JOB: The Voice From The Whirlwind, by Stephen Mitchell

From The Book of Job

Then The Unnameable Answered Job From Within The Whirlwind:

Who is this whose ignorant words
smear my design with darkness?
Stand up now like a man;
I will question you: please, instruct me.

Where were you when I planned the earth?
Tell me, if you are so wise.
Do you know who took its dimensions,
measuring its length with a cord?
What were its pillars built on?
Who laid down its cornerstone,
while the morning stars burst out singing
and the angels shouted for joy!

Were you there when I stopped the waters,
as they issued gushing from the womb?
when I wrapped the ocean in clouds
and swaddled the sea in shadows?
when I closed it in with barriers
and set its boundaries, saying,
“Here you may come, but no farther;
here shall your proud waves break.”

Have you ever commanded morning
or guided dawn to its place—
to hold the corners of the sky
and shake off the last few stars?
All things are touched with color;
the whole world is changed.

Have you walked through the depths of the ocean
or dived to the floor of the sea?
Have you stood at the gates of doom
or looked through the gates of death?
Have you seen to the edge of the universe?
Speak up, if you have such knowledge.

Where is the road to light?
Where does darkness live?
(Perhaps you will guide them home
or show them the way to their house.)
You know, since you have been there
and are older than all creation.

Have you seen where the snow is stored
or visited the storehouse of hail,
which I keep for the day of terror,
the final hours of the world?
Where is the west wind released
and the east wind sent down to earth?

Who cuts a path for the thunderstorm
and carves a road for the rain—
to water the desolate wasteland,
the land where no man lives;
to make the wilderness blossom
and cover the desert with grass?

Does the rain have a father?
Who has begotten the dew?
Out of whose belly is the ice born?
Whose womb labors with the sleet?
(The water’s surface stiffens;
the lake grows hard as rock.)

Can you tie the Twins together
or loosen the Hunter’s cords?
Can you light the Evening Star
or lead out the Bear and her cubs?
Do you know all the patterns of heaven
and how they affect the earth?

If you shout commands to the thunderclouds,
will they rush off to do your bidding?
If you clap for the bolts of lightning,
will they come and say, “Here we are”?
Who gathers up the stormclouds,
slits them and pours them out,
turning dust to mud
and soaking the cracked clay?

Do you hunt game for the lioness
and feed her ravenous cubs,
when they crouch in their den, impatient,
or lie in ambush in the thicket?
Who finds her prey at nightfall,
when her cubs are aching with hunger?

Do you tell the antelope to calve
or ease her when she is in labor?
Do you count the months of her fullness
and know when her time has come?
She kneels; she tightens her womb;
she pants, she presses, gives birth.
Her little ones grow up;
they leave and never return.

Who unties the wild ass
and lets him wander at will?
He ranges the open prairie
and roams across the saltlands.
He is far from the tumult of cities;
he laughs at the driver’s whip.
He scours the hills for food,
in search of anything green.

Is the wild ox willing to serve you?
Will he spend the night in your stable?
Can you tie a rope to his neck?
Will he harrow the fields behind you?
Will you trust him because he is powerful
and leave him to do your work?
Will you wait for him to come back,
bringing your grain to the barn?

Do you deck the ostrich with wings,
with elegant plumes and feathers?
She lays her eggs in the dirt
and lets them hatch on the ground,
forgetting that a foot may crush them
or sharp teeth crack them open.
She treats her children cruelly,
as if they were not her own.
For God deprived her of wisdom
and left her with little sense.
When she spreads her wings to run,
she laughs at the horse and rider.

Do you give the horse his strength?
Do you clothe his neck with terror?
Do you make him leap like a locust,
snort like a blast of thunder?
He paws and champs at the bit;
he exults as he charges into battle.
He laughs at the sight of danger;
he does not wince from the sword
or the arrows nipping at his ears
or the flash of spear and javelin.
With his hooves he swallows the ground;
he quivers at the sound of the trumpet.
When the trumpet calls, he says, “Ah!”
From far off he smells the battle,
the thunder of the captains and the shouting.

Do you show the hawk how to fly,
stretching his wings on the wind?
Do you teach the vulture to soar
and build his nest in the clouds?
He makes his home on the mountaintop,
on the unapproachable crag.
He sits and scans for prey;
from far off his eyes can spot it;
his little ones drink its blood.
Where the unburied are, he is.

Then The Unnameable Asked Job:

Has God’s accuser resigned?
Has my critic swallowed his tongue?

Job Said To The Unnameable:

I am speechless: what can I answer?
I put my hand on my mouth.
I have said too much already;
now I will speak no more.

Then The Unnameable Again Spoke To Job From Within The Whirlwind:

Do you dare to deny my judgment?
Am I wrong because you are right?
Is your arm like the arm of God?
Can your voice bellow like mine?
Dress yourself like an emperor.
Climb up onto your throne.
Unleash your savage justice.
Cut down the rich and the mighty.
Make the proud man grovel.
Pluck the wicked from their perch.
Push them into the grave.
Throw them, screaming, to hell.
Then I will admit
that your own strength can save you.

Look now: the Beast that I made:
he eats grass like a bull.
Look: the power in his thighs,
the pulsing sinews of his belly.
His penis stiffens like a pine;
his testicles bulge with vigor.
His ribs are bars of bronze,
his bones iron beams.
He is first of the works of God,
created to be my plaything.
He lies under the lotus,
hidden by reeds and shadows.
He is calm though the river rages,
though the torrent beats against his mouth.
Who then will take him by the eyes
or pierce his nose with a peg?

Will you catch the Serpent with a fishhook
or tie his tongue with a thread?
Will you pass a string through his nose
or crack his jaw with a pin?
Will he plead with you for mercy
and timidly beg your pardon?
Will he come to terms of surrender
and promise to be your slave?
Will you play with him like a sparrow
and put him on a leash for your girls?
Will merchants bid for his carcass
and parcel him out to shops?
Will you riddle his skin with spears,
split his head with harpoons?
Go ahead: attack him:
you will never try it again.

Look: hope is a lie:
you would faint at the very sight of him.
Who would dare to arouse him?
Who would stand in his way?
Who under all the heavens
could fight against him and live?
Who could pierce his armor
or shatter his coat of mail?
Who could pry open his jaws,
with their horrible arched teeth?
He sneezes and lightnings flash;
his eyes glow like dawn.

Smoke pours from his nostrils
like steam from a boiling pot.
His breath sets coals ablaze;
flames leap from his mouth.
Power beats in his neck,
and terror dances before him.
His skin is hard as a rock,
his heart huge as a boulder.
No sword can stick in his flesh;
javelins shatter against him.
He cracks iron like straw,
bronze like rotten wood.
No arrow can pierce his skin;
slingstones hit him and crumble.
He chews clubs to splinters
and laughs at the quivering spear.
His belly is thick with spikes;
he drags the swamp like a rake.
When he rises the waves fall back
and the breakers tremble before him.
He makes the ocean boil,
lashes the sea to a froth.
His wake glistens behind him;
the waters are white with foam.
No one on earth is his equal—
a creature without fear.
He looks down on the highest.
He is king over all the proud beasts.

Then Job Said To The Unnameable:

I know you can do all things
and nothing you wish is impossible.
Who is this whose ignorant words
cover my design with darkness?
I have spoken of the unspeakable
and tried to grasp the infinite.
Listen and I will speak;
I will question you: please, instruct me.
I had heard of you with my ears;
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I will be quiet,
comforted that I am dust.

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