Chapters 15-20



"Why do bad things happen to good people?" Or to put the question in the words of the Coasters, "Why is everybody always pickin' on me?" and, "Where is God when it hurts?" 

The book of Job asks all these questions and more without ever giving any easy answers. In fact, it disdains easy answers and those who offer them. Maybe that's why it's one of my favorite books of the Bible.


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Chapter 15

Eliphaz still cannot admit that sometimes wicked people prosper and that good people can suffer.  He refuses to face facts.  His form of dialog is to make assertions, but not use arguments to back them up.

Verse 2 - To Eliphaz, Job has not behaved like a wise man, because he spends so much time talking nonsense.

One way to interpret what Eliphaz is saying is, "Job, your so-called words of wisdom are nothing more than belching!"  Or, Eliphaz can mean that Job's words are making Job himself miserable because he's basically "eating" destruction.

The hot east wind is a violent wind that comes from the desert.  It's this wind, by the way, that killed Job's children.  Eliphaz could be implying that Job is thinking too much with his emotions.  In Hebrew thought, the belly was the seat of the emotions.  So Job's own destructive words are firing up his emotions and destroying him.

However, maybe Eliphaz needs to realize that there are some things in life worth getting upset over.  Eliphaz would fit in well with the school of Christianity that believes one should deny anything tragic or trying that happens, put a smile on one's face, and just praise the Lord.

Verse 3 - Evidently Eliphaz doesn't believe that God is listening to their conversation.  Job is the one with faith, despite how pious and "orthodox" his friends sound.  Job calls out for God to answer him.  His friends just talk about God as an abstraction.

Verse 4 -

Eliphaz: You're making me lose my faith!  You're causing me  discomfort!

Job: Hey, who is the one who is suffering here?

Verse 5 - Eliphaz kind of sounds like Paul here.  Job's "old nature" is making him say what he does.

Verses 7 - 10 - "How did you become so smart that you know more than the rest of us?  The most respected and influential thinkers in our society (the gray-haired and the aged) agree with our position, Job, and not with yours."  But does age necessarily grant wisdom?

Here the book of Job is providing a balance to other pieces of Wisdom Literature which say that it does.

And is truth determined by consensus?  Our opinion poll crazy society may act as if it is, but, in the Bible, Truth is an Absolute and humanity's thoughts or feelings about it are irrelevant.

Verses 11 - 13 - Eliphaz may be speaking here about his "prophecy" in Chapter 4, verses 12 - 21.  At any rate, he's claiming that he and Job's other friends are speaking the words of God and that Job should accept them as such.

It's ironic that, though Job's friends believe that he is being arrogant in claiming to be righteous, they themselves claim to know the mind of God!

It's interesting, also, that, when Job feels he is calling out to God, his friends believe he is turning away.

Verses 14 - 16 - Eliphaz continues to insist that Job can't possibly be righteous.  Eliphaz doesn't even think that the angels in heaven (or he could mean "the saints") can stand up to God's scrutiny.

Verse 16 is a wonderful, graphic description of fallen humanity.  The only flaw in Eliphaz's thinking is that, according to the Bible, Job WAS righteous!

Verses 17 - 19 - Just because someone keeps insisting "Listen to me!" doesn't mean that he's right.  Eliphaz reminds me of people I've known who will say, "You're not hearing me," when what they are really upset about is, "You're not agreeing with me."

Here, Eliphaz is supposedly going to share the wisdom that has been handed down from some sort of golden age.  Traditional teachings and interpretations aren't always right.

For years I believed a Conservative Evangelical party line regarding women's ordination and miraculous spiritual gifts in today's world.  It was only through studying again and again what the whole of scripture taught about these subjects that I came to reject what I had been taught and to see that God does indeed call women as pastors and elders and that tongues, healing, etc. never ceased.

Don't be afraid to hold your long cherished beliefs (or even those of your denomination) up to scripture and see how they compare.  After all, that's how The Reformation started!

