Job 31–32: Questions & A Final Cry

Read the Bible in 2011–2021* ◊ Week 16: Thursday

“Let Him weigh me with accurate scales,
And let God know my integrity.”
Job 31:6

In today’s Bible reading of Job 31–32, Job finishes speaking, and Elihu, who has been listening to what Job and his friends have to say, explodes into speech.

Remember to pray before you begin to read in Job, and ask God to teach you as you read these chapters.

In Job 31, Job examines his life, his heart and his actions, in his final cry to God about why calamity has come upon him.

“Does He not see my ways
And number all my steps?”
Job 31:4

Job goes through his life in a wide ranging look at who he is as he says over and over if I have done this. Look at all the ifs in this chapter. There are thirteen of them. He examines his heart and his actions in regard to: “lust, dishonesty, adultery, oppression, miserliness, avarice, idolatry, vindictiveness, parsimony, hypocrisy, and exploitation.”1 Who of us could do the same and be able to stand firm on our integrity?

Francis Anderson calls chapter 31, Job’s ultimate challenge, and writes:

“This priceless testament is a fitting consummation of the ‘words of Job’ (verse 40). It is an oath of clearance in the form of a negative confession. The procedure was well known in ancient jurisprudence.

“…Although made in the interests of one’s public honour, it was addressed to God in an appeal against human judgment. Charges have already been made (Job 22:5–11), but no sup­porting witnesses have come forward. Job has given a blanket denial (23:10–11) and left his vindication to God (27:2–6). Chapter 31 completes the process which began in chapter 29 with an insistence on his unblemished record and continued in chapter 30, with a complaint about the injustice of his present treat­ment at the hands of men and God.

“Job 31 lists specific crimes, denying them all. The form Job used is, ‘If I have done X, then let Y happen to me!’…

“The list of crimes in Job’s negative confession is neither systematic nor complete. It was not drawn up by an articled clerk. It is a poem, recited by a miserable outcast on the city rubbish dump, not by a prisoner in the dock. It is Job’s last passionate outburst, and the author has given it an earnestness and a torrential quality by composing it with a measure of incoher­ence. This effectively conveys Job’s persistent indignation.”2

Job doesn’t know the backstory of his woes, but here is a man who is as God described him in chapter one.

“Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”
Job 1:8b

The chapter comes to a close, and:

The words of Job are ended.
Job 31:40b

Job’s three friends don’t have anything else to say to him, and now someone new bursts into speech:

Then these three men ceased answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. But the anger of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram burned; against Job his anger burned because he justified himself before God. And his anger burned against his three friends because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job. Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were years older than he. And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of the three men his anger burned.
Job 32:1–5

Elihu is going to keep on speaking for six chapters, Job 32–37! Because the Michael Coley Bible reading schedule I’ve been using goes through Job in readings of two chapters, the daily reading doesn’t always stop when one speaker is finished or when one topic is closed. I’ll talk about Elihu when I get to Job 33–34.

Go back to Job 31. As you look over this chapter and read Job’s words, remember God, Himself, said, For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil. Job’s friends have sought out some sin of Job that would explain why he is in such tragic circumstances and have become increasingly irate at his resistance to their judgment. Job, in turn, proclaims his integrity and cries out to God to answer him and the indictment against him.

“Oh that I had one to hear me!
Behold, here is my signature;
Let the Almighty answer me!
And the indictment which my adversary has written.”
Job 31:35

The book of Job puts paid to the idea that people only suffer because they’ve sinned, and that suffering is in proportion to how much someone has sinned. We’re so prone to jump to the con­clusion that others don’t prosper because they’re sinning or not doing things right and following God’s wisdom. That not only tidies up difficult questions, but also gives us a false sense that we’re in control and can keep problems away by our own efforts. Derek Kidner writes:

“There is no denying that Job’s comforters (whose views the book repudiates) rely on the kind of generalizations that abound in Proverbs…But the use that the two [books] make is not the same. While Proverbs treats them as a spur to faith and faithfulness, the comforters of Job make them a rod for his back. The spirit of the former is ‘How reassuring for us!’, but of the latter, ‘How damning for you!'”3

But nowhere in the book of Job is it said that Job suffered due to his sin or lack of wisdom. Francis Andersen describes him as an “innocent sufferer,” and states, “The book of Job loses its point if the righteousness of Job is not taken as genuine.”4 And such God proclaimed about Job at the beginning of the book, and so God will affirm at its end.


Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications. (Site has been deleted since posting).
The Book of Job: Sir John Gilbert. Public domain.
1,2,4Francis Andersen, Job (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1976) 260–264; 257–258; 74–75, 69.
3Derek Kidner, The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job & Ecclesiastes (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1985) 117.

*In 2011 I started a year-long series of posts, “Read the Bible in 2011.” You can find the other posts in the navigation menu in the header. If a day doesn’t have a link to a post, the post was simply a brief reminder about the reading. I’m filling in some of those gaps with new posts with “Read the Bible in 2011 Redux” as a category.

Copyright ©2011–2021 Iwana Carpenter

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