The Book of Job is a fascinating story, portraying a dialogue between a man and his friends over the concepts of God. Particularly, due to its inclusion in the Tanakh, the God YHWH.
Unfortunately, as infidels, we concentrate on the first two chapters, and the “bet” between God and Satan, while Christians primarily focus on the last five chapters, and God’s reply framed around “Who are you to question God?”
Occasionally we see a verse or two pulled out to defend the idea that dinosaurs walked with humans, or the pyramids were built by God. Often we overlook the rich exchange that happens between Job and his friends.
There is argument that the first two chapters and 42:7-16 were an addition to a much older tale, as the concept of Satan was not introduced until post-captivity. (Satan only makes one other historical appearance in the Tanakh—being David’s Census. 1 Chron. 21:1)
Regardless of the reason for the exchange, the bulk of the book comprises of Job interchanging with three friends over the concept of God. Let’s set the scene.
Job has had a set of personal tragedies that have led him to the point he wishes he was never born. Job 3:11. He gives out a long, whining speech, bemoaning his misery. Three friends respond; Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shulhite and Zophar the Naamathite reply in turn to Job.
(By the way, the next time you hear the phrase, “Job’s Comforters” as a negative reference, remember that the three friends sat with Job in complete silence for seven (7) days. Job 2:13. That takes a pretty good friend.)
After debating back and forth over what God does, God appears in Chapter 38. It is not exactly clear whether God talks solely to Job, or whether all four overhear and see what God says and demonstrates. However, in 42:7 God does speak directly to the three friends, saying:
“…God said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”
God reiterates again in 42:8 that the three friends had not spoken of God what is right, as Job has. In 42:9 it is indicated again that what Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shulhite and Zophar the Naamathite all said was incorrect.
Clear enough. What Job said about God was correct. What the three friends said was incorrect. But have you ever read the book of Job with the mindset that what Job was saying was right, and what the three friends said was wrong? How about a game of “Believer or Infidel” where we guess whether the statement about God was correctly made by a believer, or incorrectly made by an Infidel?
The rhetorical question: “Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?”
Made by an infidel. Job. 4:17. If God says this is wrong, is it true that humans CAN be more pure than God?
Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
Infidel. Job. 5:17
Why do you not forgive my sins?
Believer. Job 7:21. Interesting how many times we have discussed here the problem of God only forgiving some sins, or how atonement could be so incomplete. We are often told “Who are you to ask God, ‘Why?’” Yet that is exactly what Job did, and God found that acceptable!
If you will look to God and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place.
Infidel. Job. 8:5-6 Again, we have been informed by Christians that we can still turn to God. That we can still beg forgiveness for our inability to believe. Apparently according to God, all those believers are quite incorrect and should beg for forgiveness for saying such inaccurate statements about him. ‘Cause when Bildad the Shuhite said the same thing, God said it was wrong.
I will say to God: Do not condemn me, but tell me what charges you have against me. Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands, while you smile on the schemes of the wicked?
Believer. Job. 10:2-3. (I’ll bet you are getting the hang of this Game!) Let’s see if I have this right—What Job says is correct. Job has the audacity to question why God condemns him. Therefore, it seems quite appropriate that we, too, even as infidels would be correct to ask God why he condemns us. Especially given the vast amounts of information that point to his non-existence.
God would seem to give the stamp of approval to us questioning his ways—including his methods of judgment! Remember THAT, next time we are told, “God does not have to answer to you.” According to Job, we are at least allowed to ask the question and it is appropriate.
Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave—what can you know?
Infidel. Job 11:7-8. This has always intrigued me. Remember—God says that this statement about him is incorrect! Very, very often, when discussing God we are informed by Christians that some question, some problem is unknown—because we cannot know the ways of God.
Yeah, this is exactly what Zophar the Naamathite said, “God is too mysterious for you.” And God says that is wrong! So, if God says Zophar is wrong for saying it, are you? Dare a Christian ever revert to the “God is mysterious” defense, in light of Job 11:7-8?
If you devote your heart to him…if you put away the sin that is in your hand…then you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm and without fear.”
Infidel. Job 11: 13-15.
I desire to speak to the Almighty and to argue my case with God.
Believer Job. 13:3
Your sin prompts your mouth; you adopt the tongue of the crafty. Your own mouth condemns you, not mine; your own lips testify against you.
Infidel. Job 15:5-6
Are God’s consolations not enough for you, words spoken gently to you? Why has your heart carried you away, and why do your eyes flash, so that you vent your rage against God and pout out such words from your mouth?
Infidel. Job. 15:11-13
We could go on for the next few chapters, but hopefully the point has been made. I strongly encourage you to read the book, noting who is speaking, and whether what they are saying is “correct” or not.
Now, I may be accused (perhaps with some justification) that I have picked out some problematic portions while others I have left on the table. The concern is that God (according to the author) fails to differentiate between what parts Job said were correct and what parts Job said were incorrect. Likewise with his three friends.
If the claim is made that only parts of what Job/Friends stated were correct and parts were incorrect, how do we come up with a methodology as to which are which, without relying upon a bias? In other words, claiming God approved certain words, simply because we desire God to approve those words.
So here is my question. It may take a bit of reading, but please read the portions of Job which record the statements made by Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. Chapters 4-5, 8, 11, 15, 18, 22, and 25. What, exactly, did the three friends say which was incorrect about God? What was so wrong that God demanded a sacrifice for these horrible statements? I would suspect that any pastor could preach about God working from any of these chapters and not a single person would stand up and say, “Hey. Wait a Minute. What you are saying about God is wrong.”
What did the three friends say that was incorrect?