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!
  • 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. Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 13:15
  • @gideonmarx Just asserting job was not historical is hardly fair. Maybe you (along with not a few others in our modern times) discard the historical aspects of the narrative, but Scripture speaks of him as a historical man (not just a character in a parable representative of every man) both in the local context of the book and in other references to him in both testaments. Not that every man doesn't have something to learn from his lessons, but just asserting he didn't exist does not make it so.
    – Caleb
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 18:08
  • @Caleb Forcing an historical context is to miss the entire point and shows a complete misunderstanding of all the scriptures. I suggest you go back to one of your Christian sites where you belong. Commented Dec 16, 2017 at 9:03

5 Answers 5


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 "...like 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.

  • +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. Commented Dec 28, 2013 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
    Commented Dec 29, 2013 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. Commented Dec 29, 2013 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
    Commented Dec 29, 2013 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
    Commented Dec 29, 2013 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).


The verse is a rhetorical question, not a sarcastic statement.

The words of the verse are:

יָ֭דַעְתָּ כִּי־אָ֣ז תִּוָּלֵ֑ד וּמִסְפַּ֖ר יָמֶ֣יךָ רַבִּֽים׃

The word יָדַעְתָּ means "you know" and is not necessarily a question. Usually the particle הֲ before the word turns it into a question (compare הֲיָדַעְתָּ, Job 39:1), and it doesn't appear in this verse. However, the context is full of rhetorical questions: I count "question words" at the beginnings of verses 2, 4, 5, 6, 12, 16, 17, 19, all before this verse. Thus from the context alone we could expect another question here: "Do you know...?"

Since the verse follows 38:17, which is clearly a question (הֲנִגְל֣וּ לְ֭ךָ), the particle הֲ is still in effect, transforming this verse into a question with no need to repeat the הֲ. The verse 38:18 is also interpreted as a question in the NIV translation (which you seem to be using), even though it starts "הִתְבֹּנַנְתָּ" and lacks the הֲ particle.

The same can be seen just below in 39:1-3, where God asks Job six questions in a row, but only one of them is preceded by הֲ. The first verse is translated (NIV):

Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?

It would be a mistake to translate it:

Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Surely you watch when the doe bears her fawn!

Medieval grammarians referred to this principle as מושך עצמו ואחר עמו - "it pulls itself and another with it." For instance, in the verse "Don't rebuke me in your anger, and afflict me in your wrath" (אַל־בְּקֶצְפְּךָ֥ תוֹכִיחֵ֑נִי וּֽבַחֲמָתְךָ֥ תְיַסְּרֵֽנִי, Psalms 38:2), the word "אַל" ("don't") is not repeated, but the meaning is obviously "and don't afflict me in your wrath."

Thus while the verse itself is ambiguous enough to sound sarcastic, looking at the context shows that it is yet another rhetorical question in a speech full of rhetorical questions.


God does not lie. He doesn't lie while we pretend that he doesn't just because he is God. He isn't called good just because of how powerful he is. He is called good because that is who/what he is. The "KJV" translation translate that verse as if he was/were asking a question. I think it was one of the reasons if not the only reason I chose to read the "KJV" version over all the other translations back when I was trying to figure out which translation God might want me to read.

Whoever believes in their heart that Jesus died for their sins and was rose back to life will be saved.

  • 1
    How does this answer the OP's question? What is different about the KJV that you mention it? The OP said nothing about lying, why do you mention it?
    – user17080
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 11:20

Quite late to the party here, however I'd like to give my insights.

Firstly, I don't think God was being sarcastic or rhetorical, but stating a fact.

I'd like to remind everyone of John 3:3, where Jesus reminded us that unless you are born again that you cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Surely Jesus was not referring to a natural birth, but a spiritual birth.

So, I believe the birth that God was speaking about in Job 38:21 is Job's spiritual birth. It, of course, is essential to notice that this birth, according to the verse in question, happended during the creation.

Ask yourself the question, then, whether the creation is a spiritual event or process?

I certainly see it as such.

I will leave 1 Corinthians 2:14 for consideration on this:

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

  • Please see the Tour and the Help (both, bottom left, below) as to the purpose and the functioning of the site. I do not think you have sufficiently substantiated your view : it appears to me to be implausible, but I shall not down-vote on this occasion. Welcome to BH.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 8:21

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