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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Job 42

Verses 1-6

The Second Response of Job (42:1-6)

Paralleling 40:3-5 there now appears a final word from Job. The Revised Standard Version clearly indicates by the use of single quotation marks that in his answer Job repeats the questions that have been asked of him (compare Job 42:3 with Job 38:2, and Job 42:4 with Job 38:3 and Job 40:7).

The answer begins with a confession, not of wrong, or even of wrong knowledge, but of God’s power. The primary effect of God’s speeches to Job has been to change the dimension or orientation of the problem. Heretofore Job has been concerned with himself and with the necessity to justify himself and his ways. Now he knows that God is sufficient for everything (so the Hebrew). One may say that the real change for Job is to have come to the place where God alone is important.

In this context Job can say of himself that he has spoken concerning things he neither understood nor was able to control. He did understand his own case. But on the narrow basis of that understanding he has wrongly launched an indictment of the totality of being and even of God. He can now accept the fact that God and his governance of man’s life, and even his disposition of rewards and retribution, are ultimately beyond man’s power to comprehend.

But there is still another element to Job’s "confession." And this is the greatest, because the real power of the book does not lie in the realm of man’s understanding but in the realm of his being.’ It is Job himself who matters, not his reason. The great conclusion of the book is Job’s passage from a formal understanding of God — right or wrong — to a firsthand knowledge. Now his eye sees God. This is not to be equated with a kind of mystical experience, or even with another way of saying that now Job knows more about God. He does not; perhaps it would be truer to say he knows less about him. But he has come face to face with God as a Person. God is no longer an object to be discussed, a fact to be known, a truth to be comprehended. God is God. Nor is it exactly appropriate for us to assume that such a meeting left Job at peace. It left him first of all overwhelmed with the sense of his own incompleteness and his creatureliness in the presence of the Almighty (vs. 6; "despise" is not an exact rendering). It left him also ready to "repent in dust and ashes." Certainly it is not to be thought that this repentance was for sins such as the friends have formerly laid to his account. Neither is it enough to say that Job repented of his "pride." Rather, as the parallel to the first line of the verse shows, "repentance" is the mood of the creature man who realizes that he is creature, and that God is forever God.

Rather than vindication on his own terms, as Job has asked and confidently expected, he now has repentance. Vindication has come and will come, but it is not vindication by Job; it is God’s gracious bestowal, the word of God which pronounces Job righteous and the grace that accepts him as such. Thus Job stands at the midpoint between the Garden of Eden and the New Testament assurance of justification by faith. Job is a titanic figure of sinful man — not sinner by the Law or against the Law but sinner challenging God and claiming to be divine. This sinner is still met by the God of grace who has called to him as he did to Adam, saying in effect, "Where are you?" (Genesis 3:9). And Job helps us see that it is in the mood of repentance that God’s coming in his Word and his announcement of grace are to be received.

Verses 7-17

THE EPILOGUE

Job 42:7-17

The modern reader, accustomed to contemporary standards of artistic creation, may come to the Epilogue to the Book of Job with a feeling of surprise and even of disappointment that the dramatic power of the speeches of the Lord is given this somewhat prosy ending and that the point of the long argument seems to be lost in a return to the original situation.

Although the disappointment is not without its validity, there are some things that must be said in defense of the present arrangement of the book. For one thing it can be remembered that the author was using for his own purpose an ancient story, designed in its original form to illustrate genuine and disinterested goodness. The story must have included approximately the very ending we find in Job 42:7-17 and been used in its entirety by the later author. As he had disregarded the details of the Prologue in developing his argument, so the apparent discrepancies between the argument and the Epilogue did not give him concern.

Again it must be emphasized that the story is not entirely out of harmony with the argument of the complete book. The author challenges and demolishes the belief that between man’s piety and his prosperity, between his wickedness and his suffering, there was a correspondence so evident that it could be used as a basis for answering life’s questions, but he does not anywhere, save in Job’s exaggerated and later discarded protests, affirm that there is no connection. The existence of basic moral principles in the order of history and human existence is once again stated in the Epilogue. The Epilogue also confirms what might be missed in the argument, namely, that Job, for all his errors and his exaggerations, is nevertheless closer to the truth than the three friends. Job is the one who has spoken "what is right" of God. Although this is not to be taken as a blanket endorsement of all the words of Job, it does point to greater error in the half-truths spoken by the friends.

Finally there are touches in the Epilogue which illustrate beautifully the fact that a change has taken place in Job himself, and which even hint at the meaning of that change. Job here is one who has learned to receive. He accepts generosity even from the friends, a token of his new reception of God’s grace by which he can be said to have been justified. Job thus prefigures the Christian man in his acceptance of grace as he has before illustrated the deep need of all mankind for justification.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Job 42". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/job-42.html.