Tag Archives: Job

Job’s Miserable Comforters — Roger L. Leonard

The book of Job addresses perhaps the most difficult of life’s questions: “Why does God allow human suffering?” This article deals with Job’s three friends who tried to answer this question. Some things they said were wrong and some right…but mostly they were wrong. We must also bear in mind that God allowed Satan to bring this suffering on Job.   (Note: Only chapter and verse citations are used for Job references.)

Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, “made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him” (2:11). When they saw him “they did not recognize him” and “they raised their voices and wept” (2:12). They sat with Job for seven days in silence (v. 13), which they eventually broke by launching into an oratory on Job’s problems. Becoming weary of their unhelpful counseling, Job eventually said, “You are miserable comforters, all of you!” (16:2) In the end they were condemned by God (Job 42:7-9).

But did they get everything wrong? They got a few things right.  Job’s friends were helpful in at least three ways (2:11-13): 1) They came to him when he was suffering. 2) They had empathy; “they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads” (v. 12). 3) They were with him in silence for seven days (v. 13).

However, they finally broke their silence.  In chapters 4 through 25, we read a series of speeches with many false notions, primarily concerning why God allows suffering.  To them, Job’s suffering was because he had sinned.  So they insisted that he confess and repent so that God would bless him again.


Eliphaz the Temanite is introduced in the first verse of chapter 2.  He is one of Job’s would-be comforters.  However, all three failed in their attempt to comfort their suffering friend.  Their sympathy shown in verses 12-13 of chapter 2 was replaced by accusations, false theology, and challenging Job’s character.

After Job’s complaints (3), Eliphaz speaks first (4-5) with a thesis of the innocent prospering.  In other words, Job was obviously not prospering because he must have done something wrong.

In response, Job declared his innocence. Then in a second speech Eliphaz asserts that Job does not fear God (15).. If Job feared God, he reasons, he would not face such suffering. Job responds that his friends are “miserable comforters” (16:2).

Eliphaz’s third speech is recorded in chapter 22. This time, he says, “Is not your wickedness great, and your iniquities without end?” (22:5). He enumerates Job’s supposed sins (vs. 6–9). From his perspective, God would only allow great evil to befall someone who had done something very bad. Job replies by asking for God to intervene on his behalf (23).

God intervenes and rebukes Job’s friends: “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has” (42:7). These men are required to offer burnt offerings, and Job prays on their behalf. In the end, Job’s fortunes are restored (doubled), and he is blessed with new children in place of those whom the devil had taken.

Eliphaz exemplifies the world’s wisdom to suffering. To him that suffering was the consequence of sin and worthy of punishment by God.  He was wrong. Job’s life is a clear example of how the innocent sometimes suffer. God can allow suffering to strengthen a believer’s spirit and to change the lives of others for His glory.


Bildad the Shuhite is first seen as one of three friends who come to comfort Job (2:11). He, Eliphaz and Zophar visit Job after hearing of the calamities that had befallen him. Bildad cannot believe Job’s horrific condition. He mourns silently with him for seven days (2:12-13).

Bildad is the second of Job’s friends to speak. In chapter 8, he suggests that Job’s children got what they deserved (v. 3). And of Job he said: “If you would seek and implore the compassion of the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, Surely now He would rouse himself for you and restore your righteous place” (8:5-6). The implication is that Job is not pure and upright and that material prosperity is directly linked to righteous behavior. Job responds in chapter 9, desiring to plead his case before God and lamenting the fact that there is no one to intervene for him.

Bildad’s second speech focuses on the theme that God punishes the wicked (18). His logic is that Job must have done something wrong since he is being punished.   In chapter 19 Job responds by saying: “How long will you torment me and crush me with words?” (v. 2). He also asks for his friends’ pity (v. 21) and declares that his God is alive and knows all things. God would be the one to judge him fairly, and Job trusts in Him (vs. 25–27).

Bildad‘s third speech focuses on the idea that a person cannot be righteous before God (25).  He says, “How then can man be just with God?  Or how can he be clean who is born of woman?” (v. 4)   Job answers in chapter 26, sarcastically arguing that God alone knows all things and fully understands the situation.

As noted above (42:7), Bildad and his two friends are rebuked by the Lord.  Job’s three friends then obey the Lord’s command to offer burnt offerings (42:8-9), “and the Lord accepted them.”

Job’s friends’ speeches exemplify how people often view suffering from a human perspective, assuming that suffering is always the result of personal sin.  In the end, these friends learn that God had allowed Job to suffer as part of His divine plan and that Job was not at fault for his trials.


Zophar the Naamathite is first mentioned as the third friend who came to comfort Job (2:11).  The verses following show their response to his distress:  “When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept.  And each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky.  Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great” (vs. 12-13).

Zophar’s speech begins in chapter 11. Giving the strongest of the three initial speeches, he stated, “Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves” (v. 6). Job responds in chapter 12 that the Lord brought this suffering upon him, and in chapter 13 maintains his innocence: “…I know I will be vindicated” (v. 18).

Zophar’s second speech states, “The increase of his house will depart; his possessions will flow away in the day of His anger.  This is the wicked man’s portion from God, even the heritage decreed to him by God” (20:28-29).  In chapter 21, Job says of the wicked:  “They spend their days in prosperity, and suddenly they go down to Sheol” (v. 13).  Job was suffering and yet had done no wrong, while others who did evil lived “…safe from fear, and the rod of God is not on them” (v. 9).  This was why Zophar’s assessment of Job’s condition was in error.

Following Job’s long defense after Bildad’s third speech, a fourth man, Elihu, speaks up.  His two concerns are expressed thus:  “But the anger of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram burned against Job; his anger burned because he justified himself before God.  And his anger burned against his three friends because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job” (32:2-3).

