"'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the Name of the LORD be praised.' In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing." (1:21-22)
Job was a wealthy man living in Uz in the East, apparently blessed by God with numerous children, flocks, and servants. He feared God and shunned evil, and God considered him blameless and upright. Whether he was a priest or not, I'm not sure, but he offered burnt sacrifices each day for each of his children in case any of them had sinned and cursed God in their hearts.
Unknown to Job, he was the topic of discussion one time when the angels came to present themselves before the LORD. Satan had come from roaming the earth, and the LORD asked if Satan had considered how unique Job was. Satan wasn't impressed, claiming that the LORD protected Job so of course he reverensed God. The LORD gave Satan permission first to destroy Job's possessions and his children all in one day to prove Job's loyalty. Satan used the Sabeans, fire from the sky, the Chaldeans, and a tornado, sparing one messenger from each event to report each disaster to Job. Without a clue about Satan, Job accepted the fact that the LORD gives and the LORD takes away, praise His name.
Another time when the angels came before the LORD, He brought up the example of Job to Satan again. "He still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason." Satan was not impressed. So he lost his wealth. Take away his health and see what happens. The LORD gave him permission up to taking Job's life. Satan inflicted Job with painful sores all over his body. Job's wife took one look and told him to forget his integrity, curse God, and die. "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" Job asked without sinning.
Job's 3 friends came to sit with him in sympathy. Job sat in silence for a week, but when he finally spoke, he was very articulate. In fact one of his friends said he was a teacher. So first he talked of all the different ways he could think of to curse the day he was born. Not knowing the LORD's choice to keep him alive, Job longed for death as preferable to all his suffering. And Job revealed that "what I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me." Be careful what you fear.
Eliphaz the Temanite said Job should rely on his works and take comfort in his piety and his blameless ways. Having had an upsetting dream, this friend of Job's was sure the innocent don't perish and that evil men - not righteous - are destroyed.
"What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention, that you examine him every morning and test him every moment?"
In Chapter 5, the dialogue of Eliphaz the Temanite continues. These dialogues of counsel/advice need to be read carefully, keeping the following in mind - although the words of Job's three friends are recorded in the scriptures, everything they say is not true.
In 5:17-27, Eliphaz apparently believes if God corrects a person and the person responds properly, then God will deliver that individual from all troubles and calamities. This is contradicted many places in the scriptures, perhaps most visibly in Hebrews 11:30-31.
Some of the statements in the dialogues are indeed true and are restated in the New Testament. For example:
Job 5:13 - He catches the wise in their craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are swept away.
1 Corinthians 3:19 - For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness."
In chapter 6, Job replies to his friends. In Chapter 7 Job addresses God. In verse 11 of Chapter 7 "Therefore I will not keep silent, I will speak out in the anguish of my soul."
Next in Chapter 8, Bildad the Shunite tries his hand. Bildad begins by saying, "If you are pure and upright, even now He will rouse Himself on your behalf" and ends with "Surely God does not reject a blameless man."
God's comment on all this advice is found in Job 42:7 - "... I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as my servant Job has."
"If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God's rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.
Job described how there is no comparison between man and God, who so far surpasses man that the only recourse is to plead with Him for mercy. Job sees that both the blameless and the wicked come to destruction, and if it isn't God's doing, then whose? Job can't just change his expression and forget his complaint because he knows there is more to his suffering that must be learned. If only there were an arbitrator.
You made me, Lord! Why do you search out my faults and probe after my sin when you know I'm not guilty? If I sinned, You would be watching me and would not let my offense go unpunished. I couldn't get away with anything if I wanted to. Why did you let me be born?
Zophar spoke, wishing that God Himself would speak to end Job's idle talk. "God has even forgotten some of your sin," he said. Why don't you devote your life to God and forget your troubles. Have hope, man!
Job replied, "Who does not know all these things?" I'm a laughingstock to my friends. All this is easy for you to say. It isn't happening to you. "Men at ease have comtempt for misfortune as the fate of those whose feet are slipping." (12:5) The life of every creature, every man, every nation is in God's hand. Why put your trust in easily moving straight to a "logical" conclusion, when God's way includes zigzagging nations from greatness to unexpected destruction, disarming the mighty, even taking away reason and discernment that experienced leaders and elders have spent years learning. The only reliable wisdom and power or counsel and understanding belong to God.
