“Again, there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord. 2 And the Lord said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. 3 And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? And still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. 4 And Satan answered the Lord, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. 5 But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. 6 And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life” (Job 2:1-6).
Having received Divine permission to afflict Job, the Bible says Satan went from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with boils from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head. The word “boil” is a general term used in the Scriptures to describe inflamed swellings of the skin. Boils are mentioned in the sixth plague on Egypt (Ex. 9:9-10).
Hezekiah, a king of Israel, suffered from boils (2 Kings 20:7; Isa. 38:21). His boils have been identified as a furuncle—a localized swelling and inflammation of the skin caused by the infection of a hair follicle that discharges pus and has a central core of dead tissue.
The boils suffered by Job have been identified with small pox. In 1979, the World Health Organization declared this disease extinct, having been eradicated by a successful worldwide vaccination campaign. The last naturally contracted case in the world occurred in 1977.
While the modern era has prospered from medical technology, in the ancient world smallpox was a terrible scourge, it was a hideous disease easily spread by contact with a person infected with the variola virus. After about 7 to 17 days symptoms resembling influenza would begin, followed by a rash that developed into pus filled blisters. These blisters would crust over and often leave scars. Complications included blindness, pneumonia, and damage to the kidney. It would kill 40 % of its victims.
The disease which Job was afflicted with was very painful. There was no part of his body that was free of raging heat or exquisite torture. He could not stand with comfort, nor sit, or lie down. Sleep fled, robbing him of much needed rest. And there was no one on earth who could help him or comfort him. His children were dead. His servants were gone. His wife was unkind. “Curse God and die!” she said.
There was more. Job had no money for a doctor, which was just as well for no doctor could cure him. There is a limit to medical knowledge in every generation. Job had no one to help him dress or wipe his pus-filled blisters when they break open and become running sores. The best Job could do was to leave his home, go outside the city gates, find a spot among the ashes where garbage was burned, pick up a broken piece of pottery and scrape the mess from his body the best he could.
It is a terrible sight of a suffering saint that is set before our eyes in the Scriptures. Our hearts go out to this righteous man who has placed himself in the posture of a penitent. Job is willing to lie down in dust and ashes (Job 42:6; Isa. 58:5; John 3:6) and consider the mystery of suffering.
As Job sat, “clothed with worms” and “clods of dust” (Job 7:5) he remembered again the words of his wife. “Curse God and die!” she had said.
Here were words of bitterness. She openly blamed Job for the death of the children and the loss of wealth and power. “Do you still maintain your innocence?” she asked, and the implication is there. Surely Job has done something wrong to bring down the wrath of heaven. “Curse God and die!” she spate at her husband.
Here were words of fearlessness. The wife of Job did not fear God. If anything, she hated Him for no-one curses what they love. The wife of Job was not afraid of her Creator any more. “Curse him,” she cried. “Look up into the face of heaven and scream at the God of the Universe who would do this to you. Since He is seeking to kill you Job, let the deed be done. Provoke God to anger and let the suffering end.”
Job listened to the advice of his wife and called her a “foolish woman.” He was not being unkind as much as he was being brutally accurate. She was talking in a foolish manner. Her raw emotions were met with a rational argument. “What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”
This rhetorical question demands a positive answer. “Yes, we shall receive good at the hand of God.” “Yes, we shall also receive evil from His hand as well.”
The Hebrew word for evil is ra (rah) and refers to adversity, affliction, calamity and distress. It does not bother Job to attribute this understanding of evil to God for there is no moral impropriety involved. God is not being unethical by allowing individuals to endure adversity, affliction, calamity or distress. More than one person has found great value in suffering and sorrow.
Moral evil can only occur if God violates His own essence and integrity. God can only be charged with evil if He acts in an unwise, unholy, or unjust manner, and that is impossible. The Bible says God cannot lie nor can He change. He is confirmed in holiness and righteousness. It is as simple and as profound as that.
Moreover, God is sovereign. He has a right to do with His creation as He sees fit. God can bestow blessings or allow tragedy. Job understood these things and expressed them so that it can be said, “In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” He did not offend God with his words (James 3:2; Psa. 17:3).
With that final thought on the matter, the curtain comes down on Act 2 Scene 2 to rise again on Act 2 Scene 3. In this scene we are introduced to three friends of Job.
There is Eliphaz the Temanite. His name means, “My god is gold.” We can only surmise that he loved money. It may be he only had a lot of it. What is more certain is that Eliphaz was from the town of Teman in Edom. In time he would set forth his thoughts on Job’s sufferings. They took the form of a traditional Jewish view that all suffering is the direct result of personal sin. Secretly Eliphaz believed Job was not an innocent man. Eliphaz may have been a descendant of Eliphaz the son of Esau.
There is Bildad the Shuhite. His name means, “the Lord loved.” Bildad is identified as a Shuhite, which may be a reference to a group of nomadic Armenians. Like Eliphaz, Bildad secretly believes that Job did something to merit his situation because God does not punish the innocent (Job 8). Bildad wanted Job to admit that he was suffering for some great wickedness (Job 18) for no person can be righteous before God (Job 25).
