Job 2 – “The Second Test; The Three Friends”

image079Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
In Job 2 the Satan afflicts Job with severe boils in order to test his piety. Although Job’s wife begs her husband to blaspheme God and die, Job accepts his fate with integrity. At the end of the chapter Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar come to visit him in his suffering.

II. Photo
Vv. 7-8 describe Job’s affliction and his response, “The Satan departed from the presence of the LORD and inflicted a severe inflammation on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. [Job] took a potsherd to scratch himself as he sat in ashes.”

III. Important Verses
vv. 3-6: The LORD said to the Adversary, “Have you noticed My servant Job? There is no one like him on earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil. He still keeps his integrity; so you have incited Me against him to destroy him for no good reason.” The Adversary answered the LORD, “Skin for skin — all that a man has he will give up for his life. But lay a hand on his bones and his flesh, and he will surely blaspheme You to Your face.” So the LORD said to the Adversary, “See, he is in your power; only spare his life.”
vv. 9-10: His wife said to him, “You still keep your integrity! Blaspheme God and die!” But he said to her, “You talk as any shameless woman might talk! Should we accept only good from God and not accept evil?” For all that, Job said nothing sinful.
v. 13: [Job’s three friends] sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights. None spoke a word to him for they saw how very great was his suffering.

IV. Outline
1-6. God allows the Satan to afflict Job’s body
7-8. Job is afflicted
9-10. Job maintains his piety
11-13. Job’s three friends come to comfort him

V. Comment
Job 2 consists of three scenes. In the first scene (vv. 1-6) God allows Satan to afflict Job in order to see if he will blaspheme God. The second scene (vv. 7-10) depicts Job’s suffering and relates how he doesn’t abandon his piety. The final scene introduces Job’s three friends who will comment on his fate in the coming chapters. In terms of structure, Job 2 employs repetition: vv. 1-4a are nearly identical to 1:6-9.

In v. 3 God tells the Satan, “so you have incited Me against [Job] to destroy him for no good reason (chinam).” The word chinam makes it clear Job did not bring any of his suffering upon himself. Clines points out (pp. 42-43), “The experiment, however, has even by this inconclusive stage brought into the open—at least to the observant reader—one striking fact about the moral universe as perceived by the narrator: it is indeed possible for a righteous person to suffer gratuitously.” Indeed, while the book of Proverbs guarantees many things to the righteous/wise person, it also recognizes that piety does not necessarily result in prosperity: “Do not reject the discipline of the LORD, my son; Do not abhor His rebuke. For whom the LORD loves, He rebukes, As a father the son whom he favors.” (Prov. 3:11-12, see comment there)

In v. 9 we are introduced to Job’s wife: “His wife said to him, ‘You still keep your integrity! Blaspheme God and die!’” While many view her as the devil’s advocate (much like Eve in the creation narrative), Clines points out that she was under immense stress. He writes (p. 51), “Rarely has the scene been viewed through her eyes… Through no fault of her own, but solely because of the social structures of her time, her own well-being has been wholly dependent on Job’s. She has relied on him for her economic existence, for her social status, and for her moral standing in the community. But now, at a stroke, she has lost everything. Her income is gone, now that the cattle and servants have been destroyed, her position as matriarch and wife of a prince has been lost, and she is open to the obloquy of guilt by association. All this in addition to the sudden loss of her ten children. And who is to blame? No one but her husband.” Indeed, the Septuagint (v. 9) considerably lengthens her speech in order to give voice to her own suffering: “And when much time had passed, his wife said to him, How long wilt thou hold out, saying, Behold, I wait yet a little while, expecting the hope of my deliverance? for, behold, thy memorial is abolished from the earth, even thy sons and daughters, the pangs and pains of my womb which I bore in vain with sorrows; and thou thyself sittest down to spend the nights in the open air among the corruption of worms, and I am a wanderer and a servant from place to place and house to house, waiting for the setting of the sun, that I may rest from my labours and my pangs which now beset me; but say some word against the Lord, and die.”

Job responds in v. 10, “But he said to her, ‘You talk as any shameless woman (nevalos) might talk! Should we accept only good from God and not accept evil?’ For all that, Job said nothing sinful.” The term naval seems to be the opposite of chakham “wise one” (see Deut 32:6). What’s to be made of the statement “For all that, Job said nothing sinful”? While Job remains steadfast in his piety, this phrase seems to foreshadow the different approach Job will take in the next chapter (Ibn Ezra). Psalm 39 comes to mind: “I resolved I would watch my step lest I offend by my speech; I would keep my mouth muzzled while the wicked man was in my presence. I was dumb, silent; I was very still while my pain was intense.”

In vv. 11-13 we are introduced to Job’s three friends, and they practice many of the mourning rites found throughout Tanach: “When they saw him from a distance, they could not recognize him, and they broke into loud weeping; each one tore his robe and threw dust into the air onto his head. They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights. None spoke a word to him for they saw how very great was his suffering.” (vv. 12-13) The notion of friends consoling mourners can be found in Gen. 37:35 and 2 Sam. 10:2. The three friends sit for seven days before speaking, and a seven day mourning period is attested to in Gen. 50:10, 1 Sam. 31:13, Judith 16:24, and Ben Sira 22:12 which says “Seven days do men mourn for him that is dead; but for a fool and an ungodly man all the days of his life.” The friends also throw ashes on their heads, a practice described in Josh 7:6, 1 Sam 4:12, 2 Sam 13:19, 15:32, Ezek 27:30, Lam 2:10, Esth 4:1, and Dan 9:3.

It was seen in  the last chapter that Job probably lived in Northwest Arabia near the land of Edom. The names and locations of the three friends also lend support to this theory. The first friend, Eliphaz the Temanite, is most strongly associated with Edom: the city of Teman represents Edom (cf. Amos 1:12, Obad 9, Jer 49:7), and the name Eliphaz is found in Gen 36 as a son of Esau. Bildad the Shuhite also has an association: Gen. 25:1-6 describes how Shuah was one of Abraham’s sons by Keturah and that he lived in the “east country.” Also, the beginning of the name Bildad is similar to other people from that area such as Balaam and Balaak. The last friend, Zophar the Naamathite, has a name similar to Zipor (the father of Balaak, cf. Num. 22:2) and Zophu (one of Esau’s descendents listed in Genesis 36:11, 15).

In regards to the probable Edomite location for the book of Job, it is important to note that portions of Tanach speak of Edom’s “wisdom.” Jer. 49:7 says, “Concerning Edom. Thus said the LORD of Hosts: Is there no more wisdom in Teman? Has counsel vanished from the prudent? Has their wisdom gone stale?” Similarly, Obad. 1:8 says, “In that day — declares the LORD — I will make the wise vanish from Edom, Understanding from Esau’s mount.” Thus, it makes sense that a place renowned for its wisdom (much like Egypt and Mesopotamia) should serve as the setting for the book of Job.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

Clines, Job 1-20 (Word Biblical Commentary)

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