Misunderstanding of Job’s Trial Few Could Bear
Why do afflictions befall a righteous man? Why good things happen to bad people and bad things to good people? These are the questions, the answering of which is made the theme of Job’s trial.
In Job’s trial lies the important truth, that there is a suffering of the righteous which is not wrath, nor is it the love of God or a dispensation of that love itself, as some theologians teach that there are sufferings which are the result of God’s love. This is wrong. YHVH does not find pleasure and love in the suffering of His children.
But, the suffering of the righteous is meant to bring him/her to something which we will learn below, as we go through Job’s trial.
The story of Job’s trial begins like that: Iyov (Job) was a righteous man from the land of Uts. He was wealthy and the greatest of all the people of the East. (Job 1:1-3) And the messengers came to present themselves before YHVH. And YHVH said to satan, “Have you considered My servant Iyov, that there is none like him on the earth, a perfect and straight man, one who fears Elohim and turns aside from evil?” And Satan answered, “Is Iyov fearing Elohim for nothing? … But strike all that he has, if he would not curse You to Your face!” Then YHVH permitted Satan to lay hands on all his possessions only not on his life. (Job 1:6-12)
And on that day Iyov’s ten children died, robbers killed his servants and took all his possessions, but he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I return there. YHVH has given, and YHVH has taken away. Blessed be the Name of YHVH.” (Job 1:21-22)
An on another day YHVH said to satan, “Have you considered My servant Iyov, …? He still holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.” But satan suggested that if he was allowed to lay hands on Iyov’s flesh, he would curse Him in His face. And YHVH said to satan, “Look, he is in your hand, only spare his life.” (Job 2:1-6)
And satan struck Iyov with loathsome sores allover the body and he suffered a lot, but Iyov said, “Should we accept only good from Elohim, and not accept evil?” and he did not sin. (Job 2:7-10)
And three of Iyov’s friends – Eliphaz, Bildad, and Tsophar – heard of all this evil and came to comfort him (Job 2:11), but Iyov cursed the day of his birth because of his suffering and wished that his life might be brought to an end. (Job 3:1-3)
Job was known in Israel as a recognized righteous man, for Ezekiel and Ya’akov (Eze_14:14, Jam_5:11) wrote about him. But, who were Iyov and his friends?
Note: Job was as great-grandson of Esau, and he himself was the son of his father Zerach, one of the sons of Esau, so that he was the fifth from Avraham, as we follow his genealogy from Avraham: Avraham, Issac, Esau son of Isaac, Reuel son of Esau (Gen 36:10), Zerach son of Reuel (Gen 36:13), Job (who is Jobab) son of Zerach (Gen 36:33).
There are also strong hints that Iyov, regarding his social status and wealth, was King Yovav (Jobab) in Gen_36:31-34 which would make him an Edomite. And also, Eliphaz Iyov’s friend (Job_2:11) was the son of Esav (that is Esau), as seen in Gen_36:9-12. This could mean that Iyov was a contemporary to Avraham and younger in age. Elihu was a Buzite of the family of Ram (Job_32:2), therefore, Elihu appears to be an Aramean Arab (for more information on this subject see the article “Who are the Arabs?“).
So, Iyov was an Edomite (Gen_36:31-34) and Eliphaz was an Edomite, too, and father of the worst enemy of Israel, Amalek (Gen_36:9-12); Elihu was an Aramean Arab.
A close textual analysis will show us that the four friends of Job had never used the name of YHVH in their speeches. The only times the Name appears in the text of the Book of Job is in the prologue and in the epilogue. YHVH did not reveal Himself by His Name, i.e. “I am YHVH Your Elohim”, as He has done so in the other scriptures, to any one of them in the Book of Job.
Only twice is יהוה found in the mouth of Job (Job_1:21, Job_12:9), which is not to be wondered at, since the Name of the Creator is given almost exclusively to the Hebrew people. But with this exception, Job and his four friends everywhere call Him Eloah commonly translated as “God”. Keeping this in mind let us continue in our study.
Then, we witness cycles of speeches in Job’s trial in which his friends believed that his extreme suffering resulted from an extreme sin, and should he confess this sin, he would be restored.
