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!
Job 5 - 9
5:1 “Call now; is there anyone who will answer you?
To which of the holy ones will you turn?
Surely vexation kills the fool,
and jealousy slays the simple.
I have seen the fool taking root,
but suddenly I cursed his dwelling.
His children are far from safety;
they are crushed in the gate,
and there is no one to deliver them.
The hungry eat his harvest,
and he takes it even out of thorns,
and the thirsty pant after his wealth.
For affliction does not come from the dust,
nor does trouble sprout from the ground,
but man is born to trouble
as the sparks fly upward.
“As for me, I would seek God,
and to God would I commit my cause,
who does great things and unsearchable,
marvelous things without number:
he gives rain on the earth
and sends waters on the fields;
he sets on high those who are lowly,
and those who mourn are lifted to safety.
He frustrates the devices of the crafty,
so that their hands achieve no success.
He catches the wise in their own craftiness,
and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end.
They meet with darkness in the daytime
and grope at noonday as in the night.
But he saves the needy from the sword of their mouth
and from the hand of the mighty.
So the poor have hope,
and injustice shuts her mouth.
“Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves;
therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty.
For he wounds, but he binds up;
he shatters, but his hands heal.
He will deliver you from six troubles;
in seven no evil shall touch you.
In famine he will redeem you from death,
and in war from the power of the sword.
You shall be hidden from the lash of the tongue,
and shall not fear destruction when it comes.
At destruction and famine you shall laugh,
and shall not fear the beasts of the earth.
For you shall be in league with the stones of the field,
and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with you.
You shall know that your tent is at peace,
and you shall inspect your fold and miss nothing.
You shall know also that your offspring shall be many,
and your descendants as the grass of the earth.
You shall come to your grave in ripe old age,
like a sheaf gathered up in its season.
Behold, this we have searched out; it is true.
Hear, and know it for your good.”
6:1 Then Job answered and said:
“Oh that my vexation were weighed,
and all my calamity laid in the balances!
For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea;
therefore my words have been rash.
For the arrows of the Almighty are in me;
my spirit drinks their poison;
the terrors of God are arrayed against me.
Does the wild donkey bray when he has grass,
or the ox low over his fodder?
Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt,
or is there any taste in the juice of the mallow?
My appetite refuses to touch them;
they are as food that is loathsome to me.
“Oh that I might have my request,
and that God would fulfill my hope,
that it would please God to crush me,
that he would let loose his hand and cut me off!
This would be my comfort;
I would even exult in pain unsparing,
for I have not denied the words of the Holy One.
What is my strength, that I should wait?
And what is my end, that I should be patient?
Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze?
Have I any help in me,
when resource is driven from me?
“He who withholds kindness from a friend
forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
My brothers are treacherous as a torrent-bed,
as torrential streams that pass away,
which are dark with ice,
and where the snow hides itself.
When they melt, they disappear;
when it is hot, they vanish from their place.
The caravans turn aside from their course;
they go up into the waste and perish.
The caravans of Tema look,
the travelers of Sheba hope.
They are ashamed because they were confident;
they come there and are disappointed.
For you have now become nothing;
you see my calamity and are afraid.
Have I said, ‘Make me a gift’?
Or, ‘From your wealth offer a bribe for me’?
Or, ‘Deliver me from the adversary's hand’?
Or, ‘Redeem me from the hand of the ruthless’?
“Teach me, and I will be silent;
make me understand how I have gone astray.
How forceful are upright words!
But what does reproof from you reprove?
Do you think that you can reprove words,
when the speech of a despairing man is wind?
You would even cast lots over the fatherless,
and bargain over your friend.
“But now, be pleased to look at me,
for I will not lie to your face.
Please turn; let no injustice be done.
Turn now; my vindication is at stake.
Is there any injustice on my tongue?
Cannot my palate discern the cause of calamity?
7:1 “Has not man a hard service on earth,
and are not his days like the days of a hired hand?
Like a slave who longs for the shadow,
and like a hired hand who looks for his wages,
so I am allotted months of emptiness,
and nights of misery are apportioned to me.
When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’
But the night is long,
and I am full of tossing till the dawn.
My flesh is clothed with worms and dirt;
my skin hardens, then breaks out afresh.
My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle
and come to their end without hope.
“Remember that my life is a breath;
my eye will never again see good.
