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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Job 16

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Job Answers Eliphaz

A. Job laments his miserable comforters.

1. (Job 16:1-5) Job reproaches his pitiless friends.

Then Job answered and said:
"I have heard many such things;
Miserable comforters are you all!
Shall words of wind have an end?
Or what provokes you that you answer?
I also could speak as you do,
If your soul were in my soul's place.
I could heap up words against you,
And shake my head at you;
But I would strengthen you with my mouth,
And the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief."

a. I have heard many such things: Job reminded his critics that all they gave him was the "conventional wisdom" explanation of an absolute relationship of cause and effect to make sense of his suffering. Job's friends said, "Everyone knows these things" (as in Job 15:14-15); Job's response was "It is all what we have heard before; I have heard many such things).

i. "These sayings of the ancients are not strange to me; but they do not apply to my case: ye see me in affliction, ye should endeavour to console me. This ye do not; and yet ye pretend to do it! Miserable comforters are ye all." (Clarke)

b. Miserable comforters are you all! Job hoped this reproach would shame his accusers into seeing just how greatly they failed to help Job. Their too-great confidence in their own wisdom made them unable to properly sympathize with Job. They did much better in the days when they simply sat silently with the suffering Job (Job 2:11-13).

i. Trapp attempted to capture the heart of Job's complaint: "You charge me for slighting the consolations of God, and pretend to come purposely to comfort me; but such cold comforters I have seldom met with; for instead of abating and allaying my sorrows, you do all you can to increase and heighten them. Is this your kindness to your friend?"

ii. "Job, with purpose, chose a word (amal) Eliphaz used to suggest Job had conceived his own misery ('trouble,' Job 15:35); and he threw it back at him in the epithet 'miserable comforters' (Job 16:2)." (Smick)

c. Shall words of wind have an end? Job just wanted his friends to stop their windy speeches, full of condemnation. It seems that this part of Job's trial was a severe as the losses described in Job 1 and 2.

i. "The chief reason fro being suspicious of the theology of Job's friends is that it is so obviously lacking in mercy." (Mason)

d. I also could speak as you do … I could heap up words against you, and shake my head at you: Job recognized that he could indeed be in the same place of unsympathetic condemnation towards his friends as they were towards him. Yet he also saw that his suffering had changed his perspective, and would now instead strengthen and comfort them.

i. "The folly of criticizing sorrow from the vantage point of prosperity is declared. Job said that he could speak as they if they were in his place, but he would not do it. He would attempt to strengthen them." (Morgan)

ii. One of the great advantages of personal suffering is that it makes the sufferer far more sympathetic towards others who suffer. Those who otherwise would have been harsh and strict towards those suffering will often find themselves much more willing to give strength and comfort towards others who suffer similar grief.

2. (Job 16:6-14) Job laments the rejection by his friends.

"Though I speak, my grief is not relieved;
And if I remain silent, how am I eased?
But now He has worn me out;
You have made desolate all my company.
You have shriveled me up,
And it is a witness against me;
My leanness rises up against me
And bears witness to my face.
He tears me in His wrath, and hates me;
He gnashes at me with His teeth;
My adversary sharpens His gaze on me.
They gape at me with their mouth,
They strike me reproachfully on the cheek,
They gather together against me.
God has delivered me to the ungodly,
And turned me over to the hands of the wicked.
I was at ease, but He has shattered me;
He also has taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces;
He has set me up for His target,
His archers surround me.
He pierces my heart and does not pity;
He pours out my gall on the ground.
He breaks me with wound upon wound;
He runs at me like a warrior."

a. Though I speak, my grief is not relieved; and if I remain silent, how am I eased: Job felt trapped by both options. If he speaks, he finds no relief from his unsympathetic friends; yet silence does nothing to ease his grief.

i. "Many forms of grief find relief in expression … but Job says that he cannot get any assuagement of his grief through expressing it." (Chambers)

b. Now He has worn me out: Job here seemed close to surrender to God; to simply acknowledge that in his struggle with God, God had indeed won. God had stripped everything away from Job and exhausted him. Job's exhausted condition wasa witness against him.

i. You have made desolate all my company either refers to the loss of Job's family (described in Job 1), or in the desolate manner of Job's unhelpful companions.

