First Cycle of Arguments Between Job and His Friends (Part B)
First Cycle of Arguments (B)
Job’s Plea to God (10:1—22)
After responding to Bildad, Job then makes a desperate plea to God (10:1—22). He begins by loathing his life, and returning to his original question of “why.” “Let me know why you contend against me.” (10:2) He actually challenges God by saying that He knows he is not guilty. Job comes very close to speaking heretically about God, when he reminds God that although He had created him in a wondrous way and granted him steadfast love, His purpose from the beginning was to punish and destroy him. (10:11-13) He asks God to leave him alone, that he might find a little cheer before he goes to the land of complete darkness. (10:20-22)
Zophar now speaks. (11:1—20)
Things to notice about Zophar:
- Zophar is the least sympathetic of all 3 friends. He actually says to Job, “God exacts from you less than your iniquity deserves.” (11:6)
- He considers himself to be a very rational theologian.
- He considers Job’s problem to be ignorance of proper doctrine. He wishes Job knew the “deep things of God.” (11:7-9) He gives 4 dimensions of the deep things of God:
- Higher than heaven – what can you do?
- Deeper than Sheol – what can you know?
- Longer than the earth
- Broader than the sea He concludes with an ironic statement. Just as a wild donkey cannot be born as a man, in the same way a stupid man will never get understanding.
- It is clear that Zophar is trying to teach good theology, but it is also clear that he has no empathy for Job. More than the other two friends, Zophar lacks mercy and compassion. Zophar did not even realize that he was giving the 4 dimensions of God’s love, which does indeed surpass human understanding. It would have been wonderful if the apostle Paul could have interrupted Zophar’s speech here to explain God’s love. (Ephesians 3:14-19) God’s love is:
- High – God raises us up to greater heights than we can imagine.
- Deep – God’s love is deeper than hell. He destroys all of Satan’s plans, and walks with us through times of deepest darkness.
- Long – God’s love began before the world was created and will never end. He holds us always in His hands.
- Wide – God holds the whole world in His hands.
We spoke in the introduction of the need for collective wisdom in understanding the suffering of the righteous. This is true concerning God’s love in the midst of suffering. One person will see the high love, the redeeming love of God in the midst of suffering. Another will see the deep love, how God meets us in the deep darkness of despair when we suffer. Others may see God’s long love, and understand the larger thing God is doing in allowing our suffering. Still others will see the wide love of God and His enlarging us through our suffering to make us able to minister to a world in pain.
- Zophar attempts to give Job hope by telling him to repent, and then his life would be brighter than the noonday sun. He would walk again in hope.
Job responds. 12:1—14:22
He does not bother to respond to Zophar alone; rather, he responds to all three friends together.
This is an important speech. First, he answers his friends (12:2 – 13:16); then, in 13:17 – 14:22, he talks to God. Notice how the movement of Job’s speech gradually moves away from his friends and towards God. He basically is saying that he does not want to hear any more of what they have to say; he wants to speak to God Himself.
Job begins with a very sarcastic remark. “You guys are the only intelligent ones. Wisdom will die with you.” But he does know something that they do not know: It is possible for a righteous person to suffer. It is also possible that the wicked deeds of sinners will go unpunished, and that God will even bless them.
He says they have a very simplistic understanding of the way God works. (12:13 – 25) Job speaks of God having all power, not only to build but also to destroy and tear down. God has power to make nations great and power to destroy them. He brings salvation, and He corrects injustice.
13:1 – 28 is one of the most important passages in the Book of Job.
Job begins by telling his friends that he already knows everything they are telling him. He is saying, “I’ve seen it all. I am not inferior to you.” He lays out his plans for what he wants to say to God, and he wants his friends to hear what he would say. He wants to argue his case with God.
13:6 – “Hear now my argument . . .” He is saying this so that they will stop misrepresenting God. In vs. 9, he asks his friends if it would go well with them if God were to examine them. His 3 friends’ conclusions were the same, but each of their sources of knowledge was different. Eliphaz claims that he received his knowledge supernaturally. Bildad got his understanding from teaching he had heard in the past. Zophar based his conclusions on his own theological study. But Job is saying that they do not understand God.
13:15 is the central idea of chapter 13. And it is a verse that Bible translators disagree on. Some translations read “See, He will kill me, I have no hope.” (NRSV, Korean 개혁개정) Most other translations read, “Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him.” The problem with the former translation is that Job says he has no hope. But in verses 16 and 18, Job does profess his hope. In verse 16, Job says, “I know that this will turn out for my salvation.” Job is saying, “God may kill me for arguing with Him, but I know God will be faithful.” We can conclude that the text of Job 13:15 should read, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” (ESV and other translations).
13:20—24 – Because he has hope, Job asks 2 things of God: that God would remove His punishment from him, and that God would call to him so that he could answer. Job cannot understand God, and he is seeking relief. In verse 15, rather than saying that he has no hope, he is re-affirming his trust in God even though he cannot understand Him.
14:13 Job prays to God. “Oh that You would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until Your wrath be past, that You would appoint for me a set time, and remember me!” “Sheol” does not mean hell; in the Old Testament, it is the place where people rest after they die.
14:14—17 Job asks a big question and then expresses his great hope in God: “If a man dies, shall he live again?” Job is seeking a new intimacy with God. 14:15 expresses it beautifully: “You would call, and I would answer. You would earnestly long for the work of Your hands.” He longs for God to not watch over his sin, but as a Father, with His loving eye, to watch over his steps, and forgive his sins.
14:18—22 But then Job falls once again into despair. This leads to the second cycle of arguments.
Some things to consider
1. Do you think Job’s complaining to God was a sin? Take some time to read through the Psalms and observe how the psalmist complained to God. Is it possible to complain to God without complaining to other people?
2. How do you understand Zophar’s 4-dimensional “deep things of God?” Does Paul’s description of the 4-dimensions of God’s love help you understand suffering? If so, in what ways?
3. What enabled Job to trust God even in the midst of suffering?