Job 19–20: Abandoned & Alone

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 10: Thursday

“He has alienated my brothers from me,
my acquaintances are completely estranged from me.
My kinsmen have gone away,
my friends have forgotten me.”
Job 19:13–14 DA1

Today’s Bible reading of Job 19–20, begins with Job’s reply to Bildad. Remember, in Job 18, Bildad lectured Job on the “doom of the wicked,”2 a topic with no application or relevance to who Job is and that gave no help for his distress. Bildad began his speech by saying,

Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said, “How long until you put an end to your words? Show understanding and then we can talk.”
Job 18:1–2 LSB

In chapter 19, Job understandably begins his response by taking Bildad’s words and throwing them back:

“How long will you torment my soul
And crush me with words?
These ten times you have dishonored me;
You are not ashamed
that you wrong me.”
Job 19:2–3 LSB

Job feels God considers him an enemy, and he tells of his abandonment by relatives and friends and being despised by all whom he knows. In his anguish he cries out:

“Pity me, pity me, O you my friends,
For the hand of God has smitten me.
Why do you persecute me as God
And are not satisfied with my flesh?”
Job 19:21–22 LSB

His appeal to them is heart-rending. He has been rebuked and lectured without consolation or mercy from his friends, and the solitude of his suffering was breaking Job. E. S. P. Heavenor writes:

“Quite broken down by the realization of his lonely state, Job pathetically appeals to his friends for pity. The tragic relationship between Job and his friends appears in a clear light. Surely, says Job, the realization that the hand of God is afflicting him ought to move them to pity. Yet it was for that very reason that they could not pity him. Their inflexible creed would not allow them to do so…Job’s complaint against his friends [in v. 22] was that they were too godlike. In their attitude to his suffering, which was gradually becoming more unsympathetic, he imagined he saw a reflection of the attitude of God who seemed so callous about the weight of sorrow with which He was crushing him down to despair.”3

Job had suffered the loss of his livelihood, his children, and his health. To go through it without help and comfort was devastating. Friends make a world of difference in sorrow and pain. When my brother tried to commit suicide, I was in a church that gave me incredible support. My prayer group and friends were with me. I’ve been through later experiences of loss when only one or two friends were there to listen and help. I’m so grateful for them, however, when you go through suffering with a solid wall of a community of believers around you, and when you go throught with most of the church indifferent or unhelpful, the experiences were vastly different.

The New Testament depicts our lives as Christians living together through affliction and suffering. In Romans 12:15, Paul said to weep with those who weep. In Paul’s opening words in 2 Corinthians, he wrote about the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort who had comforted him, so that he in turn would be able to comfort the afflicted with the comfort he had received from God.

Those who suffer need prayer that God will console them with His Holy Spirit, and they need consolation from their brothers and sisters in Christ. There may be truths that need to be spoken, but they need to be applied or reassured with love, comfort and understanding.

Part of the U.S. Rangers’ creed is, “I will never leave a fallen comrade behind to fall into the hands of the enemy.” I see that in Paul as he writes and instructs and encourages and exhorts and pours out his life into other believers from a heart full of love for Christ and for His people. I am convinced that the New Testament gives a portrait of Christians going through affliction together, and instructs and commands us on the rescue and recovery operations God has called his children to do for each other. We can’t leave one another to fall into the hands of the Enemy.

The providence of God at many times is inscrutable to us. We are called to trust Him and persevere—but at the same time in His compassion He knows we hurt. As God works out His sovereign will there are many things going that only He understands and that we cannot grasp. In this life we walk in eternity and in the temporal. We are to be companions and through the love we show for one another we are a flesh and blood witness to His goodness even when our circumstances would tell us otherwise and tempt us to doubt Him.