"My face is red with weeping, deep shadows ring my eyes; yet my hands have been free of violence and my prayer is pure."
(16:16-17) "My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend." (16:20-21)
The dialogue between Job and his friends continues. Job expresses his dissatisfaction with them in 13:4 ".... you are worthless physicians, all of you! If only you would be altogether silent."
In verse 15, we see Job's magnificant faith in God "though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him." Paul expresses it this way -- "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38)
Job continued to be troubled as he says (14:1) "Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble." For a believer a life that is full of trouble may be because of pain, self doubt, persecution, ill health, injustice, poverty, or Satan's opposition.
In Chapter 15, Elipnaz the Temanite speaks. It could be said here - "with friends like this, who needs enemies?" Elipnaz continues to press his points but appears to disregard his own advice in 15:2-3. "Would a wise man answer with empty notions or fill his belly with the hot east wind? Would he argue with useless speeches that have no value?" For Job's reaction to these useless speeches, see paragraph one above, or in 16:2 "... miserable comfortors you all are."
In 16:19 Job longs for an advocate in heaven anticipating 1 John 2:1: "My dear children .... we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense - Jesus Christ, the righteous One."
"I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes - I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!"
In today's reading, Job continues describing his situation out loud to God, knowing that his "comforters" are mocking his protestations of being just and pure. "The righteous will hold to their ways," he says. "My spirit is broken..." "My plans are shattered, and so are the desires of my heart." "Who can see any hope for me?"
Bildad the Shuhite continued talking to Job, not to God, giving his views of wisdom, not asking God for wisdom. Horrible ends like Job's come to a wicked and evil person who doesn't know God.
Job isn't shaken by the reproachers exalting themselves to put him down. But he feels so alone - alienated, estranged, deserted, forgotten, unrecognized, offensive, loathsome, scorned, ridiculed, detested, turned from. Job has never known this silence and apparent anger from God before. Out of this whole experience, Job KNOWS that he has a living Redeemer. He gets new insight that his own death will destroy his flesh, but - wonder of wonders - he himself will see God with his own eyes and in the flesh. If you think the root of the Job's trouble lies in him alone, think again. If you think it appropriate to hound people suffering like Job, check with God. Such punishment and judgment could also happen to you.
Zophar the Naamathite was really disturbed with this concept. He is sure that "ever since man was placed on the earth, that the mirth of the wicked is brief.." He is also sure that when a godless man dies, "he will perish forever, like his own dung..." (20:7) I get the idea that Zophar equates Job's former wealth as evidence if not proof of his wickedness. Note that Zophar talks about - but not to - God.
Do you perhaps misunderstand, thinking Job's complaint was against man? No, Job was every bit as much a witness of life as the three, and he was taking his complaints directly to God. "Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power?" (21:7) "Yet they say to God, 'Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways." (21:14) Everybody dies, Job points out. Do you really believe that the wicked person is spared from any punishment for how he's lived, and that maybe only his sons will suffer for the father's bad conduct?
"But he (God) knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold." (23:10)
Eliphaz questions that a man's righteousness can be of any benefit to God, saying that even Job's piety is wickedness. [Contrast this with Jeremiah noting that people said "I am innocent" but added something Job never said, "(God) is not angry with me." (Jer 2:35)] Eliphaz believes that God is far away "in the heights of heaven" and that it's fine for the righteous to rejoice and the innocent to mock when wicked people - like current day despots or terrorists - come to ruin. Eliphaz believes people must repent before God gives them peace and prosperity in this world. He believes that one who truly repents receives the power that "What you decide on will be done," even to lifting up the guilty who are downcast. This "positive mouth confession" doctrine comes from one the Lord later says "you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has." (42:7) (But some churches teach this as "gospel".) In addition, Donald Stamps points out
"Sometimes men and women of faith, because of their faithfulness, are 'destitute, persecuted, and mistreated' (Heb 11:37); though they believe God's promises, yet at present they do not yet receive 'what had been promised' (Heb 11:39)"
Were Job to repent to get health and prosperity, then Satan's claim that Job only served God for personal gain would be proven.
