The Book of Job and How We Justify Suffering Today – PART 1

The Book of Job is a fascinating study of a discussion among legal professionals who attempt to find out why Job is suffering using their interpretation of law and tradition. Much of the determinations made here are used today by many people with good intentions to comfort those stricken with loss or tragedy. You will probably recognize the words and phrases.

Soon after Job is struck with calamity, his friends show up. Job and his friends are all magistrates of law. As part of the Hebrew tradition of suffering, Job’s friends sit with Job in silent grief for seven days. On the eighth day, Job speaks and curses his plight with a very emo-like dialogue. (Job 3:1-26). And in an attempt to comfort, his first friend says something positive that lifts him up (4:3-4) followed by an accusation of blame: you must have done something to deserve it. 

Remember, who ever perished, being innocent? Or were the righteous cut off? Even as I have seen, they that plow inquiry, and sow wickedness reap the same.” (4:7-8)

He uses his own experience, the things that he has witnessed both in his career and in his dreams to support his claim against Job (4:12-21). The conclusion he gives to Job is that “It is God’s will” and tells him to not be upset or angry, but that he should be happy about it and to seek out God’s counsel by giving it to God.

I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause, who doeth great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number. (5:8-7)

Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth; therefore, despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty. (5:17)

He claims that if Job does this then God will take away his problems and all will be well again. And backs up the claim by saying he knows this to be true because of his own research into it.

Lo, this we have searched it, so it is; hear it and know thou it for thy good. (5:27).

Job’s response is telling. He is upset with his friend’s accusations and says that he is only human.  That his friend should not be scolding him but showing him pity. He even comes right out and asks them if he even asked for their opinion. Job even follows that with sarcasm and eventually tells his friend that he was full of hot air.

Is my strength the strength of stones? Or is my flesh of bronze? (6:12)

To him that is afflicted, pity should be shown from his friend; but he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty. (6:14)

Did I say, Bring unto me? Or, Give me a reward for me your substance? Or, Deliver me from the enemy’s hand? Or, Redeem me from the hand of the mighty? Teach me, and I will hold my tongue; and cause me to understand that in which I have erred. How forcible are right words! But what doth your arguing reprove? Do ye imagine to reprove words, and the speeches of one that is desperate, which are as wind? (6:7)

We learn through Job that the first friend’s attempts only scared him but did not do anything for his pain and misery. Then Job starts complaining again.

His second friend joins the conversation by telling Job that he is full of hot air (8:2) and backs up the first friend’s argument of blame only directing it at Job’s kids. That it must be something they did to deserve this awful tragedy while using justice to back up his claim. His advice to Job is to seek out God and apologize for his children’s actions and God will listen and restore his fortune because Job is a righteous man.

Doth God pervert justice? Or doth the Almighty pervert righteousness? If thy children have sinned against Him, and He have cast them away for their transgression; If thou wouldest seek unto God early, and make thy supplication to the Almighty; if thou wert pure and upright, surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of they righteousness prosperous. (8:3-6)

Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will he help the evildoers. (8:20)

Job responds with ludicrousy that God would even consider him if Job did call out to him.

Behold, he taketh away; who can hinder him? Who will say unto him, ‘What doest thou?’ If God will not withdraw his anger, the proud helpers do stoop under him. How much less shall I answer him, and choose out my words to reason with him! . . . If I had called, and he had answered me, yet would I not believe that he had harkened unto my voice. (9:12-14, 16).

Job continues his defense by claiming that pureness and wickedness does not matter because God will do as he pleases and both the righteous and wicked suffer. He explains that he cannot do the things that his friend suggests because the condition of his body will prove him to be a liar. And that his friend is not able to interpret God’s intent.

This is one thing; therefore, I said, “He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked.’ (9:22)

If I wash myself with snow and make my hands never so clean; yet shall thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me. For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgement. Neither is there a daysman [a mediator between God and man] between us, that might lay his hands upon us both.

Then Job starts complaining again having received no comfort from his second friend.


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