In this episode, Tim and Jon try to tackle some of the glaring questions about the story of Job. They talk about the surprise friend, Elihu, who seems to show up out of nowhere towards the end of the story. They also spend some time discussing Job’s speech in chapter 28. There’s a lot to unpack in that chapter, and understanding it may give us clues as to what this book is all about. Finally the guys look at Job’s final showdown with God and how God responds to Job’s accusations of being unjust and unfair.
In the first part of the episode (01:53-07:29), the guys talk about Job’s surprise friend, Elihu. He comes into the story and reaffirms for Job that God is just, but he also hints at a more complex understanding of God’s justice. Yes, he is just, but he’s also God, and he’s capable of disciplining someone to avoid future suffering.
In the second part of the episode (07:51-17:22), the guys discuss Job’s speech in Chapter 28. This chapter is all about God’s divine wisdom. Job talks about humans as creative and ingenious, but they also can’t fully access God’s wisdom or understand his ways. In the next part of the episode (17:43-30:41), Tim and Jon talk about God’s response to Job’s accusations. God basically gives Job a virtual tour of the universe, describing all of the incredible things that he has created. We see here that Job doesn’t really have the vantage point by which to accuse God. In the next part of the episode (31:04-46:20), the guys talk about the Behemoth and the Leviathan, ancient creatures that God brings up during his tour of the universe. Why would the author choose to include this? We can see that even in God’s good world, there can be suffering and tragedy only because the world is a raw and wild place. In the final part of the episode (46:47-59:11), the guys talk about Job’s repentance and humility before God at the end of the book. Job’s story teaches us that God doesn’t always run the world on the principle of just recompense. Video: This episode is designed to accompany our video on the book of Job. You can view it on our youtube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GswSg2ohqmA
Scripture References: Job, Psalm 74, Isaiah 27, Revelation 12
Show Music: Defender Instrumental by Rosasharn Music; Blue Skies by Unwritten Stories; Flooded Meadows by Unwritten Stories
Podcast Date: September 10, 2016
Speakers in the audio file:
Jon: Welcome to The Bible Project podcast. I'm Jon and I'm going to be talking with Tim.
We're going to discuss the book of Job. This is our third and final conversation on
this book. If you haven't listened to the first two, I'd highly recommend it.
First, we're going to talk about Elihu, a new character that seems to pop up out of
Tim: There's a surprise friend named Elihu, who wasn't there with the three friends. It's
really interesting. He's just there. He just starts speaking up.
Jon: Then we talk about chapter 28, Job, how this chapter stands apart from the rest of
Job's speeches, and how it gives us a clue as to what the point of this entire book is.
Tim: Where can humans find wisdom? They can go under the earth and find golden tools.
Can humans just go get understanding and wisdom?
Jon: Then finally, we talked about final showdown, God responds to Job's accusations of
being unjust and unfair.
Tim: I am intimately aware of the macro cosmos, things that you've never even conceived
of. I'm intimately familiar with every part of the natural world that you thought you
knew about. Maybe you'd like to run the universe for a day according to your vision
of how I do it, and you'll find it impossible. And by the way, the world is a raw and
wild place, good and ordered but still dangerous.
Jon: I hope you enjoy this final conversation on Job. Here we go.
Tim: What's interesting is that the book doesn't just have the three friends in Job that
Jon: There's a surprise friend.
Tim: There's a surprise friend named Elihu, who wasn't there with the three friends.
Jon: He's like, "We're late to the intervention."
Tim: Totally. It's really interesting. He's just there. He just starts speaking up at the
beginning of chapter 32. He's presented as a young man. What we're told is that he
was angry was Job for declaring himself to be in the right rather than God. But he
was also angry at the friends because they didn't find any way to refute Job, and yet
they had declared him to be guilty even though they no evidence. So he speaks up
and dude, he has long winded.
Jon: He's five chapters?
Tim: 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37.
Jon: Six chapters.
Tim: It's a long speech. Essentially, he reaffirms that God is just. He reaffirms that God
always runs the universe according to the strict principle of justice. But he introduces
a nuance to say, "Listen, God might in His justice cause suffering to somebody ahead
of time to shake their character in such a way that they'll become people who do the
right thing in the future so that they'll avoid future suffering and hardship."
Jon: Innovative move.
Tim: What's that?
Jon: It's an innovative move.
Tim: Yes, it is. He tells the story about God might send a bad dream and cause someone
to suffer in their sleep so that when they wake up, they make a good decision in the
morning. Or he says God might allow somebody to get really sick so they have a
deathbed conversion and then live the rest of their life because they got religion and
they'll avoid hardship.
His point is that the friends don't have a nuance [enough?] approach and that there
are sometimes where really does appear that someone suffers and they didn't do
anything. But he just says it could be a bigger set of reasons that you don't
immediately know. But what he does think Job is wrong in doing is accusing God of
incompetence or being cruel based off of his own circumstances.
