Job 2: Lessons on Suffering From Job’s Testing and the Loss of His God-Given Health

Introduction: Satan’s attacks on Job’s wealth and his ten children failed to undermine Job’s faith in God. In Job 2, God allowed Satan to test Job’s faith again, this time with painful boils and a host of other painful medical ailments. Learning how to deal with poor health is one of the most common challenges for any believer. From Job’s encounter with Satan, God reveals seven important lessons on suffering. Suffering can: (1) bring God’s reward for those who persevere, (2) expose selfishness, (3) test your dependence on God, (4) test your faith, (5) test your submission to God, (6) test your love for others, and (7) test your compassion for others.

First, God boasted to Satan that Job remained faithful, even after losing his wealth and his children. Perseverance through your trials will also lead to God’s reward or praise. Second, Satan then alleged that Job’s faith was based upon selfishness. He alleged that Job would renounce God as soon as his own health suffered. Trials can also expose selfishness. Third, God then removed His hedge of protection to test whether Job would continue to depend upon Him during his suffering. God may also remove His hedge of protection on your good health to test whether you will depend upon Him. Fourth, God allowed Job to experience tremendous suffering and the discouragement of his wife as tests of his faith. God may also allow you to experience suffering and discouragement to test your faith. Fifth, Job rebuked his wife by telling her that he had to submit to God in both good and bad times. God may also allow you to suffer to cause you to submit to Him. Sixth, Job’s suffering caused three of his friends to travel far to initially try to both love him and encourage him. Suffering also serves the purpose of allowing believers to divert attention from themselves and to love those in need. Finally, Job’s friends initially did the correct thing by silently sitting with Job for seven days to show compassion towards him. Suffering allows believers to learn compassion towards those in need.

1. God’s Reward: Perseverance Through Trials Leads to God’s Reward. Job 2:1-3.

  • God boasted for a second time about Job’s faith to Satan. After Satan’s attack on Job’s possessions and ten children failed to undermine his faith in God, God again boasted about Job’s faith to Satan: “1 Again, there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Then Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.’ The Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds firm to his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.’” (Job 2:1-3). Verses 2:1-6 track almost verbatim the verses in Job 1:6-12. Indeed, even the beginning word “again” is not in the original Hebrew. “We may gather from them, that, whereas on the former occasion Satan came only to observe, and with no intention of drawing God’s special attention to himself, he now had such intention, and looked forward to a colloquy. He anticipated, doubtless, that the circumstances of Job’s probation would be referred to, and he had prepared himself to make answer.” (Pulpit Commentary on Job 2).1 God celebrated that Job’s faith was not contingent upon his blessings. Job loved the Giver more than his God’s-given gifts of wealth and children. Job established that humanity was not a failed experiment. Humanity was worth saving and sending Jesus to die for mankind’s sins (Jo. 3:16).

Satan once again in the presence of God to accuse Job2

  • Those who persevere in the face of trials will receive God’s praise and blessing. The Bible celebrates Job for his endurance through his many trials (Jam. 5:11; Ezek. 14:14). Few should ever expect to experience the types of trials that Job endured. Yet, God will likely allow you to experience trials of some kind. We can read God’s statements about Job as a confirmation of His promise to praise and bless those who endure through their trials. This will include a crown of life in heaven: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (Jam. 1:12). For this reason, the Apostles celebrated that they were deemed worthy to suffer for Jesus through persecution (Acts 5:41; 1 Pet. 4:14-16). Thus, if you are deemed worthy of suffering for God’s greater plans for good (Ro. 8:28), you are called upon to celebrate the growth that your trials produce (Jam. 1:2). Are you praising God in your trials as Job did (Job 1:21)?

2. Selfishness: Suffering Can Expose Selfishness and a Fair Weathered Faith. Job 2:4-6.

  • Satan alleged that Job’s faithfulness was based upon selfishness. Having failed in his initial attacks on Job, Satan alleged that Job was willing to part with his wealth and children because he only really cared about himself. He alleged that Job would renounce his faith as soon as his own health suffered: “Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has, he will give for his life. However, reach out with Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face!’ So the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life.’” (Job 2:4-6). Your accuser Satan (Rev. 12:10) is constantly probing for weaknesses in your faith. If you are selfish and have a fair-weathered faith, he will exploit that to turn you from God.

