So far in the Book of Job, we have learned that God ordains the existence of evil and regulates it with the use of hedges. When the hedges around Job are removed, Satan creates so much calamity that it leads Job’s friends to believe that he committed evil. In the meantime, Job is tempted to curse God, which thankfully he refuses to do even though he questions God’s justice.
We have been making the case that “the endurance of Job” that James speaks of refers to his faithfulness in trial. Throughout Job’s responses we see something that looks like a glimmer of hope. At times, the sparks of faith burst into a fire.
Job’s faith in Christ is not explicit. Rather, he has a vague notion of there being a mediator between him and God. As well will find out later, this mediator also IS God, which reflects upon the fact that Job was not a unitarian.
The first mention of the mediator is in Job 9. Ironically, the translators of the NASB name the chapter, “Job says there is no mediator between God and man.” This comes from Job 9:32-33 where he says:
“For He is not a man as I am that I may answer Him,
That we may go to court together.
“There is no umpire between us,
Who may lay his hand upon us both.
Job is exasperated and giving up on hope only for a moment, because as we will find later he speaks explicitly of his hope in there being a mediator.
Job’s exasperation and frustration prove to be the embers of his hope. Job’s makes the following appeal in chapter 10:
Is it right for You indeed to oppress, to reject the labor of Your hands?…Your hands fashioned and made me altogether, and would You destroy me? Remember now, that You have made me as clay. And would You turn me into dust again? You have granted me life and lovingkindness and Your care has preserved my spirit. (Job 10:3, 8, 9 12)
Here, Job is passing comment on the fact that he knows God cares for him. God’s creation testifies to His glory and goodness. In the same way, Job looks at how God fashioned him and reminds God of His love towards him.
This feeling of frustration, mixed with a knowledge of God’s love for him, results in Job wishing to debate with God and set everything right. “I desire to argue with God,” he says (Job 13:3). Yet, he pleads his case willing to deal with the consequences if he is found in the wrong (Job 13:13): “[L]et come on me what may.”
In this, Job is confident that he would win his case: “Behold now, I have prepared my case; I know that I will be vindicated” (Job 13:18). Why is he so confident that he is right and won’t be punished, like his friends? Our interpretation is that deep down, Job is a man of faith. We can see this in Job 13:15-16, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him. This also will be my salvation, for a godless man may not come before His presence.”
His Godliness is proven by the fact that like Jacob, he is wrestling with God in faith (Gen 32:28). God does not wrestle with unbelievers, because they are not allowed into the presence of God anymore than someone can be in the presence of the Persian king apart from being summoned (Esther 4:16). Those not imputed Christ’s righteousness cannot even be looked upon by God whose “eyes are too pure to look at evil and You can not look on wickedness” (Hab 1:13, literal rendering, italics removed).
David, another man of faith, expressed similar confidence after he was brought low by divine chastening:
For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning…O Lord, by Your favor You have made my mountain to stand strong; You hid Your face, I was dismayed…You have turned for me my mourning into dancing, You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, that my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever (Ps 30:5, 7, 11, 12).
So, why shouldn’t Job hope in the one who slays him, for His anger is but for a moment while His favor is assured forever? Again, the doctrine of assurance gives the believer real comfort in times of trial. Without assurance, there is positively no reason to hope that God’s anger will ever cease. Thus, the doctrine gives the believer confidence in God’s righteousness, even when suffering is present.
God does not forsake His people, because it is His promise He will lose none of them (John 6:39). “For the Lord loves justice and does not forsake His godly ones. They are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked will be cut off” (Ps 37:28).
Throughout the Book of Job, there are indications that there is both a judgment on the wicked and a resurrection of the righteous. Let’s take Job 14:13–
Oh that You would hide me in Sheol,
That You would conceal me until Your wrath returns to You,
That You would set a limit for me and remember me!
Job asks to be hidden in death so his pain may cease. However, this state is not eternal, as he expects that God would remember and restore him after His wrath returns upon Himself. When did God’s wrath return upon Himself? When Christ became a curse for us!
The resurrection looms in the background of the next verse, Job 14:14–
If a man dies, will he live again (Job 14:14a)?
All the days of my struggle I will wait
Until my change comes (Job 14:14b).
Here, Job reflects his faith that though God slay him now, he will be restored because of his faith. The “change” is his resurrection after death.
You will call, and I will answer You;
You will long for the work of Your hands (Job 14:15).
It appears that Job understand was Jesus taught much later: “[A]n hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live…all who are in the tombs will hear His voice (John 5:25, 29).
For now You number my steps,
You do not observe my sin (Job 14:16).
