Beckett: Commentary on Job 10, Job’s Irrational Lamenting

10:1-7, Job Asks God the Wrong Questions

“I loathe my life; I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God, Do not condemn me; let me know why You contend against me. Does it seem good to You to oppress, to despise the work of Your hands and favour the designs of the wicked?

“Have You eyes of flesh? Do You see as man sees? Are Your days as the days of man, or Your years as a man’s year, that You seek out my iniquity and search for my sin, although You know that I am not guilty, and there is none to deliver out of Your hand?”

Job boldly and freely laments. Is he guilty of some special sin? Is God punishing him without reason? (Remember, Satan is, cf. 2:3.) Of course, Job is unaware that God is permitting his suffering to prove to Satan that Job would remain faithful even in the midst of immense suffering. This book is not about patience in suffering. As we’ve seen, Job is very impatient.

Interestingly, not once does Job ask God to relieve him from his suffering and to cure his disease. Instead, he wants an answer to his suffering and wants to know how he can prove his innocence while knowing both are impossible. Job recognised he was not sinless, but he was also cognisant of his piety and faithfulness. So, why should God pick on him?

Remember, Job sinned by becoming self-righteous (35:1-2). Job’s problem became that he relied on his own righteousness rather than on God. Rather than, “Why me,” the real question is, “Why not me?” We are sinners who have brought death and evil into the world. So, why not us? This question is especially true of God’s people who are guaranteed a life of tribulation (John 16:33; Acts 14:21-22). If the world is dangerous for evil people, it is even more dangerous for God’s holy people.

Job’s questioning of God—does He have eyes and mortality like man—is an emotional outburst. Job knows he has no place to do this, but as a sinner who is suffering, he does it anyway. We are no different.

10:8-13, Job’s Peculiar Turn to Praise

“Your hands fashioned and made me, and now You have destroyed me altogether. Remember that You have made me like clay; and will You return me to the dust? Did You not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and Your care has preserved my spirit.”

Job does a peculiar about-face here. It’s not a literary, logical move, but expecting such a literary move is idiotic since a person who laments in suffering is not being logical but purely emotional. Earlier, he begged God to take his life (ch. 3). Now he speaks on the delicate nature in which God created him and cared for him. He depicts God as a gentle sculptor—a master of what He designs. He uses the careful process of turning milk into cheese as a metaphor of his conception to his birth, which God directed.

Perhaps these words are what inspired David to write his poem, Psalm 139:13-16. In this psalm and Job’s words here, we see that pregnancy and birth are not mere results of male and female coitus, but also God’s active involvement in creating that unique human being.

10:13-17, Job Becomes a Theologian of Glory

“Yet these things You hid in Your heart; I know that this was Your purpose. If I sin, You watch me and do not acquit me of my iniquity. If I am guilty, woe to me! If I am in the right, I cannot lift up my head, for I am filled with disgrace and look on my affliction. And were my head lifted up, You would hunt me like a lion and again work wonders against me. You renew Your witnesses against me and increase Your vexation toward me; You bring fresh troops against me.”

In spite of Job’s beautiful confession, he begins to complain again. Remember, he’s a sinner. He wrongfully accuses God of being malicious toward him. While Job is a theologian of the cross, as I’ve claimed throughout this series, here he devolves into a theologian of glory; he assumes to know God’s heart and mind. If you’re familiar with Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation in 1518 where he first termed the theologies of the cross and glory, remember that Luther maintained we’re all theologians of glory and must constantly strive to become theologians of the cross. So, it is no surprise here that Job suddenly becomes a theologian of glory by assuming he knows God’s purpose.

No human can know the hidden mind of God. Not even someone as righteous and faithful as Job. Later on, God calls him out on this (chs. 38-41). Job was therefore profaning God’s name by suggesting He created him just to destroy him.

Job ceases to describe God as one who caringly watches over him and begins to accuse Him of being a spy just to make him suffer. This is similar to the modern complaint that God “watches us through a magnifying glass just to burn us like ants and watch us squirm.” Like Job, these whiners erroneously assume they know God’s heart and mind.

