The Word Made Fresh
1Then Job answered, 2“If my sufferings could be weighed on the scales 3they would be heavier than the sand on the seashore. That is why I am saying things that sound so crazy. 4It’s because the Almighty’s barbs are stabbing me, and my very soul is poisoned by them. 5Even wild donkeys don’t bray when they have grass to eat, and an ox doesn’t bellow when its trough is full. 6Tasteless food must be flavored with salt; 7it makes me feel sick.
8“This is my wish – and may God grant it – 9that God would decide to crush me. Just let God’s hand loose to do away with me! 10Then I would be consoled, and even in the face of this endless torture I would be able to rejoice. May God grant it because I have not turned away from the words of the Holy One.
11“Am I strong enough to continue waiting? What will be the end of me? Why should I be patient? 12Can my strength last? Is my skin made of bronze? 13It is clear that I can’t help myself, and no help is available elsewhere.
14“A true friend should be kind to a man who is in despair, even if he turns away from the Almighty. 15But my brothers are about as helpful as wadis, streams that are dried up; 16streams that might fill with thawing ice and then flood with melting snow, 17but as soon as the weather warms it is all gone and when the summer heat comes, they are completely dry. 18Caravans have to turn away from them; they climb up into the wilderness and perish. 19The caravans of Tema search; the travelers from Sheba hope, 20but disappointment overwhelms their confidence because they come here and are bewildered.
21“You are like that now – you see how I am suffering, and it makes you afraid. 22But have I asked you to give me anything? Have I asked you to use your wealth to pay a ransom for me? 23Or to rescue me from an enemy? Or to bribe some oppressor to release me?
24“Explain this to me and I will be quiet. Help me understand where I have gone wrong. 25Honest words are powerful, but when you reprimand me, exactly what are you reprimanding? 26Do you think you can sweep my complaints away as if they were meaningless? 27Would you gamble the life of an orphan, or bargain over your friend?
28“Look at me! I won’t lie to your face. 29Don’t treat me badly; my life is at stake! 30Is there anything I have said that is wrong? Do you think I can’t see my own troubles clearly?”
1-7: Job responds to the remarks of Eliphaz. He admits to having spoken rashly, but attributes it to his pain which, if weighed in a balance, would be heavier than the sand of the sea. Food is tasteless now to him, he says.
8-13: Like many who are faced with unending pain, he is no longer able to withstand his suffering, and wishes only that it would end.
14-23: Job talks about how his acquaintances have shunned him since his illness began. This again is a common complaint of those who suffer from long-term or chronic disease, especially if the malady is tainted with social stigma as was (is still) the case with leprosy and other skin diseases. He hints that foreign caravans no longer stop at his door because of his condition. And even these three friends that are with him now seem to be afraid because of what has befallen him. However, he has asked nothing of them, he says.
24-27: He wants to know what he has done to deserve his plight and accuses them of sidling up to him to get some gain from his situation (“you would bargain over your friend”).
28-30: Look at me, he demands, and tell me straight out what wrong I have spoken.
Facing a debilitating and possibly fatal disease, Job questions his life and wonders where he went wrong to justify his situation. He can find no answers and begins to simply wish his suffering could be over even if it means he must die. Those who suffer from debilitating and extended illnesses understandably search for answers to the question “why?” – and sometimes there really is no answer. But faith makes it possible to endure.