“Yet Will I Trust In Him”: What Does Job 13:15 Mean?

[The following first appeared in the September 2018 issue of Christianity Today: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/september/job-13-15-though-he-slay-me-translation-original.html]

We treasure the Book of Job, in fact, because Job protests. Without Job’s honesty, we’d lack a biblical voice for our disillusionment. Like Job’s colleagues, we often believe that if we’re faithful to God, he will protect us against misfortune. And, as a rule of thumb, that’s generally true. Psalm 91, for example, affirms this as does Deuteronomy, the historical books, and the prophets. But we also know that’s not always true. Job was written to help God’s faithful servants, in Bible times and today, as they struggle with the exceptions.

“Oh, Job is so powerful!” said a man I had just met. We had found common ground discussing the congregations where we worshiped. After sharing what we did for work, I told him I had written a book on Job, and he was excited to talk to me about Job’s importance to him: “After all he suffered, Job says, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.’ ”

Others have quoted those well-beloved words to me to demonstrate that, in spite of severe losses, Job continues to trust God. A longtime friend and professional colleague once told me that what he loved about Job was that very statement. Unfortunately the common translation of that verse, Job 13:15, misrepresents Job.

I did not consider it appropriate to challenge these men in either situation, but I cringe when people cite those words from Job. They reflect a mistranslation of Job’s words that has led some to misunderstand the entire book.

Challenging long-held ideas about a well-beloved verse can make believers feel uneasy or like Scripture itself is under attack. But every Christian should want to know the truth of Scripture. Even if it disturbs us, knowing what Job says should engage us all. A careful look at the wording will show why this is important, how various Bible versions translate the text, and how this text fits into its context to give a new appreciation for the full message of Job.

Job’s Protest

Contrary to how many people remember the Book of Job, throughout most of the book, Job articulates a strong protest to God against his undeserved suffering. In chapter 3, for example, in defiance of God’s gift of life and in deep depression, Job seeks the peace of death over the suffering of his life. His speech triggers vehement responses from Job’s three wisdom colleagues. In speeches defending his innocence to them (affirmed earlier, once by the narrator and twice by God, in verses 1:1, 1:8, and 2:3), Job complains bitterly about the unfairness of his experience.

At first in reply to his colleagues, Job focuses on his miserable life and wishes God would crush him. In fact, he says, God has already begun. Weightier than the sands of the sea, Job says of his suffering, for which he holds God responsible: “The arrows of the Almighty are in me, my spirit drinks in their poison; God’s terrors are marshaled against me” (6:1–4). Job argues that it isn’t fair that he, a righteous man, should suffer catastrophic loss. He pursues God to learn the charges against him. Without just cause for such losses, God shows himself unfair.

We treasure the Book of Job, in fact, because Job protests. Without Job’s honesty, we’d lack a biblical voice for our disillusionment. Like Job’s colleagues, we often believe that if we’re faithful to God, he will protect us against misfortune. And, as a rule of thumb, that’s generally true. Psalm 91, for example, affirms this as does Deuteronomy, the historical books, and the prophets. But we also know that’s not always true. Job was written to help God’s faithful servants, in Bible times and today, as they struggle with the exceptions.

[In my next blog I discuss the different English translations and the meaning of Job 13:15]

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About Gordon Grose

Gordon Grose loves most to write, speak, and preach on the message of hope from the book of Job. Using drama, video, and PowerPoint, he has preached and presented this message of hope to churches around the country. Grose pastored three congregations 25 years, then served 12 years as a pastoral counselor in a Portland, Oregon counseling clinic. He now serves with Good Samaritan Counseling Services, Beaverton, OR. A graduate of Wheaton College (IL), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Brandeis University, and Boston University, he comes from a rich and varied background in theological and counseling training. In 2015, Gordon published Tragedy Transformed: How Job's Recovery Can Provide Hope For Yours, a book about turning to Job for hope after tragedy. If you have experienced life challenges or personal tragedy, visit his Transforming Tragedy (gordongrose.com) blog to learn more. TragedyTransformed.com provides a sample of Gordon's speaking as well as an opportunity to purchase copies of his book.
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