The three friends who sit with Job are not simply random names, and the original reader would have recognized their homelands. Eliphaz was from Teman, of the land of Edom, Israel’s brother and renown in the ancient world for its wisdom tradition. Bildad was a Shuhite, descended from Shuah, son of Abraham and his second wife Keturah, from Arabia. Finally, Zophar was a Naamathite, likely from the region of Canaan.
While this information is not necessary to follow the story, it does add a layer of understanding. Though Job’s origins are shrouded in mystery, his friends likely represented more to the original reader – depicting various strands of wisdom in the ancient world. Pay attention to how accurately they depict the LORD’s character, based on what you know of Him from the law and the prophets.
Yesterday’s reading ended in the middle of a speech by Eliphaz the Temanite. Eliphaz first responds to Job’s complaint by affirming the gift that Job’s wisdom has brought others: “Behold, you have instructed many, and you have strengthened the weak hands. Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees.” But this wisdom, in Eliphaz’s mind, has not helped Job deduce the obvious: “…Who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.”
The charge of iniquity is intensified today by Bildad. Reflecting on the fate of Job’s children he asks, “Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert the right? If your children have sinned against him, he has delivered them into the hand of their transgression.” Furthermore, he challenges Job to beg for mercy: “If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy, if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and restore your rightful habitation.”
Consider that Job is forced not only to deal with his grief and pain, but now to respond to each of these challenges. Listen carefully to his responses today. Remember, also, that you know the background for Job’s suffering to which Job and his friends are not privy. What of their theories does he absorb, and what does he repel? How does he feel, and how does he convey that feeling? And, finally, what questions is Job himself asking?
Our verse for this week is James 4:7: Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Job 5 through 9. Now let’s read it!
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.