The eye of him who sees me will behold me no more;
while your eyes are on me, I shall be gone.
As the cloud fades and vanishes,
so he who goes down to Sheol does not come up;
he returns no more to his house,
nor does his place know him anymore.
“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth;
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit;
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
Am I the sea, or a sea monster,
that you set a guard over me?
When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me,
my couch will ease my complaint,’
then you scare me with dreams
and terrify me with visions,
so that I would choose strangling
and death rather than my bones.
I loathe my life; I would not live forever.
Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.
What is man, that you make so much of him,
and that you set your heart on him,
visit him every morning
and test him every moment?
How long will you not look away from me,
nor leave me alone till I swallow my spit?
If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of mankind?
Why have you made me your mark?
Why have I become a burden to you?
Why do you not pardon my transgression
and take away my iniquity?
For now I shall lie in the earth;
you will seek me, but I shall not be.”
8:1 Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said:
“How long will you say these things,
and the words of your mouth be a great wind?
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.
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.
And though your beginning was small,
your latter days will be very great.
“For inquire, please, of bygone ages,
and consider what the fathers have searched out.
For we are but of yesterday and know nothing,
for our days on earth are a shadow.
Will they not teach you and tell you
and utter words out of their understanding?
“Can papyrus grow where there is no marsh?
Can reeds flourish where there is no water?
While yet in flower and not cut down,
they wither before any other plant.
Such are the paths of all who forget God;
the hope of the godless shall perish.
His confidence is severed,
and his trust is a spider's web.
He leans against his house, but it does not stand;
he lays hold of it, but it does not endure.
He is a lush plant before the sun,
and his shoots spread over his garden.
His roots entwine the stone heap;
he looks upon a house of stones.
If he is destroyed from his place,
then it will deny him, saying, ‘I have never seen you.’
Behold, this is the joy of his way,
and out of the soil others will spring.
“Behold, God will not reject a blameless man,
nor take the hand of evildoers.
He will yet fill your mouth with laughter,
and your lips with shouting.
Those who hate you will be clothed with shame,
and the tent of the wicked will be no more.”
9:1 Then Job answered and said:
“Truly I know that it is so:
But how can a man be in the right before God?
If one wished to contend with him,
one could not answer him once in a thousand times.
He is wise in heart and mighty in strength
—who has hardened himself against him, and succeeded?—
he who removes mountains, and they know it not,
when he overturns them in his anger,
who shakes the earth out of its place,
and its pillars tremble;
who commands the sun, and it does not rise;
who seals up the stars;
who alone stretched out the heavens
and trampled the waves of the sea;
who made the Bear and Orion,
the Pleiades and the chambers of the south;
who does great things beyond searching out,
and marvelous things beyond number.
Behold, he passes by me, and I see him not;
he moves on, but I do not perceive him.
Behold, he snatches away; who can turn him back?
Who will say to him, ‘What are you doing?’
“God will not turn back his anger;
beneath him bowed the helpers of Rahab.
How then can I answer him,
choosing my words with him?
Though I am in the right, I cannot answer him;
I must appeal for mercy to my accuser.
If I summoned him and he answered me,
I would not believe that he was listening to my voice.
For he crushes me with a tempest
and multiplies my wounds without cause;
he will not let me get my breath,
but fills me with bitterness.
If it is a contest of strength, behold, he is mighty!
If it is a matter of justice, who can summon him?
Though I am in the right, my own mouth would condemn me;
though I am blameless, he would prove me perverse.
I am blameless; I regard not myself;
I loathe my life.
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.
The earth is given into the hand of the wicked;
he covers the faces of its judges—
if it is not he, who then is it?
“My days are swifter than a runner;
they flee away; they see no good.
They go by like skiffs of reed,
like an eagle swooping on the prey.
If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint,
I will put off my sad face, and be of good cheer,’
I become afraid of all my suffering,
for I know you will not hold me innocent.
I shall be condemned;
why then do I labor in vain?
If I wash myself with snow
and cleanse my hands with lye,
yet you will plunge me into a pit,
and my own clothes will abhor me.
For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him,
that we should come to trial together.
There is no arbiter between us,
who might lay his hand on us both.
Let him take his rod away from me,
and let not dread of him terrify me.
Then I would speak without fear of him,
for I am not so in myself.