- HUMAN SUFFERING vs. HUMAN WISDOM <3:1 – 37:24>
(1) The First Sequence of Debate <3:1 – 14:22>
(a) Job’s First Speech <3:1-26>
“… Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. He said: “May the day of my birth perish..” <3:1-3 (NIV)>. Here in his first speech Job comes as near as he will ever come to cursing God, but does not do so. Throughout his speech he calls for blackness and shadows, even for those who curse days to rouse Leviathan (a sea monster, or possibly a crocodile), asking that God would not care about that day. He regrets that he did not perish at birth and be buried in the ground like a stillborn child, for there the wicked cease from turmoil <3:11-17>, so in his state of suffering death has become desirable; “Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure…” <3:20-21 (NIV)>; he questions God’s action in originally protecting him and now it seems that God has surrounded him with pain and suffering <3:23>, and so often when we experience the grip of pain and sorrow we too express the words of Job: “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” <3:25-26 (NIV)>.
So often God’s children are struck down with sorrow and pain for various things that life brings our way; sickness, sudden death of a loved one, a job loss that results in grave circumstances; and we like Job struggle to understand why God has called us to go through such devastating periods <cf Psa.10:1>; but there is one thing that we can be certain of “…he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.” <Lam.3:33 (NIV)>, and as in Job’s case, God allows us to experience these things in His divine wisdom.
(b) Eliphaz’s First Speech <4:1 – 5:27>
Eliphaz, pious prominent and orthodox in his views of God’s greatness but was sadly lacking in compassion (Believer’s Bible Commentary; W. MacDonald). He reminds Job that through his teaching and instructing he has encouraged and strengthened many in their times of trouble, so why now that he is experiencing the same he is discouraged and dismayed, is it because he was only pretending he believed what he taught or that he is not following the principles that he taught? <4:3-5>. His fear of God should be his confidence and his uprightness his hope <4:6>. He further suggests Job should consider that those who are innocent and upright are never destroyed, only those that are evil; “At the breath of God they are destroyed” <4:7-11; cf Prov.22:8; Gal.6:7-8; Hos.8:7; 10:12-13; Matt.7:16-18>. So he reasons that Job who has been able to help others, now is unable to help himself, and in his self righteousness (his piety) he has sinned and is being punished by God. He then tells of a vision that was “secretly brought…during the night” which asks; “‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?” <4:17 (NIV)>, and since God places no trust in His servants (angels), and even less in those that live in “houses of clay” (human beings), mankind has no right to question God’s actions <4:12-5:7>; and proof of this is “…man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” <5:7 (NIV)>, because we are all sinful mankind’s troubles are never without cause.
As he begins to summarize his speech he instructs Job to do what he would do; “But if it were I, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him.” <5:8 (NIV)>; because, in so doing, God who “performs wonders that cannot be fathomed” will provide divine deliverance from all the difficulties mankind faces; people will have hope and injustice is silenced <5:8-16>. But even more important; “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.” <5:17 (NIV); cf Hos.6:1-2; Heb.12:4-8>, continuing to explain what is accomplished by God’s discipline and God’s protection from all calamities which will be Job’s peace and contentment <vs.17-26>. So he ends his speech with the instruction: “We have examined this, and it is true. So hear it and apply it to yourself.” <5:27 (NIV )>.
As we review Eliphaz’s speech, we must be careful that when we attempt to comfort and encourage others in their distress, we should never assume that they are suffering because they have done wrong. God deals with each of His children differently and sometimes the less we say the better.
(c) Job’s Reply <6:1 – 7:21>
As Job listens to Eliphaz’s remarks, and as he recalls his first comments to his friends about his anguish and misery, he states: “no wonder my words have been impetuous.” <6:3 (NIV)>; his expressions were emotional and spontaneous, as what he was experiencing was like the terror of God organized against him; all his anguish and misery was heavier than the sand of the seas <6:1-7>. So great was his suffering that he wished for God to permit what he hoped for; “that God would be willing to crush me, to let loose his hand and cut me off!” <6:9 (NIV)>, so as to end his pain and for him to have the assurance in the life to come that he had not “denied the words of the Holy One.” <6:10 (NIV)>. He had no strength or power to help himself, and in his despair he should have the commitment of his friends, but they were unreliable as fluctuating streams, swollen in the wet season and ceasing to flow in the dry season, and could not be depended upon and have proved to be of no help < 6:11-21>. He continues to plead with them to show him where he has been wrong, commenting that their candid expressions are painful and their opinions have proven nothing, accusing them of heartless cruelty, he asks “would I lie to your face?”, pleading with them to reconsider their advice and not to be unjust, for his “integrity is at stake” since he considers himself righteous before God <6:24-30>.
As if expecting no further help or comfort from his friends, Job now turns to God <7:7> and comments on the hardships of life on earth; his labour is hard and like a hired servant he longs for the evening shadows, or waits for his wages; the night hours are misery to him as the hours drag on while his body clothed with “worms and scabs and skin broken and festering”, he awaits the inevitable; “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and they come to an end without hope. Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath..” <7:6-7 (NIV)>. He dreads the thought that he will never see happiness again as he will evaporate like a cloud never to return from the grave <7:7-10>. So he declares that he will not be silent, he will continue to complain even though God terrifies him with dreams to the extent that he would prefer death rather than to continue living in his deteriorating body <7:11-16>. He prefers that God would leave him alone rather than giving him so much attention, examination and testing; “What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention, that you examine him every morning and test him every moment? Will you never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant?” <7:17-19 (NIV); cf Psa.144:3-4; 8:4-8; Gen.1:27-28>. He questions God for giving him such responsibility, then making him a target for chastisement inquiring why God does not pardon his offenses and forgive his sins <7:20-21>, and release him from all his pain and suffering.