14 “He who withholds kindness from a friend
forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
15 My brothers are treacherous as a torrent-bed,
as torrential streams that pass away,
16 which are dark with ice,
and where the snow hides itself.
17 When they melt, they disappear;
when it is hot, they vanish from their place.
18 The caravans turn aside from their course;
they go up into the waste and perish.
19 The caravans of Tema look,
the travelers of Sheba hope.
20 They are ashamed because they were confident;
they come there and are disappointed.
21 For you have now become nothing;
you see my calamity and are afraid.
22 Have I said, ‘Make me a gift’?
Or, ‘From your wealth offer a bribe for me’?
23 Or, ‘Deliver me from the adversary’s hand’?
Or, ‘Redeem me from the hand of the ruthless’?
24 “Teach me, and I will be silent;
make me understand how I have gone astray.
25 How forceful are upright words!
But what does reproof from you reprove?
26 Do you think that you can reprove words,
when the speech of a despairing man is wind?
27 You would even cast lots over the fatherless,
and bargain over your friend.
28 “But now, be pleased to look at me,
for I will not lie to your face.
29 Please turn; let no injustice be done.
Turn now; my vindication is at stake.
30 Is there any injustice on my tongue?
Cannot my palate discern the cause of calamity?” – Job 6:14-30 ESV
Job now turns his attention directly to Eliphaz and his as-yet silent companions. Their words have been anything but helpful or encouraging. At Job’s darkest moment in life, these men have shown up and made matters worse with their compassionless and self-righteous rhetoric. Job even accuses them of “withholding kindness” and demonstrating a total lack of fear or reverence for God. They are so confident in their assertion of Job’s guilt that they don’t even consider what God might have to say if they’re wrong.
When Job needed loyalty and moral support from his friends he got what he deemed to be treachery. The Hebrew word is בָּגַד (bāḡaḏ) and it conveys the idea of unfaithfulness or dealing with someone deceitfully. Job compares his friends to “a seasonal brook that overflows its banks in the spring when it is swollen with ice and melting snow. But when the hot weather arrives, the water disappears. The brook vanishes in the heat” (Job 6:15-17 NLT). In other words, they are unpredictable and unreliable. They show up at inopportune times, bringing destruction rather than comfort, and when they are needed for refreshment, they are dry as a bone.
His friends have been an utter disappointment, bringing no hope or healing with their presence or words. In fact, Job finds them to be more fearful than faithful. By casting all the blame on Job and writing off his suffering as the sovereign hand of God, they seem to be trying to excuse themselves from providing him with any kind of financial aid or assistance. If they can rationalize his losses as divine judgment, they can declare themselves to be free from having to help him. Job seems to see through their self-centered analysis of the situation when he asks, “Have I ever asked you for a gift? Have I begged for anything of yours for myself? Have I asked you to rescue me from my enemies, or to save me from ruthless people?” (Job 6:22-23 NLT).
These men knew that Job was in dire straights financially. He had lost all his flocks and herds, leaving him with no means of making a living. And the funeral expenses for his ten deceased children must have taken a hit on his resources as well. But Job has not asked them for assistance. At no point has he requested that they lend him money or come to his aid with anything other than moral support. Job had not requested their presence; they had shown up of their own accord. But their arrival on the scene had only made matters worse.
So, in frustration, Job invites them to state their case plainly. He wants facts and not just flimsy accusations of guilt. He demands that they prove whatever crime they think he has committed. If they are going to put him on trial, he wants them to bring clear and compelling evidence. He assures them that he is willing to listen to what they have to say and will accept their conclusions, even if their verdict is painful to hear.
But Job writes off their words as nothing more than criticism. They have no evidence of wrongdoing because there is none. And while their lengthy diatribes may inflate their own ego, they do nothing to aid Job in his moment of need. In their desperate attempt to explain Job’s desperate circumstances, they have completely overlooked his desperation. They have shown a stunning lack of compassion and empathy.
Job begs his friends to give him the benefit of the doubt. All he asks for is an opportunity to state his case and defend his integrity, and he fully expects those who claim to be his friends to consider him innocent until proven guilty – not the other way around. But Eliphaz has set the precedent. His rush to judgment has unsettled Job and left him hurt and harboring anger and, sadly, it will encourage Job’s other friends to follow suit. Soon, they will join in the dog pile and add to the burden that Job has to bear. Instead of comfort, they will continue to criticize and critique. In the place of much-needed encouragement, they will divvy out large doses of blame and shame. And, over time, Job’s resentment will grow, and his feelings of isolation will increase to the point where he finds himself lashing out in anger, not only at his friends but at God.
What a timely reminder of the need for grace and mercy when dealing with those who are suffering. Eliphaz and his compatriots could have used the wisdom of Solomon.
Timely advice is lovely,
like golden apples in a silver basket.
To one who listens, valid criticism
is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry. – Proverbs 25:11-12 NLT
Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time! – Proverbs 15:23 NLT
Job’s friends had shown up at just the right time but were sharing all the wrong advice. They failed to read the room and properly gauge the mental state of their audience. They may have meant well but their methods were far from helpful. And Job was far from done when it came to his response.
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.