Jon: Okay. Let's recap. Friends think, "You must have done something wrong." Job thinks,
"I didn't do anything wrong. I don't know what's going on." Even goes as far as to
accuse God. And then Elihu shows up and he takes a new tact, which is, "Okay, you
haven't done anything wrong, we can't prove that but we know God's just. So
perhaps this is to protect you or to prepare you for something that's going to
Tim: Yeah. It's a form of discipline for character shaping.
Jon: "So even though you haven't done something wrong, God could still prepare you to
make you a [better?00:05:08] person."
Tim: To avoid future sin that will bring God's judgment on you.
Jon: Here's what's interesting. Is that's not too far off from what we were presented with
at the beginning of the story in a way because ha-Satan, his point was, "Look, you
don't know if Job really loves you or not, you just know that he likes getting hooked
up." That's all we know for sure. And so, we need to find out if he really actually
loves you and if he's righteous.
And so, in a way they are preemptively disciplining Job to prepare him for...well,
maybe not to prepare him for [inaudible 00:05:53] but the test him to see if he really
does have it. So there's a similarity it seems like.
Tim: Yeah. The similarity is that there might be a broader set of reasons that you don't
know that would actually show God to still be just in allowing this to take place. He
assigns those as shaping your character in the present to avoid sin in the future. He
gives a pretty concrete example. But he's opening the window to greater complexity
than the three friends did.
This is John Walton's summary. He says, "Without Elihu's voice, readers might have a
tendency to idealize Job or conclude that his response to his suffering was
impeccable. In light of Elihu's rebuke of Job self-righteousness, however, we're
warned against thinking that our suffering by nature constitutes a challenge to God's
integrity. But despite that valid point of Elihu's critique, Elihu's own account of God's
justice ultimately fails like that of the friends because it says that there's always some
concrete reason that suffering is always in connection to some concrete act of sin."
Jon: Whether it has happened yet or not?
Tim: Correct. So that's an interesting addition. Why did that point need to be made?
That's just interesting feature of Job. And there's one more thing before there's God,
and that's chapter 28.
Tim: Chapter 28 is just really interesting. Before chapter 27, there's the unique
introduction. Actually, right in the middle of Job's speech, Chapter 27 begins, "And
job continued." And you're like, "Well, right, I knew he was speaking already." And
then you read chapter 27.
Then in chapter 28, the tone shifts, the speaking voice shifts, the topic shifts. It's a
new poem. Then you go to chapter 29, and it says, "And Job picked up or continued
his discourse again." So there are some markers there in the story that chapter 28 it's
kind of set apart in some way. It doesn't actually sound like Job.
Jon: Like, it's Job talking.
Tim: Yeah. So there are many readers and scholars who think that this is the
narrator's...it's like an interlude, where it's the narrator giving his read on the
dialogue of Job and his friends. It is a remarkable poem. It just describes how
humans are so creative and ingenious, they can figure out almost anything here on
planet earth. So the examples that he gives here are mining, computer chips—
Jon: Microprocessors, satellites.
Tim: The first example, the example he gives is of mining for precious jewels. It's this
whole long, elaborate poem about humans can go down at the deep recesses of the
earth and find jewels and gold. They can get to places where no eagle has ever seen,
where no lion could ever have access too. Humans can tunnel through rocks
searching out the underground rivers.
It's just this awesome poem about the creativity of humans and their ability to do
something you would never think is possible - would tunnel down into the earth.
Jon: No other animals are doing that for gems.
Tim: That's right. And then it says, "Even so, where can humans find wisdom? They can go
under the earth and find gold and jewels, but where do humans find wisdom? Can
humans just go get understanding and wisdom, chokmah?" And then the poem
goes on. "Humans can't comprehend wisdom. It's actually not found in the land of
the living. The deep says, 'yeah, I don't know where wisdom is,' and the sea says—
Jon: The deep referring to?
Tim: The deep abyss under the earth. In cosmology, it's that the land is floating on waters
just supported by pillars.
Tim: So the deep recesses under the earth of water say, "I don't know where wisdom is."
And the ocean depth says, "We don't know where it is." You can't go buy wisdom at
the market. You can sell the most valuable jewels ever. So where then do you get
chokmah? It's hidden from every living thing. Even death says, "yeah we've only
heard a rumor about wisdom." Death in the grave say, "We've only heard a rumor."
God is the one who knows the way. He alone knows where chokmah lives. He sees
all the earth, everything under heaven. In fact, what he brought is Proverbs. When
He brought order, when He measured out the waters, when He set a path for the
wind and the thunderstorms, He looked at wisdom and used it to make the world,
and He said, "The fear of the Lord, is chokmah, to shun evil is understanding." Just so
But right here, like a sore thumb in the middle of the dialogue, it becomes a
commentary on all of the agitated, arguing and wrangling and logic of the friends.
What they're trying to sort out is something that actually is inaccessible to them -
this higher order of chokmah. But God has it and human beings can humble
themselves before it. Anyway, chapter 28 is really remarkable.
