Some Of The Misguided Criticism And Advice Of Job's Friends Who Blamed Him for his Suffering, Saying it Must Be a Punishment From God for his Sins, And Job's Justification Of Himself

This is a subseries of Bible passages from the Book of Job, which, incidentally, is a valuable read for anyone who wonders whether the Bible really does say that individual Christians will be rewarded by God with prosperity, and that loss of prosperity and suffering are a sign of God's disfavour or punishment for wrongdoing. It's part of a series of Bible passages on what the Old Testament says about suffering.

This is part 2 of 3 in section 13, 'The suffering of the good man Job, - counterbalance to the rest of the Old Testament'.

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Contents of the sections

The story continues as the very good man Job, who has been allowed by God to suffer the loss of his children, wealth and health, responds to his friends who have judged that he must have done something sinful to deserve it.

In the Book of Job in the Old Testament, the Bible says:

Job chapter 9 (NLT)

1 Then Job spoke again:

Job chapter 14 (CEV)

1 Life is short and sorrowful for every living soul. 2 We are flowers that fade and shadows that vanish. 3 And so, I ask you, God, why pick on me? 4 There's no way a human can be completely pure. 5 Our time on earth is brief; the number of our days is already decided by you. 6 Why don't you leave us alone and let us find some happiness while we toil and labor?

7 When a tree is chopped down, there is always the hope that it will sprout again. 8 Its roots and stump may rot, 9 but at the touch of water, fresh twigs shoot up. 10 Humans are different-- we die, and that's the end. 11 We are like streams and lakes after the water has gone; 12 we fall into the sleep of death, never to rise again, until the sky disappears.

13 Please hide me, God, deep in the ground-- and when you are angry no more, remember to rescue me. 14 Will we humans live again? 15 My Creator, you would want me; you would call out, and I would answer. 16 You would take care of me, but not count my sins-- 17 you would put them in a bag, tie it tight, and toss them away.

18 But in the real world, mountains tumble, and rocks crumble; 19 streams wear away stones and wash away soil. And you destroy our hopes! 20 You change the way we look, then send us away, wiped out forever. 21 We never live to know if our children are praised or disgraced. 22 We feel no pain but our own, and when we mourn, it's only for ourselves.

Job chapter 15 (CEV)

1 Eliphaz from Teman said:

2 Job, if you had any sense, 3 you would stop spreading all of this hot air. 4 Your words are enough to make others turn from God and lead them to doubt. 5 And your sinful, scheming mind is the source of all you say.
6 I am not here as your judge; your own words are witnesses against you.

7 Were you the first human? Are you older than the hills? 8 Have you ever been present when God's council meets? Do you alone have wisdom? 9 Do you know and understand something we don't? 10 We have the benefit of wisdom older than your father. 11 And you have been offered comforting words from God. Isn't this enough? 12 Your emotions are out of control, making you look fierce; 13 that's why you attack God with everything you say.

14 No human is pure and innocent, 15 and neither are angels-- not in the sight of God. If God doesn't trust his angels, 16 what chance do humans have? We are so terribly evil that we thirst for sin.

Job chapter 15 (NLT)

17 "If you will listen, I will answer you from my own experience. 18 And it is confirmed by the experience of wise men who have heard the same thing from their fathers, 19 those to whom the land was given long before any foreigners arrived.

20 "Wicked people are in pain throughout their lives. 21 They are surrounded by terrors, and even on good days they fear the attack of the destroyer. 22 They dare not go out into the darkness for fear they will be murdered. 23 They wander abroad for bread, saying, 'Where is it?' They know their ruin is certain. 24 That dark day terrifies them. They live in distress and anguish, like a king preparing for an attack. 25 For they have clenched their fists against God, defying the Almighty. 26 Holding their strong shields, they defiantly charge against him.

27 "These wicked people are fat and rich, 28 but their cities will be ruined. They will live in abandoned houses that are ready to tumble down. 29 They will not continue to be rich. Their wealth will not endure, and their possessions will no longer spread across the horizon.
30 "They will not escape the darkness. The flame will burn them up, and the breath of God will destroy everything they have. 31 Let them no longer trust in empty riches. They are only fooling themselves, for emptiness will be their only reward. 32 They will be cut down in the prime of life, and all they counted on will disappear. 33 They will be like a vine whose grapes are harvested before they are ripe, like an olive tree that sheds its blossoms so the fruit cannot form. 34 For the godless are barren. Their homes, enriched through bribery, will be consumed by fire. 35 They conceive trouble and evil, and their hearts give birth only to deceit."