Verses 20 - 26 - What Eliphaz asserts is true enough for some wicked people with sensitive consciences, but not for everybody.  See Psalm 73:4-11 for an alternate viewpoint.

There is also an implied rebuke of Job in Eliphaz's words.  "You are shaking your fist at God, Job, just as the wicked do.  The fact that you are overwhelmed by your circumstances and are lashing out at God proves that you are a wicked person."

But is questioning God and wrestling with God and honestly expressing our feeling to Him really the same as being an enemy of God?  These words must have hurt Job deeply.

Job, who is calling out to God for answers and vindication, is basically labeled by Eliphaz as an evil person.  I know what that feels like and maybe you do, too.

Ever had a Christian who disagrees with you over some "gray area" of life question your salvation?  Ever had an idea that you believed would revitalize the church called "disruptive and upsetting to too many people?"  Ever been called "an agent of Satan" because you disagreed with "The Powers That Be?"

Verses 27 - 35 - Eliphaz's words are true in an ultimate sense (a fact recognized by Psalm 73).  God does, indeed, finally judge the wicked.

But it doesn't always happen in this life.  And, besides, all of this is irrelevant in Job's case anyway.  Job was a righteous man when all the disasters befell him!

Chapter 16

Verses 2 - 3 - Job wonders why his friends keep going on and on when their words aren't accomplishing what they came to do, namely COMFORT Job.

Job's friends have inadvertently entered into a contest with Job, a contest they feel they must win in order for The Right to prevail.

How many arguments and divisions in local congregations start this way, too.  People meet together for one purpose, say to find a way to revitalize the women's ministry.  But soon, sides are taken regarding how to do this, and each side must triumph is things are going to be RIGHT and GOD'S WILL BE DONE.

Instead of bringing the women in the congregation together, which was the reason for the meetings, the women are now being split apart.  And a lot of it is due to too much running off at the mouth.

If we'd only learn to bite our tongues and listen more, things would go so much better.  Not to mention if we'd always focus on the true goal.

Verses 4 - 5 - Job says that if their positions were reversed, he'd be more loving.

Verse 6 - Job is experiencing that "everything is pointless" feeling that chronic sufferers often get.  Only here it is especially acute in that his friends could give him some measure of spiritual and emotional relief, but won't.

Verses 7 - 8 - Job believes that God has not only afflicted him, but that that very affliction leads people to say that Job is unrighteous.

God has seen to it that Job is doubly cursed, then, and that nobody will be able to relieve him.

Verses 9 - 11 - God strikes at Job through his human agents.  Job could be referring to the thieves that conducted the raids, but more probably has in mind the "good" people of his society, including his friends.

The concept that God works through humans to accomplish His purposes is certainly biblical, even if Job's conclusions are not.

Today, God works through The Church, The Body Of Christ.  Job, though, erroneously thinks that God is attacking him because God's people are attacking him.

God's people's actions do not always equal God's actions, something those who have been let down, rejected, or even persecuted, by congregations need to keep in mind.

Verses 12 - 14 - Through all that Job has experienced, and now through his friends, Job feels that God is constantly attacking him.

Verses 15 - 17 - Job hasn't fought back against all that God has done to him.  He has humbly submitted and been careful not to sin.

Still, life has not worked out for him.  Doing the right thing does not always mean health and success in this life.

Verses 18 - 22 - Job wants vengeance - against God!!

Ironically, though Job feels that God is unjustly out to get him, he still has faith, at some level, that heaven is a place of justice.  Job believes that his prayers have indeed gone up to the heavenly realm and that a heavenly being will hear them and argue his case before God.

Faith dies hard, doesn't it?

And Job's words, of course, foreshadow Jesus Christ whom the New Testament calls our advocate with the Father, our brother and friend, our sympathetic High Priest, and the one mediator between God and mankind.  In Christ, we have what Job longed for!

Verse 22 - Though Job wants vengeance, he fears it will take too long and he'll be dead.  He could be asking his heavenly counsel to hurry - Please!