Satan, the false accuser, again places Job’s faith on trial before God3

  • Satan most frequently uses your flesh to turn you away from God. Satan’s attack on Job’s health is a common attack that he uses against believers. He used the same technique to torment the Apostle Paul: “Because of the extraordinary greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!” (2 Cor. 12:7). As one commentator observes: “Satan did not consider his energy to have been wasted. His next move was to obtain permission to attack Job’s body. With the adage ‘Skin for skin! A man will give all he has for his own life’ (v. 4), Satan suggested that even Job’s triumphant faith expressed in his doxology (1:21) was only a ploy by which he was purchasing his personal well-being. He was even willing to sacrifice the skin of his loved ones to save his own. If God would send his hand against Job’s body (i.e., permit Satan to do so), Job’s verbal piety would prove to be a sham; he would curse God to his face (v. 5). The contest was about to take on a new intensity. God placed Job in the hands of their mutual adversary but limited his power – ‘you must spare his life’ (v. 6).” (Frank Gaebelein, Elmer Smick, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 1, 2 Kings, 1, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job (Zondervan Publishing House 1988) pgs. 884-885). Another commentator observes, “When it came down to it, Abraham betrayed his wife to save his life. David forsook his sanity to save his life. Peter denied Jesus to save his own life. There is certainly some truth to the statement, all that a man has he will give for his own life . . . It is the devil’s perpetual estimate of humanity that flesh is supreme.” (David Guzik on Job 2) (internal citations omitted).4 Frequently, poor health can be traced to a poor diet or an unhealthy lifestyle. But many cases of poor health are not easily explained. If you are suffering from poor health this could be a test of your faith. God is sometimes forced to allow people to suffer infirmities to divert their focus from themselves and return it to Him. Good health can bring a feeling of independence. But God wants your dependence on Him more than your independence.

  • Good health is God’s gift to faithful believers that He can remove or restore. Satan could only touch Job’s health with God’s permission (Job 2:6). Depending upon His greater plans for good (Ro. 8:28), God can either place a hedge of protection around your health, remove it, or restore it. Unless an exception applies, God promises to pour out His blessings on those who live in faith-led obedience (Dt. 28:1-2). This can include His promise to protect you from diseases and poor health: “And He said, ‘If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer.’” (Ex. 15:26; Dt. 7:15). ‘“See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, and there is no one who can deliver from My hand.”’ (Dt. 32:39). “ . . . the LORD binds up the fracture of His people and heals the bruise He has inflicted.” (Is. 30:26). “For He inflicts pain, and gives relief; He wounds, and His hands also heal.” (Job 5:8). “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Ps. 147:3). “He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” (Ps. 107:20). Unless an exception applies (as was the case with Job), God is faithful to bless those who live with faith-led obedience. This can include a hedge of protection around your health or divine healing.

  • You cannot earn God’s healing through your works. Although good health is a blessing, you cannot demand it from God as a quid pro quo for your obedience. By faith alone in Jesus’ stripes, you can be healed or protected from any infirmity: “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” (Is. 53:5; 1 Pet. 2:24). He is so powerful that He healed a leper merely with His touch and command: “Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” (Matt. 8:3). But, if your obedience alone allowed you to earn a blessing of good healing, this would undermine the need for Jesus’ sacrifice. God illustrated this principle through His healing of the leper Naaman. Naaman wanted to earn his healing through a dramatic test of his strength in the raging mountainous rivers in Syria. He did not want to dunk himself seven times in the calm Jordan River (2 Kgs. 5:9-12). God never wants you to serve Him with the wrong motives. Yet, He also wants you to know that His offer to bless and restore your health are real. Serve Him in obedience and let Him bless you. If a special exception applies (as was the case with Job), celebrate Him because He has a greater plan (Ro. 8:28).

