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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Job 23

Verses 1-9

Job Wants to Present His Case to God

When Eliphaz has finished speaking, Job replies (Job 23:1). It is not so much an answer to what Eliphaz said, but more a complaint about his misery (Job 23:2). Nothing has changed about his complaint. Also “today” he feels rebellious against God. He does want to suppress his sighs himself, “my hand” [Masoretic Text]. Here we see the dilemma of Job. On the one hand there is the dissatisfaction with his suffering. On the other hand, there is his fear of sinning against God through his dissatisfaction. This causes the effort he makes to suppress his dissatisfaction and rebellion. He suffers so much that he can only express his suffering through groaning.

Eliphaz advised Job to get used to God (Job 22:21). That is what he wants. He wishes he could find God (Job 23:3). If only he knew where He was. Then he would go to his dwelling place. There he would ask Him for an explanation for the suffering He is inflicting on him.

We too sometimes have the desire to talk to God and ask Him why He allows certain things in our lives or in the lives of others. We would like to know how to behave in such situations. Now we must be content with the revelation He has given of Himself. We must learn to accept that the things hidden from us are known to God (Deuteronomy 29:29). To Him there are no hidden things (Hebrews 4:13).

Job sees himself in spirit in a courtroom. There he would like to explain his case to God (Heb 4). He would present a multitude of arguments in his defense to prove that he is not a sinner and a hypocrite. That would convince the Judge, God, that he does not deserve all this suffering. It is not so much about his suffering as about its injustice.

He looks forward to the Judge’s verdict with confidence (Job 23:5). He knows he is innocent, so the Judge will declare him innocent. Later Job comes into the presence of God, but then he is silent (Job 38). Of all his prepared arguments nothing remains. For before God every mouth is stopped (Romans 3:19). He listens and then has to acknowledge that the ways of God are higher than his own.

Job is convinced that God would not contend with him for his rightness, but would listen to him (Job 23:6). God would not use the advantage of His power against Job and therefore triumph over him. No, God would not simply push him aside, but give him the opportunity to present his case to Him.

The Judge would hear the “upright” speak, who would defend his case with conviction against Him (Job 23:7). The Judge would have to agree with Job that he is a righteous one. Job can leave the courtroom as a righteous one, acquitted of all charges, with his head held high. The Judge has annulled all charges and Job is free from Him forever. There is no higher court and no one will dare to sue him anymore.

Just as Job is placed before God here in a courtroom, so we should be aware that for us there is a judgment seat of Christ, before which we will be placed (2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10). There our whole lives will be made manifest. It is important that we live as if we are already there, that our lives are already manifest to God and people.

Job had no fear of meeting God. Neither did Paul. The thought of the judgment seat made Paul feel that he was already made manifest to God and that he wanted to be so to the consciences of men (2 Corinthians 5:11). This is how it can and should be with us. If we can’t boldly look forward to the moment when we have to appear before the judgment seat, there may be things in our lives that are not right. Then we must confess them. It is not a question of being perfect already, but of serving God with a blameless conscience (cf. Acts 24:16).

Job wants to appear before God, but he does not know where He is (Job 23:8-1 Samuel :). When he goes forward, to the east, where the sun rises, God is the great Absent (Job 23:8). Disappointed, he then turns to the rear, to the west, where the sun sets. Also there is no sign of His presence anywhere. A new disappointment is his part.

Let’s see if He is on the left side (Job 23:9). The left side is the north, the side of darkness and concealment. Could He be found there? He doesn’t see Him there either. There remains one side, the right side, the south, the side of the wilderness and the heat. Can He be seen there? It will be another disappointment, because even there Job doesn’t see Him. There is still a long way to go before he will testify that his eye sees God (Job 42:5).

Verses 10-12

Job Points to His Righteousness

Though Job cannot find God anywhere, he knows in faith that God knows the way he is going (Job 23:10). In confidence he says that although he does not see God, God sees him. He also knows that God knows him. God knows he is upright, no matter what people may say of him. Let God try him, as is the case now. He is confident that God will do him justice. He knows for sure that he will come out of the trial as purified gold (cf. 1 Peter 1:6-Judges :).

Job knows that he has gone the way of God (Job 23:11). He “has held fast to His path”. God has shown him the way to go and he has gone it. It is a way that God has gone before him, as it were, and on which Job followed him step by step. He kept to His way, without deviating from it. He did not take a side-road, he did not choose another way, which would be a way of sin (cf. Psalms 18:21).

He has listened to “the command of His lips” (Job 23:12). A person can only go God’s way if he does what God says. His way and His Word belong together inseparably. He has not “departed from” the words of God, but he has “treasured” them in his heart. He has valued those words more than his necessary food [literally: prescribed portion].

Although Job did not see God, he argued in response to Eliphaz’s counsel that he had heard the word of God and hid it in his heart. Therefore, he rejects Eliphaz’s counsel to convert to God (Job 22:23), for he is convinced that he is in the way of God (Job 23:11).

Verses 13-17

Afraid of God

Job comes back to God as the unique, unchanging God (Job 23:13). He does not yet realize that he did not perish precisely because of the unchangeability of God (Malachi 3:6). He still feels himself the target of God’s wrath. God is against him and no one can make Him change His mind. What He desires He does, for He is sovereign (Psalms 115:3). God has allotted or prescribed something to him – disasters and misery – and He executes it (Job 23:14). It also happens not only incidentally, but often, because God has many of these things in stock. This also means that the terrible suffering of Job is not yet at an end.

For us, believers who belong to the church of God, it is a tremendous joy to know that God executes all His intentions and that nothing and no one is able to stand in His way. We may know that He is fulfilling all His promises. The foundation of this is the work of His Son that has been accomplished once and for all. Whoever believes in it is once and for all perfect before God (Hebrews 10:14). The value of Christ’s work will never change. Therefore, it is impossible for the believer to lose his perfection in Christ. He may lose his enjoyment of it through all kinds of circumstances, but that is something else.

The thought of the so exalted and unapproachable Majesty acting with him according to His will becomes too much for Job. He is overcome by fear (Job 23:15). Job does not repress the thought of God’s sovereignty. He notices it, he has an eye for it, with the result that he is terrified of God. Although we may know God as a loving Father and have no fear of Him, we should be in deep awe of Him (1 Peter 1:15-Esther :). He is certainly love, but He is no less light (1 John 1:5; 1 John 4:81 John 4:16). When we think about God, as Job does here, both characteristics of God will impress us.

God has made his heart faint with everything He has brought over Job (Job 23:16). The heart of Job is still beating, but the strength is gone. He is still alive, but it is all extremely difficult. The terror is in Job. That is what “the Almighty” has done, He Who has all the power and against Whom no one can resist. And that thought has made his heart faint.

The circumstances, the darkness in which he finds himself, have not silenced him (Job 23:17). He has not lost everything because of what has happened to him, but because God has taken it away from him. Job sees his circumstances as the actions of God. The darkness that covers him is suffocating, yet he is not killed by it. What makes his circumstances dark and gloomy is that God remains hidden. That is the need of his soul.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Job 23". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/job-23.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.