Author Archives: W C

Lockdown thoughts from Job 6:1-30

I posted most of this yesterday but it didn’t seem to upload – my bad.

It’s Day 12 of 28. We’re in chapter 6, Job has just heard Eliphaz say to him: “God only punishes wicked people. Don’t despise His discipline of you now.” How does Job respond to these simplistic adages?


1 Then Job answered, saying:

2 “If only my vexation were weighed
and my calamity (lit. falling) held together in the balances!
3 For then it would be heavier than the sea,
thus my words are rash.
4 For the arrows of the Almighty [are] in me,
of their poison my spirit drinks
the terrors of God are arranged against me.
5 Does the donkey bray over grass?
Or the ox low over his fodder?
6 Is tasteless food eaten with salt,
Or is there taste in the white of an egg?
7 My appetite (lit. soul) refuses to touch [these things],
They are as loathsome food to me.”

  • Eliphaz began his speech with the statement that “vexation slays a fool” (5:2). Job doesn’t concede to being foolish or evil, but responds by sharing how deeply vexed (from grief) he feels because of all the calamities that have literally “befallen” (see previous discussion on ‘fall’).
  • Job describes his sufferings as “arrows from the Almighty” – poison, terrors arranged in battle against Him (v4). It jars with our one-dimensional view of God, yet it wasn’t so long ago that Christians spoke and sung in this way as well (e.g. John Newton’s “I Asked The Lord That I Might Grow”)
  • In verses 5-7 Job says that, just as you’d look for the reason why animals are making noise (e.g. lack of food), look for the reason that he’s crying in grief.

8 “Oh, that my request would come
that my hope God would give,
9 that God be pleased to crush me,
that He loose his hand and cut me off!
10 And it may yet be my comfort
So I would exult in pain unsparing,
since I have not denied the words of the Holy One.
11 What is my strength, that I should wait,
What is my end, that my soul should be patient?
12 Is strength of stones my strength,
Is my flesh bronze?
13 Is there no help in me,
and is resource driven from me?”

  • Job is walking through the valley of the shadow of death. He feels so wrecked in his suffering that He’d rather God take his life. Yet He maintains that his life is in the Almighty’s hands: only He can “crush” Him, “loose His hand” (v9). Throughout this book Job never lets go of God’s sovereignty over all things, including his suffering.
  • His friends came to “comfort” (Heb: nakham) him in chapter 1, but Job would feel more “comfort” (same word) in being cut off by God (v10).
  • Job doesn’t take on Eliphaz’s assumption that he’s sinned – he insists he has not “denied the words of the Holy One” (v10).
  • But he has taken on Eliphaz’s way of addressing God from chapters 4-5. God is no longer the covenant Yahweh of chapter 1 (“The LORD gives, the LORD takes away” etc.) – he is Almighty, the Holy One. It’s a subtle shift, but there’s a greater distance in his address of God. In our suffering it can be hard to see God in His full and complete character.
  • Oh, Job. I can’t imagine how hard it is for you right now.

14 “”[He who would] withhold from a friend loyalty / loving-kindness,
The fear of the Almighty he forsakes.

15 My brothers are as deceitful as intermittent streams,
As river valleys that overflow,
16 being darkened with ice,
whereupon the snow hides itself,
17 In time they thaw, they disappear,
In its heat they evaporate from their place.
18 The [river] paths turn from their course,
They rise into emptiness [inland] and perish.
19 The caravans of Tema gaze,
The processions of Sabeans hope [for the rivers].
20 They are ashamed for they were confident,
They came up this far but are confounded.
21 For you now have become nothing,
You have seen [my] terror and fear [it].”

  • When a friend suffers, the God-fearing response is to show them the covenant loyalty (v14; חסד, chesed) that God shows us in His promise keeping character. That speaks louder than any sermon on suffering can do, and it’s what Job longed for from his friends.
  • Job uses an extended metaphor to describe how unreliable his friends are to him right now (. They’re like rivers that appear during flash floods or when ice melts: here one minute, gone the next. (How easy it is to say “I’ll pray for you” and perhaps do it once; how much harder to actually keep it up and be a reliable brother or sister!)
  • In chapter 1 the Sabeans are terrorists who destroy Job’s crops. Here they’re travellers looking for water and disappointed (v19).

22 For have I said, ‘Give to me’?
Or ‘From your wealth offer a bribe for me’?
23 Or ‘Deliver me from the hand of the adversary’?
Or ‘From the hand of the ruthless redeem me’?