Job turns to God once more as he gives us these magnificent words:

“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
And at the last He will rise up over the dust
of this world.
Even after my skin is destroyed,
Yet from my flesh I shall behold God,
Whom I myself shall behold,
And whom my eyes will see and not another.”
Job 19:25–27a LSB

Francis Andersen writes, “verses 25–27 are so tightly knit that there should be no doubt that the Redeemer is God.”4 Heavenor comments:

“R. S. Frank speaks of this chapter as the watershed of the book’. From the most tragic sense of dereliction, Job rises to the most triumphant affirmation of faith…

“He has called upon God as his Judge (13:15–18); as his Witness (16:19); and as an Advocate to plead his cause (16:19).”5

Now Job calls upon God as his Redeemer. Walt Kaiser states this is the third of four Messianic texts in Job:6

9:33 “Arbitrator”
16:19–21 “Witness”
19:23–27 “Redeemer”
33:23–28 “Mediator”

Job may have seen his kinsmen go away, but here he speaks of another kinsman: his kinsman-redeemer. This is the same Hebrew word used in the book of Ruth that we discussed a couple of days ago that is translated as, kinsman-redeemer. Heavenor writes that Moffat translates it here as “One to champion me.”7 Gleason Archer explains:

“The Old Testament term for Redeemer is gō̓ēl, which implies ‘kinsman-redeemer.’ He therefore had to be related by blood to the person whose cause he took over and whose need he supplied, whatever it was, whether to buy him back from slavery (Lev 25:48), to redeem his forfeited property foreclosed on a mortgage (Lev 25:25), to care for his childless widow (Ru 3:13), or to avenge his blood on the murderer (Nu 35:19).

“God revealed Himself to Israel as gō̓ēl of His covenant people (Ex 6:6; 15:13; Is 43:1; Ps 19:14 [15 Heb], et al.]; but before God became Man by the miracle of the Incarnation and the Virgin Birth, it was a mystery to God’s ancient people – i.e. how He could ever qualify as their gō̓ēl. God was their Father by creation, to be sure, but gō̓ēl implies a blood relationship on a physical level. And so God had to become one of us in order to redeem us from the guilt and penalty of our sin. ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (Jn 1:14, NASB).

“God as God could not forgive us for our sins unless our sins were fully paid for; otherwise He would have been a condoner and protector of the violation of His own holy law. It was only as man that God in Christ could furnish a satisfaction sufficient to atone for the sins of mankind; for only a man, a true human being, could properly represent the human race. But our Redeemer also had to be God, for only God could furnish a sacrifice of infinite value, to compensate for the penalty of eternal hell that our sin demands, according to the righteous claims of divine justice. Only God could have devised a way of salvation that made it possible for Him to remain just and at the same time become the Justifier of the ungodly (Ro 4:5), instead of sending them to the everlasting perdition they deserved…it was the perfect Man who was also infinite God that furnished an effectual sacrifice for all believers of every age.”8

Job does not address Yahweh here, but Atkinson thinks Job’s use of Kinsman-Redeemer implies this:

“The name Yahweh, the personal covenant name for ‘the Lord’ in whom Job had earlier put his faith (1:21), has not been used since chapter 2. ‘Yahweh’ seems to have been replaced in Job’s experience by ‘the Almighty’.9 But now, in the very teeth of divine opposition, Job holds on to what he knows of the covenant Lord…It will be Yahweh the Kinsman-Redeemer who will vindicate him!”10

The New English Bible translates Job 19:25–27a as:11

“But in my heart I know that my vindicator lives,
and that he will rise last to speak in court;

and I shall discern my witness standing at my side
and see my defending counsel, even God himself,
whom I shall see with my own eyes,
I myself and no other.”
Job 19:25–27a TNEB

Notice Job says, “I shall see with my own eyes, I myself and no other.” Heavenor is reminded of “Luther’s great remark that the whole of religion lies in the personal pronouns.”12 I like this word-picture of God himself, standing witness at his side as well as being the defending counsel. We have the Lord Jesus at our side as our Advocate.

