With Friends Like These (Job 2–25)
The scene following Job';s physical affliction is a disturbing and discomforting one At the beginning of his case of head-to-toe boils, Job sat in an ash heap, scraping his badly burning and itching skin with a piece of broken pottery. But if his physical agony weren';t enough, he then has to deal with some well-meaning but ill-informed people who try to help him out in his misery but don';t do much to lift his spirits. The first of those people was his own wife, who offered: “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9).
The word integrity appears several times in the book of Job alone and many other times throughout the Bible, so it is obviously an important quality to God. For example: The Lord detests people with crooked hearts, but he delights in those with integrity” (Proverbs 11:20).
But as miserable as Job was — and as much as it must have hurt him to have his own wife advise him to turn away from God — Job maintained his integrity and did not curse or blame God in any way. Instead, he continued praising God through everything. But the situation was about to get more difficult for him, and it was made worse because of the attempted help of some well-meaning friends.
When a man like Job is going through difficult times, it is sure to get people';s attention. When three of Job';s friends — Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, as the Bible identifies them — heard what had happened to him, they traveled from their homes to go and comfort and console him. When they saw him, they hardly recognized him. And when Job finally spoke, it was as if they were the words of a man none of his friends knew: “Let the day of my birth be erased,” Job began, “and the night I was conceived. Let that day be turned to darkness. Let it be lost even to God on high, and let no light shine on it” (Job 3:3–4). Job had gone from a man who seemed to have it all — including his integrity and his relationship with God — to a man who not only lost all his financial holdings and his very family, but also his health.
What followed was a series of conversations between Job and his friends. In those conversations they consider and debate the possibility that it is Job';s sin that has caused his affliction. They talk about how Job needs to return to his God so that he can be healed.
Job';s three friends assumed that Job';s suffering was as a direct result of personal sin. Jesus put an end to the notion that all suffering was due to personal sin as he prepared his disciples to witness the healing of a blind man in the city of Jerusalem (John 9:1–5).
As the conversations and debates continue, Job';s three friends prove to be little if any help to him. In fact, they are only making him feel worse — largely because they don';t understand Job or his God enough to give comfort and sound advice to their miserably suffering friend.
What they end up doing is spouting a seemingly endless list of accusations concerning Job';s life. Eliphaz tells Job that since God doesn';t make mistakes, then Job must have done something to deserve this. Bildad says, “God is just, so just confess your sin!” And, finally, Zophar tells Job, “God knows you and he is dealing with you justly.”
There was, however, a problem with what these men were saying. At least three times in the book of Job, we read that he was an upright man of integrity whose life pleased God. And because the three of them didn';t understand Job, they came to some very wrong conclusions about God and about why He sometimes allows suffering.
Obviously, there was another lesson to be learned here. And before this ordeal is all over, Job will have to look someplace other than his three friends to figure out what it is.
How did Job respond to his wife';s telling him to “curse God and die”?
What did Job';s friends do with him when they arrived on the scene of his suffering?