Chapter 17

Verses 1 - 2 - Job once again expresses his feeling that he will die soon.  And in the meantime, part of his suffering is to be surrounded by mockers.  Everywhere he looks he can see only the hostility of his so-called friends.

Verse 3 - Job is asking God to ensure that he is vindicated over his friends.

Verse 4 - Job feels that it is God who has turned his friends against him; therefore, since God knows Job is really innocent, God won't let them have the last word and won't let their judgments and opinions stand.

 And Job is right!  (See Job 42:7-9).

Verse 5 - There will be retribution against those who have turned against Job.  Certainly, Job has his "comforters" in mind here, but he could also be thinking of God, especially in light of what he says next.

Verse 6 - Once again Job states that God is the one responsible for turning people against him.

We might wonder how Job can believe this and yet also ask God for justice in verses 3 - 4, but the mind and spirit of a person who is suffering often wavers between faith and doubt, hope and despair, trust and suspicion.

Verse 7 - Having lost his family, his health, and his standing in the community, Job certainly knows what grief is.

Verses 8 - 9 - Job's plight arouses sympathy in the righteous.  They will know that what has been done to him is wrong.

But rather than asking, "What's the point of being righteous," they will continue on the right path - much as Job himself has done.

What's our response when we can't understand what's happening in our lives or wonder what God is doing?

Do we continue to pursue righteousness or do we rebel?

Verses 10 - 16 - Contrasted with the righteous, Job's friends will continue to prove themselves to be fools, refusing to deal with the plain facts in Job's case (verse 12).

Job has no more hope that they will see the truth and no more hope that he will have any sort of vindication.  He is dying and hope is dying with him.

There may be times when you feel that all your hope is gone.  But remember, Job doesn't yet know the end of his story.  And you don't know the end of yours yet either.

Chapter 18

Verse 2 - Unfortunately, Bildad doesn't seem to understand what a conversation is.  Rather than a give-and-take between two or more people, Bildad would be happy if Job would just shut up and agree with him.

Verse 4 - Notice that Bildad addresses Job as "You who tear yourself to pieces in your anger."  In other words, Bildad is pressing home the point that everything that has happened is really Job's fault, not God's.

For it to be otherwise would mean that the Moral Order of The Universe, at least the way Bildad understands it, would have been turned upside-down.

In this verse, Bildad is asking Job if Job is trying to assert that this is exactly what has happened.  And so Bildad inquires, " the earth to be abandoned for your sake?  Or must the rocks be moved from their place?"

Though Bildad would never conceive of the possibility that God would turn the principles of "righteousness equals blessing" and "sinners get punishment" on their ears, the Lord did just that for us in Jesus Christ!

We the sinners get the blessing and Jesus, the righteous, received the punishment.

Verses 5-14 - In these verses, and indeed through the end of the chapter, Bildad waxes poetic about the terrible things that befall the wicked.  Bildad can't really answer Job's arguments and doesn't have anything new to bring to the table, but he does use flowery rhetoric.

Poor thought can sometimes be disguised with pretty words.

Bildad wants to hold on to the same old ideas and just restate them over and over again.  He doesn't want to consider anything new.

I've known people in churches like that.  They have weak arguments for holding on to the status quo, but they can use high-sounding language to mask them:

"It's the Will Of God!"

"Those of us who have been in this church and seen all its ups and downs over the years know I'm right!"

"I've been praying about this."

"We need to honor God and not follow the changing winds of our culture."

Verse 15 - Though some may see in this verse a reference to Hell, it's speaking of a volcanic eruption.

Verse 17 - In our twisted world today, it's often the wicked who DO make a name for themselves and leave a legacy.  More's the pity.

Verse 19 - Is Bildad just caught up in his speech or is he being incredibly insensitive to Job?

Bildad essentially says, "A wicked man's children will all die."

And Job's offspring just all died.

