Monday, October 19, 2009

Examination of the Purpose of Job and the Arguments of Job’s Friends

Examination of the Purpose of Job and the Arguments of Job’s Friends

David Q. Santos

In the Gospel of John Chapter 15 verses 1 and 2 Jesus refers to himself as the vine and His audience as the branches. He refers to God the Father as the Husbandman or vineyard’s keeper. These verses read, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” These verses tell that the dead branches are taken away but the fruit bearing branches are pruned so that they may produce even more fruit.

Verses 5 and 6 read, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” These verses continue the analogy of the vine and branches. They make the point that our Lord Jesus Christ is the vine that allows us to exist. And apart from the vine branches do not grow and certainly do not produce fruit. This is also true for us; we cannot produce fruit or glorify God without our vine who is Jesus, the messiah, the Lamb of God.

Verse 11 gives us some real encouragement. It says, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” The previous verses should bring us great joy. Jesus has given us many truths about our relationship with Him. It should encourage us that God has told us in advance that we will encounter pruning or difficult situations. But because of these words we know that trials in our lives are only the husbandman pruning us so that we can become more productive servants of God.

The Old Testament contains an entire book devoted to giving a clear picture to this New Testament principal. A man named Job was walking in the ways of the Lord. Job was very blessed. He had a large family and was wealthy.

Job 1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.

According to the scriptures Job lived in the “land of Uz.” Charles Ryre suggests that the land of Uz is in the area to the south east of the Dead Sea. He says that Uz is referred to as the same territory as Edom. Ptolemy, a Greek general under Alexander the Great, also identified this area with Uz in the third century B.C.[1]

Job 1:9-12 explains to us, “Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.”

Satan attacks nearly everything that Job has. All of Job’s wealth is removed from him. His children are all killed. Through all of this Job continues to worship the Lord saying in chapter 1 verses 20 and 21, “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” Then Satan inflicts Job with sores and boils from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet (Job 2:7). Satan makes the accusation that Job will curse God to His face if Job’s health is taken away (Job 2:5).

In Job chapter 2 verses 8-10 Job’s wife tells him to “Curse God and Die.” But Job holds fast to his integrity and tells her that she is speaking foolishness. Job asks his wife if they should accept good from the Lord and not adversity. Job still did not sin against the Lord with his lips. At the end of chapter two, three men come with the intent to comfort Job. For seven days they did not speak to Job. They just wept for Job.

Chapter three begins a long discourse that more closely resembles a debate than friends counseling and encouraging a person in need. Job does not have the benefit of chapters one and two to allow him to see that he has become a battle ground between God and Satan. All Job knows is that he is in pain. He says in Job 3:25, “For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.”

The dissection of Job’s and his friend’s speeches are a powerful and relevant study. The book of Job teaches about the nature of suffering and the divine sovereignty of the one true living God of heaven. It is important to take notice that not everything said by Job and his friends is a true statement. This is the case with many modern bible ministries and Christian authors. Their doctrine and comments differ from what the scriptures say. And just as Job’s friends made some good points these authors and teachers at times do too. But in both cases it is too difficult to divide the good points from the part that is deviant from scripture. It is best to not derive doctrine from this type of material.

Certainly some of these teachers have sincere hearts and love the Lord but they must be rebuked. Job’s friends accused him of many things. But in the end Job is vindicated and God reveals that it was the friends who needed to be straightened out.

JOB’S Soliloquy

Following a week of silence Job opens the dialog with his Lament, found in chapter three. Job focuses on his pain in this opening Lament. He wishes that he had never been born (3:1-10). Then Job wished that he had died at birth (3:11-19). Finally Job desires to die now (3:20-26). Satan had predicted that Job would curse God (1:11, 2:5) but Job does not commit that sin.

THE DEBATE BEGINS

Job had four friends who were there with him. They were Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu. There are three cycles of speeches by each of Job’s first three friends. Eliphaz and Bildad each give three speeches while Zophar gives only two. Elihu jumps in at the end of the third cycle of speeches almost as though he is taking Zophar’s final turn. Elihu, the youngest of the friends gives four speeches.

