Job 6-7: Job Responds to Eliphaz

Is this how you react, Job asks, to a “despairing man”?  Whoever withholds “kindness” from a friend, according to Job, “forsake[s] the fear of the Almighty” (Job 6:14). Job did not give up the fear of God but Eliphaz did not practice it in how he has approached Job in his suffering.

Job’s response to Eliphaz comes in the form of (1) a lamenting monologue (6:1-13), (2) an engagement with the friends (6:14-30), and (3) a lament prayer to God (7:1-21). Job moves from expressions of despair to an invitation for the friends to supply some wisdom that might help (though from Eliphaz’s first attempt he does not expect much, they are like “dry streams”).  From the friends he turns to God and offers a startling, seemingly outrageous, lament.

The Monologue

How can I remain silent, Job asks?  Of course my words are “impetuous”–”my anguish…my misery” weighs more than the “sands of the seas” (Job 6:2-3).  Why should I have patience–from where does the hope arise that “that I should be patient” (Job 6:8)?  His patience is finished; he has none. “Therefore, I will not keep silent” (Job 7:11).

While Eliphaz told Job that “vexation (grief) kills the fool” (5:2), Job wants his “vexation” weighed so that everyone might understand his “rash” words (6:2-3). He must speak because words are all that are left him. He is neither made of “stone” or “bronze” that he would have “power” to help himself (6:12-13). He must speak because there is nothing else for him to do.

God has done this, and he wants God to finish it. The “arrows of the Almighty” have penetrated him (6:4). And his prayer is that God would “crush” him and “grant [his] desire” (6:8-9). Job simply wants his suffering over; he wants to die.

Job’s comfort is that he has not denied the words of the Almighty. He speaks out of anguish but his “joy in unrelenting pain” (Job 6:10; see my post on Job 7:16) is his refusal to curse God and his commitment to trust the One who seems, at the moment, so much like an enemy. While Eliphaz said that the righteous were never “cut off,” Job–using the same verb–says that he had never “cut off” (“denied” [NRSV]) the “words of the Holy One” (6:10).

Amazingly–indeed, absolutely stunning it is–Job knows where his joy lies. From the vantage point of the Prologue, Job has maintained his integrity. From where Job sits, he knows that he has continued to fear God and shun evil. His comfort is that he has not denied his faith.

Engagement with the Friends

“A despairing man,” Job announces, “should have the devotion of his friends, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty” (6:14).  Where’s their loyalty? Where is the compassion, the sympathy, the consolation? These friends are fair weather friends; they are like streams fed by “melting snow” in the Spring but are dry  beds “in the heat” of summer (6:16-17). Like an oasis that has dried up, Job’s friends are of “no help” (6:21). They treat Job like those who “cast lots for the fatherless;” they “barter” away his friendship (6:27). They make their deal with God to keep their own blessings and treat Job’s words like “wind” (6:28).

Job is willing to listen, though he may be a bit sarcastic here (6:24-26). Job will be silent if his friends will say something useful. Eliphaz’s descriptions of the plight of the wicked were insinuations that Job himself was one of them. Consequently, Job is willing to listen to any accusations or charges that the friends know. But he wants proof, not just accusations. Job complains that his friends had not really listened to him. His words were honest (or, sweet). They were the words of a person in great distress and despair. But Eliphaz had treated them as if they were nothing but hot air (“wind”). Eliphaz listened to Job’s lament in order to critique rather than suffer with him. Job gets no sympathy from Eliphaz.

Eliphaz’s callous response evokes an assessment of his heart by Job (6:27). Eliphaz is the kind of person who would gamble over fatherless children or barter away a friendship. Eliphaz is the sort of person who turns every situation to his own advantage. Rather than help a friend, Eliphaz becomes defensive of his own traditions and beliefs. Eliphaz’s rebuke is more concerned about his traditions and values than it is about Job’s troubles and spiritual health.

Job gets to the point (6:28-30). The kindness he expects from Eliphaz and his other friends is trust. Job simply wants his friends to believe him. Job is not a liar, and wants to be treated justly and compassionately. What is really at stake in this dialogue is not the traditions of the friends, but the integrity (literally, righteousness) of Job. God affirmed Job’s righteousness or integrity both before and after trouble enveloped him (1:1; 2:3). Job does not belong among the wicked. He is a righteous sufferer. He does not deceive nor does he speak evil. As the narrator commented after Job’s second trial, “In all this, Job did not sin in what he said” (2:10; cf. 42:7).


Job begins with a third-person lament, but then addresses God directly in 7:1-21.  Job simply wants rest; he wants relief like a slave working in the hot sun wants relief from the shadows of the day or a laborer wants their wages. Instead he has nights of “misery” (same word as in 3:10, 20). Job describes his misery here–sleepless nights, worms, and scabs, and this over “months” (7:3).

The word that parallels “misery” in 7:3 has the meaning of vain, empty or false. It is the language of Psalm 89:47: “For what vanity have you created all the children of men!” Job describes his days as coming to an end “without hope.”

When he addresses  God, Job  is hopeless; he has no future. His “days have no meaning” (7:16). His lament is filled with frustration–why is God so intent on picking on him, testing him. “Why have you,” O God, “made me your target?” (7:20).  How can human beings be so significant to God that he would busy himself with meddling in their lives? Why does not God just forgive and be done with the lot? While Elphaz finds God’s revelation in dreams and visions (5:13), Job only finds terrors (7:14). Job hates life, wants to die, and probes the divine wisdom with “why” questions (7:20-21).

This lament is one of the most vivid and devastating found among Job’s speeches. What is humanity that God pays so much negative attention to them, Job asks (7:17)–practically a parody of Psalm 8. Is Job so dangerous to God that he must set a guard over him just as God must do with the Dragon or the chaotic Sea (7:12)? Is his “sin” so great, is he such a huge “burden,” that God must keep him alive (7:20-21)? What is God doing? Why is God doing this? How can humanity matter so much to God? What’s the point? Has Job’s life been such a problem to God that he decided to send this suffering upon him?

Job is miserable, hopeless, terrified and yet is still speaking to God. He does not curse but he does petition. He asks God to lift his hand and let him die.

The feelings, frustrations, and protests present in Job 7 are not uncommon for sufferers. We yearn for relief. We question the significance and meaning of our suffering. But faith continues to speak, even in the bitterness of soul and the anguish of spirit.

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