Jon: So what do you think the significance of that is we get a window into?
Tim: It's a preview of God's answer later in the book, and it's a window into the view the
author wants you to adopt, I think, which is to say, "Oh, yeah, this strict principle of
micromanaged recompense that the friends think is how the world works, that Job
thinks how the world ought to work, is not actually how God runs the world."
Jon: So the whole mining thing was just the setup, like, we can go find a lot of stuff but
we can't go find wisdom.
Tim: But we can't find wisdom. Dogs can't learn algebra.
Jon: And we can't mine for wisdom.
Tim: Human beings are not in a position to have a divine vantage point to declare
whether God is just or unjust by how he runs the universe.
Jon: Is there similarity with that to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, where we
don't have the ability to define good and evil, it takes a certain amount of wisdom to
really discern that...there's no way we can get it on our own innovative efforts? It's
like a dog learning algebra.
Tim: Yeah, that's interesting. The Knowledge of Good and Evil is wisdom vocabulary. The
woman says in the garden, she saw the trees looked beautiful to the eyes, was good
for food, and could make one wise. Is what the narrative says. And so, she takes
some and eats of it. She wants wisdom.
Jon: It seems like a very Hebrew thing to say, like, "Can I go to the heavens and find it?
No." Remember, we're just talking about Psalm 139 and it's like, "Can I escape from
Tim: That's right. If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I go to the deep, you are
Jon: And it's the same word, right? The deep.
Jon: So, I go below the earth, you are there; I go up in the sky, you are there. Then in
Tim: "Don't say, where's the Torah? It's not up in heaven. It's not down in the earth."
Jon: And so, is this kind of a Hebrew way of thinking?
Tim: It is. It was their cosmology.
Jon: Like, if I was going to look for something, and it seems like far, far away, how far
away could it be? Maybe it's up in the sky, the highest of the sky. And you're like,
"No, not up there."
Tim: Or it's under the earth.
Jon: Or it's under the earth, below in the depths.
Tim: In the cosmic waters under the earth.
Jon: It's just an interesting...you just don't talk like that.
Tim: No. We might say like, "I searched high and low. I went near and far." I mean, those
are fixed things. Actually, not that common.
Jon: I just was realizing I'm seeing that over and over.
Tim: It's kind of a fixed saying.
Jon: So, with wisdom, it's like there's this idea he saying, "To really understand how this
works, where are you going to get that? Like, how far you're going to have to go?"
There's no distance that he can think of because the furthest place up high in the
skies, it's not up there. The furthest place below the earth, not there. In the depths of
the ocean, not there. Well, maybe if you die, and you get to another reality, maybe
Tim: Totally. And death in the grave say, "Yeah, we've heard a rumor about chokmah."
God knows where it is because it's the means by which He ordered the universe.
Jon: He ordered all of this.
Tim: Yes, totally.
Jon: We can't go anywhere to find it because it's above all this.
Tim: But in a way—
Jon: It's outside of all of us.
Tim: But it's saying the universe isn't absolute chaos. From their perspective, it's ordered.
Like there is an order. It is intelligible. And the book of Proverbs is generally true.
Like, it generally works.
Jon: But if you wanted to find the wisdom that explains—
Tim: All of the times that proverbs didn't work out and why that happened—
Jon: You're not going to find that in the created universe.
Tim: It's not accessible to humans. It's accessible only to God. That's the point of this
poem. And then the line is, "he said to humanity to fear the LORD, that's chokmah,
and to shun evil, that's understanding." So now we're back to the human order of
wisdom. The chokmah is accessible, and that does work for humans is to trust and
do the right thing.
Tim: Then eventually, Job gets his wish.
Tim: In chapter 38, God appears, God shows up and speaks to Job out of the whirlwind
out of the storm. It's a pretty intense address. God opens by saying, "Who is this that
darkens my counsel and speaks without knowledge? Get ready. Let's have this
showdown that you've been asking for, Job." It's pretty intense. So the intensity is
responding to Job's—
Jon: If I was God, that point I'd be like, "I get it Job." But instead, he's like, "Who darkens
Tim: Right. So it's a setup of the drama because, Job, we're sympathized with him, but Job
has also lodged in the literary courtroom of the book some large claim for that.
Jon: And if you do that to a king, he's going to get bummed.
Tim: "Based off of your perspective and circumstances, you have made these claims." So
after that intimidating opening, what God doesn't do is just say, like, "You're wrong,
you're stupid." It's long set of speeches. The first one in chapters 38 and 39 is what I
call a virtual tour of the universe on a large and a small scale.
So it's almost a tour earth through the cosmos as envisioned by Genesis 1 — the
three-tiered. So, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundations and set the
pillars, and the footings that keep the land from sinking into the watery abyss."
What's interesting is He has a question about time. "Where were you in the primeval
past? Were you there? But also, where were you...?"