But, Job knew himself to be righteous and was justifying himself that he had not committed the sins of which his friends charged him. He argued that his friends were wrong in assuming that he had committed such a sin that deserved that suffering he could hardly bear. He even lamented as to why good things happened to bad people and bad things to good people only to make his friends launched another cycle of arguments with inconsiderate reasoning. At the end the three men ceased to answer Job, because for them he was righteous in his own eyes. (Job 32:1)
Then, another friend of Job, who stayed silent all the time, emerged on the scene – Elihu (My God is He), but only to burn with anger against him, because in his eyes Job declared himself right rather than Elohim. (Job 32:2) Elihu accused Job of having considered himself clear, without transgression, and innocent, and of having complained that Eloah had found occasions against him and counted him as His enemy. “Look!, said Elihu, In this you are not right: pay attention, because Eloah is greater than man!” (Job 33:9-12)
This is the principal trait of Job’s speeches which Elihu here emphasizes: Job‘s defence of his righteousness against YHVH’s justice. But, what Elihu brings in is that Eloah is too great for man to enter into a defence against such complaints against Him. And for this reason Elihu assumed the role to speak for God Himself.
One must listen very closely to discover the difference between the tone which Elihu takes and the tone in which Eliphaz, for instance, began his first speech.
As we go through Elihu’s speech, we will notice that both, Eliphaz and Elihu, designate Job’s affliction as a chastisement, which will end gloriously, if he receives it without murmuring; but Eliphaz demands of him humiliation under the mighty hand of God; Elihu, on the contrary, makes this humiliation lighter to him, by setting over against his longing for God to answer him, that his affliction is already the answer of YHVH to him.
Why have you defended against Him? Because He does not answer all His matters? For El does speak once, or twice – though one does not notice it (Job 33:13-14)
Knowing himself to be right and still considering he is counted as an enemy by God, Job has frequently asked God as to why He treats him thus. He has longed for God’s answer to these questions and because God has veiled Himself in silence, he pleads his case against Him. This is what Elihu has in his mind in Job_33:13 when he asked the question: Because He does not answer all His matters?
Yet, YHVH does really speak with men, although not as Job desires. Elihu continues,
in a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, while slumbering on a bed, then He opens the ears of men, and seals their instruction, to turn man from his deed, and conceal pride from man. He keeps back his being from the pit, and his life from passing away by the sword. (Job 33:15-18)
Elihu now describes the first manner in which Eloah speaks to man: He Himself comes in man’s deep sleep once or twice using dreams or visions, which come upon him, as a medium of revelation.
What Elihu means is that by such dreams and visions, Eloah opens man’s subconsciousness while he is in a state of deep sleep and seals their admonitions to man, to restrain him from his deeds and pride that lead him to destruction.
This is how YHVH speaks to man, by instructions and admonition in night dreams and visions in connection with this first way of speaking to man. But there is also another way YHVH can speak to man.
And he is reproved with pain on his bed, and with unceasing distress in his bones, so that his life loathes bread, and his being desirable food. His flesh wastes away, and his bones which were not seen stick out. And his being draws near the pit, and his life to the destroyers. (Job 33:19-22)
Another and severer way in which YHVH speaks to man is by His justice administered sometimes through painful affliction, hardship and even sickness, as we see this in Job’s trial.
Man can be reproved with pain on his sickbed, so that even his soul at last gives in to the sickness, even to the moment of loathing desirable pleasures in order that he may come to the breaking point at which he may surrender his life to the destroying angels.
The destroying angels memitim (see also Psa_78:49 and 2Sa_24:16), are the angels who are commissioned by YHVH to afflict human beings and even to take lives. But, YHVH does not put us into trials to destroy us, nor does He test us more than what we can bear, because He also provides with the trial the way of escape.
No trial has overtaken you except such as is common to man, and Elohim is faithful, who shall not allow you to be tried beyond what you are able, but with the trial shall also make the way of escape, enabling you to bear it. (1Co 10:13), says Apostle Shaul (Paul).
YHVH is not only just but loving and merciful. He will lead man’s soul through trials and testing, but He will provide deliverance, as well.
Elihu keeps on admonishing Job,
If there is a messenger for him, a mediator, one among a thousand, to show man His straightness, then He shows favor to him, and says, ‘Release him from going down to the pit, I have found an atonement. Let his flesh become fresher than a child’s, let him return to the days of his youth.’ (Job 33:23-25)
This deliverance, however, requires a mediator, a messenger mal’ach, to vouch for a man’s uprightness, who will plead his case before the Judge in opposition to the destroying angels. This interceding angel will do everything to prevent man from going down to the pit, because he has found a ransom for him to return him to the days when he was walking uprightly. This the mediating angel does by prayers until the Judge rules in favor of the man and restores his righteousness.
This course of Elihu’s thought does not lead us to the understanding of thinking of mal’ach as a human messenger of God, although mal’ach, meaning a messenger, could be a human. But here mal’ach appears in opposition to the heavenly angels of destruction, not merely as a declarer of the conditions of the deliverance, but as a mediator of the deliverance itself.
