Study 2 : Job 3, 4, 6, 8
his voice; he and his friends argue.
The pattern of the book is simple.
Within the frame given by the prose of the first two and the last chapters and
following an opening speech from Job there are 3 cycles of speeches: Eliphaz,
Job, Bildad, Job, Zophar, Job and round
twice more. That should be 3x6 = 18 speeches but the last speech of Zophar is
lost, perhaps deliberately to show the answers are incomplete.
The next chapter after these
cycles of speeches (28) is a poem to Wisdom. That is followed by a speech of
Job and a lengthy rant by a 4th guy, Elihu. Only then do we hear
from the Lord God himself, pointing out how Job has failed to understand what
has happened and to learn from it. Then, finally, there is an epilogue,
probably drawn from the old tale, which is used to teach one final fundamental
lesson about life.
The poetic dialogue begins after those
first 2 chapters of prose we thought about last time. Job expresses his total
horror at what has happened to him in chapter 3; his first friend, Eliphaz,
tries to analyze what has happened to him; Job replies and then a second friend
Bildad speaks, expressing his view of Job’s problems more openly and clearly
than Eliphaz did. I will read chapter 3, then a little of what Eliphaz said in
chapter 4, and part of Job’s reply, then
we will skip to what Bildad says in chapter 8 and Job’s reply.
Here is Job’s lament in chapter 3:
1 - 19. Note how striking the poetry is.
All that is very understandable.
There is next to no sign in the Old Testament that they had any idea of a life
after death except a descent to Sheol for an experience they knew nothing
about. The NT is very different. There we find statements like “longing to be
clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up
in life” in 2 Cor 5: 4.
Question: why the difference between the OT ideas and those of the NT?
What should our reaction be?
course this all hinges on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Death is swallowed
up in victory” as Paul says. We know that we should never share these negative
attitudes of Job whatever happens to us in this life.
At this point I will skip to the
next chapter because the last few verses of that chapter do not add much to the
argument of the book. I will be doing this through these studies, picking out
the most interesting and important bits of the book. That isn’t to say that it
is not worth reading it all. It is. Here then is Job 4:1–9.
Eliphaz asks a very sharp and
important question to all those of us who make a Christian profession. “Should
not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope.” In other
words he is asking whether Job was righteous just because it was the best thing
to be from his point of view. Are we Christians because this is the best option
– we can live more comfortable lives as Christians, or as sometime Christians
(when it suits us) - we can keep the family happy – it sounds good in the
community – we want to go to heaven when we die?
Question: are you a Christian for these or any other selfish ‘you based’ reasons.
answer is yours, obviously. We should be Christian - we should be following
Jesus -because we feel compelled to do so by who he is and what he has done for
us, oblivious to our own immediate comforts. 200 years ago those who went on
mission to the west coast of Africa lived on
average for only a few months before they caught one of the lethal diseases of
that area to which they had no natural immunity. They did not consider
themselves, their own comforts and even their own lives, as of any significant
account in the service of the King. Neither should we.
Eliphaz continues in 4: 12 – 21.
In a very striking passage he says he has had a dream which introduces the idea
that will persist throughout all the speeches of all Job’s four friends (if
friends they can be called) that Job must have done some thing very wicked for
all this to have happened to him.
Part of Job’s reply is in chapter 6:
2 - 4, 14 – 17, 21 – 30. That brings a reply from his second friend Bildad in
It is now clear that the friends,
and even Job himself, are working from the assumption that bad things only
happen to bad people. Therefore Job must be in so much trouble because he is a
bad person, having undisclosed sin in his life, which he is hiding from them
and even from himself. We know what they don’t know, that that is not the case.
Job has experienced all his troubles only as a result of what the author has
described as a discussion in the heavenly counsel. Or in other words he is
experiencing what I called the NCL, the normal chaos of life. We have to accept
that sometimes things just happen for no reason that we can discern. Sometimes
things happen because of other people – it was the Sabeans and the Chaldeans
that stole all Job’s huge herds of oxen, donkeys and camels. But sometimes it
is natural forces - it was lightning and storm that killed his sheep, his
servants and his children.
That is our experience too. Some
of the chaos of life we experience is because other people, unwittingly or
deliberately, have disturbed the even progress of our existence. Some of the
chaos is because of all sorts of natural things, tsunamis and storms, illness
and accident, which may have deeply affected our lives.
the way the world is – for us as for Job. We don’t know why the world is this
way, why it is so full of chaos, though we may think that a world in which
there were no storms, no winds, no floods, would be a very boring and
uninteresting place. God, the Lord has never promised to protect us from such
things. He has promised to protect us through them. Isaiah said, speaking for
the Lord to his people,
you pass through the waters,
/ I will
be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, / they
will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
will not be burned;
/ the flames will not set
For I am the Lord your
/ the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour;
He does not say I will help you to avoid the rivers
and dodge the fires. But when you are in them, battling with them, I will be
Job will eventually understand, by the end of the book,
but he is not there yet. He does not understand about the NCL – the normal
chaos of life; nor does he realise that the CEP does not work – there is no
cause/effect principle operating in moral and ethical life. Our piety does not
protect us from what Job calls ‘the arrows of the Almighty’ in chapter 6 (which
possibly gave rise to Shakespeare’s phrase ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous
Jesus clearly agrees. When told about the Galileans
whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. He says ‘Do you think that
these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they
suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all
perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them –
do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I
tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.’
We simply have to accept that the world we are in, the
created world, created by our loving God, is subject to the Normal Chaos of
Life and that no Principle of Cause/Effect
Too many people, too many Christians, try to convince
themselves that there is no such thing as NCL. They say that the Lord is in
control so there cannot be chaos. He is indeed in control but we do not know
what he is doing, or why, so we are far better to accept that it looks like
chaos to us and get on with living in our chaotic looking world.
Too many people, too many Christians, think that the
CEP does operate and get very upset, sometimes even losing their faith, when it
doesn’t work the way they think it should. They say things like ‘my lovely son
or daughter died – life’s not fair – so I can’t believe in God any more.’ Why
do they do that? He never promised a CEP. Why should he be blamed when it is
clear there isn’t one?