JOB STUDIES 9
The speeches of the three friends are at an end. They have exhausted themselves (and Job!) trying to prove that Job’s suffering has come about as a punishment for some sin in his life. In Chapters 27-31, Job makes a prolonged defense of his innocence. He reviews his past, and contrasts that with his present state, as he continues to search for answers.
1) Before God, what pledge does Job make (27:3-4)?
2) What does Job refuse to do to satisfy his friends (27:5-6)?
3) What is Job’s opinion of his friends’ attempts to teach him the “truth” (27:12)?
4) Job fully understands the destiny of the wicked. What is it (27:13, 16-17, 20-21)?
INSIGHT: Each of Job’s three friends claims to have wisdom. Eliphaz says he received his by a supernatural visitation. Bildad puts his confidence in the accumulated wisdom of past ages. And Zophar seems willing to rely upon his own opinions. But Job has something to teach them with regard to where true wisdom is found.
5) What has man succeeded in doing (28:1-4)?
INSIGHT: Note the fearful picture of early mining (vs. 4). Men chipped away in the cold and dark, swinging to and fro on long ropes. Job is pointing out that we have gone to great lengths to obtain the material wealth of our planet. But there is something far more valuable than such things.
6) What question does Job raise (28:12)?
7) What is one way it can not be obtained (28:16)?
8) Who is the true source of wisdom (28:23, 27)?
The Bible Knowledge Commentary describes the wise person as “One who is both knowledgeable and experienced in following God’s way....Being wise means being skilled in godly living. Having God’s wisdom means having the ability to cope with life in a God-honouring way” (Vol. I, p. 902).
On the other hand, worldly wisdom is, to some extent, simply a matter of moderation, fairness, and exercising common sense. But for the believer, wisdom always has a spiritual dimension and it is related to his walk with God. Thus, for example, cheating others is to be avoided not only because it is unfair to them, but because it is “an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 20:23).
9) What does Job say is the very heart and core of true wisdom (28:28)?
INSIGHT: A thousand years later, King Solomon said basically the same thing: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). True wisdom starts with coming into a right relationship with God. To “fear” Him is to hold Him in reverence, to give God His rightful place in our lives. From this will flow both faith and obedience toward Him, and an avoidance of those things that displease Him.
10) According to God Himself, who is it who fits this description better than anyone on earth at the time (1:8)?
INSIGHT: In Chapter 29, Job reviews some details about his past life. Unfortunately, his critics do not understand what he is doing. Arno C. Gaebelein, who usually has helpful things to say, takes a wrong turn here. He says that Job “reverts to the old complaint in self-occupation, self-pity and self-vindication. ...Some 20 times he says “I” in this chapter....Not once does Job utter a word of praise” (Gaebelein’s Concise Commentary of the Whole Bible, p. 439). This misses the point. Of course Job uses the personal pronoun often. He is reviewing his own history! And it is noteworthy that not once do the friends interrupt him to say he is being inaccurate. As to the last comment, is Gaebelein suggesting that Job is taking undue credit to himself, and not glorifying God? That is simply no so. Five times in the opening verses (vs. 1-6) Job credits God for the blessings of his earlier days. Like many others, Gaebelein is far too quick to jump to the side of Job’s three critical friends!
11) What had the Lord done for Job in the past (29:2-4)?
INSIGHT: The city gate, in ancient times, was the place where official business was conducted (cf. Ruth 4:1, 9). It functioned as a court of law. That is where the elders of the city sat to make rulings.
12) What do the words “my seat” (29:7) suggest about the place of Job in the community?
13) What was Job’s position in relation to the other elders who served as judges and counselors (29:25)?
14) What was Job’s reputation as a “judge” in the community (29:8-10)?
15) Others recognized that Job was a man who feared God. How did they respond to the wisdom of Job (29:21)?
16) What quality of decisions did the community expect from Job (29:14)?
17) What kind of rulings did Job make with regard to the poor and disadvantaged in the city (29:12-13)?
18) And did he do this in a cold, unfeeling way (30:25)?
19) The rights of what other segment of society was Job also concerned for (29: 15)?
20) And Job had the courage to do what (29:17)?
INSIGHT: Contrary to what Job’s critics seem to think, Chapter 29 is an essential part of the argument of the book. It enables Job to make a stark contrast with his present condition in Chapter 30. It is a way of saying: “Yesterday, I was righteous and God blessed me. Today, I am righteous and God oppresses me. I have not moved, but it seems as though God has!”
21) Contrast the way the young men in the community treated Job before (29:8) with the way they treat him now (30:1, 9-10)?
