Job 27–28: Justice & Wisdom

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 14: Thursday

“I will instruct you in the power of God;
What is with the Almighty I will not conceal.
Behold, all of you have seen
Why then do you speak with utter vanity?”
Job 27:11-12 LSB

Before you begin reading the next two chapters, remember to ask God to give you understanding as you read His Word, and through His Word, by His Spirit, to bring your thoughts and life.

Thursday’s Bible reading is Job 27–28. In these two chapters Job continues to speak. His friends have gone round and round with their condemning rebukes of Job, and Job has continued to refute their arguments. As chapter 27 opens Job underscores his integrity by saying he’s not going to become deceitful by declaring his three false comforters are right in the accusations they have made—that his sorrows are a consequence of his sin.

Then Job continued to lift up his discourse and said,
“As God lives, who has removed my justice,
And the Almighty, who has embittered my soul,
For as long as breath is in me,
And the spirit from God is in my nostrils,
My lips certainly will not speak unrighteousness,
Nor will my tongue utter deceit.
Far be it from me that I should declare you right;
Till I breathe my last I will not remove my integrity from me.
I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go.
My heart does not reproach any of my days.”
Job 27:1–6 LSB

Francis Anderson writes:

“A new formula is used to introduce this speech. This marks it off from the rest of the dialogue. We suggest that it is a closing statement, balancing chapter 3.

“…Job’s closing remarks are worth looking at as the debate draws to a close or, rather, falls to pieces. In 21:34 he says that the friends answers are nothing but falsehood. In 24:25 he challenges them to show that there is nothing in what he says. These two thoughts come out once more in 27:2-6. Chapter 26 is Job’s final recognition of God’s great power, of which a complete account is impossible. The same applices to God’s justice, which can be perceived only in bits and pieces. This limitation does not prevent Job from reaffirming the justice of God (27:7-23). He can only insist on his own righteousness (verse 6) if he is confident God will endorse it.”1

In 27:2, Job opens by saying, “As God lives.” Anderson comments:

“In this adjuration Job takes the last resort of a man on trial. Using a powerful oath, he hands his case over to God. The name of God is solemnly invoked as the ultimate custodian of justice, the impartial punisher of all perjury…Only God can indicate that the friends’ accusations are false; and to the extent that their debate resembles litigation, the controversy remains indecisive for want of an adjudicator. Job has already appealed to God many times. Now swearing ‘by the life of God’, he uses the strongest measure possible for forcing God’s hand. It is in keeping with this procedure that the Lord, when he finally responds, does so precisely by declaring Job to be in the right and his friends in the wrong (42:7). This also makes it clear that Job’s asseveration that he is (and will keep on) speaking the truth (verse 4), that his conscience is clear (6b) and I hold fast my righteousness (6a) is not a claim to sinlessness in relationship to God, but to the validity of the stand he has taken against his friends…

“The most arresting feature of Job’s oath is that he swears by the God ‘who has denied me justice’ (2a, NEB), who has made my soul bitter (2b, RSV; cf. 7:11′ 10:1; 21:25). What he says is a face, and Job has consistently maintained it. His high trust in God becomes quite audacious in this paradoxical appeal to God against God. Many since Elihu (34:5) have been shocked by it. But Job is not shaking his fist at God. By his solemn gesture he stakes everything on a justice beyond this injustice. It is up to God to set right the wrongs which, in a world of which he is the sole Maker and Owner, must, behind all secondary causes, be his full responsibility. Just how responsibly God would take up this burden and, in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, would carry, absorb and quench ‘the sins of the whole world’ (1 John 2:2), Job could not know.”2

Job knows the godless have no hope when they die, and that God will not hear their cry. He tell his friends,

“I will instruct you in the power of God;
What is with the Almighty I will not conceal.
Behold, all of you have seen
Why then do you speak with utter vanity?”
Job 27:11-12 LSB

In Job 26 he opened this last speech with heavy sarcasm, mocking Bildad’s words as supposedly “sound wisdom.” Now he tells his friends, “you speak with utter vanity.” Andersen comments, “Once more and finally Job dismisses his friends as empty.”3

Job goes on to describe God’s judgment on the wicked and his household. Andersen makes this very important point:

