JOB STUDIES 4

For seven days, Job’s friends sat with him in silence. Then, God’s suffering servant vented his pain and frustration in a cry of anguish recorded in Chapter 3 of the book. Now, the cycle of speeches begins in Chapters 4 and 5, with the comments of a man named Eliphaz. Eliphaz was from Teman, a region in the land of Edom that was known for its wise men (Jer. 49:7). The fact that Eliphaz speaks first may also indicate that he is the eldest.

As with each of the men, not everything Eliphaz says is wrong. It is just that so much of it does not apply to Job. If you recall Charles Dickens’s story, A Christmas Carol, imagine this: What if the three ghosts said what they said about the evils of materialism and a lack of charity, but appeared by mistake to Bob Cratchet, instead of Scrooge. They would be saying some good things, but from what we know of Bob’s character, the comments would not fit. That is the case here.

1) What tone of voice to you hear in 4:2? (Why is he speaking this way?)

2) Eliphaz admits that Job has done some good things (4:3-4). What kind of things?

3) Of what idea is Eliphaz convinced (4:7-9)?

4) Therefore, his conclusion is: Suffering is always and only for what purpose?

INSIGHT: There is a difference between saying that sin brings suffering in a general sense, and on the other hand claiming that personal suffering is always caused by some personal sin. We know that the presence of sin in the world and the curse upon creation brings suffering and hardship to all. But that is not the same as saying that all personal suffering is a direct result of a particular personal sin. Jesus comment in John 9:1-3 is helpful. The disciples ask, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” The Lord’s answer is, “Neither.” Jesus is not saying they are all sinless. Merely that their sin is irrelevant to the man’s blindness.

5) On what does Eliphaz seem to base his beliefs (4:12-16)?

INSIGHT: Eliphaz represents those who base what they believe on some “experience” they have had. This is intended to squelch any argument. But we need to remember that error is still error, even if it comes from one who has had a spectacular experience (cf. Deut. 13:1-5).

6) Consider 4:18-19. What is the truth of the matter, as it pertains to Job?

7) In addition to his argument from an alleged supernatural experience, what other support does Eliphaz claim for his point of view (5:1, 27)?

8) According to Eliphaz, what can the “foolish man” expect to happen to him (5:4)? (And why is this an insensitive thing to say?)

9) What does Eliphaz advise Job to do (5:8)? (And knowing Eliphaz’s philosophy, what does he mean by this?)

10) What attitude does Eliphaz think Job should have, and why (5:17)?

11) What kind of life does Eliphaz assure Job he can have in the future (5:24-26)?

12) According to Eliphaz, this experience will be his if only Job does what?

INSIGHT: Now Job addresses the comments of Eliphaz, and makes some further observations about his own case in Chapters 6 and 7. He is always miles ahead of the narrow thinking of his friends.

13) In 6:2-3, Job is plainly suggesting that Eliphaz has failed to do what?

14) Whom does Job believe is responsible for his suffering (6:4)?

15) What wish does Job express once more (6:8-9)?

16) What does Job suggest is the cause for some of the extreme comments he is making (6:3, 26)?

17) To what does Job compare his friends (6:15)?

17b) How does this picture what they are doing (or not doing) for Job?

18) Even if he were forsaking God (which he is not) how does Job feel he deserves to be treated (6:14)? (And do you agree?)

19) Is it possible that sometimes our desire to be “right” and win a debate causes us to become part of the problem, rather than part of the solution? (Explain.)

INSIGHT: The NASB (vs. 14) has “lest he forsake the fear [reverence] of the Almighty,” suggesting that a lack of kindness and compassion can actually drive a despairing person further away from God.

20) What other cause does Job discern behind the treatment his friend is giving him (6:21-23)? (Explain.)

21) What is Job claiming in 6:30 when he says, “Cannot my taste [mouth, NIV] discern the unsavoury [wickedness, perverse things]?”

22) What is Job open to hear, either from his friends, or from God Himself (6:24; 7:20)?

INSIGHT: For Job, this would provide an explanation for his suffering that fits the holy character of the God he knows. But right now it seems to him that he is being punished for nothing. (And keep in mind that the Lord agrees with him about that, 2:3.)

23) Without sounding like one of Job’s “comforters,” what response could you make to someone who said, “My eye will never again see good” (7:7)?

INSIGHT: It is perhaps accurate to say that though hopelessness is not a part of Job’s theology, it is a part of his psychology. In other words, deep down he does not believe there is no hope for him from God, but that is how he feels at the moment (7:6-7). We hurt with him as this sick and suffering man cries, “When shall I arise and the night be ended?” (7:4).

24) What is the difference between the question asked by these two?

¤ Job’s question in 7:17-18

¤ David’s question in Ps. 8:4-5

25) “How long?” (7:19) is a common question of the sufferer-- meaning: “How long must I suffer like this?” What kind of answer could you share without giving false reassurance?

INSIGHT: An interesting thing happens through the book that you can watch for. As time goes on, the three friends seem to grow harder and more insensitive. They are right and Job is wrong (so they think), and they will not budge from that. But during the same period, Job grows more open and sensitive to the ways of God. He continues to learn and grow. By God’s grace, that can be the result of suffering in our own lives.