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Job Says There Is No Arbitrator Between God and Man Job: There Is No Mediation Reply of Job
God's Justice Is Above All Law
9:1 9:1-12

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. This is Job's response (i.e., Job 9-10) to Bildad's speech in Job 8. Surprisingly, there are more literary connections to Eliphaz's speech of Job 6-7.


B. Job feels he is innocent and wants to present his case to God (cf. Job 5:8; 9:3,14-24,32; 10:1-7; 13:15-19; 23:1-7; 40:2,3-5).


In Job 9:1-24 Job addresses his three comforters but in Job 9:25-10:22 he addresses God directly (i.e., in Job 9:30-35 he talks about God, not to Him).

C. Job characterizes God as he did in Job 5:9-16. This list introduces the attributes of God's power by "who. . ." Job is helpless before the God of such power.

1. He is wise in heart

2. He is mighty in strength

3. who can "dispute" (lit. "stiffened his neck against")

4. He removes mountains

5. He overturns them

6. Who shakes the earth out of its place, cf. Ps. 18:7; Isa. 13:13; Joel 2:10; 3:16

7. Who commands the sun not to shine

8. Who sets a seal on the stars

9. Who stretches out the heavens

10. Who tramples down (lit., "treads upon the heights of") the waves of the sea

11. Who makes the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades (i.e., constellations of stars)

12. Who makes the chambers of the south (i.e., places from which weather comes, cf. Job 37:9)

13. Who does great things (cf. Job 5:9)

14. Who does unfathomable things

15. Who does wondrous works without number

16. He is not limited to the five senses of mankind (Job 9:11)

17. No human can stop Him (Job 9:12; 11:10; Eccl. 8:4; Dan. 4:35)


D. In the last strophe (Job 9:25-35) Job restates the fleetingness of human life. He cannot address God, so what can he do?

1. he can forget his complaint against the

a. unfairness of God

b. inaccuracy of "the two ways"

2. he can attempt to cleanse himself (Job 9:30)

3. he needs an umpire (i.e., a legal advocate) in the heavenly council (Job 9:33-35); this theme reoccurs in Job 16:19; 19:25-27



 1Then Job answered,
 2"In truth I know that this is so;
 But how can a man be in the right before God?
 3If one wished to dispute with Him,
 He could not answer Him once in a thousand times.
 4Wise in heart and mighty in strength,
 Who has defied Him without harm?
 5It is God who removes the mountains, they know not how,
 When He overturns them in His anger;
 6Who shakes the earth out of its place,
 And its pillars tremble;
 7Who commands the sun not to shine,
 And sets a seal upon the stars;
 8Who alone stretches out the heavens
 And tramples down the waves of the sea;
 9Who makes the Bear, Orion and the Pleiades,
 And the chambers of the south;
 10Who does great things, unfathomable,
 And wondrous works without number.
 11Were He to pass by me, I would not see Him;
 Were He to move past me, I would not perceive Him.
 12Were He to snatch away, who could restrain Him?
 Who could say to Him, ‘What are You doing?'"

9:2a This line of poetry implies that Job agrees with much of what Bildad has said about God and His usual/normal way with humans (i.e., the two ways). Job sees himself as a unique case. "The two ways" are true but do not apply to every situation. This assertion is true of all Wisdom Literature. It is a general statement of normal truth but does not apply to each and every situation. See SPECIAL TOPIC: WISDOM LITERATURE.

9:2b This is a central question (cf. Job 4:17; 25:4). Legal terminology is recurrent in this chapter (cf. Job 9:2-4,14-24,30-35). Basically he is asking how he can present the case of his innocence (i.e., not sinlessness) before God. God is too pure, too powerful, too majestic (cf. Job 38-41).

9:3-12 In this strophe Job lists the reasons why neither he nor any human can dispute with the Great, Majestic, Creator God. See Contextual Insights, C. f. for the list of divine attributes.

9:3 "thousand" This number is used here in a symbolic sense. See Special Topic: Thousand (eleph). Line b suggests that God would ask numerous questions that mere humans could not answer (i.e., Job 38-41).

9:4 "wise in heart" In Job's litany of God's power (cf. Job 9:4-12) this is the only mention of "wisdom."

Peshitta"hardened himself"
TEV, REB"stand up against"
LXX"being unyielding"

The MT has "hardened" (BDB 904, KB 1151, Hiphil perfect). BDB calls it "a figure of obstinacy" and translates the verb here as "show stubbornness."

