Job 4:1-6 – Eliphaz questions Job’s character

In this chapter, Eliphaz begins his debate with Job. Eliphaz questions Job’s character and innocence. Eliphaz then proceeds to find Job guilty of some unnamed sin because of the great amount of suffering Job is enduring.

Vs 1-2, Eliphaz begins to speak to Job. Evidently Job’s complaints in the previous chapter have moved him to a response and rebuke. Eliphaz believes that Job is in this predicament as a direct result of something sinful that Job has done. And so he doesn’t believe that Job’s desire for relief is justified. He believes Job is getting what he deserves. Hence, Eliphaz begins with the question of whether or not speaking to Job in this regard would cause him to be “grieved” or “impatient.” It’s not that Eliphaz cares whether Job feels this way or not. The question is more really of a design to mean, “If I respond to you Job, are you going to take this in the right way?” Eliphaz then makes it plain that he is compelled to comment upon Job’s situation after the words of complaint that Job has just spoken.

Vs. 3-4 – Eliphaz acknowledges Job’s role in this society. Job was a man who was esteemed and admired by all. He was a counselor and a man of the gate. He was one of the city elders to whom disputes were brought so that they could be settled. This place of honor would be equivalent to our city counsel or perhaps an eldership in a local church. Religion was not so much separated from matters of government in that day and the distinction is not observed by either Job or his friends. Job himself recalls this position of honor in Job 29:7-17. Job had indeed instructed many and Job had also strengthened the feeble and weak. In Job 31:16-23 Job claims that he was always fair to the poor and those in need and he never took advantage of them. And, no one ever questions Job in this regard. It is thus only right for Eliphaz to acknowledge Job’s honors before he begins criticizing him. Yet those few words of praise in Eliphaz mouth don’t appear to mean very much during and after the criticisms. Proverbs 17:17 says “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” When one is truly a friend, he will stick with you through thick and thin. Job’s friends may have been physically there for him, but spiritually, they abandoned him in his time of need.

Vs. 5 – Eliphaz words seem to contain a touch of purposeful irony. Yes, he recognized that Job was at one time in a position to assist others, but now Job, here you are in this situation where you now need the help of others. It’s almost patronizing in its content. Eliphaz’ statement regarding Job’s current situation reveals to us that he though Job to be somewhat hypocritical in his behavior. It is almost as if Eliphaz is saying, “Job helped others in the past, but now that he is suffering, he can’t help himself. When adversity comes upon him, he faints; he is troubled.” This is unfair criticism of Job. It is natural for someone in Job’s circumstances to feel down trodden. Eliphaz ought not to point out what is clearly evident here, emphasizing Job’s sufferings, but instead offer words of comfort. How many of us would walk into the hospital room of a patience whose body is disease ridden and is clearly suffering and say something like, “Well, it’s finally come upon you now.” Not only is it rude, it’s just not necessary to say. Both the one suffering and the one visiting know what the circumstances are. They don’t need to be so repeated so as to emphasize the obvious.

Vs. 6 – Again, Eliphaz appears to be mocking Job’s life. Job was indeed one who had feared God and one whose ways were filled with integrity. Thus, Job had reason to hope that his relationship with God was a good one. Eliphaz seems to be saying here, “Considering your suffering, Job, do you still believe that your fear of God and your personal integrity are reasons to hope that you have a good relationship with God?” This becomes a common element in these three’s criticism of Job. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar all question the necessity of man’s righteousness in relationship to his salvation. They don’t seem to believe that man’s righteousness ultimately makes any difference because man’s sins completely eclipse any good that a man might do (see Job 25:4-6). In that regard, they are similar to modern day Calvinists who state that there is no good thing that a person may do that would affect one’s salvation. Well, the Bible teaches otherwise. John states in 1 John 3:7 “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” Man has a personal responsibility to fear and obey God; this fear and obedience are part of God’s plan for man’s salvation (Ecclesiastes 12:13, Hebrews 5:9). Job’s friends, however, did not believe this. Hence they must conclude that Job deserves every bit of his suffering due to his own personal sins.

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Job 3:20-26

Please open your Bibles to Job 3:20-26.

In this section, we find the key question to the entire book of Job. Rephrased into today’s vernacular we would ask, “Why do good men suffer bad things?” or “Why is there suffering in the world?” The burden of the book of Job is to answer this question and we don’t get the answer in a short simple statement, because it’s not that kind of answer. There are many things that go through an individual’s mind when he is suffering. Is God mad at me? Is God punishing me? Why doesn’t God explain what He is doing? What will be the results of all of this? Why haven’t I died? Why shouldn’t I kill myself? What role does sin have in my suffering? These are all questions that are answered in the book of Job, but one must take the time to look at the book as a whole. The question of “Why do good men suffer bad things?” is a question that can’t be answered in just one sitting. It can only be answered through reasoning and contemplation, prayer and meditation of God and His word. This, and all the other attendant questions, will be answered in this book.

