Tuesday, December 19, 2023


No 34  Job's Three Friends 

The Three Friends of Job
Before I had ever read the Book of Job close enough to know what was going on, I liked Job’s three friends―Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. They cared enough for their friend Job to come to mourn and comfort him in his trials. It was with considerable effort (and expense, I’m sure) that they made the venture to visit him. I liked those qualities in them. Friends. Good friends.

Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him (Job 2:11).

Then when I had read enough in the Book of Job to know what was going on, I didn’t like them at all. In fact, at one point in my experience with the book, I wanted to rip out their words from the Bible in total disregard. Darken those words with a marker. Paste white paper over their words. Glue the pages shut that recorded their words.

When I would come across a reference to a verse in the Book of Job, I would first verify who had spoken the words. If the words were spoken by either of those three, I would skip over whatever they had to say and move on to Job's next speech.

I don’t feel that way today. However, I still read their words slowly and cautiously. But I do not have the outright and immediate rejection of their words as I once did. What changed my thinking? What influences redirected me? Giving it some thought, I can identify three.

Three Influences

Influence #1  God. If God felt the same way about their words (as I once felt), He would not have allowed their words to be included in Scripture. But He did. This in itself had great bearing on my thinking.

Influence #2  Unknown author somewhere. By poorly documenting my notes through the years, I have lost the author who jolted my thinking with the essence of this thought (I do not remember the actual words): If I am so quick to disregard Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, I am doing no better (or differently) than what they did to Job. They wanted to tear out Job’s words from the record. They wanted to glue shut the pages of his testimony. (They would have glued shut his lips if that had been possible).

Influence #3  Ellen G White. The list which follows is given to emphasize a single point: Ellen White made reference to statements made by the three friends as well as Job. Most frequently, she made reference to Eliphaz. This is not because Eliphaz made the more notable comments, but that the comments made by Bildad and Zophar often reiterated those made by the first speaker of each cycle―Eliphaz. Eliphaz, for example, made some very deep and spiritual comments.

These comments have often become memory-type quality―those verses we commit to memory. Summary: they did have some good things to say. (Maybe that’s why God, #1 above, the Author and Source of the Scriptures, included their words for us to read today.)

The Comforters Comfort (Number of Chapters)
9 Chapters: Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar
         Eliphaz             4, 5, 15, 22
         Bildad               8, 18, 25
         Zophar              11, 20
Chapter                       Speaker                        Number of References by Ellen White
Job 3                            Job                                             2
Job 4,5                         Eliphaz                                     12
Job 6,7                         Job                                             6
Job 8                            Bildad                                         0
Job 9,10                       Job                                             7
Job 11                          Zophar                                        7
Job 12,13,14                Job                                            14
Job 15                          Eliphaz                                       2
Job 16,17                     Job                                             3
Job 18                          Bildad                                         1
Job 19                          Job                                             8
Job 20                          Zophar                                        0
Job 21                          Job                                             1
Job 22                          Eliphaz                                       5
Job 23,24                     Job                                             7
Job 25                          Bildad                                         2
Why Was I So Quick?
Why was I so quick to want to disregard the words these three friends spoke to Job? Because many of those words were mean and cruel. Their words were not in agreement with their mission―to mourn and comfort. Many of their words were not comforting at all. They were, in fact, intended to hurt. Job was having it bad enough without their scathing rebukes being heaped upon his head.
Being Judgmental
Was my quick judgment against them not a judgment against myself? Reading the Book of Job is a lesson in learning to be non-judgmental. Reading the Book of Job is a lesson in learning how to love the sinner but hate the sin. Job’s three friends were so quick to judge that which they did not know―acting as if they knew all. Surely, we would not be acting in such a manner today. Would we? 
Eliphaz had to learn this lesson as his salvation depended upon it. Bildad had to learn this lesson as his salvation depended upon it. Zophar had to learn this lesson as his salvation depended upon it. We must learn these lessons as our salvation depends upon it. Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again (Matt 7:1,2).
Eliphaz is Introduced
Eliphaz was from Teman―a city-town in the country of Edom―and a place noted for its wise men. The Lord said so. Concerning Edom, thus saith the Lord of hosts; Is wisdom no more in Teman? is counsel perished from the prudent? is their wisdom vanished? (Jer 49:7).
Eliphaz stands as the representative of a country remarkable for its wisdom and counsel. Eliphaz speaks first, not necessarily because he is the smartest of the three, but because he is the eldest of the three. Custom bears large sway in the Book of Job. Custom says, “The one you come to visit speaks first.” They followed that rule. Job's outcry in Chapter 3 had followed seven days of silence. The three friends had sat speechless, staring at him on his ash heap, for those seven days. Custom says, “The eldest speak first.” This is probably why Eliphaz is the first speaker.   
Much of the focus of Job and the Jobian Way will focus on Eliphaz because you will get the gist of the arguments made by Bildad and Zophar when you read what Eliphaz wrote. Where one of them gives an argument (makes a point) that Eliphaz didn’t, I will point that out.
At the end of Job’s trial, it was to Eliphaz that God gave orders for Job to sacrifice seven bulls and seven rams as a burnt offering for Eliphaz and his two friends. God specifically pointed out the errors made by Eliphaz. This is why we will look at what Eliphaz said. 
7 And it was so, that after the Lord had spoken these words unto Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. 8 Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job. 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went, and did according as the Lord commanded them: the Lord also accepted Job. 10 And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends (Job 42:7-10).
Eliphaz Begins (Chapter 4)
1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said, 2  If we assay to commune with thee, wilt thou be grieved? but who can withhold himself from speaking?
"If  someone dares to speak a word with you, will you get upset?" This was the first remark by Eliphaz. In some ways, it was his nicest. It doesn't get any better from here onward.   
“Now. don’t get mad at what I am about to say—it’s only for your own good that I’m going to say it in the first place. Be angry or not, I don’t care! I’m going to give you a piece of my mind. I’m going to say what’s on my mind." Evidently, knowing what he has to say will be unwelcome, Eliphaz apologizes before beginning his rebuke. And there it starts. There it begins. 
“Who cares if you are impatient―who can keep from telling you how wrong you are. We don’t care if you get upset. Your answer doesn’t matter to us. We’re going to talk anyway. No matter what you say, we have to tell you what is on our minds." 

