Cycles of “Why” debates
Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said: “If one ventures a word with you, will you be impatient? Yet who can keep from speaking? Behold, you have instructed many, and you have strengthened the weak hands. Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees. But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed. Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope? Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off?”
Friends can be well meaning while at the same time strikingly wrong. Sincere, but off-target. This is exactly what Job must endure over the next 33 chapters of back-n-forth with those sitting with him in ashes.
To “comfort” Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar and eventually Elihu all expound from their personal storehouse of wisdom, attempting to give Job a clear “Why this happened to you” and “Here’s what you should do about it.” Speeches are offered by each man, and Job responds to each speech. It all unfolds in three cycles, then a fourth with Elihu.
Read thru. Carve out time!
The speeches are variations on one explanation: “Job, you’ve done something wrong. Your outlook is skewed. God doesn’t do this to the innocent!”, followed by Job’s insistence, “I hear you, but I am innocent!” Weary of the unrelenting accusations, Job admits, “I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all. Shall windy words have an end? Or what provokes you that you answer?” (Job 16:1-2).
Their persuasions cease, only to be followed by a fourth younger “friend,” an angry Elihu (Job 32-37), frustrated that Job keeps declaring his innocence. Determined to set things straight, he insists Job’s personal righteousness claims are baseless, and an affront to a God who rules the world righteously. Interestingly, though sure of his outlook, God himself rebukes his “darkening of counsel with words without knowledge” (38:2).