Job 4-14: First Responses

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar give their initial take on Job's situation. As you choose your friends, this is the scene you should remember. Will these people sit in ashes with me? Is their relationship with God intact? Can I trust their advice?

Introduction

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are Job's trusted friends. After sitting in ashes and humility with Job for 7 days and listening to Job pour out his heart, they offer advice to their friend. Unfortunately, their theology isn't sound. They believe that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. Essentially they believe that as long as you do right by God, you will only experience good,that if something bad happens to you, it is a result of your sin.
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Flawed Theology

Before we get in to what they say to Job, I want to discuss why their theology is flawed. In general, yes, we are rewarded for following God and punished for disobeying. However, once sin entered the world, it became a pervasive force. Not only are we affected by our sins, but we are affected by other people's sin as well.

Take the first family for instance. Adam and Eve chose to eat the forbidden fruit. When Cain and Abel were born, they were automatically born in an imperfect world; they inherited a sinful nature from their parents. Two imperfect creatures cannot bring forth a perfect creature; so we are all doomed to inherit a sinful nature. Of their first two sons, Cain was the one who allowed himself to succumb to sin. After Cain committed the first murder, he was given a punishment by God, just as one would expect. "Bad things happen to bad people." However, Abel, Adam, and Eve, were innocent in the situation. We don't know the extent to which these three committed sin after the garden, but since Abel was favored between the two brothers, it's likely that these three genuinely repented after committing sins and were considered good people by God. Yet, they didn't escape the ramifications of Cain's sin: Adam and Eve lost a son, Abel died.

The closer we get to the end of time, the more pervasive sin becomes. The actions of those around us wantonly sinning and acting out against God affect us. This is why the New Testament warns us that God's people will be persecuted. Remember, the disciples and apostles all ended up martyrs or in jail. They were good people. There are two main reasons why sin still affects good people.

Who is Good?

The first reason is that no one is truly good but God (Mark 10:18). Take Paul, for instance, as Saul, he was a very crooked man and transgressed against the people. He repented, accepted Jesus and became a new person, but does that mean he's no longer able to be punished for what he has done previously? If we commit a crime, then repent of the crime, are we suddenly exempt from jail? No, but we will probably get a lighter sentence. Justice requires we atone for that which we did. Jesus atoned for our sins with His own blood, so that we could still enter Heaven. This means we don't receive the death penalty for our actions. We are then exempt from the spiritual consequences of our actions, but that doesn't mean we are exempt from the physical consequences of our actions.

Free Will

The other reason deals with freewill. If we couldn't choose to sin, God would be a dictator and we would be mindless slaves. God doesn't force us to choose Him because He wants us to love Him and choose Him of our own free will. For us to have this choice, we have to be able to choose wrong as well as right. That's the entire reason the Tree of Knowledge was in the garden. If Cain chose to kill Abel but God stopped him, Cain really didn't have the choice. Evil is essentially the absence of God or turning away from God. If God kept evil from existing in our lives, we wouldn't know good and evil and we couldn't have a choice.

Think of it like this: when your child begins to walk, there's a pretty good chance they'll fall. If you swoop in a save them from falling every time, or prevent them from trying to walk, will they ever learn? Will they ever grow? You know that they have to learn to fall and get back up before they can walk, so instead of interfering with their progress, you watch from a distance. If they hurt themselves in the fall, you're there to comfort and heal them. You also serve as the cheerleader, cheering them on to succeed. As our Father, God is the same way.

Eliphaz's Response

Photocredit: ShutterStock.com/auremar
Eliphaz is the first of Job's friends to speak. His first response is recorded in Job 4 and 5. After listening patiently to his friend, Eliphaz follows Job's lament with an important question. Can God's creation claim to be more just and more pure than God? While Job doesn't say that he is more just or pure than God, he does accuse God of unjustly condemning him. Eliphaz was asking Job if a man really had the power to claim moral integrity.

I have often heard people question events in life and accuse God of unfairness. People lose faith and suggest that God unjustly judges us or allows tragedy to occur. The truth is, God is perfect; He knows everything and we only know a sliver.