Eliphaz
1st speech 4-5/Job’s reply 6-7
2nd speech 15/Job’s reply 16-17
3rd speech 22/Job’s reply 23-24

Bildad
1st speech 8/Job’s reply 9-10
2nd speech 18/Job’s reply 19
3rd speech 25/Job’s reply 26-31

Zophar
1st speech 11/Job’s reply 12-14
2nd speech 20/Job’s reply 26-31

Elihu
1st speech 32-33
2nd speech 34
3rd speech 35
4th speech 36-37


ARGUMENTS OF ELIPHAZ

1st speech chapter 4-5 (Job’s reply chapter 6-7)

Eliphaz’s first speech is broken into four divisions. The first division is the introduction found in chapter 4 verses 1-7. The second division is the foundation of Eliphaz’s argument in chapter 4 verses 8-11. The third division is found in chapter 4 verses 12 through chapter 5 verse 16. In the fourth and final division of this first argument Eliphaz gives Job a warning.

Eliphaz begins the first round of debate by asking Job if someone could venture a word without him getting impatient (4:1). The Bible Knowledge commentary says that Eliphaz “could not let Job get by with such an affront to the Almighty”[2] that was found in the Lament. He goes on to commend Job for having done good works such as strengthening and supporting others (4:3-5). Eliphaz finishes his introduction by asking Job a question that seems to reveal his self-righteousness. He asks if Job has placed his confidence in the fear of God (4:6). Following this statement Eliphaz will imply that Job could not have because of the affliction on Job.

The foundation of Eliphaz’s argument is that the innocent don't suffer, the wicked do.[3] In Eliphaz’s first speech he presents as evidence to his argument a “vision” (4:13). Charles Ryrie states, “Eliphaz tried to bolster his argument by relating it to a vision he had.”[4] Later in his argument he calls upon his experience to build support for his case. He sites seeing the foolish cursed (5:3) and tells Job that if their places were reversed he would seek God (5:8). Eliphaz does go on to illustrate the greatness of God in chapter 5 verses 8-16. This speech ends with a discourse urging Job to repent and submit to God.

2nd speech chapter 15 (Job’s reply 16:1-17:16)

Eliphaz’s second speech has three parts to it. The first division is chapter 15 verses 1-6. The second division is verses 7-16. The final division of this speech is found in verses 17-35.

In the first division he attacks Job personally. He tells Job he is answering with “windy knowledge” (15:1). In chapter 15 verse 6 he says, “Your own mouth condemns you, and not I; And your own lips testify against you.” It is striking to see that in verse 11 Eliphaz suggests that he is giving gently spoken words to Job. But it is obvious that Eliphaz’s tone is not gentle or consoling. The main theme of the third portion of this speech is to refute Job’s statement that wicked do prosper sometimes. Charles Ryrie sums up this portion of the speech very eloquently. He says, “Eliphaz now debates Job’s statement (12:6) that wicked men prosper. Rather, he says, they experience pain (15:20), threat of calamity (15:21), anguish (15:22-24), and premature death (15:32). He numbered Job among this group.”[5]

3rd and final speech chapter 22 (Job’s reply 23-25)

There are three divisions in Eliphaz’s third speech. The first division is chapter 22 verses 1-11. The second portion is from chapter 22 verses 12-20. The third and final portion of this speech and Eliphaz’s argument is found in chapter 22 verses 21-30.

In the first portion of Eliphaz’s speech the focus is on proving that Job is a sinner. In his mind Job is getting what he deserves. Eliphaz accuses Job of many things contrary to God. He says that Job’s “wickedness is great, and iniquities without end” (22:5).

Beginning in verse 12 of chapter 22 Eliphaz changes tactics. In verses 12-14 he puts words into Job’s mouth. Eliphaz declared that Job’s view of God was too small, and he criticized Job for thinking that God was too far removed from earth to care about him. The Life Application Bible points out that Eliphaz does have a point. Some people do think that God is too far away to see their sin. However, that is not the case with Job or anyone else.[6] Eliphaz finishes his speech with a powerful appeal to Job to repent.

Job's response is to once again express his longing to find God so he can present his side. While maintaining his claims of integrity and how he has treasured God's words, he admits he is awed by God's dealings. He wonders why the wicked often sin with impunity, but then says what he thinks should and will eventually happen to them. He concludes his response to Eliphaz with a challenge to show him where he has spoken falsely.[7]

ARGUMENTS OF BILDAD

1st speech chapter 8 (Job’s reply 9-10)

Bildad the Shuhite’s first speech contains three parts. The first is found in chapter eight verses 1-7. The second division is chapter 8 verses 8-10. The final division of this speech is chapter 8 verses 11-22.