  • God blessed Moses with both a prolonged life and good health. The book of Job causes many to draw the wrong conclusion that there is no rhyme or reason to God’s blessings. Because of his obedience, Moses lived until he was 120 with the eyesight and stamina of a younger man: “Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated.” (Dt. 34:7). Living 120 years was symbolic of a full life (Gen. 6:3). Through Moses, God had repeatedly promised that obedience to the Law would bring a “prolonged life” on Earth: ‘Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. 47 For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you will prolong your days in the land, . .. .” (Dt. 32:46-47). “Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” (Dt. 5:32-33). “So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the LORD your God is giving you for all time.” (Dt. 4:40; 6:1-2; 12:28; 22:6-7; 25:13-16; Lev. 18:5). Among other parts of the law, God specifically promised a “prolonged” life for those who follow the Fifth Commandment by honoring their parents (Ex. 20:12; Dt. 5:16; Eph. 6:2-3). He is not promising that you will live to be old if you follow the law. He is instead promising to prolong the length of time you would normally have on Earth. Through Moses’ example, God also reveals that He is not promising a prolonged life in a vegetative state. He is instead promising youthful vigor in your prolonged life. Yet, if you doubt God’s promise of a prolonged healthy life, you should not expect God to grant it (Jam. 1:6-7). You also will not know until you get to heaven whether God prolonged your life a day, a month, a year, a decade or some other amount of time. It requires faith to accept a blessing that you cannot confirm until you get to heaven. Will you be faithful and obey to receive a promised prolonged life?

3. Dependence: God May Remove Good Health to Cause Dependance On Him. Job 2:7-8.

  • Satan attacked Job with severe boils across every inch of his skin. With the authority that God gave him, Satan launched an attack on Job’s health with severe boils: “Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with severe boils from the sole of his foot to the top of his head. And Job took a piece of pottery to scrape himself while he was sitting in the ashes.” (Job 2:7-8). This is the last time we hear from Satan in this book. Satan’s attack left Job in utter agony. Having lost everything, all he could do was scrap his boils with pieces of pottery while sitting on ashes. Pottery symbolized fragility (Jer. 19:1, 10), insignificance (Is. 30:14; Lam. 4:2), and commonness (Prov. 26:23).

William Blake (1757-1827) “The Book of Job - 05” (engraving 1826)5

William Blake (1757-1827) “The Book of Job - 06” (engraving 1826)6

Satan struck Job with multiple painful illnesses7

“Job took a piece of pottery to scrape himself . . .” (Job 2:8).8

  • Job’s poor health extended to every part of his body and his mind. Verses throughout the book of Job establish that Satan inflicted every part of Job’s body and mind with an intense, aggravating pain that had no apparent end to it. Job further had no information available to him to suggest that his worsening condition had any limits or that God had spared him from death. The following conditions went on for “months” (Job 7:3; 29:2):

- Painful, itchy sores from head to toe: “Then Satan . . . struck Job with severe boils from the sole of his foot to the top of his head. And Job took a piece of pottery to scrape himself . . .” (Job 2:7-8).

- Decaying, blackened, maggot-ridden flesh: “My skin turns black on me,” (Job 30:30a). “My flesh is clothed with maggots and a crust of dirt, . . .” (Job 7:5a).

- Hardened, dead flesh with oozing scars: “[M]y skin hardens and oozes.” (Job 7:5b).

- Burning bone pains: “[M]y bones burn with fever.” (Job 30:30b).

- Difficulty breathing: “He will not allow me to get my breath, . . .” (Job 9:18).

- Sleeplessness from intense body pains: “At night it pierces my bones within me, and my gnawing pains do not rest.” (Job 30:17). “So I am allotted worthless months, and nights of trouble are apportioned to me. When I lie down, I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ But the night continues, and I am continually tossing until dawn.” (Job 7:3-4).

- Misery and sorrow. “My eye has also become inexpressive because of grief, . . .” (Job 17:7a). “I am seething within and cannot rest; days of misery confront me. I go about mourning without comfort; I stand up in the assembly and cry out for help.” (Job 30:27-28).