Verse 21 - Bildad still wants to maintain that you can tell where a person stands with God by looking at his or her circumstances.

Chapter 19

Verses 2 - 3 -  Job uses strong language for what his supposed comforters are doing to him.  They "torment," "crush," "reproach," and "attack" him with their speeches.  Words can do as much damage as weapons.  In fact, words ARE weapons.  Be careful how you use them!  Job also says that his comforters hurt him "shamelessly."  They continue to lecture about "orthodoxy" and "righteousness," and "sin," not caring about how their words are affecting Job.

Verses 4 - 5 - Why are some people so much more concerned about the sins in other people's lives and the mistakes that everybody else makes than they are about their own sins and mistakes?  I believe that pride is involved.  We can feel good about ourselves as we shake our heads over others.  Job says that the men have used his situation to exalt themselves.  But, once again, Job places the real blame for what's happening to him at God's doorstep.

Verses 7 - 8 - Talk about prayers not getting through!  I've felt as Job did at times.  Haven't you?

Verse 9 - Job experienced some of what Christ later experienced.  Jesus was the King Of The Universe, yet he was stripped of his honor and died a death that was reserved for terrible criminals.  Job foreshadows Christ as one who was loved by God and at the center of God's will, yet he suffered terribly.

Verses 13 - 14 - It's a sad fact of life that some former friends and loved ones distance themselves from one who is ill or suffering.  Maybe they can't stand to see pain, or are uncomfortable with their own mortality, but whatever the reason, they stop making the visits, sending the cards, and making the phone calls.  In Job's case, the people had yet another reason to avoid him.  If he was cursed by God, as they believed, why would they want to get close to him or associate with him and possible share his fate?  It's interesting that when Jesus walked the earth, he touched the lepers, walked among the blind and lame, and looked the demon possessed in the eyes.

Verse 17 - Job could be referring here to bad breath caused by his disease, or he could be using "breath" to mean his life, basically saying that his wife wishes he were dead.

Verse 18 - The young were supposed to respect the old, yet children could get away with mocking Job because, after all, Job had been rejected by God.  People felt free to mock Jesus as he was hanging on the cross because "anyone who hangs on a tree is cursed."  And if you were publicly executed on a cross, then you probably deserved it.

Verse 20 - Some escape!  Job's as good as dead!

Verse 21 - Job asks his friends, "Isn't God enemy enough for me?  Why do you have to be my enemies, too?"

Verses 23 - 27 - These verses are hard to interpret (even though they are familiar from being used in "The Messiah") because ancient Hebrews didn't have the concept of a bodily resurrection of the dead.  Is Job displaying here a faith that goes way beyond his time, or is he saying that in some form of afterlife, he will confront God?  It's hard to say for sure, but the main idea of the passage is that Job somehow is still clinging, even minutely, to the idea that there is a basic "justice," or "fairness" in heaven, or in the very fabric of the universe that will not let his plight go unredressed forever.  The "Redeemer" that Job talks about in verse 25 could be God, an advocate in heaven, or even Job's cries of protest themselves.  When Job says that his heart yearns within him in verse 27, he's not saying that he loves God so much that he can't wait to see him, but rather that he can't wait to confront God and get some answers and some justice.

Verses 28 - 29 - If Job's friends think that they aren't causing him trouble because the root of the trouble is that Job is punished for his own sin, then they had better watch out.  In insisting that Job sinned, they are, in fact, sinning, and if their view of the universe is correct, then judgment will come upon them because of it!

Chapter 20

Verses 2 - 3 -  Job has been getting to Zophar and Zophar's response is to become upset.  A negative emotional reaction is common when we are introduced to new ideas that contradict what we believe.  We feel threatened.  Our cherished belief system is threatened.  Our world (or at least our perception of it) is threatened.  Our sense of self-worth can be threatened.  Nobody likes to be told that he or she is wrong.  So, Zophar is "greatly disturbed" and feels picked on.  Once again, a friend of Job's isn't focusing on the miserable, half-dead man before him.  Zophar is focusing in on his own feelings and the fact that he has been (in his eyes, at least) disrespected.  But rather than work through what Job has been saying and his reaction to it, Zophar will parrot back the "party line."  And he seems to think he's being original by doing so!