c. He tears at me in His wrath, and hates me … my adversary sharpens His gaze on me: Job felt he was in a supreme conflict; not with his friends, not with his circumstances, but with his God - or at least with his prior conception of God and how God worked things. His crisis threw all that prior conception into uncertainty and he now felt that he was under attack from God.

i. Some commentators (such as Adam Clarke) believe that the He of Job 16:9 is Satan and not God; G. Campbell Morgan wondered if Job had "seen some faint outline of the shadow of the foe," having some perception of the work of Satan described in the first two chapters. Nevertheless, "Verse 11 explicitly names God as the assailant; but the plural in verse 10 suggests that Job is also complaining about God's human allies." (Andersen)

ii. "Eliphaz accused Job of attacking God, but Job claimed the reverse was true; God assailed him." (Smick)

iii. "It is infinitely painful to Job that God is now inexplicably acting like an enemy. . . . Only a literal translation can do justice to the savagery of Job's description of God's vicious attack. He is like a ferocious beast (16:9f.), a traitor (16:11), a wrestler (16:12a, b), an archer (12c, 13a), a swordsman (13b, 14)." (Andersen)

iv. "What strange language is this from him who elsewhere calleth God his salvation, his redeemer, Job 13:15, 16, 18; 19:25, and will by-and-by call him his witness in heaven, to whom his eye poureth out tears!" (Trapp)

v. "He sees himself as the object of God's wrath. He pictures God as a savage beast, hunting him down, and tearing him apart limb from limb. Our suffering can give us a distorted view of God, can't it?" (Lawson)

vi. It seems that Job here wrestled with God just as intensely as Jacob wrestled with the Angel of the Lord (Genesis 32:22-32). The similarity of the struggle is instructive, given the difference in their character. Jacob wrestled with God as a carnal man who needed to be conquered. Job struggled with God as a godly man also needed to be conquered, or at least more conquered.

d. They gather together against me: Part of Job's agony was related to the idea that this entire struggle was so public, acted out in front of the audience of his friends and onlookers. At least Jacob's struggle with God was private; the public nature of Job's crisis made him feel that his friends were on God's side against him in some way, or used by God as another way to deepen his crisis (God has delivered me to the ungodly).

i. In recalling the attacks of the ungodly, Job remembered the cruel attacks of the Chaldeans and Sabeans that came upon his servants and livestock, as recorded in the first chapter.

e. I was at ease, but He has shattered me: Job piled one poetic description upon another to powerfully communicate his feeling that God was against him. Accord to how Job felt:

- God had assaulted Job as in a street fight (He also has taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces)
- God was the pitiless archer and Job was the target (He has set me up for His target)
- God was the warrior who utterly slew Job (He breaks me with wound upon wound; He runs at me like a warrior)

i. There is a sense in which Job is a prophetic picture of Jesus Christ, the righteous one on the cross who nevertheless became a target of God's righteous wrath; not because he deserved it, but because it was in the good and greater plan of God to do so.

ii. We especially recognize the idea from Job 16:10: They gape at me with their mouth, they strike me reproachfully on the cheek, they gather together against me. "Our Saviour was so served according to the letter; they gaped upon him, mowed at him, buffeted him on the face, gathered themselves together against him, as here. Hence some of the ancients call Job a figure and type of Christ, who was thus dealt with both literally and also figuratively." (Trapp)

iii. He pours out my gall on the ground: "The gall is affixed to the liver, and when that is poured out; the man cannot live, because his wound is mortal and incurable." (Trapp)

B. Job's continuing misery.

1. (Job 16:15-17) Job wonders why his righteous life has deserved his dark trial.

"I have sewn sackcloth over my skin,
And laid my head in the dust.
My face is flushed from weeping,
And on my eyelids is the shadow of death;
Although no violence is in my hands,
And my prayer is pure."

a. I have sewn sackcloth over my skin: Job recounted the demonstrations of his grief including sackcloth, dust on the head, and weeping.

b. Although no violence is in my hands, and my prayer is pure: Job simply could not reconcile his previous righteous and pious life with his present desolation. Why would God attack (as described in Job 16:12-14) such a righteous and pious man?

i. My prayer is pure: "There is one thing that he will not let go - the testimony of his conscience, that he has lived as the friend of God, not as his enemy. He is certain that he does not belong to the class whose sins and punishment his friends have set before him for a warning. To this certainty he clings as to a plank in the devouring waves. Deep is his anguish, but he is conscience-free." (Bradley)

2. (Job 16:18-22) Job protests to creation.