This is why Job is confident in his restoration: by faith, God has forgiven him for his sins nor his imputed sin of Adam (Rom 5:12).
My transgression is sealed up in a bag,
And You wrap up my iniquity (Job 14:17).
Job understood what the Holy Spirit said in Micah:
He will again have compassion on us;
He will tread our iniquities under foot.
Yes, You will cast all their sins
Into the depths of the sea (Mic 7:19).
After these lofty words of faith, Job returns to despair (Job 14:18-22, i.e. “You destroy man’s hope.20 “You forever overpower him and he departs.”). Why? It is not because he lost his faith in God. Rather, because Job does not understand why God slays him, so he cannot make sense of the present suffering.
In the middle of his complaints, Job again returns to his hope for a mediator.
Even now, behold, my Witness is in heaven and my Advocate is on high. My friends are my scoffers, my eye weeps to God. O that a man might plead with God as a man with his neighbor (Job 16:19-21)!
Did you catch that? Who is Job’s mediator? He weeps to God!
Joseph Caryl points out further that: “[Job] calls who is in Heaven to witness, that is God” (An Exposition on the Book of Job Chaps. 15-17, p. 361).
Why God Himself? Why not an angel or someone less divine than God?
‘My witness is in heaven, my record is on high.’ Who is Heaven, who is on high? You may know whom he means when he saith, ‘He that is in heaven, he that is on high,’ though His name may not be expressed. There are Angels in heaven, but they are nothing compared to God…there is no name in heaven but God, God is all in all in heaven….Again that which Job calls heaven in one part of the verse, he calls high in the other… (Caryl, An Exposition on the Book of Job Chaps. 15-17, p. 369, 371).
Or, in plain 21st century english, because the witness is in heaven and on high, there is no higher authority in which can be appealed to. So, Job is appealing to the highest possible authority, which can only be God and no other. Because God slays him, Job is calling upon a heavenly mediator, that is God Himself to stand as judge between him and God. Because Christ is at the right hand of God the Father continually making intercession for us as our High Priest (Heb 7:25), then the only conclusion we can draw is that God intercedes for us on behalf of God. There is no other possible interpretation aside from laying aside trinitarian theology and adopting a historically heretical view.
Unitarianism is inconsistent with this often glossed over passage in Job. So, though God (the Father) slay Job now, he will trust in Him (Christ). Further, he knows his Redeemer (Christ) lives. Who else, other than Christ, can be Job’s Witness and Advocate, and be weeped to as his God?
As we move into chapter 17 when Job falls from hope to despair, the spark of hope lights back up. “Where now is my hope?,” he asks in Job 17:15. His hope is within him, because it is his faith in God. “And who regards my hope?” The Lord does.
“Will it [my hope] go down with me to Sheol? Shall we [my hope and I] together go down into the dust?,” Job asks concerning his hope in verse 16. It is a rhetorical question. His hope will follow him to Sheol, because he anticipates his own resurrection in chapter 14.
How do we know we are justified in this interpretation? After Bildad gives his piece Job laments his suffering and then picks up where he left off:
“Shall we [my hope and I] together go down into the dust?” (Job 17:16)
25 “As for me, I know that my [f]Redeemer lives,
26 “Even after my skin [i]is destroyed,
Yet from my flesh I shall see God;
27 Whom I [j]myself shall behold,
And whom my eyes will see and not another (Job 19:25-27).
So be it! I so look forward to beholding God and not another, for there is nothing else that can satisfy us for an eternity other than the eternal!
Job knows that in the Last Day, though his body is destroyed, he will be resurrected in the flesh. He will see God, face to face, and in this beatific vision he will see no other. The greatest blessing is that “the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you” (Num 6:25).
However, his hope does not match his present condition. So after defending God from the false teaching of the friends that God always crushes the wicked in this life he returns to questioning God’s justice, hoping that the Mediator would side with him.
“Oh that I knew where I might find Him,
That I might come to His seat!
4 “I would present my case before Him
And fill my mouth with arguments [such as those in a few verses].
5 “I would learn the words which He would [c]answer,
And perceive what He would say to me.
6 “Would He contend with me by the greatness of His power?
No, surely He would pay attention to me.
7 “There the upright would reason with Him;
And I [d]would be delivered forever from my Judge…
“But He knows the [e]way I take;
When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
11 “My foot has held fast to His path;
I have kept His way and not turned aside.
12 “I have not departed from the command of His lips;
13 “But He is unique and who can turn Him? [Only the Mediator]
And what His soul desires, that He does.
14 “For He performs what is appointed for me,
And many such decrees are with Him. [In reference to the Father]
15 “Therefore, I would be dismayed at His presence;
When I consider, I am terrified of Him.
