"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth! Tell me if you have an understanding. Who set its measurements, since you know? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its corner-stone?" Job 38:4-6 NASB

These verses seem to be talking about something specific, other than the whole earth. Consequently, I'm not looking for the proverbial creation of all matter story, or an explanation of the angelical musical reference that follows. God seems to be talking of a specific structure, with a specific "Corner Stone" no less.

  • Upvoted... at first glance the question seems almost silly; but digging a little deeper I think there is it a good question with a plausible answer. Oct 27, 2023 at 1:00
  • @Olde English Thx for interesting question, Olde English. Deeper than it looks.+1
    – user59096
    Oct 28, 2023 at 11:02

6 Answers 6


Not so fast - Job 38 is written in highly metaphoric language - here is a sample:

  • V8a - "enclosed the sea behind doors" - ie, poetic language for setting limits for the sea
  • V8b - sea comes from a womb?? - poetic language for the origin of the sea
  • V9 - clouds a garment and thick blackness as a garment for the sea?? - more poetic language
  • V10 - set bars and doors on the sea?? - more of the same
  • V12 - have you commanded the morning or assigned the dawn its place - more poetic language
  • V13 - shake the wicked out of it? the earth is not literally shaken to move the wicked
  • V17 - Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death?

Thus, much of Job 38 is written in beautiful poetic language that uses much metaphor and cannot be taken literally.

In any case, if one wishes to take Job 38:4, 6 literally, then what are we to make of Job 26:7 which reads:

He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth upon nothing.

Both verses in the same book cannot be literally true. Job 38 is metaphoric.

The message of Job 38 is a series of question from God to Job showing his very limited understanding of the origins of the earth and God's creative activity. Indeed, no one can understand it except by faith because we are not God.

Heb 11:3 - By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.


Scholars dispute the time of writing of Job. By some accounts it’s among the earliest, if not the earliest, text in the canon. But in any event, Job is widely accepted as influenced by earliest Mesopotamian literature, specifically the lore of Ludlul-Bel-Nemeqi

Markby writes at worldhistory.org Jan 23:

The Ludlul-Bel-Nemeqi (c. 1700 BCE) is a Sumerian and later Babylonian poem on the theme of unjust suffering, which is thought to have influenced the biblical Book of Job. Also known as The Poem of the Righteous Sufferer, the title translates as "I will praise the Lord of Wisdom" and is among the best-known works of ancient Mesopotamian literature. The original work, dated to c. 1700, is a Sumerian composition, while the better-known Babylonian version dates to the reign of the Kassite king Nazi-Maruttash (c. 1307-1282 BCE), who ruled from Babylon.

The poem begins with the speaker lamenting his suffering as he cries out for help from his god. He compares himself to one who suffers because of ingratitude toward the gods, but maintains he has always "thought of prayers and supplications" and how "honoring the gods was the joy of my heart". At the same time, he acknowledges, what one thinks is good, the gods may consider evil, and no one can truly understand their plan.

...one's fortunes change constantly, and seemingly so randomly, there is no way to recognize any cause and effect or meaning to any of it. This, he says, is what has happened to him, and he details his suffering in lines that resonate with the same power as those of later biblical narratives including the Book of Job.

Like Job, however, the speaker refuses to curse his god and die. The Speaker, by maintaining his trust in his god's goodness and sovereignty is rewarded.

Kohler's's article CORNER-STONE explains the OP reference in Job to cornerstone in the context of ancient Mesopotamian literature (Jewish encyclopaedia 1906 pp 275):

CORNER-STONE, Kaufmann Kohler

The laying of the corner or foundation-stone (Job xxxviii. 4-6; Ps. xviii. 15, xxiv. 2) of the earth by the Creator is a conception borrowed from Babylonian Cosmogony, the earth being regarded as a huge mountain piled upon the abyss (Job xxvi. 7; "Journal Asiatique," ix. 101; Prayer of Manasses; compare Ps. xviii. 7; Micah vi. 2; Deut. xxxii. 22).

The laying of the corner-stone of a city or of a great structure was the occasion of a solemn rite in ancient times. To the pagan mind it appeared as an undertaking provoking the jealousy of the deity unless some bloody sacrifice was offered to pacify him (see Tylor, "Primitive Culture," pp. 104-108). Henceforth the foundation-stone, or the threshold beneath which the sacrificial blood was shed, remained the seat of the guardian spirit of the edifice, and hence the altar of the household

One of the many symbolical names given to the terraced tower of the temple of Bel-Marduk was "the foundation-stone of heaven and earth" (Jastrow, "Religion of Babylonia and Assyria," p. 639).

