When we last saw Job, he had lost everything and was in mourning, some friends sitting around him and trying to talk to him. They were trying to console him and saying all the dumb things that we tend to say when religious people fall on hard times. It only continues.
This next friend speaks up and delivers a speech that amounts to that he wants Job to consider whether he deserved worse than he is getting for whatever transgression that he had done.
Job responds first to his friends and then to God. Having been in these stages of grief in much the same way and dealing with people who are trying to help but really aren’t, I really identify with Job’s issues here.
He tells his friends that he already knows all these things and has thought about them. He basically tells them not to look down on his intelligence just because his pride has been shattered by what God has allowed to happen to him.
He goes on to say that he knows that this could only have happened if God allowed it to happen, so there is a problem that God has with him whether God specifically did it or just allowed it and that its up to him to ask God and that he will. He will ask God to tell him what happened, he will make his case to God, in hopes that God will forgive whatever it was. But that’s not the next thing he does. He laments the way everything must die and the way God seems to be counting his transgressions and not forgiving him.
This is totally rational, in my opinion. I’ve heard people refer to this story as if Job never laments his plight and just keeps saying God is great, but this is clearly not what’s happening. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not turning away but talking about how he feels like God has abandoned him, which I think of as a fairly common thing to feel during times of great tragedy like this.
The friends, not getting it, persist. One responds by saying that Job is treading dangerously close to blaspheming which isn’t really true. Plus, it seems like he would just be sitting silently wondering what he could do to honor his children had these guys not started him down this road.
The friend starts with that he seems like he’s blaspheming and warns him that this is not a good road to go down.
It’s hard to quantify the kind of grief that he must be going through, though. To me, these guys are not helping with all their reminders of things that Job clearly knows. They are just making him defensive, which makes him sound like he’s not relying on God and not letting him go about the business of going to God in the first place, which is what he has already said he wants to do. He wants to implore God to tell him what he has done wrong and what he can do to fix it. He wants to do it while acknowledging that he can’t demand anything from God as if on an equal playing field, as he had stated back in the last post. But he can’t really do that until they leave him alone.
His next response is beautiful. It begins with a bit of a rebuke against his friends that they are not comforting him and he knows everything they are saying and then lets out this poetic description of what he is going through and his simple wish for death to come next and to come soon.
He goes on that he has no hope for the future, just for death.
Another friend starts in. Now, they’re getting angry and defensive too. This friend pretty much tells him off and that if he doesn’t want their help figuring out how to proceed from there, then he can rot.
Obviously, I’m paraphrasing, but that was how I felt about what he said.
This time Job responds by asking what they have against him and how do they not feel bad about the way they are treating him? He knows that he’s done wrong somehow but now he’s suffering and just wants to die so he can see God and ask Him what happened, how things went so wrong so quickly. He also says something that sounds to me that he’s heartbroken, not angry.