Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
JOB CHAPTER 39
Our present chapter is the continuation of God's first answer to Job out of the storm wind, which began in chapter 38 v 1 and runs until the end of chapter 39. In the Hebrew text there is no pause or break between the end of chapter 38 and the beginning of chapter 39.
Metzudas David (on Job 39:30) summarizes the main import of this first answer to Job as follows: "God rebukes Job asking how he had the temerity to question His ways - Do you understand all My works? He relates wonders that cannot conceivably be thought of as deriving from the forces of blind fate working through the heavenly system of stars and planets but which are clearly providential. For this reason, it is impossible to deny the resurrection of the dead even though it may seem contrary to nature. There is thus no room for Job's complaint about reward and punishment, because after the resurrection of the dead, each one will receive according to his works. God relates His awesome works at length as if to say, If so, why were you not afraid to have doubts about Me? In addition He answers Job that he was not right in deciding that God does not watch over the lowly creatures providentially, for it is not so: I watch over everything, including even the animals, and He relates some of the ways in which He watches over them."
The reference to the resurrection of the dead mentioned by Metzudas David is contained in the earlier part of God's first answer to Job, in chapter 38 vv 13-17. Having first spoken about the wonders of the creation of the world, it says in v 13 - "To take hold the corners of the earth and the wicked shall be shaken off it": this clearly refers to the judgment of the wicked. The specific allusion to the resurrection of the dead comes in the following verse (38:14) "It is changed like clay under the seal and they stand as a garment" - "Even though the seal of the form of a man changes at the time of his death to be like clay and mud, nevertheless they will stand at the resurrection and be as they were at first, just like a garment, which may be folded up but when afterwards it is unfolded, it is just as it was at first. This comes to answer Job's denial of the resurrection of the dead (see Job 7:9) on account of his view that everything comes about through blind fate and nature, while the resurrection of the dead defies nature. God's answer is that since He watches over all, there is no need to wonder at the resurrection of the dead" (Metzudas David on Job 38:14). In the same passage in v 17 God challenged Job as to whether the "gates of death were revealed to him" - for if not, how could he know that the dead will not be revived?
The ensuing passage in chapter 38 went on to give example after example of the unfathomable mysteries of creation - light and darkness, snow, hail, rains, ice, the stars and constellations and the livelihood of lions and ravens.
Our present chapter (Job 39) now continues with further examples of the mysteries of the behavior of different species of wildlife - the mountain goats, the wild donkey, the buffalo, the ostrich, the stork, the horse, the hawk and the vulture. In each case it is God alone who gives each one its unique powers and traits, provides for them and watches over them to ensure their survival - so how can Job claim that God does not watch over the lower realms providentially?
In the Hebrew text there was a pause at the end of the previous chapter, indicating that God wanted to give Job an opportunity to answer Him but that since he remained silent and gave no answer, God spoke to him again (Metzudas David): "And HaShem answered Job and said." (v 1). God pressed Job to speak: "Shall a reprover contend with the Almighty? Let he who reproaches God answer it!" (v 2).
Forced to answer, Job admits that he is truly humbled. In the words of Metzudas David on v 4: "Behold I recognize in myself that I am very insignificant and I have not learned sufficient wisdom to understand that everything comes under providence. What can I answer you? There is no answer in my mouth and for this reason I have put my hand to my mouth and I said nothing when You stopped speaking."
V 5: "Once I have spoken but I will not answer, yea, twice, but I will proceed no further" - "The first thing I said at the beginning of my speeches was in complaint over Your having entrusted everything into the hands of blind fate. I spoke then, but now I will not say any more in answer to Your words in order to strengthen what I said, for now I see that You have not entrusted anything to fate but everything is in Your hands. As to my other question as to why - if all is under providence - does evil befall the righteous while good comes to the wicked, even though I still do not know the answer, nevertheless I shall not proceed any further and ask more questions, for I am afraid to entertain doubts about You" (Metzudas David).
In order to answer the latter question, God now gives His second answer to Job, challenging him:
V 8: "Will you also negate My justice, will you condemn Me in order that you may be in the right?" - "It is as if He is saying, Is not your asking this question a more serious offense than the first - if you think My justice is nothing because it appears that I do not pay a person back according to his deeds, and if you condemn my justice because you consider yourself a Tzaddik? For the question as to why the wicked have it good is not such a wonder since nobody knows whether deep inside another person is righteous or wicked. Job's main question was over the Tzaddik who suffers because he considered himself a Tzaddik and he was asking about himself since he suffered terribly. God said to him, Just because of what you THOUGHT, will you condemn My justice?" (Metzudas David).
V 9: "Do you have an arm like God or can you thunder with a voice like Him?" Metzudas David explains that man is made in the image of God and when he perfects himself and does not turn aside even slightly from the path of God, his strength is very great and he has power over everything, including even the hosts of heaven, as in the case of Joshua, who caused the sun to stop (Joshua 10:12f). God is here asking Job how he can hold himself to be so righteous - does he have the power in his arm like God to rule over everything? Can he thunder like Him and give commands to the hosts of heaven as would a truly perfect Tzaddik?
Vv 10-14: If Job is so perfect, God challenges him to cast down the wicked as would be befitting for a perfect Tzaddik, and if he can do it, God will concede that he is indeed a complete Tzaddik (Metzudas David).
Vv 15-24 speak about BEHEMOTH, while vv 25-32 speak about LEVIATHAN. Having previously challenged Job to take on the wicked, God now asks him if he could take on these two wonders of His creation. Ramban (on v 15) comments: "BEHEMOTH is a generic term for all large animals and beasts, while LEVIATHAN is a generic term for enormous fish. However, our rabbis of blessed memory had a tradition that BEHEMOTH and LEVIATHAN mentioned here are two unique creatures bearing these names." The aggadic traditions about them are contained in Talmud Bava Basra 74bf, while deep kabbalistic teachings relating particularly to LEVIATHAN are contained in the writings of the Vilna Gaon.
"Rabbah said in the name of Rabbi Yohanan: In time to come the Holy One blessed be He will make a feast for the righteous from the flesh of Leviathan, as it says, 'The companions (a drush on the Heb. HABARIM) will heap up payment for him, they shall divide him among the traders' (Job 40:30) - the 'companions' are the Tzaddikim while the 'traders' are those who will portion out the flesh and sell it in the streets of Jerusalem. And Rabbah also said in the name of Rabbi Yohanan: In the future, God is destined to make a SUCCAH for the Tzaddkim out of the skin of Leviathan, as it written, 'Can you fill his skin with barbed irons (SUCCOTH)?' (ibid. v 31). If someone is worthy, they will make him a Succah. If he is less worthy, they will make him a belt; if he is less worthy, they will make him an ornament; if he is less worthy, they will make him an amulet. There are different groups (HABUROT) of companions. Some are masters of the Bible, others are masters of the Mishneh, others are masters of Gemara, some are masters of Aggadah, some are masters of many Mitzvoth, some possess good deeds. and each group will come and take their share."
"Rabbi Levi said, Everyone who fulfills the mitzvah of Succah in this world will be seated in the Succah of Leviathan in time to come. And if you say that the skin of Leviathan is not so remarkable, our rabbis have taught that the different colors it contains make the sun look dark!" (Psikta).
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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