11 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. 12 And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. 13 And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. – Job 2:11-13 ESV
Amid all his sorrow and suffering, Job gets a visit from three of his closest friends. Each of them had received news of Job’s losses and made plans to leave their respective towns and rendevous in Uz to provide moral support to their mutual friend. We know from chapter 32, that another friend named Elihu joined them at some point. At this point, we know nothing about these men, other than their names but in time their individual personalities will become increasingly more evident.
But for now, all we know is that they graciously agreed to gather in Uz to check on the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of their friend. It is important to note that what motivated their travel plans was “this evil that had come upon” Job (Job 2:11 ESV). The Hebrew word for “evil” is הָרָעָה (raʿ) and it refers to that which is bad, wicked, malignant, or simply disagreeable. But it would appear that these men had all come to the same conclusion. Whatever had happened to their friend was the result of evil, and it will soon become clear that they assumed that Job had done something to deserve the distress and devastation he was experiencing. They believed there was a cause-and-effect rationale behind all that had happened to Job and they would soon deem it their responsibility to help Job confess whatever sin he had committed to merit God’s judgment.
Yet, upon their arrival in Uz, the well-meaning and highly motivated friends of Job find their friend’s condition far more distressing than they could have ever imagined. The skin disease from which Job suffered had left him virtually unrecognizable. Their shock and distress at Job’s alarming physical state left them stunned. But soon, their silence soon gave way to mournful cries of pity as “they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief” (Job 2:12 NLT). This rather theatrical display of emotions was probably not what Job had expected and, most certainly, not what he needed at the moment. This dramatic demonstration was intended to convince Job that they felt his pain and could somehow relate to all that he had suffered. This is not to suggest that these friends were insincere or simply putting on a show of false sympathy. They were doing what was culturally customary in that day and age. The sincerity of their actions is evidenced by their willingness to sit in silence beside their grieving friend for a full seven days as he continued to mourn Job his staggering losses.
No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words. – Job 2:13 NLT
No doubt, this show of mutual support meant a great deal to Job. He had just lost all ten of his adult children and the only words of comfort and counsel he got from his wife was to curse God and die (Job 2:9). He had been left alone to wrestle with the import of his situation, so the arrival of his friends would have been a source of great encouragement. Their decision to join him in Uz was a sign of their love and affection for him, and their willingness to sit in silence while Job mourned demonstrates that they were there for the long haul. Their visit was not a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing, and they were in no rush to return home. They quietly waited, biding their time until Job was ready to hear what they had to say. And, as we will see, they were not at a loss for words; they were simply waiting for the right time to share their insights into Job’s circumstances.
These men demonstrated the truth of the proverb: “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need” (Proverbs 17:17 NLT). In Job’s time of need, his friends were there for him. Their presence was palpable and tangible. Even as they sat alongside him in silence, their close proximity served as a balm for the pain Job was having to endure. His trials were no less difficult, but he no longer faced them alone.
Yet, the arrival of Job’s friends would not be without its own set of difficulties. These compassionate companions would soon break their silence and begin to share their personal insights into Job’s predicament. Once the seven days of mourning had passed, they would begin to offer up their well-reasoned assessment of Job’s situation and outline a strategy for remedying the problem.
But Job will beat them to the punch. His patient endurance will run its course and he’ll take the opportunity to take exception with God’s providential plan for his life. Surprisingly, the blameless Job will end up cursing his ill-fated life and express his preference for an early death. His carefully constructed facade of faithfulness will begin to crumble under the weight of his burdens. It’s not that Job no longer believes in God; it is that he no longer has the strength to endure the weight of his own sorrow and suffering. But God will show no surprise at Job’s outburst. He will hear His servant out and then allow Job’s friends to share their collective wisdom. But ultimately, God will step in and set the record straight. The entire ordeal surrounding Job’s life will be given an explanation and the sovereign plan of Almighty God will be exposed for all to see.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.