Job and His Friends

The book of Job portrays poetic dialogue between Job and his friends Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar and Elihu. When Job is suffering, his friends arrive to comfort him. At first, they remain silent and sit with him for seven days. Then, they begin to discuss Job’s condition with him. The friends represent the best of ancient Near Eastern thinking about God, suffering and the human condition, and they begin to debate about God’s justice and how it relates to Job’s suffering.

However, the friends approach the discussion with a big assumption about wisdom and how God’s justice plays out in the world. They approach a complex wisdom situation with a simple wisdom mentality. Simple wisdom proposes that righteous behavior leads to success and sinful behavior leads to suffering. Complex wisdom is more nuanced in that sometimes the righteous person suffers and the wicked person prospers.[1]

From a simple wisdom mentality or a strict justice perspective, the friends insist that Job must have sinned against God in the present or in the past for him to experience such suffering. They even begin to make up possible sins that Job could have committed. At every point in the dialogue, Job proclaims his innocence which shows that the situation needs to be approached from a complex wisdom mentality. Later in the book, Job’s friend Elihu offers an advanced perspective to the simple wisdom position. He explains that God is just and runs the world according to justice, but he explains that suffering may be a warning to avoid future sin while building character and teaching valuable lessons. Elihu concludes the responses by Job’s friends which represents everything that ancient wisdom had to offer.  

Job turns to God who gives him the ultimate wisdom perspective. God gives Job a glimpse at the complexity of universe and explains that even though the world is an amazing creation it is not designed to prevent suffering. God explains that Job does not have sufficient knowledge to make claims of injustice or demand an explanation. Rather Job needs to trust in God and his wisdom and character. Job acknowledges God’s wisdom and character, and he repents and retracts his prior statements about God. At the end of the book an epilogue is given which circles back to the dialogues with the friends, and God explains that Job’s friends were wrong and that indeed Job was righteous.

[1] Joanne J. Jung, “Wisdom Literature.” Open Biola. Web. 17 Sept. 2017.

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