24 Instruct me, and I myself will be silent,
And how I have erred make me understand.
25 How forceful are [your] ‘righteous’ words!
But what does it reprove, reproof from you?
26 In your reproving [of my] words, do you treat
(and) as wind the words of a despairing man?
27 Indeed, for the orphan you would cast lots (lit: “fall”),
And you would trade off your friend.
28 Now then – be willing to turn to me,
to your face I would never lie!
29 Turn now, let there be no “wicked words”,
And turn, my righteousness is yet in it (or here).
30 Is there on my tongue “wicked words”,
Can my palate not discern calamities?

  • Job sarcastically asks in vv23-24: “Did I ask for money from you?” All he wanted was sympathy from his friends, but all he gets so far is their reproof, reproof, reproof (3x) and scolding.
  • By their speechiness, Job’s friends have treated his laments “as wind” (v26). They’re lacking sympathy.
  • Job’s friends are acting like the kind of people who would cast lots over an orphan child and auction them off (v27-28). They’re as cold and clinical as Joseph’s brothers (Gen 37). Or perhaps even like people who wax lyrical about cost-benefit analyses of lockdowns when people are hurting and dying and need sympathy. Suffer with me, Job cries!
  • The word עַוְלָה (ʾavlah) I’ve translated as “wicked words” in this context (v29, 30). Words that are false, or words that destroy. Job wants his friends to “turn away” (literally, repent – shuv) from their wicked words, for his righteousness remains intact.


  • Do I see my messages, social media posts and shares as things to “repent of” when they actually aggravate hurting people? Maybe I don’t need to jump into that debate about who’s social distancing correctly and who isn’t. Maybe my voice isn’t actually needed among the choruses criticising policymaking decisions or differing government responses. We’re all suffering together, in different ways. Maybe it’s better for me to just share their sorrows, and offer the comfort that God has comforted us with (2 Cor 1:1-3).
  • In anxious times, what hurting people need most may not be more long-winded speeches, but perhaps just chesed. Loyalty, loving-kindness: the same covenant love that Jesus demonstrated when he laid down His life for his friends (John 15:13). How can I remember and live that out as we remember Jesus’s death and resurrection amidst a raging pandemic?

Lockdown thoughts from Job 5:8-27

Ten days in Job so far. I’m appreciating the slower pace and the time to think about Eliphaz’s words and why they sound good but don’t help.

Previously: Job 1:1-5 | Job 1:6-12 | Job 1:13-22 | Job 2:1-6 | Job 2:7-13 |
 Job 3:1-10 | Job 3:11-26 | Job 4:1-21 | Job 5:1-7


8 But I would seek out God,
and to God would I set my plea,
9 He does great things — unsearchable,
marvellous things without number.
10 Giving rain upon the surface of the earth,
and sending waters over the surface of the fields.
11 He sets the lowly on heights,
and those who mourn He lifts to happiness.
12 He frustrates the thoughts of the crafty,
and their hands do not make success.
13 He catches the cunning in their craftiness,
and the counsel of the astute are hastened [to conclusion].
14 By day they encounter darkness,
and as by night do they grope at midday.
15 But He saves the needy from the sword, from their mouth,
and from the hand of the mighty.
16 And the helpless have hope,
and malice shuts her mouth.

  • Eliphaz continues reciting his prepared-sounding remarks to his suffering friend Job – he encourages him to “seek out God” (v8), then extols His great character (v9-11), and delights in His retributive nature (v12-16). Eliphaz seems to love waxing lyrical about and orderly and lawful God.
  • The quality of the poetry is quite remarkable, and comes across as polished and prepared. They’re beautiful words, yet badly wielded. Job needs a friend, not a lecture.

17 Look, blessed is the man whom God chastens,
So do not refuse the training of “Shaddai” (Almighty)!

18 For He causes pain, yet binds up,
He shatters, yet His hands heal.
19 From six troubles He will deliver you,
and in seven, evil will not touch you.
20 In famine He redeems you from death,
and in war from the hand of the sword.
21 From the whip of the tongue you shall be hidden,
and you shall not fear devastation when it comes.
22 Towards oppression and famine you shall laugh.
And from the beasts of the earth you shall not fear.
23 For with the stones of the field you shall covenant with,
and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with you.
24 You shall know that peace [is] your tent,
and you shall deal with your settlement and not miss the mark.
25 You shall know that many are your offspring
and your offspring [be] as weeds of the earth.
26 You shall come to the grave in ripe [old] age,
as a sheaving of sheaves in its time.
27 Look, this is what we have explored,
it is thus so: hear it, and know it for yourself.

