In one day the life of Job changed dramatically.

The loss of his children and his possessions (Job 1:14-19) and the addition of his affliction (Job 2:7) were not easy to bear. After hearing of all that had befallen Job, his three friends: Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar came to “condole...and comfort him” (Job 2:11). Unfortunately, Job would receive about as much comforting from them as from his wife, who said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God, and die” (Job 2:9). Having sat silently with his friends for seven days (Job 2:13), Job broke the silence by “[cursing] the day of his birth” (Job 3:1). After this discourse, the friends became unsympathetic towards him and began to pelt Job with accusations of sin. By examining the arguments of Job and his friends we can have a better understanding of why God scolds Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar at the end of the book. Eliphaz, the eldest of the friends is the first to respond. In his first discourse, Eliphaz suggests that only “those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same” (Job 4:8). Eliphaz represents the piety of the time, reflecting that God only punishes those who do evil (Brandes). This type of thinking is not only limited to those in the Old Testament but is also demonstrated in the time of Jesus. While travelling with Jesus, his disciples, seeing a blind man from birth, asked Him, “[W]ho sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:1). Eliphaz continues to assert Job’s guilt by saying, “[A]ffliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground” (Job 5:6). He further states that God is punishing Job in the same way that the disciples of Jesus thought the blind man was being punished. The implication in both cases is that God always has a reason to punish. Job disagrees with Eliphaz, asking him and the other friends to “make me [Job] understand how I have erred” (Job 6:24). Job believes that he did not provoke this affliction. He believes himself to be innocent and even asks God, “Why hast Thou made me Thy mark?” (Job 7:20). Job does not understand the reason behind his affliction, and simply wants God to relieve him of his pain through death (Job 6:9).


In response to Job’s claim of innocence, Bildad asks Job, “Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert the right?” (Job 8:3). He suggests here that justice is not something of God but rather something that God oversees. He separates what is right and God’s actions, implying that right or justice is not the definition of God’s actions but is instead part of a divine standard that God keeps. Bildad then goes on to echo Eliphaz in his argument that Job is being punished for his transgressions against God. He supports his accusations of sin in saying, “[I]f you [Job] are pure and upright, surely He will rouse Himself…and reward you” (Job 8:6). All Job has to do is “seek God and make supplication to the Almighty” (Job 8:5). “God will not reject a blameless man”, Bildad says, “nor [will God] take the hand of evil doers” (Job 8:20). By saying this Bildad affirms that Job is being punished and that he needs to pray for forgiveness rather than complain of injustice. Job finds no comfort in Bildad’s regurgitated argument and pleads further with God. He demands, “[L]et me know why thou dost contend against me” (Job 10:2). “[T]hou knowest that I am not guilty” (Job 10:7). Job then goes on to wail in his grief saying, “I loathe my life” (Job 10:1), “I am filled with disgrace” (Job 10:15). “Let me alone…before I go…to the land of gloom and…darkness” (Job 10:20). Still baffled by his situation, Job once again looks to relieve his suffering through death. Next in line to respond to Job is Zophar, who arrogantly says, “Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves” (Job 11:6). In saying this Zophar affirms that God is going easy on Job, that Job deserves an even greater punishment in his view. Who is Zophar to say that God is not judging properly? On what authority can Zophar boldly state that he knows better than God? Whatever the reason, Zophar abandons the argument and urges Job to “set [his] heart aright” (Job 11:13) and repent. Zophar thinks, as Eliphaz and Bildad thought, that God is punishing Job for a reason.


Job defiantly answers Zophar in saying, “I am not inferior to you” (Job 12:3). He is angry at his friends’ insensitivity towards his plight and says, “[I] a just and blameless man, am [now] a laughingstock” (Job 12:4). Job is just as unsatisfied with Zophar’s speech as he is with those of his other friends. This is mainly because every speech calls him a liar and suggests that he needs to repent for his sins. These arguments continue on for another two rounds of speeches between Job and each of his friends. As each round passes the arguments intensify. Job’s annoyance with his friends and his friends’ annoyance with his self-righteousness increase with every verse. Job maintains his innocence throughout each round and argues that God allows the wicked to prosper while he, a blameless man, suffers (Job 21:7). In response to Job, the friends continue to accuse him of sin. Eliphaz even goes as far saying, “You have given no water to the weary to drink…you withheld bread from the hungry” (Job 22:7). This statement directly accuses Job of sin but the validity behind the accusations is unclear. The friends continue to assert that “the light of the wicked is put out” (Job 18:5), that God only punishes evil―not righteous―men and that Job needs to repent. Job remains critical of his friends’ accusations, scolding the “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2) who “whitewash with lies” (Job 13:4) and “speak falsely for God” (Job 13:7). As well, Job continues in his request to bring his case before God for understanding of his affliction (Job 23:4-5). Job is certain that God, his “witness is in heaven” (Job 16:19), will vouch for his integrity (Job 16:19) and that he will be acquitted of his suffering (Job 23:7). The arguments eventually come to a close because the friends see that “[Job is] righteous in his own eyes” (Job 32:1). Neither Job nor the friends have won the debate. Another man, Elihu, tries to resolve the conflict by making some similar arguments to those of the friends. At this point God interrupts and answers Job (Job 38:1). He begins in asking Job a long series of rhetorical questions (Job 38-42). Of course, Job already knows that he “cannot answer Him” (Job


9:15), and eventually apologizes to God for “[uttering] what [he] did not understand” (Job 42:3). Job realises that he was wrong to question God’s actions. He was right in proclaiming his own innocence but was wrong to demand a reason for his affliction. This is because Job, like his friends, speaks “words without knowledge” (Job 38:1). God then turns to Eliphaz and says, “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7). Even though God says this, He does not acknowledge that everything Job has said is right and that everything the friends have said is wrong. The error of both parties is simply trying to understand God in a conventional way. God’s wrath is kindled against the friends because of how they misrepresented Him. They tried to justify God through Job’s injustice, when in fact God is always justified; there is no way to make God unjust. The three friends were also wrong to assume that Job’s suffering―or any suffering for that matter―is only a result of God’s punishment. They were mistaken in believing that Job was guilty when Job was not actually being punished. As well, the friends were also wrong to assume that God and justice are separate things. God’s actions don’t simply result in justice but are justice. No matter what action God takes, it is right. They are ignorant of the fact that it is impossible for God to do evil. This is not because He follows a standard, but rather God’s actions are good because He is the good. It is through their lack of knowledge that the friends misrepresent God. This shortcoming results in God’s wrath against them.

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