1 - 3 The LORD Reminds Satan Again of Job
1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. 2 The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” 3 The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.”
Now that Job has lost all his possessions and all his children, the scene moves from earth to heaven again (verse 1). Again there is a day when the LORD calls the angels, including satan (Job 1:6). Of satan it is also said separately this time that he “came among them to present himself before the LORD”. After the loss of the first round he is summoned for the second round.
Again the LORD begins to speak and addresses the word to satan with again the question where he comes from (verse 2; Job 1:7a). The answer of satan is the same as the one given last time (Job 1:7b). Also the testimony about Job is as given in Job 1 (verse 3; Job 1:1,8). For the third time this testimony sounds, but this time it is a testimony that is surrounded by the glimmer of a trial endured. In spite of the great affliction into which Job has fallen, so the LORD testifies against satan, Job holds fast his integrity. Job was thrown down, but did not perish (2Cor 4:9).
In addition, the LORD bears witness that there was no reason for Job to suffer this. The words “although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause”, reaffirm that it is not only satan who has robbed Job, but that the LORD is in control and uses satan to accomplish His purpose. Here the LORD uses the words “without cause” which satan used earlier to insinuate that Job does not fear the LORD “for nothing” (Job 1:9). With this he says that satan was wrong in his assertion that Job only serves Him because of the benefit it would bring.
4 - 8 Satan Again Challenges the LORD
4 Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. 5 However, put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face.” 6 So the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life.” 7 Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8 And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes.
Satan does not give up. He will never give up, as long as he is given the opportunity to do his pernicious work. His reaction to what the LORD says about Job and about the actions of satan testifies to this (verse 4). He does not come to acknowledge his defeat, but fancies new wickedness. In his depravity he will always seek new reasons to separate God’s children from God and plunge them into ruin. He can only act according to his unchanging evil.
He contradicts God and says that Job has not yet been tested to the extreme. All previous trials have affected his possessions and his children, but not him personally. Satan claims that Job will be prepared to give up another person’s skin – his relationship with God – in order to save his own skin. Let the LORD make Job feel pain and torment, then Job will really curse him (verse 5).
The LORD authorizes satan to do with Job what he wants, but Job’s life must be spared (verse 6). The LORD sets the limit. Satan is not allowed to cross it, nor does he do so. By the way, this does not make the trial smaller, but greater. Death would put an end to the trial and thereby shorten its grief. How Job longed for death in the midst of suffering! But the fact that Job keeps life enables God to reach His goal with him.
Satan goes away to do his pernicious work here himself. After this we hear nothing more of him in this book. With this terrible action he disappears from the story. God no longer needs him. Satan does what he is allowed to do. He smites Job with a disease with which God threatens to smite Israel if the people are unfaithful to Him (verse 7; Deu 28:27,35).
If satan is allowed to do what he is allowed to do, he does not do half the work. He beats Job in a way that Job loses all personal satisfaction and dignity. He has lost everything: his possessions, his children, his prestige, and now also his health. All that Job has left on earth is unbearable mental and physical pain. He is covered from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head with sore boils on which also worms grow (Job 7:5). His breath stinks (Job 19:17). He is slimmed down to just skin and bone (Job 19:20) and suffers unbearable pain (Job 30:17). His powers are demolished by high fever (Job 30:30). He is tormented by anxiety (Job 6:4) and suffers from sleeplessness (Job 7:4), and when he sleeps, he has nightmares (Job 7:14).
Job goes to an ash heap, possibly outside the inhabited world, where he sits amidst the dust in solitude and takes a potsherd to scrape himself (verse 8). But the lowest point has not yet been reached.
9 - 10 Job and His Wife
9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
While Job is plunged into the greatest misery and sorrow, his wife appears on the scene. She begins to talk to him (verse 9), but that is not to encourage him. On the contrary, she turns against him. At first she blames him for still clinging to his integrity. How can he do that? Surely it is foolish to rely on God in the midst of all the misery, isn’t it? A God who inflicts such suffering on someone who so faithfully serves Him is not worth taking into account. If you take Him into account, all you get is misery over you.