Zophar’s speech to Job in chapter 20, is similar to Bildad’s in chapter 18. He tells Job of the terrible end of the wicked; again, words without application to the man Job is. It’s absolutely stunning that he feels insulted and speaks without any mercy or love whatsoever after he has just heard Job’s distressing plea for pity. Andersen writes:

“It is worth pointing out, as a sign of the narrowness of Zophar’s beliefs, that his speech contains no hint that the wicked might repent, make amends, and regain the favour of God. Zophar has no compassion and his god has no mercy. By contrast Eliphaz is more humane and evangelical.”13

I want to go back to Job’s words in chapter 19, where he says:

“Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
That with an iron stylus and lead
They were engraved in the rock forever!”
Job 19:23–24 LSB

I read this I thought that Job’s words have been inscribed in a book. The rock they are engraved in is God’s Word, which will last forever, and God has brought immeasurable comfort through Job to those who suffer. We identify with Job’s pain and his struggles with doubt and trust in God. We even identify with the words he hears from the three who reprimand him, for the ideas expressed in their words are still spoken to those who suffer today, and Job’s ability to pierce the miasma of their accusations brings clarity and solace.

However, Heavenor writes that the thought of any accolades of future generations does not assuage the agony of Job’s present:

“His sense of alienation from man is infinitely less serious than his sense of alienation from God. There we have the key to the agony of heart which we see in the book.”14

Christians are not alone nor are we abandoned by God. However, under the weight of suffering, when we are reeling from the blows of life, and it seems the heavens are brass to our prayers, we can certainly feel that way. We can find comfort in the book of Job as we identify with him: we may not know our backstory any more than Job knew his, we can walk with him in his anguish in which we find words that express ours, and we can learn with him in the closing chapters who we are and who God is.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ abound to us, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
2 Corinthians 1:3–5 LSB

We must also learn from the examples of his three friends when we know others who suffer. Some words don’t alleviate pain, but only add to the suffering of the afflicted. Pray and think about the impact of your words before you speak them. People need consolation. Don’t hear the heart cry of someone begging for pity and turn away; pity them, comfort them, love them. Don’t leave the fallen behind.

But whether we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or whether we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is working in your perseverance in the same sufferings which we also suffer. And our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:6–7 LSB

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Tunnel loneliness: Daniel Turner. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
1,9David Atkinson, The Message of Job: Suffering and grace (Inter-Varsity Press: Leicester, England; Downers Grove IL: 1991) Job 19:13–14 translation 91.
2,3,5,7,12,14E. 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) 431; 432; Heavenor cites Job 16:21 as the time Job calls upon God as his Advocate, but this must be an error. 431–432; 432; 432, 432.
4,13Francis Andersen, Job (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1976) 209, 213.
6Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Messiah in the Old Testament (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI: 1995) 240.
8Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI: 1982) 323.
9Another parallel with the book of Ruth is that God is called Yahweh throughout the book except in Ruth 1:20 when Naomi calls God the Almighty when she says, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” Leon Morris looks at the use of Almighty in the Old Testament. “The significance to be attached to sǎdday [Almighty] is not immediately obvious, and very varied suggestions have been made. Mostly they centre around the thoughts of power or compassion.” In verses Morris considers in Genesis and Exodus, he writes, “In each of these passages there is the thought of the power of God. But equally every one of the passages we have cited could be understood of a compassionate God…It would also not be difficult to make the case for omnisience.” He then looks at its use in various passages in Psalms, Job (of the 48 times it is used in the Old Testament to address God, it is used 31 times in Job), Isaiah, Joel, and Ezekiel. At times Almighty is used in the context of God’s judgment. He concludes, “From all this it seems that the thought of power does attach to the name. There are many passages wherein this is the most appropriate meaning, and very few, if any, where it is not acceptable. We should accordingly take this to be the basic force of sǎdday as a name of God. When Naomi then says ‘sǎdday hath dealt very bitterly with me’ and ‘sǎdday hath afflicted me’ (Ru. 1:20f., AV) the emphasis will be on God’s great power. He cannot be resisted.” Leon Morris, Ruth: An Introduction and Commentary (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1968) 264–267.
10The New English Bible with Apocrypha (Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press: 1970) 581.

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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