This root is used often in connection with

1. heart – Exod. 7:3; 13:15; Ps. 95:8; Pro. 28:14

2. neck – Exod. 32:9; 33:3,5; 34:9; Deut. 9:13; 10:16; 2 Kgs. 17:14; 2 Chr. 30:8; 36:13; Neh. 9:16,17,29; Pro. 29:1; Jer. 7:26; 17:23; 19:15

3. spirit – Deut. 2:30


NASB"without harm"
JPSOA"came out whole"
Peshitta"had peace"

This verb (BDB 1022, KB 1532, Qal imperfect with waw) in the Qal usually means "be complete," "be finished," or "ended." Here only BDB suggests it means "be sound" or "be uninjured." This is the verb form of shalom (see Special Topic: Peace [OT]).

9:7-9 These verses reflect the emptiness of polytheism, as do Genesis 1 and Exodus 7-11. The superstition related to the heavenly lights and the superstition related to nature (i.e., natural phenomena and animals) are untrue because both are under God's control. He is "the" one and only Creator (cf. Amos 4:13)! See SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM.

9:7b "And sets a seal upon the stars" John H. Walton, The NIV Application Commentary (p. 167) and the IVP Bible Background Commentary (p. 500) both assert that this verb (BDB 367, KB 364, Qal imperfect), when used with the preposition בעד, BDB 126, means "to lock something in." Therefore, this line of poetry asserts God's proscribing the constellations' (Job 9:9) paths through the night sky (i.e., imagery of God as the only Creator and Sustainer, cf. Isa. 45:12). The ANE mythology connected to the night lights (i.e., Gen. 1:14-19) is false. Job is a monotheist (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM).

9:8a "Who alone. . ." This is an affirmation of monotheism amidst a polytheistic ANE culture. This is the uniqueness of Israel's God.

9:8b This has two possible orientations.

1. "sea" refers to ANE mythology of the waters of chaos which YHWH defeated (see note at Job 9:13b)

2. "sea" denotes YHWH's separating the land and sea and drawing boundaries which the sea cannot pass (cf. Job 38:10-11; Gen. 1:9; Ps. 104:9; Pro. 8:29; Jer. 5:22)

Both options stress YHWH as the true Creator, Sustainer of the physical realm.

9:9 God as the creator and controller of the lights in the night sky is also seen in Job 38:31-32. To the ancients these stars were seen as gods controlling human destiny, but not so!

NRSV , LXX"the chambers of the south"
TEV , REB"the stars of the south"
NJB"the Mansions of the South"
JPSOA"the chambers of the south wind"

This part of Job 9:9b refers to

1. more star constellations (cf. NET Bible)

2. the place wind/weather is kept for God's use (i.e., Job 37:9)


9:10 This is a summary statement, like Job 5:9. For a list of the great things God has done, see Job 5:8-16.

9:11 Humans do not comprehend God's actions (cf. Job 23:8-9; Eccl. 11:5). This is similar to John 3:8. God's ways are beyond our understanding (cf. Isa. 55:8-11). God is active. History and our individual lives are not without plan or purpose.

The invisibility of God is in sharp contrast with the idols of the ANE. The wonders (i.e., actions) of God (Job 9:10) are present but He is unseen. YHWH is the "unseen hand" (i.e., Esther) of this world. He is known by

1. His acts

2. His revelation

3. and by faith (cf. Job 42:5)


9:12a "snatch away" This verb (BDB 368, KB 365, Qal imperfect) is found only here in the OT. The root is related to the noun "prey animal" or "robber" (cf. Pro. 23:28). Therefore, it denotes an attack by a wild animal (cf. NJB). God is God. He will do whatever He desires and no one can stop Him (cf. Job 10:7; 11:10; Romans 9).

9:12b Basically this is what Job is doing (i.e., questioning God's ways with humans). Job is asking, "What are You doing?"

 13"God will not turn back His anger;
 Beneath Him crouch the helpers of Rahab.
 14How then can I answer Him,
 And choose my words before Him?
 15For though I were right, I could not answer;
 I would have to implore the mercy of my judge.
 16If I called and He answered me,
 I could not believe that He was listening to my voice.
 17For He bruises me with a tempest
 And multiplies my wounds without cause.
 18He will not allow me to get my breath,
 But saturates me with bitterness.
 19If it is a matter of power, behold, He is the strong one!
 And if it is a matter of justice, who can summon Him?
 20Though I am righteous, my mouth will condemn me;
 Though I am guiltless, He will declare me guilty.
 21I am guiltless;
 I do not take notice of myself;
 I despise my life.
 22It is all one; therefore I say,
 ‘He destroys the guiltless and the wicked.'
 23If the scourge kills suddenly,
 He mocks the despair of the innocent.
 24The earth is given into the hand of the wicked;
 He covers the faces of its judges.
 If it is not He, then who is it?"

