In our previous episodes in the Book of Job, we learned that the temporary existence of evil may in fact be good, as God works all things in accordance with His will. Further, we saw how Job suffered as a result of God’s wager with Satan. That look behind the scenes gave us an insight into how God “works all in all the devil and the man” like Luther said. God works all-in-all by placing hedges that give evil a certain degree of free reign. However, it is only free inasmuch as God let’s it get as far as the hedge but no farther.
Now, picking up where we left off, Job is initially successful in avoiding any appearance of evil as a result of his trials. After disaster after disaster befalls Job, he still worships the Lord and declares, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21–A lot like Michael’s response). There are commentaries that make note that Job is being naïve or shallowly rationalizing evil. However, such an interpretation is unnecessary. In the next verse it says that, “Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God” (Job 1:22). Hence, the Bible tells us that in such a situation, Job’s response was quite proper.
Don’t feel bad for Satan, because he gets another go at it. First, he quotes a proverb that sounds strange to us: “skin for skin.” We may surmise that it has something to do with his contention that “all that a man has he will give for his life” (Job 2:5). In other words, man will throw anyone under the bus, including God, to save his own skin. To prove Satan wrong, God hands Job over to Satan, commanding him only to spare his life. Satan as a response brings Job close to the point of death.
How should we understand the episode with Job’s wife? She nastily says: “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9)! What is she talking about? Recent commentators have tried taking a more “understanding” view of Job’s wife. After all, she just lost all of her children and possessions. She was shaken for obvious reasons. However, the text does not clue us in on the multi-dimensional nature of Job’s wife’s feelings. Instead, the Scripture appears to inescapably present her in a negative light. It would seem that her asking her husband to curse God is tantamount to her cursing God herself. Further, there are old adages that encapsulate what is really going on here: “to add insult to injury” or “to rub salt into the wound.” Simply, Satan has through trial used her to add to the misery of her husband. We know this to be the case, because it is the only explanation that makes sense given Job’s response: “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity” (Job 2:10)? The narrator then approvingly states that in all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Did Job consider cursing God? Some commentators infer from Job not sinning with his lips that perhaps he did silently consider doing so with his heart. It would be only human if Job experienced doubts, because we all do when we have experienced much less than Job. There is some indication in the text that Job suffered for months after the episodes of chapters 1 and 2 before his friends arrived (Job 7:3) and he expected that it may take years to die (Job 16:22). It’s not like all of these bad things happened and Job started complaining about it. Job had day after day of pain and a whole lot of unanswered prayers. He might have not sinned with his lips, but may have been conflicted in his heart. Yet, he never cursed God and it is in reference to this that “the endurance of Job” is mentioned in James 5:11.
Finally, Job’s friends come after hearing “of all this adversity that had come upon him.” Job was so disfigured from the ailments, they did even not recognize him. This may be a detail that gets glossed over, but it reflects how disturbing Job’s trial from Satan was. The friends “sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.” Their pity was genuine.
After seven days Job loses his cool and wishes he’d never been born (Job 3:1, 3). He asks something we all ask during an intense period of suffering: Why did God put us on this Earth to feel such anguish? How could a good God let the world be this way? The main theme here is that he’d be better off dead than alive.
In place of cursing God he “cursed the day of his birth” (Job 3:1). Between Job 3:3-10, it is apparent that Job is invoking creation when he’s doing this cursing. This is apparent in the mention of “darkness” (Job 3:4-7) as opposed to “light” (Gen 1:3-5) and the lack of “joyful shouts” (Job 3:7) instead of “shouting for joy” at creation (Job 38:7; Psalm 19:5).
