“Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? Or who hath given understanding to the mind?”
-Job 38:36, NIV-
Chapter Summary – Observation
God gives Job his first challenge from Job 38:1 – 40:2. The adverb of time, then, marks the innovation of the voice of God for which Job had so long struggled in the context of the mystery of his calamities and his intense sufferings. However, to his accusers that voice was neither desired nor expected, as they were perfectly confident that they knew the answer to Job’s problems and the series of questions God put to Job in chapters 38.
In response to Job’s insistence that he is innocent and thus cannot understand why he should suffer for sins, as his accusers have contended, of which he knows nothing. God propounds to Job a series of very difficult questions through this chapter. At the end of these searching interrogations Job’s accusers have no reply, though they have been so cocksure of their position previously. Thus, God rebukes them and instructs them to apologize to Job, and to seek his intercessory prayers. With these instructions they comply (42:7-9).
God addresses Himself to Job by way of a series of questions concerning the mysteries of nature. Job cannot answer these questions, just as his accusers cannot. Thus, God says, by implications, to Job, “If you do not understand the higher mysteries of nature, as they are seen in their phenomena, then how can you understand the higher mysteries of God’s dealings with men (cf. John 3:1-15)? It is at this point that Job confesses his ignorance, repents, and throws himself in utter self-abandonment and submissive faith upon the mercy of God (see 40:3-5; 42:1-6). Moffatt expresses well the heart of Job’s problem which has persisted throughout the debate: “I thoughtlessly confused the issues; I spoke without intelligence of wonders far beyond my understanding” (42:3). But there is little wonder that Job became puzzled and confused the issues, when all factors are considered. Added to the dire calamities that befell him in the Prologue were his intense and prolonged illness and the persistent contentions of his accusers that he suffered for sins of which he knew himself to be innocent, plus the absolute silence of God throughout all his troubles.
It is in chapter 38:16-38, that begins to challenge Job concerning his understanding of the physical world. In fact, one scholar H.L. Ellison observes:
“It is typical of the attitude of the Bible that God’s questions virtually restrict
themselves to this world, in which man was placed as God’s vice-regent
(Gen. 1:28; Psa. 8:6). God scarcely asks Job about the mysteries of the stars
on their silent way, but he faces him with everyday things of this world, in
which man is ever tempted to speak himself free of his creator.”
Ellison considers it quite secondary whether man has or has not found the answers to God’s questions about the physical universe. He sees little foreshadowing of modern scientific knowledge in these descriptive questions. God was speaking to Job and his accusers in the context of their understanding or ignorance of the physical universe. Ellison says, “God’s creation challenges the modern biologists or atomic physicists with other questions than those of Job could not answer, but the challenge is as real.”
It is in 38:36 that Job is speaking of the mystery of man. Man who is created in his image and who is given wisdom that is far beyond all of creation. Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? – There is great variety in the interpretation of this passage. Jerome renders it, Quis posuit in visceribus heminis sapienttam? Vel quis dedit gallo intelligentiam? “Who hath put wisdom in the inner parts of man? Or who has given to the cock intelligence?” Just as strangely, the Septuagint has: “Who hath given to women skill in weaving, and a knowledge of the art of embroidering?.” One of the Targums renders it, “Who has given to the woodcock intelligence that he should praise his Master?” Herder renders it,
“Who gave understanding to the flying clouds,
Or intelligence to the meteors of the air?”
“Who placed wisdom in the dark clouds?
Who gave understanding to the forms of the air?”
Schultens and Rosenmuller explain it of the various phenomena that appear in the sky – as lightning, thunder, meteoric lights, etc. So Prof. Lee explains the words as referring to the “tempest” and the “thunder-storm.” According to that interpretation, the idea is, that these phenomena appear to be endowed with intelligence, There is proof of plan and wisdom in their arrangement and connection, and they show that it is not by chance that they are directed. One reason assigned for this interpretation is, that it accords with the connection. The course of the argument, it is remarked, relates to the various phenomena that appear in the sky – to the lightnings, tempests, and clouds. It is unnatural to suppose that a remark would be interposed here respecting the intellectual endowments of man, when the appeal to the clouds is again Job 38:37 immediately resumed. There can be no doubt that there is much weight in this observation, and that the connection demands this interpretation, and that it should be adopted if the words which are used will admit of it.
