Who is to Blame?

KEY VERSE: “I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God.” —Job 13:3

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Job 2:11; 4:1,6-7; 8:1-6; 13:1-4

FROM THE BEGINNING of human experience, man has generally sought to find blame whenever pain and suffering are encountered. When punished for their disobedience in the Garden of Eden, Adam blamed Eve, and Eve accused the serpent. From that day forward it has been a downward spiral of ‘who should be blamed?’ Job’s three friends had a ready and simple answer; but it is not as simple as they would have us believe!

After traveling great distances to console their friend, Job’s ‘comforters’ at first appear to be noble characters. Sitting silently for seven days (Job 2:13) to their solidarity with him in his insufferable pain is an impressive demonstration of sympathy and grief. Unfortunately their sympathy does not last long. One by one, they chide him for ignoring the plain truth of the matter, that he is being punished for sins against God.

Eliphaz is the first to speak. Claiming to speak absolute truth, he propounds the traditional theory of retribution, which holds that God punishes the sinner and rewards the righteous. His conclusion in Job 4:7, allows for no exceptions, including Job: “Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed?” (New International Version) Bildad is next to speak and echoes Eliphaz, saying: sin and suffering, righteousness and prosperity, are cause and effect. Because of his great suffering, Job must be guilty before God, and the only hope for his restoration is to repent and beg for God’s forgiveness and mercy. Speaking arrogantly, as if he knows the mind of God, he adds to Job’s suffering by deciding that Job’s children also must have been guilty of sin or God would not have sent them to their death.—Job 1:19

Finally, Zophar picks up where Bildad leaves off. While exaggerating Job’s claim of innocence in relation to his disproportionate suffering, Zophar says he speaks for God (Job 11:4-6) and to know the intricacies of how God judges Job. He condemns Job, saying that as bad as his suffering may be, it would be far worse if God punished him to the degree that Job’s guilt really deserves.

With friends like these, who needs enemies? When friends are truly suffering, sometimes silent support is all they need. Job says as much along this line in Job 13:5: “Oh that ye would altogether hold your peace! And it should be your wisdom.” Instead, all three presume to speak for God, urging Job to admit his wrongdoing, confess his sins, and repent so God would restore his prosperity. In so doing, they show no sensitivity to Job’s real need and deep suffering.

Even if they had all the right answers to Job’s plight—which they did not—the time to present those answers was not when Job was at the lowest point of his emotional and physical suffering. What Job needed more from his friends was their loyalty and understanding, not self-righteous advice and he refused to embrace this philosophy in the way it was applied by his friends.

Job never claims to be free of sin. He simply pleads that he has not committed such grievous sins as could warrant the severity of his suffering. The prophet asks for a hearing before God. He is confident that God will judge him in gentleness and mercy.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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