Job 16-17 • Sorry Comforters Are You All


How do we know that the interaction between Job and his friends has turned into something more akin to a debate rather than an attempt to legitimately comfort? Job’s friends basically repeat their same arguments and approach in an attempt to win their argument. They seem to think Job is either a selective listener or just plain hardened of heart. Therefore their approach is to simply bring the same issues to the table, thinking he will eventually succumb. His so-called comforters are quickly becoming as big a trial and hardship as the very things they originally set out to address. In other words, ill comfort in times of trials and testing can become as much an obstacle as the test itself. One of the ways we know that there is an absence of sincerity on either parties’ part is when compassion gives way to a greater desire to just win an argument, even if the argument itself contains truth. Interestingly enough, this sometimes happens in the course of evangelizing the unsaved when the saved are not listening with sincere, loving and attentive ears.

Read 16:1-5

Q: How might Job’s opening in v.2 parallel his previous responses in Job 12 and 13?

A: “I have heard many such things” seems to be a reminder that he told his friends in chapters 12 and 13 that they were not telling him anything not already common knowledge. They continue to raise points which are not actually applicable to Job’s situation.

Q: What was the original purpose Job’s friends came to him?

A: In Job 2:11 it was “to come to sympathize with him and comfort him.

Q: How might v.2 directly connect with the last line of Eliphaz’s rebuke in 15:35? How does it reveal his friends’ true effect on Job?

A: The underlying Hebrew word for “mischief” in 15:35 and “sorry” here in 16:2 is the same. The English translation as “sorry” does not quite capture that Job is saying they are not just ineffective, but actually engaging mischievously to torment him. Their purpose had completely changed in the opposite direction.

Q: How does v.3 parallel the opening to Eliphaz’s remarks in the previous chapter?

A: In 15:3 Eliphaz asserts, “Should a wise man answer with windy knowledge and fill himself with the east wind?”, and here Job retorts, “Is there no limit to windy words?” Job takes it further by proposing there is something inherently wrong with their obsession to provide an explanation rather than actual comfort.

Point: In reality, neither party is saying anything the other wants to hear.

Q: What is being described by “shake my head at you”? (v.4)

A: It is an expression found in other Scripture which is ascribed to someone who is committing an open gesture of spiteful pleasure.

Q: What is the main contrasting points Job is making in v.4 vs. v.5?

A: He could respond in kind so as to accuse and judge or take a different approach to actually comfort and support.

Application: Helpful advice is usually supposed to be brief and helpful, not lengthy and judgmental.

Read 16:6-17

Q: How does Job address the overall issue of speech overall in v.6?

A: Whether speaking or keeping silent, neither has worked to ease the situation he is experiencing.

Q: How does this tie into his closing remarks to this section in v.15-17?

A: He has engaged the more spiritual means of repentance, mourning, and prayer and has not received a remedy either. His interactions with both God and man to this point have not brought relief.

Q: What are the legal terms which Job refers to in v.8 which shape this discussion?

Job is stating that the evidence of his situation proves that God is the author of what has and is taking place as listed in v.8-9:

Q: What actions does Job ascribe to God in his particular case?

Point: Like his friends, Job sees the obvious evidence that he is experiencing irrefutable evidence of something deeper taking place in his life by the obvious physical signs, but whereas his friends attribute it to Job’s sin, Job assigns it to the sovereignty of God. But neither see the truth yet that what is at work is a test.

Q: What is “He pours out my gall” describing?

A: “Gall” is his bitterness. It is describing how even Job’s personal reactions are being rejected by God, a way of saying how complete in body, soul and even emotion are his trials and sufferings.

Q: What is the additional casualty of Job’s sufferings according to v.9-11?

A: In addition to being the object of God’s attention, Job is also the focus of “my adversary” (v.9), “ruffians” (v.11), and “the wicked”. (v.11)

Q: What seems to be particularly disturbing to Job about all these things from both God and man which have come against him?

