posted on Nov, 17 2017 @ 05:02 PM
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.
The troubles of Job were described in the first two chapters.
Job feels a sense of grievance, arising out of them, which develops 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
We now reach the last of their contributions.
Eliphaz, third speech
Job has just challenged the central plank of their argument, “the downfall of the wicked”.
In response, Eliphaz challenges Job’s claim to blamelessness, the central plank of his own argument.
How could Job be blameless enough to have any claim on the Almighty?
God would not have been moved to reprove Job and enter into judgement with him, if Job had any true “fear” (ch22 vv1-4).
“Is not your wickedness great? There is no end to your iniquities” (v5).
Although this charge is developed in great detail, the details are imaginary.
Eliphaz is arguing backwards from his conclusion; Job is evidently being punished by God, therefore he must have been doing the kind of thing which
“You have exacted pledges of your brothers for nothing…
You have given no water to the weary to drink, and you have withheld bread from the hungry…”
This is the reason why Job’s light has been “darkened”, and a great flood has come upon him (vv6-11).
Job has made the same mistake as the wicked, who assume that God is too far away, enveloped by clouds and darkness, to know what is happening on the
They do say to God “Depart from us”, but in consequence they are “snatched away before their time” (vv12-20).
So Eliphaz recommends, once again, that Job “agree with God and be at peace…
Return to the Almighty and humble yourself” (vv21-23).
Job should put his trust in God instead of in gold and silver.
Then God will hear his prayers and grant his requests.
God may abase the proud, but he saves the lowly and the innocent man (vv24-30).
Job turns away from this fruitless argument, and takes up again the question of a legal appeal in God’s own court.
“Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat!
I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments.
I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me” (ch23 vv3-5).
In this fantasy, God would grant’s Job’s previous request and lay aside his power, so that the case could be heard fairly;
“There an upright man could reason with him, and I should be acquitted for ever by my judge” (v7).
However, Job has been searching all over the place and cannot find him.
He has been faithful; “I have kept his way and have not turned aside.
I have not departed from the commandment of his lips” (vv10-12).
Yet God is relentless in carrying out his mysterious determined will;
“He is unchangeable and who can turn him?” (v13)
Therefore Job cannot be other than terrified at his presence.
He wants to know why God does not keep “times of judgement” (ch24 v1).
Why does he not have “appeal” days, like earthly judges, when the victims of injustice can complain against their fellow men?
He gives full examples of this unjust behaviour.
Wicked men remove boundary landmarks, seize flocks, thrust aside the poor.
“From out of the city the dying groan…yet God pays no attention to their prayer” (v12).
The people who do this “rebel against the light”.
Thus the murderer, the adulterer, and the man who digs into the walls of houses all choose to work in the night.
“They are friends with the terrors of deep darkness” (v17).
His friends are going to say “these people are swiftly carried away” (vv18-20).
Unfortunately this is simply not true.
“God prolongs the life of the mighty by his power”. He seems to accept them, at least in the short term.
“If it is not so, who will prove me a liar, and show that there is nothing in what I say?” (v25)
By this time the argument has been played out, and there is not much left to say.
In Bildad’s third speech, he offers up (again) the point that man cannot be righteous before God. God has dominion and overwhelming power. He does
not count as “clean” even the moon and stars.
How then can a man born of woman, nothing greater than a worm, make the same claim? (ch25)
Zophar apparently waives his third opportunity to speak, so the emerging pattern of “three speeches each” is left incomplete.
In his first response to Bildad, Job scornfully tells his friends that they have done nothing to help the man who is weak, the man who is supposed to
have no wisdom (ch26 vv1-4).
He describes the power of God.
Sheol is naked before him.
He stretches out the firmament over the abyss, and holds the earth in its place.
He binds up the waters, and spreads out the clouds over the heavens.
“By his power he stills the sea; by his understanding he smote [the great beast] Rahab…
These are but the outskirts of his ways… But the thunder of his power who can understand?” (vv6-14).
Presumably the purpose of this description is to suggest that the comforters are answering glibly and not taking their God seriously enough.
The point is that God has the power to subdue evil, when that is what he chooses to do..
Then he makes a solemn oath, “as God lives”.
Yes, he swears by that same God who has taken away his condition of righteousness and made his soul bitter.
As long as breath is in him (and that breath, he reminds them, is breathed into him by God), he will not lie, but will speak the truth.
And the solemn truth is that the comforters are wrong, and Job is blameless;
“Until I die, I will not put away my integrity from me.
I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go” (ch27 vv1-6).
The rest of ch27 reads rather oddly, when understood as a speech coming out of Job’s mouth.
It is yet another version of the “downfall of the wicked” theme.
“Let my enemy be as the wicked…”
For the godless has no hope when God cuts him off.
God does not hear his cry when he is in trouble.
He has no delight in God.
His children starve or are destined for the sword or the pestilence.
All his wealth will be passed on to those who are just.
Terrors will overtake him like a flood (vv7-23).
Job may be applying this teaching to those who persecute him, including his current accusers..
Then ch28 examines the question of where Wisdom can be found, and gives the answer that Wisdom is to be found nowhere else but in “fear of the
Lord” and departure from evil.
Again, this is something which the friends might have attempted to teach Job, though it is above their usual standard.
The homily is a reminder, at this stage of the debate, that Wisdom (and not human wisdom) is the real key to understanding the issues of this book.
Job’s closing speech, and the book’s final verdict, will be considered in later threads.
In the meantime, we might like to ask ourselves which side of the argument has been making the better case.