On the face of it, the book of Job is about the troubles of one man.
Of course we understand him as a representative. We regard the story as a debate about the origins of human troubles.
Strictly speaking, why bad things happen to good people instead of being limited to bad people.
I believe the original question may have been why God’s people Israel were allowed to suffer at the hands of the Babylonians.
The troubles of Job were described in the first two chapters.
Job feels a sense of grievance, arising out of these troubles, which will develop into what amounts to a lawsuit against God.
Like any other lawsuit, this case begins with a plaintiff’s complaint (ch3).
Since God is not offering an immediate response, the “comforters” who are sitting with Job begin putting forward their own counter-arguments.
Eliphaz was the first speaker, and is now to be followed by Bildad.
Bildad, first speech
Bildad’s basic principle is that God does not pervert justice (ch8 v3).
On that basis, he can detach the fate of Job’s children from the question of Job’s righteousness. They will have been suffering from the effects
of their own sin. As Bildad puts it, God “delivered them into the power of their transgression” (v4).
If we are understanding Job as a symbol of Israel under affliction, the effect of this distinction is to make separate issues out of the status of the
nation, in itself, and the faults of the individual members.
If the sins of individuals were being punished in the destruction of the city, that still leaves room for the redemption of the nation as a whole.
As for Job himself, then, Bildad recommends that he make supplication to God.
For if Job is pure and upright, God will rouse himself to take action on Job’s behalf.
Job (or the nation) will rise from small beginnings to greatness, “with a rightful habitation” (vv5-7).
This is the wisdom which has been handed down from “bygone ages”.
It is not safe to trust in the reconsiderations of the present age, “for we are but of yesterday, and know nothing” (vv8-10).
The main teaching of this bygone wisdom is that “the hope of the godless man shall perish”.
It withers like weeds away from water, or like plants spreading their desperate roots among the rocks.
“He leans against his house, but it does not stand”.
He will vanish so completely that his location will deny having known him (vv11-19).
Conversely, God will not reject a blameless man.
“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter…
Those who hate you will be clothed with shame” (vv20-22).
Job’s answer to Bildad begins in a very unexpected way; “Truly I know that it is so” (ch9 v1).
Agreement? Have we heard that right? But there is a catch.
He knows the rule to be good and true, that “God will not reject a blameless man”.
But what happens if God fails to live up to his own rules?
If Job himself is blameless, but God has rejected him anyway?
In effect, Job wants a judicial review of God’s treatment of him, and so he has to wrestle with the logical difficulties which that would
As he said in an earlier chapter, “My vindication is at stake”.
“How CAN a man be just before God?” (v2)
That is, how can he establish himself as just in God’s eyes, whether he is innocent or not?
The problem is the overwhelming power of God, which sets him beyond contradiction.
“If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times” (v3).
This is the one whose strength can shake the earth and move mountains.
Who made and controls the movements of the sun and the other heavenly bodies.
“Who does great things beyond understanding, and marvellous things without number” (v10).
Nobody has the strength to control him and overrule what he does;
“Behold, he snatches away; who can hinder him?
Who will say to him ‘What doest thou?’” (v12)
How can an injured man stand up and plead his cause against power like that?
“Though I am innocent, I cannot answer him…
If I summoned him [as in a court case] and he answered me, I would not believe that he was listening to my voice.
For he crushes me with a tempest” (vv15-17).
The problem is that nobody has the authority to sustain a judicial appeal against the supreme judge;
“If it is a contest of strength, behold him!
If it is a matter of justice, who can summon him?” (v19)
In fact God’s overwhelming wisdom would even be able to talk Job out of his self-belief in his own righteousness;
“Though I am innocent, my own mouth would condemn me;
Though I am blameless, he would prove me perverse” (v20).
The human individual really cannot win.
However, Job does have one card up his sleeve;
“I loathe my life”.
He no longer cares whether he lives or not.
That means he can speak his mind freely without fearing the consequences.
He can claim to be innocent and blameless, and he can find fault with what God is doing.
“It is all one; therefore I say he destroys BOTH the blameless and the wicked.
When disaster brings sudden death, he mocks at the calamity of the innocent” (vv21-23).
God acts unjustly and allows the judges of the world to ignore the general injustice;
“If it is not he, who then is it?” (v24)
Job could ignore all this, “put off my sad countenance”, and try to make the best of life as it comes.
But then there is the issue of God’s impossible demands for righteousness.
He knows that God will condemn him, “will not hold me innocent”, whatever he does, so what is the point in trying?
Even if he cleansed himself from sin, as if “washed in snow”, God would contrive a way to plunge him back into the dirt and make him guilty again
The real problem with the case which Job wants to pursue is that it is not possible to meet God in court on equal terms.
“For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together.
There is no umpire between us, who might lay his hand upon us both”.
A fair hearing would only be possible if God would lay aside the “rod” of his anger (vv32-35).
Job addresses God directly, returning to the final theme of his previous speech.
Since he loathes his life and does not fear the retribution of death, he speaks freely, “in the bitterness of my soul”.
Why, God, do you have to pursue my sin quite so diligently?
“Let me know why thou dost contend against me” (ch10 vv1-2).
You make a point of seeking out my iniquity (though you know I am not really guilty).
You are the one who fashioned me in the first place.
“Thou hast granted me life and steadfast love, and thy care has preserved my spirit” (v12)
Yet now you try to destroy your own works.
“If I sin, thou dost mark me, and dost not acquit me of my iniquity” (v14).
Whatever efforts I make to defend myself, “thou dost renew thy witnesses against me” (v17)
Finally, Job returns to the main question of his original complaint;
“Why didst thou bring me forth from the womb?
Would that I had died before any eye had seen me” (v18).
My life is going to be short anyway.
So “let me alone, that I may find a little comfort, before I go whence I shall not return”.
Since he does not share Bildad’s confidence in the infallible justice of God, he appeals to God’s leniency and sense of pity.
edit on 13-10-2017 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)