The way the universe is described here doesn't draw any distinction between God's
past creation and God's present maintenance and order and sustaining. So he goes,
"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundations? But also, who shut up the sea
behind doors and who fixed limits for it like on that the beaches in the oceans? Why
does the sea just stop right there?
Have you ever given orders to the morning light, or shown the dawn its place, that it
might take the earth by its edges and shake the wicked out of it, that the light might
come and remove all the wicked people like shaking roaches or ants or something
like that? Have you ever done that, Job? You seem to think that that's how I ought to
make things work.
Have you ever journeyed to the deep seas and see the springs? Where does light
live? You're just like, "What? So clearly, the implication is for Job to say, "No."
Jon: We can totally update this now and be like, "Where were you when...
Tim: ...the cosmic radiation was cooling?"
Jon: "Explain to me why atoms don't seem to exist until you observe them. Just like all
the mysteries of quantum physics and stuff."
Tim: "Did you ever see Pangea?"
Jon: "Why is light a particle and a wave, Job? Explain to me that."
Tim: "Explain the butterfly effect."
Jon: And by the way, Job what's gravity?
Tim: So the obvious implication of all those questions, the answer to them is, "No, I was
not there. I don't know the answer to any of these questions. No, I don't have your
vantage point, God." So that on like a macro level.
Then God starts talking about, "Have you ever seen a mountain goat give birth?" My
favorite is a little essay on wild donkey. "Are you the one who controls wild donkey?"
Because he's just cruising the wastelands, the salt flats and he laughs at the
commotion in the term because he's not here and shout of any driver. He ranges the
hills looking for any green thing. It's like this picture of a wild donkey, just free, dirty,
Jon: Why does He bring up the donkey?
Tim: Wild ox?
Jon: What's the point with the donkey and the ox?
Tim: You're going to get the effect.
Jon: All right.
Tim: Huge wild ox, can you hold him? Can you tie him up to a plow and help you with
your garden? Or the ostrich?
Jon: So He's kind of saying like, "You've domesticated animals and so you think you've
got a handle on things, but there's a lot more. There are some wild animals out there
that you don't have a handle on."
Tim: "You don't have a perspective, the least bit of perspective on the macro cosmos, and
even here on the land—
Jon: You can't control everything.
Tim: What do you know about mountain goats and their feeding patterns and lions? And
do you control wild donkey or wild ox and the ostrich? Do you give the horse its
strength? And here it's this beautiful description of a horse revving up and galloping
into battle, like a war horse. Do you really control that thing? You could ride on it
when it's in the frenzy of battle, but does the hawk take flight by your chokmah, by
your wisdom? Does the eagles soar at your command?
Again, the point is, is oh, there's all of this detail and there's all of these creatures
who just live free and have their whole lives and God's intimately aware of every
detail of their existence, and they're not for a second under Job's control and he has
no clue about their habits or their life at all.
Jon: I saw this article; I think will totally a fit that same vein but a little bit more modern.
Let's see if I could find it. There's this website called babylonbee.com. It's like a
Christian The Onion. If you're familiar with The Onion, it's like a Christian version of
This article is called 'What Has God Ever Done For Me?' Asks Man Breathing Air.
"Sources confirmed Tuesday that local freethinker Jared Olson called into question
the “absurd” idea that God had ever done anything for him, all while inhaling oxygen
and exhaling carbon dioxide in a complex process well beyond his mind’s capability
of understanding in its entirety."
Then it goes on. “The idea of ‘god’ is really just holding us back,” Olson opined. As
the membrane across his larynx vibrated to modulate the flow of air from his lungs,
making his speech audible to the people listening, whose intricate ear structures
then instantly transformed the invisible sound waves into abstract thought in their
brain’s nervous tissue."
Tim: That's brilliant. Pretty good.
Jon: It's kind of got the same effect.
Tim: There's also another motif that appears a couple times is getting to this question of,
"Okay, so if God's attentive to all this detail, so that sweeps out from under Job his
claim to have a vantage point by which to accuse God of being incompetent."
But then there's also a couple of things. Like there's a question about rain patterns.
He says, "Who cut the channel for the rain to water the land were no human lives? A
whole desert with nobody in it gets satisfied with rain and sprouts with grass."
So think in terms of Deuteronomy. Rain and abundance and agriculture, those are all
signs of God's favor and blessing because you're faithful. But apparently, God takes
pleasure in sending rain and making abundant a desolate wasteland that no human
will ever even see just full of beauty and abundance be great farming.
So that little vignette raises the question of like, "Oh, so the universe isn't just about
justice. It's like God enjoys [inaudible 00:26:27] and superfluous generosity. Like,
where does that fit in your system for how God runs the world??
Jon: Like, who deserved that?
Tim: Just God, just for the sheer pleasure of making a beautiful meadow.
Jon: It kind of has the effect of saying like, "This isn't all about you?"
Tim: Yeah, yeah. The moral fortunes of humans isn't the only story going on in the world.
Jon: That's interesting.
Tim: It is.
