Job’s Friends Reconsidered

Socrates stated that he was wiser than all men simply because he knew that he did not really know anything, whereas other people thought they did.  (see his “Apology”)

I feel that way after several weeks of reading Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job.  It is a daunting task to read these books and some of what has been written about them.

But isn’t that the nature of each of these books – they are invitations to think.  People who take a proverb or a maxim and try to mechanically apply them to all situations are missing the very nature.  A proverb usually puts two ideas beside eath other without stating the relationship – it is for us to notice and think and reflect and give it time to process in our minds.  (Often our English translations add a “because” or a “therefore” that is not actually stated in the original text.)

Here is what I am pondering.  Were Job’s friends in error because of their theology?  They rightly said that God is just, will punish sinners, discipline his children, adn welcome us back when we repent.  However they were wrong in the case of Job.  Was it a failure of theology or of application of what they knew?

They thought  

A – God punishes people

B – He does when they sin.

They noticed Job’s suffering –

and concluded

B’ – Job is suffering

A’ – Because God is punishing him.

The error was “flipping” the formula A-B to B-A and declaring that they knew why Job suffered.  Whereas the text tells us clearly that Job was blameless, upright and that he feard the Lord.

How often are we “right” in our theology but “wrong” in our application?


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