  • Eliphaz concludes his monologue by exhorting Job: see your trials as punishment from God! Don’t reject it! (v17).
  • He saves his biggest words for this climactic moment, invoking a cluster of righteous-sounding vocabulary: blessed (v17, like “Blessed is the man” in Psalm 1), redemption (v20), covenant (v23), shalom / peace (v23-24), and even sin (v24, “miss the mark”). Nothing quite like a bit of Hebrew-ese to really drive home the point that he’s right, huh?
  • It’s almost as if Eliphaz is referencing the Abrahamic blessing (Genesis 15) and invoking the same ideas and hopes (land and offspring and protection) – e.g., verse 25, “your offspring will be as weeds on the earth.” I’m not sure whether that’s the best thing to say to someone who’s just lost 10 kids though. Can’t you just grieve with him?

Some reflections:

  • When I’m chatting with grieving friends, righteous-sounding Christianese can get in the way of showing real sympathy.
  • I know I’m often prone to Eliphaz’s urge to give beautiful and pious-sounding advice when it’s poorly-timed. A friend told me once that when he was recovering in hospital, he got really tired of people who’d come up and just quote Romans 8:28 to him (and not much more). May we be more careful not just what we say, but when we say it, and how. “You’ll find that perfect someone, I know it!” is probably not helpful when your friend is mourning their singleness. Probably a dumb move to declare “He will not cause you to stumble” when your friend is terminally ill.
  • I get that we should take time to weigh up differing viewpoints and commentary on the pandemic: from health officials, economists, etc. But Eliphaz’s mistimed verbosity reminds me that perhaps sharing yet another long-form COVID read isn’t the most important thing my anxious and suffering friends need to hear right now.
  • “Be happy that God is disciplining you” might be something I’d say to myself after a harrowing trial. But it certainly shouldn’t be something I cough onto others without reason, and while they’re grieving, like Eliphaz does. Suffering brings lessons on hindsight — let’s not short-circuit that process for our friends with lofty but mistimed words.

Lockdown thoughts from Job 5:1-7

Day 9 in Job. Just a short walkthrough from the Hebrew text this morning as I’ve got a few other things to work on today. I promise not to pull a Joseph Caryl (he preached Job over 24 years and 424 sermons)!

Previously: Job 1:1-5 | Job 1:6-12 | Job 1:13-22 
Job 2:1-6 | Job 2:7-13 | Job 3:1-10 | Job 3:11-26 | Job 4:1-21

(It’s still Eliphaz replying to Job’s lament)

5:1 Cry out now; is there anyone who answers you?
And to which of the holy ones will you turn?
2 For vexation slays the fool,
and jealousy kills the simple.
3 I myself have seen the fool taking root,
and I cursed his settlement suddenly:
4 “May their children be far from happiness,
and may they be crushed in the gate, and there will be no deliverer.
5 Whoever is hungry, may he eat his harvest, and even from thorns take it, and the robber pants after their wealth.”
6 For disaster does not come from dust;
and from the ground trouble does not sprout.
7 For humanity is born to trouble,
as sparks (lit: sons of the flame) fly upwards.

  • There’s lots of difficult translation issues in these verses. But the main point is that Eliphaz is burning to tell a grieving Job that evil people get their just desserts (so he can suggest that God is disciplining him for his sins, v17).
  • According to Eliphaz, Job’s cries to God are futile as there’s no “holy one” to mediate for him (v1) – near context suggests these are angels from a few verses earlier (4:18).
  • For a second time, Eliphaz points to his observations (“I myself have seen”) as his primary way of knowing what’s true (see 4:8). Says Eliphaz, “an eye for an eye” is how the world always works.
  • When Eliphaz curses the fool (v3), we should take notice – since the narrator has riddled us about blessings and curses so often already (see previous discussion).
  • I’ve taken v4-5 as the content of Eliphaz’s cursing as the verbs are better translated as wishes rather than statements. They become callous wishes, rather than statements of fact.
  • In all this, remember though that the narrator has already established Job as “blameless” and one who “turns from evil” (1:1, 1:8).

