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Posted By Nan

Eliphaz is not finished with his unhelpful comments. He does not appear to believe that Job wants to die. Instead he thinks that Job is just using dramatic language to seek delivery for his suffering. So he suggests to Job that he needs a mediator to plead his case to God but counters this with the statement that there will be no one able to do this. He thinks Job is wasting his time. It is part of being human to suffer and there is no one on earth or in heaven who can stop Job’s punishment.
As if that is not enough he implies Job is resentful of God and a fool because he is not paying attention to God. He describes the fool who prospered for a while then everything he had was cursed and he lost his children and wealth. Talk about rubbing salt into the wound.
Eliphaz contends that because Job is a fool he should stop his behaviour and humble himself before God so that God will bless him and take away his hardship. He has come to comfort his friend and he appeared to care deeply for him as he sat with Job for seven days and nights. Now he is being anything but comforting. How awful for Job, as he sat with his grief and pain. As he struggled with the loss of his children and his bewilderment as to how this could have happened to him. How awful for Job to get condescending words of accusation from his friends. How hard for the person suffering as is Job when their friends come offering accusations and unhelpful words rather than practical help. How often do we offer our virtuous judgements of another person? We don’t tell them we think they are to blame but we imply it with our unhelpful suggestions. How often do we offer virtuously to ‘pray’ for someone because we cannot be bothered offering them more practical help or even just find the time to sit with them?
This book may seem to go on forever, with a multitude of unhelpful arguments from Job’s friends, but each argument echoes one we have thought ourselves in judging the suffering of others. The Book of Job is as much for the sufferer’s friend as it is for the sufferer.

Posted By Nan

Eliphaz continues to talk to Job and reproach him. He speaks of a prophetic dream he has had and his telling is wonderfully dramatic and beautifully embellished. It is not certain from this telling how long ago he had the dream, whether recently or a long time ago, but that does not stop him applying it to Job in this instance. The main message he received appears to be that man cannot be more righteous than God. Of course that is true, and Job does not dispute that. All of us are sinful and that means God has the right to punish us and we have no right to argue with that. But Job has been arguing that he has not done anything to deserve the terrible trouble that has come upon him and has sought to be humble and worship God, always acknowledging his sin and sins he may not be aware of. That is not to say Job’s argument is right either, but Eliphaz has missed the point of what Job has said. Maybe it is because he has no answer for it, so seeks to condemn Job and trivialise his suffering.
Eliphaz is telling Job to accept his sin and the punishment he has received for it. He is also giving the message those who respond to another person’s pain by telling them to be thankful give. He is telling Job to stop talking about his pain. As with others who do the same, failing to allow Job to acknowledge his pain is more about Eliphaz’s ignorance and discomfort at hearing his friend’s pain than praising God or helping his friend.
Selwyn Hughes, the author of Every Day With Jesus once wrote about coming to the realisation after his wife had died that he had been uncaring and unhelpful to grieving people who came to him for help. He came to understand how unhelpful his words had been. He had been like Eliphaz, speaking from a place totally lacking in empathy. Certainly God is in control and has more power than us, but denying the reality of what we are suffering is not helpful. It is important to acknowledge that pain and sometimes we need to sit with it. We may read psalms that start with misery and end in praise, but we do not know what length of time elapsed from the beginning of the psalm to the written end. Eventually we will praise God, but sometimes we can only cling to the rock that is Jesus and endure. There will be moments when we can acknowledge the good that is happening in our lives during those hard times and there will be moments when all we can do is trust God.
The last thing we need during those times of bleakness in our lives is a friend like Eliphaz who trivialises our suffering. I wonder how Eliphaz believed God to be? His words suggest he had a very black and white, even pessimistic, view of God and the life God has given us.

Posted By Nan


Now Eliphaz commences his next argument, which is that Job should remember the innocent do not perish. According to Eliphaz, only those who sow evil and trouble will reap destruction. If Job is really innocent, he will not be destroyed. This demonstrates an ignorance of the Biblical stories. There are many precedents in the Bible where the innocent were destroyed, or had bad things happen to them. These stories would have been well known to Job and his friends.

One such story is found in Genesis 4:1-8. This is the story of Abel. He was the one who offering the best of his harvest to God and God was pleased with them. However, he was murdered by his brother because of God’s pleasure in him. God’s pleasure did not prevent his murder. Another story is that of Lot (Genesis 18:20-19:30). He was considered righteous and not destroyed with the rest of Sodom, but he ended up sleeping in a cave in fear.

