Exercise: Read ch.21, try to answer the following;
1. What consolation did Job ask from his friends? 2. Can you detect the note of sarcasm here. (v.1.) 3. Why do you think Job could justify his impatience, “because his complaint was not against men”? 4.Why would most people, not familiar with Job, probably be surprised at his confession of impatience? 5. Do you have any suggestions why Job said he was terrified to say what he was going to say. (v.6.) 6.What modern day expression reminds us of verse 5 7. Mention four things which Job says the wicked experience.? 8. What two reasons would the wicked give for not wanting to know God? 9. Can you construct some maxims, which they probably believed, from verses 17, 18, 28 and 30.? 10.What was the set belief which countered the argument that sometimes the wicked don’t suffer in their life time? 11. Which verse, could well reflect the oft expressed human cry “God only knows what’s going on”.? 12. What, according to Job, seemed to be the great “equaliser” between the rich and the poor? 13. What benefits did some of the wicked enjoy after their death? 14. What particular circumstance numbered Job among the wicked,- according to his friends.? 15. What do you think Job meant about questioning those who travel and noting their “accounts”? (was it debtors on the run?) 16.What do verses 32-33 mean? 17. How does Job describe the beliefs, (and the reasoning for them) of his friends? 18. Would you like to suggest a title for this speech or summarise it in a sentence?
Study Notes on chap 21.
Friends; Once again Job begins his speech with a statement which is directed at his friends, and here again he speaks of his total disappointment in the quality of their friendship. At such a time as this one would expect at least to find some solace from friends. Alas Job found none from them. He alleges that they are not even listening to him. Later on , Elihu, who thinks he is speaking as God’s representative accuses the three friends of not answering Job’s arguments. It can be seen easily that this is so, for they merely kept reiterating their old proverbs and maxims about the fate of the wicked. Verse 27 shows us that it was sufficient for them to see Job’s present circumstances, and therefore there was only one thing to say,- Repent ! Job knew what they were thinking, because their maxim said that the tent of the wicked would be carried away. Such had happened to Job’s house and therefore Job was equated with the wicked. Job knew he was not wicked and therefore their maxims were not true. In verse 34 of this speech Job again labels their answers as nonsense and falsehood, and therefore they had no hope of consoling him with such foolishness. He wanted wisdom.
His Complaint; Once more we have a reference to his “complaint”. Earlier it was that he was not being allowed to die, but was being made to suffer for no purpose. Death would have been sweet release, but God would not let him die. Job was a man who could quite easily deal with men, and his social position in the past showed that there were none around who could match him in debate or reasoned arguments. He is accused of being “impatient” by his friends. (strange in the light of his fame for being “patient”) Job admits to being impatient, justifying such an attitude because He was dealing with God and not man. God being God did not need to answer Job. Job was banging his head against a brick wall, in all his requests and cries for justice. Job knew that this was God’s prerogative, and if He did not want to answer, then he was not obliged to do so.
His Argument. At last he runs out of “patience”, and dares to utter words which probably he thought he would never say. He is in fact quite nervous about saying such things, for they were almost direct contradictions of all that he had hoped might be the truth. The friends had the very clear cut lines of demarcation between the wicked and the righteous, and the fate of each was seen in life. The righteous prospered and the wicked were destroyed in calamities or such like. Such is his apprehension in saying such things that he tells his friend to get ready for a shock. “Put your hands over your mouth” he says. In Liverpool they have an expression “gob-smacked”. This is the same kind of saying, so it may surprise the Liverpudlians to know that it is four thousand years old. Job then states, not the clichés and maxims they had been taught to repeat like parrots, but what he actually saw in life. We might all like to think that the line of demarcation was as clear as his friends made out, but in actual life the wicked seemed to do very well. And in his case he knew, (if no-one else did) that the innocent and righteous suffered. Ch.21:7 to 21, tell of out the prosperity of the wicked. All who live on this earth would know these verses to be true to life; especially the verses 13-15, where the wicked see no need for prayer or for serving God. They were prosperous enough without any help from God, so they said. But Job quite rightly points out that God made them prosperous, for all things come from God. If he wanted them to suffer calamity then he surely would bring such things upon them, but no such things did come upon them. This would be a terrible thing to say according to his friends for to think that God rewarded the wicked with prosperity was tantamount to blasphemy to them.
Today in our present world we often meet people who have prospered. To suggest to them that they should be indebted to God for their prosperity would be strongly refuted more often than not. Indeed they will argue that they have become rich by their own hard earned efforts and that they had done so by overcoming many obstacles. They would no doubt believe that had God been with them they would have become much richer, sooner, and with less effort. However, Job spoke the truth. The views of the friends were parochial, and Job remarks that one had only to speak to anyone who had seen a bit more of the world than they had, to know that throughout the world the wicked were prospering. Personally I remember when I was 18 trying to witness to the old men who were in the hospital where I worked at the time. Men, who perhaps had been through the war or travelled throughout the world, one could almost feel them pat one on the head and say “If you had seen what I had seen sonny Jim, you would think differently.” So it is today. It is difficult to explain the purposes of God in straight black and white truths to anyone who has travelled and has a had a varied life of experiences. Life worldwide is too complex and diverse to be summed up in a few maxims or proverbs. It would seem that the friends had another maxim to answer the problem that Job was putting forward. They said that, though it might seem that the wicked escaped any punishment, that their children would suffer. But Job is not slow to ask where is the justice in that? For then the innocent suffer and the guilty go free. Furthermore, what did, and indeed how could the dead care about the suffering of those alive?
Wisdom; Ch.21:22 . Can anyone teach knowledge to God.? Job is probably saying what people often say today in such circumstances. “God only knows what’s going on”. Inferring that God knows but no-one else does. For it is certain that we don’t have to tell God what is happening. A dear lady was once heard to pray in a church prayer meeting “Oh Lord, as you would have read in the paper this morning, this terrible thing has happened to.....!” God does not need to read the paper to know what is going on.
Death and the Grave; Ch.21:26, Death is the great leveller. Job suggests that perhaps this is the great stroke of justice which life seems to cry out for. Every dog has its day. Hitler, Stalin, Genghis Khan have all met their fate. The tortured and the torturer both have the same ultimate end. The rich and the poor both receive the same wages. If prosperity is a reward then it is only a short-lived one. But if Job was tempted to think that this was the great leveller, he was scraping the barrel in trying to reason the injustices of life. designed by a wise, almighty creator.” But the fact remained and could be stated that the rich and the poor, the deprived and the privileged all had the same end and were all equal in death if not in birth.
Maxims; We can almost write some of them out from this passage; for example. v.17 “The lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.” “Calamity comes upon the wicked” v.17. “God allots his anger upon the wicked”, v.17. “The wicked will be as straw before the wind and like chaff swept away in a gale”, v.18. “The tents of the wicked will be carried away”, v.28.
Gem Texts; Ch. 21:5: “be gobsmacked”; Ch. 21:15: “Who is the Almighty that we should serve him and what profit will we have if we pray to him?” Ch 21:29: “ Have you never listened to the much traveled worldly wise.?” Ch 21:13 and 18: Seem like a direct denial of Psalm 1.