Within the Christian canon, Christ as the cornerstone is a pervasive symbol.

Isaiah 28:16 NIV

So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation……..

1 Peter 2:7 NIV

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,

Acts 4:10-11 NIV

10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’

Mark 12:10 NIV

Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;

Psalm 118:22 NIV

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;

To answer the OP question, the cornerstone of Job 38 not only has its place in ancient creation and 'problem of unjust suffering' lore and OT rites, as understood by people of the time, it figuratively anticipates Christ's role(s) in that. And points to NT Christ as that cornerstone.

If people of the time did have in mind a specific structure, and we can't know, then perhaps (weakly) that might have been the Etememanki built at the 'centre of the world' in Babylonian culture.

  • I find this to be a good answer, + 1. The last sentence, however, let's it down, but at least you think this conclusion to be (weak). See my comment of just 15 mins ago to DF, and if you can spare the time have a look at that Q & A of mine that I refer to there. I don't think you will be disappointed, although it may well be hard to follow, not to mention, a little on the lengthy side. Nov 3, 2023 at 23:08
  • @Olde English Thank you. I may rephrase the final sentence and/or make it a footnote. I've moved my previous comment in reply to you about Giza's great pyramid to Dan F's answer on this question.
    – user59096
    Nov 4, 2023 at 14:52

In regard to Op's question concerning a s specific structure, namely, the corner stone is very interesting.

"These verses seem to be talking about something specific, other than the whole earth. "

"God seems to be talking of a specific structure, with a specific "Corner Stone" no less"

I found some very interesting things that helped open up my eyes and gave me some thoughts concerning the physical corner stone of the Earth.

"Traditional Jewish sources mention the stone as the place from which the creation of the world began. Classical Jewish sources also identify its location with that of the Holy of Holies.[1][2]" https://en.m.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Foundation_Stone

Temple in Jerusalem sums up the centrality of and holiness of this site in Judaism: As the navel is set in the centre of the human body,

so is the land of Israel the navel of the world... situated in the centre of the world, and Jerusalem in the centre of the land of Israel, and the sanctuary in the centre of Jerusalem, and the holy place in the centre of the sanctuary, and the ark in the centre of the holy place,

and the Foundation Stone before the holy place, because from it the world was founded.

This is interesting;

According to the sages of the Talmud,[26] it was from this rock that the world was created, itself being the first part of the Earth to come into existence.

It is the centre point of the world and on this spot stood the Holy of Holies."[27.

Upon it lying the stone from which the foundation was hewn… Who gives ear from which the waters flow [i.e. the foundation stone "from which flow all the waters of the world"].[38]

The Foundation Stone in the floor of the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem. The round hole at upper left penetrates to the Well of Souls below. The cage-like structure just beyond the hole covers the stairway entrance to the cave.

The Talmud indicates that the Stone marks the center of the world and serves as a cover for the Abyss (Abzu) containing the raging waters of the Flood.[citation needed]

The cave was venerated as early as 902 according to Ibn al-Faqih.[6] Muslim tradition likewise places it at the center of the world and over a bottomless pit with the flowing waters of Paradise underneath.

The Crusaders called the cave the "Holy of Holies" and venerated it as the site of the archangel's announcement[a] of John the Baptist's birth.[2] Modern scholarship indicates that the Holy of Holies of the Jewish Temple was probably on top of the Foundation Stone, not inside it.[2]: 101–103 

Ancient Jewish traditions viewed the Holy of Holies as the spiritual junction of Heaven and Earth, the "axis mundi"

As a part of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, the Holy of Holies was situated somewhere on Temple Mount; its precise location in the Mount being a matter of dispute, with some classical Jewish sources identifying its location with the Foundation Stone, which sits under the Dome of the Rock.

All those are from Wikipedia, which has a vast amount of information to read from .

We know, God is the builder of all things and when building the earth He set it on foundations with The corner stone. It looks like The Corner Stone is a physical place where life may flow like rivers of living water. (think of Genesis and the rivers, flowing out East of Eden from God's garden.and then also the water is that is flowing from the throne of God in revelation.

We also know that Jesus Christ is the corner stone that the builders rejected. He is the foundation of man and God being united.

