Good morning! The friends who kept watch with Job in compassion for seven days and nights have turned against him because he dares to question the wisdom of God. In the last several days we have gone from Eliphaz’s “God’s ways are inscrutable” to Bildad’s “your children must have done something wrong”. Today with Job 11-14 we begin with Zophar suggesting that Job himself has done something to deserve the kind of punishment he’s received.
Zophar speaks to Job first with kindness, trying to explain that Job’s mistake has been to try and understand “the deep things of God”. This presumption is beyond what human beings should attempt, and in so doing, Job has effectively placed himself as equivalent to God. If instead Job ceases so fiercely to understand, and simply accepts that God’s ways are righteous, Job will “be secure”, “not fear”, “have confidence”, “be protected”, and “take your rest in safety”. We read that this worked out well for Job in chapter 1, but now when the bottom has fallen out of his life, such a posture of trust without sufficient explanation appears impossible.
Job replies that his friends do not take him seriously because they are at ease and hold his misfortune in contempt. The problem, Job contends, is that their god is domesticated, small enough to be held in the hand and turned to one’s own wishes. Job has instead discovered the wild and untamable nature of God. Ironically, Job believes in a God far grander (and less predictable) than the god they profess (whose rules are manageable). Job is convinced of God’s all-powerful control over nature and human beings, as well as God’s control over the great upheavals and turnabouts in society. This makes God’s failure to protect the righteous all the more mysterious, since God has all the power needed to do whatever God wants.
The awe-imposing grandeur of God notwithstanding, Job seeks an audience with the Almighty. This is something his companions do not dare; the cost would be too great for them. Yet Job dares to face—nay, confront—God, knowing full well that it will cost him his life. Just the fact of getting an audience with God would be vindication enough, since it’s not something granted to the wicked. Job asks for two things only: to be spared God’s interference, and to be strengthened against the dread of God’s presence. He wants the chance to face his accuser, without letting the fear of God stun him into silence.
In the verses leading up to chapter 14, Job vents his hopelessness. Life is as fleeting as a flower in bloom, and there’s no hope for human beings beyond this life. But for Job that’s good news, because death would be a relief from his current suffering. Though his speech is anguished, here’s a difference between Job and his companions—he talks to God, where they only talk about God. And before the book’s end, God will finally respond back. Until then, happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Job 15-17. Thanks for reading!