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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Job 14

Verses 1-22

B. The First Cycle of Speeches between Job and His Three Friends chs. 4-14

The two soliloquies of Job (chs. 3 and 29-31) enclose three cycles of dialogue between Job and his three friends. Each cycle consists of speeches by Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, in that order, interspersed with Job’s reply to each address. This pattern continues through the first two cycles of speeches (chs. 4-14 and 15-21) but breaks down in the third when Zophar failed to continue the dialogue.

"Now the discussion begins. Soon it will become a debate, then a dispute; and the Lord will have to intervene to bring matters to a head." [Note: Wiersbe, p. 15. Cf. Hartley, pp. 38, 42.]

"There are two basic lines of interaction which run through Job-Job’s crying out to God and Job’s disputations with his three friends. The absence of the third speech of Zophar is consistent with the fact that each of the speeches of the three friends is progressively shorter in each cycle and that Job’s responses to each of the friends (which also are progressively shorter) are longer than the corresponding speech of the friends. This seems to signify Job’s verbal victory over Zophar and the other two friends. It is also indicative of the bankruptcy and futility of dialogue when both Job and the three friends assume the retribution dogma (which for the friends implies Job’s guilt and for Job implies God’s injustice). Consequently, this structural design marks a very gradual swing toward a focus on Job’s relationship and interaction with God in contrast to the earlier primary interaction between Job and his friends." [Note: Parsons, p. 140.]

Throughout the three cycles of speeches, Job’s friends did not change their position. They believed that God rewards the righteous and punishes sinners in this life, the theory of retribution. [Note: See Sarles, pp. 329-52.] They reasoned that all suffering is punishment for sin, and since Job was suffering, he was a sinner. They believed that what people experience depends on what they have done (cf. John 9:2). While this is true often, it is not the fundamental reason we experience what we do in life, as the Book of Job proceeds to reveal.

"At the heart of the debate between Job and his three friends is a question, Who is wise? Who has the correct insight into Job’s suffering? Both Job and the friends set themselves up as sources of wisdom and ridicule the wisdom of the other (Job 11:12; Job 12:1-3; Job 12:12; Job 13:12; Job 15:1-13). As we will see, this question, ’Who is wise?’ dominates the whole book." [Note: Longman and Dillard, p. 229.]

As the speeches unfolded, Job’s friends became increasingly vitriolic and specific about Job’s guilt. This was true of Eliphaz (cf. Job 5:8; ch. 15; Job 22:5-9), Bildad (cf. Job 8:6; ch. 18; Job 25:5-6), and Zophar (cf. Job 11:14; ch. 20).

In several of his speeches, Job affirmed his innocence of great sin (Job 6:10; Job 9:21; Job 16:17; Job 27:6). In his first five responses he charged God with afflicting him (Job 6:4; Job 9:17; Job 13:27; Job 16:12; Job 19:11). In each of his first three replies in the first cycle he asked, "Why?" (Job 7:20; Job 10:2; Job 13:24). In six of his speeches he longed to present his case to God (Job 9:3; Job 13:3; Job 16:21; Job 19:23; Job 23:4; Job 31:35).

Job’s friends each emphasized a different aspect of God’s character, though they all saw Him as a judge. Eliphaz pointed out the distance between God and man, His transcendence (Job 4:17-19; Job 15:14-16), and stressed God’s punishment of the wicked (Job 5:12-14). Bildad said God is just (Job 8:3), great (Job 25:2-3), and that He punishes only the wicked (Job 18:5-21). God’s inscrutability impressed Zophar (Job 11:7), who also stated that God punishes the wicked quickly (Job 20:23).

Eliphaz spoke to Job with the most respect and restraint, Bildad was more direct and less courteous, and Zophar was the most blunt and brutal. Eliphaz based his arguments on experience (Job 4:8; Job 5:3; Job 15:17), Bildad on tradition (Job 8:8-10), and Zophar on mere assumption or intuition (Job 20:1-5). Eliphaz viewed life as a mystic, Bildad as an attorney, and Zophar as a dogmatist. Bildad and Zophar picked up themes from Eliphaz’s speeches and echoed them with slightly variant emphases (cf. Job 5:9 and Job 22:12 with Job 8:3; Job 8:5; Job 22:2 a with Job 11:7; Job 11:11; Job 15:32-34 with Job 18:16 and Job 20:21-22; and Job 5:14 with Job 18:5-6; Job 18:18 and Job 20:26).

"A consideration of the dramatic framework of the book of Job offers great insight into the book’s message. The author penetrates deeply into the issue of human suffering by setting up many sharp contrasts. The interplay of these contrasts gives dramatic movement to the story.

"The basic tension is between one’s belief in God and one’s personal experience." [Note: Hartley, p. 43.]

Verses 1-22

6. Job’s first reply to Zophar chs. 12-14

In these chapters Job again rebutted his friends and their view of God. He also challenged God and brooded over death. Half of this section is dialogue with his friends (Job 12:1 to Job 13:19) and half is prayer to God (Job 13:20 to Job 14:22). Job could not agree with his friends’ conclusion, but neither could he explain why God was dealing with him as He was. He could only conclude that God was not just.

Verses 1-22

Job’s despair ch. 14

In this melancholic lament Job bewailed the brevity of life (Job 14:1-6), the finality of death (Job 14:7-17), and the absence of hope (Job 14:18-22).

"Born of woman" (Job 14:1) reflects man’s frailty since woman who bears him is frail. Job 14:4 means, "Who can without God’s provision of grace make an unclean person clean?" (cf. Job 9:30-31; Job 25:4). God has indeed determined the life span of every individual (Job 14:5).

It seemed unfair to Job that a tree could come back to life after someone had cut it down, but a person could not (Job 14:7-10). As I mentioned before, Job gives no evidence of knowing about divine revelation concerning what happens to a human being after death. He believed in life after death (Job 14:13) but he did not know that there would be bodily resurrection from Sheol, the place of departed spirits (Job 14:12). [Note: See Hartley, pp. 235-37.] He longed for the opportunity to stand before God after he entered Sheol (Job 14:14), to get the answers from God that God would not give him on earth.

Essentially, "Sheol" in the Old Testament is the place where the dead go. There was common belief in the continuing personal existence of one’s spirit after death. When the place where unrighteous people go is in view, the reference is to hell. When the righteous are in view, Sheol refers to either death or the grave. [Note: See A. Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic and the Old Testament Parallels, ch. 3: "Death and Afterlife."]

God later revealed that everyone, righteous and unrighteous, will stand before Him some day (Acts 24:15; Hebrews 9:27; et al.), and God will resurrect the bodies of the dead (1 Corinthians 15). Job believed he would stand before God, though he had no assurance from God that he would (Job 14:16). Evidently Job believed as he did because it seemed to him that such an outcome would be right. He evidently believed in the theoretical possibility of resurrection but had no assurance of it. [Note: See James Orr, "Immortality in the Old Testament," in Classical Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation, pp. 259.] When he finally had his meeting with God, Job was confident that God would clear him of the false charges against him.

The final section (Job 14:18-22) contains statements that reflect the despair Job felt as he contemplated the remainder of his life without any changes or intervention by God. All he could look forward to, with any "hope" or "confidence," was death.

This reply by Job was really his answer to the major argument and several specific statements all three of his companions had made so far. Job responded to Zophar (Job 12:3), but his words in this reply (chs. 12-14) responded to statements his other friends had made as well.

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Job 14". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/job-14.html. 2012.