Jon: But it is an important story. Like, we know from Genesis 1 and 2 that humans being
in the image of God and ruling on God's behalf is very, very central. It's central to the
story of creation. But then I guess you have to step back and go, "We're not the
center of the universe."
Tim: Yes. Like, God is attentive to—
Jon: God's doing things outside of our understanding, and we can see that in this very
simple illustration of the desert. But who knows what else? I mean, who knows?
Jon: And we're just one piece of that.
Tim: That's right. I love it that there's the book of the Bible making that point.
Tim: It is. I remember the first time...I don't remember how old I was when I really grasped
the reality of other planets. I just kept thinking about there's a planet where there's
some like...I would think of tumbleweed blowing, which of course, I don't know other
than the planets we know of further vegetation.
But in my imagination tumbleweed blowing along on a rocky desert, it's just
happening right now. There's just a whole planet with its own system of I guess you
call it an ecosystem of the [inaudible 00:28:28] living creatures. I just remember that.
So when that idea first captured my imagination...
Jon: And the alien landscape.
Tim: ...no human has ever nor likely will ever set foot there, but it just exists in beauty and
Jon: There's entire galaxies.
Tim: Now as an adult, it's like—
Jon: Kevin Kelly, when I was at Q a couple weeks ago, he showed the slide of a bunch of
galaxies. You know, one of those beautiful Hubble telescope photos. And he said,
"This image, if you looked up in the sky, would be about the size of your thumb. So
that's how much space we're talking about magnified." And in it, you see hundreds
and hundreds of these galaxies.
In one of those the galaxies and one of those planets is a beautiful terrain with a
beautiful weather system, and something majestic happening, some sunset, and
we'll never see it. And God's delighting in it.
Tim: It's completely apart from the story of God and humanity. That's a part of God's
world that He's attentive to and that factors into God's decision making. That's the
Tim: On the large scale and small, even areas, I think, for the animals that humans think
they have some control over a knowledge of, you know, just the biological world is
itself ultimately a mystery. So that's the first speech is the virtual tour of the macro
and micro cosmos.
And Job answers. He says in chapter 40, "Wow, I'm really unworthy. How can I
respond? I spoke twice, but I have no answer. I put my hand over my mouth." He
recognizes his folly. He doesn't say, "I'm sorry for what I said." He just says, "You're
right, I overstepped my bounds."
Tim: So what happens next is in chapter 40 God says, "Then maybe you would like to run
the universe for a day according to the principle you think I ought to run the
Jon: It's like putting your toddler in charge of the house.
Tim: Totally, yeah. Basically, he says, "Job, you just tell me how you would micromanage
the universe according to the strict principle of justice for every human action 24/7.
Tell me what that universe looks like, Job."
He says, "Look at every proud man and bring him low, crush the wicked right in the
moment where they stand, bury them in the dust, then I'll admit to you that your
right hand can bring deliverance." He's so rude. "Okay, you tell me." And then there's
Where He goes next is one of the most well-known parts of Job. God goes on to
then describe two wild, huge creatures in God's good world that he's quite proud of.
One is called behemoth, and then the second one is called Leviathan. It's in chapter
41. God takes great pride in describing the majesty and strength and anatomy of
So behemoth lives in the rivers and marshes, and it's gigantic and has thick bones
and tail like a cedar.
Jon: It sounds like a dinosaur.
Tim: Yeah, it's interesting. So throughout the history of interpretation, there's been lots of
proposals as to what these creatures are. The one that's fixed in the modern
imagination was first made — I have a note here — in 1663 by Samuel Bochartus,
who wrote a huge volume called "The Hierozoicon: The Holy Zoology Manual." It's
on Google Books. I've looked it up actually.
Jon: Does he have any images in there?
Tim: No, no. But essentially it's a biblical Encyclopedia of every animal mentioned in the
Tim: And all of the biblical descriptions of every animal mentioned in the Bible matched
with his own observations of all those animals that he went and traveled to the
Middle East to go see in their natural habitat. What a crazy guy? But he did this and
he produced "The Hierozoicon." He was the first one to identify behemoths with a
Jon: Hippopotamus does not have a tail like a cedar.
Tim: Exactly. That's the only thing that doesn't fit the description. So you either say poetic
Jon: I mean, it's got like a tiny little tail.
Tim: Yeah, it's not very impressive. Totally. I mean, here's what you can do. You can say,
"It's not trying to correspond to any known creature. It's taking a known creature—
Jon: Well, here's the thing. We know that many creatures have gone extinct, right? We
know that many large mammals have been killed off by human.
Tim: Sure. This book is only 2,500 years old, which is old.
Jon: It's old. You don't think 2,500 years ago we were killing off large mammals?
Tim: Of course we were. But the question is, is there a large mammal that's gone extinct
in the last 2,500 years within the Middle East...
Jon: That we've dug up and found fossil records of...
Tim: ...that we have no idea, that we have no—
Jon: Or we don't know. I mean, we just found a new dinosaur last week.