While Eliphaz is right that we have no right to question God's judgments, he uses this to accuse Job of committing an unconfessed sin. Eliphaz's logic isn't just that we shouldn't question God, but that obviously God is punishing Job for something he did. In Eliphaz's mind, it's impossible for Job to be suffering without having done something wrong.

This very thought is common, even today, in our world, but it needed to be addressed before the Messiah came. If no one believed one could suffer without sinning, no one would ever accept a Messiah who died on the cross for our sins. We're even given a glimpse of how this scenario will play out with Jesus in Job 4:4-5. Eliphaz essentially mocks Job by commenting that Job's words had helped countless people out of that exact predicament yet Job couldn't help himself. A similar sentiment was expressed to Jesus at the cross (Matthew 27:40-42).[1]

Paul quotes Eliphaz's statement from Job 5:13 in 1 Corinthians 3:19. He uses Eliphaz's words to remind us that no man really has wisdom; we must be made a fool to gain wisdom. What Eliphaz doesn't understand about his own statement is that sometimes God allows us to experience hardship to learn from it, not because we have done something wrong and deserve a punishment.

Job Replies to Eliphaz

Job doesn't take so kindly to Eliphaz's suggestion that he is a closeted sinner. Now, Job not only feels attacked by God, but by his friend as well. Job confesses that the weight of his grief is heavy and he doesn't know why he's experiencing this. Job's desire is to speak to God directly to learn why this is happening. In Job 7:21, Job basically asks how long the punishment should last if he had in fact sinned. Job is basically saying the punishment doesn't fit the crime. If Job had sinned, but didn't know that he had sinned, how big of a sin could it be that it warranted the loss of his family, wealth, and health?

While I completely understand Job's sentiment, how bad was it that Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree that we should all suffer? Job asks why God hadn't forgiven him, yet he still maintains that he is innocent. We can only be forgiven of our sins when we repent. Repentance requires acknowledging and confessing our sin. Job, in his insistence that he was right, hasn't acknowledged or confessed to a sin yet.

It is interesting that throughout the book, Job also asks for death, yet when his wife tells him to curse God and die, he does not. I believe Job's desire for death and animosity toward God were both "false" feelings. Have you ever gotten mad at someone and said "I never want to speak to you again," but less than an hour later you miss that person? Similarly, when we are jealous of someone, we often act and feel as though we don't like the person, when in truth we want to be just like that person. Emotions are weird that way. Job knew that if he spoke against God or rejected God outright he would be struck down. Yet, Job never does so. Even as he questions why God allowed these calamities to occur, he never falters in belief or suggests that God isn't worthy of following. In his heart, Job knows that God is justified.

Have you ever noticed that "happily ever after" is generally synonymous with riding off into the sunset? After sunset comes darkness. Sunset represents the end (i.e. death). Wouldn't happily ever after come with a sunrise? *shrug*
People today are quick to shed their belief in God for exactly this point of contention. So many people I know assert that God can't exist or can't be good if He allows evil to exist (this is called Theodicy). They renounce their belief in God and trot off into the darkness. Something stops Job from doing this: faith. Job is described as righteous and blameless. The whole reason this ordeal befell Job was because God pointed at him as an example of true faith. Job proved God's point because even though he tells his friends he has lost hope, he doesn't deny God as his Creator and King.

Bildad's Response

Bildad speaks in Job 8. I often see videos on social media suggesting "best friends" are more crass when speaking to their friends. Examples are often the contrast of a regular friend saying something encouraging and a best friend "telling it like it is." In these videos, Bildad would be the best friend. Eliphaz was subtle in his suggestion that Job had committed a sin, but Bildad flat out says Job's children probably got what was coming to them.
3Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty pervert justice? 4If thy children have sinned against him, and he have cast them away for their transgression; 5If thou wouldest seek unto God betimes, and make thy supplication to the Almighty; 6If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous.Job 8:3-6
Despite being a friend of Job's, Bildad is convinced Job has sinned. Bildad's reaction is something like "yeah, whatever, just repent and move on with your life." It comes across as though Bildad thinks Job is both over reacting and being dishonest. Again, in the minds of Job's friends, God would never allow such things to happen to a man who was truly upright.