One thing we should note here. Neither Job nor his friends ever question God existence in regard to this problem. This is, of course, one of the great arguments today levied by those who do not believe in God. But the fact of the matter is that if there is true “evil” in the world, then God must exist. How so? In order for their to be something that one can objectively categorize as evil, then there must be a standard by which one may categorize such as evil – a standard of right and wrong. But if there is a standard of right and wrong, then there must be someone that has a right to levy that standard and require justice of those who violate it. No mere men or group of men contain the authority within themselves to establish such a standard. The only place from which such a standard can come is from Someone who is over and above the provincial and transient standards of men. God is really the only one who satisfies these requirements. The problem of evil doesn’t disprove God; it proves God. Job nor his friends ever question the existence of God because it would be a self-defeating proposition.

Vs. 20 – Job wonders why God is still keeping him alive when he desires death so much. Why allow him to suffer like he has? Wouldn’t it be better for Job to be “put out of his misery” so to speak? This is a suffering man talking. Many who suffer reason this way. But the fact of the matter is that this is the pain talking, not the reasoning part of man. This is the emotion of suffering speaking and not the clear intellect of intelligence reasoning.

As we’ve mentioned, there is a more fundamental question here. Why is there suffering in the world at all? The book will examine various answers to this question and we can actually come to some conclusions about it in the end.

“Light” is symbolic of being able to “see.” If one can see, then one is alive. The one who is in misery is the one who is suffering. The one who is “bitter in soul” is also the one who is suffering. Hence, why do living people suffer?

Vs. 21 – Job describes the depth of the suffering. They are suffering so much that they would rather die. The symbolism that Job uses is that they desire death so much that they would mine it out of the earth as gold, silver, or other treasures in the earth. But we ought not to think from this that Job meant that if they had the opportunity to take their life, then they OUGHT to do it, merely that they would do anything to have it happen to them. There is a difference between actively pursuing death and passively pursuing it. This is intense and deep suffering.

Vs. 22 – Job describes those who desire death to rejoice when they find the grave. Well, one can’t literally and physically rejoice when one dies. This is again, figurative language describing the depth of suffering that Job is experiencing. It would be, in Job’s mind, a relief and a joy to be dead because that would mean that he wouldn’t be undergoing this intense suffering any longer. Of course, Job didn’t have the benefit of the revelation on this subject that we have today. We know that death is NO relief for the wicked, but that punishment awaits them (Matthew 25:30, 46). For the righteous, of course, there is a rest that is awaiting (Hebrews 4:9-11).

Vs. 23 – The same question is again repeated as was asked in verse 20; it is really an extension of the question asked in verse 20. Again, this question is the central theme of the book of Job. Why is there suffering in the world? The expression “whose way is hidden” here indicates someone who has an uncertain future. In Job’s particular case, it means this as a result of the great loss that he has experienced in losing his wealth and family. “Whom God has hedged in” in this context isn’t referring to great blessings (as we found in Job 1:10) but rather, to limitations. Job had a great hedge of limitations around him now. He couldn’t move due to his disease (Job 7:4); he couldn’t eat (Job 6:7, 33:20); he had no wealth; he was in great pain (Job 33:19); he had no friends or family to comfort him. He was now hedged with suffering instead of blessing, just the opposite of the condition in which he was in previously.

Vs. 24 – Job emphasizes that he does not have the ability to eat here. A better reading of this passage is in the ESV which says that Job’s sighing comes instead of his bread as opposed to the KJV, his sighings come before his bread. The idea is that Job hasn’t the strength to eat. It is a monumental effort to simply get bread, chew it, swallow it, and repeat the process. Job also would later say that he can’t even taste the food that he is given (Job 6:6,7).

Job’s “roarings” or “groanings” are “poured out like water.” The idea is that they come out fluidly and easily. There is no interference with them. They are freely given voice. Man normally suppresses his little aches and pains, but in Job’s condition he could not so suppress the voice to his sufferings. If one has ever visited a nursing home or hospital, then one can understand what Job means here. Frequenting the halls of such places one oft hears the sighs and groans of those who are in pain.

