"Job, I kind of regret we have to talk about the subject I want to broach today, but we have to face it. It is the subject of how God's words to you in Job 41 broke you. You said earlier that God had devastated your entire household (16:7); now he will do it to you.* I can see
[*I've got to tell you something, Job, that is so random that I don't even want to bold it or put it in our conversation. You know, I recall someone saying that same phrase to me, 'Bill, I regret that we have to do this' in fourth grade. I was acting out furiously again, as I did in all my classes beginning in first grade, and the school, probably in consultation with my parents, decided to send me to the school shrink in order to figure out what was wrong. I seemed to have this attitude, from my youth, that the world should revolve around me, that I was special and that I didn't have to do the work which was assigned. I still remember the shrink. Dr. Ulrich was his name. He hunched over as he walked and carried an enormous briefcase--maybe the two were related. He gave me some puzzles to solve and then administered lots of other tests to me. No one ever told me the results, which I think sucks, but it made me think that shrinks were not honorable people. I have tried to speak to a few over the years, but it never gets beyond a session or two. I guess I sabotage the sessions. Or, they are incompetent. Or? I suppose we should keep all options open, don't you think, Job? Shrinks like to keep options open too, as long as you pay them.]
you becoming a little teary already, Job, but let's try to get through this together. This is the passage where God lobotomized you. I really don't think that any other scholar reads it this way, but, then again, I haven't read them all. I will ask you directly. Did God's words to you in Job 41 devastate you, Job, destroy you, make you collapse internally again? Ah, Homer might nod, but you are not going to answer me. Ok, then I have to make my case. I will cheerfully do so.
God spends so much time on Leviathan in ch.41, I think, because it was quite a fight for him. I mean, look at the description he gives of Leviathan in vv.12-34 (I know you know that the Hebrew verses are different, but I am writing for English-speaking people, Job. I appreciate your understanding). The only way that God could know that "Its back is made of shields in rows, shut up closely as with a seal. One is so near to another that no air can come between them" (41:15-16) is that God has been pretty close to Leviathan. They were probably so locked in mortal combat that God had his face shoved into Leviathan's back and had a chance to see how no air could come between the plates on the back. God probably even tried to blow a great wind into Leviathan's back--maybe some kind of ancient torture that we don't know about today--but was foiled in the attempt because those back plates were so close together. Maybe in the combat God tried to get a hand-hold on Leviathan but was thwarted--couldn't get even a grip on the creature's back. Maybe God went flying and had to pick himself up again to go after this fierce creature.
Oh, this Leviathan was one cruel and imposing foe. "Its sneezes flash forth light...from its mouth go flaming torches; sparks of fire leap out. Out of its nostrils comes smoke, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes" (41:18-20). Wow, Job, do you think God was burned in the fight with Leviathan? He couldn't penetrate that monster's outer shell; and then, when he faced Leviathan straight on he got a blast of such heat that it probably burned God.
But God is not narrating this story for your entertainment, Job, even though he could have popped the DVD of the combat into the player and you could have seen it. "Leviathan: The Movie, Part I" was its name. God then gets to the main point. "On earth it has no equal [I sometimes wonder if Martin Luther got the last words of the first verse of "A Mighty Fortress" from these words. I bet he didn't], a creature without fear" (41:33). Ok, but then, what are God's last words? "It surveys everything that is lofty; it is king over all that are proud" (41:34). And, of course, what happened to this proud creature. He, too was subdued. The Psalmist skips all the fun of the fight and just says that Leviathan was formed so that God could sport in it (104:26). But eventually, Leviathan was brought low.
And so God, noble and gracious God that he is, asks you whether you can pull out Leviathan with a fishook (41:1) or rope its nose (41:2). God is toying with you, taunting you, making fun of you because you are a creature, Job. That is really what is happening. He is ridiculing you, humiliating you. But then it gets worse. Listen to what God has the effrontery to say about you and Leviathan. I am going to put this in CAPS because I think this is about the worst thing that God could have done to anyone...and he did it to you. "WILL YOU PLAY WITH IT AS WITH A BIRD, OR WILL YOU PUT IT ON LEASH FOR YOUR GIRLS" (41:5)? What? Did I hear that right? Yep, that is what the text says.
Job, I can't contain myself. I have to take a break and come back to this in a minute.