Why me God; question or exclamation – Wednesday, 26th Week in ordinary time – Job 9:1-16
On Hearing of Job’s misfortunes, his friends Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuite and Zophar the Naamathite come to visit him. So great has been Jobs’ sufferings that they fail to recognize him and join their dear friend in his lament by tearing their clothes while scattering dust on their heads and then sit in silence for seven days with Job. We need to see his friends for what they are, concerning and caring. Let not their arguments that follow be seen as judgment of their friend for they are trying to wrap their heads around something that seems way out of their league.
Job cannot bear the emotional and physical pain he is subjected to and breaking down curses the day he was born. There is no word spoken against God but Job’s life has become such a terrifying and meaningless void that he would prefer death than the life he has.
The Book of Job now focuses on the three friends of Job who will express their analysis of Jobs situation and this will be followed by Jobs response. These guys have plenty to say, and Job isn’t their biggest fan. He calls them “miserable comforters” (16:3), and he spends almost the whole book arguing with them. At the end of these speeches, God answers Job and his friends and settles the matter.
Over two chapters, four and five, the first of the three friends, Eliphaz, feels constrained to reply to Job’s outburst. The premise of Eliphaz is that Job’s problems have come upon him because of some sin on his part, and that he should confess and repent of his sin in order to be restored. He noted that even angels had fallen into error, therefore it should surprise no one that man, including Job, has also fallen into error.
Job rebuked Eliphaz and his arguments and becomes very acrimonious and at times irreverent towards God. While he accepts God as the Holy One, he does not hold back his accusations against God who has become his ‘crushing enemy’, punishing him beyond human capacity and pain.
Job’s outburst in response to Eliphaz is a little too much for his second friend, Bildad, to swallow. He is indignant at Job and now champions God’s cause and God’s justice. For Bildad, man’s destiny is measured by God according to one’s merits; the good prosper and the wicked suffer. He reiterates Eliphaz’s arguments that those who suffer must have sinned and receive their due punishment; and that by extension includes his friend Job.
Job’s response to Bildad is found in chapters nine and ten of which our text is situated. Job’s answer to Bildad seems so much more gracious than the hard words Bildad had for Job in the previous chapter. He began by agreeing with Bildad’s general premise: that God rewards the righteous and corrects (or judges) sinners. Job understood that man could not debate with God or demand answers from him. Sadly, this will become the basic sin of Job in the story, the sin he repented of in Job 42:1-6.
Instead of taking up in detail any of the points made by the friends, Job, who has shown by his previous speech that he has encountered God as an enemy ( 7:19), nevertheless presses on to have communication with him and is clearly thinking of engaging him in a legal battle as in a courtroom (9:3, 15-16, 19-20, 32-33); notice the language “answer him”, “argue with him”, “innocent – plead – Judge”, “summon(ed)”, “pronounce me guilty”, “judges”, “court”, “charges…against me”, “witnesses”. Job strongly argues his innocence, but he feels that because God is so great there is no use in contending with him. Job’s innocence does him no good. The reason is that God’s “heart is wise and his strength is great”. Though Job feels that in such a lawsuit he will not stand a chance (9:15-20), he does not shrink from wishing to bring God into court and face him there (10:2). Job sees himself as a plaintiff trying to prove his innocence before an omnipotent judge. He calls on his friends to be a mediator on his behalf, but they continue to fall back on the argument that it is up to Job and Job alone to confess his sin.
We have yet one more friend to express his views but if we were to analyse the three arguments it would read like this; In Eliphaz’s mind, Job is being punished for his sins; for Bildad, Job is being tested to receive a greater reward; and Zophar believes that Job suffers because of God’s arbitrary will.
Job makes it very clear that he will complain if he wants to; after all, he has lost everything he owns, lost all of his children, and now suffers from painful, oozing boils all over his body, and his friends are not standing by him supporting his innocence.
In one breath, Job speaks to the power and care of God and how He creates each and every one of us, while also acknowledging God’s almighty power to destroy us. Job praises God for His creation and His love throughout his life – hardly the words of a man who would curse God for the pain he is enduring, which is exactly what Satan was hoping to accomplish by striking Job so harshly.