The only difficulty relates to the words rendered “inward parts,” and “heart.” The former of these (טחות ṭûchôt) according to the Hebrew interpreters, is derived from טוח ṭûach, “to cover over, to spread, to besmear”; and is hence given to the veins, because covered with fat. It occurs only in this place, and in Psalm 51:6, “Behold thou desirest truth in the inward parts,” where it undoubtedly refers to the seat of the affections or thoughts in man. The verb is often used as meaning to daub, overlay, or plaster, as in Leviticus 14:42; Ezekiel 22:28; Ezekiel 13:12, Ezekiel 13:14. Schultens, Lee, Umbreit, and others, have recourse in the explanation to the use of the Arabic word of the same letters with the Hebrew, meaning to wander, to make a random shot, etc., and thence, apply it to lightning, and to meteors. Umbreit supposes that there is allusion to the prevalent opinion in the East that the clouds and the phenomena of the air could be regarded as furnishing prophetic indications of what was to occur; or to the custom of predicting future events by the aspects of the sky. Understanding to the heart – To the mind. The common word to denote “heart” – לב lêb is not used here, but a word (שׂכוי śekvı̂y from שכה) meaning “to look at, to view”; and hence, denoting the mind; the intelligent soul. “Gesenius.”
The ancient Hebrews referred to the extended brain which is the spinal cord and the central nervous system as the soul which was the area of the bowels. We are created to think and to interpret the world around us and yet at the same time live in mystery. On our journey we grow and mature and our understanding of the world around us begins to also experience a greater capacity to understand laws that have been established by God. It is in the tension of mystery that those circumstances and events that occur in which one have no control nor is there a sense of deserving that which may occur to us. Our sense of trust hits the wall when it collides with our own sense of justice and rightness. Job understood this and his questions are being challenged by God who is declaring that if he can create the cosmos he certainly can care for Job. This is why the Cross is a stumbling block because it is at the Cross of Christ that I, Al Soto, must surrender my own need for justice on my terms. It is at the Cross that I must recognize that my own sense of justice is based on my own need to view life’s events from my own finite perspective. But as Paul declares in Philippians 2:13, “It is God’s will that is continuing to work in and through me according to His divine purpose.”
Anytime one embraces the will of God one must then embrace the need for mystery. To not do this is to live a frustrated life that is constantly looking at events from a narcisstic perspective. To not embrace mystery is to live life self-sufficiently in such a way that one’s ambition becomes confused with God’s purpose. One characteristic is for one to constantly strive, for outward success without that person experiencing inner peace that only the Spirit can impart into one’s soul. To not embrace mystery is to understand relationships as a means to an end on the basis of “who wins” and “who loses” rather to be completely caught up in the success of others.
The greater mystery will always be that those things that one faces will bring them to a destination that they never dreamed as well as be an example to others whom they have never personally met. Mystery does not mean to place ones mind on hold but instead it is a call to fully embrace the gift that God has given to us. To not live in mystery is to have little regard for the mind and to give its creative capacity over to addictions and fantasy that is based on one’s false-self. This reduces man’s mind to the ordinary rather than to explore the greatness of a God who calls us in the journey of discovery.
You see the mind is a terrible gift to waste. The remarkable gift is to not fully know but to be fully known. We tend to place a great deal of emphasis on the ways and the degree we know God (or know things about God) rather than to the degree we are being known by God. Job was known by God. This is what Paul meant when he wrote to the church in Corinth:
“Knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known By God” (I Corinthians 8:1-3)
II. Life Questions
Pause for a moment and ponder the following: When you consider the state of your own or someone else’s spiritual health, how often do you ask, “What is my experience of being known by God?” Or, Does he/she demonstrate that he/she is being known by God, and if so, in what ways?” If you are like me, you often inquire or reflect on what or how much you know or know about God. This is to be expected in the world in which we live. The greater gift is the understanding that you are known by God and others.
 Charles W. Carter, The Wesleyan Bible Commentary. (Michigan: Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1968) Vol. II, p 153.
 H. L. Ellison, From Tragedy to Triumph: The Message of the Book of Job. (Michigan: Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1958) p 123.
 Ibid. p 123.