This completes the trial. She who is to be a help to Him, as it is meant to be (Gen 2:18), collapses in the trial. It seems that she has not shared in the integrity of Job. Now that his integrity is being tested and he, and she too, has lost everything, it no longer makes sense for her to trust in God. For her, God is no longer necessary. She has given up her trust in God.
As a result, she no longer honors her husband. Drawn away by her emotions, she urges him to “curse” God and end his life. In the proposal she makes to Job, she utters the same words as satan and thus becomes his spokesman. This is a temptation for Job that surpasses the previous one. If Job had listened to his wife, satan – the accuser – would have emerged as the victor in this battle after all.
But Job must reply to his wife. He tells her that her speaking is like the speaking of “foolish women” (verse 10). Job does not call his wife a fool. She is his wife and he loves her, but he must reprimand her. He tells her she speaks as foolish women do. A fool is one who does not want to know about God, who denies the existence of God, because “the fool says in his heart, There is no God” (Psa 14:1; 53:1; 1Sam 25:25). Job takes everything from the hand of God, although he does not understand why all this is necessary. He speaks of “we” when it comes to taking from the hand of God whatever happens to him and to her – they are also her children and Job is her husband.
“In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” There’s not a rebellious word coming out of his mouth. Job acknowledges with his mouth that the LORD kills and makes alive (Deu 32:39; 1Sam 2:6), that he wounds and heals (Job 5:18). For the second time, Job refutes with his reaction the lie which satan has spoken about him.
If the book had ended here, the great goal of God with Job’s life would not have been achieved. Nor would we be able to learn the lessons we can learn now. The book would be an indictment of all the ‘whys’ we can have if things are against us in life. After all, there would have been someone who, despite all the suffering that has afflicted him, would not have ascribed anything incongruous to God – namely Job. That is why it is of great significance that later, when Job starts to think about everything, he comes up with his ‘whys’ and bitter reproaches in the direction of God. But then satan has already disappeared from the scene. As said, we will hear nothing more about him after the second chapter.
11 - 13 Three Friends Visit the Sick
11 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, they came each one from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite; and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky. 13 Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that [his] pain was very great.
With the coming of the three friends the book really begins. When “Job’s three friends” hear of “all this adversity” described above, it leads them to go and visit him (verse 11; cf. Pro 17:17). It takes a few months before they are with him (Job 7:3). The three friends are mentioned by name and also their origin or background.
“Eliphaz the Temanite,” is mentioned first. Teman is an area of Edom that is proverbial for its wisdom (Jer 49:7). This Eliphaz may well be the eldest son of Esau (Gen 36:10-11). In any case, he is an Edomite. He is the oldest and most important of friends. In the dialogues that begin after seven days, he is the first to speak. He starts the rounds of conversation and is the first in each round. The other friends support him, each with their own arguments. God also addresses Himself to him when He reveals His anger to them about the way the friends speak (Job 42:7).
“Bildad, the Shuhite,” is mentioned second. He is also always second in the following rounds of conversation. Shuah is not far from Teman, because Bildad and Eliphaz make an agreement to go to Job. Bildad is most likely a descendant of Abraham and Keturah, through Shuah their youngest son (Gen 25:1-2).
Job’s third friend is “Zophar, the Naamathite. Naama is a nomadic tribe from central Arabia. Zophar always takes the third dialogue with Job. He, too, will have lived near the other two friends, for he too is included in the appointment to visit Job.
The friends’ motive was “to sympathize” with Job “and comfort him”. Uz (where Job lives) and Teman (where Eliphaz comes from) are in Edom, Shuah (where Bildad comes from) is on the border of Edom, and Naama (where Zophar comes from) is a little further away. Some time will have passed before they hear the news of the disasters that have struck Job. Then they go to him, a journey that also takes some time. A few months later, when they arrive at Job and see him in the distance, they do not recognize him.
