Job Bible Class: Job’s Friends-Part One

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

Quotation For Consideration

“Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them? (Abraham Lincoln)


Most of the Book of Job is a series of conversations between Job and his three friends: Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. While much of these friends’ attitudes and actions are reprehensible, there are some commendable things about them which stand out.

In this lesson, we will carefully consider some of the more endearing qualities of these men. The main text we will be studying comes from the second chapter of Job:

Job 2:11-Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him.

One: They Made Time To Be With Job When He Needed Them

One of the the first things which stands out to me about Job’s friends is that they actually made the time to go and visit Job.

Keep in mind, this was not just a stroll down the street to chat with Job. All three of these men came from different countries, and they each had extremely time-consuming and difficult careers (not to mention families of their own). Add to this the price of travel, and we see that they were indeed very concerned about Job!

“Eliphaz, who took the lead in the debate against Job, is identified in the text as a Temanite. Teman is a city in Edom. Edom encompasses the southern portion of what is now the nation of Jordan. Teman was famous in the ancient world for its exceptionally wise scholars.[4] Ancient literature indicates this fame persisted for centuries. The prophet Jeremiah comments on Teman in a series of rhetorical questions: “Is there no longer wisdom in Teman? Has counsel perished from the prudent? Has their wisdom decayed?” (Jer. 49:7). Given the eight-hundred-mile distance between Teman and Job’s home in the land of Uz (see fig. 2.1) and the investment required to undertake such a journey, it seems likely that Teman’s leaders sent their most gifted scholar, Job’s friend and peer, to offer comfort. It makes sense that Eliphaz, the most revered, was probably the Temanite best known to Job, and the text indicates (see Job 2:11 and 42:10) that, despite the distance, Eliphaz was among Job’s dearest friends. The text suggests that Zophar and Bildad were of virtually equal abilities to Eliphaz and also close friends to Job. Apparently, when word of Job’s devastating losses and sufferings spread, the world of that time sent their three most eminent wise men to offer comfort and counsel. Who else could even try?” (Hugh Ross, Hidden Treasures In The Book Of Job: How The Oldest Book In The Bible Answers Today’s Scientific Questions, 28-29 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)

Notice specifically WHY they were coming together:

Job 2:11-Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him.

The words used in this passage are extremely significant. They show us the deep relationship of these men with each other, and with Job. Furthermore, they highlight the godly intentions for which they are going to visit with the suffering patriarch.

“On learning of Job’s affliction, three beloved friends . . . Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, agreed together to travel to Uz in order to console Job. The term for friends has a wide range of meanings, including an intimate counselor . . . a close friend . . . a party in a legal dispute. Friends often solemnized their relationship with a covenant, promising to care for each other under all kinds of circumstances. The relationship between Job and his three friends gives every evidence of being based on a covenant. . . . Such a relationship was characterized by loyal love. . . . Motivated by love and their commitment, these men came to console and to comfort Job. The word to console . . . means literally “to shake the head or to rock the body back and forth” as a sign of shared grief. To comfort . . . is to attempt to ease the deepest pain caused by a tragedy or death . . . With the noblest intentions, these three earnestly desired to help Job bear his sorrow.” (John E. Hartley, The Book of Job (NICOT) (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), 85)

True friends will want to help and encourage us, even in the midst of our pain.

Romans 12:15-Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

1 Thessalonians 4:18-Therefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 5:11-Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:14-Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.

Two: They Joined Job In His Sorrow

Please notice that for a time, Job’s friends were silent and didn’t say anything at all. Sometimes the best way to help a friend who is going through a difficult time is to simply be there, even if you don’t say anything at all.

