To embrace the vast book of Job in one study is impossible. So we limit ourselves to Job’s words directed to God, and to a final prayer Job offered on behalf of his accusers.
You remember the setting. Satan gains permission from God to strip Job of all his possessions, then to kill all of Job’s family except his wife, and finally to cover the man’s body with boils. Job curses the day he was born with an elaborate speech. Then one after another his friends point out that the punishment from God surely must fit the crime. Job is incensed with their false accusations and longs for a hearing with God to vindicate his reputation. In a series of alternating speeches Job directs his remarks largely to his accusers. At times in his earlier speeches he directs his words towards God : 7:12-21; 10:2-22; 13:18-14:22; 30:20-23. Among the points he makes are these:
- Am I a dangerous monster? (7:12).
- Why do you torture me even in my dreams? (7:13-15).
- Please let me alone-my life is short enough and I hate it! (7:16; 10:20-22).
- Humans can’t be that important to get this kind of attention (7:17- 18).
- If I did wrong, why should you take it personally? (7:20).
- Why pick on me? (7:20).
- Act now to forgive me-soon I’ll be dead and it will be too late. (7:21).
- Let me know the charges against me (10:2).
- Do you enjoy torturing your own creatures? (10:3, 8).
- Are you on the side of the wicked? (10:3).
- Surely you don’t need to torture me like a mere human who tries to get the truth by torturing someone! (10:4-6).
- You know I’m not guilty. If you weren’t so strong I could beat you in court. (10:7; 13:18).
- Did you go to all the trouble of making me and taking care of me just to do this to me? (10:10-13).
- Like fresh soldiers you bring these accusers again against me (10:16-17).
- Why did you make me–I wish I had died in a miscarriage! (10:18, 19).
- Show me where I have gone wrong–I can’t think of anything I did. It’s up to you to show me so I can repent. (13:23).
- Why do you hide from me? I cry to you and you don’t answer me! Why? (30:20)
- Why torment such a temporary creature as a man. He only has a few days anyway and then there’s the grave where he know nothing at all. (14:1-12, 13-22).
- Please hide me in hell (the grave, that is) until this is over and then remember me (14:13).
- If you called me from the grave in longing for me I would answer you (14:14-17).
God replies in a single lengthy speech in chaps. 38-41. Job’s final speech to God comes in 42:1-6, where Job humbles himself and repents.
Near the end God breaks the silence once. He warns Eliphaz to ask Job to intercede for him and his two friends for misrepresenting God. Job’s prayer is accepted (42:7- 9). God restores Job’s losses when he prays for his friends (v.11). It appears that if Job had not been willing to pray for his accusers that disaster would have befallen them and his tragic circumstances would have remained unchanged as well. Yet God never mentions in advance that Job will personally benefit from praying for those who caused him added anguish.
Jesus appears to go even beyond Job who prayed for his friends. Jesus commanded his followers to pray for their enemies so they could be recognized as children of their Father who sends rain on the good and the bad. (Matthew 5:44- 46). Stephen prays for his murderers, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60).
For reflection and discussion:
- Job’s wife urged him to curse God and die. Job chose to do neither, but curses the day of his birth? What keeps him alive if he longs for death (3:20-26; 7:14-15)? What keeps him from ending his own life?
- Look at Job’s complaints he spoke against God–did he exhaust the list of possibilities? Are these accusations and complaints fair?
- Could his words to God be called prayers?
- What do we make of God’s conclusion that Job has spoken of him aright, unlike Job’s friends (42:8)? Is this possible?
- Would it have been better for Job to simply keep silent and not pour out his complaints against his friends and against God? (See Jeremiah 3:26-30).
- How does one pray honestly for the welfare of an enemy? Is the prayer pointless if the enemy does not change their behavior or hostile attitude?
- At the end Job was given seven sons and three daughters apparently to replace the ten who were killed when the house of the eldest son collapsed (1:18, 19). Can the loss of children killed by tragedy be compensated by the birth of others?
- It appears curious that the three daughters of Job are named and described (42:13-15), but not the seven sons. What do you make of this?
- Who was responsible for the death of Job’s children? Satan? The Lord? The children who may have sinned as Job suspected (1:6)?
- Several good friends have recently died of cancer. Is their death the work of Satan?