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Job 38:1-11 - The truth of girding one's loins

Updated: Jul 30, 2021

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The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:

"Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

Gird up your loins like a man,

I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

Tell me, if you have understanding.

Who determined its measurements—surely you know!

Or who stretched the line upon it?

On what were its bases sunk,

or who laid its cornerstone

when the morning stars sang together

and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

"Or who shut in the sea with doors

when it burst out from the womb?—

when I made the clouds its garment,

and thick darkness its swaddling band,

and prescribed bounds for it,

and set bars and doors,

and said, 'Thus far shall you come, and no farther,

and here shall your proud waves be stopped'?"


This is the third optional Old Testament reading selection possible [I call it track 2] that might be read aloud on the fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B, according to the lectionary of the Episcopal Church. This choice will be accompanied by a reading from Psalm 107, which sings, “Then he spoke, and a stormy wind arose, which tossed high the waves of the sea. They mounted up to the heavens and fell back to the depths; their hearts melted because of their peril.” To follow will be a reading from Paul’s second letter to the Christians of Corinth, where he wrote, “We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see-- we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” All will accompany a Gospel reading from Mark, which says, “A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.”

The context of this reading, as coming in the thirty-eighth chapter of Job, is Yahweh’s first response to the constant prayers and pleas from Job, over a disease he questioned what he had done to warrant it. The story of Job up to this point has been one of staunch faith in God, all while the opinion of others was to forsake Yahweh and curse Him for having not remedied a wrong and His not answering Job’s prayers. This is the first eleven verses of a quite long soliloquy Yahweh spoke to Job. All readers become Job by extension, so Yahweh speaks to those reading as well.

In the first verse, the spoken aloud statement says, “and answered Yahweh to Job, saying.” The words that say “out of a whirlwind” are contained within parentheses, which says there is no physical tornado or circular motion wind blowing. The word translated as “whirlwind” also states “tempest,” which represented the personal “storm” Job had been facing. It is, therefore, this inner mind [soul sourced] turmoil that makes this choice be a perfect match for the Gospel reading from Mark, when Jesus calmed the sea. Thus, the “answer” given by Yahweh must be seen as Jesus’s response to his frightened disciples, where he calmed the winds, but asked them why they had so little faith. That same attitude is found in this answer to Job.

Because Job was identified as an upright man, thus righteous, whose faith never failed him, he did seek the counsel of others. The chapters prior to this one are the advice that counseled Job, as opinions that were from entirely different circumstances than Job's, as none had ever been unjustly made to suffer physically. The last of these speakers who had come to Job with advice was Elihu, who spoke like he was very wise. This makes the “whirlwind” or the “tempest” be the circular arguments that surrounded Job, chopping the waves of his thought and threatening to sink his ship of faith. Therefore, when the question asked by Yahweh says, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” it was Yahweh responding to the tricks of Satan, who had argued that Job’s faith could be broken, bringing all Job’s unjust misery full-bore upon him.

When verse three is said to be: “Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me,” the better [literal] translation says, “prepare now like a warrior – the loins [of one’s soul]; and I will question you, and you shall answer me.” This verse needs to be seen in terms of young David entering into battle against Goliath, as he did not need to “gird his loins,” having only the “loins” of a ten-year old [nothing to gird there]. The Hebrew word “ḥă·lā·ṣe·ḵā” [rooted in “chalats”] means “loins,” but figuratively means “the seat of vigor,” as “yourself,” with a “self” equating to a “soul.”

A girded loin is a soul known to be protected by Yahweh, so even girls can have girded loins.

Thus, Yahweh was speaking silently to Job through the marriage that was the soul of Job with the Spirit of Yahweh. The questions and answers would be akin to David having two faces, which allowed him to elude the spear thrown at him by Saul. So, Job was not being asked by Yahweh to realize who Job had always come to depend on, trust, and have absolute faith in. Therefore, “gird your loins” means “protect your soul,” which comes with a renewal of the marriage vows Job had sworn with Yahweh.