Tim: Okay. Yeah, sure. But dinosaurs were talking. I mean, humans were nowhere ever
Jon: I'm just saying, we're always finding new things.
Tim: Yeah. I'm sorry. We should acknowledge a—
Jon: It's possible that there's extinct animal or maybe even an animal in there just
mythologies because it was extinct 10,000 years ago.
Tim: All right. And they found the fossil remains and story...
Jon: I'm going to get this wrong, but something like 90% of large mammals on the planet
were killed off 10,000 years ago. Early humans are brutal. The most likely explanation
is as we began as humans to learn how to hunt really well, we just took out all the
animals. I mean, the ostrich is one of the remaining large birds. There were tons of
different large birds. Those were tasty large birds that we ate.
Tim: Apparently. And their eggs.
Jon: And their eggs.
Tim: I think buffalo within recent memory in terms of American history, I mean, there
were millions and millions of Buffalo.
Jon: There are these giant ground sloths. It was huge - the size of bears, but they were
Tim: Wow. They didn't stand a chance.
Jon: No. Anyways. It wouldn't surprise me if there was an animal like this.
Tim: Yeah. The other option is that it's some mix between real and mythological creature.
Like maybe what unicorns are in the modern imagination of it's a horse.
Jon: But why would we, if we were making this story today, have God boast about the
unicorn? You'd be like, "Ah, that's not a real one, God."
Tim: Yes, that's right. It's a solid point.
Jon: I'm going to go through extinct animals.
Tim: Behemoth can fit in what you're describing. Leviathan is a little trickier because we
know more about this word and the background of this creature. Leviathan is a
known mythological creature in Israel's imagination.
In Psalm 74, Leviathan is a seven-headed beast that's a symbol of the chaotic
darkness and void of Genesis 1:2 that God tamed and brought order to. So this was
a motif in Canaanite creation cosmologies of God conquering the chaos and
bringing order. And that motif is not present in Genesis 1. God just speaks and
brings order. But there is a tradition of that in Psalm 74 where God creates by
defeating the seven-headed Leviathan.
Jon: In Psalm 74?
Tim: Yeah, Psalm 74.
Jon: He defeats the seven-headed Leviathan?
Jon: I've never heard of such a thing.
Tim: Come on. Psalm 74.
Jon: That's in my Bible?
Tim: Oh, yeah. It's a poem about lamenting the destruction of the temple. "God handed
over the temple to the pagans to destroy it, your foes have run into the temple with
axes and hatches to chop it down." Verse 9, "We're given no signs from God. How
long will the enemy do this? Chaos has unleashed on Jerusalem."
"But," the poet says, verse 12, "God is my Kin from long ago; He brings salvation on
the earth. You God, you were the one who split open the sea by your power, and
you broke the heads of the sea monster in the waters. It was you who crushed the
heads of Leviathan and gave it as food to the deserts. The day is yours. Yours is the
night; you establish the sun and man creation." He's retelling the story of God
creating the world in light of, one—
Jon: So "splitting open to sea" was part of the creative act?
Tim: Separating the waters.
Jon: Separating the waters. And then he broke the heads of the monsters.
Tim: Leviathan. He defeated chaos. Leviathan is a symbol of the chaotic, dark wasteland.
Jon: In the mythology, it's this multiple headed creature that lived in the water?
Tim: Yeah, correct. This creature is drawn and appears in iconography in Babylonian
mythology. Leviathan appears in Canaanite mythological texts. So there you go.
Psalm 74 is using the imagery available in the cultural imagination to retell the story
of creation as God conquering the chaos monster.
Tim: Isaiah 27, when Isaiah thinks of God defeating evil in the future, he talks about God
swinging his sword against Leviathan.
Jon: Where is that?
Tim: That's Isaiah 27:1. These are images picked up in the New Testament in the book of
Revelation about God defeating the dragon. Actually, all the way back to the book of
Job in the Septuagint translation, pre-Christian Jews translating job into Greek, they
translated Leviathan right here in Job as drákon - the Greek word for dragon.
And so, you could say some of it kind of sounds like a crocodile. That's what Samuel
Bochartus thought in his Hierozoicon. But then in Job 41:18-21, this guy is breathing
fire. He sneezes throw lightning and fire streams from his mouth, and his breath sets
coals ablaze. So we're clearly in the realm of seven-headed mythological firebreathing
Jon: There's got to be people who think dragons actually existed because they were so
Tim: Or something that gave rise to dragons in the human imagination. Something that
was close enough. Now, we've thoroughly, we spent a lot of time—
Jon: On those guys.
Tim: So what's their purpose and God bringing them up?
Jon: So that we could discuss them in the 21st century.
Tim: The purpose in God bringing them up is what he says. He says, "Look at Behemoth,
look at how strong he is. I made him along with you." It's what he says. "Look at the
behemoth, I made him just like I made you."
