Job 15-31: Beating the dead horse

Reading: Job 15-31

If we read the argument between Job and his three friends, it takes over an hour.  The friends maintain their point, that Job should talk talking because he’s saying stupid things, and of course he’s guilty — if he were not guilty then he would not be punished.

Job’s counter argument includes: does the punishment fit the crime? Is it fair that I can be punished without a trial? I am not only innocent, but I make an effort to help out those who are in need, and my favorite, Job observes that others do well in spite of their sinfulness, or struggle in spite of their innocence.

Eventually, the argument stops, because everybody seems to realize that it is going nowhere.  No matter how much Job’s friends make their case, Job will not accept their conclusion nor their council.  Job 32:1 says that they stopped answering Job because Job was righteous in his own eyes.

After the first 10 minutes there is very little new content, just 50 minutes that restates the same reasons again and again.  The thing is, even if Job’s friends were right, there really is no reason to expect them to convince Job of anything.

This whole discussion is rather philosophical.  Job’s friends are dealing with the nature of God, and what it means for God to be both just and God.  Unfortunately, the very thing that challenges the theological views of Job’s friends completely ruins their friend.  Job is in shock, it is unlikely that he has figured out how to live without his family, servants, and wealth.  Job is not yet questioning what he believes, he is questioning how he can survive.

Job’s friends are miserable comforters, because they try to convince Job to have the same world outlook as they do.  They act as if a world-view is enough to take away the pain of mourning, and as if God’s “restoration” could ever make up for the loss of so many people.  Even if Job was convinced, and found something to confess, this loss would still be a crippling loss.

Having listened to these 4 arguing, I see that there is no satisfactory answer.  The three friends have a pretty nice and neat system which does not seem to fit the facts.  Job is able to show that their system is broken not only by his own example, but by the examples of people who deserve punishment instead of prosperity.  Job shows that reality is messy, but this messiness does not offer a final answer.  If anybody has an alternative view, there is room for more discussion.

Continued: Job 32-37 Elihu the Kibitzer 


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