This messenger (angel) of YHVH we find in Zec 3:1 where he is defending Yehoshua the high priest.
And he showed me Yehoshua the high priest standing before the angel of Yehovah and satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And Yehovah said to satan: ‘Yehovah rebuke you, O satan, yea, Yehovah that has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you; is not this man a brand plucked out of the fire?’ (Zec 3:1)
So, if memitim are heavenly beings by whom the man is threatened with the execution of death, in this case, the mal’ach cannot by a mere man, but a heavenly being who mediates the man’s salvation. Who could that heavenly being be? Apostle Shaul alludes to the Messiah Yeshua saying that when, even though he himself was in trial through the weakness of the flesh, he was received as a messenger of Elohim, just as the Messiah Yeshua was His Messenger. We read thus,
And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as a messenger of Elohim, as Messiah Yeshua. (Gal 4:14)
Therefore, taking up this perception, Elihu alludes to the deliverance of man from the death, which he has deserved by his sins, by an angelic mediator.
This allusion to a supernatural being, the “Angel of Yehovah” as a pre-existing being, is the oldest prefigurement of redemption and hope through a deliverer in the history, as the Book of Job is the oldest recorded book in the Bible. We find confirmation of this heavenly being in other scriptures, where the Angel of YHVH is called also the angel of His presence (lit. the messenger of His faces), as follows,
In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them, and carried them all the days of old. (Isa 63:9)
Then the angel of Yehovah spoke and said: ‘O Yehovah of hosts, how long will You not have compassion on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which You has had indignation these seventy years? (Zec 1:12)
Therefore, what Elihu expresses is that the deliverance of man can only be effected by a superhuman being who is at the same time YHVH’s presence, and mediator and savior.
He prays to Eloah, and He accepts him. And he sees His face with joy, and He restores to man his righteousness. He sings to men and says, ‘I have sinned, and I have perverted what was right, and it did not profit me. He has redeemed my being from going down to the pit, and my life sees the light.’ (Job 33:26-28)
And the man, through this Angel of the presence, the Angel of YHVH, prays to the Lord and He accepts him.
Consequently, “He prays to Eloah, and He accepts him” is not intended of prayer, which resulted in pardon, but of prayer which results from the pardon that may be heard continually: if he prays to Eloah, He receives him favorably.
Look, El does all these – twice, three times with a man, to bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living. (Job 33:29-30)
After having described two ways for the moral restoration of man, Elihu adds that Eloah does everything with a man twice or thrice in order to bring back his soul from the destruction. Because, if it is without effect the first time, it is repeated a second, even third time. In Job’s trial we find the two waves of afflictions upon Job: first he was suffered the loss of his children and possessions, and in the second: his body was afflicted by painful sores.
Further, Elihu objects Job’s notion that his affliction proceeds from a hostility on the part of Eloah, and directs Job to look at his affliction, not as a punishment from the angry Eloah, but as a chastisement for his highest good, as disciplinary affliction which is intended to secure him against sin.
YHVH leaves us to make a choice: to return to Him or keep on distancing from Him. He does not exercise authoritative control or power over us, but gives us the choice to make. The trials some of us have gone or going through have this only purpose to bring us back: El does all these – twice, three times with a man, to bring back his soul from the pit, and also to be enlightened for a new life.
From the whole story of Job’s trial we can conclude that a man may serve Elohim from the bottom of his heart, and consequently be found righteous as Job was found, and still be heavily tried by Him: either for a trial of faith, hope, and patience, or for improvement of his soul, so that at the end of the trial the man can be stronger than before. Because YHVH does not try to condemn, but to improve.
There is, then, now no condemnation to those who are in Messiah Yeshua, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Rom 8:1)
Job was tried for his faith, hope and perseverance. He passed the trial for faith, he never denied Elohim, but he almost gave up hope and perseverance when he came to the point even to curse the day of his birth. Likewise, we may be tried for faith, hope and perseverance; some may endure all the way to the end, some of us may fall short and give up the last ray of hope, as Job did.
From the very beginning of Job’s trial we know that he was tested by Elohim through the adversary (satan) whose office is to accuse the brethren and find fault in them. But, Job did not know that. He did not know that his affliction was designed by YHVH to show that there was a piety amidst the loss, sufferings, affliction, and even death.
Throughout his trial, which he did nothing to deserve, Job was constantly struggling to find the answer as to why he was going through all this suffering, because from Job’s perspective his suffering was without transgression (Job 34:6). And he was right; he did nothing wrong to deserve it. What Job did not know, however, was that that was not a punishment for any wrong doing, but a challenge of the adversary which eventually became a test for Job. See Job 42:1-6. That was what Job did not know.