Then when He gets to Leviathan, he says, "Well, he speak to you gentle words, will
you make an agreement with you and you can take him as your slave for life? Are
you going make a pet of Leviathan, just like you would a bird and put a leash on him
for your little girls?" I mean, it's so ridiculous. And then if you lay a hand on him,
So I think this is the point is, God's world is very good. It's ordered, there's order to
it, but there are realities in God's good world that will eat you alive and not even
think about it. And they're not evil. Leviathan isn't evil here. He's just—
Jon: He's just a misunderstood seas dragon.
Tim: He's wild. So whether he's an actual forgotten monster, or is a symbol for the
unpredictable chaotic elements that still exist in God's good world, the point is,
God's world is ordered but it's still wild and dangerous. The point is that, is the world
ordered? Is it good? Is it a good place for humans to live? Yes. But Leviathan will eat
you in a second.
Jon: And God was proud of it. He's proud of this thing.
Tim: Yeah. He wants to show him off.
Jon: But it'll take you out.
Tim: "I won't fail to speak of his limbs and his outer coat. His back has rows of shields."
Jon: So just because God makes something that's dangerous to humans doesn't mean
it's not good is his point there.
Tim: Yes. The world is a still a dangerous place for humans, and that doesn't mean it's not
good. Leviathan can unleash hell on your life. And it's not evil. God's not angry at
you. You just crossed paths—
Jon: You're just messing with the crocodile.
Tim: You just met a Leviathan and it ruined your life. These creatures existing in God's
world, the whole point is that there can be suffering and tragedy that results for no
reason except that the world is still a raw and wild place as we experience it. There's
no eschatology here of, "Well, but one-day Leviathan will be done away with." It's
just that's the world as we know it.
Jon: The Leviathan will lay down with the lamb.
Tim: Yeah. That's Isaiah. No, Isaiah is God will crush Leviathan and remove him completely
from God's good world. This is the end of God's speech, this Leviathan.
So just think of the flow of God's speeches. "I am intimately aware of the macro
cosmos things that you've never even conceived of. I'm intimately familiar with every
part of the natural world that you thought you knew about. Maybe you'd like to run
the universe for a day according to your vision of how I ought to do it, and you'll
find it impossible. And by the way, the world is a raw and wild place, good and
ordered but still dangerous."
Jon: And that's it.
Tim: And that's what God has to say.
Jon: It's not what you would have expected Him to say.
Tim: No. Which is why this book arrests the imaginations of people throughout history.
It's such an amazing book.
Tim: So Job response. "Job replied to the Lord," chapter 42, "I know that you can do all
things." The virtual tours very much impressed Job. "No plan of yours can be
thwarted." God said earlier, "Who is this that obscures my counsel? Who is this who
speaks of things that I don't understand."
So Job says, "All right. My ears had heard of you. I thought I understood how you
worked but now I see you." He's had a full conversion of his imagination — a
humbling of his imagination. Verse 6 is notoriously difficult to translate.
Jon: Because it's one of those words that's not used very often.
Tim: And it uses the words in a really unique way. So he says first something to the effect
of "Therefore, I reject. Literally, I reject." The translations differ. I reject myself or NIV
has "I despise myself" or some interpreters think "I reject the accusations I made."
But the point is he's taking back, and there's something that he claimed that he now
Then he says, "I repent in dust and ashes" or something to the effect of "I have
changed my mind" or "I've changed my posture." Whatever's happening, however, it
gets translated, that's a whole rabbit hole in itself. The point is that he's declaring a
change of mind and heart, he chooses humility before God.
But it's not the end of the book. The book ends with an epilogue where God says to
the friends, "I'm angry with you guys." God says He's angry at the friends. "Because
you have not spoken what is right about me like my servant, Job has spoken rightly
Which forces you to be like, "Wait a minute. Okay, I get it for the friends, their
theology was way too black and white simplistic, but what does it mean that Job
spoke rightly? That can't refer to everything he said."
Jon: Right. Otherwise, there would have been a showdown.
Tim: Yeah. But apparently there are some things that Job did say that are right, namely,
that God doesn't always run the universe on the principle of just recompense
because He's blameless, He's innocent, and he suffered, and God allowed it. And
that's right. God acknowledges that that's right.
So then job goes and offer sacrifices to atone for the folly and the sins of the friends
Jon: It was nice of him.
Tim: It was nice of him. Then the Lord made Job prosperous again, restoring twice as
much as he had before. And then it goes on the list all of the numbers of camels and
oxen, and children and he names, their children and how his daughters were the
most beautiful in the ancient world, and that he lived 140 years and he died full of
To me, this is another one of these most interesting things because the whole point
then, it brings you all the way back to the beginning and wondering, "Well, wait, I
thought the whole point was for Job to maintain his integrity despite all this loss, but
then at the end, he receives them all back again."
But you interpret the reward differently now because the reward you realize isn't
owed to Job, but it is simply God's gift to Job. He could have not done it, and He
could have done it. We now know how God runs the universe, He could have done
it, He could have not done it. And we interpret this not through recompense Job
earned this. We interpret it now as, in God's wisdom and generosity, He gifts job
with abundance and joy once again. And that's how the book ends.