Job's Response

Just as Job responded to Eliphaz, Job responds to Bildad in chapter 9 and 10. Job frames his reply as though he wishes to settle the matter in a court of law. However, even Job is aware that he would never win the case. The transformation of the book is that in the beginning, Job longs for this trial and is disheartened because the deck is stacked against him. God is the Supreme Judge and controls all things; no man can bring a case against Him. Really, who would you bring it to? At this point in Job's life, he believed this was unfair. By the end of the book, he realizes that he shouldn't win a case against God because he doesn't know much.

Zophar's Response

Zophar follows up with the same bluntness Bildad has expressed and accuses Job of being all talk (Job 11:2). Zophar asks if everyone else should sit quiet based upon Job's ostensibly false claim that he is innocent. Although we know the theology of Job's friends is not sound, Zophar poses a good question in Job 11:3. Zophar is basically asking if Job's lies trump reality (of course in this case, Job isn't lying and "reality" is Zophar's opinion). Zophar also accuses Job of mocking God and suggests they have a right to make him ashamed of his behavior.

I feel that Zophar's sentiment directly relates to modern day. Many Christians are asking these same questions in light of the rise of transgenderism (the LGBT community as a whole, actually). Should we respect people's choice to switch genders? Should we call them by their new names and refer to them by the pronoun of their choice? Or should we be speaking out?

God's word tells us to love our fellow man and treat them with kindness. Therefore, it is a given that we are not to abuse people. Although there a so-called Christians who don't seem to understand this, there shouldn't be a question of whether we treat people like people or not. Notice that even though Job's friends are accusing him of sin and Zophar is calling him a liar, they are sitting in the ashes with him trying to be supportive. Zophar's question is about supporting a lie. In Zophar's opinion, Job was lying about having not sinned. If Job had sinned, it wouldn't help Job for Zophar to pretend he hadn't and go along with Job's false reality. Do we help those who believe they are the opposite gender by allowing them to become their gender of choice?

When we ask this question, another question is are we right and them wrong or are they right and us wrong? When Zophar asked this question it turned out Job was right (in maintaining his innocence) and Zophar was wrong. Had Zophar acknowledged this and began thinking from Job's point of view, perhaps they would have gotten to the answer quicker. Further, he might have actually provided comfort to Job. I'm not saying that this is the case in conversations with those who claim to be transgender, rather I'm pointing out the deeper truth from Job that as humans we are fallible. We often believe that we are wise when we know nothing. We must be diligent in seeking God's help before trying to comfort or advise those around us.

Job's Response

The Wicked

Job can disprove his friends claim that misfortune equates to a bad person and fortune equates to a good person. He points out that there were thieves enjoying the life of luxury while he suffered. People who did wickedly weren't suffering either. Job wanted to know why.

These people often suffer eventually, and sometimes are already suffering internally. We see this among celebrities—despite being successful, they often struggle with drug addictions and depression. Social media today allows people to put their best face forward all the time, when secretly, many of these people are struggling and suffering more than we could ever guess. Just because we can't see someone suffering doesn't mean God hasn't punished them.

Another reason we don't necessarily see the wicked suffer is because it doesn't serve the devil to torment them. The reason Job was chosen to endure such torment was because the devil wanted to prove God's people weren't actually loyal to Him. God held up Job as the perfect example of a loyal servant. The devil didn't need to torture someone who was clearly not loyal to God to prove his point, he needed to take the person God claimed was loyal and turn him against God. Converting a believer to a non-believer is a victory for the devil. Thus, it stands to reason that the devil seeks out the faithful to torment.