There is Zophar the Naamathite. The meaning of his name is uncertain. One translator has offered “Chiper”. Zophar was probably the youngest of the three friends, for he is mentioned last. His youth is reflected in part by his severe criticism and philosophical idealism. Most people tend to grow more tolerate and understanding of the strength of sin and the weakness of the human heart as the years pass by. The rhetoric of Dr. Billy Graham has grown softer over the years. Where once he railed against corruption and immorality, he is today extremely compassionate and understanding.
Now notice several truths about the three friends of Job.
First, they came to him in his hour of need. Perhaps the greatest test of friendship is the test of need. It is easy to be friends with a person who is healthy, wealthy, and wise. It is more challenging to respect someone who is without wealth, is in wretched health, and is suspected of being unwise. The Bible says that, “a friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
Second, each friend came from his own place, which was far from where Job lived in Uz (lit. replacement). Uz was either located in Hauran south of Damascus (Jer. 25:20) or between Edom and Arabia (Job 1:1; Lam. 4:21). The point is that the friends of Job lived in faraway places, and yet they came to him without being called.
Third, they came of their own free will despite the time and sacrifice a journey in the ancient world mandated. A letter would not do for them. A verbal message by a trusted servant was not enough. They had to come to Job themselves. They had to come to mourn with him and to comfort him. Meeting at a designated place, the three friends of Job united to make the final part of the journey together.
As they drew near, they saw Job sitting in an ash heap outside the gates of the city. And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads towards heaven.
The three friends could not believe their eyes. This was not the Job they remembered from their last visits. He was a man hideous in physical appearance. Unwashed, repugnant to smell, scraping his running sores with a broken piece of discarded pottery. What could the friends do? They could join him in his uncomfortable surroundings and they could comfort him with their presence. For seven days the three friends sat down upon the ground. For seven days they did not speak because they saw that the sufferings of Job were very great. So ends Act 2 and Scene 3.
Satan is wise enough to send temptations by the hand of those that are closest to us. Adam was tempted by Eve, Peter tempted Christ and his wife tempted Job.
The heart must be guarded lest we find ourselves more like Satan than the Saviour. Job’s wife was as malicious as the Master of Deceit when she asked in mockery, “Dost thou still retrain thine integrity?” “Job, do you still claim to be innocent? Of course you do!”
If the goodness of man can be easily questioned, the character of God can also be easily challenged if the mind is not careful. The thoughts come in rapid succession in the hour of suffering. “Is this a God to be loved and blessed and served? Doest thou not see that thy devotion’s vain? What have thy prayers procured but woe and pain? Perversely righteous, and absurdly good? Those painful sores, and all thy losses, show How Heaven regards the foolish saints below. Incorrigibly pious! Can’t thy God Reform thy stupid virtue without His rod?” (Sir Richard Blackmore)
Having high and holy thoughts about God, resists all temptation. This truth challenges much that is being taught today in the Church. For example, there is a religious philosophy that teaches sin is simply low self-esteem. Sin is overcome when individuals think better of themselves. That is not true. The Bible teaches man’s problem is man. He thinks too much about himself already. The heart of mankind is consumed with how to be happy, rich, famous and powerful. All these things may be the product of pleasing God, but the root of righteousness is different. The ground of holiness is to have a high view of God no matter what. Job no longer had personal happiness, excessive wealth, nor fame or power. But he still had integrity because he had high and holy thoughts about God. By way of practical application, when the believer is tempted to violate their conscience or transgress the known will of the Lord, remember the greatness and majesty of God. Freedom from temptation is found in an objective fact, not in subjective struggles.
It is easy to lose one’s faith. It is hard to retain it. Job’s wife demonstrates how easy it is to forsake God. Jesus taught this same concept in Matthew 13:18-24. Every professing Christian will either become like Job’s wife or like Job. The question comes, “Are you moving to be like Job’s wife?” or, “Are you maturing to be like Job?”
Part of retaining integrity is to be able to look back at life with no regrets. I wonder if the day ever came when Job’s wife regretted her counsel? I wonder if the hour came when she said, “I wish I had not sinned with my tongue.” In contrast, Job lived without regret.
Though Job rebuked his wife sharply, he did so in love. It is the responsibility of all spiritual men and women to challenge the thoughts and actions of those who are drifting into sin by degrees. Godly counsel is not to be given in self-righteousness but in genuine care and concern. Of course, there is the danger of being misunderstood. There is the danger of good counsel being rejected. There is a real possibility that the ministers of Christ will not be appreciated for their words of warning. After writing to the Galatians, Paul had to ask them “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (3:16). It is possible. But it is also possible that godly counsel will not be rejected and souls will be saved and the saved will be sanctified. And individuals will be grateful to others for exhorting them to good works so that through it all integrity will be maintained.
There is great value in cultivating lasting friendships. We all need a friend. Years ago former quarterback Pepper Rodgers at Georgia Tech, and then coach at UCLA was in the middle of a terrible football season. It even got so bad it upset his home life. He recalls, “My dog was my only friend. I told my wife that a man needs at least two friends…so she bought me another dog.” I hope we can find friends within the family of God.