Job chapter 16 (NLT)

1 Then Job spoke again:

2 "I have heard all this before. What miserable comforters you are! 3 Won't you ever stop your flow of foolish words? What have I said that makes you speak so endlessly? 4 I could say the same things if you were in my place. I could spout off my criticisms against you and shake my head at you. 5 But that's not what I would do. I would speak in a way that helps you. I would try to take away your grief.

6 But as it is, my grief remains no matter how I defend myself. And it does not help if I refuse to speak.

7 "O God, you have ground me down and devastated my family. 8 You have reduced me to skin and bones - as proof, they say, of my sins. 9 God hates me and tears angrily at my flesh. He gnashes his teeth at me and pierces me with his eyes. 10 People jeer and laugh at me. They slap my cheek in contempt. A mob gathers against me. 11 God has handed me over to sinners. He has tossed me into the hands of the wicked.

12 "I was living quietly until he broke me apart. He took me by the neck and dashed me to pieces. Then he set me up as his target.

Job chapter 17 (NIV)

1 My spirit is broken, my days are cut short, the grave awaits me.
2 Surely mockers surround me; my eyes must dwell on their hostility.

10 "But come on, all of you, try again! I will not find a wise man among you.
11 My days have passed, my plans are shattered, and so are the desires of my heart. 12 These men turn night into day; in the face of darkness they say, 'Light is near.'

Job chapter 19 (TEV)

1 Why do you keep tormenting me with words? 3 Time after time you insult me and show no shame for the way you abuse me. 4 Even if I have done wrong, how does that hurt you? 5 You think you are better than I am, and regard my troubles as proof of my guilt. 6 Can't you see it is God who has done this? He has set a trap to catch me. 7 I protest his violence, but no one is listening; no one hears my cry for justice.

16 When I call a servant, he doesn't answer- even when I beg him to help me. 17 My wife can't stand the smell of my breath, and my own brothers won't come near me. 18 Children despise me and laugh when they see me. 19 My closest friends look at me with disgust; those I loved most have turned against me. 20 My skin hangs loose on my bones; I have barely escaped with my life.
21 You are my friends! Take pity on me! The hand of God has struck me down. 22 Why must you persecute me the way God does? Haven't you tormented me enough?

Job chapter 21 (TEV)

1 Listen to what I am saying; that is all the comfort I ask from you. 3 Give me a chance to speak and then, when I am through, sneer if you like. 4 My quarrel is not with mortals; I have good reason to be impatient. 5 Look at me. Isn't that enough to make you stare in shocked silence? 6 When I think of what has happened to me, I am stunned, and I tremble and shake.

7 Why does God let evil people live, let them grow old and prosper? 8 They have children and grandchildren, and live to watch them all grow up. 9 God does not bring disaster on their homes; they never have to live in terror. 10 Yes, all their cattle breed and give birth without trouble. 11 Their children run and play like lambs 12 and dance to the music of harps and flutes. 13 They live out their lives in peace and quietly die without suffering. 14 The wicked tell God to leave them alone; they don't want to know his will for their lives. 15 They think there is no need to serve God nor any advantage in praying to him. 16 They claim they succeed by their own strength, but their way of thinking I can't accept.

17 Was a wicked person's light ever put out? Did one of them ever meet with disaster? Did God ever punish the wicked in anger 18 and blow them away like straw in the wind, or like dust carried away in a storm? 27 I know what spiteful thoughts you have. 28 You ask, "Where are the homes of great people now, those who practiced evil?" 29 Haven't you talked with people who travel? Don't you know the reports they bring back? 30 On the day God is angry and punishes, it is the wicked who are always spared. 31 There is no one to accuse the wicked or pay them back for all they have done. 32 When they are carried to the graveyard, to their well-guarded tombs, 33 thousands join the funeral procession, and even the earth lies gently on their bodies.
34 And you! You try to comfort me with nonsense! Every answer you give is a lie!

Job chapter 22 (NLT)

1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:

2 "Can a person's actions be of benefit to God? Can even a wise person be helpful to him? 4 Is it because of your reverence for him that he accuses and judges you? 5 Not at all! It is because of your wickedness! Your guilt has no limit! 6 "For example, you must have lent money to your friend and then kept the clothing he gave you as a pledge. Yes, you stripped him to the bone. 7 You must have refused water for the thirsty and food for the hungry. 8 After all, you think the land belongs to the powerful and that those who are privileged have a right to it! 9 You must have sent widows away without helping them and crushed the strength of orphans. 10 That is why you are surrounded by traps and sudden fears.

21 "Stop quarreling with God! If you agree with him, you will have peace at last, and things will go well for you. 22 Listen to his instructions, and store them in your heart. 23 If you return to the Almighty and clean up your life, you will be restored. 24 Give up your lust for money, and throw your precious gold into the river. 25 Then the Almighty himself will be your treasure. He will be your precious silver!

