Satan is unflagging in his attack on Job. He first takes Job’s riches and family, but Job remains strong. Then Satan takes Job’s very health and begins the long game of persistent torment. Job is in emotional and physical agony, and Satan even deprives him of rest (7:3-4). He tosses and turns, tormented with visions and nightmares (7:13:15). And to the boils and wrestles sleep, Satan adds another thorn: Job’s friends have arrived.
Job receives his friends without words, but their presence has not gone unnoticed, and they are doubtless welcome (at first). When he finally speaks after seven days and nights of silence, it is to curse the day of his birth. He has lost everything, and even God seems to have forsaken him: Surely, in this circumstance, it would be better not to have been born. God has smitten him and closed him in, and he has no rest.
Immediately Eliphaz responds: Calmly, patiently, lovingly… and yet, he says to Job, you do know why all this is happening to you, don’t you? “Who that was innocent ever perished?” Come now, Job! Innocents do not suffer like this! No, no… you know why you are being punished. Come, tell us your sin, confess it, and God will be merciful! Eliphaz seems shocked that someone so knowledgeable as Job could have forgotten this basic theological truth.
But that is not the worst of it. Eliphaz, attempting to comfort Job, asks, “Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?” Job might answer with a resounding “Yes!”… and that is also the reason Job is so troubled. His fear of God, his upright integrity, is so exceptional that it is known to the sons of God and Jehovah himself. Why, then, has Jehovah forsaken him? Why has Jehovah set himself against Job, his most loyal and faithful servant?
That is the question Job asks, again and again. And each time he asks it, the angels grow more worried, and Satan give another leap of demonic joy. Because each time he asks, his friends chide and rebuke him. With “friends” like these, Satan chortles, who needs enemies? As they attempt to comfort and help him, each friend wounds Job to his very heart.
In 5:3-4, Eliphaz proclaims, “I have seen the fool taking root… his children are far from safety: they are crushed in the gate, and there is no one to deliver them.” This, to a man who only days before had lost all his children as they were crushed to death by the very winds of God. There was, indeed, no one to deliver them… and Eliphaz does not even realize what he has said. Instead, he continues: the offspring of the righteous man is many, he says, forgetting that he is speaking to a man who is now childless. Each one of these friends does the same thing. Is it any wonder, then that Job, fed up with their arrogance and condescension, says, “worthless physicians are you all! Oh, that you would keep silent, and that be your wisdom!”
It is here that we must be careful, for the words of God at the end (42:7) makes it clear that when these friends speak of God, they are not to be trusted. They are right occasionally, but they are often wrong, their words guided by a false understanding of God and how he interacts with us. In fact, it is exactly this false understanding that Job finds so horrifying. If we find ourselves quoting Job’s friends either to reassure ourselves or to comfort those in mourning, we have gone far wrong indeed.
These friends, far from helping Job, only remind him again and again that his children are dead; he is dying; and God has apparently turned away from. And they tell him to repent… from what? There is nothing to repent of, as we see from the mouth of God himself–Job is blameless and upright. Satan laughs every time one of his friends opens their mouth, and cackles every time he sees Job wince. Any moment now, he thinks.
Any moment, Job will break.
“He wishes the universe to justify itself, not because he wishes it to be caught out, but because he really wishes it to be justified… He speaks of the Almighty as his enemy, but he never doubts, at the back of his mind, that his enemy has some kind of a case which he does not understand. He is anxious to be convinced; that is, he thinks that God could convince him… he lashes the stars, but it is not to silence them; it is to make them speak.”