“For one thing, they cared enough for Job to travel a long distance to visit him. And when they commiserated with him, they didn’t sit in a comfortable home or hospital room: They sat with him on the ash heap, surrounded by refuse. Because their grief was so great, they couldn’t speak for seven days. (Of course, they made up for their silence afterward.)…The best way to help people who are hurting is just to be with them, saying little or nothing, and letting them know you care. Don’t try to explain everything; explanations never heal a broken heart. If his friends had listened to him, accepted his feelings, and not argued with him, they would have helped him greatly; but they chose to be prosecuting attorneys instead of witnesses. In the end, the Lord rebuked them; and they had to ask Job’s forgiveness (Job 42: 7–10).” (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Patient: Waiting On God In Difficult Times, 24-25 (Kindle Edition); Colorado Springs, CO; David C. Cook)

Often, our actions speak louder then our words. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar joined Job in his suffering and in his grief. Notice that they went to the city dump with Job.

Job 2:8-And he took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes.

The Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint) renders this phrase as “the dung heap,” which is identified as the city garbage heap.

Job 2:8 (CEV)-Then Job sat on the ash-heap to show his sorrow. And while he was scraping his sores with a broken piece of pottery,

In ancient times, the city dump was where garbage and dung were burned, and wild animals were known to roam. This was a site of horrible sights and smells, very real danger, and nothing pleasant. Yet it was to this place that they went and stayed with Job for at least seven days!

“Truth be told, these men were initially shocked when they saw what they saw. They didn’t even recognize Job! They probably first went to his old home site, where they had been before. The place didn’t even look familiar. Everything around it was destroyed. There was nothing stirring. It was ghostly silent; all they could see were the gravestones on the hillside. And somebody nearby says, “Oh, Job? He left sometime ago. I think he’s staying out at the city dump.” Another shock. When they arrived, even before they got up close, they could tell the difference immediately. Their friend had no hair, his robe was torn, and he is sitting there with dung burning near him, a pack of wild dogs not far away, and stinking, rotten garbage everywhere. They stood and stared in disbelief. That’s when their feelings came out. “Man, look at this.” And “they threw dust over their heads toward the sky” (an ancient expression of grief) as they cried. That implies they were down near the dust. The narrative states, “they sat down on the ground” (v. 13). That’s what friends do. They don’t worry about getting dirty or messy. This brings me to my fourth principle. Friends aren’t turned off by distasteful sights. On the contrary, they come alongside and they get as close as possible. Friends are not offended because the room has a foul smell. Friends don’t turn away because the one they’ve come to be with has been reduced to the shell of his former self, weighing half of what he used to weigh. Friends see beyond all of that. They don’t walk away because the bottom has dropped out of your life and you’re at wits’ end. On the contrary, that draws them in. These men literally raised their voices and sobbed as they sat down on the ground with Job. They demonstrated the depth of their anguish by staying seven days and seven nights without uttering a word.” (Charles R. Swindoll, Job: A Man Of Heroic Endurance, 51 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; Thomas Nelson)

Becoming a better friend means that we will strive to help our friends wherever they are at, regardless of the unpleasantness of their situation. It means that we will do our best to console them, and allow even our wordless presence to be a refuge for them, knowing that simply “being there” can speak volumes more then our tongues ever could.

Three: They Stuck Around Even When It Would Have Been Easier To Leave

Several times, it is clear from the text that Job was not overly thrilled that Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar were there with him. Several times, he made this known to them!

It would have been very easy for them to say, “Adios buddy!” Yet, they did not do so. They stayed and stuck it out! Even when it would have been much easier for them to hit the road, they decided to stay with Job.

Job had LOTS of “friends” who had turned away from him (carefully study Job 29-31). It is a sad fact that sometimes, our “friends” disappear when we run out of money or are of no benefit to them any longer:

Proverbs 14:20 (CEV)-You have no friends if you are poor, but you have lots of friends if you are rich.

Proverbs 19:4 (CEV)-The rich have many friends; the poor have none.

Proverbs 19:6 (CEV)-Everyone tries to be friends of those who can help them.

That doesn’t mean that there is never a time to leave, of course. Several times in the Bible, we are warned of the dangers of allowing wicked people to influence us (Proverbs 13:20; 1 Corinthians 15:33). In fact, one of the reasons for church discipline is to try and bring an openly sinning brother or sister to repentance (1 Corinthians 5:5). However, such withdrawal of fellowship is a last resort.

