Here’s Norm Habel’s translation of the text of the speeches from the whirlwind. You’ll see that there are two distinct speeches, each responding to something Job said, but never speaking to Job’s innocence or explaining the prologue. So the question is, in what sense is this a response?
If I might make a suggestion, you may find that you’ll enjoy this more if you lift it into a word processor and print out a copy. Then read it a couple of times just for the flow of the words and the impact of the poetry. After the mythical beasts tamed by God in the creation and whatnot begin to seem familiar, then try to fit it into the larger narrative of Job.
YAHWEH’S DEFENSE OF HIS COSMIC DESIGN
Theophany and Summons
Then Yahweh answered Job from the whirlwind and said:
Who is this who clouds my design in darkness,
Presenting arguments without knowledge?
Gird your loins like a hero;
I will ask questions and you will inform me.
Earth and Sea
Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?
Tell me if you have gained discernment!
Who fixed its dimensions? Surely you know!
Or who stretched out the measuring lines over it?
On what were its pillar sunk?
Or who set its cornerstone
When the morning stars sang together
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Who hedged in the Sea with doors
When he gushed forth from the womb,
When I wrapped him in robes of cloud
And swaddled him in dense cloud,
When I prescribed my limit for him
By fixing bars and doors
And saying, “Thus far you may come and no farther!
Here your proud waves break.”
Dawn, Darkness, and the Netherworld
In all your days, have you commanded Morning,
And assigned Dawn her place,
So that you might seize the edges of the earth
And shake the wicked from it?
It changes like clay under a seal,
And they stand out like a garment
Thus the wicked are robbed of their light
And the upraised arm is broken.
Have you penetrated the sources of Sea
Or walked through the recesses of Deep?
Have the gates of Death been revealed to you?
Have you seen the gates of Death’s gloom?
Have you discerned the expanses of the earth?
Tell me if you know all this?
Where is the way to the dwelling of Light,
And where is the place of Darkness,
That you may escort each to its territory
And discern the path to its house?
Surely you know, for you were born then,
And the number of your days is great.
Phenomena of the Heavens
Have you penetrated the storehouses of snow
And inspected the storehouses of hail,
Which I have reserve for the time of distress,
For the day of attack and war?
Where is the way for the dispersing lightning
And scattering the east wind over the earth?
Who cleft a channel for the torrents
And a way for the thunderstorm
To rain on a land devoid of mortals,
Or a wilderness devoid of humans,
To saturate the wasted wasteland
And sprout forth grass from the dry ground?
Does the rain have a father?
Who begot the dewdrops?
From whose belly did ice emerge?
Who gave birth to the hoarfrost of heaven,
When water is hidden like stone
And the face of the Deep freezes over?
Can bind the fetters of the Pleiades
Or loose the sash of Orion
Can you lead out Mazzaroth in its season
Or stay the course of (a)Bootes and his companions?
Do you know the laws of heaven?
Can you establish its order on earth?
Can you lift your voice to the clouds
For a torrent of water to cover you?
Can you dispatch lightning on a mission
And have it answer you, “Here I am?”
Who put wisdom in the cloud canopy
And who gave discernment to my pavilion?
Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
Who tilts the bottles of heaven
When the dust melts into a mass
And the clods cleave together?
The Kingdom of the Wild
Can you hunt prey for the lion
And appease the appetite of whelps
When they crouch in their dens
And wait in their lair?
Who provides prey for the raven
When its fledglings cry out to El,
Wandering about without any food?
Do you know the time when the ibex give birth?
Do you watch over the calving of hinds?
Can you count the months they must fulfill?
Do you know the time of their delivery,
When they crouch to deliver their offspring?
Their young are healthy; they grow up in the open;
They leave and never return.
Who set the wild ass free
And loosed the bonds of the onager,
Whom I assigned a home in the wilderness
And a dwelling in the salt flats?
He laughs at the furor of the city
And hears no shouts from a taskmaster.
He roams the hills for pasture
And searches for anything green.
Is the wild ox willing to serve you?
Will he spend the night beside your crib?
Can you hold the wild ox in the furrow with ropes?
Will he harrow the valleys behind you?
Can you rely on his great strength
And leave your toil to him?
Can you trust him to harvest your grain
And gather it in from the threshing floor?
The Ostrich, the Horse, and the Eagle
The wing of the ostrich rejoices;
She has gracious plumage and pinions.
But she leaves her eggs on the ground
And lets them get hot in the dust,
She forgets that a foot may crush them,
Or a wild beast trample them.
She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers;
She does not care if her labor is in vain.
For Eloah deprived her of wisdom
And withheld her portion of discernment.
But when she rears on high
She laughs at horse and rider.
Do you impart to the horse his might?
Do you adorn his neck with thunder?
Do you make him quake like a locust swarm?
The majesty of his snort spells terror.
He paws with power, he exults in his strength;
He charges headlong into the fray.
He laughts at dread, he remains undaunted;
He does not recoil from the sword.
Beside him the quiver rattles,
The flaming lance and the javelin.
He quakes and shakes; he swallows the earth;
He can hardly believe the blast of his trumpet.
As the trumpet sounds he says, “Aha!”
From afar he smells the battle,
The thunder of captains and the war cry.
Is it by your discernment that the hawk soars,
Spreading his wings to the south?