And that was not what his friends Eliphaz, Bildad, Tsophar and Elihu knew either. But, they all were drawing wrong conclusions in their speeches as to the rationality of Job’s suffering.
Job said, ‘It does not profit a man that he takes delight in Elohim.’ (Job 34:9). To which Elihu said,
Listen to me, you men of heart: far be it from El to do wrong, and from the Almighty to commit unrighteousness. For He repays man’s work to him, and makes man find a reward according to his path. The truth is, El does not do wrong, and the Almighty does not twist judgement (Job 34:10-12)
From this we deduce that YHVH repays man’s work and makes him find a reward according to his works, because He does not wrong anyone, nor does He twist His judgement, but judges rightly for man’s good.
If you sin, what would you do against Him? If your transgressions are increased, what would you do to Him? If you are righteous, what do you give Him? Or what does He receive from your hand? (Job 35:6-7) Only, it is false that El does not hear, and that the Almighty pays no attention to it. Although you say you do not see Him, yet judgement is before Him, and you wait for Him. (Job 35:13-14)
Here, Elihu comes to the realization of Job’s misunderstanding of his suffering and gives the answer Job was looking for: if man sins, he suffers; and if he walks in righteousness, it is for his good. But, it is not true that YHVH does not hear the prayers of the afflicted; that He does not see the tears of the sufferer, and that the Almighty pays no attention to the pain of the sick. YHVH listens and sees, but He chooses when, how, or whether to respond – something Job and we do not and cannot understand completely.
We like Job are in trials; and often we like Job do not even know that we are being tested. But, unlike Job we do know 1Co 10:13 and yet still sin when we defend ourselves against Him, because He does not answer us (Job 33:13-14).
We may pray to Him when we suffer, but we forget to be vigilant and pray in order to avoid the trial. As the Mediator has said,
Watch and pray, lest you enter into trial. The spirit indeed is eager, but the flesh is weak. (Mat 26:41)
Because, if a righteous man like Job went through a trial, without having done anything wrong to deserve it, so could we go through Job’s trial. Therefore, we must be slow to judge and quick to sympathize with Job, otherwise we will be like his three friends who instead of having shown compassion, or at least empathy, accused him of being self-righteous.
In conclusion, how are we to understand Job’s trial and the Book of Job in general? Why do afflictions befall the righteous man? Why good things happen to bad people and bad things to good people?
Looking to the conclusion of the book, the afflictions are for the righteous man (1) a means of discipline and purification that arise from the sins of the righteous; (2) the afflictions of the righteous are means of proving and testing, because trial is for man a means of overcoming the evil that is external to him, that is the adversary, the satan, and chastisement of overcoming the evil that is within him, that is pride.
And this is the twofold point of view from which Job’s trial is to be regarded. It was designed, first of all, that Job should prove himself in opposition to the satan, something he did not know, but he passed through the trial without sinning. As we know, Job did not come to the point to deny YHVH, as the adversary was willing and did everything he could, within the set limits, to achieve. The second goal of Job’s trial had the effect at the same time of purifying and perfecting him, which was achieved, again without his knowledge.
So, what was Job’s sin after all? His sin was not the self-righteousness he was accused of, and still being accused of, but according to the present author’s opinion, that was Job’s statement in which he cursed the day of his birth. That was something Job should not have said. He had not labored for coming into the world and he had not done anything to deserve to come into the world; it was a free gift from his Creator YHVH. Therefore, he did not have the right to curse that gift.
His sin was not the constant struggle to find what he had done to deserve the suffering, in his eyes: punishment, nor was his sin, perhaps, Job‘s defence of his righteousness against YHVH’s justice, which Elihu emphasized from the very beginning of his speech, because Job had done nothing wrong against YHVH’s justice. But, his sin was the weakness he showed in that unbearable trial the satan had set him in; a weakness we all have.
The ultimate solution of Job’s trial which this marvelous book sets forth, is then this: the suffering of the righteous, in its deepest cause, is the conflict of the seed of the woman with the seed of the serpent, which will end in the head of the serpent being trampled under foot by the Mediator who stayed behind the scene all the time in Job’s trial defending him against the adversary.
And I put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He shall crush your head, and you shall crush His heel. (Gen 3:15)
The enmity that was set in the very beginning in Job’s trial.
For the continuation of this article, please, proceed to the next article “Did Job’s Wife Say ‘Curse God and Die!’?“
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.