The fourth verse then follows with the first question, which is shown to be “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” In this, it is important to see that a question was followed by a statement: "Where were you?" followed by "Tell me." This pattern is repeated in the fourth through the seventh verses [four verses], such that a question is followed by a statement, even if the statement is perceived to be another question [rhetorical]. In this presentation, I will point out how the statement pertinent to verse seven is left out by the NRSV, where that omission is well worth realizing.

The realization that one must know, especially by seeing “loins” as a “soul,” is a soul is eternal, with no beginning and no end. Thus the answer to a question asking, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” is, “My soul was with you Father. Before I was born, I was part of you, one with the other." The addition, “Tell me if you have understanding,” then says, when one’s soul is dressed like a warrior wife of Yahweh [and Job was that], then one always has understanding that comes through divine inspiration.

Verse five then shows as this: “Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?” In this, there is no exclamation point after “you know.” That ends with a question mark. The second statement does not have a question mark, as it ends with a period mark, denoting an addition to the first, not asked but stated. It is at this point that the Creation story is metaphor for the story of Job’s creation.

The measurement should be seen as a life given, before first breath when a soul enters flesh, until the death of that flesh, when the soul is returned. This makes the “line stretched upon” that life be the path of righteousness that Job’s life had followed since birth. The question as to “surely you know” says a soul foresees its pending lifeline and agrees to face all the challenges built into it, from a love of Yahweh. Job’s soul knew he would face this challenge he was then in; and, his soul had willingly accepted that test, prior to being born into the world.

Verse six is then shown to state: “On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone”, with no ending punctuation shown. The translation of the first half question [not indicated by the question mark presented in the Hebrew text] needs one be alerted to the word translated as “bases” being “’ă·ḏā·ne·hā,” rooted in “eden,” meaning “a “pedestal” of solid strength [from “’adown”]. This is then a question that asks, “Upon what foundation can anyone stand upright, without falling?” The additional statement that is not a question says [paraphrasing], “Only those whose cornerstone is Yahweh.”

Verse seven then has Yahweh ask, “when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?” The Hebrew text here is better translated as the truth that sings through metaphor. The verse actually says, “when sang united , the eternal light of stars bringing forth the day that was reason to shout with joy?” That is a statement of the marriage of a soul to Yahweh, as when that marriage took place a bright light of truth was shone [like a "star"] and the union of a soul with Yahweh’s Spirit brought about the elation of that union and dawning ["morning"] of truth. The question is then, “when is that not reason for celebration?”

It is here that the NRSV had omitted the subsequent important statement that follows this question of divine marriage. The Hebrew text written is this: “kāl-bə·nê ’ĕ·lō·hîm.” That translates as “all sons of the gods,” or “all sons elohim,” where the marriage of a soul to Yahweh’s Spirit creates a “son” that is one of the “elohim” of Yahweh. This defines the plural number of “elohim” as the “sons of God,” where all "gods" come with the masculine essence of the divine realm [of the Father]. All merged souls become godlike through that holy matrimony.

The NRSV omitted these words as a statement, because the presence of “elohim” would have forced them to translate “elohim” as “God,” making it say, “all sons God.” Genesis 1 states the Creation was done by “elohim” [32 times], which now is clarified as not "God," but “all sons elohim” made everything. Unfortunately, that clarification would mean the scholars would have to present themselves as complete buffoons and idiots for taking a Hebrew word that is clearly “gods” being changed [selectively] into “God.”

Verse eight is then when the pattern changes to a verse of question, followed by a verse of statement, followed by two verses that ends as one question. Verse eight then asks, “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?” The word translated as “doors” is better read as “gates.” This is then a question of one’s birth into the world, such that the “sea bursting out of the womb” is a mother’s water breaking before giving birth. The question is now about the metaphor of a soul being poured out into a new body of flesh, as that must be understood by all living creatures. The question is, “What shuts the gates of heaven, once a soul has departed to the physical realm, asking what prohibits it from returning after the death of that new body of flesh?” The answer can only come from the souls who will either and then are led to be married Yahweh in the flesh. Those lost souls will be led to the same proposal of marriage, only to deny Yahweh; and, those souls are those who will close the gates of return on themselves.

