Book of Job

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Anonymous

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Whirlwind Symbol Icon

Whirlwinds symbolize God’s overwhelming presence, which is too mighty and mysterious for a human being to comprehend. As natural phenomena, whirlwinds are terrifying things; along with floods, Job names them among the catastrophes that God sends to terrorize the wicked. Elsewhere, Elihu lists them among the weather marvels that God mysteriously sends to earth, originating from God’s own breath. So, in the book’s climactic moment, when God speaks to Job “out of the whirlwind,” it’s clear that God’s presence is meant to overwhelm Job with its power and mystery. God then questions Job, accusing him of speaking “words without knowledge” and bombarding Job with facts about God’s power and wisdom that he doesn’t understand because of his human limitations. Job accordingly humbles himself and repents of his arrogance in questioning God, admitting that he is small and shouldn’t speak further. At the same time, the fact that God does answer Job out of the whirlwind—after Job has repeatedly stated his desire to address God personally in the midst of his sufferings—suggests that God’s power isn’t simply stunning and violent, but also gracious—God listens, hears, and cares for Job in his distress, even if he doesn’t respond on Job’s limited, human terms. Thus the whirlwind imagery supports the book’s argument that although God might not offer a clear answer to the problem of human suffering (and that even if he did, it’s not one humans could grasp), he is definitely not absent or indifferent in the midst of suffering.

Whirlwind Quotes in Book of Job

The Book of Job quotes below all refer to the symbol of Whirlwind. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Suffering and Divine Justice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Oxford University Press edition of Book of Job published in 2001.
Chapter 38 Quotes

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.”

Related Characters: God (speaker), Job
Related Symbols: Whirlwind
Page Number: 38:1-3
Explanation and Analysis:
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Whirlwind Symbol Timeline in Book of Job

The timeline below shows where the symbol Whirlwind appears in Book of Job. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 27
Suffering and Divine Justice Theme Icon
The Mystery of God Theme Icon
Human Wisdom vs. Divine Wisdom Theme Icon
...Even if they accumulate riches, the innocent will enjoy these things. Terrors like floods and whirlwinds stalk their lives. (full context)
Chapter 37
The Mystery of God Theme Icon
Human Wisdom vs. Divine Wisdom Theme Icon
...causes the snow and rain to fall, sending animals into their dens. He also sends whirlwinds by his breath and causes the waters to freeze. “Whether for correction […] or for... (full context)
Chapter 38
The Mystery of God Theme Icon
Human Wisdom vs. Divine Wisdom Theme Icon
Then, God himself addresses Job “out of the whirlwind.” He demands, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? / Gird up... (full context)
Chapter 40
The Mystery of God Theme Icon
Human Wisdom vs. Divine Wisdom Theme Icon
God again speaks to Job out of the whirlwind, telling him to “gird up his loins like a man” and answer when he’s questioned.... (full context)