Vs. 25 – What is the thing that Job fears and dreads? The word “fear” isn’t used here as a verb, but as a noun. Hence, this must be referring to his current physical condition and sufferings. We shouldn’t take this statement to mean something that Job fears in the future, but rather something that he currently is experiencing. The thing that he fears is the condition that he is currently in. It is his intense suffering. He fears that it will continue moment after moment and that he will get no relief. Eliphaz expresses the same sentiment in Job 22:10 “Therefore snares are round about thee, and sudden fear troubleth thee.” The calamities that Job had experienced were his “sudden fear.”

Vs. 26 – Job describes his physical state, which we have already alluded to above. He isn’t “at ease” because of the great pain that he is in. He isn’t “quiet” because of the moanings that flow out of him like water. He doesn’t have “rest” because his pain won’t allow him to sleep. The best that can be said of his situation is “trouble comes.” He’s had plenty of it and for the foreseeable future, that is all that he can expect; he sees no light at the end of the tunnel.

When we suffer, our situation may seem similar to Job’s. We may not see that light at the end of the tunnel. Nevertheless, with God, there is always hope. Psalm 71:5 says, “For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth.” Jeremiah penned these words, “Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the day of evil” (Jeremiah 17:17). God is our only hope in this life; let us trust in Him always!

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Job 3:11-19

Please open your Bibles to Job 3:11-19

Vs. 11-12 – In these verses, Job questions why he didn’t die at or near birth. He indicates this in several manners. First he wonders why he did not die in the womb from complications of pregnancy. Second he wonders why he didn’t die after childbirth perhaps due to complications in the delivery. Third, why was his mother (or nurse) such a good caretaker to prevent him from dying prematurely. This is the significance of the question, “Why did the knees prevent me?” Fourth, why didn’t he die from malnutrition, that is, from lack of milk as a babe. Job, in his suffering, reasons that it would have been better for him to have died in one of these ways than to have lived until the day when he would have to suffer so. Suffering can cause us to want to be dead rather than alive.

We must note, however, that Job never acted upon these desires for death nor did his friends. If such sentiments had been expressed in our day and age it wouldn’t be too long before someone obtained a court order and had Job’s food and water taken away from him so that he would starve to death. Or perhaps they would have called for the suicide doctor to come administer a deadly dose of poison so that Job’s life would expire. Even in the midst of this suffering, there was a line that Job and his friends knew not to cross. Regardless of how fragile a life may be there is no excuse for causing the death of an innocent person (Proverbs 6:16-17). Nor is there any excuse for committing suicide, which is really just self murder (Romans 1:29).

Vs. 13-16 – In these verses, Job wants to know why he couldn’t have had rest like the kings and princes of old or like a still born child. Job seemingly would prefer the rest of death rather than the anguish through which he was going at this time. Of course, Job, had he died as an infant, would have had spiritual rest, but this is not the kind of rest to which Job refers. He is referring here to the physical appearance of rest in that of a corpse.

Job reasons that the kings, counselors, and princes of the earth who have built for themselves tombs in the desolate places where their bodies could rest would indeed be the place that he desired at this time. Whether they were ornately furnished or not matter not to Job. It was simply that they had places of rest that tempted him so. Having one’s body ravaged by disease and receiving no rest during either night or day due to the intense pain in which one is suffering (Job 30:17), the grave must have looked like an appealing sight to Job.

Job even considers that he would have been better of if he was miscarried or still born. Even that would have been better than the suffering what he is now undergoing.

Vs. 17-19 – In these verses, Job posits that in death one is free from such wretched suffering as he is undergoing and can have rest. It is in death, Job reasons, that one no longer has to worry about persecution by the wicked. It is in death that those who work and toil and labor and from which their weary bodies are worn out, no longer have concern over such travail. It is in death that prisoners and slaves no longer must bend to the rod of their master’s oppression. Death offers no exceptions; both the small and great succumb to it eventually. There is no respect of persons in death.

We must note that in Job’s day and age not as much revelation had been given regarding the state of the soul at death. Perhaps Job thought of death as a place of rest for all, both righteous and wicked. From the physical appearance of death, it certainly appears that way. We know, however, that the Bible teaches that death isn’t a place of rest for the wicked (Revelation 14:11), but only for the righteous (Revelation 14:13).

The wise man declares in the book of Ecclesiastes 7:2-4, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” Certainly more would do well if they would consider death seriously more often in their life than the callous and frivolous attitudes that many display toward the subject. How ought we to consider death today? It is certainly appointed for all men (Hebrews 9:27) and it is not something that we ought to desire if we haven’t lived the kind of life that God wants us to live (1 Corinthians 15:56). For such, only misery awaits after this life (Matthew 25:46). The Christian, on the other hand, has nothing to fear from death (1 Corinthians 15:57) and so does not sorrow at death as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). The Christian has great hope for eternal life and so death is welcome to him and is a blessing (Psalm 116:15).

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