9:13-24 The essence of this strophe is Job 9:14a. God is too powerful to resist. Job even goes so far as to accuse God of unfairness.

1. he is innocent (Job 9:15,20,21, notice the repeated refrain), but God will not hear him

2. the innocent are destroyed (Job 9:22) along with the wicked (cf. Gen. 18:23,25)

3. God mocks the despair of the innocent (cf. Job 9:23b)

4. but in some cases, the wicked still prosper (cf. Job 9:24)

This strophe has several words with "legal" connotations. This imagery reflects the heavenly court (i.e., Job 1-2).

9:13b "the helpers of Rahab" This imagery refers to the ANE mythology of creation (i.e., chaos sea monster, cf. Job 26:12-13; Ps. 89:9-10; Isa. 51:9). Later the word "Rahab" (BDB 923) came to be identified with the Nile River (i.e., Egypt, cf. Isa. 30:7).

This is further imagery of God as the Creator (cf. Job 9:3-10).

The "helper" may be ANE mythology about lesser gods serving the higher gods (i.e., Tiamat, see Introduction to Genesis, VI online). I have benefitted greatly from John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament. The OT was written within ANE culture and uses its imagery. This does not imply the reality of that imagery!

A helpful article is G. B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible, chapter 13, "The Language of Myth," shows that the term "myth" has several connotations.

9:16 This verse epitomizes Job's discouragement. He does not sense God's presence or ways (Job 9:11-12). He feels he cannot truly stand before God to defend his integrity.

The word "believe" (BDB 52, KB 63, Hiphil imperfect) is the same verb used in Gen. 15:6, expressing Abraham's faith. Job has faith in God but bemoans His transcendence! The traditional theology of "the two ways" (i.e., we reap what we sow) has confused him. He believes God should be for him and with him (as He was in the past), but in the fog of pain and despair, he feels he has become a victim of Divine power (i.e., "without cause," cf. Job 9:17b).


NASB, TEV"bruises"

This verb (BDB 1003, KB 1446, Qal imperfect) occurs only in three passages.

1. Gen. 3:15

2. Job 9:17

3. Psalm 139:11

The two best conjectures of meanings come from cognate roots.

1. trample, crush – Akkadian

2. strike, bruise – Syrian


NRSV"with a tempest"
Peshitta"for one hair"
REB"for a trifle"
LXX"with gloom"

The MT has "in a storm" (שער, BDB 973). The UBS Text Project (p. 16) gives this a "C" rating (considerable doubt). By changing the vowels, the translation "for one hair" (שער, BDB 972) is possible.

Both possibilities fit the context. It sees to me "for a trifle" fits Job's feelings. It is not just that God has "caused" these bad things to happen, but WHY? Job does not consider himself "sinless," but he does assert his "innocence." Whatever his "sin" it does not fit the level of judgment that has fallen on him!

9:18a This may relate to Job 7:19. It speaks of God's constant holy presence (cf. Job 10:20). He gives no space for a human to recoup or renew. Job feels he is constantly under the gaze and judgment of the powerful God (cf. Job 9:4-10).

9:19 This state Job's predicament.

1. God is the strong one!

2. Who can summon Him to court?

God is God and there is no other! What frail, weak, fleeting, imperfect human can take Him to court? Here is the tension so hard to explain.

1. God is sovereign!

2. Can He be all powerful and unfair (i.e., ethical)?

3. Can He be all powerful but allow the innocent to suffer and the wicked to prosper?

The book of Job questions God's character and ways with His creation!

There is some textual doubt about the pronoun in Job 9:19b. The UBS Text Project (p. 16) gives this a "B" rating (some doubt). The Peshitta, NRSV, TEV, and NJB have "him." The JPSOA and REB try to combine both.

1. JPSOA – "who will summon Him for me?"

2. REB – "who can compel him to give me a hearing?"


9:20 This is a difficult verse to see the connections between the two lines of poetry. Job 9:21 helps interpret it. Job feels innocent (cf. Job 9:15,20,21; 10:7; 12:4; 23:11-12) and helpless before God! He despises his life but questions God's justice! This is "the" theological issue of the book. It is not answered in a logical sense but in a relational sense. Job never knows "why" but he comes to trust more and more in "Who."

9:22 This verse contradicts "the two ways." Job has lived the righteous life, what has happened? Is the problem the character of God? Is the problem "the two ways"? He believes that he is not the problem (Job 9:21). Of the two choices, it is "the two ways" that must be modified!

