Now all three of Job’s friends have stated their opinions, and Job has responded. Now begin the rebuttals of the rebuttals.
Eliphaz is again the first to speak up. And the sarcasm is in full swing. Twice in verse 2 he tells Job his words are like the wind. It is a Hebraism for empty words – like how someone may call another a “windbag” in modern English (or maybe not so modern). And Eliphaz believes that Job’s own words are proof of his sin, indeed, that his words are a result of his sinful heart (vv. 3-6).
Then Eliphaz wants to know who Job thinks he is! Is he older and wiser than others that he would disagree with them (vv. 7-10)? Notice in verse 11 that Eliphaz believes he and his friends are speaking words of comfort to Job! Then Eliphaz puts a spin on what has been said earlier – no man is just before God (vv. 14-15), but especially someone as corrupt as Job (v. 16)!
Eliphaz then speaks “wisdom” to Job. He describes Job’s condition (vv. 20-21), describes how Job has admitted to feeling (v. 22), and again tells Job it is because of his sin that this has happened (vv. 25.26). He tells Job that all he had in this world (and by implication, trusted in) now amount to nothing (vv. 27-29) and that his sinful ways are bound to result in this kind of calamity (vv. 29-30). Eliphaz concludes by again affirming the emptiness of not just Job’s words, but his false ideas (v. 31), and again insists that his very thoughts about God are sin and to blame for his condition (vv. 32-35).
Some friends! Well, that’s what Job basically says in 16:2. He then uses the wind metaphor against Eliphaz’s words (v. 3). It is such a commentary on the fallen condition that friends coming to comfort Job has degenerated into an argument about who is right (rather, who is wronger – I know that’s not a word, but I stand by it anyway)!
In verses 4-5 Job explains that these men are making a choice to attack him rather than console him in his misery. Job, on the other hand, does not have the power they do to worsen his situation (v. 6), which is what they are choosing to do. Job then laments what God has done to him (vv. 7-16), but asserts that he does not deserve it (v. 17). We see Job again leaning toward believing the lie, and he comes dangerously close to accusing God of injustice. It is a vey poetic, “but that’s not fair!” Yet, in verses 18-19, Job says he knows that God knows the truth.
Then, 16:18-22 run right into 17:1-2. Job’s friends are mocking him even as he approaches sure death! Verses 6-7 are another lament for his miserable condition, and verses 8-10 are more sarcasm directed at his friends. In verses 11-16, the pendulum swings the other way for Job. He expresses that his hope is not in this world. If physical death is the end (vv. 13-14), then what hope does man have (v. 15)? Does hope die along with man (v. 16)? Implied in the question is Job’s answer: certainly not!
Again, we see the human condition on display. For Eliphaz, his desire to comfort his friend (which is why he came to begin with) has given way to his desire to defend himself. Fallen man cares much more about being right than being good (not us, though…right?). For Job, it is that swing from despair to hope, then hope to despair. From trusting God to questioning God, and back again.
Can we see ourselves in both these men?
But consider Job’s expression of hope. He expresses the absurdity of believing what we see and experience in this world is all there is. More than that, he expresses the absurdity that our circumstances in the here and now can change our ultimate end. We may not always remember that, but it is true nonetheless.
Because no matter what we do or say, no matter what is said or done to us, no matter what God wills to give us in this life, whether “good” or “bad”, God is truly good. All the time. If only we’d remember that all the time…