22) Who else experienced this dramatic turn-around, and what was said:
¤ In Mk. 11:9
¤ In Mk. 15:12-13
INSIGHT: Job’s children used to be around him (29:5), but now they are gone. His prosperity has been taken from him (30:15). His health has been taken, also (30:16-17, 30). He has traded his home for an ash heap, and been forced to forage for his food like a wild animal (30:29). But most painful to Job is the fact that he seems to have lost contact with God (30:20). God has in effect become his cruel Enemy (30:21).
23) Job 30:24 is difficult to translate. In the NKJV it says: “Surely He would not stretch out His hand against a heap of ruins.” What does Job mean?
INSIGHT: In one last, great proclamation of his innocence, Job uses the word “if” some nineteen times. He goes through a long catalogue of sins, saying if I have done any of these things, I deserve to be punished. Frequently, he calls down a curse upon himself, if he has offended in a particular way. The underlying point is that he is not guilty of any such things.
24) What is one kind of sin Job is innocent of (31:1, 9-10)?
25) What is another kind of sin of which Job is innocent (31:24-25)?
26) And another sin of which Job is innocent is (31:26-28)?
27) And yet another sin of which he is innocent is (31:13, 29-30)?
INSIGHT: Note again that no one disputes any of this with Job--not even God. He has clearly demonstrated his innocence. Whatever the reason God is treating him as He is, it cannot be traced to some wickedness in Job’s life. Job is confident he is righteous, and the three friends are silenced (though not likely convinced!). The answer lies elsewhere. And once again, Job has an interesting insight.
Previously, he wished that his own words could be written down (19:23), and of course they were. Now Job says he desires that “my Prosecutor [God] had written a book! Surely I would carry it on my shoulder and bind it on me like a crown” (31:35-36). The shoulder symbolizes strength. Job means God’s Word would help him spiritually. The crown represents the mind. Job is saying God’s Word would direct his thoughts. Job has it right again. God did write a Book. And though the first Bible book was not written for another 500 years, that is exactly what God’s Word should do.
FURTHER THOUGHTSON CHAPTER 29
In Chapter 29, Job reviews some details of his public life, in days gone by. Some commentators have mistakenly taken this as proof of Job’s proud, arrogant spirit. They seem ready to side with the three friends in seeing Job’s sufferings as the means God uses to “take him down a peg or two.” But this is so foreign to the message of the book, it is surprising reputable evangelical scholars fall for it.
Job is a godly man of prayer (1:5; 12:4). God Himself says of Job that he is His “servant,” and the most outstanding man of his time. According to the Lord, Job is “blameless and upright...one who fears God and shuns evil” (1:8). And we are told that Job’s suffering is “without cause” (2:3). There is nothing in Job that needs punishing. Surely that is plain enough!
The 29th Chapter is something else. It is a part of Job’s defense (like the testimony of "the accused" in court). And there can be no doubt it is factual. The three friends would have jumped on any wild claims without foundation as further proof of Job’s deceit and wickedness. And in fact, Job is not the only one in Scripture who is forced to make this kind of defense before his critics.
After he wrote a strong letter criticizing some things going on in the Corinthian church, Paul had to deal with a negative reaction coming from some. They questioned his apostolic authority. What right had he to rebuke them? “For his letters, they say, are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible” (II Cor. 10:10).
In answer, Paul wrote Second Corinthians, a defense of his apostleship. He talks of “boasting” about a dozen times in the letter. He means they have forced him to talk about himself, in order to convince them he has a right to speak with God’s authority. “Let no one think me a fool,” he says. “If otherwise, at least receive me as a fool, that I also may boast a little” (11:16). Then he goes on to detail of some of the things he has suffered, and things he has accomplished (11:22--12:13).
This is quite similar to what Job does, and what others have done as well. Sometimes we must speak out in our own defense. Other times, it is right and proper to keep silent. These options are illustrated by a seemingly contradictory pair of proverbs. “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes” (Prov. 26:5-6).
The meaning of the double proverb is: when dealing with a fool, you can’t win! If you argue with him, you are descending to his level, and why would you want to become a fool? But, on the other hand, if you keep quiet, the fool will be convinced it is because he is right! In such situations, we need divine wisdom to know when it is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecc. 3:7).
We will sometimes be called upon to explain our actions, or correct a misconception held by well-meaning people. However, as God’s children, we must not be diverted, from our service for Christ, into repeatedly defending our actions. If some are convinced otherwise, arguing with them will likely get us nowhere. We need to trust God to defend us. “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday” (Ps. 37:5-6). In the end, that is exactly what the Lord did for Job.