Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Job 12: Job After Zophar

Zophar did not have much to say to Job and none of it provided any comfort. Job had a lot to say in return. 

This post is part of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning. At the end of each post you will find a link to the next.

Job Responds to His Friends

Zophar finished speaking and Job responded with the longest speech so far, occupying 3 chapters. This speech again showed change in Job's understanding of his situation.

  • His opening lamentation began by trying to curse the night of his conception and the day of his birth.
  • After Eliphaz's speech, he asked for compassion and kindness from his friends and attested to his innocence
  • After Bildad's speech, he began to face the realities of his situation and began to ask the tough questions
  • After Zophar's speech, he began to defend himself against the barrages of his friends. He also furthered developed the ways of God that troubled him.

Job opened with an attack and a restatement of some earlier points:

Then Job answered: “Doubtless, you are the people, and wisdom will die with you. I also have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Who does not know such things as these? I am a laughingstock to my friend, I, who called on God and whom he answered, —a righteous and blameless man is a laughingstock! For calamity, there is derision (according to the ideas of the fortunate)— a fate for those whose feet slip! But the tents of robbers are peaceful, and those who provoke God are confident— who carry their god in their hands. (Job 12:1-6, The Net Bible)

Job began with what has become one of my favorite lines in all of the book of Job, "Doubtless, you are the people, and wisdom will die with you." Here was sarcasm with a keen edge. Without the sarcasm the words meant that the embodiment of wisdom in these three men was of such caliber that the world had never seen its equal and never would again. Job, of course, meant the opposite. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar provided no more than the prevailing wisdom of the day, but they projected an attitude of having great stature.

Job again attested to his innocence, but in a bitter rebuke, "a righteous and blameless man is a laughingstock." And his words, "For calamity, there i derision (according to the ideas of the fortunate)--a fate for those whose feet slip," stressed an important point for us. We really do not feel the pain of others, no matter how imaginative we are. This was the foundation of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar's lack of empathy. They had the luxury of detachment, because they had never personally suffered without apparent reason. 

Finally he contrasted his position to that of robbers and idolaters who that very day were living in peace and confidence.

At some point, Job would overshoot the mark and, as Elihu put it, "justify himself rather than God." But for now, we can see already that the trials were strengthening him.

Job's directed his next words to Eliphaz, the scholar. He admonished him to observe more broadly. By doing so, he would see that the Lord had his hand in Job's calamity. Perhaps Job was thinking of "nature red in tooth and claw" and natural disasters that affect the innocent and guilty alike. In stating this, Job continued to uphold the power of the Lord to do what He pleased. Here is what he said:

“But now, ask the animals and they will teach you, or the birds of the air and they will tell you. Or speak to the earth and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea declare to you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this, in whose hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all the human race. (Job 12:7-10)

Job then picked up Bildad's theme of ancient wisdom and told him that contemporary events could also inform:

Does not the ear test words, as the tongue tastes food? Is not wisdom found among the aged, does not life bring understanding? (Job 12:11-12)

With these connections made, Job tried to drive home his point that the Lord was responsible for calamities of all sorts:

With God are wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his. 

If he tears down, it cannot be rebuilt; if he shuts a person in, it cannot be opened. 

If he holds back the waters, then they dry up; if he releases them, they destroy the land. 

With him are strength and prudence; both the one who goes astray and the one who misleads are his. He leads counselors away stripped and makes fools of judges. He loosens the bonds of kings and binds a loincloth around their waist. He leads priests away stripped and overthrows the potentates. He deprives the trusted advisors of speech and takes away the discernment of elders. 

He pours contempt on noblemen and disarms the mighty. 

He reveals the deep things of darkness, and brings deep shadows into the light. 

He makes nations great, and destroys them; he extends the boundaries of nations and disperses them. 

He deprives the leaders of the earth of their understanding; he makes them wander in a trackless desert waste. They grope about in darkness without light; he makes them stagger like drunkards. 

Indeed, my eye has seen all this, my ear has heard and understood it. What you know, I know also; I am not inferior to you. (Job 12:13-13:2)

Jesus taught, in reference to God's kindness and mercy, that He, "Brings rain on the just and the unjust." By this Jesus meant that God provided for the needs of all. Job presented another side, "If he holds back the waters, then they dry up; if he releases them, they destroy the land." Job spoke of drought and flood and said they were also from God. We must remember from the first two chapters that in Job's case, Job spoke correctly. His calamity has come from the Lord. Remember that Satan said to the Lord, "But stretch out your hand." And after the first set of calamities, the Lord took full responsibility when he said, "You stirred me up to destroy him without reason."

You should be feeling uncomfortable by now. The concept has already proven too much for Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar and that is why they continued to pound on the theme that Job must have done something. What is your reaction. Perhaps, you are now wishing you had not come along on this study. Is the Lord the author of all calamity and suffering? No other book in the Bible raises the questions so completely and harshly than Job. Unfortunately, the telling is hardly complete; three-quarters of the book stretch before us. Do not despair, there is hope ahead, but it will take some time to get there. And unless we fully enter into the tension that Job raised, we will not appreciate its resolution.

Thursday: Job's speech continues

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home