Like a radio play with acts and scenes we might think of Job 15 as opening a new act. But already the ‘friends’ of Job give us little doubt about their role in the play. Of course, Satan makes it his job to accuse the people of God. Unfortunately even after he is silenced there are many people who will take up that cause such as the enemies of Daniel and his three friends and the three ‘friends’ of Job. The three friends of Daniel then are a foil for the three friends of Job. (As an aside: these two books are in parallel collections. Psalms, Job, and Proverbs are one collection opening the Writings. Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles are the last collection.) Daniel’s friends are like what Job’s friends should have been for him.
Thus far we have seen one cycle of dialogue alternating from a ‘friend’ to Job, a ‘friend’ to Job, and a ‘friend’ to Job. These friends spoke in turn: Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. Our best guess about the ancestry of Zophar the Naamathite comes from Genesis 4 concerning the descendants of evil Lamech. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah. The root of the name means to be delightful. Of course, Zophar the Naamathite was anything but delightful. Bildad is called “the Shuhite” meaning he descended from someone named Shuah. There was a Shuah who was one of Abraham’s children by Keturah (Gen 25:2). And Eliphaz is called “the Temanite.” The Temanites are mentioned in Genesis 36. Teman was a descendant of Esau. It is possible that one or both of these latter designations, Shuhite and Temanite, are anachronistic since Job appears well suited to the period of Abraham or before. In other words, they may be telling us where they lived according to names relevant later. Nevertheless, note the order of the friends: Eliphaz the Temanite (brother to Israel), Bildad the Shuhite (son of Abraham), Zophar the Naamathite (descendant of Cain). In other words, these designations may show the order of the friends moves from closer to the chosen people to further away. Job was himself closely related to the chosen line but not in the royal line of inheritance himself.
The explanation above is the best I can come up with…there must be some reason the text keeps telling us more than just their first names. The reason we cannot know for sure about these things is that even in Scripture more than one person goes by the same name and there is no doubt that many individuals are not mentioned in Scripture.
Eliphaz the Temanite
Eliphaz the Temanite goes first as expected with Job 15. His speech this time is shorter than the first time. And he opens less cordially this time. “Should a wise man answer with windy knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind?” (Job 15:1). This sounds similar to the way that Bildad opened the first time (Job 8:1). This is likely because Eliphaz is sliding further from wisdom out of frustration that Job will not confess his sin.
This time Eliphaz accuses Job of “doing away with the fear [of God] and hindering meditation before God” (Job 15:4). You will remember that the first time Eliphaz had said, “Is not your fear [of God] your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?” So this is somewhat of a theme for Eliphaz. It is also what Satan wants Job to do – he wants Job to abandon his fear of God.
Eliphaz says, “Your own mouth condemns you, and not I; your own lips testify against you” (Job 15:6). But nothing has changed since the evaluations in the prologue – “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22), and, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10c). We have not seen Job sin or charge God with wrong in his lament or replies to the ‘friends.’ Again this is what Satan wants Job to do.
Eliphaz makes an interesting assertion since we have seen the opening scenes in the council of God: “Have you listened in the council of God? And do you limit wisdom to yourself? What do you know that we do not know? What do you understand that is not clear to us?” (Job 15:8-9). This assertion is ironic since neither Job nor his friends have access to the information we do in the prologue.
Eliphaz also is upset that Job did not respond to his gentle manner. Or at least that is what I think he is talking about: “Are the comforts of God too small for you, or the word that deals gently with you?” (Job 15:11).
Another theme of Eliphaz is this contention that God does not trust the angels in heaven and that none can be pure (remember this point from the first speech). “What is man that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous? Behold, [God] puts no trust in His holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in His sight; how much less one who is abominable and corrupt, a man who drinks injustice like water!” (Job 15:14-16).
The rest of Eliphaz’s speech is pretty much just more of the same retribution theology that we have heard before.
Cycle Two: Job’s First Reply
Job’s first reply in this cycle is as usual addressed to all three friends. He says, “I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all” (Job 16:2). And he replies in kind: “Shall windy words have an end? Or what provokes you that you answer?” (Job 16:3). And he even says, “I also could speak as you do, if you were in my place; I could join words together against you and shake my head at you.” (Job 16:4).
Job also resumes the God as archer imagery: “He set me up as His target; His archers surround me” (cf. Job 16:12-13). He tells us, “My face is red with weeping, and on my eyelids is deep darkness, although there is no violence in my hands, and my prayer is pure” (Job 16:16-17). And he expresses great faith: “Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and he who testifies for me is on high” (Job 16:19) “My friends scorn me; my eye pours out tears to God, that He would argue the case of a man with God, as a son of man does with his neighbor” (Job 16:20-21). So Job is asking God to argue his case with God.
In the next chapter Job resumes his lamenting – and his self-description sounds like the nation of Israel in exile (for example, “He has made me a byword of the peoples…,” Job 17:6) or we might say like the suffering servant of Isaiah.
Bildad the Shuhite
Job 18 is the second speech in the book by Bildad the Shuhite. He speaks about the same amount as the first time.
Most of the speech Bildad describes the curse of God on the wicked. For example: “Indeed, the light of the wicked is put out, and the flame of his fire does not shine” (Job 18:5). “A trap seizes him by the heel; a snare lays hold of him” (Job 18:9). “His memory perishes from the earth, and he has no name in the street” (Job 18:17).
Continuing to describe the curse of God on the wicked: “He has no posterity or progeny among his people, and no survivor where he used to live. They of the west are appalled at his day, and horror seizes them of the east. Surely such are the dwellings of the unrighteous, such is the place of him who knows not God” (Job 18:19-21). Bildad is saying that Job is wicked and does not know God (i.e., he does not have a relationship with God).
Cycle Two: Job’s Second Reply
Job’s reply opens: “How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words?” (Job 19:1). Later he says, “All my intimate friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me” (Job 19:19). And Job calls on his friends to show him mercy because the hand of God has touched him (Job 19:21). And he asks, “Why do you, like God, pursue me? Why are you not satisfied with my flesh.”
And like the beauty of Job 14 is the rest of this reply: “Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! … For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth [dust]. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (cf. Job 19:23-27). It is tempting to jump straight to our Christian theology, made clear by the New Testament, that we will all stand before God at the judgment and read Job as saying the same thing – after he dies and is resurrected then he will see God. That is true, but what Job is actually talking about was during this life. His skin was destroyed by those loathsome sores Satan gave him.
Zophar the Naamathite
Zophar also, feeling insulted by Job, pours out venom about Job being wicked. He says, “the exulting of the wicked is short…” “though his height mount up to the heavens, and his head reach to the clouds, he will perish forever like his own dung…” (cf. Job 20:5-7). And he accuses Job of having the venom of cobras within him and that it will kill him (cf. Job 20:14, 16).
Zophar says more than last time.
Cycle Two: Job’s Third Reply
Job’s third reply in this cycle is Job 21.
His basic point is that the wicked do prosper. They reach old age, grow mighty in power, have offspring established in their presence, and get to see their descendants, they have houses that are safe from fear, etc. How true.