God’s Response to Job

by Léon Bonnat (1880)

The Review of Biblical Literature (RBL), a publication of the Society of Biblical Literature has published a review of Job 38-42, a commentary written by David J. A. Clines for the Word Biblical Commentary series.

Throughout the book that bears his name, Job has been crying out to God, asking him to explain the reason for his suffering. Job 38-42 deals with God’s answer to Job from the midst of a storm. In this section of the book, God challenges Job to answer a series of questions concerning his (God’s) work in creation. God’s words to Job and Job’s acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty over his creation are the focus of Cline’s commentary.

Below is a description of the commentary as it appears on RBL’s promotional information:

Volume 18B is devoted entirely to the response of the Lord from the tempest to Job, together with the replies of Job (Job 38-42), presenting the Lord’s own explanation of his manifold purposes in creation and bringing to an unexpected conclusion Job’s dramatic quest for justice. Difficult portions of the Hebrew text are thoroughly handled, but the commentary is written for the non-technical reader and scholar alike. Clines uncovers the driving force of the argument and the drama of the book. The Explanation sections at the end of each chapter brilliantly summarize the views of the speakers and offer thoughtful reflections on their theological value.

The review of the book was written by Norman Habel, a professor at Flinders University of South Australia in Bellevue Heights, Australia. The review presents a positive evaluation of the book and concludes by saying that this commentary on Job “represents the highest standard of technical biblical interpretation.”

Below is an excerpt taken from Habel’s review:

This work is the final volume on Job by David Clines in this series. Consistent with the aim of the series, this volume is written from a broad scholarly and technical perspective that is designed especially for university lecturers and students, taking into account all the nuances of the original Hebrew text and the theological meaning in its cultural context.

Of the more than five hundred pages in this volume, more than half are dedicated to an extensive bibliography and a set of indices that relate to all three volumes of Clines’s commentary on Job. These materials are clearly the most detailed, extensive, and valuable set of resources for those who wish to pursue the study of Job in depth and/or examine in detail the exegetical justification for Clines’s extremely insightful commentary. And how can I miss the fact that Clines has quoted me and my commentary over four hundred times!

Clines’s approach and rich insights are evident already in the second verse of the commentary (38:2), where he translates the noun “Design” with a capital letter, thereby suggesting that this term refers to Yahweh’s design for the universe and highlighting a pivotal theme that Clines calls “God’s Universe Project,” a grand design as to how the universe operates. Already at this point Clines highlights the tension between Job’s desire for justice and the modus operandi of the cosmos:

Yahweh does not undertake to ensure that justice reigns in the world. Yahweh has created the world, with its physical and moral systems, but he does not monitor the detail of what goes on in it and he does not serve as a cosmic policeman. (1006)

Job’s problem, according to Clines, it that he has been ignoring and so obscuring the way God operates the grand design of the cosmos. It is precisely that design, with all of its ambiguities, that Job is challenged to explore in the subsequent verses of the chapter.

Habel concludes his review with these words:

I must acknowledge that this commentary represents the highest standard of technical biblical interpretation in the twenty-first century and deserves to be become a basic text for all lecturers and students of the book of Job at tertiary level and beyond.

This volume is the epitome of exegetical excellence!

My book, Job and the Problem of Suffering deals with the problem of suffering and God’s awareness of human suffering. You can buy my book on Amazon.

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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