Job 21–22: False Answers & Accusations

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 11: Thursday

Then Job answered,
Listen carefully to my speech,
And let this be your way of consolation.
Bear with me that I may speak;
Then after I have spoken, you may mock.

Job 21:1–3

Thursday’s Bible reading is Job 21–22. Job has endured hearing Bildad (chapter 18) and then Zophar (chapter 20) tell him of the terrible end of the wicked—both unfeeling speeches with no application to the man Job is. Zophar was especially hardhearted as he spoke without any expression whatsoever of mercy or love after having just heard Job’s distressing plea for pity in chapter 19. In chapter 21, Job begins his rejoinder to Zophar and from his opening words you can tell he has their measure. He proceeds to destroy their arguments that evil actions are always followed by bad consequences in life:

“Why do the wicked still live,
Continue on, also become very powerful?
Their descendants are established with them in their sight,
And their offspring before their eyes,
Their houses are safe from fear,
And the rod of God is not on them. ”
Job 21:7–9

And in verse 22, he says they have arrogated authority they do not have.

“Can anyone teach God
In that He judges those on high?”
Job 21:22

E. S. P. Heavenor comments on Job’s speech in verses 22–31, and 34:

“Suddenly Job accuses his friends  of presumption in their cut-and-dried theories about divine government. They are virtually teaching God how He ought to govern, instead of facing the facts as they are….One man dies in effortless prosperity; another in abject misery. Who has a right to assume that virtue explains the former and vice the latter? That is theory and not fact, theory that is wrecked on fact as can be borne out by the testimony of those who have broad knowledge of men and affairs and can point to specific cases where wickedness seems to pay….In view of that, what comfort can he expect to find in his friends sweeping generalities, which are based on cases which suit their argument and which conveniently ignore those which do not?”1

Rather than admit that Job is correct and they have been wrong, Eliphaz accuses Job of being wicked and proceeds to cite a list of wrongs of which Job is guilty.

“Is it because of your reverence that He reproves you,
That He enters into judgment against you?
Is not your wickedness great,
And your iniquities without end?”
Job 22:4–5

Remember these men were not strangers to Job—chapter 2 states they are his friends. If Job had done the things Eliphaz accused him of doing, then word would have gotten out long before this and Job’s lifestyle would have come up for discussion at the very beginning of their speeches. Eliphaz’ words reveal the sin of his own heart, not Job’s, because making these unfounded charges reveals he would rather lie than acknowledge that his explanation for Job’s sorrows is wrong.

Grace and humility are so important when attempting to help someone who is in pain; the world hurls accusations enough without Christians piling on. Many times, however, the problem may not be direct accusations, but blunders. If the person tells you that your statements hurt, then your reaction will reveal a lot about the extent to which you really were trying to love that person. Are you more concerned that your words were not found to be helpful or are you more concerned that your words were not received as you thought they should have been? A backhanded apology is an attempt to preserve your image as righteous and place the blame on the one who suffers.

We all blunder and sometimes our best attempts backfire. A sincere, “I’m sorry,” without any qualifications will probably go a long way towards actually helping the person know you care. If you really think the other person’s reaction was sinful, then this is one time to really be fervent in your love, and let love “cover a multitude of sins.” Pray and ask God for wisdom about what and when to say something—and be more concerned for the other person’s welfare than for your own. What’s more important to you—to be seen as someone who’s wise and spiritual or to love and help someone who suffers?

Another thing that unfortunately can follow blunders is abandonment. Rather than say, “I’m sorry,” and “I want to learn how to help you,” sometimes people just leave. That is not love. That is wounded pride. It’s the last thing needed by someone in the throes of affliction.

Job’s last words in chapter 21 were:

“How then will you vainly comfort me,
For your answers remain full of falsehood?”
Job 21:34

Don’t vainly comfort someone. People need answers full of truth. That means those answers will also be full of love for God and full of love for them.

Isaiah 42 Photograph: – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
Job and his friends, Ilya Yefimovich Repin: Public Domain.
1E. S. P. Heavenor, “Job,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds.,
A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., p. 433.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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