9:23b This line of poetry may refer to Eliphaz's statement in Job 4:7. "The two ways" have gotten completely out of control. Something is wrong in the universe. Is it

1. God

2. Job or

3. the two ways?


9:24 The earth is not a fair, righteous place. The wicked often succeed (cf. Job 10:3; 12:6; 16:11). How does this fit with the biblical revelation of a good, loving, all-powerful God?

The book of Job does not answer this question. We want it to but it does not! The full revelation of the NT brings this theological issue into the full light of truth. Job does not know about the dialogue of God and the accuser in Job 1-2 and he does not have complete knowledge of "the Redeemer" or "heavenly advocate." This will come only with the NT.

One of the best books on evil and suffering is John Wenham's, The Goodness of God. It is this issue that causes doubt among modern western people more than any other.

9:24b Bribery or personal interest is what blinded the eyes of judges (cf. Exod. 23:8; Deut. 10:17; 16:19; Pro 8:8,23; Isa. 1:23; 5:23; Mic. 7:3).

In the ANE, the nations' gods were like humans. Job struggles with this thought. Is God capricious, unfair, moody? The book of Job struggles with ANE culture and redefines the concept of causality (i.e., the one true, good God). It is not revelation (Job is not part of the covenant people) that starts his search but life experiences.

9:24c This line of poetry clearly asserts one, and only one, causality in the physical realm (i.e., Isa. 45:7; Amos 3:6)—God! There is no blame placed on

1. Adam/Eve

2. the Accuser

3. social conditions

4. luck, chance, fate

The OT does not acknowledge secondary causality.

 25"Now my days are swifter than a runner;
 They flee away, they see no good.
 26They slip by like reed boats,
 Like an eagle that swoops on its prey.
 27Though I say, ‘I will forget my complaint,
 I will leave off my sad countenance and be cheerful,'
 28I am afraid of all my pains,
 I know that You will not acquit me.
 29I am accounted wicked,
 Why then should I toil in vain?
 30If I should wash myself with snow
 And cleanse my hands with lye,
 31Yet You would plunge me into the pit,
 And my own clothes would abhor me.
 32For He is not a man as I am that I may answer Him,
 That we may go to court together.
 33There is no umpire between us,
 Who may lay his hand upon us both.
 34Let Him remove His rod from me,
 And let not dread of Him terrify me.
 35Then I would speak and not fear Him;
 But I am not like that in myself."

9:25-35 For a discussion of this strophe see Contextual Insights, D.

9:25-26 Again, Job mentions the rapid passing of time. He does not look forward to an afterlife where justice will be done, but expects God to act in this life (the typical OT perspective)!



The MT text has "snow" (BDB 1017) but the Masoretic scholars suggested it be read (Qere) "with water of snow." Notice, however, the JPSOA changes the MT "snow" to "soap" (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 117). The parallelisms of this verse demands "soap. . .lye." Job cannot make himself clean before God.

The UBS Handbook (p. 195) sees the two lines of Job 9:30 as contrasting (i.e., snow water does not clean well but lye does).


Peshitta"the pit"
REB"miry pit"

The MT has "pit" (BDB 1001) but used in the sense of "dirt" (play on cleaning of Job 9:30), not Sheol (i.e., Job 17:14). Again, note the second line of poetry deals with clothing. Job felt he was "blameless" (i.e., clean, white clothing) but God would not allow his clothing to remain clean (i.e., imagery of denying Job's innocence, cf. Zech. 3:1-5).

9:32 "He is not a man" This is a truism (cf. Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Hos. 11:9). God is personal but not physical and limited.

9:33 There is some question about how to translate the MT.

1. a statement (NASB, JPSOA)

2. a conditional clause (LXX, Peshitta, REB, UBS Text Project, p. 19)

The verse is introduced by a conjunction (BDB 530) that means

1. if

2. if only

As of yet Job does not believe there is such an advocate (there is some ANE precedent, cf. IVP Bible Background Commentary, p.501), but he later will (i.e., Job 16:19-21; 19:23-27; 33:23-27).

9:35b This last line of Job 9 is difficult to interpret. The Tyndale OT Commentary series (p. 150) suggests it may go with Job 10:1, which is a good suggestion.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is Job 9:2 so important?

2. List Job's accusations of God's injustice.

3. Explain the meaning of "guiltless" in Job 9:20.

4. Why is Job 9:22 so problematic?

5. Why is the concept, later developed in Job, of a heavenly "umpire" (Job 9:33) so significant?


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