In chapter 31 of the book of Job, Job finishes his defense before his friends and before God.
I sign now my defense-let the Almighty answer me; let my accuser put his indictment in writing (31:35).
I have signed my closing statement. I now call upon God to answer—put his indictment in writing so that I may answer the charge. In chapter 38 God finally appears. He enters the courtroom to give his closing arguments.
It’s not what we expect. Job has had questions about the justice of God. He has had questions about the goodness of God. But God doesn’t answer any of Job’s questions. Instead, God turns the tables on Job. Where Job has called upon God to answer his questions, God has said, “No, Job, I’ll ask the questions. You answer me.”
The questions God asks Job are designed to show Job the power and sovereignty of God and to show Job that God is God and Job is not. The questions focus on the things that Job does not know, that Job cannot do, and the places that Job can never go.
God begins with the beginning (as we saw last week):
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? (38:4)
Job can only answer, “I didn’t even exist then, Lord.”
He moves on to the sea:
“Who shut up the sea behind
“You did, Lord.”
The Lord continues to ask Job “Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place?” (38:12)
“No, Lord. I don’t control the rising of the sun. Only you do that.”
And so it goes. God asks Job if he has walked at the bottom of the sea (38:16) or seen the gates of death (38:17). He asks Job if Job knows where light and darkness come from (38:19-21). He asks if Job has ever seen the storehouses of the snow and hail (38:22-23), or where lightning comes from (38:24), or where the winds originate from (38:24). Job cannot control the stars (38:31-33) or the clouds and weather (38:34-38).
Only God does those things.
Job learns the sobering lesson that he is not the center of the universe. In 38:25-27, God asks,
cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
Earlier Job had complained,
is mankind that you make so much of them,
And God answers, “Job, I’m not as fixated on mankind as you think. There’s a lot going on in the universe that you don’t know anything about.”
To illustrate the point, God talks about the animal kingdom. Again, the questions point out what Job does not know and what he cannot do. He does not provide food for the lion or the young ravens (38:39-41). He does not know when or where the wild goats give birth (39:1-4). He did not give the wild donkey his freedom (39:5-8), nor does he control the wild ox (39:9-12). He did not make the ostrich the worst mother and the swiftest runner in the world (39:13-18). He did not give the war horse its strength and courage (39:19-25). He does not help the hawk to soar or the eagle to find its prey (39:26-30).
The point is that God knows and does all these things and Job does not, because God is God and Job is not. Every moment of every day, God is caring for his creation in ways that we neither see or know about. “Job, you think that all I do is think about you and fret about your sin? I do a whole lot more than that.”
Now, halfway through his closing argument, God gives Job a chance to respond,
The Lord said to Job:
the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
Job is humbled and silenced,
am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
Job gets the point. A finite human being who has no knowledge or power of a million things that God knows and does every day has no right to question or to give counsel to the Almighty.
But God is not done speaking because he is not done with Job.
He challenges Job, “If you don’t like the way I dispense justice in the world, why don’t you give it a try?”
you discredit my justice?
Then, God introduces Job to two terrifying monsters; Behemoth, a terrifying land monster (40:15-24) and Leviathan, a terrifying sea monster (40:1-34).
Behemoth is described in 40:15-24. He has tremendous strength, a tail a big as a cedar, bones of bronze and limbs of iron. He lies concealed under the lotus plants among the reeds by the stream. He is not dismayed when the river current is strong. No one can capture or control him except his Maker (40:19).
Leviathan is described in chapter 41.
“Can you pull in Leviathan
with a fishhook
Leviathan is a fearsome sea creature. He cannot be captured or controlled. He will not beg for your mercy, nor will he serve man. You can’t make a pet of him or a plaything for your daughters. You won’t find fillet of leviathan in the market. In fact, if you take him on, you’ll never do it again, because you’ll be dead!
God has more to say about Leviathan in 41:12-34. He is covered with impenetrable armor on the top and bottom. He apparently breathes fire. He sets the ocean to boiling! God finishes his description of Leviathan,
on earth is its equal—
I both cases, these animals are terrifying, powerful and able to be controlled by no one except God.
There is a lot of controversy over the identity of these two monsters, but the theories break down to four basic ones.
1. The Poetic License Theory—these are ordinary animals which have been “blown up” by a poetic bomb. The two usual animals they are identified with are the hippopotamus for Behemoth and the crocodile for Leviathan.
This makes sense since hippos and crocodiles are often found together and were well known in the ANE. However, this explanation is a bit of an anticlimax. “As a picture of God’s power consider the hippopotamus.”
2. The Mythological Theory—These creatures are monsters borrowed from the mythologies of the surrounding pagans, which the author used to illustrate the power of the Lord.
This, too, is anticlimactic because these animals do not exist. So, to demonstrate his power, God subdued two non-existent animals.
3. The Extinct Animals Theory—They are two species of extinct animals, maybe dinosaurs. This is touted as the answer to the question, “Where are dinosaurs mentioned in the Bible?”
The problem with this is the extreme nature of the descriptions. I am unaware of any dinosaur that we have discovered that can breathe fire, for example.
4. The Bible Story Theory—As you’ve probably guessed by the fact that I placed it last, that this is the one I find most likely. It identifies these two monsters as spiritual forces of evil and chaos that recur throughout the Biblical revelation.
Behemoth is usually identified as death. Because some of the descriptions of him in Jewish literature devouring the land and swallowing rivers sounds like the biblical description of the grave. Also, some believe that the name Behemoth derives from the Babylonian god of death, Mot.
If that is a little fuzzy, I think the case of Leviathan is clearer, because he appears other places in the Bible. In Psalm 74 God is said to have “crushed the heads of Leviathan and gave it as food to the creatures of the desert” (v. 13). Yeah, “heads”, in Jewish literature Leviathan has seven heads.
In Psalm 104 there is a reference to leviathan as one of the creatures that God had formed to “frolic” in the sea. This is not to make leviathan seem less terrible, but to make God seem greater.
In Isaiah 27:1 Leviathan is pictured as “the gliding serpent, the coiling serpent” which God will punish in the Last Day. I don’t think it takes a lot of imagination to relate this description of Leviathan to the great dragon in Revelation.
The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. (Revelation 12:9).
Another reason I like this interpretation is because it closes out the story of the Satan in Job. Satan makes his appearance in chapters one and two and them he is never mentioned again. Unless he is Leviathan.
God is telling Job, and us, that there are invisible forces of evil and chaos abroad in the world. They can cause trouble and destruction in our lives. But they are not the ultimate power in the world. They can do nothing without God’s authority. In the end, in his own way and in his own time, God will deal with them.
This is the very reason that Jesus came.
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Job had questions about God’s justice and goodness. God never answered any of Job’s questions. Instead, he shows Job a vision of God’s power and sovereignty. And Job is satisfied.
We see Job’s response in 42:1-6.
Then Job replied to the Lord:
know that you can do all things;
said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
Job’s response is a model for our response to the power and sovereignty of God. Job acknowledges God’s sovereignty in v. 2. He acknowledges his own lack of understanding in v. 3. We see in verse 5 that Job’s experience of suffering had increased the intimacy of his relationship to God. And, finally, Job repents of his arrogance in presuming that he knew more than God.
Do we do that? Do we think that we could do a better job running the universe than God? When suffering and trouble invade our lives does it bring us closer to God, or drive us away?
Do we know better than God—what we need—what will fulfill us? Are we trusting in ourselves or in God?
Did I create and do I control and provide for the beautiful, complex world we see around us? No, God did. Can I slay Behemoth and Leviathan? No, but Jesus did.