Although Eliphaz has been much sharper and more rash in his second argument than in his first, nothing of what he said has touched Jobs’ conscience. In Job’s reaction it is striking that he is so absorbed in his relationship with God that everything else comes into the background. This proves the authenticity of his faith: he wants to understand God.
1 - 5 Job Blames His Friends for Their Hardness
1 Then Job answered,
2 “I have heard many such things;
Sorry comforters are you all.
3 “Is there [no] limit to windy words?
Or what plagues you that you answer?
4 “I too could speak like you,
If I were in your place.
I could compose words against you
And shake my head at you.
5 “I could strengthen you with my mouth,
And the solace of my lips could lessen [your pain].
When Eliphaz has finished his second speech against Job, Job answers (verse 1). He says that Eliphaz has told him nothing new (verse 2). What he has heard, he has heard so many times from his friends. It is nothing more than a repetition of moves. In Eliphaz’ imagination, the words he and his friends have spoken to Job are “consolations from God” (Job 15:11). But Job does not have a good word for them and calls them “sorry comforters” (cf. Job 13:4).
Their words to him are “windy words”, exactly the expression Eliphaz used to describe Job’s words (Job 15:2). Is their supply of windy, hollow phrases not yet exhausted (verse 3)? They continue to make unfounded accusations. It is better for them to wrap up their words and keep their mouths shut. In this way they only make his suffering heavier instead of lighter. Where do they get their firm answers anyway? Where the real problem lies with him, completely eludes them. Therefore, not one of their words strikes a target.
The roles should have been reversed (verse 4). They should be in his position and he in theirs. Would he speak as they do? Would he make lengthy speeches against them in order to convince them of their sins which had brought them into this calamity, as they do with him now? Would he mockingly shake his head over them in their defense, as they do now over him when he defends himself?
Job has asked questions about how he would react if the roles were reversed. Those questions are justified. He’s allowed to ask them. It shows that we can only help someone in need if we know something of that need from our own experience or if we first sense and empathize with someone’s situation (cf. Heb 13:3; Mt 8:17; 2Cor 1:3-7).
The friends are blamed by Job for leaving out everything that has to do with true friendship. They treat Job like a stranger, even though they have known his former life. But now they question this and even express accusations about his present condition.
Job goes so far in his defense that he claims that he would certainly behave differently from his friends now if they were in his shoes (verse 5). He would treat them like a true comforter. This he says to indicate what he misses so much with his friends. He would encourage them with the right words. At the right time he would be able to remain silent to make them feel his pity.
Possibly Job reacts a little irritated here. In this sense the Lord Jesus is also held by men “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isa 53:4). But He did not react like Job to the plagues that came upon Him. He ”kept entrusting [Himself] to Him who judges righteously” (1Pet 2:23b).
6 - 14 God’s Wrath and His Use of Man
6 “If I speak, my pain is not lessened,
And if I hold back, what has left me?
7 “But now He has exhausted me;
You have laid waste all my company.
8 “You have shriveled me up,
It has become a witness;
And my leanness rises up against me,
It testifies to my face.
9 “His anger has torn me and hunted me down,
He has gnashed at me with His teeth;
My adversary glares at me.
10 “They have gaped at me with their mouth,
They have slapped me on the cheek with contempt;
They have massed themselves against me.
11 “God hands me over to ruffians
And tosses me into the hands of the wicked.
12 “I was at ease, but He shattered me,
And He has grasped me by the neck and shaken me to pieces;
He has also set me up as His target.
13 “His arrows surround me.
Without mercy He splits my kidneys open;
He pours out my gall on the ground.
14 “He breaks through me with breach after breach;
He runs at me like a warrior.
Job has told his friends in no uncertain terms how wrongly they treat him, how he lacks compassion with them, and how he would be if the roles were reversed. He has aired his heart over them, but his suffering has not been softened by it (verse 6). Even when he ceases to speak, the misery does not depart from him. Nothing, neither speaking nor silencing, can change his grief. His suffering is unbearable and hopeless. Today these are the two conditions to end your life (or to let it end). With Job we notice nothing of such an attitude.
Certainly, he holds God responsible for his suffering. God has let him exhaust him (verse 7). In a direct appeal to God he throws before Him that He has destroyed his whole company. All those he valued have been taken away by force from him by God. God has destroyed his whole environment, including his friends, who also turn against him.
He feels seized by God, not to support him, but to deprive him of all support (verse 8). God is like a witness who comes with incriminating statements. His leanness comes from hunger, and hunger is the consequence of his sins, so the friends claim. He cannot deny his lean body and poverty. Everyone sees it and it is like a public witness against him. He can argue all he wants about his innocence, but his situation is a denial of everything he argues in his defense.
He fights a hopeless battle. But what do you want if God’s anger tears you to pieces, if He hates you (verse 9)? Job hears God grinding his teeth against him, so to speak. Yes, he experiences God as his Adversary. He feels God’s eyes fixed on him, not lovingly, but critically, with a gaze that looks right through him.
Also from the side of the people – not only from the three friends, but from his whole environment – Job experiences only resistance and defamation (verse 10). He feels attacked by all of them together. It is one mighty hostile stronghold that opposes him. And who is behind it? God (verse 11)! But then God must be mistaken. He has handed Job over to the wrong one and delivered him into the hands of the wicked. He cannot have meant this, can He? Surely God knows he is innocent? But why is He acting like this with him?
Job remembers the time when he had peace. He was happy and safe, surrounded by everything a man could wish for (verse 12). But God has “shattered” everything, especially him. He is a broken man. God grasped him by the neck like a predator does with his prey. He who has someone by the neck has him completely under control and in his power. After God has so overwhelmed Job and made him powerless, He has “set me up as His target”, as a target for all His arrows.
