The tone and approach of Job’s friends take a turn in the words of Eliphaz. He accuses Job of arrogantly presuming to know more than they. He says Job must have some hidden, unconfessed and unrepentant sin to now experience all he has encountered. Surely Job must be a wicked man, in some way, to receive such deserved judgement from God. This is ancient logic. Those who experience tragedy must somehow deserve this punishment; they must have sinned greatly against God. Jesus encountered this same traditional wisdom. When he encountered the blind beggar, his disciples asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” (John 9) Jesus said it was neither, but he was blind that the work of God may be seen. The same seems to be the case of Job, though his “friends” won’t realize that. Eliphaz believes Job taunts and challenges God. And, he appeals to the wise men of old, to tradition, to support his understanding of how things work and his emboldened attack on Job. How often do we find that our friends are little help in difficult times; well-meaning though they may be, their words provide no comfort?
That’s how Job responds. “What great friends you are!” He may well have used an axiom from our day, “With friends like you, who needs enemies?” He continues to mourn and profess the unfairness of his predicament. He complains against his friends, and against God. He insists he is innocent and righteous. He cries out in hopelessness, and who wouldn’t in his position?
As a book, Job is certainly a study and an example of loss and tragedy. Most of us have identified with his story and his emotions at some point in our lives. But the end of his story is meant as an encouragement for us as well.