“[Job’s] prediction of judgment on the godless in not a belated conversion to his friends’ point of view; nor is it a slice of ortho­doxy put into the text long after it was finished…Since Job nowhere denies the justice of God, it is not inconsistent for his to affirm it here. The disagreement between Job and his friends is not over whether God is just or not; it is over how the justice of God is seen to work out in particular events, and specifically in Job’s experiences. The friends think they know the answer, and they have offered it to Job. Job knows they are wrong, not in affirming the justice of God, but in applying it to himself. But since he does not know how the justice of God is being fulfilled in his case, he is neither able to refute the friends not able to satisfy his own mind.”4

David Atkinson summarizes the book of Job through chapter 27:

“Now the three friends’ speeches are over. Epliphaz, Bildad and Zophar have had their say. Job has responded—not answering all their points directly (because he feels they are so far off the mark), but making his own case.

“We have followed him through the seven phases of his grief. After the time of numbed shock and silence, followed by his lament, longing and questioning in chapters 2 and 3, we began in chapter 4 with his anger against God, and his refusal to accept things they way they are. Angry questions in the face of God’s arrows gave way in chapters 9 and 10 to despair in the face of God’s almightiness. Chapters 12 to 14 showed us Job in terror, both at God’s apparent absence and at his threatening presence, as Job gave way to anxiety and paranoia. Throughout these chapters there were the beginnings of a glimmer of hope, and this hope began to grown in chapters 16 to 17, only to be dashed again. The hope grew to its high point in chapter 19 with the reaching ot towards the Kinsman-Redeemer who, Job believed, would one day vindicate his cause. Job then moved into a time of questioning the way God rules the world, and he opened up for us issues of theodicy: How do we make sense of God’s ordering of the world in the face of so much inexplicable suffering?

“Finally, Job looked forward longingly towards the time when his communion with God would be restored. There would be a resolution of grief, when life could begin again, when normality could be restored, perhaps even when, from a different perspec­tive, some meaning could be given to the pain through which Job had passed.”5

The next chapter, Job 28, is a beautiful poem on wisdom. Andersen comments:

“…this chapter is a bit of an enigma. It stands complete in itself, and is not joined smoothly with the preceding and following material. Yet it does not interrupt the flow, as if it would be better out of the way; for there is a natural break at this point. Job’s next speech (chapters 29-31) is also a self-contained work, balanced, as we have suggested, with the speeches of Elihu.

“…By calling the poem an interlude, we find it appropriate to mark, by means of this meditation, the transition from the dialogue in three rounds between Job and his friends to the monologues in three rounds of Job, Elihu and God.”6

Job has seen that his friends have offered him no wisdom. All their counsel has been empty and utter vanity. He cannot find answers to the questions he has cried out in agony. Now as he considers wisdom, he says man digs and mines, bringing out useful and costly treasures, and asks:

“But where can wisdom be found?
And where is the place of understanding?”
Job 28:12 LSB

Job declares wisdom is far more precious than all the metals and jewels man has found, and their priceless value does not even equal the value of wisdom, but though man has riches from the ends of the earth, yet wherever he may search, he cannot find wisdom.

Andersen writes that Job 28:

“…sums up the case as it stands at this point. It emphasizes the failure of the human mind to arrive at the hidden wisdom, and so, far from interfering with the Lord’s speeches [Job 38–41], it lays the foundation for the by showing their necessity.”7

Job realizes that man cannot find wisdom, in and of himself; he must look to God.

“God understands its way,
And He knows its place.”
Job 28:23 LSB

I think Job has reached the point where he knows he has said and asked all that he can. He realizes he has no answers to the why of suffering. He certainly knows his friends don’t. To find a wisdom that can answer the why of suffering and understand justice is beyond Job. To find that wisdom is beyond us.

When we suffer we each walk our own path in our pain, in our questions, in our longing for justice. When we suffer we each must come to the grips with the truth that in the final recourse only God has understanding and wisdom regarding the pain we sometimes endure.

Job 28 concludes in words that are repeated in Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes:

“So He said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
And to turn away from evil is understanding.’”
Job 28:28 LSB

The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom. Consider what God has said.

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Portrait of Abraham Grapheus as Job: Jacob Jordaens. Public Domain.
1,2,3,4,6,7Francis Andersen, Job (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1976) 235–236, 236–237, 238, 236, 240–241, 241.
5David Atkinson, The Message of Job: Suffering and grace (Inter-Varsity Press: Leicester, England; Downers Grove IL: 1991) 105.

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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