Bibliotheca Sacra 97 (385) (Jan.-Mar. 1940) 27-33

Copyright 1940 by Dallas Theological Seminary. Cited with permission.


Job and the Nation Israel 27



Second Study: At the Mercy of the Critics




(Continued from the October-December Number, 1939)


Most of the Book of Job is taken up with the addresses

of Job's friends and his answers to them. They are not inci-

dental to the book but are of primary importance. To view

them otherwise is to lose sight of the great movement of the

book. These friends attempt as best they can to probe Job's

predicament. He does not understand the reason for his

unusual sufferings nor do they. It is no small problem with

which these men are wrestling. There is no book in the

Bible that does not have some reference to trial. The Book

of Psalms has one hundred and fifty psalms and over ninety

have some reference to suffering. There is no believer in

the Scriptures whose history we have in any fullness at

all, but what was called upon to endure trouble and suffer-

ing in some form. Many times the most godly were the most

tried. Let your mind review for the moment the lives of

such men as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David,

Daniel, Paul, Peter, the early disciples and apostles. Did not

each one find out experientially the truth of the words: "But

man is born unto trouble, As the sparks fly upward" (Job

5:7). Those who were greatly used of God were trained in

the school of affliction and hardship.



The friends of Job in trying to explain his afflictions

really misrepresent God as well as Job, and so are Satan's

tool to cause Job to renounce God. Job's heart feels it cannot

accept their opinions as to the dealings of God with him.

These friends, mark you, were prominent, wise, and pious

men, men of age and experience. Their arguments were good

and forceful, but they were based on wrong premises. Job

refuses to admit the cogency of their arguments because he

28 Bibliotheca Sacra


knows of his own innocence of their charges against him.

The arguments of Job's friends go from veiled insinuations

to open denunciations. As the argument progresses the

friends realize that they are unable to convince him, and

they become more and more harsh and severe. They begin

mildly but are astonished that Job tries to refute some of

their primary arguments, and finally they lose confidence in

his uprightness and sincerity. Instead of applying a balm,

wine, and oil to his wounds, they cauterize them, pouring in

vitriol. It is always like vinegar on soda to come to a broken

soul and dejected spirit prattling about platitudes without


The main contention of Job's friends was that suffering is

for sin. This is true in general but far from true in all

cases. As a matter of fact, Job's sufferings were not the

result of sin so much as they were the trial of his righteous-

ness, the trial of his faith. His friends reasoned that some-

thing grievous must be the matter with Job and because

they could not see it, they concluded he was a hypocrite hid-

ing his sin and his real self. Job's friends made him writhe

more than Satan. They did him more harm than the devil.

When Job knew his friends were wrong in their contentions,

he was stirred to resentment against them. Throughout the

words of the friends there is special pleading--they do not

state the whole case at all. His friends were merely speaking

truths they had learned from memory; he spoke his words

from a tortured and anguished and agonizing heart. Though

his comforters, miserable as they were, pelted him with in-

considerate words he had more faith than anyone of them

(Job 13:15).

Let us note the trend of reasoning of each adviser.

Eliphaz the Temanite held that all men are sinners and sin

is connected with suffering. He does not at first doubt the

sincerity of Job nor his integrity. He says: "Remember,

pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? Or where

were the upright cut off ?" (4:7). His principle is true in

general, but does not explain special suffering. What of the


Job and the Nation Israel 29


case of Abel? Was he not upright and righteous and did he

not perish, being cut off by the hand of his murderous

brother? The other friends seem to get their point of depar-

ture from Eliphaz, and follow his reasoning, but more and

more cast doubts on the piety of Job. He appeals again and

again to his own observation and experience. Notice ''as I

have seen" in 4:8 and "I have seen" in 5:3 together with the

recital of his vision in his dream recorded in 4:12 ff. See

also 15:17. When he speaks in his second address he charges

Job with guilt. He sets forth his indictment thus: "Yea,

thou doest away with fear, And hinderest devotion before

God. For thine iniquity teacheth thy mouth, And thou

choosest the tongue of the crafty. Thine own mouth con-

demneth thee, and not I; Yea, thine own lips testify against

thee" (15:4-6). In his third and last address he administers

a scathing rebuke to Job accusing him of downright wicked-

ness. Hear the severity of his words: "Is not thy wickedness

great? Neither is there any end to thine iniquities" (22:5 ff).

He goes on to charge Job with stripping the naked of their

clothing, with withholding water from the weary and bread

from the hungry, with turning away widows with emptiness,

and with robbing the fatherless of their maintenance and

stay. Think of it! Contrast this, if you will, with the state-

ment God made concerning Job at the outset of the book and

with Job's own recital of his former days in 29:11-13;

31:16-23. Carrying Eliphaz's argument to its logical con-

clusion, we should :find that the most sinful men were the

most afflicted.

Bildad the Shuhite appeals to tradition. He orders his

argument after this manner: "For inquire, I pray thee, of

the former age, And apply thyself to that which their fathers

have searched out (For we are but of yesterday, and know

nothing, Because our days upon earth are a shadow): Shall

not they teach thee, and tell thee, And utter words out of

their heart?" (8:8-10). Tradition is just the observation

of a number of men, and many times is no more correct than

individual observation. He should have appealed to an ob-


30 Bibliotheca Sacra


jective norm and standard, God's own revelation to man, in

that measure in which God had already made Himself known

in that day. In his second address Bildad prefaces his words

with the statement: "Yea, the light of the wicked shall be

put out, And the spark of his fire shall not shine" and goes

on to enumerate the multiplied calamities and adversities

that assuredly befall the wicked. His last answer to Job

is quite brief and he contents himself with admonishing Job

that man can by no means be pure and .just before God

when even the stars are not pure in His sight (Chapters

18; 25).