Does the eagle mount at your command
And build his nest on high?
He makes his dwelling on a rock.
On a rocky crag his stronghold.
From there he searches out food,
From afar his eyes detect it.
His young gulp blood;
Where the salin are, there is he.
Closing Challenge and Job’s Reply
Yahweh answered Job and said,
“Will the one with a suit against Shaddai correct me?
Will the one arraigning Eloah answer me?”
Then Job answered Yahweh and said,
“Behold, I am small; how can I refute you?
I clap my hand on my mouth.
I have spoken once, I cannot answer
Twice and will do so no more.”
YAHWEH’S CONTROL OF BEHEMOTH AND LEVIATHAN
Then Yahweh answered Job from the whirlwind and said:
Gird your loins like a hero!
I will ask questions and you will inform me!
Would you pervert my justice?
Would you prove me wrong so that you may be in the right?
Have you an arm like El’s?
Can you thunder with a voice like his?
Deck yourself with grandeur and dignity!
Adorn yourself with glory and majesty!
Unleash the furies of your wrath!
Look upon the proud and humble them!
Look upon the proud and abase them!
Crush the wicked where they stand!
Hide them in the dust together!
Bind up their faces in the hidden place!
Then I, I will pay you homage
For the victory your right hand has won you.
El’s Subjugation of Behemoth
Behold, now, Behemoth, whom I made along with you!
He eats grass like cattle.
Behold also his strength in his loings,
His might in the muscles of his belly.
When erect, his tail is like a cedar,
The sinews of his thighs are knotted together.
His bones are like tubes of bronze,
His limbs like iron rods.
He is the first of El’s ways;
His Maker draws his sword against him.
The mountains bring him their tribute;
All the beasts of the field revel there.
He lies down under the lotuses,
Under the cover of reeds and swamp.
The lotuses form a bower of shade over him,
The willows of the brook surround him.
If the river rages he is not cowed,
If the Jordan gushes forth he is calm.
El takes him by the mouth with rings,
He pierces his nose with hook.
Challenge to Capture Leviathan
Can you draw out Leviathan with a hook
Or depress his tongue with a cord?
Can you put a rope through his nose,
Or pierce his jaw with a barb?
Will he inundate you with supplications,
Or placate you with gentle words?
Will he make a covenant with you
To take him as your lifelong servant?
Will you play with him like a bird
And tie him down for your girls?
Will traders bargain over him
Or offer him for sale among merchants?
Can you fill his skin with harpoons
Or his head with fishing spears?
If you lay a hand on him
You will not long remember the battle!
Yahweh’s Silencing of Leviathan
Behold, any hope against him is false;
At his very appearance one is laid low.
Is he not ferocious when roused?
But who can take their stand before my face?
Whoever confronts me I requite,
For everything under heaven is mine.
Did I not silence his boasting
His mighty word and his persuasive case?
The Terror and Invincibility of Leviathan
Who can remove his outer garment
Or penetrate his double coat of mail?
Who can pry open the doors of his face?
Terror surrounds his teeth!
His back is rows of shields,
Closed tight with a seal.
One piece is hard on another;
No air can come between them.
Each one is joined tightly to the other;
They are interlocked and cannot be separated.
His sneezings flash forth lightning
And his eyes are like the eyelids of dawn.
Torches issue from his mouth,
Flames of fire leap forth.
From his nostrils comes smoke,
Flames, fanned and fierce.
His breath ignites coals,
Flame pours forth from his mouth.
Strength resides in his neck,
And before his face dread dances.
The fold of his flesh cleave together,
Cast hard upon him and immovable.
His heart is cast hard a stone,
Cast hard as the nether millstone.
At his majesty gods are afraid,
At his crashings they cringe.
No sword one draws against him will prevail,
Nor spear, nor dar, nor javelin.
He treats iron as straw,
Bronze as rotted wood.
No arrow can put him to flight;
Slingstones are turned to stubble for him.
The club too he treats as stubble
And he laughs at the shaking of javelins.
Lord of Chaos and King of the Proud;
His underparts are sharp shards
He spread out like a threshing sledge on the mire.
He makes the deep seethe like a cauldron;
He turns the sea into an ointment pot.
In his wake is a luminous path;
One would think the abyss had white hair!
There is no one on the dust to dominate him;
He is make without fear.
He looks down on all that is lofty;
He is king over all proud beasts.
Job’s Final Response
The Job answered Yahweh and said:
I know that you can do everything,
And that no scheme of yours can be thwarted.
“Who is this who obscures my design without knowledge?”
Indeed I spoke without discernment
Of things beyond me which I did not know.
“Hear now and I will speak,
I will ask and you will inform me.”
I have heard you with my ears
But now my eyes see you.
Therefore I retract
And repent of dust and ashes.
So then…the central issue is to decide why Job decided to stop talking and withdraw his suit. And what does it mean to “repent of dust and ashes?” What is Job repenting of? And even more interesting, what is God’s mood? Is he angry? Is he crushing Job? Or is he playful and tolerant? How does God feel about his creation and his work?
I have provided the clues that support my reading in the earlier posts, but you may have different ideas. Although some readings of Job can be discarded, there are many that remain viable, even against the most careful study.
The OT is great literature and Job is the greatest of the OT…