16 “It is God who has made my heart faint,
And the Almighty who has dismayed me (Job 23:3-7, 10-16).
Job in fact starts questioning the Father’s justice again in the next chapter. The most egregious example is Job 24:21–”“He wrongs the [m]barren woman And does no good for the widow.”
In short, it appears that Job’s hope is the Mediator, that is God the Son, will be reasonable. At the same time, he fears the Father, that is God, who apparently creates disorder, allows the wicked to prosper, and wrongs the barren woman.
Job has His merciful Mediator correct. He has his righteous God all wrong.
Before we end our lesson for today, it is worth touching on what the Book of Job teaches about the afterlife.
Many liberal critics believe that there is not a resurrection from the dead taught in the Old Testament. This is hardly new, as the Sadducees thought the very same thing. Disproving the critics, I want to argue that the Book of Job contains several references to an afterlife which are not immediately obvious.
We already covered that in Job 14 and 19 there are references to Job expecting to be resurrected.
In addition to this there appear to be several references to Hell and the judgement. The language of the proceeding indicates that much of this is metaphorical. However, as John Piper said about metaphors, metaphors generally describe things because they are so bad, regular language cannot describe them.
“For the company of the godless is barren, And fire consumes the tents of the corrupt” (Eliphaz, Job 15:34).
Terrors come upon him,
26 Complete darkness is held in reserve for his treasures,
And unfanned fire will devour him;
It will consume the survivor in his tent.
27 “The heavens will reveal his iniquity,
And the earth will rise up against him.
28 “The increase of his house will depart;
His possessions will flow away in the day of His anger (Zophar, Job 20-25-28).
He lies down rich, but never [l]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…
22 “For it will hurl at him without sparing;
He will surely try to flee from its [m]power (Job, in place of Zophar, Job 27:19-20, 22).
For that would be a lustful crime;
Moreover, it would be an iniquity punishable by judges.
For it would be fire that consumes to Abaddon,
And would uproot all my increase (Job, Job 31:11-12).
“All around terrors frighten him,
And harry him at every step.
12 “His strength is famished,
And calamity is ready at his side.
13 “[e]His skin is devoured by disease,
The firstborn of death devours his [f]limbs.
14 “He is torn from [g]the security of his tent,
And [h]they march him before the king of terrors.
15 “[i]There dwells in his tent nothing of his;
Brimstone is scattered on his habitation.
16 “His roots are dried below,
And his branch is cut off above. (Bildad, Job 18:11-16)
Is Bildad referring to Satan when he speaks of the “firstborn of death” and the “king of terrors” (Job 18:13 and 14)? Yes. However, how does this make sense with the fact that Job elsewhere describes Sheol as a place of eternal rest and essentially nothingness?
Sadly, the Scripture does not give us too much detail. We do know that ancient religions did have Satan-like figures and hell-like places, such as Hades. For example, within Hades in Greek mythology Elysian Fields was essentially heaven and Tartarus (see 2 Peter 2:4) was hell, and both were separate compartments. So, when one spoke of being in Hades, sometimes it was the common abode of the dead and other times it was a Greek God specifically tasked with punishing those in Tartarus.
It is worth noting that the Greek word “Apollyon” in the Scripture is similar to Hades. Abaddon, translated into Greek as “Apollyon,” is both a place in Job 31:12 (i.e. “the pit,” a euphemism for Hades/Sheol) and “the Destroyer” in Rev 9:11 (i.e. the King of Terrors/the Satan). The fact that Hebrew words such as Sheol and Abaddon have been translated into Greek words such as Hades and Apollyon, and that the way these words are applied in the Scripture is identical to how Hades is in Greek mythology, adds credibility that Sheol may be very similar to what the Greeks called Hades.
Christ’s parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus might add credibility to this notion: “In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me…’” (Luke 16:23-24). The fact Abraham in this parable hears the Rich Man shows that there is some sort of relatively close proximity between the two. We may infer from the picture drawn in the parable that Sheol has two compartments similar to Hades.
Now, whether we are supposed to take the idea totally literally is open for debate and ultimately not answerable this side of heaven. The Jewish interpreters such as the Sadducees did not even believe in an afterlife and many other ancients did not seem to take it that seriously (the wealthy or powerful would hope to make their mark on history so that their names might live forever, because there might have been a lack of confidence in any life after death).
Does Bildad’s remark reveal that he rejects such eschatology? Not exactly. More likely, his “king of terrors” remark was likely just a passing comment which had to do more with contemporary mythology than a serious belief.
We might not get a serious portrayal of the afterlife from any of the men in this book. Yet, we can make a few firm conclusions.