What is the connection between creation and Job’s view of his own suffering? It is my contention that the foundations of Job’s view of God’s nature have been shaken by his suffering and as a result, Job cannot make sense of his world anymore. Creation now appears to him chaotic instead of orderly and sensible. This is hard to think of in the modern day, because when we think of “creation” scientific precepts concerning natural laws and such dominate our thoughts. However, to a man like Job and to anyone who suffers and thinks “something’s wrong in the world today, I don’t know what it is,” like the Aerosmith song, there appears to be a moral component to existence. After all, if there was not such a component, it really would not matter whether or not people suffer. Because there is a moral fabric, many want to hold God to some sort of moral standard. We would like God to be good and not a malicious, terrifying god.
Job’s world, with no loving God in sight, no longer makes sense to him. The world no longer seems ordered by God, but rather chaotic and meaningless. As a result, Job wishes that God never did His creative acts and speaks of rousing “Leviathan” (Job 3:8). In short, ancient mythology taught that before creation a “chaos dragon” stirred the seas so no one can live until a god slayed him. The habitable world was Leviathan’s corpse floating on the water.
This myth of Leviathan appears throughout the Scripture. In Psalm 74:13-17 it states:
You divided the sea by Your strength;
You broke the heads of the sea monsters in the waters.
You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
You gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
You broke open springs and torrents;
You dried up ever-flowing streams.
Yours is the day, Yours also is the night;
You have prepared the light and the sun.
You have established all the boundaries of the earth;
You have made summer and winter.
The dividing of the sea in Ps 73:13 is a reference to Gen 1 where God separates the waters and marks a line the waters cannot pass. In fact, several of God’s creative acts in Gen 1 are in reference to making order and divisions. In Gen 1:2-4,7 and 9 it states:
The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night…God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so…Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so…
God took a formless and void mass, where water was not differentiated from air or land and neither light was distinct from darkness, and He made sense of them by making them separate. It is impossible to even imagine what darkness combined with light, or water combined with land, looks like. God’s control over these chaotic waters is made clear in Psalm 104:9 (“You set a boundary that they may not pass over, so that they will not return to cover the earth.”) as well as in Job 7:12: “Am I the sea, or the sea monster, that You set a guard over me?” God’s mastery of Leviathan is the reason why the chaotic waters of the sea stay where they do at the tides. Job 38:10-11 (“And I placed boundaries on it, and set a bolt and doors, and I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther and here shall your proud waves stop’”), Prov 8:29 (“When He set for the sea its boundary so that the water would not transgress His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth”), and Jer 5:22 (“I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, an eternal decree, so it cannot cross over it. Though the waves toss, yet they cannot prevail; Though they roar, yet they cannot cross over it.”) It would appear that the water can jump it’s tidal boundaries and plunge the world back into a chaotic, formless void if it were not for God’s intercession.
Leviathan the sea monster is the personification of the chaos of the Earth before God mastered it by setting boundaries for the waters. Yet, there is something more to this chaotic sea monster. In light of Is 26:21-27:1, there is something demonic about Leviathan.The chaos dragon that wanted to thwart God in His creation, Leviathan, in the Scripture is a name for Satan.
For behold, the Lord is about to come out from His place
To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity;
And the earth will reveal her bloodshed
And will no longer cover her slain.
In that day the Lord will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent,
With His fierce and great and mighty sword,
Even Leviathan the twisted serpent;
And He will kill the dragon who lives in the sea
Again, in the Book of Isaiah the mythical sea monster “Rahab,” which is a personification of Egypt is invoked:
Awake, awake, arm of the Lord, clothe yourself with strength!
Awake, as in days gone by, as in generations of old.
Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces, who pierced that monster through?
Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep,
who made a road in the depths of the sea so that the redeemed might cross over (Is 51:9-10)?
When God saved the people of Israel from Egypt, he cut through the Red Sea and made it like dry land so the nation of Israel may cross over. The invoking of mythological dragons and the separating of waters is a reference to God defeating Satan, probably shortly after Creation.
The connection between Rahab and Egypt is similar with that of Satan and Babylon. How so? Babylon is described as “a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit” (Rev 18:2). A common theme in Scripture is the practice of using places of captivity such as Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon to serve as images of the demonic realm, which is the place of mankind’s captivity to sin (described as “slavery to sin” in Rom 6:16). Freedom from captivity is always a picture of God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ’s atoning work on the cross.