  • Not this time Sherrie. Nothing much wrong with the last sentence however. See my comments to DF and Thermion, given just today. Nov 3, 2023 at 23:16

God takes a sarcastic tone with Job in this passage, pointing out that Job's knowledge is completely insufficient to the task at hand. The foundations of the world were not measurable {with the tools available to Job}; but God seems to use a measurable object to make his point. If God (or the author) had a specific structure in mind, I suggest it would be one of the great ziggurats, perhaps even the Tower of Babel itself.

The basis for this suggestion is that that ziggurats were thought to connect heaven and earth. Moreover, one particularly large one was the Etemenanki, meaning "The House of the Foundation of Heaven on Earth." Below is a recreation of this ziggurat based on archaeological evidence.

enter image description here

Conclusion: If God was describing a specific structure, it would probably be the Etemenanki, one of the world's most famous buildings at the time when Job was written, whose very title means The House of the Foundation of Heaven on Earth. The idea here is not that God truly thought any earthly building was the actual "foundation of the earth," but that He used the Etemenanki as an ironic metaphor to show Job that God's ways are beyond our measurement.

  • "The foundations of the world, of course, are not measurable". Sure they are; the Greeks did it 2200 years ago.
    – RonJohn
    Oct 28, 2023 at 20:40
  • Good point! I should have added: "with the tools at Job's disposal" ( 38:5) "Who stretched out the measuring line for it?" Oct 28, 2023 at 21:19
  • Why does Job need tools, when God could have stimulated the scribes writing Genesis that he formed the Earth into a big ball?
    – RonJohn
    Oct 29, 2023 at 0:34
  • There's a problem here I think Dan, in that the "Etemenanki/Tower of Babel" was built by man against God's wishes, whereas the specific structure I'm thinking of, would seem to have had God's undivided attention. That is why I go for the "Great Pyramid of Giza", which has God's design written all over it, as explained in my own Q & A: Who, or what, are the "four living creatures"' as introduced in Revelation 4:6,7 & 8? - my answer to which I just this day modified, as you, on this same day, just recently learnt about. Nov 3, 2023 at 22:48
  • The author of Job portrays God as speaking sarcastically. Were you there when I created the earth? Can its foundation be measured as you would a great pagan temple? The pyramid of Giza could also work, I think a Babylonian structure is more likely. Nov 4, 2023 at 4:27

When we read the dialog between Job and his three companions in the previous chapters, we get to see that he is adamantly trying to prove his righteousness as opposed to his companions telling him that he "obviously" had done something wrong for God to punish him. The problem is that Job is not aware that much more is at stake and that it is Satan who is causing Job's suffering.

After Elihu is allowed to speak and becomes the voice of reason, Jehovah God himself comes into the picture to help Job reason out where he fits into the grand scheme.

The article "Behold the Doer of Wonderful Things!" in the Watchtower, April 15, 2001, helps us understand what Jehovah was doing:

10 Chapter 38 opens: “Jehovah proceeded to answer Job out of the windstorm and say: ‘Who is this that is obscuring counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins, please, like an able-bodied man, and let me question you, and you inform me.’” (Job 38:1-3) This set the tone. It helped Job to adjust his thinking to the reality that he was standing before the Creator of the universe and that he was accountable to him. That is also a good thing for us and our contemporaries to do. Then God touched on the sort of things that Elihu had mentioned. “Where did you happen to be when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you do know understanding. Who set its measurements, in case you know, or who stretched out upon it the measuring line? Into what have its socket pedestals been sunk down, or who laid its cornerstone?”​—Job 38:4-6.

11 Where was Job​—where were any of us—​when the earth came to be? Were we the architects who designed our earth and, from that design, laid out the dimensions as though with a ruler or straightedge? No, indeed! Humans were not even on the scene. As if our earth were a building, God asked: “Who laid its cornerstone?” We know that earth is at exactly the right distance from our sun for us to live and thrive. And it is the right size too. If earth were much larger, hydrogen gas would not escape our atmosphere and our planet would be inhospitable to life. Clearly, someone “laid its cornerstone” in the right place. Did Job deserve credit? Do we? Or does Jehovah God?​—Proverbs 3:19; Jeremiah 10:12. [bold mine]

So in Job 38:4-6's poetic wording, Jehovah is letting Job know that He is the creator and Job is in no position to criticize God for how he decides to govern the universe. The structure Jehovah is referring to is the earth itself.

