Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have a question. In Job 38:21, was God being sarcastic, or did he literally mean that Job was born before the World began?

Surely you know, for you were already born!
    You have lived so many years!
share|improve this question
Job is everyman, not a man. Man has always had the same problems with God. (Why does God allow tsunamis etc) Good question though as it explains the 'since the beginning' nature of the Book of Job. – gideon marx Dec 30 '13 at 13:15

The Context of God's answer to Job is confrontational:

Then the Lord answered Job out of a whirlwind, and said:

2 Who is this that wrappeth up sentences in unskillful words?

3 Gird up thy loins like a man: I will ask thee, and answer thou me.

Job 38:1-3

Job is demanding an answer from God:

Oh that one would hear me! behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me, and that mine adversary had written a book. 36 Surely I would take it upon my shoulder, and bind it as a crown to me. 37 I would declare unto him the number of my steps; as a prince would I go near unto him

Job 31:35-37

But what's more is Job would approach God " a prince" as if he deserved an audience with God.

So God, on His part is demanding Job 'act like the man he says is', putting himself on an equal footing with God.

What is important to remember is that God didn't afflict Job; Satan was allowed to afflict Job. Consequently, Job is 'accusing' God of doing what Satan did-and demanding an audience with his 'adversary'-God.

In the end of God's dialogue with Job, he repents for judging God, and in praying for forgiveness for his friends, God restores and doubles the blessings on Job, proving to Job He is Just in His dealings with men.

share|improve this answer
+1, but given Job 2:3, I don't think it'd be inaccurate to say God afflicted Job, but I also don't think that gives Job any right to be aggrieved: the creator may do as He pleases and Job is not his judge regardless. – Jack Douglas Dec 28 '13 at 9:21
@JackDouglas-We cannot attribute to God what Satan did, in fact, in 2:3 God tells Satan "...thou movest Me against him to destroy him without cause", or another way of saying, 'You make him my enemy'."...the curse causeless shall not come"(Prov. 26:3), therefore God was not the author of Job's demise. There's a really bad devil, and he really deserves all the punishment he will receive."Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man."(Jas. 1:13) – Tau Dec 29 '13 at 12:55
I try not to do the attributing, but doesn't God attribute causative responsibility to himself in Job 2:3? Note that this does not mean God is in the wrong, because a) His ultimate intention was good, while Satan's intention was evil, and b) there is none who can sit in the judgement seat over God: that is His place and to ascribe wrongdoing to God pre-supposes the right to judge Him. I find it interesting that God never defends Himself against Job's accusations at the end of the book: He merely crushes the arrogance of a mere man supposing to accuse the almighty. – Jack Douglas Dec 29 '13 at 13:10
The "I create evil..." of Isa. 45:7 is best understood as "calamity" which certainly God brings against evildoers who persist in evildoing. Evil is the antithesis of God, He is "All good". Evil came into being through Satan's and our rebellion-everything God's hand touched "was good". That's the choice in Deut. 30:17-to choose life, that we might live. – Tau Dec 29 '13 at 13:33
@JackDouglas-God "allowed" Job to be tempted, doesn't mean that God 'whistled' over to Satan and said, 'Come here and tempt this guy'. Satan was looking for the opportunity to test him, as God pointed out to him how he " feared God and escheweth evil". Ever wonder why in the Lord's Prayer we say,"...lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil(or the evil one)?" If God doesn't "lead us into temptation(Jas. 1:13), then who does? Jesus Himself was "driven into the wilderness by the Spirit, to be tempted of the devil"(Matt. 4:1). – Tau Dec 29 '13 at 13:49

Yes, God is being sarcastic with Job.

Sarcasm is a rhetorical trope which gets its name from the verb "to tear the flesh from." In other words, "biting sarcasm" is a redundant expression.

As with most tropes, sarcasm is best used judiciously and in moderation, since it tends to paint its user as possibly bitter, vengeful, hateful, merciless, and so on. Sarcasm is useful, however, in ridiculing a risible or preposterous line of argument or reasoning.

The story is told of a renown surgeon who was being observed by a king as he performed an amputation on a patient who had a gangrenous leg. When the surgeon was finished, the king who was seated in the gallery rose to his feet and said ebulliently, "Well done, doctor, well done!", to which the doctor replied, "Majesty, shall I do the other one?"

Today, we'd call the doctor's riposte "snarky," I guess. The point is, there is room for snarkiness in one's rhetorical arsenal, if it is used sparingly, and especially if an opposing point of view is not well thought out or perhaps even faulty, illogical, and/or even harmful in its consequences.

I will not weigh in on the contested argument as to who is (more) responsible for Job's plight, God or Satan. (I will say, parenthetically, that the answer is not a clear either/or but more likely a both/and. Selah.) I will say that Job needed to be taken down a peg or two, an expression I heard when I was a kid, whenever someone was filled with over-weaning pride.

God's sarcasm was of that sort. Job's life may have been blameless, but he was in need of an "attitude adjustment." If ever I am in his situation, I am more than a little certain I would need a very big attitude adjustment. Deep in the innermost recesses of our spirits, I suggest, is the notion that pain, suffering, grief, and loss are the ab-norm and their opposites the norm. Not so. "All things work together for good" for God's children, even the worst of circumstances, including persecution unto death.

Either God is absolutely sovereign, or He is not; either He knows what He is doing 100 percent of the time, or He does not. There is no middle ground or wiggle room. Job--and all of us, I suggest--needed to be reminded on this attribute of God.

God is not our cosmic Bellboy in the sky who exists to perform our bidding with alacrity. Quite the opposite, in fact. We are God's bellboys, or servants, who perform His bidding without asking the wrong kinds of questions. At Christmastime, we often contrast the reactions of Zecharias and Mary, each of whom was informed by the angel Gabriel that a miraculous birth would take place, and each of whom asked a question of God's messenger.

On the one hand, Zecharias, though a righteous man and a man of prayer, found it difficult to believe his prayer for a child had been answered in the affirmative. God, however, was not constrained by such piddling considerations as Zecharias's advanced age (and possible impotence) or that his wife, Elizabeth, was well beyond childbearing years. Zecharias failed to realize God not only could answer his (and Elizabeth's) prayer, but with Gabriel's announcement coming as it did directly from heaven's throne room, God would answer his prayer. Zecharias wanted more proof, and so the angel immediately struck him dumb. Interestingly, Zecharias questioned things he did not understand, and Job also spoke of things he did not understand (Job 42:3). Both of them regretted having been quick to speak, rather than quick to listen (see James 1:19).

Mary, the mother of Jesus, on the other hand, did not question the granting of an obvious answer to prayer, since she had neither prayed for nor had she done what was necessary to have a child. In other words, she knew she was a virgin. Her question, therefore, "How can this be, since I'm a virgin?", was perfectly appropriate, given that her pregnancy, according to the angel, would happen outside any human agent or agency. Gabriel answered her question by telling her the power of El Elyon would overshadow her, so that the Son born to her would be the very Son of God (Lk 1:35).

In conclusion, we may feel uncomfortable with God's use of sarcasm, but if anyone in the universe is entitled to use sarcasm, it would have to be God! Human reasoning, though a gift from God, will always fall short of God's omniscience and God's sovereignty in working out all things according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). God inhabits eternity; Job was (as all of us are) a creature of time. Even with a relatively long lifespan, a few hundred years comprises the proverbial "drop in the ocean" of God's eternity and infinitude. The lesson in all this should be clear: "Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, and in due time He will exalt you" (1 Peter 5:6).

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.