In his zeal to suggest Job has obviously committed a sin Eliphaz suggests that Job must have acted like a despotic lion and treated others badly in his progression to wealth. After all, the despotic lion is destroyed and its young also. Eliphaz, like so many of us, is fixated on the idea that Job must have done something wrong. This attitude is still very prominent in the thinking of many Christians and causes untold harm to those who are suffering. 

Jesus asks us to encourage, which does not mean condemn. He expects us to comfort, not patronise. He tells us not to judge. He asks us to be humble. If we aren’t then we will be like Eliphaz, who harmed rather than helped.

Posted By Nan

Now that Job has voiced his confusion and sorrow, but not cursed God, it is the turn of his friends to speak. Although much of what the friends say is basically correct in part, they leave out a lot of other points that are also correct. So their message becomes incorrect because of the information excluded and also, because of the assumptions made, their messages become unhelpful, even hurtful, to Job.
The first friend is Eliphaz the Temanite. According to Jeremiah 49:7, the Temanites are known for their wisdom. Reading Eliphaz’s words, I can hear the attitude of wisdom in his words. I can also hear an attitude of pride in his wisdom. Eliphaz is like so many of us who believe we have all the answers and the knowledge to deliver those answers. I can also hear in that pride a sense of power over Job. When we think we have greater knowledge than another person then we fall into the trap of looking down on that person. We can only look down if we have greater power. It is an easy trap to fall into, considering oneself the expert, but it is unhelpful towards others as well as being arrogant.
Although Eliphaz appears to be very concerned about Job and keen to remind him of how great a man he is and how much he has encouraged others, his words come from his belief that all suffering is caused by sin. He contends that Job has encouraged others not to lose hope but now he is doing what he has encouraged others not to do. He reminds Job that he may consider himself pious and blameless but he has obviously brought this suffering on himself. In short he suggests Job is a hypocrite for not doing what he has encouraged others to do.
Eliphaz probably meant well but his belief in his own rightness, his arrogance and taking on of the ‘expert dispensing advice to those below him’ role means his words fail to encourage. Rather they lack empathy of Job’s situation and fail to acknowledge the pain Job is going through and seek to correct Job when correcting him was not appropriate in this situation.
When someone is suffering as Job is here, it is far more helpful to just sit with them rather than find answers or solutions. It is more helpful to acknowledge the pain the person is in and show you are prepared to sit with them. Suffering is very lonely and a kind shoulder to lean on is more helpful than one that seeks to dispense judgement or advice. We need to remember that when we are being Jesus’ love and concern for others.

Posted By Nan

Death, with its peace, would be preferable to the torment in which Job finds himself. He has lost all his possessions and hence his security. That in itself is a loss that is hard to adjust to. Then all his children are killed. Losing one child is a terrible blow, but all of them is so horrifying. He is in such terrible pain of grief. And now he is experiencing extreme physical pain and discomfort because of a terrible skin condition. Job has lost hope.
Research into suicide has suggested that loss of hope is the trigger for suicide. Job is suffering terrible grief, the loss of his future, his wealth, and his children and now is in unrelenting pain. He doesn’t ask God to stop the pain. He accepts it as God’s right. But this does not stop his torment and does not prevent him from wondering what God has planned for him next. He has no reason to expect his torment to end. He considers God has replaced the hedge of protection He placed around him with a hedge of suffering from which he cannot escape. He has lost hope and wants to die. He asks why those in torment cannot die as they want to. He asks why people are born to a life of suffering. These age old questions have always been asked, and are asked today. There is no answer for them.
Job had feared such horror in his life and this is presumably why satan targeted him in this way. It is most likely his extreme concern to offer constant sacrifices to God was part of this fear. Now he is suffering as he feared but he does not know what he has done to deserve it. Job’s belief that suffering is a punishment for sin is not unusual. As previously mentioned, that belief was common in Job’s time and continues to be widely held by people today. We all have our theories about suffering. Many think it is punishment, others testing, others see it as evidence God doesn’t love the sufferer. Some feel God is not in control and this is a satanic attack. In our desire to have control over our lives we have to know and manipulate everything in our lives. When things happen we demand explanations. We demand them from authorities, from those around us and from God. We cannot accept things happen and that sometimes there is no reason, or at least no reason we will know this side of the grave. To accept that means we have to accept we have no control over our lives. That is hard to do.
We all find ourselves at some point in our lives where Job is in this book, bemoaning our turmoil and demanding answers but refusing to curse God. We all find ourselves at that point of desperation and loss of hope. This is why Job is such an important book to study and such a difficult one to read.



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