[All scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]

  • To my mind, you are on the wrong track here. IMO, we are not talking about the beginning of the earth, which I tried to make clear in my question "body". See my comment to DF here, of close to an hour ago. Nov 3, 2023 at 23:39
  • @OldeEnglish The scripture states "the foundation of the earth", not a building or other manmade structure.
    – agarza
    Nov 3, 2023 at 23:45
  • See my comment to Ruminator, just now posted. Nov 4, 2023 at 0:05

In Job 38:4-6, the LORD poses five challenges to Job, and I will try to provide the answers:

  1. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

In Genesis 1, the abyss is preexistent. The waters are split into the waters above and below. The waters below are collected to allow the dry land to appear:

Genesis 1:9-10 NASB95

9 Then God said, "Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear"; and it was so. 10 God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good.

But we are not told where the dry land came from, or how it sits firmly in the middle of a bottomless watery universe. Why doesn't it sink? Is the dry land on the backs of endlessly swimming turtles, as some posited?

For Job, as for every one of his contemporaries, this was unanswerable. But that was not the question he was asked. Job was asked where he was when the LORD laid down the foundation and dirt. Of course, he was yet to be born.

  1. Who set its measurements?

Isaiah 40:12ff appears to be directed to Job!:

Isaiah 40:12 NASB95

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, And marked off the heavens by the span, And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, And weighed the mountains in a balance And the hills in a pair of scales?

The rest follow the same suit:

  1. Or who stretched the line on it?

  2. On what were its bases sunk?

  3. who laid its cornerstone,

So Job 38:4-6 is an allusion to the making of the dry land:

Genesis 1:9-10 NASB95

9 Then God said, "Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear"; and it was so. 10 God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good.

2 Samuel 22:16 NASB95

Then the channels of the sea appeared, The foundations of the world were laid bare By the rebuke of the LORD, At the blast of the breath of His nostrils.

Psalm 18:15 NASB95

Then the channels of water appeared, And the foundations of the world were laid bare At Your rebuke, O LORD, At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.

Psalm 82:5 NASB95

They do not know nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are shaken.

Psalm 104:5 NASB95

He established the earth upon its foundations, So that it will not totter forever and ever.

Proverbs 8:29 NASB95

When He set for the sea its boundary So that the water would not transgress His command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth;

Isaiah 24:18 NASB95

Then it will be that he who flees the report of disaster will fall into the pit, And he who climbs out of the pit will be caught in the snare; For the windows above are opened, and the foundations of the earth shake.

Isaiah 40:21 NASB95

Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

Isaiah 51:13 NASB95

That you have forgotten the LORD your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens And laid the foundations of the earth, That you fear continually all day long because of the fury of the oppressor, As he makes ready to destroy? But where is the fury of the oppressor?

Jeremiah 31:37 NASB95

Thus says the LORD, "If the heavens above can be measured And the foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel For all that they have done," declares the LORD.

Micah 6:2 NASB95

Listen, you mountains, to the indictment of the LORD, And you enduring foundations of the earth, Because the LORD has a case against His people; Even with Israel He will dispute.

Zechariah 12:1 NASB95

The burden of the word of the LORD concerning Israel. [Thus] declares the LORD who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him,


I appreciated the posts that pointed to human structures with a claim to being the foundation, but I think it best to consider them to have been "the ones to beat" for Moses.

  • Job 38:4, may have been referring to the earth's beginning, as do some later verses to the ones in question, but I think verse 4 is also alluding to foundation stones to earth's center point, at a much later time, which is just one of many reasons why I think God may well be referring to the "Great Pyramid of Giza", which contrary to one poster here, is at the true center point of the earth. The "Meridian", for one thing, goes right through the center of the GP of G. You can also see my comment of just over an hour ago to DF. Nov 4, 2023 at 0:01
  • Center point in relation to what?
    – Ruminator
    Nov 4, 2023 at 0:06
  • GP of G, is situated in geographical center of the land surface of the whole world, on the equal surface projection. Centralized in the Northern Hemisphere, the longitude (from Greenwich) is 30 degrees East. Latitude is, even, 30 degrees North. All you need to do is look at a traditional map, other than the sphere, of the earth and you should be able to tell for yourself. All, and more, is explained in my own Q and A, as referenced to DF. Nov 4, 2023 at 0:20
  • And you imagine that the ancients had worked out the geographical center of all the land mass of the planet?
    – Ruminator
    Nov 4, 2023 at 0:22
  • They didn't. God did!! Nov 4, 2023 at 0:23

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