With the coming of the three friends the book really begins. When “Job’s three friends” hear of “all this adversity” described above, it leads them to go and visit him (verse 1111Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, they came each one from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite; and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him.; cf. Pro 17:1717A friend loves at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity.). It takes a few months before they are with him (Job 7:33So am I allotted months of vanity,
And nights of trouble are appointed me.
). The three friends are mentioned by name and also their origin or background.
“Eliphaz the Temanite,” is mentioned first. Teman is an area of Edom that is proverbial for its wisdom (Jer 49:77Concerning Edom.
Thus says the LORD of hosts,
“Is there no longer any wisdom in Teman?
Has good counsel been lost to the prudent?
Has their wisdom decayed?
). This Eliphaz may well be the eldest son of Esau (Gen 36:10-1110These are the names of Esau’s sons: Eliphaz the son of Esau’s wife Adah, Reuel the son of Esau’s wife Basemath.11The sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho and Gatam and Kenaz.). In any case, he is an Edomite. He is the oldest and most important of friends. In the dialogues that begin after seven days, he is the first to speak. He starts the rounds of conversation and is the first in each round. The other friends support him, each with their own arguments. God also addresses Himself to him when He reveals His anger to them about the way the friends speak (Job 42:77It came about after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has.).
“Bildad, the Shuhite,” is mentioned second. He is also always second in the following rounds of conversation. Shuah is not far from Teman, because Bildad and Eliphaz make an agreement to go to Job. Bildad is most likely a descendant of Abraham and Keturah, through Shuah their youngest son (Gen 25:1-21Now Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah.2She bore to him Zimran and Jokshan and Medan and Midian and Ishbak and Shuah.).
Job’s third friend is “Zophar, the Naamathite. Naama is a nomadic tribe from central Arabia. Zophar always takes the third dialogue with Job. He, too, will have lived near the other two friends, for he too is included in the appointment to visit Job.
The friends’ motive was “to sympathize” with Job “and comfort him”. Uz (where Job lives) and Teman (where Eliphaz comes from) are in Edom, Shuah (where Bildad comes from) is on the border of Edom, and Naama (where Zophar comes from) is a little further away. Some time will have passed before they hear the news of the disasters that have struck Job. Then they go to him, a journey that also takes some time. A few months later, when they arrive at Job and see him in the distance, they do not recognize him.
How great must be the suffering of Job, and by how many horrors, both physical and spiritual, he must have passed through, that his friends do not recognize him (verse 1212When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky.). His torn clothes and his shaven head reveal the festering ulcers that cover his whole body in all their horror. This awful sight they have deeply absorbed for seven days.
We also see, for example, in Naomi’s case, that the time of trial has apparently made her unrecognizable. When she returns to Bethlehem, they say of her: “Is this Naomi?” (Rth 1:1919So they both went until they came to Bethlehem. And when they had come to Bethlehem, all the city was stirred because of them, and the women said, “Is this Naomi?”). Naomi is marked by the hardships she has experienced in her life. However, the passage of time also plays a role for her. That is not the case with Job. From one moment to the next he has turned from a prosperous man into a wreck of a human being. Job has endured all the trials and tribulations. Yet he remains sick. That’s because God wants to teach him things now.
In the months that passed between the disasters that struck him and the visit of his friends, Job will also have thought about the meaning of what happened to him. It is in this state that the friends find him. What Job has thought about and what the friends see will characterize their conversations.
The friends do not lack real concern and compassion (verse 1313Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that [his] pain was very great.). When they see him, “they raised their voices and wept”. They do not suppress their feelings, contrary to what we sometimes do. His misery touches them deeply. Just as Job did, “each of them tore his robe”. Every friend is personally involved. Like another expression of sadness, they throw “dust over their heads toward the sky”.
Thus they sit “with him”. The words “with him” show that they are really there for him, to share in his grief. They sit “for seven days and seven nights” with him (cf. Gen 50:1010When they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they lamented there with a very great and sorrowful lamentation; and he observed seven days mourning for his father.; 1Sam 31:1313They took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.). All this time, not a word is said by them. They don’t pay a quick visit to a sick bed. They have an eye for his great sorrow, they see “that [his] pain was very great”.
Today’s man turns his head when he sees suffering. He does not want to be confronted with it. Life has to be fun and attractive. Where can you find this kind of pity and compassion like Job’s friends today? Is it present with us, children of God, or do we prefer to run away from it or walk away from it? The friends of Job stay with him, or as it says here, “with him”. They endure the awful sight and stench of his festering wounds. Are there still such friends? Where are they? Who can compare themselves to them? That they later speak wrong of their friend is another matter, but doesn’t change the example they set here.
The friends will have thought about Job’s’ suffering and its cause on the way and in those seven days. Their view is that Job must have sinned very much, given his enormous suffering. Their big mistake is that they, each in his own way, hold on to the accepted theory that God, because He is righteous, never causes undeserved suffering. They can only imagine suffering as retribution. How different, richer and deeper, are God’s intentions with suffering that He permits over His own than their strict and hard theories. The pity of friends shows that all human help is ultimately insufficient. God is our true Helper and, finally, only Helper (Psa 60:1111O give us help against the adversary,
For deliverance by man is in vain.
; 146:3-53Do not trust in princes,
In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.
4His spirit departs, he returns to the earth;
In that very day his thoughts perish.
5How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
Whose hope is in the LORD his God,
; Isa 2:2222Stop regarding man, whose breath [of life] is in his nostrils;
For why should he be esteemed?).
Unfortunately, Job thinks in the same direction. He too cannot get away from the thought that God wants to punish him through suffering. And because he is not aware of any evil, he comes to blame God for His injustice, which leads him to consider Him his enemy. Job’s greatest need is not the loss of everything, but that he experiences that God has turned against him. At the same time, this is proof that he is not cursing God, but that he misses Him. God will lead Job to get the right thoughts about Him. He will show him that His ultimate goal of all suffering is to know Him better and to see that for those who love God, “all things … work together for good” (Rom 8:2828And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to [His] purpose.).
There are some big differences between Job and his friends:
1. The friends have suffered nothing – Job is a believer who is desperate because of suffering.
2. The words of the friends are calm, well-considered – the words of Job are often intense and deeply emotional.
3. The friends are firmly convinced of the truth of their claims, they defend God and warn and condemn Job – Job struggles desperately and seeks the meaning of his suffering.
4. From the words of the friends it is clear that they have a certain degree of knowledge of God, but that true fellowship with God is lacking – with Job, in addition to expressions of rebellion about which he later repents, we also see expressions of great faith in and trust in God.
5. The friends say nothing to God, they only speak about Him, they philosophize and theologize, but they never speak to Him – Job is perfectly clear and transparent, he wants to be honest with God, he tells Him everything, all his feelings of doubt and fear.