Eliphaz's doctrine of repentance lacked sympathy. "The message of repentance spoken to the weak and suffering must be accompanied by words of comfort and compassion."
Continuing in great pain, Job wants to know where to find the LORD for justice, to present his case to the ultimate Judge, and what He would say. Job knows God does whatever He pleases and that He has many plans for His creation. So Job fears the Lord. "Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment? Why must those who know Him look in vain for such days?" (24:1) Theives and oppressors work throughout the world as terrorists, in secret darkness. Are they forgotten? Do they get away with their evil?
Bildad believes man is a maggot and worm. "How then can a man be righteous before God?" he asks. "How can one born of woman be pure?"
What great insight, Job mocks Bildad. You have no idea the extent of God's power, from whisper to thunder.
"And he (God) said to man, 'The fear of the LORD - that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.'"
Job says that the same God who has denied him justice still provides the breath of God within him. So Job will not speak wickedness or deceit, nor will he deny his own integrity. Job will maintain his righteousness and never let go of it. His conscience will not reproach him so long as he lives. [Remember, Job habitually dealt with sin by sacrifices in the way the LORD provided (1:5)] What hope do the godless have when God takes his life? What good is darkness except as a dark deep underground mine where men search for treasure? But what treasure is greater than wisdom? And where is wisdom? "God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells, for He views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens." (28:23) And God told man that wisdom is the fear of the LORD, and understanding is to shun evil.
Besides suffering physically, Job grieves for the days when God's presence watched over him as light in the midst of darkness. Then he was in his prime, an intimate friend of God, his house blessed with children. Losing contact with the LORD hurts worse than the tremendous pain of losing everything else. Job had had a seat at the gate of the city when his word was highly regarded and his work for the poor, fatherless, dying, and widow was widely respected. He thought his future was secure and his career in righteousness and justice would continue. In his suffering, Job saw the "fair weather" respect and restraint of people he had served. They did not stand up for him as he had for them, and now terrors overwhelm Job. He cries out to God, and he cries out to the assembly, but God doesn't answer and the assembly doesn't help.
"...it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding. It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right."
In Chapter 31, Job details his self-discipline over lust and his ways with goals and love and work. To his wife, he was faithful. To his servants, he treated them with justice, keeping in mind that God had created them both. He habitually and personally helped the poor. Job dreaded destruction from God and let this fear of His splendor guide him never to take advantage of anyone with less power in court or in the world. Job didn't trust in gold or weatlth for security. He didn't secretly blow a kiss to honor the sun or moon, becoming unfaithful to God on high. Job didn't gloat over other people's troubles, and he guarded his speech. He was hospitable both to family and strangers. He did not hide guilt in his heart in fear of what other people would think of him. This was his defense before God. [He acknowledged God alone, never mentioning nor blaming Satan.]
Elihu was a younger man who had listened to the conversations between Job and the older three men. Elihu had waited for one of the friends to prove Job wrong, turning him to justify God alone and not himself. Elihu wasn't satisfied with a "let God refute him, not man" (32:13b) conclusion, so finally he spoke without partiality or flattery. What Elihu heard Job say was that he was without sin or guilt, but God had found fault with him. Elihu saw Job's error as not realizing that by being far greater than man, God speaks in many various ways that man may not perceive. So Job should not complain that God doesn't speak, when Job's bed of pain and constant distress is a way God uses to chasten one. Elihu is convinced Job keeps company with evildoers, misquoting him as saying, "It profits a man nothing when he tries to please God." (34:8-9; see 21:15 where Job is quoting the wicked). Elihu believes that God gives each man exactly what he deserves. Otherwise it's saying that God does wrong and perverts justice, and that is unthinkable. How dare anyone question God's justice! God sees everything each person does, and knows any evil within them without partiality, so God doesn't need to hold a trial to let anyone explain themselves. Privately at night or publicly by day, God has overthrown or punished man and nation alike (34:29b). It's God's call whether to be silent or not. The wicked have no intention of following God's ways, and though they may bargain with God not to sin again, they refuse to repent. In Elihu's opinion, not only does Job sin, but he rebels against God, clapping his hands and saying too much.
