Job’s Friends’ Faulty Thinking

Posted on March 10, 2023


By David Ettinger

Familiar Account
The Book of Job is familiar to believers and unbelievers alike. Basically, God allows Satan to savagely attack the righteous Job that God might teach us about His sovereignty. Job’s torment is climaxed by the deaths of all 10 of his children at once.

Almost as familiar in the Book of Job is the reaction of his 3 friends – Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar – their accusations cruel, their thinking faulty.

The Good Side
Before dissecting the bad side of Job’s friends, let’s look at the good. Three things stand out:

1. When they hear about Job’s misfortune, they set out from their homes to console him (Job 2:11).

2. When they see from a distance how horribly his suffering has marred his appearance, they  weep for him (v. 12).

3. When they reach him, they say nothing. In heartfelt sympathy, “they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights, with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great” (v. 13).

Commendable indeed, but it goes downhill from here.

The Heart of the Matter
No doubt the 3 had longstanding beliefs about suffering, beliefs still held today by Christians. These particular beliefs – major misconceptions – came cascading out.

After 7 days of silent mourning, Job finally gave vent to his pain, frustration, and grief (Chapter 3). Here was the opportunity the friends were looking for. Eliphaz blurts:

Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright destroyed? According to what I have seen, those who plow wrongdoing And those who sow trouble harvest it. By the breath of God they perish, And by the blast of His anger they come to an end (4:7-9).

There it is – the heart of the matter. Eliphaz, referencing Job’s children, asks, “who ever perished from being innocent?” The connotation here is that God would not allow innocent people to die in such way. Obviously, all 10 of Job’s children are guilty.

Of what? Eliphaz provides the answer: “Where were the upright destroyed?” In other words, Job’s children, according to Eliphaz, had to have been immoral. Eliphaz concludes that because Job’s children were immoral and corrupt (“those who plow wrongdoing”), they exhausted God’s patience and he justifiably destroyed them.

Job rebukes Eliphaz for his cruelty: “For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend; So that he does not abandon the fear of the Almighty” (6:14).

More Faulty Thinking
Job’s plea, however, falls on deaf ears as Bildad bloviates: “If your sons sinned against Him [God], Then He turned them over to the power of their wrongdoing” (8:4).

According to the report Job’s servant gave him regarding his children, we read: “… a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died” (1:19). Not a word is mentioned here about them being evil.

This makes no difference to Bildad. The mere fact they died in such a way indicates how evil and rotten they were. Again, Job is having none of it:

But you smear me with lies; You are all worthless physicians. Oh that you would be completely silent, And that it would become your wisdom! (15:4-5).

What a lesson for us all! More on this in a moment.

A little later, Job again castigates his friends: “I have heard many things like these; Miserable comforters are you all!” (16:2). Rather than take note, Bildad is insulted: “Why are we regarded as animals, As stupid in your eyes?” (18:3).

Well, Bildad, since you asked …

3 Takeaways
1. Know Scripture. Biblically-based arguments need to be grounded in biblical truth. These men assumed death came to Job’s children because they were evil. What other reason could there be for what happened? As it turned out, there were plenty of other reasons. Job’s 3 friends presumed to know God’s heart, but they were lightyears away.

2. Proverbs 16:23-24: “The heart of the wise instructs his mouth And adds persuasiveness to his lips. Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Even if Job’s children did die because they were wicked, what good would be accomplished by telling Job that? Discerning Christians need to dispense counsel, sympathy, and comfort to mourners. Wise, caring words at the right time are a blessing.

3. Proverbs 27:28: “One who withholds his words has knowledge … Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.” Know when to keep quiet. Even if you are a person of understanding and truly have the right words in all situations, sometimes the hearer just doesn’t want to hear it. Know when to say nothing. Know when keeping silent is the wisest thing of all.

Job’s friends were riddled with faulty thinking and broadcast it for the world to hear. As Christians, let us loathe the idea of doing the same!