Four: They Were Still Job’s Friends Even Though They Were Convinced He Had Committed Some Horrible Sin

Job’s friends were convinced that Job had committed some terrible sin, and that it was for this reason that God was punishing him.

Job 4:7-11-7 No truly innocent person has ever died young.

8 In my experience, only those who plant seeds of evil harvest trouble,

9 and then they are swept away by the angry breath of God.

10 They may roar and growl like powerful lions. But when God breaks their teeth,

11 they starve, and their children are scattered.

Job 8:4-6-4 He made your children pay for their sins.

5 So why don’t you turn to him

6 and start living right? Then he will decide to rescue and restore you to your place of honor.

Job 15:4-6-4 Your words are enough to make others turn from God and lead them to doubt.

5 And your sinful, scheming mind is the source of all you say.

6 I am not here as your judge; your own words are witnesses against you.

Job 22:4-11-4 Is he correcting you for worshiping him?

5 No! It’s because of your terrible sins.

6 To guarantee payment of a debt, you have taken clothes from the poor.

7 And you refused bread and water to the hungry and thirsty,

8 although you were rich, respected, and powerful.

9 You have turned away widows and have broken the arms of orphans.

10 That’s why you were suddenly trapped by terror,

11 blinded by darkness, and drowned in a flood.

Now of course, they were completely wrong! Job was not suffering because of sin in his life.

Yet what stands out to me is that even though Job’s friends thought that he had committed some terrible sin, they were still there!

A true friend will try to love their fellows well, even in the worst of circumstances.

Proverbs 17:17-A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Five: They Tried To Strengthen Job’s Hand In God

Finally, please consider that Job’s three friends had a strong desire in trying to strengthen Job’s relationship with God.

Job 5:8 (CEV)-Job, if I were you, I would ask God for help.

Job 8:5-6 (CEV)-5 So why don’t you turn to him

6 and start living right? Then he will decide to rescue and restore you to your place of honor.

Job 11:13 (CEV)–Surrender your heart to God, turn to him in prayer,

Job 22:21-23 (CEV)–21 Surrender to God All-Powerful! You will find peace and prosperity.

22 Listen to his teachings and take them to heart.

23 If you return to God and turn from sin, all will go well for you.

Job 22:24-30 (CEV)-24 So get rid of your finest gold, as though it were sand.

25 Let God All-Powerful be your silver and gold,

26 and you will find happiness by worshiping him.

27 God will answer your prayers, and you will keep the promises you made to him.

28 He will do whatever you ask, and life will be bright.

29 When others are disgraced, God will clear their names in answer to your prayers.

30 Even those who are guilty will be forgiven, because you obey God.

While the three friends of Job were horribly mistaken as to why Job was suffering, and while they were in so many ways “miserable comforters,” it is very commendable that they were trying to encourage Job to walk with the Lord.

We read in the Bible about the close friendship between Jonathan and David:

1 Samuel 18:1-3-1 Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.

2 Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house anymore.

3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.

While there are many commendable traits about Jonathan, one of the greatest is found later in 1 Samuel:

1 Samuel 23:16 (ERV)-But Saul’s son Jonathan went to see David at Horesh and encouraged him to have a stronger faith in God.

1 Samuel 23:16 (NLT)-Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God.

Good friends will help us to have a closer walk with God.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.


Which ancient translation of the Old Testament says that Job was in the “ding heap” when his friends found him? __________________

Lost some passages which show that Job’s friends thought that he was suffering as punishment from God for personal sin. _________________________________________

Which passage in the Book of Jeremiah identifies Teman as a land of great wisdom? ________________

What are some reasons to believe that Job’s friends had godly motivations for coming and visiting with Job? _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
For Prayer Partners:

Look carefully at Job’s three friends. What are some other commendable qualities that they possess?

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