The Word Made Fresh
1 One day not long after this, the angels again gathered before the LORD, and the Satan was there with them. 2The LORD said to the Satan, “What have you been up to?”
The Satan answered, “I’ve been walking around on the earth, here and there.”
3The LORD said, “What do you think of my servant Job? There is no one else like him. He is a good man. He has a good reputation. He believes in me and does what is right. He continues to be a man of integrity even though you persuaded me to let you harm him for no good reason.”
4“So what?” the Satan retorted. “A man will give up everything he has to save his own skin. 5But reach out and afflict his flesh and bones, and he will curse you to your face.”
6The LORD said, “Very well. Do with him what you will, but spare his life.”
7The Satan left the LORD’s presence and afflicted Job with terrible sores that covered his body head to foot. 8Job went out to the ash heap and scraped himself with pieces of broken pottery.
9Job’s wife said to him, “Are you still clinging to your integrity? Glorify God and die!”
10But Job replied, “You’re talking like a foolish woman. Do you think we should only receive good things from God’s hand and never have to suffer at all?” In spite of everything that had happened to him Job refused to say anything against God.
11Three of Job’s friends heard about all his troubles. Each left his home – Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite – and came together to Job to console and comfort him. 12They didn’t recognize him when they saw him from a distance, and when they realized it was him, they wept aloud. They tore their robes and threw up dust that settled onto their heads. 13For seven days and nights they sat with him on the ground, not knowing what to say because his suffering was so severe.
1-6: We’re back in the courts of heaven, and the scene from the last chapter is repeated almost word for word until the last part of verse 3 where God boasts of Job’s continuing integrity in spite of his troubles. Neither God nor anyone else in heaven seems concerned about Job’s present condition. The Satan retorts that any man would give up everything as long as his life wasn’t threatened, but if Job’s life were threatened, he would change his tune. God tells the Satan he can test Job in any way, but his life is to be spared.
7-8: The Satan afflicts Job with sores from head to foot and the poor fellow is suffering terribly. The description of his malady is almost exactly the same as we find among the curses in Deuteronomy 28:35. In other words, readers familiar with the story of the forty years of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness would recognize that Job is suffering in exactly the way those whom God has rejected might be expected to suffer. Job is “sitting among the ashes,” which likely means that he is still mourning the awful death of his children. His only response to this new calamity is to pick up a piece of broken pottery and scrape his skin with it. The implication is that he has already suffered as much as he can suffer, and this new affliction adds nothing to the depth of his grief.
9-10: Job’s wife, however, has resigned herself to being cursed. The troubles they have already experienced are as much as she can handle, and for her there is nothing left to do but die. Job’s reply to her grief is unkind, but he speaks another word that has become one of the oft-quoted nuggets of wisdom from the book: “Do you think we should only receive good things from God’s hand and never have to suffer at all?”
11-13: Job has three friends who have heard of his misfortune. They join together to come and console him. They are not prepared for what they see, though; Job’s appearance is a terrible shock to them. They are unable to say anything at all, but they sit silently with him for seven days. That, I think, speaks of true friendship, although their subsequent words may belie that assessment. Still, they do not speak at all until they have heard Job have his say.
Do you think we should only receive good things from God’s hand and never have to suffer? Does suffering ever come to good people from God? Yes. Joseph was sold into slavery and wound up in prison where he suffered for years until the time was right for God to bring him forth. Moses and the Israelites suffered in various ways for forty years in the wilderness before God led them across the Jordan to successfully take Jericho. Soon we will read of Daniel in the lion’s den; Jesus on the cross; the apostles in prison; St. John in exile on the island of Patmos. When we find ourselves in difficult situations in life, perhaps the wise thing to do would be to look for ways in which our suffering might result in a blessing for others.