Right from the start, Eliphaz indicates they have another agenda besides Job’s feelings. What Job thinks and feels is not the important consideration here and onward.

3 Behold, thou hast instructed many, 
and thou hast strengthened the weak hands.
4 Thy words have upholden him that was falling,
and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees.
5 But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest;
it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled.
6 Is not this thy fear, thy confidence, 
thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways?

You Can Dish It Out But You Can't Take It
"Job, your life is a sham! Your religion is worthless! You don’t practice what you preach. Surely you have instructed many. You have a great history of helping others in their troubles. You can tell others what they need to do. You can tell others how they should regard their troubles. You can tell others that their afflictions are corrective chastenings. You can tell others that their afflictions can be something positive. You have strengthened those despondent and discouraged. You have helped others when they are down. You have said helpful things to those who is stumbling, staggering, tottering and falling. You have strengthened those struggling to carry their heavy load. But when it comes to you, you can't handle it.

Eliphaz’s introductory words can be read two ways:
#1  Is he trying to encourage Job by recalling his past ministry to others who were suffering and hurting?
#2  Is he using the past as a weapon to shame his complaining friend now? 
The answer is probably #2. Eliphaz is taunting Job. Eliphaz is saying, because you are now troubled, this is only a symptom of your own sin. Eliphaz is putting Job down, so to speak, as he is setting up his manipulative process. Eliphaz is reminding Job of his past role as an effective teacher, counselor and  comforter. Eliphaz is saying, in effect, “Physician, heal thyself.”
Job had brought help to others in their affliction and discouragement. Job had been able to point others to God in their times of trial. Job had helped others to refrain from impatient words and thoughts about God. But, now, when it comes to him, he can’t take it. He fretted. He grumbled. Murmured. Complained. Whined.
Eliphaz seems to have lost all compassion. He has no regard for feelings. Sensitivity is of no concern with him. Eliphaz overlooks the fact that in a very short period of time and in rapid succession, Job had experienced more losses and reverses than the average person meets in a lifetime.

Yet Eliphaz will continue to tear into Job's heart with malice. Why such malice? Our study continues next week.

This lesson certainly reminds us to have tender regard for the feelings of others even when we must speak words of reproval. Does it not?

Please send questions or comments to Will Hardin at P O Box 24 Owenton KY 40359 or use the comments via Google section below.

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