The Bible tells of a man named Job, who suffered the loss of his family, his possessions, and his health. When he questioned God about why this had happened, God responded…but, in His response, God did not answer Job’s question. Instead, God asked Job a series of questions. Essentially, God’s response was, “Who are you to question me?”. The idea is that we know very little about how God operates, and why He does what He does.
I find that reading this part of the book of Job to be an awe-inspiring and humbling experience. We too wonder why we suffer. For those who know little of God, the question is troubling. Those who know how God has revealed Himself to humanity over time can cite His character, and His track record of faithfulness, as evidence that He can be trusted even though we may suffer. Christians read in the New Testament that suffering produces character, which leads, in the end, to hope (Romans 5). It seems strange that suffering would lead to hope but, in my experience, suffering makes us ask important questions…questions that should, eventually, lead us to the same conclusion that Job himself came to: that God knows what He’s doing, and that we can trust Him.
Recently, someone asked me if I knew how many questions God asked Job. I wasn’t sure, and couldn’t find a definitive answer…so I did a little homework. We find the questions that God asked Job in the book of Job, chapters 38 through 42. I counted 66 question marks, so there are at least 66 questions. Some questions, however, have more than one question in them. For example, in verse 24 we find these two questions:
Who is this that darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding,
Who set its measurements? Since you know.
Or who stretched the line on it?
On what were its bases sunk?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Or who enclosed the sea with doors
When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb;
When I made a cloud its garment
And thick darkness its swaddling band,
And I placed boundaries on it
And set a bolt and doors,
And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther;
And here shall your proud waves stop’?
Have you ever in your life commanded the morning,
And caused the dawn to know its place,
That it might take hold of the ends of the earth,
And the wicked be shaken out of it?
Have you entered into the springs of the sea
Or walked in the recesses of the deep?
Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
Or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
Have you understood the expanse of the earth?
Tell Me, if you know all this.
Where is the way to the dwelling of light?
And darkness, where is its place,
That you may take it to its territory
And that you may discern the paths to its home?
Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
Or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
Which I have reserved for the time of distress,
For the day of war and battle?
Where is the way that the light is divided,
Or the east wind scattered on the earth?
Who has cleft a channel for the flood,
Or a way for the thunderbolt,
To bring rain on a land without people,
On a desert without a man in it,
To satisfy the waste and desolate land
And to make the seeds of grass to sprout?
Has the rain a father?
Or who has begotten the drops of dew?
From whose womb has come the ice?
And the frost of heaven, who has given it birth?
Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades,
Or loose the cords of Orion?
Can you lead forth a constellation in its season,
And guide the Bear with her satellites?
Do you know the ordinances of the heavens,
Or fix their rule over the earth?
Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
So that an abundance of water will cover you?
Can you send forth lightnings that they may go
And say to you, ‘Here we are’?
Who has put wisdom in the innermost being
Or given understanding to the mind?
Who can count the clouds by wisdom,
Or tip the water jars of the heavens,
When the dust hardens into a mass
And the clods stick together?
Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
When they crouch in their dens
And lie in wait in their lair?
Who prepares for the raven its nourishment
When its young cry to God
And wander about without food?
Do you know the time the mountain goats give birth?
Do you observe the calving of the deer?
Can you count the months they fulfill,
Or do you know the time they give birth?
Who sent out the wild donkey free?
And who loosed the bonds of the swift donkey,
To whom I gave the wilderness for a home
And the salt land for his dwelling place?
Will the wild ox consent to serve you,
Or will he spend the night at your manger?
Can you bind the wild ox in a furrow with ropes,
Or will he harrow the valleys after you?
Will you trust him because his strength is great
And leave your labor to him?
Will you have faith in him that he will return your grain
And gather it from your threshing floor?
Do you give the horse his might?
Do you clothe his neck with a mane?
Do you make him leap like the locust?
Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars,
Stretching his wings toward the south?
Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up
And makes his nest on high?
Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
Let him who reproves God answer it.”
Now gird up your loins like a man;
I will ask you, and you instruct Me.
Will you really annul My judgment?
Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?
Or do you have an arm like God,
And can you thunder with a voice like His?
The following questions are related to “behemoth.” The identity of behemoth is unknown, but the text clearly suggests a large beast. Some commentators suggest that this is an elephant, a hippopotamus, or possibly a dinosaur.
Behold now, Behemoth, which I made as well as you…
Can anyone capture him when he is on watch,
With barbs can anyone pierce his nose?
The following questions are related to “leviathan.” The identity of leviathan is unknown. Some commentators suggest that this may be a crocodile, a whale, a shark, a dragon, or a dinosaur.
Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook?
Or press down his tongue with a cord?
Can you put a rope in his nose
Or pierce his jaw with a hook?
Will he make many supplications to you,
Or will he speak to you soft words?
Will he make a covenant with you?
Will you take him for a servant forever?
Will you play with him as with a bird,
Or will you bind him for your maidens?
Will the traders bargain over him?
Will they divide him among the merchants?
Can you fill his skin with harpoons,
Or his head with fishing spears?
Behold, your expectation is false;
Will you be laid low even at the sight of him?
No one is so fierce that he dares to arouse him;
Who then is he that can stand before Me?
Who has given to Me that I should repay him?
I will not keep silence concerning his limbs,
Or his mighty strength, or his orderly frame.
Who can strip off his outer armor?
Who can come within his double mail?
Who can open the doors of his face?