1 Then Job answered and said:
2 “Oh that my vexation were weighed,
and all my calamity laid in the balances!
3 For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea;
therefore my words have been rash.
4 For the arrows of the Almighty are in me;
my spirit drinks their poison;
the terrors of God are arrayed against me.
5 Does the wild donkey bray when he has grass,
or the ox low over his fodder?
6 Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt,
or is there any taste in the juice of the mallow?
7 My appetite refuses to touch them;
they are as food that is loathsome to me.
8 “Oh that I might have my request,
and that God would fulfill my hope,
9 that it would please God to crush me,
that he would let loose his hand and cut me off!
10 This would be my comfort;
I would even exult in pain unsparing,
for I have not denied the words of the Holy One.
11 What is my strength, that I should wait?
And what is my end, that I should be patient?
12 Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze?
13 Have I any help in me,
when resource is driven from me?” – Job 6:1-13 ESV
As might be expected, Eliphaz’s words provided little or no comfort to Job. His response to his friend’s lengthy lecture came in the form of a defense. Job was in deep pain, physically, emotionally, and psychologically. As he weighed out his unexpected losses, he found the burden of them too great to bear. Even all his long-held beliefs about God were coming under attack as he tried to make sense of all that had happened. Job admitted that his earlier words had been rash and impulsive, but he was having a difficult time understanding why God had suddenly turned His back on him.
“For the Almighty has struck me down with his arrows.
Their poison infects my spirit.
God’s terrors are lined up against me.” – Job 6:4 NLT
He reluctantly agreed with Eliphaz’s assessment that God was behind his pain and suffering, but he refused to acknowledge any guilt or confess any sin. As far as Job could tell, his losses were arbitrary and undeserved. This led him to defend his right to complain. Like a donkey in need of food, Job was “braying” for relief. His words were nothing more than an expression of his pain and suffering. It was only natural for a man who had lost everything to cry out and demand that someone relieve his agony.
From Job’s perspective, other people seem to have the right to complain about the smallest discomforts or disappointments, but he gets chastised for expressing his dissatisfaction with the deaths of his ten adult children, the loss of his entire fortune, and the failure of his own health. He was a beaten-down man and defended his right to vocalize his frustrations and questions. And Job wanted Eliphaz to see things from his perspective.
As far as Job could tell, he was under attack by God Almighty and he couldn’t fathom why. He had been given ample time to assess his circumstances and search his brain to discover what sin he might have committed to deserve the wrath of God. But instead of a list of sins to confess, Job had derived comfort in his own integrity. Despite all that had happened, Job had not turned his back on God. He was confused but remained faithful.
“At least I can take comfort in this:
Despite the pain,
I have not denied the words of the Holy One.” – Job 6:10 NLT
While Job had not lost His belief in God, he had lost his will to live. He was no longer able to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. There was no silver lining on the dark cloud that overshadowed his life. Job couldn’t imagine a future without his children or a day when his joy might return. As far as he could tell, his financial losses were too great to overcome, and his health showed no signs of improvement.
In his depressed state, all that Job could think about was death, and he begged God to put him out of his misery.
“Oh, that I might have my request,
that God would grant my desire.
I wish he would crush me.
I wish he would reach out his hand and kill me.” – Job 6:8-9 NLT
Even in this, Job revealed his belief in the goodness of God. He still believed that God, as the sovereign Lord over all things, was ultimately responsible for man’s fate. Job instinctively knew that his life was in God’s hands and so he appealed to God’s mercy and begged that his unfortunate life be brought to a quick and painless end. And these do not appear to be empty words spoken in the heat of the moment. Job is serious and sincere. His words reflect his abject sense of despair and utter resignation.
“I don’t have the strength to endure.
I have nothing to live for.
Do I have the strength of a stone?
Is my body made of bronze?
No, I am utterly helpless,
without any chance of success.” – Job 6:11-13 NLT
It would be easy to assume that Job is expressing his words to Eliphaz. Through the use of hyperbole, he was exaggerating the extent of his pain and defending his innocence against the unjust accusations of his so-called friend. But Job’s words come across more like a prayer to God than a defense of his own innocence. Even though he refers to God in the third person, he demonstrates a belief that God can hear every word he says. He doesn’t shake his fist in the face of God and demand recompense or restoration. He simply expresses his desire for the pain to end and he calls on God to be gracious and grant his desire.
These are the words of a man in deep despair. Not only is he suffering from the pain of loss but he is also having to wrestle with his confused and conflicted understanding of God. He had spent his entire life walking with God, so much so that God deemed him to be “a blameless and upright man” (Job 1:8 ESV). He was a man of integrity and faithfulness. All throughout his life, Job displayed a healthy fear of God and a strong aversion to evil. And yet, here he was suffering unparalleled pain and having to grapple with its cause and meaning.
Even Job’s wife had struggled to find any semblance of hope in his meteoric fall from grace, so she encouraged him to give up his ill-fated quest for godliness and end it all.
“Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” – Job 2:9 ESV
But Job refused to take his wife’s ungodly counsel. He was not willing to give up on God or his desire to live in a way that was pleasing to God. Job wanted to die, but not enough that he would ever curse His God. Instead, he pleaded with God to take his life. He placed his faith in the faithfulness of God and pleaded for mercy in the form of relief from his pain and suffering. It was all the hope he had left. But even that small glimmer of hope in the midst of the overwhelming darkness of life revealed that Job still believed in God. He couldn’t explain his suffering. He was at a loss as to why his life had taken such a dark turn, but he never stopped believing in the sovereignty of God. He knew his life was in God’s hands and so he turned to the giver of life to request a reprieve from the pain of life.
But while Job waited for God to respond, he took the opportunity to address Eliphaz. He was unwilling to sit back and take his friend’s verbal assault without defending himself. Assumptions had been made. Accusations had been leveled. Now, it was Job’s turn to set the record straight. He was hurting but Job still had a lot of fight in him, and Eliphaz was about to get a much-needed lecture on bed-side manners and counseling etiquette.
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.