- Intense crying “My face is flushed from weeping, and deep darkness is on my eyelids,” (Job 16:16). “ . . . My eye weeps to God,” (Job 16:20b).

- Ongoing fatigue and anxiety: “But now He has exhausted me; . . .” (Job 16:7a). “I am not at ease, nor am I quiet, and I am not at rest, but turmoil comes.” (Job 3:26).

- Nightmares: “Then You frighten me with dreams, and terrify me by visions,” (Job 7:14).

- Severe emaciation from an inability to eat: “And all my body parts are like a shadow.” (Job 17:7b). “My bone clings to my skin and my flesh, . . .” (Job 19:20). “His flesh wastes away from sight, and his bones, which were not seen, stick out.” (Job 33:21).

- A repulsive appearance and breath. “My breath is offensive to my wife, and I am loathsome to my own brothers.” (Job 19:17).

- Public scorn and abandonment: “Even young children despise me; I stand up and they speak against me.” (Job 19:18). “My friends are my scoffers; . . .” (Job 16:20a). “He has removed my brothers far from me, and my acquaintances have completely turned away from me.” (Job 19:13).

- Depression and suicidal ideation from intense ongoing pain: “Oh, that God would decide to crush me, that He would let loose His hand and cut me off!” (Job 6:9). “So that my soul would choose suffocation, death rather than my pains. I waste away; I will not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are only a breath.” (Job 7:15-16). “ . . . I reject my life.” (Job 9:21). “I am disgusted with my own life; I will express my complaint freely; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 10:1).

  • God puts you through trials so that you may depend upon Him. God may use your trials to: (1) build obedience (Heb. 5:8), (2) prune away the parts of your flesh that are not of Him (Jo. 15:2), and to (3) build perseverance, character, and hope: “And not only this, but we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;” (Ro. 5:3-4). After the Jews had escaped from Egypt, Moses explained that God frequently tests His people: “for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” (Ex. 20:20(b); Dt. 8:2). David also warned that even the righteous are not beyond God’s testing: “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked . . .” (Ps. 11:5). “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, . . .” (Jer. 17:10). God’s testing and discipline are done out of love (Heb. 12:6). When you are tested, you may find that your heart has hidden anger, lust, or covetousness. When God exposes wickedness, He expects you to repent of it: “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). David invited God’s testing to show him where he needed to change (Ps. 139:23). Your trials should produce perseverance and endurance: “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;” (Ro. 5:3). “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (Jam. 1:2-3). Paul endured a similar trial when he faced death in Asia. He advised that God put him through trials so that he would depend upon Him and not his own strength: “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; . . . He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us,” (2 Cor. 1:8-10). Are you turning to Jesus to build up your faith during your trials?

4. Faith: God May Allow You to Experience Suffering to Test Your Faith. Job 2:9.

  • Job’s wife loses faith and seeks to discourage Job. Job’s wife was convinced that Job was cursed and would soon die. In her despair, she urged him to curse God and commit suicide: “Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold firm your integrity? Curse God and die!’” (Job 2:9). Satan had the authority to kill Job’s wife along with his children (Job 1:12). We can only assume that Satan spared Job’s wife because Satan knew that he could manipulate her in her weakened state to try to discourage Job further. Yet, even though Job’s wife was acting under Satan’s influence and sinned, she deserves our grace for her sorrow. Along with Job, Job’s wife had also lost all ten of their children and all of their wealth. Neither Job nor his wife knew that God had placed limits on Job’s suffering. Thus, she reasonably believed that she was bound to lose her husband as well.

  • For the unsaved, profaning God’s name is punishable by death. The events of Job predate the Ten Commandments. Yet, Job’s wife was effectively encouraging Job to commit a capital offense by violating the Third Commandment: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished [or guiltless] who takes His name in vain.” (Dt. 5:11; Ex. 20:7). For the unsaved, the penalty for profaning God’s name was a painful death by stoning: “Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him.” (Lev. 24:16(a)). God also makes clear that this penalty applied to Jews and non-believers as well. “The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.” (Lev. 24:16(b)) “You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” (Dt. 5:11). Thus, for the unsaved, profaning God’s name carries an eternal death penalty.

