Second Cycle of Arguments Between Job and His Friends (Part A)
Second Cycle of Arguments (A)
The attitude of Job’s three friends changes dramatically in this second cycle. They have lost their compassion and have absolutely no mercy for Job. This shows how quickly friends who came such a long way out of love to comfort their dear friend Job in his suffering, could lose their patience and become accusers rather than comforters. This does not make them evil people; nor is Job evil for speaking out of his desperation.
But what does this apparent blockage in their friendship reveal about friendship? Certainly, that mercy and compassion must always be foremost in friendship. Listeningwith openness is also important in friendship. But Job’s three friends had their preconceived ideas about Job’s suffering. Their theology was neat and compact. They did not know how to go beyond their human knowledge.
God was enlarging Job’s understanding of who God is and how He works in our lives. But Job was unable to deal with God’s method of teaching! And his friends were viewing Job only through the lens of their human understanding. What does this say about how friends must help one another when one is suffering?
- Friends must be open to enlarging one another’s understanding of God. The friends seemed to be unaware that God was doing something new in Job – something that would radically change not only Job but also themselves. The result was that both Job and his friends ended up with a lot of anger towards one another.
- This reveals another mark of friendship: we must be quick to forgive one another, even when our ideas clash. There is no room for judgmentalism in friendship. They still loved one another, and we know that God restored their friendship at the end. But God first required them to forgive one another. The basic problem, of course, is that there is no human logical answer to suffering. In their anger, neither Job nor his friends could admit that truth.
- There seemed to be no place for prayer for one another. We will see this now in the second and third cycle of discourses.
Eliphaz begins the second cycle of discourses. 15:1-35
Things to notice about Eliphaz
- He does not have the patience that he showed to Job in his first speech. He acknowledges Job’s wisdom but questions his knowledge of God and how He works.
- He believes that this is the time to rebuke Job for challenging God, and for refusing to accept the wisdom of his friends. He informs Job that since God does not even trust His saints and that the heavens are not pure in God’s sight (a questionable assumption), how much less would God trust a man who sins.
- He judges Job by telling him that he does not have the fear of the Lord, which is a major requirement in the Old Testament for any righteous person. (Eliphaz must have changed his mind, because earlier, in 4:6, he says to Job, “is not your fear of God your confidence?”)
- He even accuses Job of hindering meditation on God.
- Eliphaz calls Job a hypocrite who took bribes! (15:34)
- He then begins to talk about the wicked in general; it is almost like a sermon, not even talking to Job directly. He ignores Job’s complaints and simply accuses Job of being a wicked person.
- Finally, he reveals his own self-righteousness by maintaining that he is not condemning Job, but rather that Job’s own mouth is condemning him.
- Eliphaz is definitely orthodox in his faith. But it is a cold orthodoxy, with no compassion for a suffering friend who God Himself said was the most righteous man who ever lived.
Job has now challenged the theological system that is the basis of their lives. His friends do not know how to respond or to help Job, so they begin to defend themselves. Neither Job nor his friends are able to see God as He really is.
Job replies. 16:1—17:16
- Job feels totally alone now. His friends treat him like a very sinful, evil man. He says that his friends are miserable comforters.
- He tells them what he would say if the situation were reversed: “I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief.” (16:5)
- His basic problem, however, is that God has “worn him out ” (16:7) and destroyed his family. He says that God has “shriveled me up,” (16:8), and has delivered him into the hands of the ungodly.
- But in the midst of his anguish, Job makes an amazing statement: “Surely even now my witness is in heaven, and He who testifies for me is on high!” (16:19) Who is this witness? Job does not know who this is, but it is clear that he knew that such a mediator existed.
- Job’s hope was later fulfilled far beyond anything he could expect. Of course he could not understand it at the time, but we now know that the witness, the heavenly mediator, is Jesus Christ. 1 John 2:1 “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Jesus took the punishment that not only Job but also the whole world deserved.
- Job had these moments of amazing hope. It is almost as if God gave him hints of His complete salvation. But just as soon as Job has such an awareness, he reverts back to his pain and suffering.
- Once again his spirit is broken, and he can find no purpose in continuing to live. He believes that his end is coming near.
Bildad speaks (18:1-21)
Bildad is clearly the most shallow of Job’s three friends. He now has lost all compassion and sees no hope for Job. He is very audacious when he tells Job to get some knowledge and understanding, and then we will talk! (18:2) He believes that Job has no understanding of the basic doctrines of God; but it is Bildad, ironically, who lacks knowledge.
Bildad contends that the theological doctrines that everyone should know must never be challenged. His doctrine is based on law, not on grace; and even his attitude reveals that he considers the keeping of orthodox doctrine more important than ministering to a suffering brother.
He concludes that Job has been driven from light into darkness, which is the only place for the one who does not know God. Bildad has nothing new to say in his second speech. His only message is that evil will be punished.
Job has been devastated. Bildad says that “such are the dwellings of the unrighteous, such is the place of him who knows not God.” (18:21)
Some things to consider
1. How do you think Job and his three friends could have had a better conversation? How should they have changed their approach?
2. Consider Job’s reply to Eliphaz. Did you notice any element of hope in his reply?
3. Why was the cause of Bildad’s frustration with Job?