Job 38

The Intervention of God[a]

The Lord’s First Speech

Chapter 38

Gird Up Your Loins.[b] 1 Then from the heart of the storm the Lord answered Job:

2 “Who is this who obscures my intentions
with words devoid of knowledge?
3 Gird up your loins now like a man.
I will ask you questions,
and you will give me the answers.

A1: The Mysteries of the Cosmos

Where Were You When I Laid the Earth’s Foundations?

4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements? Do you know?
Who stretched out the measuring line over it?
6 What supports the pillars at its bases?
Who laid its cornerstone
7 while the morning stars sang in unison
and the sons of God shouted for joy?
8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
9 when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I established bounds for it
and set its barred doors in place,
11 when I said, ‘This far may you come, but no farther;
here is where your proud waves must halt’?

Have You Ever Commanded the Morning?[c]

12 “During your entire life have you ever commanded the morning to appear
or caused the dawn to rise in the east
13 so that it might grasp the ends of the earth
and shake the wicked from its surface?
14 She turns it like clay under a seal
and dyes it as though it were a garment.
15 But light[d] is withheld from the wicked,
and their raised arm is broken.

Have You Ever Walked at the Bottom of the Abyss?

16 “Have you ever descended to the depths of the sea
and walked at the bottom of the abyss?
17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you
or have you seen the gates of the shadow of death?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanse of the earth?
Tell me if you know all this.
19 “Can you point out the way to the dwelling of light
and show the abode of darkness,
20 so that you may assign each to its designated boundary
and escort them on their homeward paths?
21 Surely you must know this,
for you had already been born
and the years of your life are beyond numbering!

Have You Entered the Place Where the Snow Is Stored?[e]

22 [f]“Have you entered the place where the snow is stored,
or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I have reserved for times of distress,
for the times of war and battle?
24 Can you show me the place where lightning is dispersed
or where the east wind is scattered over the earth?
25 “Who has cut a channel for the downpour of rain
and cleared a path for the thunderstorm
26 so that rain may fall on uninhabited lands,
on the wilderness devoid of human life,
27 and thus reinvigorate the wastes and the desolate land,
enabling grass to sprout on the thirsty ground?
28 “Does the rain have a father?
Who has begotten the drops of dew?
29 Whose womb brings forth the ice?
Who gives birth to the frost of heaven,
30 causing a layer of stone to cover the waters
and the surface of the earth to congeal?

Do You Know the Ordinances of the Heavens?

31 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades
or loosen the bonds of Orion?
32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their season
or indicate which way to go to the Bear[g] and its cubs?
33 Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?
Can you put into effect their rule on the earth?
34 “Can you raise up your voice to command the clouds
to envelop you in a deluge of rain?
35 Will flashes of lightning come forth at your command
and say to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who has endowed the heart with wisdom
and given understanding to the mind?
37 Who can number all the rain clouds
and empty the cisterns of the heavens
38 so that the dust solidifies into a thick mass
and the clods of earth cling together?

A2: The Astonishing World of the Animals[h]

The Lion and the Raven

39 “Can you hunt prey for the lioness
or satisfy the hunger of young lions
40 while they crouch in their dens
or lie in wait in the bushes?
41 Who provides the raven with prey
when its little ones cry out to God
in their need for sustenance?

Footnotes

  1. Job 38:1 The Almighty comes in the storm. He is the Lord (Yahweh), the fearsome God of Sinai (Ex 19:16). The meeting both abashes and fascinates Job. God does not answer Job’s irksome questions; the roles are reversed. The Lord presses him hard with his own questions. God does not defend himself, nor does he debate: he calls for adoration and silence.
    These chapters form part of the biblical songs of creation and are among the loftiest lyrical compositions of humankind. The wonders and secrets of the universe are evoked in splendid poetic images that are intended to give us a better insight into the inaccessibility of the mystery of God. And yet, Job has seen God. This man who has encountered God remains abashed. All his arguments have been immediately transcended; the only thing left is to make an act of unconditional faith.
  2. Job 38:1 Gird up your loins: it is God who calls Job to account for his pretensions. In the East, people tightened their belts and tucked up their garments in preparation for a struggle or for work (see Jer 1:17; Lk 12:35-37).
  3. Job 38:12 Each day the dawn comes to shake the earth, ridding it of the wicked as one shakes dust from a rug. The human race cannot help but stand in admiration.
  4. Job 38:15 Light: the uncertain light of night that favors evildoers (see Job 24:13; Isa 5:20).
  5. Job 38:22 Human beings cannot foresee or comprehend this play of natural forces; for the ancients, God seems to make sport of them and utilize them at his whim (Ex 9:18-26; Jos 10:11). As for us, we are better acquainted with the laws of nature, but the spectacle of the universe remains always a symbol of God’s great freedom.
  6. Job 38:22 For hail as a divine weapon, see Gen 10:11; Ex 9:18-19; Isa 28:17; 30:30.
  7. Job 38:32 Pleiades . . . Orion . . . Bear: see note on Job 9:9.
  8. Job 38:39 The animal world, too, is a bewildering world for human beings. God brings them before Job as he once did before Adam (Gen 2:19-20); however, his purpose now is to show not the power, but the weakness and ignorance of human beings: the life of the animals has secrets that elude the human grasp and depend on a higher wisdom.

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