The first division of Bildad’s argument contains a strong personal attack on Job and his family. Ryrie’s study notes point out that Bildad implies that Job’s children died because of their sins and Job is suffering because of his sin.[8] In the second division of his argument Bildad begins to present evidence in an attempt to strengthen his case. He suggests that Job should seek wisdom from “past generations” (8:8). The third division of this speech is Bildad’s attempt to convince Job to repent of his sins.

Bildad accused Job of impugning the justice of God (8:3) whereas Eliphaz had accused Job of resenting God’s discipline (5:17). Both of these self-appointed consultants held the view that a man’s calamities are the consequences of his crimes (8:11-13; 4:7-8). Bildad, like Eliphaz, invited Job to repent as the way to recovery (8:5-7; 5:8).[9]

2nd speech chapter 18 (Job’s reply 19)

Bildad’s second speech has two divisions. The first is chapter 18 verses 1-4. The second division is comprised of chapter 18 verses 5-21.

The first section of this speech is a direct attack on Job. Bildad implies that Job is “looking for words” endlessly and that Job should show some “understanding” so that they can talk to him (18:2). In his second division of this speech, Bildad “paints the fate of the ‘wicked’ Job as being consumed by the first born of death (18:13), as going into oblivion (18:16-19), and as being cursed by God (18:15).[10]

3rd and final speech chapter 25 ( Job’s reply 26-31)

Bildad's third speech is short, adding little and only has one division. Speaking briefly of God's greatness, he posits how anyone can be righteous before God (25:1-6). Job replies with questions which imply that he considers Bildad's counsel to have been of no help. Perhaps to illustrate how they have not been much help, Job demonstrates his own ability to describe God's greatness (26:1-14).[11]

ARGUMENTS OF ZOPHAR

1st speech chapter 11 (Job’s reply 12-14)

Zophar, is the last of the three friends to speak. His first speech has three separate divisions. The first division is found in chapter 11 verses 1-6. The second division is located in chapter 11 verses 7-12. The third division is found in chapter 11 verses 13-20.

The first division of this speech has Zophar angrily attacking Job. He accuses Job of speaking many words without answering any of the questions that have been posed (11:1-3). He then suggests that if God were to answer Job’s request to speak the reason for his problems God would rebuke Job (11:5). The final verse of this division is interesting. Charles Ryrie says about this verse, “Zophar says that Divine wisdom has two sides to it: one which man sees, and another known only to God.”[12] John Trapp points out the thought of Zophar in this verse. He wrote, “if God would show Job, he should at once see that he mistook much, and knew little of those many mysteries that are both in the word and works of God, in all divine dispensations, which are such as none can unriddle but God himself; neither can we see them till he show them.”[13]

The next two divisions focus on Zophar’s attempt to convince Job that he has spited God with iniquity and should repent now. Verses 7 through 10 focus on convincing Job that God is beyond understanding. But in verse 11 and 12 it seems that Zophar’s statements only apply to Job and other wicked individuals. The final division, verses 13-20, is Zophar’s attempt to convince Job to say that he repents and admit that he has sinned.

2nd and final speech chapter 20 (Job’s reply 21)

Zophar’s second speech is the final contribution to the main portion of the three cycles of debate. This speech has three divisions to it. The first is found in chapter 20 verses 1-11. The second is in chapter 20 verses 12-19. And the final division is contained in chapter 20 verses 20-29.

Zophar’s second speech is full of anger and self righteous indignation. He must respond (20:2) to Job’s insult (20:3) of the “spirit of understanding” (20:3) held by Zophar. Ryrie points out that Zophar was angry due to Job’s warnings from chapter 19 verses 28-29. Zophar tells Job that a wicked man can prosper, but only for a time.

The second division of this speech focuses on implying Job’s guilt though there is no evidence. In verse 19 of chapter 20 Zophar goes so far as to accuse Job of oppressing the poor and taking their property. In the third and final division of this speech Zophar uses the predicament that Job is in as evidence of his iniquity. The point made by Zophar is summed up in verse 19 “This is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage appointed unto him by God.” Zophar is actually saying that Job’s children were killed because of his sin. Zophar is in effect trying to apply the anger of God himself upon Job.

