Job 15–16: Scoffers & Struggle

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 8: Thursday

My friends are my scoffers;
My eye weeps to God.”

Job 16:20

Today’s Bible reading is Job 15–16. These chapters begin the second round of replies and rejoinders between Job and his three “comforters.” Eliphaz leads off in Job 15, with these words that set the tone for his admonition of Job:

“Should a wise man answer with windy knowledge
And fill himself with the east wind?”
Job 15:1

Eliphaz proceeds to accuse Job of using crafty language, and then tells him that Job is condemned by his own mouth. He sarcastically asks Job, in words to that effect, why Job thinks he knows so much more than they do, and, as if that were not enough, Eliphaz also pulls rank of age on Job and reproves him for speaking as he does. In the last half of chapter 15, Eliphaz states, “The wicked man writhes in pain all his days,” as he declares what he considers the life of the godless to be like, with, I think, a clear implication of Job’s guilt. E. S. P. Heavenor comments:

“Eliphaz has been cut to the quick on finding Job treading under foot the pearls of wisdom let drop by his friends. It seems their attempts to make Job bow in humble submission before the all-wise and all-powerful God have been unsuccessful. Perhaps he will be warned in time by a commentary upon the divine judgment descending upon the wicked. This is the spearhead of the friends’ attack in the second cycle of speeches….Perhaps the terrors of God will bring him to his senses.

“As we listen to Eliphaz we feel that his pride has been wounded as well as his religious convictions.”1

For background on Eliphaz’ character as a cold and correct theologian2 and his first reply to Job’s lament, read my previous posts: Job 3–4: A Lament & A Lecture, and Job 5–6: Words & Wind.

Job, in turn, comes back at Eliphaz at the beginning of chapter 16, and blasts him and the other men:

“I have heard many such things;
Sorry comforters are you all.
Is there no limit to windy words?
Or what plagues you that you answer?”
Job 16:2–3

In 13:3, Job labeled them as ‘worthless physicians’. Here he calls them, ‘sorry comforters’. The word for sorry has already been used numerous times in Job, and it is usually translated as trouble. (See Job 3:10; 4:8; 5:6, 7:3; 11:16. In 15:35 the word is translated as mischief.).3

In 16:6, Job begins to speak again of his perception of what God has done—his most poignant and tragic words are in verse 12:

“I was at ease, but He shattered me,
And He has grasped me by the neck and shaken me to pieces;
He has also set me up as His target.”
Job 16:12

Yet in verse 19, he says:

“Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven,
And my advocate is on high.”
Job 16:19

Again we see the mix of faith and doubt known by all Christians who have undergone devastating affliction. Heavenor writes:

“And there in heaven he suddenly catches sight of a divine Champion, a divine Sympathizer, who will be prepared to vouch for his integrity….This passionate longing for a heavenly Witness on his side strikingly points forward to the Christian thought of ‘an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’ (1 Jn. 2:1). Here faith is reaching out for a ‘God for us’.”4

Job is grappling with life at its depths as he struggles with his inability to bring into accord his horrific circumstances with his understanding of God.  His friends avoid facing his struggle with their superficial answers that lend a perception of safety to their own hearts, while reinforcing their sense of their spiritual superiority to Job.

What’s more important to you when speaking with those who struggle in their suffering: comforting someone else? or comforting yourself? picking up the shattered? or reinforcing your spirituality? Your answers will determine your efforts and your words.

There is such pathos in the sorrow of Job’s closing words in chapter 16.

“O that a man might plead with God
As a man with his neighbor!
For when a few years are past,
I shall go the way of no return.”
Job 16:21–22

The inscrutability and silence of God in the face of desolation is hard to bear, and Job longs to plead with Him face to face.

I cannot tell you how comforting I have found the book of Job as I have been writing on it because I have heard the speeches Job heard, and I have know the emotions and struggles he felt. His eloquent, and at times biting words, in both their expression and intensity give words to my own feelings. When I have been accused or deserted by those who could not handle my affliction, God has comforted me through His servant Job. Indeed, when I cannot find solace anywhere else, I still find it in Job.

Job is not one of those listed in Hebrews 11, the chapter of the Bible sometimes known as the Faith Chapter. Instead, we find him mentioned in James 5, as James speaks of being patient until the coming of the Lord, and strengthening our hearts because His coming is near:

“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.

“As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.”
James 5:7–11

As I, myself, have felt shattered like glass into a million pieces, Job encourages me to hold on and to trust God—that in the outcome of His dealings I will find Him full of compassion and merciful.

“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
Romans 15:4

Isaiah 42 Photograph: – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
Job and his friends, Ilya Yefimovich Repin: Public Domain.
1, 2, 4E. S. P. Heavenor, “Job,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds.,
A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., pp. 430, 426, 431.
3Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for `amal (Strong’s 5999)”. Blue Letter Bible.
1996-2011. 24 Feb 2011. Scroll down for its use and translation in the KJV, and then compare
with the NASB translation.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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