Zophar the Naamathite is the third friend and he feels

he must speak forth his word of consolation and comfort also.

He appeals to the law principle (not the law of Moses for

it was not yet given). He states his position thus: "Know

therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity

deserveth" (11:6). If God were an exacting God, where

would sinful man be? The Psalmist asks this same question:

"If thou, Jehovah, shouldest mark iniquities, 0 Lord, who

could stand?" (Psa. 103:3). In his second and last address

Zophar points out that the triumphing of the wicked is

short and that he perishes forever like his own dung (20:5-7).

He closes summarily with the words: "This is the portion of a

wicked man from God, And the heritage appointed unto him

by God" (20:29). He is quite severe and denunciatory in

his charges as one would expect of a legalist. Boiling down

the words of a legalist to the basic residuum, we shall always

find him saying, "It's good for you that you are in such a

plight. You are getting just what you deserve and even less.

You have no cause to complain."

All these men based God's infliction of suffering, or per-

mission of it, on a basis of justice (for sin) rather than on

a basis of love. They were miserable comforters (16:2) and

physicians of no value (13:4); they did give the impression

that they were the people and wisdom would die with them

(12:2). How like so many critics of our day are these critics!

Their criticisms too often are the opposite of the truth.

Job and the Nation Israel 31


Satan's afflictions were sore, but the criticisms of Job's

friends were far worse.




Since Israel has been suffering for centuries she has not

lacked for critics, self-appointed, self-sustained, and assur-

edly self-opinionated, to tell her the reason for her trials.

Zechariah gives a timely word here. In the first chapter

of his prophecy, after noting the lessons for post-captivity

Israel in the history of their forefathers' disobedience and

punishment, he declares God's love and jealousy for Israel.

God says through the prophet: "And I am very sore dis-

pleased with the nations that are at ease; for I was but a

little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction"

(1:15). It is as though a father were reluctantly punish-

ing his own child with a stick or with a word of rebuke

or restraint and a stranger came to chasten with a rod of

iron. God scattered Israel (Jer. 31:10), but the nations made

them how] (Isa. 52:5). Isaiah tells Babylon: "I was wroth

with my people, I profaned mine inheritance, and gave them

into thy hand: thou didst show them no mercy; upon the

aged hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke" (47:6). The con-

trast that the prophet draws between God's treatment of

Israel and the dealings of the nations with the chosen people

is marked. The critics of Israel ask: "Have not the trials

of the Jews been minutely predicted by Moses and the

prophets ?" This question goes on the false assumption that

God sanctions all that he predicts. By the same token God

must approve of all wars for Christ said there would be

wars and rumors of wars. Too, the sufferings of Christ

were detailed]y foretold, but still the Holy Spirit notes that

it was with "wicked hands" (implying responsibility) He

was crucified and slain. Some say: "It is too bad the poor

Jews have to suffer, but they have it coming to them." On

the same ground, which one of us, apart from grace, does

not have infinitely more "coming to us?" Then, again, what

of the saved Jews in the present suffering in Europe? (We

32 Bibliotheca Sacra


understand that with saved Gentiles they form the body

of Christ, but to the persecuting unsaved world all Jews

are alike.) Will not the remnant of the tribulation time

suffer though they be righteous? (Cf. the imprecatory

psalms). Would the critics say that these godly ones have

it coming to them also? Many are satisfied in their thinking,

that the Jews are suffering because they have objectionable

traits, personal and otherwise. Is not this the same method

that Job's friends used? Because these critics do not under-

stand the real reason they feel they must find any petty

reason to offer as cause for Israel's trials. Those who lay

their sufferings to the crucifixion of Christ feel they have

solved the problem satisfactorily. Let it be understood that

no words of man can in the least mitigate the guilt that

attaches to Israel for the rejection of Christ as noted in

the gospel narratives. But are there not features worth

noting in this regard? Do not the words of Christ, "Father,

forgive them; for they know not what they do" have some

bearing on the question? The list of culprits in Acts 4 :27

is also illuminating. Still others say that the very plight

of Israel proves that they are so sinful God never chose

them as His people. If God did not choose them when He

said the words of Isaiah 44:1, 2, then He never chose any,

believer today when He says, "he chose us in him before:

the foundation of the world." We are aware that the choice

of Israel is national to earthly privilege and that of the

believer is individual to heavenly privilege, but we are speak-

ing now only of the surety and certainty of the divine, sov-

ereign choice. How unfair and cruel and inhumane and

unfeeling and harsh, yea, almost savage and barbarous, have

been many of the criticisms against Israel! She knows full

well how Job felt when pelted with unfeeling words from

self-styled physicians.

St. Augustine tells the story of the man who complained

to Almighty God about a neighbor, saying, "0 Lord, take

away this wicked person !" And God said, "Which?" How

foolhardy to judge without the mind of God! He shall bring

Job and the Nation Israel 33


to light the hidden things, so we can afford to refrain from

the act of judging the suffering and the tried. May God

grant that we shall not be found in the role of critic or judge

of His suffering people Israel!


Dallas, Texas.


(To be continued in the April-June Number, 1940)




Job's hour of victory came. The sorrow which endured

through the long night was followed by the morning of light

and triumph, and up from that ash heap of pain rose the

loftiest note of the Old Testament: "For I know that my

redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon

the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body,

yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself,

and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins

be consumed within me" (19 :25-27). . . . If Job had said

nothing else, that sentence alone would lift him among the


--Cox. Lives That Remind Us, p. 49.



This material is cited with gracious permission from:

Dallas Theological Seminary

3909 Swiss Ave.

Dallas, TX 75204


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