God, Job says, uses “His arrows” (verse 13) to shoot at him. By this he means his friends, who constantly bombard him with their condemning words. He sees them as God’s instruments. They act under His control.
God splits his kidneys open, not them. The kidneys are sensitive, vital organs, representing the deepest inner self of man. Job says that God doesn’t spare him, that He doesn’t keep him safe. His gall is poured out on the earth by God. Gall is also connected with bitterness. The whole of Job’s life is poured out on the earth as bitterness.
And so it goes on and on. It is “breach after breach” (verse 14). Job feels like the walls of a city besieged by God Himself. Everywhere He breaks the walls and breaks through them. Time and again Job is physically and mentally affected by disasters and illnesses that he suffers.
Job is completely overwhelmed by emotion. He speaks harsh words about God. Still, here too we must be careful not to form a harsh judgement about Job. God allows Job to rage without saying a single word of warning to Job that he is now going out of line.
We can compare Job’s attitude and statements with those of the Lord Jesus when it comes to His response to the suffering people are inflicting on Him. Then we see a big difference. From His mouth we never hear an accusation toward God. Yet no one has ever experienced God as a stronger adversary than He. We should think of what happened during the three hours of darkness on the cross. When God judges Him, not a single rebellious word comes out of His mouth to God. On the contrary, He says, “But you are holy” (Psa 22:3). He has always justified God.
Another difference is that the Lord Jesus distinguishes between what God does to Him and what people do to Him (Psa 22:11-18). For Job, God and people act together in their attacks on him. He sees them conspiring against him.
15 - 22 Job Appeals to God
15 “I have sewed sackcloth over my skin
And thrust my horn in the dust.
16 “My face is flushed from weeping,
And deep darkness is on my eyelids,
17 Although there is no violence in my hands,
And my prayer is pure.
18 “O earth, do not cover my blood,
And let there be no [resting] place for my cry.
19 “Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven,
And my advocate is on high.
20 “My friends are my scoffers;
My eye weeps to God.
21 “O that a man might plead with God
As a man with his neighbor!
22 “For when a few years are past,
I shall go the way of no return.
Job again describes his deep sorrow. It is so great, that he speaks of a goat-haired sackcloth that he has sewn over his skin (verse 15). With this he indicates that he does not wear a sackcloth temporarily, but that it is inseparably attached to him and that he will never be free of it. His “horn”, a picture of strength, has not been raised, but he has “thrust in the dust”, humiliated, indicating that there is nothing left of his strength.
Job has cried so long that his face is red and swollen (verse 16). His eyes resemble the hollow eyes of a dying man through sorrow and the many sleepless nights. He wonders what he has earned from all this misery and destruction, all this violence that has come upon him. He knows of himself that he has obtained nothing of his possessions by violence (verse 17). His closest and dearest cannot accuse him of anything. Against them he is free in his conscience. Even towards God there is nothing that burdens his conscience. His prayer is pure, without ulterior motives, and free from the hypocrisy of which his friends accuse him (Job 8:6). He can freely express himself against God.
Job wants the injustice done to him not to be forgotten after his death. Therefore he proclaims to the earth that it should not cover his blood (verse 18). Like the blood of Abel, he wants it to continue to cry out to God (Gen 4:10; Eze 24:7-8), Who is in heaven. If during his suffering he cannot obtain a judgment that justifies him, and so he dies in the eyes of others as a guilty person, then may justice be done through blood vengeance after his death. He wants his cries to continue to sound without rest until he is justified.
Then all of a sudden there is this revival of faith and hope. No matter how much Job had a profound conflict with God, he still hoped for Him. No matter how, out of deep distress and carried away by his emotions, he rages against God, he does not let go of God. He always returns to Him. Satan had claimed that Job would curse God to His face (Job 1:11; 2:5), but Job keeps clinging to God.
Job sees God as his Prosecutor, but at the same time as his Witness in heaven (verse 19; cf. Psa 89:38). He is certain that God is a Witness to his innocence and that therefore he is also his Advocate. This seems to be a contradiction, but it is not. It is a mystery in God that is recognized by the converted sinner and for which he worships God. God, Who must judge the sinner, has given His Son. He has not spared His Son so that He may spare the repentant sinner. In this way the believer can say, ‘If God, Who was first against me, is now before me, who could be against me?’ (Rom 8:31).
What to Job is more like a vague hope, we may be sure of. We know that we have an Advocate, Someone we know, our High Priest and Advocate, our Lord Jesus Christ. He lives as High Priest to always intercede for us and to help us in our weaknesses (Heb 7:25; 4:15). He lives as Advocate to restore us in the fellowship with the Father when we have sinned (1Jn 2:1).
Job does not need to expect help from his friends. They only scoff at him (verse 20). His tears do not arouse pity in them. They are not meant for them either, but for God (Psa 56:8). God will see them and will, as he believes for certain, examine his case once and then establish his innocence.
In verse 21 Job asks for a man to plead with God. By this Job asks God Himself to defend a man with God. Here we see again that wonderful identification of God the Advocate with God the Prosecutor. Job adds another comparison. He says that defending is something a man does with his neighbor. “A man” can also be translated as ‘son of man’. The Lord Jesus often calls Himself “Son of Man” in the Gospels. We who know the Lord Jesus discover here in what Job says the true Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (1Tim 2:5). He is the Umpire of Whom Job has spoken before (Job 9:33), Who lays His hand on both, on God and on man.
For himself Job sees only a few years of life left (verse 22). Then he will go the path on which no return is possible. It is the path to the grave. He will go that path, but it will be easier for him to go that path if he can trust that his right will be brought to light within a short time.