"O earth, do not cover my blood,
And let my cry have no resting place!
Surely even now my witness is in heaven,
And my evidence is on high.
My friends scorn me;
My eyes pour out tears to God.
Oh, that one might plead for a man with God,
As a man pleads for his neighbor!
For when a few years are finished,
I shall go the way of no return."

a. O earth, do not cover my blood: Job here begged the creation to not erase his life. If he were to die in his crises, Job at least wanted his blood to remain evident as a testimony.

i. "The earth is said to cover that blood which lies undiscovered and unrevenged; of which see on Genesis 4:10-11; Isaiah 26:21." (Poole)

ii. "With a cry of almost bewildering boldness, he appeals to his mother-earth, from which the blood of righteous Abel once cried up to God, not to cover his blood, when the end comes at last, but to let the cry of his wronged life go up from her bosom, and find no rest till it has pierced the ear of God." (Bradley)

iii. "Job thought that he would die before he could be vindicated before his peers; so he was concerned that the injustice done to him should never be forgotten." (Smick)

b. Surely even now my witness is in heaven: We see here the mental and spiritual struggle at work in Job. A few verses before (as in Job 16:12-14) he believed God fought against him will all His divine strength and skill. Nevertheless, Job also truly did believe that he had a righteous witness in heaven that would vindicate him as all the evidence was revealed.

i. "In the midst of all this travail of soul, his faith triumphed over his doubt. He believed that God knew the truth about him, and would be his witness. . . . This is another instance of the light breaking forth, if only for a moment, from his deepest life." (Morgan)

ii. "By 'witness' he intended a watcher, who knows, and knows all. He was surrounded by men who were perfectly honest, and were his friends, but who failed in what they were saying to him, because they did not know all. They thought they did. . . . In the midst of the suffering of this misunderstanding, he declared his conviction that there was One in heaven watching, understanding, knowing all." (Morgan)

c. My friends scorn me; my eyes pour out tears to God: In one poetic and powerful sentence, Job described his present agony. He was sometimes confident in his future and ultimate vindication, yet also lived in the agony of his moment.

d. Oh, that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleads for his neighbor! Job here recognized that what he needed was a true advocate in heaven; someone to plead his case before God.

i. Job anticipated the need that would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who is both our mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) and our advocate (1 John 2:1) in heaven before God the Father. "It is plain that the mystery of man's redemption by Christ was known to the ancient patriarchs, as hath been oft noted before, and to Job among others, Job 19:25." (Poole)

ii. Job knew that he needed a mediator, someone to bridge the gap between himself and a holy, great God. Job also knew by faith that such a person existed and could be trusted. This made Job a believer in Jesus before Jesus ever walked the earth; he had faith in God's messiah to come.

iii. In anticipation of the Messiah, Job essentially said: "Christ, who is God and man, will plead my cause with his Father; he can prevail, because he is God equal to the Father; he will undertake it, because he will be man like to me." (Trapp)

iv. This reminds us that although the comfort of faith in God's unseen hand and plan was available to Job, it is even more available to us in light of the finished work of Jesus Christ and His exaltation to the right hand of God the Father in heaven.

e. For when a few years are finished, I shall go the way of no return: Job would not live long enough to see his longing fulfilled in Jesus Christ, yet He would be eventually comforted by the anticipation of that fulfillment.

i. "Perhaps it is enough to find here another expression of the thought that a man's short life-span does not give enough time to solve the problems of life. With increasing clarity Job is seeing that satisfactory answers might be gained only when he has more direct dealings with God after death." (Andersen)

© 2007 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

Study Guide for Esther 1 ← Prior Book
Study Guide for Psalm 1 Next Book →
Study Guide for Job 15 ← Prior Chapter
Study Guide for Job 17 Next Chapter →
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