ARGUMENTS OF ELIHU

Elihu enters the discussion after Bildad’s third speech, seemingly cutting off Zophar from his turn is the third cycle of speeches. Elihu gave four speeches that are all found in consecutive order. Job, nor the three accusers, give any type of response to Elihu.

Elihu begins by describing his anger at Job and the three friends who have been debating with Job. He is angry at Job who tried to justify himself in lue of God. He is angry with the three friends because they provided Job with absolutely no answers (32:2-5). Elihu then establishes his authority to speech by suggesting that wisdom is not limited to those who are his elder (32:6-14).

Elihu differs from the other three by accurately describing Job’s contention. He sums up Job’s position is chapter 34 verses 5-9. He points out that Job claims that God has wronged an innocent man (34:5-6, 35:1-4). He goes on to point out Job’s argument that it is useless for man to become a friend to God because the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer (34:9).[14] Elihu illustrates God’s complete sovereignty (34:10-28). Elihu argues that because Job “answers like wicked men” (34:36) he should continue in his trial until he repents and changes or until he dies (34:36-37).

As part of the third speech Elihu argues that God is beyond mankind being able to affect Him (35:5-8). Elihu is truly speaking about the sovereignty of God again. This is an issue that only Elihu comes close to fully stating. While Elihu is doing very well, it is at this point that he goes astray in his argumentation. In chapter 36 verses 9-16 he argues that unanswered prayers are due to lack of faith both in the righteous and wicked.[15] The Bible Knowledge Commentary titles this portion of Elihu’s speech, “Man’s inability to influence God because of man’s pride.” It paraphrases Elihu’s position by saying, :God does respond to empty cries for help. Elihu felt that Job could not be cleared by God (35:2) as long as he questioned the value of serving Him (35:3) and prayed from a heart of pride (35:12) while thinking that God does nothing about wickedness (35:15).[16]

Elihu’s final speech found in chapters 36 and 37 contains a very powerful discourse on the justice and power of God in matters of men. Elihu claims to be speaking on God’s behalf (36:2) and suggests that his words are not false (36:4). Elihu speaks wisely when discussing the greatness of God. However, he goes astray like the other three when the topic of divine retribution comes up. Elihu agrees with the doctrine that God does not let the wicked continue to live (36:6-16).

Elihu completes his argument by appealing to Job to consider the wonders of God (37:14). He suggests to Job that he repent of his sins. Through all of Elihu’s speeches Job and the three friends are silent.

GOD SPEAKS TO JOB

The climax of the book is contained in chapters 38 to 41. In this section God speaks to Job out of a whirlwind (38:1). Job is getting what he has asked for all along; for God to answer him and give him a reason for his affliction.

At last, Job is finally given his desire to have an audience with God. It is not what he expected. Speaking from a whirlwind, the Lord charges Job with darkening counsel by words without knowledge. A challenge is then made for Job to answer questions posed to him. A series of questions follow in rapid succession regarding the creation and nature that certainly contrast God's great power and wisdom with Job's limited ability and understanding. God ends His first discourse then with a repeated challenge for the one (i.e., Job) who contends with the Almighty and who rebukes God to answer these questions. Overwhelmed, Job admits his unworthiness and inability to answer. He admits he has spoken before, but will do so no more (38:1-40:5). The Lord is not through with Job, however. A second discourse begins with another challenge for Job to answer God's questions. Job is asked whether he truly thinks he can annul God's judgment, or condemn Him so that he can be justified (cf. Elihu's charges, 32:2; 33:8-13). If Job can thunder with a voice like God's, adorn himself with majesty, splendor, glory and beauty, bring the proud down low, then God would confess that Job could save himself. To once more illustrate the power and wisdom of God, Job is asked to consider two great creatures, the behemoth and Leviathan. If man is fearful before them, how then could one stand against God (40:6-41:34)?

Job's final response is to humbly acknowledge God's ability to do everything, and that no purpose of His can be withheld from Him. He also confesses that he has spoken of things he did not understand, and beyond his ability to comprehend. Having now heard and seen God, Job abhors himself and repents (42:1-6).[17]


EPILOGUE – JOB IS BLESSED

The epilogue of the book of Job is found in chapter 42 verses 7-17. These verses pertain to Job’s redemption and blessing. Job now understands that he had been speaking on things that he did not understand. God had rebuked Job’s accusers for not speaking what was right (32:3). While Job had repented of his prideful statements the three accusers had not. The accusers were told by the Lord that they should offer burnt offerings of seven bulls and seven rams and have Job pray for them.