Inferiority

Job felt as though his friends were talking down to him. He states that he isn't inferior to them in Job 12:2 and 13:2, which tells us this conversation was definitely not going well. Job wants to speak to God, because he knows God to be reasonable, but he has determined his friends are nothing but liars. Job accuses them of lying on behalf of God and points out that this doesn't help God. This problem is in full effect today. People justify false doctrine and even true doctrine with lies. When we don't know the answers, it is better to admit we are unsure rather than attach God's name to something false.

Life Is Short

Job reminds us that the simple fact that we are born of a woman (i.e. born from the fallen state of man, and thus born in sin), we are destined to have our days numbered. Our lives are but a blink of an eye to God. Job's take on life is quite interesting when you really think about it. Given that Job lived during the era of the patriarchs, the average age of mankind was just under 200 years, but previously, people had been living for almost a thousand years. Compared to his ancestors, of course Job would feel human life was short. This is ironically, the same thing scientists tell us about life.

Both science and the Bible agree that there will come a point when life on Earth ends, and neither can tell us exactly when that point is. From a scientific viewpoint, when life ends on Earth, it could be the end of life period. If an asteroid took out the Earth tomorrow, humanity would be gone and the universe would continue without us. However, from a Biblical standpoint, when life ends on Earth, those listed in the Book of Life will live on in Heaven with God for eternity. Job's take on life being but a blink of an eye is in reference to our Earthly life. Even if God prolongs judgement for a million years, that is nothing compared to eternity. My point, is that from a Biblical stand point the idea that our lives are but the blink of an eye will always be true because there is a set end to life on Earth, but no end to God's kingdom. Thus any suffering we endure during this life is but a blink of an eye, too.

We aren't told Job's age at death or his age during his tribulation, but we are told that Job lives 140 years after the tribulation. Considering the fact that Job had 10 kids, even if he had begun fathering them in his mid-teens (which is unlikely), he had to be at least 25 at the time of his suffering. Another 140 years would place his age at 165 when he died. Job's children all died in 1 day and his conversation with his friends started 1 week after he was struck with boils. No one knows exactly how long Job suffered (the death of his children probably haunted him forever), but most scholars estimate the events in the book could have took place in as little 2 weeks, but definitely took place in less than a year. Job 7:3 suggests the ordeal lasted a few months.[4] In comparison to Job's life, this is the blink of an eye![2][3] We often feel as though our problems will last forever or until they consume us, but like Job, we only suffer for a short while before God brings us a reprieve.

Choose Your Friends Wisely

Like Job, most of us seek council from our friends. Whether we are experiencing a true crisis like Job or we just want to know which pair of shoes compliments our outfit better, we trust those we surround ourselves with to a) tell us the truth and b) give us good advice. This means it's important we select these people wisely.

I often hear people say things like "Jesus hung out with the worst of them" to justify friendships with people who are buried in sin. What they neglect is context. Jesus healed people who were considered unclean and gave hope to a prostitute. However, Jesus also told those people not to sin anymore. He welcomed the prostitute as she was, but he told her to change. He healed the lepers, he didn't leave them in a state of sickness. We all have committed sins, and continue to commit sins, but as long as we repent, God welcomes us back into the fold. However, when we choose to sin and continue to sin, we push God away. People who live their life contrary to God's Will are not the people we need giving us advice. Their truth will not be the same as God's truth and their advice will not be holy advice.

The frustration Job experienced with his friends was due to their bad theology. They meant well, just as most people we meet today will mean well. However, their relationships with God weren't quite in the right place. Note that no one is perfect; your friends will never be able to comfort you or give you absolute truth the way God can. In the end, Job's friends seek forgiveness and likely improve. It speaks volumes that they were willing to sit in shame in the ashes with him during this ordeal. As you choose your friends, this is the scene you should remember. Will these people sit in ashes with me? Is their relationship with God intact? Can I trust their advice?

References

  1. William MacDonald. Believer's Bible Commentary, pg. 520-521. 1995
  2. "How Long Was Job's Suffering". GotQuestions.org; visited May 2017
  3. "How Long Did Job Suffer". The Amazing Bible Timeline. February 6, 2012
  4. "Question and Answer". La Vista Church of Christ; visited May 2017

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Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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