First, when Job speaks of Sheol, he believes that fetuses attain to the same afterlife that dead kings and others go to (see Job 3:11-19). This accords a level of dignity to the unborn that is lost in the modern day. Further, it is suggestive of infant salvationism as Job does not take the stance that infants, born with original sin, will be subjected to the king of terrors.
Second, we can infer from Job speaking of Sheol positively and that he is confident that the king of terrors, the pre-eminent one (“firstborn”) among the dead, is not going to be lord over him. In fact, his faith leads him to believe that even eternal rest is not the abode of the faithful, but rather resurrection.
This helps make sense of both Job’s current frustration and unwavering trust in God. He disagrees with God’s meting out of justice on Earth, but he never accuses God of being unfair in an eschatological sense. Instead, as Job speaks of in the 27th chapter, Job takes issue with the wicked often prospering during their earthly lives before meeting their doom. Job, like many of us, wants everything to be made right, right now! He does not understand that God has purposes for the wicked: “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Prov 16:4).
Lastly, because Job does not believe that the righteous are subject to “terrors” such as that which awaits the wicked in Job 27:20, we can infer that Job believes in a differentiated abode of the dead. This means that Job shares an understanding with his friends that the part of Sheol the wicked go to is different from where the righteous, and perhaps miscarried infants, go to.
Let me make this clear–Job does not speak inscrutable truth every time he opens his mouth. That being said, neither does Bildad! Because we know this to be the case, we do not have a good reason to take the speculations about the afterlife drawn from their comments overly seriously.
For example, just because Job thinks fetuses join kings in Sheol does not mean we have strong Scriptural support for the salvation of unbelieving infants. In addition, one may argue in favor of a differentiated abode of the dead that would have existed before the resurrection of Christ from such texts as those found in this book. Nonetheless, such conjecture can hardly proved without a shadow of a doubt. Nonetheless, we may concede that the evidence is highly suggestive. The fact that Christ our Lord God felt it necessary to invoke the same picture of Sheol in one of His parables means that there is benefit in at the very least being acquainted with these things and their possible ramifications. We just cannot draw any firm conclusions about the matter.
Why cover this? It makes sense of what Job and his friends are really disagreeing about. Job and his friends shared the same idea of the afterlife, but a different idea of the plight of the wicked on Earth. Job’s friends conclude that the wicked are crushed “before their day,” while Job concludes that God is being unjust and smiling upon the wicked and wronging the widow, even if it is temporarily.
This is why Job 20 is about Zophar saying the triumph of the wicked is short while Job 21 is about Job saying that God doesn’t deal with the wicked soon enough (‘Why do the wicked still live, Continue on, also become very powerful” 21:7; “They spend their days in prosperity, And [g]suddenly they go down to [h]Sheol” v. 13, “Behold, their prosperity is not in their hand; The counsel of the wicked is far from me,” v. 16”). This is why Eliphaz responds in Job 22 that the wicked “are snatched away before their time” yet God “filled their houses with good things; But the counsel of the wicked is far from me” (Job 22:15, 18).
The repeating of “the counsel of the wicked is far from me” shows that they are affirming one point (the judgement) but fundamentally disagreeing about another, the plight of the wicked on earth. Eliphaz is mimicking Job in order to imply that Job’s idea that the wicked don’t get punished in this life is as wicked as the idea that the wicked are not judged after death.
Next week we will be covering Job 28 in detail, and then we are on to Elihu. I just want to review in short Job’s final response so that we can make sense of it and understand it’s place in the book.
- Job 20: Zophar says that the triumph of the wicked is short and unfanned fire will devour him.
- Job 25: Bildad says man is like a worm and is absolutely nothing compared to God.
- Job 26: Job responds to Bildad and shows him that he has a profound understanding of who God is and what He does, so he refuses to be intellectually cowed by talk of what goes on in the heavens.
- Job 27: Job responds to Zophar by mimicking his point, but focuses only on their death and judgment. This implies that it is not right that they triumph for more than a short time.
- Job 28: Job speaks about how he truly understands Godly wisdom, revealed to Him by God.
- Job 29: Job speaks about how he really lived by that wisdom and God blessed him.
- Job 30: Job speaks of how these blessings have been suddenly pulled away, though he is righteous.
- Job 31: Job makes his final defense of his righteousness, taking care to show that he was not a hypocrite as a judge and even in his thought life.
One final note: Some people may take issue with Job impugning God’s justice on one hand, yet on the other trusting in the Mediator, Jesus Christ. Do not let this trouble you, for our Mediator forgives us of all sorts of sin, even the sin of not honoring God as we ought or worshipping as we ought. This is a sin we commit every single day. Thanks be to God that mercy triumphs over judgement. Amen.