In my last post I began discussing the dialogues at the heart of the book of Job, where Job’s friends declare that he is simply getting what he deserves because he is so sinful, and he defends himself by saying he has done nothing to deserve this. It turns out he’s right. But why then is he suffering? Here is how the dialogue continues, as the “friends” intensify their attacks on his morals and Job stands firm in declaring his righteousness.
Sometimes the friends bar no holds in accusing Job, wrongly, of great sin before God, as when Eliphaz later declares:
Is it for your piety that he reproves you,
and enters into judgment with you?
Is not your wickedness great?
There is no end to your iniquities.
For you have … stripped the naked of their clothing.
You have given no water to the weary to drink,
and you have withheld bread from the hungry…
You have sent widows away empty handed,
and the arms of the orphans you have crushed.
Therefore snares are around you,
and sudden terror overwhelms you. (22:4-7, 9-10)
That word “therefore” in the final couplet is especially important. It is because of Job’s impious life and unjust treatment of others that he is suffering, and for no other reason.
For Job, it is this charge itself that is unjust. He has done nothing to deserve his fate, and to maintain his personal integrity he has to insist on his own innocence. To do otherwise would