Georges de La Tour (1593-1652) “Job Ridiculed by His Wife” (oil painting 1650)9

Job’s wife tells Job to curse God10

  • Profaning God’s name can also bring other curses. The punishment for profaning God’s name also is not limited to events that happen after we die. For either the saved or unsaved person, there are consequences to profaning God’s name while we are still on Earth: “If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, to fear this honored and awesome name, the Lord your God, then the Lord will bring extraordinary plagues on you and your descendants, even severe and lasting plagues, and miserable and chronic sicknesses. He will bring back on you all the diseases of Egypt of which you were afraid, and they will cling to you. Also every sickness and every plague which, not written in the book of this law, the Lord will bring on you until you are destroyed. Then you shall be left few in number, whereas you were as numerous as the stars of heaven, because you did not obey the Lord your God.” (Dt. 28:58-62).

  • Satan’s goal is to have you profane God’s Holy name. When Job’s wife said, “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9), we might understand the word “die” to be a mere flippant expression. Yet, Satan knew that Job would have suffered an eternal death if not a physical death if he had cursed God. When we are angry, depressed, or consumed by our flesh, Satan always tries to have us use the Lord’s name flippantly or without a proper purpose. Satan’s goal is to have us insult and reject each and every aspect of His Holy character. If someone says “Jesus C _ _ _ _ !” as a swear word, that person is treating with contempt the name that holds the power of creation over a trivial daily dilemma. We say these names when we are angry or consumed with ourselves. Do you have control over your flesh? Do you stop and pray when you are angry? Or, does Satan allow you to profane the Lord’s Holy name by your words or your conduct?

  • A faith that is never tested cannot be trusted. God allowed both Satan and Job’s wife to test Job’s faith. If God never tested your faith, you would never know if you could trust it. Are you welcoming God’s testing to build up your faith?

5. Submission: God May Allow You to Suffer To Allow You to Submit to Him. Job 2:10.

  • Despite his suffering, Job refused to curse God. Proving himself to be a hero of the faith, Job refused to curse God, even after losing his children, his wealth, and now his health: “10 But he said to her, ‘You are speaking as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we actually accept good from God but not accept adversity?’ Despite all this, Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10). Job was not labeling his wife as foolish in character. Instead, he committed that she had made a foolish comment in her state of grief.

Job refused to curse God, proving Satan again to be a liar11

  • We as clay have no right to question the plans of the Potter. In regards to the phase, ‘“Shall we actually accept good from God but not accept adversity?’” (Job 2:10), one scholar observes, “It is a rhetorical question to which Job did not expect an answer. This is the hard lesson for some believers to learn, especially if they feel they have been promised health or wealth or have (mis)understood that God’s wonderful plan for their lives involves only pleasantness and not trouble. Believers on this side of the cross have many more examples from both the Bible and church history of God’s people who have suffered. Job was in the dark. Yet out of that darkness his strong belief in the sovereignty of God shone forth all the more brilliantly?’ Somehow he already knew that the clay does not ask the potter, ‘What are you making?’ (Isa 45:9). Job acted as though he had read 2 Cor 4:17, ‘For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”’12 When you are suffering from an ailment, will you still submit to God and worship Him?

  • When you are sick, pray for God’s restoration of your health. God does not want you to read the book of Job and conclude that you are helpless when your health is poor. Unless an exception applies, God will hear the prayers of the faithful when they cry out for relief from an illness. For example, Hezekiah lived in a faith-led obedience that was unlike any king since David: “Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah; and he did what was good, right and true before the LORD his God.” (2 Chr. 31:20). After becoming mortally ill with an illness that Isaiah said would lead to his death, he prayed for God to restore his health and to extend his life. God heard his prayers and restored his health and extended his life by 15 years: “And even before Isaiah had left the middle courtyard, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, ‘Return and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David says: ‘I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I am going to heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD. And I will add fifteen years to your life, . . .”’’’ (2 Kgs. 20:4-6). If you are in need of healing, will you give your burdens to Jesus and pray for healing?