My thoughts:

  • We all know an Eliphaz: the friend who spouts what’s true, “as they see it”, all the time. Sometimes I wonder if social media rewards the loudest and most opinionated, and if our society is just cultivating lots of postmodern Eliphazes. Do we like and amplify voices with pithy, pointless memes? Why?
  • While it’s true that some suffering is a result of humanity’s evil nature (e.g. murder, rape), it’s callous to use it as a blanket statement. Coronavirus is not because of overpopulation, or some government conspiracy, or whatever quick black-and-white box people come up with.
  • While off-beam, not everything Eliphaz says so far is false. What better time than a global pandemic to remember that, as sparks fly upwards, every human being is born into a world of trouble.
  • Eliphaz curses the fool. Job curses the day he was born. What you get angry at reveals your heart, doesn’t it?

Lockdown thoughts from Job 4

Week 2 of New Zealand’s lockdown. I’m just travelling through Job in the mornings. Enter Eliphaz.

Previously: Job 1:1-5 | Job 1:6-12 | Job 1:13-22 
Job 2:1-6 | Job 2:7-13 | Job 3:1-10 | Job 3:11-26

1 And Eliphaz the Temanite answered, saying:

2 “[Shall] one try words with you? You would be weary.
But who is able to keep from speaking?
3 Look –
you have corrected many
and the weak hands you have strengthened.
4 Your words uphold the one who stumbles,
and the knees which are bent you make firm.
5 However,
now it has come to you and you are weary;
it touches you and you are startled.
6 Is not your fear your confidence/folly,
your hope and the blamelessness of your ways?

7 Remember: who that is innocent has ever perished?
And where have the upright been destroyed (lit: hidden)?
8 As I have seen, those who plow iniquity,
and those who sow trouble reap it.
9 By the breath/spirit of God they perish,
and by the force of his anger they are consumed.
10 The roar of the lion, the voice of the lion[ness?], and the teeth of the young lions are broken.
11 The lion perishes from lack of prey, and lion[ness?]’s cubs are separated.

  • Eliphaz responds to his friend’s lament (see chapter 3) by saying: “Has anyone tried speaking to you? (No? OK – I will then)”. He can no longer stay quiet and wants Job to take the same advice he has told others before.
  • Eliphaz knows of, and references Job’s blamelessness in verse 6 (same word as in 1:1 and 1:8), but that merely moves him towards his maxim…
  • That as “he has seen”, it is wicked people who suffer (4:8). They are literally consumed by the “breath of His nostrils” (v9), or like a den of lions that’s been starved out (v10-11). According to Eliphaz’s wisdom, only if you’re guilty of something will you suffer.

4:12 Then for me a word was stolen;
and my ears received a whisper about it.
13 In anxious thoughts from visions of the night,
during the falling of sleep upon men,
14 Dread approached me, as well as trembling,
and the abundance of my bones shook.
15 And a spirit passed my face,
the hair of my flesh bristled.
16 It stood, and I could not recognise its appearance.
A form (f.) was in front of my eyes,
[there was] silence, then I heard a voice:

“17 Is a man righteous before God?
If before his Maker, [could] a man be pure?
18 Look, in His servants He does not trust,
and his angels he attributes with madness(?).
19 Indeed, those who dwell in houses of clay,

which in the dust [have] their foundations;
They are crushed in place of a moth.
20 From morning to evening they are beaten,
without thought forever, they perish.
21 Is not their tent-cord pulled out with them,
[do they not] die, and without wisdom?”

  • Here Eliphaz switches from proverbial truths he knows (allegedly from Job), to a mystical-sounding, hair-raising vision that’s been “whispered” to his ears (v12)
  • It turns out to be a dramatic restatement of a familiar epithet: no man is righteous before God (v17). Remember, Eliphaz is saying this in response to a friend in deep sorrow and lament.
  • Verse 18 could be a reference back to the early scenes with the ben elohim / sons of God who assemble before Yahweh in chapter 1 and 2. This verse ends with the word , which is very difficult to translate but sits in parallel with “he does not trust”.
  • Line after line Eliphaz pummels us with descriptions of humanity’s frailty, and therefore our unworthiness before God. His rhetoric continues in chapter 5, but even here His God seems very one-dimensional and Deist. The God of the Bible is more than a distant unfeeling Maker.

