The book of Job ends with two very surprising chapters. The first because of its content, emphasising what has gone before and the second because it appears to stand the whole book on its head!
Here is the first part of the first of these chapters (which is actually in the chapter before). It is about Behemoth whose name means something like the ‘beast of beasts’. He is a terrifying creature, very like a hippopotamus with some supernatural additions.
As if that is not enough we now go on to read about the Leviathan. He is just as dangerous sounding as Behemoth, very like a crocodile, again with some supernatural additions.
We may well ask “what was that all about?” There is no other Biblical reference to Behemoth and not many to Leviathan, though it is possible to see that this latter is a sea or water monster. Both are possibly linked in the culture and literature of that area in that time with gods, the god of death and the god of evil or the Satan himself. Their dual role is strikingly similar to that of the dragon and the beast from the sea of the book of Revelation, the twin figures of evil. Both have power, strength and savagery far beyond human ability to match. Therefore, since they are the creation of the Lord, part of his world and under his control, they set a marker for power, which the Lord stands far beyond. Also, particularly with Leviathan who rules over the sea, which was the well-known symbol of the chaotic, they stand as markers of the chaotic nature of the Lord’s world. Thus they reinforce the statement made in our last study that this is an essentially chaotic world and it is no good pretending otherwise, however difficult it may be to fit that into a scheme of theology and our understanding of the ways of the Lord.
Now we come to the final words of Job in the first 6 verses of the last chapter. Job has finally come to a realisation of what he has been doing wrong and how he can remedy that. He now realises how high above him the Lord is, that all his attempted arguments against what has happened to him were a waste of breath. The Lord has a plan and a purpose for him, although he is unable to see what that is and how it will work out so that he could only see it as part of a chaotic world and accept that it is in the hand of the Lord. He is deeply sorry and upset by what he has done and said so he repents – not of sins in the ordinary sense but of his failure to acknowledge the place and power of the Lord in his life.
The author of the book of Job has brought it to a point, a single climactic statement in a way strikingly similar to the way John would do with his gospel many centuries later. John brings his book to the climax statement “My Lord and My God” by quoting the words of Thomas, obviously intending and hoping that his readers will make that same statement for themselves. Our author brings us to the statement of Job, “My ears have heard of you but now my eyes have seen you!” also obviously intending that we should echo that statement for ourselves. John continued by quoting the words of Jesus, “because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” and if our author had had access to those words I think he too would have used them. We are not going to see the Lord, not likely to do so any way in this life; we are not going to be able to understand all his ways any more than Job did; we are going to get confused by all we hear about him as Job did; but with the eyes of faith we can see him; with the knowledge we do have we can believe – and then we are blessed – his promise, not my assertion.
Question: when did you start hearing about Jesus? When did you begin to see him – to see him properly in the sense Job means? What was the trigger that changed you from hearing to seeing? Could you make that, which was the trigger event for you, into the trigger event for someone else?
In verse 7 we leave behind the poetic dialogues that have constituted most of this amazing book. We are back into the simple prose of the first 2 chapters and this part chapter – the frame of the poetic stuff. Here it is.
The obvious first reaction is surprise. Job has been right all along and his 3 friends have not (Elihu does not get a mention – a major reason for thinking the speech of Elihu was a late addition to the story). So Job, described as ‘my servant’ and thus equated with people like Moses and David, is to act as a priest for them. We must also note that if what these 3 guys said was all so wrong how can we define the truthfulness of scripture – inerrancy, suggesting nothing was in error, does not seem to be the best word to use in spite of its popularity.
And then we are told what Job’s future was. What has all the argument been about if Job was headed to such a lovely future? But is it really such a wonderful future? He gets exactly the same size family as he had before but the first family died and their deaths will have left a scar that will never completely heal. People are people and cannot be substituted one for one just like that. Not even if his daughters are now so much more beautiful than the ones he had before and have such wonderful names. And all those animals, just twice as many of each variety as he had in the first place, did that make life any easier?
We can have no possible expectation of six thousand camels etc. but we know things Job did not know. When Job said, “I know that my redeemer lives” it was only a hope. For us it is a certainty. Because we live after Jesus, who died, rose again and ascended into heaven to prepare a place for us we have a much superior hope to that of poor old Job. We have been told by the writer to the Hebrews that “we have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. We have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. We have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood.”
Yoiks, WOW, Hallelujah and Hooray.
One final comment: this is a great book of the Bible, perhaps unfairly neglected (that really means that I didn’t know it very well at all until I started looking into it for these notes!). Also, more than most of the scripture it will mean different things to different people. I have attempted to chart one particular way through it for my own good and, hopefully, yours as well. Don’t let it stop there. Read it, think about it, meditate on it for yourself and find your own way through this challenging and thrilling writing. May the Lord bless you in so doing.