  • God can also restore a diseased or sickened nation when the people repent and pray. Unless an exception applies, God also promises to restore His people if they repent and turn back from sin: “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chr. 7:14). Are you praying for the nation to repent of its sins so that God can heal the lands of diseases and pestilence?

  • All things are possible with God when you have faith. God has not given you a spirit of fear when you become sick (2 Tim. 1:7). God has repeatedly stated that no miracle is beyond His power: “Is anything too difficult for the LORD?” (Gen. 18:14(a)). “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” (Jer. 32:27). “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2). “‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”’ (Matt. 19:26(b); Mk. 10:27(b); Lk. 1:37). “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Ro. 8:31). God also wants you to turn to Him in faith when your health issues seem impossible. His miracles happen every day. Are you turning to God and praying for seemingly incurable medical ailments?

6. Encouragement: Suffering Allows Believers to Love Those in Need. Job 2:11-12.

  • To comfort Job, three of his wealthy friends traveled to him to encourage him. The three friends who came to comfort Job were likely wealthy sheiks who traveled far to see him: “11 Now when Job’s three friends heard about 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. 12 When they looked from 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.” (Job 2:11-12). A person by the name of “Eliphaz” was the son of Esau (the founder of the Edomites) and Adah (Gen. 36:11). Their son Eliphaz gave birth to Teman (Gen. 36:11). The first friend Eliphaz came from Teman, in Edom or the southern part of modern day Jordan. Thus, he was likely an Edomite. The second friend Bildad was a Shuhite. Abraham and his concubine Keturah had a son named Shuah (Gen. 25:2; 1 Chr. 1:32). Shuah is believed to have settled in modern day Saudi Arabia. The third friend Zophar the Naamathite had a presently unknown place of origin. They all seem to have traveled long distances to encourage their friend.

William Blake (1757-1827) “The Book of Job - 07” (engraving 1826)13

Jean Fouquet (1420-1477/81) “Job and His False Comforters” (1452-60)14

  • Only after a time for mourning passes, encourage one another. Suffering plays an important role in forcing believers to help each other. As a believer, you are commanded to encourage others. Yet, this must never precede a believer’s appointed time for mourning: “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb. 3:13). “But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.” (Heb. 13:22). “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (1 Cor. 16:13). “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD.” (Ps. 31:24). Are you using God’s Word to encourage those who are in need?

7. Compassion: Suffering Allows You to Learn To Show Compassion For Others. Job 2:13.

  • Job and his friends mourn in silence for seven days. Job’s friends initially acted correctly by allowing Job to mourn: “13 Then 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.” (Job 2:13). Their sins came later after observing seven days of silence.

Job’s friends initially showed encouragement by sitting silently with him15

  • Job wanted compassion, not lecturing. When his friends later tried to use worldly wisdom, Job revealed that he only wanted their compassion: “Oh that you would be completely silent, and that it would become your wisdom!” (Job 13:5). “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.” (Prov. 17:28). “The elders of the daughter of Zion Sit on the ground and are silent. They have thrown dust on their heads; they have put on sackcloth. The virgins of Jerusalem have bowed their heads to the ground.” (Lam. 2:10). When others are suffering around you, will you silently show compassion and empathy for them?

  • A true friend weeps and mourns with their friends. According to one commentator: “The three ‘met together by appointment’ to do three things: to go, to sympathize, and to comfort.”16 Because there is an appointed time for mourning, you should never rebuke a believer who mourns close in time to a major loss: “A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.” (Ecc. 3:4-5). You also should be prepared to weep with a friend who weeps in sorrow: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Ro. 12:15). When a friend is consumed with grief and sorrow and you feel tempted to offer advice, will you hold your tongue?

  1. Robert Alden, The New American Commentary, Vol. 11, Job (B&H Publishing Group 1993) p. 67-68.↩︎

  2. Allen, p. 69.↩︎