[Note that Elihu lived centuries before the Lord explained to other gentiles the purpose of suffering in God's plan. "God presented (the Messiah) as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished - he did it to demonstrated his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus." (Rom 3:25-26) Why do good things happen to bad people? What we don't understand doesn't prove that God has overlooked something. What we don't understand may be an intregal part of God's plan for a specific purpose, even to save more people, under a new covenant.]
"Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction. God is exalted in his power. Who is a teacher like him?"
(36:21-22) "(God) loads the clouds with moisture; he scatters his lightning through them. At his direction they swirl around over the face of the whole earth to do whatever he commands them. He brings the clouds to punish men, or to water his earth and show his love." (37:11-13)
Elihu challenges Job on being just. How can you say "I will be cleared by God" while asking Him what profit there is in not sinning? Do you think either your sins OR your righteousness change God any? Man's wickedness and righteousness affect other men, for sure, but don't expect God to answer the empty pleas of the oppressed crying for relief if they are wicked (i.e., ungodly) and don't understand God. You tell God you can't see him, that your case is before him, and that you are waiting to hear from him. At the same time you say you don't see him noticing or punishing the wicked. Aren't your words empty, and aren't you just multiplying them?
Elihu has pride in the knowledge and wisdom that has been given to him. As mighty as God is, he doesn't despise men. He has a firm purpose in dealing with men. "But if men are bound in chains, held fast by cords of affliction, he tells them what they have done - that they have sinned arrogantly. He makes them listen to correction and commands them to repent of their evil. If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment. But if they do not listen, they will perish by the sword and die without knowledge. The godless in heart harbor resentment; even when he fetters them, they do not cry out for help." (36:8-13) "But those who suffer, he delievers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction." (36:15)
Why be surprised that God doesn't teach or communicate with men the way you would do it? Don't be enticed by wealth or prefer evil to affliction. Instead, remember to extol the greatness of God and his work. We all see what he does, but it's beyond our understanding. Look at the water cycle, and how God uses rain storms and thunder - from governing the nations to providing food (36:31), from stopping men from working to see God's work (37:7), and from punishing men to showing his love by watering the earth (37:13).
Following Elihu's introduction to God's use of storms to communicate with men, the Lord answered Job out of the storm. Job has used words without knowledge and darkened the Lord's counsel. "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand." (38:4) Then the LORD detailed some of the steps in creating and maintaining the earth. Had Job been there? Does he know who did these things?
"Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me." (41:11)
The LORD continues to speak, listing some of the animals he has created, comparing their strength, wisdom, and practices to the man who had questioned the Almighty. Job admits he is unworthy to answer the Lord. "Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me," the Lord repeats. (40:7) Show the Lord your strength, Job, how you would humble every proud man. Compare the creation of the behemoth (hippopotamus?) which the Lord created along with the man, Job. Tame the leviathan (whale? crocodile?) to go where you want it to go, Job. What? You can't? "Who then is able to stand against me," the Lord asked. "Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me." (41:10b-11)
Job then replied, "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted." (42:2) Job had spoken about things of God he really didn't understand. Job had heard about the Lord, but now he has experienced Him. "Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." (42:5-6)
Then the LORD spoke to Eliphaz the Temanite, expressing his anger to him and his two friends. "You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has." (42:7b) The Lord commanded them to take 7 bulls and 7 rams to Job and sacrifice them for the 3 men. Job would pray for them, the Lord would accept the prayer, and the Lord would not deal with the 3 according to their folly. The Lord doesn't mention the young Elihu.
The Lord also responded to the prayer for Job's friends by making him even more prosperous than he had been before. His siblings brought him gold and silver, and eventually he had 7 more sons and 3 more daughters, Jemimah, Keziah, and Keren-Happuch. The girls were extremely beautiful, and received an inheritance along with their brothers.
A modern day illustration of a type of Job is the Jim Carey movie "Bruce Almighty". According to Donald Stamps, "Job dramatically demonstrates the Biblical principle that believers are transformed by revelation, not information (42:5-6)." Note that Job was not an Israelite, and from his age, living another 140 years some time after losing his first family, likely lived around the time of Abraham and Melchizedek, another non-Israelite priest of God.