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JOB 23


Job Says He Longs for God Job Proclaims God's Righteous Judgments Reply of Job
God Is Far Off, and Evil Triumphant
23:1 23:1-7
23:8-17 23:8-12

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. Job responds (Job 23-24) in a general way, not specifically to Eliphaz's words in Job 22. This is true of the dialogues in general. The three comforters' perspective is so different from Job's that they talk past each other.


B. The UBS Handbook (p. 429) has a good outline of Job's mood swings.

1. Job complains of God's hiddenness, Job 23:2-5 (negative).

2. Job feels if he could just present his case before God, he would be vindicated, Job 23:6-7 (positive).

3. Job does not feel God's presence or actions, Job 23:8-9 (negative).

4. Job expresses a degree of confidence in Job 23:10-12 (positive).



 1Then Job replied,
 2"Even today my complaint is rebellion;
 His hand is heavy despite my groaning.
 3Oh that I knew where I might find Him,
 That I might come to His seat!
 4I would present my case before Him
 And fill my mouth with arguments.
 5I would learn the words which He would answer,
 And perceive what He would say to me.
 6Would He contend with me by the greatness of His power?
 No, surely He would pay attention to me.
 7There the upright would reason with Him;
 And I would be delivered forever from my Judge.

23:1 "Then Job replied" Job does not even respond (i.e., Job 23-24) to the attack of Eliphaz in Job 22 or his admonitions. Some commentators think Eliphaz's response helped Job to clarify his own position in his mind.

23:2 "Even today my complaint is rebellion" The Hebrew words, "rebellion" (מרי, BDB 598) and "bitter" (מר, BDB 600), sound almost exactly alike. The translator of the RSV, following the Targums, Syrian, and Vulgate, assumes a word play here and translates it "bitter," for they see Job admitting rebellion as being an admittance of sin. UBS Text Project (p. 67) gives "rebellion" an "A" rating.

For "my complaint" see Job 7:11.

▣ "His hand is heavy despite my groaning" The Hebrew has "my hand," but we learn from a Phoenician parallel that it is possible the consonants mean "his" instead of "my" (see LXX, Syriac), thereby saying that God forced Job to be silent. "Heavy" (BDB 457, KB 455, Qal perfect) is used of God in 1 Sam. 5:6,11; Ps. 32:4.

▣ "hand" This (BDB 388) is an idiom for God's actions (cf. Job 13:21; 19:21). See SPECIAL TOPIC: HAND.

23:3 "Oh that I knew where I might find Him" This is what Job has been asking for all along (cf. Job 13:3,18). He wants to present his case to God but he asserts that he cannot find God (cf. Job 9 and 10).

23:4 "I would present my case before Him" Job is not looking for mercy in the hands of a gracious God, but justice at the hands of the Creator and Controller of the world (cf. Job 13:15c).

Notice the number of cohortatives.

1. I would present, Job 23:4 – BDB 789, KB 884, Qal cohortative

2. I would fill, Job 23:4 – BDB 569, KB 583, Qal imperfect used in a cohortative sense

3. I would learn, Job 23:5 (lit. "know") – BDB 393, KB 390, Qal cohortative

4. I would perceive (lit. "discern") – BDB 106, KB 122, Qal cohortative

5. I would deliver, Job 23:7 – BDB 812, KB 930, Piel cohortative

Notice the legal terms (cf. Job 9:2-4,14-24,30-35; 13:3,13-28; 16:17-21; 19:23-27; 31:1-40).

1. His seat (i.e., Judgment Seat; BDB 467, word meaning is uncertain), Job 23:3b

2. case, Job 23:4a (cf. Job 13:18)

3. arguments, Job 23:4b

4. contend, Job 23:6a

5. reason, Job 23:7a (cf. Isa. 1:18)

6. delivered (i.e., acquitted), Job 23:7b

7. my Judge, Job 23:7b


23:6 This verse is an affirmation that God would not take unfair advantage of him by His power and greatness (cf. Job 13:21). However, this is exactly what happens in Job 38:1-40:6.

23:7 "There the upright might reason with Him" This has been Job's claim all along of his innocence and uprightness (cf. Job 23:7,12). Only the innocent can appear before a righteous God (cf. Job 19:26).

▣ "delivered forever from my Judge" Job wants justice from God who he thinks has been unfair to him. The word "forever" (BDB 664) is an idiom for "once-and-for-all" acquittal (TEV).

REB"my Judge"
Bible"my case"

These words are very similar. The UBS Text Project gives "Judge" (BDB 1047) a "B" rating (some doubt). Job calls God Judge in Job 9:15. The word "case" (BDB 1048) is used in Job 23:4a.