CONCLUSION

The book of Job is an important book. It teaches us about the nature and sovereignty of God. We are shown how to respond to tests and trial. Job’s friends are guilty of pride and speaking of things that they did not understand. They mixed up theology or spiritual wisdom with the wisdom and knowledge of the world. Often the three accusers spoke of the “light of the wicked goes out” (18:5). But that is not always true in our world. We live in a fallen world where sometime the wicked do prosper. It has been said that the rain falls on the righteous and the wicked. The rain is a symbol of blessing because we can not survive without water for crops. Some will argue that a righteous god cannot allow the wicked to prosper. But God points out to Job that He is the creator and what right do we have as a creation to question Him.

Often times trials are designed to change our hearts just as Job was changed. Even as the most righteous man on earth he needed to be shown his condition as a fallen man who needs a savior. James chapter one verses 3-4 speaks of changing us through trails. It reads, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

It appears that Job sinned because of his friends. His friends accused him of living a sinful life so he sought to justify himself in their eyes. But in justifying himself Job revealed what was really within his heart. He was a man who had sin in his life even though he was doing his best to seek the ways of the Lord. It comes down to the fact that we need a savior. James 5:16 tells us how men should act to one another when discussing trials. It says, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

All men have a little bit of Job in them. It is also easy to fall into the trap of judging each other like Job’s friends did. By the standards of men the arguments of the three friends seems right. However, they forgot that our Lord is the great husbandman. We serve at His will and if He desires us to be changed by trials we can not question His authority. It is for men to submit to His will.

WORK CITED

Copeland, Mark A. Executable Outlines, The Book of Job – The Great Debate: 2004. http://www.ccel.org
Life Application Study Bible, New American Standard-Updated Edition. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Zondervan. 2000

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, Moody Press. 1978

Trapp, John. John Trapp’s Commentary. The Online Millennium Edition Version 1.2. Winterbourne Ontario, Canada. 2001

Walvoord, John F. and Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary, An Exposition of Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty, Old Testament. Colorado Springs, Colorado. Cook Communications Ministries, 2004.
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[1] Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, Moody Press. 1978. pg 748
[2] Walvoord, John F. and Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary, An Exposition of Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty, Old Testament. Colorado Springs, Colorado. Cook Communications Ministries, 2004. pg 725.
[3] Copeland, Mark A. Executable Outlines, The Book of Job – The Great Debate: First Cycle of Speeches. 2004. http://www.ccel.org/contrib/exec_outlines/job/job_04.htm
[4] Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, Moody Press. 1978 Pg. 752.
[5] Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, Moody Press. 1978 pg. 765.
[6] Life Application Study Bible, New American Standard-Updated Edition. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Zondervan. 2000. pg 864
[7] Copeland, Mark A. Executable Outlines, The Book of Job – The Great Debate: Third Cycle of Speeches. 2004. http://www.ccel.org/contrib/exec_outlines/job/job_06.htm
[8] Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, Moody Press. 1978. pg 756.
[9] Walvoord, John F. and Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary, An Exposition of Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty, Old Testament. Colorado Springs, Colorado. Cook Communications Ministries, 2004. pg 729
[10] Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, Moody Press. 1978. pg 768
[11] Copeland, Mark A. Executable Outlines, The Book of Job – The Great Debate: Third Cycle of Speeches. 2004. http://www.ccel.org/contrib/exec_outlines/job/job_06.htm
[12] Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, Moody Press. 1978. pg 761
[13] Trapp, John. John Trapp’s Commentary. The Online Millennium Edition Version 1.2. Winterbourne Ontario, Canada. 2001
[14] Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, Moody Press. 1978. pg 786
[15] Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible. Chicago, Moody Press. 1978. pg 788
[16] Walvoord, John F. and Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary, An Exposition of Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty, Old Testament. Colorado Springs, Colorado. Cook Communications Ministries, 2004. pg 762
[17] Copeland, Mark A. Executable Outlines, The Book of Job – The Great Debate: Third Cycle of Speeches. 2004. http://www.ccel.org/contrib/exec_outlines/job/job_08.htm

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