Let’s go back to Psalm 74:13 where Leviathan has several “heads.” Why would a singular sea monster have several heads? If the beast is indeed Satanic, it may reflect the several different names for Satan in the Book of Revelation. In the book there is a perverse trinity of the False Prophet, the Dragon, and the Beast/Anti-Christ. This is akin to Dante’s description in The Inferno where he gets a glimpse of Satan. Satan was frozen in ice and overcome by fury, with his three heads chewing on the three greatest traitors in history (Judas, Brutus, and Cassius.)
What’s the connection between chaos and Satan? If Satan’s rebellion was indeed a chaotic event such as God’s quelling of the chaotic sea, there may be some sort of connection. Job did not grasp the concept very well, especially because he invoked Leviathan in the desire the day of his birth would be cursed, not being aware of the satanical element that this would entail. In Job’s own life, he sows chaos. Ironically, Job is wanting Leviathan to swallow up the day of his birth so he could avoid the suffering he has been dealt by Leviathan himself.
One last comment: Satan is not literally a sea monster. We should not be looking for Leviathan’s bones in the museum of natural history.
As we move on in Job’s speech, we may infer in chapter 3 that suicide is sinful. Job asserts if he was never born but died as a miscarriage, “I would have slept then, I would have been at rest” (Job 3:13). Why doesn’t Job just commit suicide if he wishes for death? I believe that he desired obedience to God no matter how much or little he was blessed. By not committing suicide, it appears that he considered suicide a sin and even still was blameless and obedient before God.
The futility of wealth is commented on in Job’s speech. Much like Solomon observes in Ecclesiastes, life itself appears vain to Job because it ends in death. In verses 14 and 15 he speaks of the company he would have in death: “…kings and with counselors of the earth, who rebuilt ruins for themselves…princes who had gold, who were filling their houses with silver.” Their great houses are now long gone and inconsequential.
How about Job’s wealth? Job a few verses later wonders why he was even given such blessings to begin with when he asks, “Why is light given to him who suffers and life to the bitter of soul” (Job 3:20)? This is highly speculative, but Job may be reflecting that his wealth and family may have been a punishment, because they can be pulled away like a rug from under him.
Worldly attachments to people we love or our stuff do increase the opportunities we have to feel pain. This is a concept elaborated upon by Saint Augustine, who interpreted 1 Cor 3:15 (“If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire”) to mean that a Christian with good things has more to lose and when put through a trial than a Christian with less:
In fact, wood and hay and stubble may be understood, without absurdity, to signify such an attachment to those worldly things—albeit legitimate in themselves—that one cannot suffer their loss without anguish in the soul. Now, when such anguish “burns,” and Christ still holds his place as foundation in the heart—that is, if nothing is preferred to him and if the man whose anguish “burns” would still prefer to suffer loss of the things he greatly loves than to lose Christ—then one is saved, “by fire.” (Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love, Chapter 28).
In conclusion, Job in his speech apparently misunderstands how God uses His hedge. Just as God has made a hedge that the sea could not cross, and a hedge Satan could not cross, Job believes “God has hedged [me] in” (Job 3:23). Instead of understanding that God uses the hedge to protect him from Satan, he instead believes it is used to trap him in suffering.
Job did not understand that suffering is part of the Christian life:
Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions (Mark 10:29-30).
Job understood the increase in children and farms, but not the persecution part. Because of this, he believes that it is possible his worst fear is realized: the God whom He loves is angry at him and does not count him as one of His children.
So, let us understand God’s blessings for His people, even in the midst of suffering and bouts with Satan. God is the author of all things righteous. He exploits the devil and exposes us to suffering, because this is part and parcel with carrying our cross and following Him. We should have this confidence when suffering: if God did not withhold His Son from us, He will not withhold any good thing. So, be assured that if you are in Christ, He works your suffering for your own good and His glory.