Creation and Evolution 4: Job 38-41
The climax of Job is also a “creation text,” though a highly unusual one. YHWH answers Job’s many complaints from “out of the whirlwind,” perhaps an actual physical phenomenom, but certainly a “theophany,” a revelation of God’s presence. In these chapters, God challenges Job’s limited wisdom by reference–in highly metaphoric language–both to God’s initial creating acts and ongoing creating and care for the entire Creation. (I will not address how well or not God’s “answer” to Job does or does not solve the “why do bad things happen to good people” question which the Book seems to pose. )
Much of this Creation text is similar to what we have seen elsewhere: 38:4-6 compares the earth to a building which God created by laying foundations, a cornerstone, dimensions, a plumbline, etc. 38:7 says that at this time “the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God (identical to the stars? angels?) shouted for joy.” Does anyone, even the most committed Young Earth Creationist (YEC), claim that the earth is building shaped, with an actual foundation, instead of looking like a blue marble suspended in space? Does anyone suggest that stars literally sing with voices, pitch, etc.?
The sea is described with a series of mixed metaphors in 38:8-11: It’s creation is a birth (Whose is the womb?) and clouds and darkness are its nappy. But the sea is also “imprisoned” by the “bars and doors” of the land. The kind of literalism which YECs insist on for Gen. 1 and 2 would force us to see beach erosion as escape attempts and tsunami waves as the seas’ rebellion against God’s command, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed.” Hmm. Would that mean that all those (all of us) who contribute to rising sea levels by our greenhouse gasses are undermining God’s command?
Elsewhere in this long passage we see similar perspectives to Ps. 104–with God speaking of God’s intimate care for wild animals–apart from any value they have for humanity.
But in 40:15-24 and 41:1-34, we have the closest approximation in our Bibles to the “combat creation myths” of other peoples. The chaos monsters Behemoth and Leviathan are conquered by God in Creating order. (I normally like the New English and Revised English Bible translations, but I object strenuously here to their demythologized renderings of “hippopotomus” and “crocodile.”) But notice that, unlike in pagan myths, God does not slay these primordial chaos monsters in order to Create order. God simply tames them (as Job cannot). Here, too, the biblical writers see Creation out of chaos in other than violent, bloody terms.
Once more we see a perspective on Creation which is neither opposed to a scientific account, such as evolution, but is itself concerned with other questions. The Job account is true–but not scientifically factual.
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