Okay, maybe I ought to walk that one back about Job’s previous remarks from a chapter ago.
“Yes, my eye has seen all of this, My ear has heard and understood it. What you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you,” Job says in 13:1-2.
It’s a repeat of 12:3: “But I too have understanding. I am not inferior to you. Who does not know these things?”
It would have been better if the chapter division from 12 to 13 was placed after the present 13:2, allowing these identical rebukes to Eli, Bill, and Zop, to bookend Job’s diatribe (12: 17-25) on how God messes up the masses. After all, chapter placement is a strictly human device laying no claim to inspiration. Or is this just me grumbling that I released my Job 12 commentary without reading ahead? Larry King used to say he’d never read ahead of time the books of those he was about to interview. That way, his questions would be that of that of the typical listener; they would be more genuine. Maybe. Or maybe he was just lazy.
This new bookending of Job 12:3 with 13:1-2 means all that Job said in 12:17-25 is common knowledge with Eli, Bill, and Zop. He’s not breaking new ground. He’s not charging that God thrashes the good as much as the bad. Instead, he’s agreeing with them: “What you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you.”
So the parties God thwarts at 17-25 are all part of the facade of this godless system of things that God confounds, and does not include the good as well as the bad? Apparently. Though, as will be seen, Job still rails at God for punishing the good, at least the good in the person of himself.
A new thought occurs to Job, or at least he gives voice to it for the first time: “For my part, I would rather speak to the Almighty himself; I desire to argue my case with God.” 13:3 Yeah. Go right to the top! Why waste one’s breath of Eli, Bill, and Zop, who aren’t listening? Of course, God’s not listening either—so it seems to Job, but at least if you can corner him He will have smart things to say. He won’t be like these blowhards who gush like winter streams (6:15-17) and dry out when you need them most:
“My own brothers have been as treacherous as a winter stream, Like the water of winter streams that dry up. They are darkened by ice, And in them the melting snow is hidden. But in due season they become waterless and come to an end; When it becomes hot, they dry up.” (6:15-17)
No, God will be smart. He will have good things say, if you just can get Him to say it. Diverted with his new thought, Job begins preparation on his brief. He’s confident.
“See, now, I have prepared my legal case; I know I am in the right.” (13:18)
However, first best plead for a few conditions: “Remove your heavy hand far away from me, And do not let the fear of you terrify me. Either call and I will answer, Or let me speak, and you answer me.” (13:21-22) It’s hard to lay out your case when the judge is standing on your toes.
Done. Now, Job lays out his grievance: “What are my errors and sins? Reveal to me my transgression and my sin. Why do you hide your face And consider me your enemy? Will you try to frighten a windblown leaf Or chase after dry stubble? For you keep recording bitter accusations against me, And you make me answer for the sins of my youth. You have put my feet in stocks, You scrutinize all my paths, And you trace out each of my footprints.” (23-28)
“Scrutinize all my paths” and “trace out each of my footprints:” worse than Alexa, he thinks God is. And the thought that He still holds “the sins of my youth” against him? What a burden to bear! There are no recent sins of consequence, he thinks, but what if God still punishes those of long ago? You can see why people would welcome the Christian model that Jesus died to offset the penalty of sin inherited from Adam. All one need to is put faith in that arrangement and avoid repeating them, and they’re good. With this NT development, there is tangible proof that sins put behind us are forgiven.
Though, some still think that way, anyhow; guilt has a way of being tenacious. But they don’t have to, is the point, notwithstanding that the consequences of a past bad decision might not plague us. You’ll just have to man up and accept it, but that does not mean God is doing such as a punishment.
What if my dad still had it in for me for borrowing his Rambler—or was it mine by then?—and running it through snowbanks on a joyride with friends? The next morning when it wouldn’t start, he came out to help, popped the hood, and you couldn’t see the engine, so packed it was with snow under that hood! “This is a car—not a tractor!” he groused.
Or what if I had run someone over on that drive while under the influence? Thank ‘Mothers Against Drunk Driving,’ which did not exist at the time, that such recklessness today is relatively rare, whereas it used to be common as bread. And if you ran someone over, it was, ‘Hey, what do you expect? Sorry, but I was drunk. You know how it is.’ Now, it would mean serious jail time, huge monetary fine, and loss of driving privilege—none of which would be punishment from God, but the consequences of bad actions. Fortunately, I didn’t run over anyone.
And if Job is filing a brief against God, it seems clear that his three associates will not be witnesses for the defense. Nor will they be for the prosecution, as they have repeatedly said wrong things about God. They’ll just serve as people in the gallery hurling catcalls. That’s why it would be best if they shut up:
If only you would keep absolutely silent, That would show wisdom on your part. Listen, please, to my arguments, And pay attention to the pleadings of my lips. Will you speak unjustly on God’s behalf, And will you speak deceitfully for him? Will you take his side, Will you try to plead the case of the true God? Would it turn out well if he examined you? Will you fool him as you would a mortal man? He will surely rebuke you If you secretly try to show favoritism. (13:5-10)
After all, what do they really have to contribute?
Your wise sayings are proverbs of ashes; Your defenses are as fragile as defenses of clay. Keep silent before me, so that I may speak. Then let whatever may come upon me come! (12-13)
The trouble with people who should shut up is that they seldom do.
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