Job also wrongfully accuses God of being like a lion who stalks its prey. He ascribes to God that which characterises Satan (1 Peter 5:8). Job then brings his additional sufferings as witnesses to his testimony. This is hypocritically ironic since just before this, Job correctly stated that God is not a man with whom one can enter a courtroom (9:32). Yet he presumes to do just that by calling forth his suffering as “witnesses” to his innocence.

While sinful, we can at least empathise with Job since he acknowledged he had no mediator (9:33). So, desperate, he tries to be that mediator, albeit miserably.

10:18-22, Job Once More Despairs of Life

“Why did You bring me out from the womb? Would that I had died before any eye had seen me and were as though I had not been, carried from the womb to the grave. Are not my days few? Then cease, and leave me alone, that I may find a little cheer before I go—and I shall not return—to the land of darkness and deep shadow, the land of gloom like thick darkness, like deep shadow without any order, where light is as thick as darkness.”

Job moves from confessing God as the masterful Creator to essentially saying God’s creating him was one giant, pointless effort. Like in chapter 3, Job returns to wishing he was never born as well as the images of darkness in that same lament.

Before all the tragedies that befell him and his family, Job had many years of blessing and abundance. Remember, he’s described as being the richest man in the land of Uz (1:1-3). Yet in spite of all those years, this time of affliction is pitifully the defining moment of his life, in his view.

We are no different. As soon as something tragic happens, we throw all the good and blessings into the trash bin of our memory bank, as if everything has summed up to this single, momentary time of suffering. Everybody does this at the end of the year, complaining about how bad the year supposedly was, irrespective of all the good and God’s faithfulness through it all.

That is what Job is experiencing to a greater extent. His wife nagged him to give up and die (2:9) and now he sits in misery with three unsympathetic friends with terrible theology as antecedents to today’s prosperity gospel heresy.

Job expected to die soon; he genuinely believed these were the last days of his life. In his condition, who could blame him? Well, aside from his terrible friends.

Application

As I briefly talked about in my commentary on Job 3, we also learn about lamenting here. Except here, we see how irrational and even sinful we become as we lament. Job’s frail mind reveals our own frailty as we lament in our own suffering. Job begins loathing about his life, then he praises God for who He is as Creator, then he devolves into a theologian of glory by assuming he knows God’s mind as he begins to regret his birth again.

Once again, Job’s depression here reminds me of my own depression. If you’re familiar with my writing, you know I also write a lot of poetry. During my depressive years, my poems were very much like Job’s lamenting in this chapter. In one poem, I’d be despairing of life. Then in the next, I’m praising God, only to wallow in my self-loathing and desire for death in the next poem. Sometimes this would even occur in a single poem, much like Job’s dialogue here.

So, we learn something about ourselves: like Job, we also become irrational and sinful in deep lament. But what do we learn about God? Despite appearances, we learn of God’s mercy. In the same breath, Job praises God and accuses Him of being malicious (e.g. verse 8, “Your hands fashioned and made me, and now You have destroyed me altogether”). He assumes he knows God’s heart and mind (vv. 13-14, 16-17). He outright profanes God’s name. Yet what does God do?

He does nothing.

At first, this might seem problematic to us. “Doing nothing isn’t mercy!” But for a holy God whose name is being profaned and sinned against, doing nothing is mercy. What God “should have” done is smite Job despite his integrity. Yes, Job is still faithful to God by not cursing His name, but he is still sinning by profaning His name and assuming he knows more than God (cursing and profaning God’s name are not the same). That deserves death. But instead, God does nothing. He lets him live.

While we think it’s merciful to kill (i.e. murder) someone who’s suffering (“put them out of their misery”), God sees it merciful to let you live. After all, death is not a natural state for the human being. Only life is.

How many times have you and I yelled at God and lived? How many times have we sinned and lived? Countless times, no doubt. If you want to know how merciful God is, He refused to kill the guy who literally invented murder. Cain was so absurd that for the guy who invented murder, he was afraid that others would kill him. Yet instead of killing Cain as he definitely deserved, instead God promised he wouldn’t be killed and even placed a mark upon him as proof, much like circumcision was physical proof of God’s covenant between him and Abraham and all Israel.

Although God is certainly a God of wrath, His default mood is mercy. And His mercy is shown here, as in many other places, when He relents from much deserved disaster.

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