Jon: And so, back to the very beginning of our conversation, the point of this is so that
Job...he doesn't get an answer.
Tim: He never gets an answer.
Jon: He never gets an answer. And what we thought was going on at the beginning of
the story, which was God was just testing him doesn't seem to be the full story. At
the end, we're asked to kind of like Job, just realize, "Whoa, there's way more going
on in the created universe than I could ever try to manage or comprehend. And it's
also a place that doesn't fit my neat categories of good and evil." Because I would
look at that Leviathan and I would say, "That thing is evil." And God sitting here
going, "Actually, I'm pretty stoked on that thing. Don't mess with it."
So it's just like breaking down my categories, and then by the end, I just have to go,
"Okay, I thought of myself too highly in my ability to understand why things work."
And then Job, when it gets that place, he gets hooked up again. But it doesn't seem
like a Joel Osteen kind of hook up where it's like, "Do the right thing, God's going to
give you health and wealth."
Tim: No. Just the fact that he went through what he went through shatters that paradigm.
So now his prosperity has no direct correlation to his righteousness. It's just a gift.
Which the critic from Ecclesiastes would say, "Yeah, sometimes you get that, but
sometimes you don't. "
Jon: And enjoy it.
Tim: And enjoy it when you get it. But sometimes you don't get it. And then Proverb says,
"That's why you just do the right thing, and you fear the Lord and shun evil because
that's the right thing to do." I mean, holistically from all three books, you can put this
portrait together of like, fear of the Lord, be wise, do the right thing. It's not always
going to bring success. And that's going to force you to reckon with some pretty
humbling hard things about who you are, and the kind of world you're living in.
But wisdom is also reaching a place of humility before God and not demanding that
He offer you an explanation for why things happen the way they do as if you could
understand it in the first place, even if He did offer you an explanation. So fear the
Lord and keep His commandments.
At the end, all three books do work together to offer a really mature portrait of the
good life and the wise life. My hunch is that it's a portrait that some people in the
modern world will struggle because I think there is something about—
Jon: We want to understand things.
Tim: Yeah. Humans, we've made so many exponential leaps in our understanding of the
universe just in the last half millennia.
Jon: Half a century.
Tim: Half a century. Much less the last...Sorry, for some reason, I just thought the way the
printing press got things going 500 years ago, but then, of course, in the last half
century. So I think there is this mindset of like, "Oh, no, I think we'll probably figure
this thing out and not very long."
I don't quite know what to do with that tension, because we can, but then the
question of does that get us over our skis get us thinking much too highly of
ourselves. Because the same people who are plugging away at math equations,
figuring out the physical Constance nanoseconds after the Big Bang, also struggle to
be faithful to their spouses, and...You know what I mean? They just like everybody
else are caught in the moral dilemmas and making stupid decisions and drinking too
much. So like there's no human that isn't caught in the web of the moral challenge
that we all find ourselves in.
Jon: Except for Job.
Tim: Yeah. Then the biblical vision, our moral choices are as much a part of our
understanding of the world as our ability to do math or produce technology is your
ability to have integrity. So in that sense, nothing's really changed for humanity.
Jon: That's true. So, for Proverbs is about wisdom. I feel like there was a word for
Ecclesiastes I was glomming on to that's escaping me now. Chance is one. The
Tim: Death, time, and chance.
Jon: Death, time, and chance, meaningless. But with Job, humility seems to be like the
key point, right?
Tim: I think that's right.
Jon: That the posture of humility allows you to find peace. So when we think of this old
weatherman who has peace but he still has passion and life, but he just doesn't get
rattled, and he really believes that he doesn't have to worry even though he knows
that doesn't mean everything is going to be awesome, there's that contradiction.
Like he should be on edge because you any moment God might be with another
Satan and be like, "Hey, let's do round two with Job." But instead, it's to a place
where "It doesn't matter what's thrown at me. I understand my place and I'm
completely at peace and I'm ready for it.
Tim: That's certainly what God is trying to lead Job to in the speeches. Which leads back
to that comment we made - the meaning of the book is not found in the heavenly
scene, the beginning. Really, the culmination of the book are the God's speeches
that lead Job to his humbling and repentant at the end. That's what this is about.
Jon: So that wraps up Tim and I's conversation on the book of Job for this podcast. We
used this conversation to then write a script make an animated short film that we're
putting up on YouTube, youtube.com/thebibleproject.
You can watch all our videos there. We're really proud of them. You can also go to
our website, jointhebibleproject.com and download videos for free. We have some
study guides available for some of the videos. We're trying to make more. You could
also download other resources there as well.
Up next on the podcast will be a conversation on the Holy Spirit, which, man, is so
good. We just actually had the conversation about two days ago. I'm going to start
editing it. It's really helpful. So looking forward to that.
Say hi to us on Facebook, facebook.com/jointhebibleproject., Twitter,
@JoinBibleProj, and thanks for being a part of this.