 8"Behold, I go forward but He is not there,
 And backward, but I cannot perceive Him;
 9When He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him;
 He turns on the right, I cannot see Him.
 10But He knows the way I take;
 When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
 11My foot has held fast to His path;
 I have kept His way and not turned aside.
 12I have not departed from the command of His lips;
 I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.
 13But He is unique and who can turn Him?
 And what His soul desires, that He does.
 14For He performs what is appointed for me,
 And many such decrees are with Him.
 15Therefore, I would be dismayed at His presence;
 When I consider, I am terrified of Him.
 16It is God who has made my heart faint,
 And the Almighty who has dismayed me,
 17But I am not silenced by the darkness,
 Nor deep gloom which covers me.

23:8-9 Job grieves over the hiddenness of God (cf. Job 9:11). In all of Job's physical problems he laments more over the loss of fellowship with God (cf. Ps. 42:1-2). He believes God is present but for whatever reason, he cannot see (i.e., understand) His presence and actions. This is terrible darkness and gloom (cf. Job 23:17). Humans were created in God's image and likeness (cf. Gen. 1:26-27) to have fellowship with Him. Augustine characterized this as a God-shaped hole that only He can fill. Humans are empty and lost without Him. He is the goal of our existence.

Two Jewish commentators, Rashi and Iben Ezra, say that these four directions (i.e., "forward," "backward," "left," "right") refer to the four points of the compass.

23:10 "But He knows the way that I take,

 When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold" This may be a reaction to Eliphaz's statement in Job 22:24-25, or it may be a positive affirmation of Job's understanding that even in the midst of pain, sorrow, and unfairness of life, God has a purpose.

The term "tried" (BDB 103, KB 119, Qal perfect) denotes a purposeful, positive examination/testing by God to purify and strengthen (cf. Job 7:18; Ps. 11:4-5; 139:23). See SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD TESTS HIS PEOPLE (OT).

23:11-12 Job lists the reasons for his acquittal by God.

1. My foot has held fast to His path, Job 23:11a.

2. I have kept His way, Job 23:11b.

3. I have not turned aside, Job 23:11b.

4. I have not departed from the command of His lips, Job 23:12a.

5. I have treasured (lit. "hidden," cf. Ps. 119:11; Pro. 2:1; 7:1) the words of His mouth, Job 23:12b.

Job is asserting he has obeyed all of the commands and guidelines from God that he was aware of. He has committed no known violation.

23:11 "His path. . .His way" This is an example of Hebrew synonymous parallelism. See SPECIAL TOPIC: HEBREW POETRY. The idea of His path or way speaks of God's well-known will for our lives in which we must walk (cf. Ps. 16:11; 17:5; 139:23).

23:12b There is some disagreement between English translations on how this line of poetry should be understood.

1. "from my statute," MT

2. "in my heart/bosom," LXX, Vulgate, NRSV, NJB, REB

The Hebrew consonants are the same for both readings (see UBS Text Project, p. 88).

This line of poetry is parallel to Ps. 119:11. Job has acted on what he understood of God's will.

23:13-17 "But He is unique and who can turn Him" In Job 23:13-17 Job returns to his awareness of the transcendence, otherness, holiness, and eternality of God. All of these thoughts caused Job to fear when he asked to stand before the Almighty (Job 23:15-16).


NKJV"He is unique"
NRSV"He stands alone"
TEV"He never changes"
NJB"once He made up His mind"
JPSOA"He is one"
REB"when he decides"
KJV"he is in one mind"

The MT has a preposition (BDB 88) with a wide semantic usage and the adjective or numeral "one" (BDB 25). The UBS Text Project (p. 72) suggests it means "unique" or "alone" (i.e., an "A" rating). The TEV, NJB, REB translate the phrase based on the next line of poetry.

Is Job asserting

1. God's uniqueness (i.e., monotheism, see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM)

2. God's sovereignty

3. God's unchanging character once His mind is made up

Remember, the dialogues are literary composition written by a Judean sage years later, not the very words of the historical Job of Edom. If this is true, then #1 would fit best.

23:16 Job continues to assert the full and complete sovereignty of God.

Notice El (i.e., God) and Shaddai (Almighty) are parallel. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

▣ "the Almighty" See SPECIAL TOPIC: The Almighty (Shaddai).

23:17 "darkness" This word (BDB 365) is also found in Job 3:4,5; 5:14; 10:21,22; 15:22,23,30; 17:12,13; 18:18; 19:8; 20:26; 22:11; 28:3; 29:3; 34:22; 37:19; 38:19. It is one of two words translated "darkness" (see BDB 66 also in this verse, cf. Job 3:6; 10:22; 28:3; 30:26). "Darkness" and "deep gloom" refer to God's actions (or inaction, i.e., hardness) towards Job. Yet still Job wants to speak and present his legal case to God! He is afraid but he still speaks (cf. Job 23:2-7).

Job 23:17 is very difficult in the MT.


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. What does Job want in Job 23:2-7?

2. Did Job believe he would be vindicated?

3. List the things Job states that he has done with God's truth (Job 23:11-12).

4. What does the first phrase of Job 23:13a mean?

5. Is Job 23 an expression of Job's confidence or fear?


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