How great must be the suffering of Job, and by how many horrors, both physical and spiritual, he must have passed through, that his friends do not recognize him (verse 12). His torn clothes and his shaven head reveal the festering ulcers that cover his whole body in all their horror. This awful sight they have deeply absorbed for seven days.
We also see, for example, in Naomi’s case, that the time of trial has apparently made her unrecognizable. When she returns to Bethlehem, they say of her: “Is this Naomi?” (Rth 1:19). Naomi is marked by the hardships she has experienced in her life. However, the passage of time also plays a role for her. That is not the case with Job. From one moment to the next he has turned from a prosperous man into a wreck of a human being. Job has endured all the trials and tribulations. Yet he remains sick. That’s because God wants to teach him things now.
In the months that passed between the disasters that struck him and the visit of his friends, Job will also have thought about the meaning of what happened to him. It is in this state that the friends find him. What Job has thought about and what the friends see will characterize their conversations.
The friends do not lack real concern and compassion (verse 13). When they see him, “they raised their voices and wept”. They do not suppress their feelings, contrary to what we sometimes do. His misery touches them deeply. Just as Job did, “each of them tore his robe”. Every friend is personally involved. Like another expression of sadness, they throw “dust over their heads toward the sky”.
Thus they sit “with him”. The words “with him” show that they are really there for him, to share in his grief. They sit “for seven days and seven nights” with him (cf. Gen 50:10; 1Sam 31:13). All this time, not a word is said by them. They don’t pay a quick visit to a sick bed. They have an eye for his great sorrow, they see “that [his] pain was very great”.
Today’s man turns his head when he sees suffering. He does not want to be confronted with it. Life has to be fun and attractive. Where can you find this kind of pity and compassion like Job’s friends today? Is it present with us, children of God, or do we prefer to run away from it or walk away from it? The friends of Job stay with him, or as it says here, “with him”. They endure the awful sight and stench of his festering wounds. Are there still such friends? Where are they? Who can compare themselves to them? That they later speak wrong of their friend is another matter, but doesn’t change the example they set here.
The friends will have thought about Job’s’ suffering and its cause on the way and in those seven days. Their view is that Job must have sinned very much, given his enormous suffering. Their big mistake is that they, each in his own way, hold on to the accepted theory that God, because He is righteous, never causes undeserved suffering. They can only imagine suffering as retribution. How different, richer and deeper, are God’s intentions with suffering that He permits over His own than their strict and hard theories. The pity of friends shows that all human help is ultimately insufficient. God is our true Helper and, finally, only Helper (Psa 60:11; 146:3-5; Isa 2:22).
Unfortunately, Job thinks in the same direction. He too cannot get away from the thought that God wants to punish him through suffering. And because he is not aware of any evil, he comes to blame God for His injustice, which leads him to consider Him his enemy. Job’s greatest need is not the loss of everything, but that he experiences that God has turned against him. At the same time, this is proof that he is not cursing God, but that he misses Him. God will lead Job to get the right thoughts about Him. He will show him that His ultimate goal of all suffering is to know Him better and to see that for those who love God, “all things … work together for good” (Rom 8:28).
There are some big differences between Job and his friends:
1. The friends have suffered nothing – Job is a believer who is desperate because of suffering.
2. The words of the friends are calm, well-considered – the words of Job are often intense and deeply emotional.
3. The friends are firmly convinced of the truth of their claims, they defend God and warn and condemn Job – Job struggles desperately and seeks the meaning of his suffering.
4. From the words of the friends it is clear that they have a certain degree of knowledge of God, but that true fellowship with God is lacking – with Job, in addition to expressions of rebellion about which he later repents, we also see expressions of great faith in and trust in God.
5. The friends say nothing to God, they only speak about Him, they philosophize and theologize, but they never speak to Him – Job is perfectly clear and transparent, he wants to be honest with God, he tells Him everything, all his feelings of doubt and fear.