot lightly bargain with Leviathan (Job 41:5-6), God did so in the first two chapters, using him like a play thing. Satan will not make a covenant with man (Job 41:4), but perhaps we may infer here even in his rebellion Satan still serves the purposes of God as does every angel. In fact, as we have belabored the point here, all things serve the purposes of God. Satan in the beginning made a covenant with God to serve Him, but then rebelled. However, now even in his rebellion acts as a slave of God accomplishing His purposes.
Oh, the depths of the judgments of God! For He separates the light from the darkness, He ordains both good and evil, and He brings glory to His name through it. Indeed God takes “no pleasure in wickedness” (Ps 5:4), yet He “causes well being and calamity” (Is 45:7), the very same calamity brought upon by Leviathan and Behemoth. Indeed, “is not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill [literally “evil/bad” in the Hebrew: רעה רע or raw-aw’] go forth” (Lam 3:38)?
As Augustine observed, even man’s power to sin lays in God’s hands and not his own:
For what could be said more plainly than what is actually said, “As concerning the gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sakes?” [Rom 11:28] It is, therefore, in the power of the wicked to sin; but that in sinning they should do this or that by that wickedness is not in their power, but in God’s, who divides the darkness and regulates it; so that hence even what they do contrary to God’s will is not fulfilled except it be God’s will (On Predestination of the Saints, Chapter 33).
God is not unfair in this. Some will defend man, saying that he was “manipulated to do wrong” by Satan. Man in his own heart is sinful and is enticed by Leviathan to act upon his own thoughts. The consequences that man suffers as a result are well deserved. Just as Hitler is guilty of killing millions, the murderers he used are also guilty of killing millions. For the one who entices to evil is wicked just as the ones so enticed are wicked.
After making these points, God essentially continues to reiterate the idea that moves on to speak of how man cannot master Satan for the majority of the chapter (Job 41:7-8, 12-32). Indeed, without God putting a hedge around Job, he was powerless to prevent the ravages of Leviathan. Leviathan is an impenetrable, imposing dragon that breathes fire. He is wicked, with “a heart as hard as a stone” (Job 41:24). While man cannot pierce and slay Leviathan (Job 41:7), God can (Is 51:9).
Interestingly enough, though the battle with Leviathan for man is terrifying (Job 41:8), the Beast’s body parts are never described with an offensive quality. No talons, claws, or even a fist are mentioned. His lips are mentioned as terrifying, but his teeth are merely mentioned as being in between them (Job 41:14). He laughs at javelins but he himself does not wield a weapon (Job 41:28-30). The same is true of his lackey Behemoth (Job 40:15-18).
Why are mentions of aggression or body parts associated with such noticeably absent? Clearly, the Beast is powerful and cannot be mastered by man, but he is powerless to destroy the eternal soul of the believer: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39).
Leviathan cannot separate believers from the source of righteousness: their union with Christ. Those “whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Rom 8:30). The Christian is already justified. Indeed, he is already glorified sitting in the heavenly realms. The Christian cannot be unjustified, unglorified, or have his seat in heaven taken away, because he is already seated in the heavenly realms.
It is as if God is telling Job, “Yes, I expose you to suffering, but can’t you see that Satan is the source of it? I am master over Satan, I permit him to do his work and I am master over him. He will not be allowed to truly harm you. Can’t you see, though you lose everything, you did not lose your faith? In the loss of your physical blessings you may be ‘sorrowful yet always rejoicing,…poor yet making many rich,…having nothing yet possessing all things’ (2 Cor 6:10). So, ‘he who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it’ (Matt 10:39).”
As we touched on in chapter 40, Job is never given a reason for his suffering that is really “satisfying” to us. That is because we want an answer that revolves all around us. Yet, in universe made by God is Theocentric, not Anthropocentic. This is what God says:
Behold, your expectation is false;
Will you be laid low even at the sight of him?
No one is so fierce that he dares to arouse him;
Who then is he that can stand before Me?
Who has given to Me that I should repay him?
Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine (Job 41:9-11).
Job thought during his speeches that if it were not for God, left to himself he could have avoided the consequential suffering. God’s response is that any expectation Job has of going out on his own and confronting evil all alone is foolish. The sight of Satan alone would be enough to subdue Job.
Yet, God can rouse Leviathan and easily make mincemeat of him. If nothing under the sun can boast of this, than who can stand before God? No one.
It is from a position of strength that God gives His final answer to the question of “why do bad things happen to good people:” it is His prerogative to do as He pleases.
People do not like that answer, but if we really meant “not our will, but your will be done” it intuitively makes the most sense. If God wills that Leviathan and the attendant evils along with him exist, then God knows best. Everything under heaven belongs to Him. Is He in our debt that He is compelled to do it our way and not His own? Shouldn’t we really mean it when we pray “Your will be done, not ours?”
In short, God is saying that it is His right to deal with man the way He knows is best. He reserves the right to do as He pleases. Think about this for a moment: man always thinks of his own rights. Arminians and synergists will argue that it is not “right” that all men are not given mercy. Job thinks he has the “right” to not have God remove the hedge of protection around it.
But, who really has “rights” in this universe? Man to dictate what He wants from God? Of course not.
“[D]oes not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use” (Rom 9:21)? If the basis of God’s justice in showing mercy to some and giving others their just deserts is that it is a matter of God’s prerogative, then the whole issue is settled. All things are a matter of God acting as He pleases and it is His right to do so.
So, this means that Leviathan and his attendant evils are part of God’s plans. Man’s own self-deception in worshiping Leviathan, the Satanic Beast, is explicitly consistent with His purposes. “For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled” (Rev 17:17). As Augustine observes, God appears to sustain Leviathan for a time to fulfill His righteous purposes:
But the goodness of the Creator never fails either to supply life and vital power to the wicked angels (without which their existence would soon come to an end); or, in the case of mankind, who spring from a condemned and corrupt stock, to impart form and life to their seed, to fashion their members, and through the various seasons of their life, and in the different parts of the earth, to quicken their senses, and bestow upon them the nourishment they need. For He judged it better to bring good out of evil, than not to permit any evil to exist (The Handbook on Hope, Faith, and Love, Chapter 27).
Nor can we doubt that God does well even in the permission of what is evil. For He permits it only in the justice of His judgment. And surely all that is just is good. Although, therefore, evil, in so far as it is evil, is not a good; yet the fact that evil as well as good exists, is a good. For if it were not a good that evil should exist, its existence would not be permitted by the omnipotent Good, who without doubt can as easily refuse to permit what He does not wish, as bring about what He does wish (The Handbook on Hope, Faith, and Love, Chapter 96).
It is true that Satan rules over the earth for a time and terrorizes man with his intimidating qualities. For a time he is proud as lord over the demons and wicked men (Job 41:25, 34). He sows chaos in the sea (Job 41:31) and leaves his trail wherever he goes from times of old (Job 41:32). Though “nothing on Earth is like” Leviathan and God has “made [him] without fear” (Job 41:33), he is destined to fail in his mission. God fulfills His purposes by exploiting the wickedness and power of Leviathan and man alike. He is righteous in doing so and brings about the greatest possible good so that He may work all things for good.
God leaves the conversation on this note, sort of like He did when He stopped revealing Scripture at the end of the Old Testament. There was something missing from the story: a resolution. We know the whole counsel of God is summed up in Jesus Christ. By His grace, we will see the subsequent chapter in the same light, thus resolving why suffering exists and how it points us to Jesus Christ.