Taking God to Court? (Job 9-10) March 3-4
Job acknowledges that what Bildad has said is true in principle (9:1-2). Yet he views himself as innocent—the intended nuance of the word "righteous" in verse 2. That is, "not absolutely sinless, but innocent of any sin comparable to his suffering" (Nelson Study Bible, note on verse 28).
Job's despairing point here and in what follows is to say: How can I be found innocent before God when God, who is omnipotent and the ultimate Judge, has set Himself against me? In its note on verse 3, The Nelson Study Bible states: "The verb to contend indicates that Job was considering the idea of entering a legal case against God. The prophets often used this word when speaking of God bringing a legal case against Israel (Is. 1:2; Mic. 6:1). The Hebrew for contend is almost always used metaphorically in Job, referring to a 'lawsuit' between Job and God. Job's legal dilemma before the Lord, who served simultaneously as Job's judge and legal adversary (see [Job] 13:20-28), underscores the urgency and hopelessness of Job's call for a mediator to hear his case ([Job 9] v. 33). Job calculates that the chances of answering God's interrogation are very slim, one in a thousand—something God later verifies (see 38:1-42:6). The legal term answer means to respond to an accusation in court, particularly under cross-examination."
Job mentions in 9:9 that God is responsible for the configuration of the stars in forming constellations, a fact noted later in Amos 5:8. God will later confront Job with this fact (see Job 38:31-33). Indeed, in 9:10 Job acknowledges that God does great things past finding out. Job should have applied that to his own situation rather than demanding a full explanation of what God was doing. Of course, considering the unimaginable ordeal he was going through, it is completely understandable that Job was not always perfectly rational in his thinking. Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi wrote: "Imagine how a man who is deprived of everyone he loves, and at the same time of his house, his habits, his clothes, in short, of everything he possesses: he will be a hollow man, reduced to suffering and needs, forgetful of dignity and restraint, for he who loses all often easily loses himself" (Survival in Auschwitz, 1958).
In his anguish and confusion, Job begins to consider some disturbing notions about God. As The Expositor's Bible Commentary summarizes: "Would God ever treat him justly? He doubted it (vv. 14-31). Does God mock the innocent? Job thought probably so (vv. 21-24). 'If it is not he, then who is it?' (v. 24). These are hard words, but his question instead of a statement implies doubt. These words are followed in vv. 32-35 with a yearning for someone strong enough to take up his cause with God. But in chapter 10 Job decided to plead his own cause and direct all his words to God. How could God who created him [with such obvious care] want to destroy him and that without any formal charges?" (note on Job 9-10). Job wanted to know what he did that was wrong. No doubt, he had been examining himself for months and remembering that he had tried so hard to please God in every detail—to the point God said he was blameless. Considering what he endured, the wonder of all of Job's rhetoric is that he managed to stay so sane.
Regarding Job 10:17, The Nelson Study Bible notes: "The phrase you renew your witnesses against me is a legal metaphor that may refer to each new aspect of Job's illness. In the equivalent war metaphor, the Lord was sending changes or troop reinforcements against him." This could even refer to Job's friends. Perhaps Job viewed them as sent by God to condemn him further.
Job ends by asking God to leave him alone in the few days he thinks he has left before he dies. He equates death here with utter darkness (verses 20-22).