26 "Then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and look up to God. 27 You will pray to him, and he will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows to him. 28 Whatever you decide to do will be accomplished, and light will shine on the road ahead of you. 29 If someone is brought low and you say, 'Help him up,' God will save the downcast. 30 Then even sinners will be rescued by your pure hands."

Job chapter 23 (NLT)

1 Then Job spoke again:

2 "My complaint today is still a bitter one, and I try hard not to groan aloud. 3 If only I knew where to find God, I would go to his throne and talk with him there. 4 I would lay out my case and present my arguments. 5 Then I would listen to his reply and understand what he says to me. 6 Would he merely argue with me in his greatness? No, he would give me a fair hearing. 7 Fair and honest people can reason with him, so I would be acquitted by my Judge. 10 But he knows where I am going. And when he has tested me like gold in a fire, he will pronounce me innocent.
11 "For I have stayed in God's paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside. 12 I have not departed from his commands but have treasured his word in my heart.

13 Nevertheless, his mind concerning me remains unchanged, and who can turn him from his purposes? Whatever he wants to do, he does. 14 So he will do for me all he has planned. He controls my destiny. 15 No wonder I am so terrified in his presence. When I think of it, terror grips me. 16 God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me.

Job chapter 25 (GWT)

1 Then Bildad from Shuah replied [to Job],

2 "Authority and terror belong to God. 4 How can a person be righteous to God? How can anyone born of a woman be pure? 5 Even the moon isn't bright, and the stars aren't pure in his sight. 6 How much less pure is a mortal--who is only a maggot-- a descendant of Adam--who is only a worm!"

Job chapter 26 (NIV)

1 Then Job replied:

2 "How you have helped the powerless! How you have saved the arm that is feeble! 3 What advice you have offered to one without wisdom! And what great insight you have displayed! 4 Who has helped you utter these words? And whose spirit spoke from your mouth?

Job chapter 29 (TEV)

1 Job began speaking again.

2 If only my life could once again be as it was when God watched over me. 3 God was always with me then and gave me light as I walked through the darkness. 4 Those were the days when I was prosperous, and the friendship of God protected my home. 5 Almighty God was with me then, and I was surrounded by all my children. 6 My cows and goats gave plenty of milk, and my olive trees grew in the rockiest soil.

7 Whenever the city elders met and I took my place among them, 8 young men stepped aside as soon as they saw me, and old men stood up to show me respect. 9 The leaders of the people would stop talking; 10 even the most important men kept silent. 11 Everyone who saw me or heard of me had good things to say about what I had done. 12 When the poor cried out, I helped them; I gave help to orphans who had nowhere to turn. 13 People who were in deepest misery praised me, and I helped widows find security. 14 I have always acted justly and fairly. 15 I was eyes for the blind, and feet for the lame. 16 I was like a father to the poor and took the side of strangers in trouble. 17 I destroyed the power of cruel men and rescued their victims.

Job chapter 30 (TEV)

1 But men younger than I am make fun of me now! Their fathers have always been so worthless that I wouldn't let them help my dogs guard sheep. 9 Now they come and laugh at me; I am nothing but a joke to them. 10 They treat me with disgust; they think they are too good for me, and even come and spit in my face. 11 Because God has made me weak and helpless, they turn against me with all their fury. 12 This mob attacks me head-on; they send me running; they prepare their final assault. 13 They cut off my escape and try to destroy me; and there is no one to stop them.

15 I am overcome with terror; my dignity is gone like a puff of wind, and my prosperity like a cloud. 16 Now I am about to die; there is no relief for my suffering. 17 At night my bones all ache; the pain that gnaws me never stops. 18 God ... 19 ... throws me down in the mud; I am no better than dirt. 20 I call to you, O God, but you never answer; and when I pray, you pay no attention. 21 You are treating me cruelly; you persecute me with all your power. 22 You let the wind blow me away; you toss me about in a raging storm. 23 I know you are taking me off to my death, to the fate in store for everyone. 24 Why do you attack a ruined man, one who can do nothing but beg for pity? 25 Didn't I weep with people in trouble and feel sorry for those in need? 26 I hoped for happiness and light, but trouble and darkness came instead. 27 I am torn apart by worry and pain; I have had day after day of suffering. 28 I go about in gloom, without any sunshine; I stand up in public and plead for help. 29 My voice is as sad and lonely as the cries of a jackal or an ostrich. 30 My skin has turned dark; I am burning with fever.

