Thursday, August 07, 2003

Job 6: Job Responds to Eliphaz

Eliphaz has spoken, sometimes cruelly, about Job's condition. Job now responds. 

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

Following Eliphaz's accusations, Job found himself with challenges on four sides.

  • His losses, for we must not forget that he grieved for his children and servants.
  • His health and pain, that made him long for death.
  • His friends and their accusations
  • His God who has assailed him.

Job's response to Eliphaz touched all sides of the pressures boxing Job in.

Job began:

Then Job responded: “Oh if only my grief could be weighed, and my misfortune laid on the scales too! But because it is heavier than the sand of the sea, that is why my words have been wild. For the arrows of the Almighty are within me; my spirit drinks their poison; God’s sudden terrors are arrayed against me. (Job 6:1-4, The Net Bible)  

Job explained the rashness of his opening words on the basis of his great grief and misfortune. Take a balance scale, on one side place the weight of his grief and misfortune and on the other place the sand of the sea. The scale falls to grief and misfortune.

Job also understood, and we do, that his misfortune had come from God. He felt shot through with poisoned arrows. He saw the terrors from God surrounding him like a massive army. Perhaps the "sudden terror" was the surprise attack of Eliphaz. 

Does the wild donkey bray when it is near grass? Or does the ox low near its fodder? Can food that is tasteless be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in the white of an egg? I have refused to touch such things; they are like loathsome food to me. (Job 6:5-7)

Why should Job's words not have been rash? A wild donkey grazing has no need to make a sound. The same is true for an ox. You would hear from them only when legitimate needs go unmet. To a person in agony, even a small inconvenience can loom large, if only because it is one more thing to deal with. For Job, his food had all the attraction of uncooked unsalted egg whites. 

Oh that my request would be realized, and that God would grant me what I long for! And that God would be willing to crush me, that he would let loose his hand and kill me. Then I would yet have my comfort, then I would rejoice, in spite of pitiless fear, for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One. 

What is my strength, that I should wait? and what is my end, that I should prolong my life? Is my strength like that of stones? or is my flesh of bronze? Is not my power to help myself nothing, and has not every resource been driven from me? (Job 6:8-13)

Because Job could not see his situation ever improving, he wanted the end to come. The Lord had said, "Only spare his life" and Satan had said, "Perfect."  Job now wished and prayed that He could die. To go on living in pain was pointless. Job could at least die with his integrity intact. A man or woman in pain can endure much when there is hope or when they have reserves to call upon to better the situation. Job had no strength, no sense of future, and no resources. He wanted his life to end. [As a commentary on the assisted suicide debate of today, the lessons of Job fall on the side of sticking it out. In an age with no pain relief, no itch relief, no anti-depressants, and so forth, Job endured and asked for God to make the call.]

To the one in despair, kindness should come from his friend even if he forsakes the fear of the Almighty. My brothers have been as treacherous as a seasonal stream, and as the riverbeds of the intermittent streams that flow away. They are dark because of ice; snow is piled up over them. When they are warmed, they dry up, when it is hot, they vanish from their place. Caravans turn aside from their routes; they go into the wasteland and perish. The caravans of Tema looked intently for these streams; the traveling merchants of Sheba hoped for them. They were distressed, because each one had been so confident; they arrived there, but were disappointed. For now you have become like these streams that are no help; you see a terror, and are afraid. (Job 6:14-21)

This is marvelous imagery and should have been an effective rebuke to the attitude of Job's friends. The "seasonal streams" or wadis are riverbeds that can flow with water or not depending on distant rains or snow melts. Job painted an image of a caravan in desperate need of water for men and animals. They seek one of these streams and find it empty and dry. Because of this, many a caravan have perished. One can imagine Job seeing his friends coming and hoping for comfort. Job likened the intensity of his suffering to the hot sun and wind that dried up the water that he had expected and hoped for. So what if Job had said faithless things, his friends still owed in kindness.

Have I ever said, ‘Give me something, and from your fortune make gifts in my favor’? Or ‘Deliver me from the enemy’s power, and from the hand of tyrants ransom me’? (Job 6:22-23)

Job reminded his friends that he had never asked them or bothered them to help him in any way. This would have been from times past and in the present. Specifically, it would have included the time between Job's business losses and his illness. In effect, Job was saying that he had given no cause for his friends to think wrongly of him.

Teach me and I, for my part, will be silent; explain to me how I have been mistaken. How painful are honest words! But what does your reproof prove? Do you intend to criticize mere words, and treat the words of a despairing man as wind? Yes, you would gamble for the fatherless, and auction off your friend. (Job 6:24-27)

Job's rebuke of Eliphaz continued. He said in effect, "Give me truth that explains my situation or provides honest correction. Cut me some slack for my outburst and rash words." Job felt betrayed by Eliphaz's rebuke--auctioned off as a slave as it were.

Now then, be good enough to look at me; and I will not lie to your face! Relent, let there be no falsehood; reconsider, for my righteousness is intact! Is there any falsehood on my lips? Can my mouth not discern evil things? (Job 6:28-30)

Job concluded his appeal and rebuke of Eliphaz with a challenge to really look and see if there is any moral cause for the calamity assaulting him. He asked for investigation and inquiry. He affirmed his own honesty.

Job said more, but that will be for Friday.

Friday: Job's First Prayer

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


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