What are some examples of metaphors in the Lord's speech to Job?

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ac12 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While the earlier parts of the book of Job are rife with legal metaphors, the Lord’s speech contains metaphors and images linked to the natural world. According to Aristotle’s Poetics, a metaphor “consists in giving the thing a name that belongs to something else; the transference being either from genus to species, or from species to genus, or from species to species, or on grounds of analogy.”

Let us take a look at some of the metaphors in the Lord’s speech to Job. I’m excluding those already mentioned in the other answer.

In 38:8 the sea is compared to a new-born infant. This metaphor is then continued in subsequent lines where the clouds are described as swaddling bands that keep it in check.

We have another cloud metaphor at 38:37, different from the one at 38:9. Here, the clouds are described as the containers or water jars of the heavens.

The Leviathan (40-41) can be seen as an elaborate metaphor that describes the objective counterpart of Job’s egocentric perception. 

amberhelt | Student

The Lord's speech to Job, found in Job chapters 38-41, contains some of the most beautiful metaphors and personifications in the Bible.  Merriam-Webster defines a metaphor as:

A word or phrase for one thing that is used to refer to another thing in order to show or suggest that they are similar.

With this definition in mind, here are some examples of metaphors found in the Lord's speech:

Job 38:1 "Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm."

The opening of the speech sets the scene: God is speaking to Job out of a storm. The storm can serve as a metaphor here for the chaos currently reigning in Job's life.

Job 38:4-6 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone..."

The Lord is using the process of building a structure as a metaphor for creation. 

Job 38:15 "The wicked are denied their light, and their upraised arm is broken."

Light is often used as a metaphor for goodness and wisdom in the Bible, and the upraised arm is a symbol for victory (think of a statue with a soldier's arm raised with a sword in hand). This verse is a metaphor for God's victory over the wicked, as they are without wisdom or weapon.

Job 39:2-4 "Will the wild ox consent to serve you? Will it stay by your manger at night? Can you hold it to the furrow with a harness? Will it till the valleys behind you? Will you rely on it for its great strength? Will you leave your heavy work to it? Can you trust it to haul in your grain and bring it to your threshing floor?”

The ox was considered to be the strongest creature and tool in Ancient Near Eastern society. God is using the ox as a metaphor for society's strength and innovation, asking Job if he has the ability to control the people's innovation and might for his will.

There are a lot more metaphors found in the text. Some of them are buried in symbols and extended personifications (see if you can find it in Job 39:2-4). Remember, metaphors are different from similes and do not use "like" or "as" when making comparisons. Be sure to not mistake the many similes in the Lord's speech for metaphors as you comb the passage.