Job chapter 31 (TEV)

1 I have made a solemn promise never to look with lust at a woman. 2 What does Almighty God do to us? How does he repay human deeds? 3 He sends disaster and ruin to those who do wrong. 4 God knows everything I do; he sees every step I take. 5 I swear I have never acted wickedly and never tried to deceive others. 6 Let God weigh me on honest scales, and he will see how innocent I am.
7 If I have turned from the right path or let myself be attracted to evil, if my hands are stained with sin, 8 then let my crops be destroyed, or let others eat the food I grow.

9 If I have been attracted to my neighbor's wife, and waited, hidden, outside her door, 10 then let my wife cook another man's food and sleep in another man's bed. 11 Such wickedness should be punished by death. 12 It would be like a destructive, hellish fire, consuming everything I have.
13 When any of my servants complained against me, I would listen and treat them fairly. 14 If I did not, how could I then face God? What could I say when God came to judge me? 15 The same God who created me created my servants also.

16 I have never refused to help the poor; never have I let widows live in despair 17 or let orphans go hungry while I ate. 18 All my life I have taken care of them. 19 When I found someone in need, too poor to buy clothes, 20 I would give him clothing made of wool that had come from my own flock of sheep. Then he would praise me with all his heart.
21 If I have ever cheated an orphan, knowing I could win in court, 22 then may my arms be broken; may they be torn from my shoulders. 23 Because I fear God's punishment, I could never do such a thing.

Incidentally, some Bible critics consider the Book of Job to be a depiction of cruel and unreasonable injustice on the part of God. But they fail to see the purpose of the book. Most of the Old Testament concerns God's punishment on societies for sins such as violence and oppression of the poor. It does not say that every incidence of such suffering is a punishment from God, and it does not address the reasons for the suffering of individuals. However, it may have been easy to extrapolate that when individuals suffered tragedy, they were being punished for something, so their suffering was their fault. Thus, we have the disciples of Jesus asking him when they saw a man who'd been blind from birth, "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" The Book of Job is an essential corrective to this mistaken belief, since it's about how suffering can happen to the best of us for no obvious reason. If it wasn't for the Book of Job, a terrible stigma could have grown up against people who suffered tragedy, because other people might have been mistakenly considering that the Bible shows that they must be suffering as a result of God's punishment. Thus, the Book of Job could have prevented the suffering of many who might otherwise have suffered the effects of judgmentalism on top of the tragedies they were already suffering. Of course, the prophets who spoke of the impending suffering of societies who didn't repent of their sins could have made a point of admonishing against judging individuals who suffered. But a handful of passages in the midst of so many others could easily be overlooked. It's more difficult to do that with an entire book.

Also, the Book of Job may well have been a solace to thousands or even millions going through suffering over the centuries. Job's poignant words can give people the comforting feeling that at least they're not going through their suffering alone. They can give people a healing catharsis or soothe them with a sense that feelings they can't articulate or that are bothering them are being expressed. The Book of Job can give people hope that their suffering will end and that their fortunes may be restored, and renew their confidence in God. It might have been of especial comfort to Israelites caught up in the aftermath of the Babylonian invasion of Israel and their exile to Babylon, which the Old Testament prophets had said was punishment for the sins of their society, but who hadn't personally committed sins worthy of such a punishment. They may have gained solace from a book about how suffering isn't always a punishment for sin despite the personal accusations people may make, and hope that God was looking out for them despite the way things appeared and would restore their fortunes at some point.

If the Book of Job has been a comfort to thousands or millions over the centuries, and has prevented a cruel stigma growing up against those who suffer tragedy, then Job may well consider that his suffering was worth it, even the loss of his children, especially if he'd see them again in the after-life, which is only a point of speculation, but a possibility.

The main Bible pages on this site:

Bible Bible Part 1: Bible Quotations, The Holy Spirit, People And Their Stories
Bible Part 2: The Lives and Suffering of the Ancient Israelites
Bible Part 3: The Bible, Articles About Alleged Inaccuracies in it, And Stories of People who Became Christians.
Or go directly to the next in the series: Job Is Given More Advice, God Intervenes, And Job Is Finally Restored To Health And Prosperity.

The selections of Bible quotations have been put together by Diana Holbourn.

Throughout this series, wherever the initials TEV appear, they stand for Today's English Version (The Good News Bible).

Other initials:

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There are a lot of pages on this website with quotations from the Old Testament on them. Many of these are unfortunately rather gruesome, since the main theme of the Old Testament is warnings and stories about how it says societies were punished for mass lawless and hurtful behaviour, even to the extent of having war brought on them by God, that seem to have been designed to scare societies where crime and violence were rampant into behaving more ethically. In case there is any misunderstanding, it should be understood that this website does not endorse war as anything other than a last resort. The position of the website owner can be gleaned from the articles:

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