The Complexity of Applying the Speeches of Job’s Friends

That closing stanza of Eliphaz’s third speech (Job 22:21-30) is one of the loveliest poems in the book.

Job suggests that silence will be their best wisdom (Job 13:5), and he sarcastically proclaims they have a corner on the market of godly wisdom (Job 12:2). Elihu burns with anger at their failure to answer to Job’s defense (Job 32:3). Yahweh declares they have not spoken of him what is right (Job 42:7). Does this mean we ought to simply discard their speeches, or that we ought to treat them as mere examples of folly or wickedness to be avoided?

 

Last week I tested your Bible literacy to see who could recognize the quote beginning, “Agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you.” Congratulations to John and Kevin who correctly guessed Eliphaz as the speaker and Job 22 as the reference.

That closing stanza of Eliphaz’s third speech (Job 22:21-30) is one of the loveliest poems in the book. If you didn’t know who said it, or under which circumstances, you might stencil it on your wall or post it on your bathroom mirror. And this raises an important question when studying the book of Job: What are we supposed to do with the speeches of Job’s “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2)?

Job suggests that silence will be their best wisdom (Job 13:5), and he sarcastically proclaims they have a corner on the market of godly wisdom (Job 12:2). Elihu burns with anger at their failure to answer to Job’s defense (Job 32:3). Yahweh declares they have not spoken of him what is right (Job 42:7). Does this mean we ought to simply discard their speeches, or that we ought to treat them as mere examples of folly or wickedness to be avoided?

Paul Didn’t Get the Memo

Apparently the Apostle Paul didn’t get the memo.

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men.” (1 Cor 3:18-21a)

That first citation Paul uses? Right from Eliphaz’s first speech:

As for me, I would seek God,
and to God would I commit my cause,
who does great things and unsearchable,
marvelous things without number:
he gives rain on the earth…
he sets on high those who are lowly…
He catches the wise in their own craftiness,
and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end…
But he saves the needy from the sword of their mouth…
So the poor have hope,
and injustice shuts her mouth. (Job 5:8-16)

As R.B. Hays asserts, “Paul cites Job 5:13 here [in 1 Cor 3:19] as an authoritative disclosure of the truth about God’s debunking of human wisdom” (quoted by Ciampa & Rosner in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 704).

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