Verses 4 - 9 - The verses are much like Psalm 73, but that Psalm is put forward in the Bible as containing solid teaching, namely that though the wicked seem to prosper, their good fortune is short-lived and God soon sweeps them away.  However, in Job 20, this teaching is poppycock!  Job 20 is like "The Anti-Psalm 73."  It shows us that some of the teachings we find in the Books Of The Bible called "Wisdom Literature" aren't meant to be applied to any and all people, situations, and circumstances, and that there are exceptions to rules.

Verses 10 and 19 - Job's friends have come to the conclusion that Job became wealthy by sinning and that now God is paying him back.  How else, from their perspective, to explain Job's sudden descent into poverty and suffering?

Verse 11 - Billy Joel sang, "Only The Good Die Young," but Zophar believes that only the bad die young.

Verses 12 - 23 - The general idea of these verses is that sinners get no lasting profit or benefit from their wrongdoing.  True enough when eternity and life after death is considered, but totally irrelevant in Job's case.

Verses 12 and 13 - Some people savor evil the way a child may savor a Lifesaver(TM) candy or a peppermint.

Verses 14 - 15 - The very evils that brought initial pleasure will destroy the sinner by the will of God.  This is certainly true when applied to vices such as pornography, alcohol, and drugs, but Zophar is applying it to wealth wrongly attained at the expense of the poor and needy.

Verse 16 - The sinner may sit down thinking he or she is partaking of something sweet, but it's really poison.

Verse 17 - Some Jewish people might interpret this to mean that the sinner has no part in the Promised Land (the land "flowing with milk and honey"), but the verse is probably just re-iterating that the sinner won't enjoy the fruits of his deeds.

Verse 20 - The wicked will never be totally fulfilled and will find that all of the things they have amassed and surrounded themselves with can't save them.

Verse 21 - The sinners consume, consume, consume, and don't replenish.

Verses 23 - 26 - There will be no escape from God's punishment, both physical and spiritual.  "A fire unfanned" is supernatural fire, not made or tended by humans.

Verse 27 - This is exactly what Job's friends think has happened.  His earthly trials have exposed what Heaven really thinks of him.  The verse may also mean that Job will find no help in the heavens, or from here on earth.  Another interpretation would be, "Heaven and earth will testify against you."

(To Be Continued)




NOTE: The Righteous Sufferer

Job prepares us to accept Jesus Christ. The book shows us that a person can be innocent (as Jesus was) and have horrible things happen to him (as Jesus did). Christ's torturous death was not a sign that God hated Him or had given up on Him. Instead, He, like Job, was God's favorite, God's shining example of all a human could and should be.

NOTE: Why Is This Book In The Bible?

Some who really get into studying Job (as opposed to somehow mistakenly accepting the folk myth that the book teaches patience) are disturbed by all the troubling, even seemingly anti-Christian, questions it raises. Why did God allow such a book in the Bible? Why did The Church recognize it as being inspired?

I believe a partial answer is that God invites us to wrestle with Him (Genesis 32:22-32) over the deep issues of life. And God is big enough to handle all our questions and doubts, even if they seem blasphemous at times.

Also, God wants us to realize that we don't know everything and can't explain everything. Humility is the beginning of wisdom.



Resources I Consulted For This Study:

The Voice Out Of The Whirlwind: The Book Of Job, edited by Ralph E. Hone

Too Wonderful For Me: Studies From Job, Emalyn Spencer

Job: An Introduction And Commentary, Francis Andersen

Word Bible Commentary, Volume 17: Job 1-20, David J. Clines

Job, E.S.P. Heavenor in The New Bible Commentary: 
Revised Job

Meredith Kline in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary

Notes from college and seminary






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