Job 23–24: Testing & Times

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 12: Thursday

Then Job replied,
“Even today my complaint is rebellion;
His hand is heavy despite my groaning.
Oh that I knew where I might find Him,
That I might come to His seat!
I would present my case before Him
And fill my mouth with arguments.
I would learn the words
which He would answer,
And perceive what He would say to me.”
Job 23:1–5 LSB

In Thursday’s Bible reading of Job 23–24, Job answers Eliphaz’ terrible charges in chapter 22 that Job has acted wickedly and his deeds are the reason for his calamity. Eliphaz closed his lecture by telling Job to return to God, and God would then restore him. Provoked and goaded by these false accusations, Job replies he would like to find God in order to present his case before Him; however, although he seeks Him, God is not there.

David Atkinson writes:

“Job knows in his heart that his problem will be relieved not by theo­logical dispute, not by penitence for sins which he has not committed, nor by pulling his socks up, but by the gift of communion with God. It is this on which he now rests his hope.”1

Job says,

“Behold, I go forward but He is not there,
And backward, but I cannot discern
When He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him;
He turns on the right, I cannot see Him.
But He knows the way I take;
When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.”
Job 23:9–10 LSB
The Smelting of Gold

Francis Andersen has this to say on Job 23:10,

“The word way in the Hebrew has neither article nor suffix. It is tradi­tionally referred to as Job’s conduct, and the ancient versions already read ‘my way’. But, although he knows the way that I take has gathered a lot of devotional sentiment over the centuries, it has blurred the Hebrew ‘with me’. It is more likely that the missing suffix refers to the subject of the verb, God, and that way equals his way in verse 11. A more literal translation then yields: ‘But he (God) knows (his) way with me.’ Because God knows what he is doing with Job, Job is coming to the point where he will be satisfied even if God never explains the reason for his strange conduct [which we will learn God never does]. Earlier Job had demanded to know why God was dealing with him thus, and he found his trial insuf­ferable (7:18). Now he accepts the testing, because he knows: I shall come forth as gold. This image, drawn from metallugy, does not necessarily imply purification. It could mean simply that the test proved that Job has been pure gold all along. The comparison of Job with gold at this point may be an echo of 22:24f, where the reference was less clear. There Eliphaz urged Job to make God his most precious thing; here Job is saying he is precious to God. Only valued metal is put through the fire.”2

We have our own phrases borrowed from metallurgy to describe someone’s character. We speak of “sterling character,” as someone of proven character. Robert Louis Stevenson gave a great accolade to his wife when he described her as, “steel-true and blade-straight.”

Job’s testing is a proving in that it shows what he is made of. God already knows Job is gold and asserted such to Satan when He repeatedly called Job My servant, and said,

“Have you set your heart upon 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; 2:3b (see also 1:1) LSB

Job does not know the backstory of Job 1–2. His suffering is proving the answer to Satan’s taunt of Job 1:9, “Does Job fear God for nothing?”, baldly saying that the only reason Job fears God is because God protects Job, and Job has everything he could want. We are finding out the answer as we read through these chapters. Job’s suffering is proving his character.

Job again asserts his innocence:

“My foot has held fast to His path;
I have kept His way and not turned aside.
I have not departed from the command of His lips;
I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my portion
of food.”
Job 23:11–12 LSB

As you read chapter 23, you can see Job’s agony of mind as he first states he thinks God would listen to him, yet then goes on to say he is terrified of God. Look at these words of Job:

“But He is unique and who can turn Him?
what His soul desires, that He does.
For He performs what is apportioned for me,
And many such
decrees are with Him.
Therefore, I would be dismayed at His presence;
I carefully consider, and I am in dread of Him.
It is God who has made my heart faint,
And the Almighty
who has dismayed me,
But I am not silenced by the darkness,
Nor thick darkness
which covers me.”
Job 23:13–17 LSB

E. S. P. Heavenor titles Job 23:1–17, “Job’s heart laid bare,” and he writes:

“He is no rebel against God; he does not complain for the sheer joy of complaining…He has made a real effort to restrain his cries of protest, but his misery has wrung them out of him.”3

In chapter 24, Job contradicts Eliphaz’ conclusion that wicked deeds always have the consequence of suffering as he points out the reality of the numerous evil and oppressive acts that God lets continue. Heavenor writes:

“Job puts the problem in a world setting. Various classes of wrongdoers are mentioned.”4

Job knows Eliphaz’ ideas about God’s providence are wrong; Job can look at his own life and his affliction, and he has also seen the prosperity of the wicked, and the reality is that sometimes the righteous suffer greatly, and sometimes those who are evil do not.

There are sections of Job that are difficult to translate and difficult to understand. I only mention now and again some of the problems and differences interpreters and commenters have had. Andersen discusses Job 24:18–25 which appear to contradict the earlier verses in Job 24.

“We should not too hastily remove these words from Job’s lips, just because they don’t sound like what we think he would say…

“Job has never maintained that the wicked never come to the bad end described by Eliphaz (5:2–7; 15:17-31, Bildad (8:8–19; 18:5–21) and Zophar (20:4–29) When he asked, ‘How often is it that the lamp of the wicked is put out?’ (21:17), his implied answer in not ‘Never’. Rather his impression is that God treats good and bad alike. Among the prosperous are righteous and wicked. Disaster overtakes the vicious, but also the virtuous…Job does not counter the friends by a one-sided exaggeration of his own, claiming that God is hostile to the upright and an accomplice of the crooked. His position is more balanced, but more baffled. He simply cannot see how God’s justice works out in his own case, which he realizes is only one of many.”5

Job finishes with this challenge:

“Now if it is not so, who can prove me a liar,
And make my speech worthless?”
Job 24:25 LSB

Atkinson describes this last paragraph as, “a mournful lament on the frailty and frustration of life.” 6 We all feel that way from time to time. It can turn to anguish when we are in deep pain. That is when we need a friend to come alongside to help us by reminding us of David’s words, that we can trust God, and that our times are in His hand.

But as for me, I trust in You, O Yahweh,
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in Your hand;
Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who pursue me.
Psalm 31:14-15 LSB

Kidner has these reassuring words:

“…the assertions of 14, 15a give God His true place as sovereign, and David his secure relationship of intimacy (my God) and dependence (in thy hand). The very expression my time (15) which faces the necessary fact of transcience and change, both in one’s own being and in one’s surroundings, makes adversity easier to accept, while the knowledge that change is not chance (thy hand) can make the acceptance positive and personal. ‘He (the Lord) will be the stability of your times’ (Is. 33:6; cf. Ps. 32:6).”7

In times of turmoil remember, your times are in His hand, and He will be the stability of your times. Or ask yourself if there is a Job you know who needs you right now to come alongside to help with loving reassurance?

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Smelting of Gold: Meoglobal. (CC BY-SA 3.0).
1,6David Atkinson, The Message of Job: Suffering and grace (Inter-Varsity Press: Leicester, England; Downers Grove IL: 1991) 102, 102.
2,5Francis Andersen, Job (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1976) 226, 229–230.
3,4E. S. P. Heavenor, “Job,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 434, 434.
7Derek Kidner, Psalm 1–72 (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1973) 131–130.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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