The book of Job tells the story of how a “blameless and upright man [who] feared God and turned away from evil” was afflicted by Satan (chapters 1-2), of how he and his friends reacted to his affliction (chapters 3-37), and of God
responded to Job and his friends’ reactions to his affliction and restored him (chapters 38-42). Last week I considered what chapters 1-2 suggests about the problem of evil, and in this post I’ll consider what chapters 38-42 suggests about the problem of evil. Quotations are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
God Addresses Job
In Job 38:1-40:5 God addresses Job and Job responds to Him. God opens and closes His address with these challenges: “Who is this that darkens counsel without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you will make it known,” and “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.” In-between the two challenges, He asks Job in a long series of questions if he knows how He created the earth and how He governs it and its creatures. This seems to be in response to Job’s questioning the justice of what had happened to him, which he attributes to God, and expressing the wish to argue his case before God. In response to God’s challenge, Job puts
his hand over his mouth and pledges silence.
In Job 40:6-42:6 God addresses Job again and Job responds to Him again. God opens His address with this challenge: “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Will you put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?” He goes on to show that Job had spoken beyond his knowledge and power to act, illustrating this with descriptions of two beasts created and governed by God, Behemoth (possibly the hippopotamus) and Leviathan (possibly the crocodile). Job confesses that God can do all things and that he had spoken of things beyond his knowledge, and he repents of what he had said.
God’s pointing to Job’s insignificance in comparison to God instead of answering Job’s questions suggests to me that the ultimate answer to the problem of evil is that it is a mystery known only to God and that He wants us to accept it as such rather than to seek rational solutions to it.
God Rebukes Job’s Friends
In Job 42:7-9 God rebukes Job’s friends. He tells them, “My anger burns against you…, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has,” instructs them to make an offering to Him, and promises that He will listen to Job’s prayer for them. They had argued that God is just and rewards and punishes people for their actions and that therefore Job must have sinned and deserved his misery.
This suggests to me that we should be careful about automatically attributing the misfortunes that happen to God’s people to their wickedness. Certainly God sometimes causes or allows evil to happen to God’s people when they do wrong to discipline them and to get them to return to Him. However He may allow it to happen to them for other reasons, as He allowed it to happen to Job in Job 1-2 to demonstrate that he honoured God for Himself not for reward and as He later allowed it to happen to Jesus on the Cross to provide for our salvation. (Other Biblical examples are Abel, Uriah the Hittite, and Naboth.)
God Restores Job
In Job 42:10-17 God restores Job. In fact He blesses the latter years of his life more than He had blessed his earlier years.
This suggests to me that God will eventually make things work out for His people today when they suffer afflictions. We have the assurance that He gave through Paul in Romans 8:28, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good,” and the hope of a heavenly home.
In my next post I’ll consider what Randy Alcorn’s “If God Is Good” booklet says about the importance of the problem of evil and suffering and about the relationship between evil and suffering.