In the end, God rebuked all three.  “My anger burns against you…for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (42:7).  Yet all three repented and offered sacrifices to God (42:9).

Zophar and his friends exemplify how suffering is often viewed from a human perspective.  While it is true that those who do wrong often suffer, God also allows suffering for reasons often unknown to us.  Instead of assuming all suffering is due to our wrongdoing, we should joyfully endure trials, pray in faith for wisdom, and consider God’s compassion (Ja. 1:2-8; 5:11).

Job erred in professing his righteousness (42:1-6), yet his trials and suffering were not caused by his behavior.  God used them as a lesson on His sovereignty in the end, blessing Job with twice as much as he had before (42:10).

What can we learn from the errors of Job’s friends?  We should not assume that troubles are due to personal sin (cf. John 9:1-3).  Instead of telling a hurting person to confess wrong and repent (especially when we do not know why they are hurting), we can encourage them to faithfully endure.  God always knows their pain and He has a purpose in allowing it.

What good might we learn from Job’s friends?  When a friend is hurting, go to them and cry with them, spending time together.  Our presence is powerful, even if we don’t know the words to say.

People do not need our surmising as much as they need our sympathy.  The apostle Paul wrote:  “Mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15).  Let us do our best not to be “miserable comforters.”

Roger and his wife Alisa live in Valdosta, GA.  He graduated from Lipscomb University in 1988 and the Nashville School of Preaching in 1992.  He preaches for the Adel Church of Christ in Adel, GA.





Heaven, the Better Place – David R. Pharr

Philippians was written from prison where Paul waited to see whether he would be executed or released.  The Philippians were praying for his release and Paul expected that this would be answered and that he could continue his work.  But he also knew that in death he would go to be with the Lord.  This put him in what he called “a strait betwixt two” (pulled between two choices, hard to decide).  One the one hand he wanted to be able to continue to help the church, but he also had a deep desire to go on to heaven.  Verse 21 shows his profound confidence of hope.  If he lived it would be in the service of Christ, but to die would be gain.  We want to look especially at these words in verse 23:  “to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better.”  Heaven is the “far better” place.  Another writer expressed it:  “knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Heb. 10:34).

A Heavenly Country

Heaven is a better place because it is a heavenly country.  Abraham lived in this present world for 175 years.  He participated in and enjoyed many of the good things of this present world, but was looking for a better place.  Hebrews 11:26 says he and others of faith were seeking “a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”  Verse 10 says, Abraham “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

This present world will wear out and be destroyed, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13).  What will that heavenly country and city be like?  Many wonderful metaphors are used to describe it, including streets and walls of gold, and precious stones and pearls.  The description is the best that can be stated in human words, but when we have visualized it as best we can, just know that it is far better.  It’s the Father’s house with many mansions.  It’s paradise, with a river of pure water of life (Rev. 221), and in the middle is the tree of life.  “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Rev. 1:7).

Better Bodies

There is an interesting and significant statement in the story of Job.  In the midst of his great suffering he was aware that the time would come when his earthly physical body was going to die and decay.  But in Job 19:26 he declared his hope for a new body.  “And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”

In the New Testament we are told that we will have a “spiritual body.”  A “spiritual body” means a body not limited by the shortcomings of flesh.  Philippians 3:21 tells us that Christ will “change our vile body [lowly, earthly, physical body] that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).  John writes of the same thing.  “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

The saved in heaven will have bodies, spiritual bodies.  Our finite minds cannot visualize how that is possible, that somehow the dead will be raised and given bodies that are fit for Heaven.  That this is something beyond our ability to imagine is discussed in 1 Corinthians 15:25ff.  This is a text worthy of much contemplation.

First, the apostle uses the illustration of a seed (36-38).  A seed appears lifeless and insignificant, yet it dies in the earth to germinate into a marvelous plant.  Let us suppose we had never seen the process in nature.  Someone shows us a little brown seed and tells how it will grow into a large plant with green leaves and striking colors.  If we had never seen this, if we had never seen a pretty flower develop from a seed, would it not seem impossible to imagine?  The apostle’s point is that when we recognize God’s power in the transformation of seed into grain we can believe he can change our bodies from corruptible into incorruptible.

Then the text calls our attention to the great variety in the universe, the different forms of life, the planets and the stars.  The point is that if God could make all that we can see, why would we doubt that he can do things we can’t yet see.  We don’t know everything and there is much we have never seen.  The Creator who made our natural bodies can also make our spiritual bodies.  This is Paul’s confidence of faith and hope.  “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.  For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 4:18-5:1).

It is sufficient to know that God has promised a new body, a spiritual body.  It will be a body that is relieved of all weariness and stress.  The Bible says, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them” (Rev. 14:13).  “There the weary be at rest” (Job 3:17).  It will also be a body without the sadness, suffering, affliction, and death of this present world.  Heaven will be better because we will have bodies which can never be touched by afflictions and death.  “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

Better Companions

Heaven is better because of the companions with whom we will share it.

First, we need to know that there will be no bad people there.  Job said that there “the wicked cease from troubling” (Job 3:17).  No evil person or evil thing can be found there.  “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27).

Consider also that in heaven we will be in the company of the saints of the ages.  “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 8:11).

The righteous living and the resurrected “dead in Christ” will be reunited and together forever.  “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).

Some have reasoned that because we will be changed that we will not know one another.  Others have argued that if we should know one another we might also be saddened by knowing of loved ones who are not there.  This way of thinking seems to count the possibility of that sadness as of greater concern than the possibility of joy in a heavenly reunion.  Paul anticipated that his brethren would be his “hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing” when they were in the presence of Christ (1 Thess. 2:19).  Arguments that limit our hope are like the reasoning of the Sadducees, whom Jesus said “err because they don’t know the scriptures nor the power of God.”