A: “And my prayer is pure.” (v.17) Job simply does not understand why God is doing this and does not know what he is supposed to correct. This is also another way of stating that where sin is concerned, he still maintains his innocence. (See also 6:29; 10:7, 15; 11:4; 27:5–6; 31:6; 32:1)

Application: An old saying states that God answers every prayer with “yes”, “no”, or “wait”. Job’s experience is an exercise in enduring the response to “wait”.

Read 16:18-21

Observation: The stages we assign to the “grief reaction” are denial, depression, anger, bargaining, and finally acceptance. We may be tempted to assign to Job an inconsistency if not apparent hypocrisy when he seems to waver from one extreme to another, but these periodic episodes of hope and faith are in line with someone who has undergone such traumatic loss and suffering. At times it is inspiring to see in the midst of such physical and spiritual turmoil even the temporary achievement of acceptance in Job’s concluding remarks to chapter 16.

Q: What is the meaning of “cover my blood” in v.18?

A: It is a Hebrew idiom meaning to cover up a crime.

Q: How is this reinforced in v.19?

A: By the reference to “my witness is in heaven”, “my advocate is on high”, and in v.21 in his wish, “O that a man might plead with God”.

Point: Job knows that everything he is experiencing is not in line with God’s Word and ways but needs the higher authority of God to reveal what has taken place in this “crime”, as he understands it.

Application: The disposition of all things rests with God, even if it does not take until this life has passed into eternity.

Read 16:22-17:2

Q: Although Job once again expresses despair, what does he omit as to what is causing it?

A: While he mentions his suffering’s preparation for death and the activities of his antagonists, Job omits any direct reference to God.

Application: Looking forward to the next life may not be solely grounded in hope for something better in eternity, but to leave behind all the ill effects of this temporal life.

Read 17:3-5

Q: How does this section differ from the previous?

A: Now Job addresses God with a mixture of supplication and complaint.

Q: What, exactly, was the purpose of a “pledge” in Old Testament times?

A: It was something deemed necessary to back up words, especially as given in a contract, and not just limited to a financial transaction. Today we call this “collateral”.

Q: What is the purpose of Job’s rhetorical statements?

A: That no one could be the guarantor of such a pledge in his case save for God alone.

Point: This is an interesting Old Testament parallel to the New Testament revelation of salvation alone through Christ, sealed with the deposit of the Holy Spirit in each believer.

Q: In all that Job is going through, what specifically has he discerned is going on where his friends are concerned?

A: Their so-called wisdom is impeded by God Himself.

Point: The biblical principle is that God will give you over to what you willfully pursue. Job’s friends are more interested in themselves than in what God may be doing, so they have lost any chance of actually speaking for God or representing His views.

Q: What is the meaning of the proverb in v.5?

A: Most likely this is saying that friends are a treasured experience in this life who should not be taken advantage of.

Application: Wisdom is as wisdom does— God measures not just behavior toward Him, but co-equally our behavior toward others.

Read 17:6-16

Q: Who are all the types of people Job mentions in v.6-9?

Q: What is the anticipated general reaction of “the people” and why?

A: Such will express their derision and displeasure by spitting on him as he has steadily gone down in their estimation.

Q: What is the anticipated reaction of those in a right relationship with God who witness the people’s reaction?

Q: How does Job summarize this as it is applied to his friends?

A: “I do not find a wise man among you.” (v.10) Their behavior betrays that they are not qualified as upright, innocent, or righteous, all conditions which would possess clean hands.

Application: Job is illustrating that it is not just by their words that Job knows his friends have failed, but by their behavior. Believers don’t act the same way as non-believers unless they’re still operating according to the world’s wisdom.

Q: What does Job consider to be a big problem for him personally in v.11?

A: The dashing of his hopes and dreams for this life.

Q: What does he consider to be a big problem for his sorry comforters in v.12?

A: They are not merely confused but coming to conclusions that are the opposite of the wisdom of God they purport to possess.

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;

Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;

Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

— Isaiah 5:20

Q: What are the four conditional statements Job makes in v.13-14?

All are references to death.

Q: What are the four rhetorical questions which follow in v.15-16 which provide the explanation of Job’s statements?

Application: In the absence of an answer from God, it is not unusual to fixate on the worst possible scenario when experiencing extreme suffering in the course of this life.

Overall Application