Verse nine then offers the statement: “when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band.” In this, the “clouds” are the garments of a soul, which are the vapor droplets of eternity that surrounds the form of the flesh. It is the nebulosity of a brain’s ability to control all the functions of a body of flesh, without forethought or consciousness. Still, the “thick darkness” that is a “swaddling band” wraps that soul with an inability to know from where it came, nor where it must return. The darkness is the realm of the physical, which is the body of flesh that pretends to be alive, when it is merely the wrappings of a material existence that keeps a soul from reaching out to Yahweh and knowing where it must return.

Verses ten and eleven then form a long question, which states, “and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, and said, 'Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped'?” The segment of words that form verse ten then place focus on the establishment of “limits” a soul is allowed to stray, as there are “bars” placed upon the “gates” of heaven, which prevent a soul’s return. The Hebrew word translated as “prescribed” is “wā·’eš·bōr” [from “shabar”], actually means “to break, break in pieces.” As such, the “prescription” that is the “bounds” or “limits” [“ḥuq·qî”] is the elements that make up the Covenant of marriage, which is the Law sent to the Israelites from Yahweh. The “bars” on the “doors” that prevent a soul from returning to the heavenly realm are those “thou shalt nots” and “thou shall dos” of the Law. This is not an external paper memorized and attempted to follow; but instead, it is an internal commitment, made through marriage of a soul to the Spirit of God, which is always led to do what is right, by the voice of Yahweh. That guidance within is the only way those bars can be removed.

Thus, verse eleven then concludes this question by stating, “'Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped'?” In reality, the question does not include the words that say, “your proud waves.” That becomes an additional statement, with the question posed being, “when I said , even to this far you may come , and no farther --- and here must stop?” That says the question is asking, “When did I set a Law that says I only expect the minimum from a soul I marry?” This makes the additional statement say, “redemption is not based on fixed limits, but through the freely gushing Spirit that acts from faith and trust.” That says “pride” [from “biḡ·’ō·wn,” meaning “redemption”] is the joy of Yahweh’s “waves” within one’s soul.

This reading selection, if chosen, is designed to be read on the fourth Sunday after Pentecost because it speaks of the faith and trust in Yahweh that a soul must have, in order to move beyond the Law and enter ministry explaining what the Law means. It should be intuited that the arguments presented to Job by well-intended men were nothing more than advice given by the unknowing. The character Elihu [from the previous chapters of advice and counsel given] becomes symbolic metaphor for the Christian Church and Judaism [and all other religions and philosophies], as anyone who says he or she knows the answers, when in fact he or she has not married his or her soul to Yahweh. They come like Goliath or a whirlwind whipping up the waves of fear, as Satan trying his hardest to sink all souls who have removed the bars from the gates of heaven. Those bars can only be removed by each individual soul, as no one can remove any limits beyond one’s own boundaries of self.

This particular reading gives the impression that Yahweh was angry at Job, for questioning being Job's unwise counsel, seeming to be His judgment that Job was a darkness upon Yahweh’s Almighty right to do as He pleases. For the first time, now, I saw this as Yahweh offering His full support to Job, because Job was an upright man, unjustly tested by Satan. Yahweh knew the soul of Job and knew he would not sink in the turbulence surrounding him, just as Jesus was not worried that the ship he slept aboard would sink. The patience of Job [as his story is so often called] is really a model of true faith and steadfast trust that Yahweh will save a soul from reincarnation, or worse. No matter what challenges the physical world might bring [and it brings a lot, in hopes of destroying faith], a soul must be married to Yahweh’s Spirit to have the comfort of knowing that no matter how hard life might become, it is only a split second of pain, well worth enduring to receive an eternity of joy.

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