Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
JOB CHAPTER 9
In his speech in the previous chapter, Bildad, like Eliphaz before him, had argued that everything is under God's direct providence and that if the wicked enjoy goodness, it will turn out to be to their detriment, while the evil that befalls the righteous will turn out to be for their good.
In answering Bildad in this and the following chapter, Job's main complaint is that he is pure and righteous and that suffering has come upon him despite his innocence. Job agrees with Bildad that God cuts off the wicked, but argues that the righteous also do not escape from His hand and that He deals in the same way with the pure and with the wicked.
V 2: ".but how should a man be just before God?" - Metzudas David explains: "My entire complaint is: What kind of reward is this if a person acts justly before God and goes in His ways yet is also left to the government of the heavenly system of stars and planets and suffers the same fate of the wicked?"
V 3: But if the righteous man wants to argue with God over the loss of his reward, God will not even answer one out of a thousand of his questions.
V 4: God is wise to perfection and supremely powerful, and it is therefore impossible for a lowly mortal to argue against Him.
Vv 5-10 evoke the supreme power of God. He makes earthquakes (vv 5-6) and nobody really knows why they are sent. "He commands the sun and it does not rise" (v 7) - "The darkening of the sun through God's decree is a metaphor for the destruction of one empire and the rise of another" (Ramban). God's wondrous ways are beyond the comprehension of the human mind.
V 11: "Even though He is constantly passing before me and the whole world is full of His glory, I cannot see Him and even though He passes before me I am unable to understand his form or likeness" (Metzudas David).
V 12: He can snatch away a man with great power and speed and nobody can challenge Him and ask why He does this.
Vv 13-15: Even the celestial angels could not come to the help of proud Egypt (=Rahab). How much less so can a weak human like Job challenge God. Metzudas David notes that at times Job asserts that he does want to argue with God, while at other times he says he is unable to argue with Him: this is the way of a person who is wracked with pain and one time says one thing and another time something else.
V 16: "If I called and He answered me, I would not believe that he had listened to my voice" - Job is saying that it seems so inconceivable to him that God would listen to him that even if it happened, he would not believe it. Job could not believe that everything he was suffering was under God's detailed providence, as he goes on to explain:
V 17: "For he crushes me with a storm and multiplies my wounds without cause." If a storm wind comes, it causes suffering to all and does not discriminate between the righteous and the wicked - Job felt that all his suffering was for nothing.
V 19: "If the suffering that he has brought upon me is because of His great power and might, I know that He is all-powerful and nothing is held back from Him. But if my suffering has been sent through the attribute of justice, if only someone would appoint a day when we can come together to judge and determine who is in the right" (Metzudas David).
Vv 20-21: Job holds resolutely that he is innocent, but feels unable to stand up to God and assert his innocence because in his human weakness and lowliness he will never be able to make his point.
V 22: "Therefore I said, It is all one: he destroys the innocent and the wicked." This is Job's argument against Bildad, who said that the suffering of the righteous is for their good, which is not so in the case of the wicked. Job asserts that suffering afflicts the righteous and the wicked equally and does not discriminate between them. The "scourge" (Heb. SHOT) that strikes suddenly and laughs at the innocent (v 23) is the SATan (Rashi).
V 24: "The earth is given into the hands of the wicked. He covers the face of its judges. If this is not so, who will get up and deny it?" - "As long as the wicked man lives, the earth is his to do has he desires, to rob and oppress, and because of his great power, even the judges of the earth hide their eyes from him so as not to look upon his deeds" (Metzudas David).
Vv 25-31: Job is haunted by the speed with which his life is slipping away. He is convinced that even if he holds his peace and stops complaining about his unjust suffering, God will still not send him relief, because even if he were to repent and chastise himself to cleanse himself of any sin, God will still send him down to the grave and never restore him to his former self. If he cries out and tries to justify himself, he will still come out as if a wicked man, while if he remains silent he will gain nothing. "Woe to me if I speak, and woe to me if I don't" (Ramban).
Vv 32ff: Job yearns for an impartial arbitrator before whom he can argue against God without feeling fear of God's overweening power and might.
One cannot but admire Job's unflinching boldness in refusing to accept his companions' view that he must have sinned and insisting on his own innocence. Only Job himself knew what was truly in his heart and whether or not he had sinned. For this reason, whenever he wants to press the question of why the righteous suffer, he complains about his own suffering rather than about that of anyone else, because he could never know from the outside if that other person was truly righteous or not (see Ramban on Job 9:25).
V 2: "I say to God, Do not condemn me, let me know for what reason You are contending with me" - Job is complaining that although he is righteous, he is suffering in the same way as the wicked deserve to suffer. This is why he wants God to explain to him the reason for his own suffering in order not to equated with the wicked.
V 3: Why does God oppress the righteous - the work of His hands - yet gives success to the wicked?
V 4: Surely God sees into the heart of each one - if so why does He treat the righteous no differently from the wicked?
V 9: God formed Job like a potter makes a vessel out of clay: why does He now want to return him to the dust?
Vv 10ff: After having formed Job's body so wondrously, why is He now destroying him?
V 15: "If I am wicked, woe is me, and if I am righteous, I cannot lift up my head." Job again emphasizes that he sees no difference between the fate of the wicked and that of the righteous.
Vv 16ff: Again Job wishes that he had never been born or that he had died at birth and gone straight to the grave instead of having his present life of futile suffering.
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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