Posted: 06 Feb 2011 11:00 PM PST
JOB'S RESPONSE TO ELIPHAZ TAKES UP two chapters. In Job 6 he argues as follows:
(1) In the opening verses (Job 6:1–7) Job insists he has every reason for bemoaning his situation: his anguish and misery are beyond calculation (Job 6:2–3). Nor does Job flinch from the obvious: in God's universe, God himself must somehow be behind these calamities—"The arrows of the Almighty are in me … God's terrors are marshaled against me" (Job 6:4). Not even a donkey brays without a reason (Job 6:5), so why should Job's friends treat him as if he is complaining without a reason?
(2) Job utters his deepest request: that God would simply crush him, "let loose his hand and cut me off" (Job 6:9). This is more than a death wish: "Then I would still have this consolation—my joy in unrelenting pain—that I had not denied the words of the Holy One" (Job 6:10). From this, three things are clear. (a) Despite his agony, Job is still thinking from within the framework of a committed believer. His suffering is not driving him to agnosticism or naturalism. (b) More importantly, his primary desire is to remain faithful to God. He sees death not only as a release from his suffering but as a way of dying before the intensity of his suffering should drive him to say or do something that would dishonor God. (c) Implicitly, this is also a response to Eliphaz. A man with such a passionate commitment to remain faithful to "the words of the Holy One" (Job 6:10) should not be dismissed as a light and frivolous prevaricator.
(3) Eliphaz's position depends on the assumption that if Job acts as Eliphaz advises, all his wealth and power will be restored to him. Job insists he is well beyond that point: he has no hope, no prospects. He cannot conduct himself in such a way as to finagle blessings from God (Job 6:11–13).
(4) Meanwhile, Job reproaches Eliphaz and his colleagues (Job 6:14–23). "A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty" (Job 6:14); that is what real friendship is like. Job analyzes the real reason why his friends have proved "as undependable as intermittent streams" (Job 6:15): they have seen something dreadful and they are afraid (Job 6:21). Their neat theological categories have been blown away by Job's suffering, since they had believed he was a righteous man. They must now prove him to be unrighteous, deserving of his sufferings, or they too are under threat.
(5) Job ends with a wrenching plea (Job 6:24–30). As far as he is concerned, his own integrity is at stake; he will not fake repentance when he knows he does not deserve this suffering. "Relent, do not be unjust" (Job 6:29), he tells his friends.
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