My own thoughts:

  • When sitting with friends who suffer, I really need to “keep from speaking” too quickly.
  • “Only bad people suffer” sounds nice in theory, but doesn’t match what happens in reality. COVID is a reminder that suffering does not discriminate.
  • I need to hold everything I know that’s true about God, not just one aspect. God is holy and unlike me, and yet I should remember He is also near me through His Spirit. Holding one attribute of God without the others deflates the fullness of His character.

Lockdown thoughts from Job 3:11-26

Day #7 in the Hebrew text of Job (this chapter had 79 rare words!)

Job 1:1-5 | Job 1:6-12 | Job 1:13-22 
Job 2:1-6 | Job 2:7-13 | Job 3:1-10

11 Why did I not die from the womb, depart from the belly and perish?
12 Why did the knees receive me?
And why breasts that I should suckle?

13 For now I lie down,
and I would have been quiet,
and I would have slept then;
I would have rested (to me).
14 with kings and counsellors of the earth who built desert [tombs] for themselves.
15 or with noblemen [having] gold,
the ones who have filled their houses [with] silver.
16 or [why] did I not “fall out” as a miscarried hidden one,
as infants who never see light?
17 There the wicked cease agitation;
and there the weary of strength will rest.
18 Together the prisoners are at ease,

they do not hear the voice of the slave-driver.
19 The small and great are there,
and the slave is free from his master.

  • Remember, this is righteous Job speaking. No feelings are off-limits: he laments his torrid life and wishes he hadn’t been born to begin with.
  • The Hebrew in verse 14 possibly speaks of kings building “desolate places” for themselves (it’s a difficult word to translate). Perhaps in a time of renowned Egyptian kings, there’s an allusion here to their monuments and tombs. Job appeals to death’s equality and prefers it to his present suffering.
  • The word that linked the incessant sufferings that “fell upon” (נפל, niphal) Job in chapter 1 now reappears in verse 16 – literally, Job asks why “was I not as fallout [from the womb]”. Job 3:16 is a voice into those who have suffered miscarriage or abortion (the Hebrew could mean either). Job reaching for this metaphor in his grief unites him with mothers and infants who have suffered in this painful way.

20 Why is light given to the one who suffers,
and existence to the bitter of soul,
21 and to those who wait for death yet it does not [come],
and dig for it over hidden treasures?
22 [to] those who are happy, [who] rejoice with gladness when they find the grave.
23 to a man whose path is hidden, and God has hedged in?

24 For in place of my bread, my sighing comes,
and poured out like water are my howlings.
25 For the fear I feared, it arrives upon me;
and what I dread has come over me.
26 I am not at ease, but I am not quiet,
and I have no rest, but trouble comes.

  • Verse 20 is the sufferer’s lament distilled – Why does God give us life only to bring suffering and “bitterness of soul”? Naomi likewise describes her pain of being widowed and bereft of any livelihood as “bitter” (Ruth 1:20), just as the Israelites described their bondage under the Egyptians as immensely “bitter” (Exodus 1:14).
  • In verse 23, Job laments that God hedges in a man’s way, and hides his paths. Remember the adversary’s accusation in Job 1:10? He charges God with “fencing” Job in to protect him, yet ironically Job now laments that same hedging from God.
  • “My groanings are poured out like water” (e.g. ESV) is too tame a translation. Here Job is “howling” like a lion does (see Job 4:10), and as Jesus relates to when he quotes these famous words on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning howling?” (Ps 22:1) There’s no need to sanitise despair – sometimes you just want to scream and sob.

Thoughts on chapter 3:

  • Every Christian should sit with this chapter at some stage in their lives. Even if we don’t feel what Job feels, someone we love does. Depression is real, and this is a relevant passage for us.
  • Yet because Job’s “howlings” were shared by Christ Jesus on the cross – Christians know One who has walked the darkest valleys for our sins, and “howled” in agony as our loving Saviour. We suffer, but never without Someone who has been there before. A good truth to meditate on as we approach Good Friday.
  • Job is raw, honest and hurt. Yet he expresses his grief on a foundation of God’s presence and control. Even when we question why God has trapped us in our houses right now, we’re acknowledging that he’s in control. God is sovereign even in our suffering.
  • Again, no question, no feeling is off-limits with Dad. Likewise, I always try and allow my children permission to share how they really feel with me, even if it’s raw, amidst screams, and hard to take in.
  • I wonder what songs you and I can turn to in order to express corporately our lament at this broken world, and the suffering in our lives? If we can’t sing words like this as a church family, has our worship music repertoire perhaps been infected by the therapeutic or prosperity gospel?