Two on Friendship II (Job 5; 6:14-30)
Bill Long 1/13/05
Understanding Eliphaz's Words and Job's Response
The purpose of this study is to explore further the problems that emerge when friends try to relate to each other after great distress. In the previous study we focused on Eliphaz's initial "take" on Job's problem. He approached Job gently, carefully probing Job's heart, commending him for past fidelity, gently chiding him to hold fast. In this passage we reach the conclusion of Eliphaz's speech. He finishes by giving advice to Job on what he thinks Job ought to do. Then, we will move to Job's reaction to Eliphaz's advice. Communication breaks down in this encounter. I hope we can understand how it does.
Job 5: 17-27
"17 How happy is the one whom God reproves; therefore do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. 18 For he wounds, but he binds up; he strikes, but his hands heal. 19 He will deliver you from six troubles; in seven no harm shall touch you. 20 In famine he will redeem you from death, and in war from the power of the sword. 21 You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue, and shall not fear destruction when it comes. 22 At destruction and famine you shall laugh, and shall not fear the wild animals of the earth. 23 For you shall be in league with the stones of the field, and the wild animals shall be at peace with you. 24 You shall know that your tent is safe, you shall inspect your fold and miss nothing. 25 You shall know that your descendants will be many, and your offspring like the grass of the earth. 26 You shall come to your grave in ripe old age, as a shock of grain comes up to the threshing floor in its season. 27 See, we have searched this out; it is true. Hear, and know it for yourself."
A. In these final 11 verses of his first speech Eliphaz finally advances an interpretation of what he thinks is happening to Job. What is his "take" on things? Read Proverbs 3:11-12 and compare Eliphaz's words with those of Proverbs.
B. Have you ever spoken words like those in v. 18? Do you believe they are true? Do you believe that these words might be the true or good explanation for Job in this instance?
C. Are you a person who finds it helpful or useful to give an explanation of suffering to someone when s/he suffers?
D. Is Eliphaz's use of the word "laughter" in v. 22 a sign of undue arrogance? slightly exaggerated exuberance? sober thought?
E. Is the reference to children in v. 25 an act of incredible insensitivity on Eliphaz's part or is something else going on?
F. As Eliphaz finishes his first speech, what is your "read" of him? Has he said too much? Too little? He reflects the "wisdom theology" of Israel pretty accurately at this point. Is that an attractive theology? Would you say it is your theology?
"14 Those who withhold kindness from a friend forsake the fear of the Almighty. 15 My companions are treacherous like a torrent-bed, like freshets that pass away, 16 that run dark with ice, turbid with melting snow. 17 In time of heat they disappear; when it is hot, they vanish from their place. 18 The caravans turn aside from their course; they go up into the waste, and perish. 19 The caravans of Tema look, the travelers of Sheba hope. 20 They are disappointed because they were confident; they come there and are confounded. 21 Such you have now become to me; you see my calamity, and are afraid.
We will return to the first 13 verses of Job 6 in the next lesson. Job first speaks further of his pain (6:1-13) before speaking about/to his friends. But because the topic of these two studies is on friendship, I move ahead to Job's comments on his friends.
A. Two different renderings of 6:14 are possible. In addition to the NRSV (above) is this: "A friend does not refuse his loyalty, nor does he forsake the fear of the Almighty." The translations do not really say the same thing. It is enough if we recognize this verse as a proverbial saying, and that the two elements of loyalty and the fear of God figure into friendship. Beyond that I can't go at this point.
B. How does Job respond to Eliphaz's proffered act of friendship? Why do you think he talks about his friends in the third person rather than addressing them directly? (Note in verses 21 and 24 he addresses them directly)
C. How do you read v. 15? In what tone of voice do you think it is spoken?
D. Job uses imagery drawn from desert life to illustrate the point about the friends' treachery. What pictures do the images create in your mind?
E. Job gives his sweeping interpretive statement about his friends' conduct in v. 21 (just as Eliphaz had interpreted the meaning of Job's distress in 5:17-18). What is he saying? Do you think there may be any truth in it?
Job 6: 24-30
"24 Teach me, and I will be silent; make me understand how I have gone wrong. 25 How forceful are honest words! But your reproof, what does it reprove? 26 Do you think that you can reprove words, as if the speech of the desperate were wind? 27 You would even cast lots over the orphan, and bargain over your friend. 28 "But now, be pleased to look at me; for I will not lie to your face. 29 Turn, I pray, let no wrong be done. Turn now, my vindication is at stake. 30 Is there any wrong on my tongue? Cannot my taste discern calamity?"
A. What is Job claiming in verse 24? Is he saying that he is a sinless man? If not, what is he saying?
B. Why does Job seem so vehement, so vitriolic, so carping in v. 27?
C. Notice the twofold use of "turn" in v. 29. Some commentators suggest that at this point the friends have turned away from Job, with arms crossed, showing symbolically that they are now almost fully estranged from him. Is that how you read those uses of "turn?"
D. What is your view of who is responsible for the breach between the friends? Is it a "two-way street?"
Job has gone from speaking about his friends in the third person to the second person. In chapter 7, Job will address God. At first he addresses God also in the third person but then will speak directly to God in the second person in 7:12. Before we get there, however, we have to meet Job in his outburst directly after Eliphaz finished his speech.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long