Job 15–16: Scoffers & Struggle

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 8: Thursday

“My friends are my scoffers;
My eye weeps to God.”
Job 16:20 LSB

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 his belly with the east wind?”
Job 15:1 LSB

Eliphaz proceeds to accuse Job of using crafty language, and then says Job is condemned by his own mouth. He sarcastically asks Job, in words to the effect, why Job thinks he knows so much more than they do. 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:

Then Job answered and said,
“I have heard many such things;
Troublesome comforters are you all.
Is there
no end to windy words?
Or what pains you that you answer?”
Job 16:1–3 LSB

Heavenor writes:

“Eliphaz has accused Job of being a windbag rebel against God (cf. 15:2–6). Job hurls back the accusation that his friends are windbag comforters.”3

In 13:3, Job labeled them as worthless physicians. Here he calls them trouble–some comforters. We use the phrase Job’s Comforters to describe those who bring anything but comfort. Francis Andersen comments that:

“Rowley…explains [the phrase] as ‘comforters who increase trouble instead of ministering comfort’.”4

Job goes on to say:

“I too could speak like you,
If your soul was in the place of my soul.
I could compose words against you
And shake my head at you.
I could encourage you with my mouth,
And the solace of my lips could lessen
your pain.”
Job 16:4–5 LSB

Heavenor comments:

“If he were comforter instead of sufferer, there would be genuine substance in the comfort he would offer.”5

Andersen thinks Job could seriously be saying this or his reply might be sarcastic.6 Whether Job was serious or sarcastic, look again for a minute at 16:5.

“I could encourage you with my mouth,
And the solace of my lips could lessen
your pain.”
Job 16:5 LSB

This is what a true comforter does. The purpose of speaking to someone who is suffering is to encourage as well as giving solace. At the same time you strengthen while you ease pain.

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:

“God hands me over to ruffians
And tosses me into the hands of the wicked.
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.
His arrows surround me.
Without mercy He splits my kidneys open;
He pours out my gall on the ground.
He breaks through me with breach after breach;
He runs at me like a warrior.”
Job 16:11–14 LSB

As Job continues to speak we see the mix of faith and doubt known by all Christians who have undergone devastating affliction. Heavenor writes this about the next group of verses, 16:18–21:

“Once again Job rises from the profoundest depths to the greatest heights. He has been unable to let go his innocence in face of the insinuations of his friends. Now we find he cannot let go his God in face of his ugliest doubts and fears.”7

In verse 19, Job says:

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

Walt Kaiser writes Job 16:19–23 is one of the Messianic texts in Job, and titles it, “Witness.”8 Heavenor comments:

“[v.]19 And there in heaven he suddenly catches sight of a divine Champion, a divine Sympathizer, who will be prepared to vouch for his integrity.”9

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.

“My friends are my scoffers;
My eye weeps to God.”
Job 16:20 LSB

Heavenor writes:

“[vv.]20, 21 Tearfully he appeals to the heavenly Witness to support his cause in the teeth of the insinuations of his friends, and of the shattering blows of the God who is responsible for his earthly afflictions. 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’.”10

What’s more important to you when speaking with those who struggle in their suffering: comforting someone? 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 LSB

The inscrutability and silence of God in the face of desolation is hard to bear. I cannot tell you how comforting I have found the book of Job, because I have heard the speeches Job heard, and I have known 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 great Faith Chapter of the Bible. 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, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the soil, being patient about it, until it receives the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not groan, brothers, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged. Behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.
As an example, brothers, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we count those blessed who persevere. You have heard of the perseverance 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 LSB

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

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Miedo ajeno: RayNata. Public Domain.
1,2,3,5,7,9.10E. S. P. Heavenor, “Job,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 430, 426, 431, 431, 431, 431, 431.
4,6Francis Andersen, Job (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1976) 194, 194.
8Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Messiah in the Old Testament (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI: 1995) 240.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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