At last, the small group of men fell silent. Perhaps the only sound left was the whisper of a warm wind from the Arabian desert. Job had run out of words, exhausted after a long debate. Picture him glaring at his three acquaintances, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—almost daring them to continue. But they could only look down or away, frustrated that their clever arguments, their “blustery” words, and their hurtful insinuations had failed. (Job 16:3, footnote) If anything, Job was more determined than ever to defend his integrity.
Job may have felt that integrity was all he had left. He had lost his wealth, all ten of his children, the support and respect of his friends and neighbors, and finally his own health. His skin was blackened with disease, encrusted with scabs, crawling with maggots. Even his breath was foul. (Job 7:5; 19:17; 30:30) Yet, the attacks of those three men had stirred up in Job a fierce indignation. He was bent on proving that he was not the corrupt sinner they said he was. Job’s final speech had just silenced them. Their torrent of cruel words had finally run dry. However, Job’s pain remained. He still needed help—desperately!
Job’s thinking, understandably, was out of balance. He needed guidance and correction. He also needed genuine consolation and comfort, the very things that his three acquaintances should have provided but did not. Have you ever felt in dire need of guidance and comfort? Have you ever been let down by people you thought were your friends? Learning how Jehovah God helped his servant Job and how Job responded may fill you with hope and give you practical help.
A Wise and Kind Counselor
The account of Job next reveals a surprise. There was another person nearby, a younger man named Elihu. He had been there all along, silently listening to the older men debating. And he was not at all happy with what he had heard.
Elihu was upset with Job. It pained him to see righteous Job allow himself to be goaded into “trying to prove himself right rather than God.” Yet, Elihu truly felt empathy for Job—he could see the man’s pain, his sincerity, and his desperate need for kind counsel and comfort. No wonder Elihu ran out of patience with the three false comforters! He had heard them attacking Job, trying to undermine his faith, his dignity, and his integrity. Worse still, their twisted words declared God himself wicked. Elihu was fairly bursting with the urge to speak!—Job 32:2-4, 18.
“I am young,” he said, “and you men are aged. So I respectfully held back, and I dared not tell you what I know.” But he could no longer keep silent. He went on: “Age alone does not make one wise, nor is it only old men who understand what is right.” (Job 32:6, 9) Elihu then spoke at length, proving those words true. He took a very different approach from that of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Elihu reassured Job that he would not talk down to him or add to his pressures. He also dignified Job, addressing him by name and acknowledging that he had been treated with derision.* Respectfully, he said: “Now, Job, please hear my words.”—Job 33:1, 7; 34:7.
Elihu offered Job some frank counsel: “You said in my hearing, . . . ‘I am pure, without transgression; I am clean, without error. But God finds reasons to oppose me.’” Elihu went right to the heart of the problem, asking: “Are you so convinced that you are right that you would say, ‘I am more righteous than God’?” He could not allow such reasoning to pass. “You are not right in saying this,” the young man said. (Job 33:8-12; 35:2) Elihu knew that Job was filled with anger over his terrible losses and his mistreatment at the hands of his false friends. But Elihu cautioned Job: “Take care that rage does not lead you into spitefulness.”—Job 36:18.
Elihu Highlights Jehovah’s Kindness
Above all, Elihu spoke in defense of Jehovah God. Powerfully he summarized a profound truth: “It is unthinkable for the true God to act wickedly, for the Almighty to do wrong! . . . The Almighty does not pervert justice.” (Job 34:10, 12) As an example of Jehovah’s merciful justice, Elihu reminded Job that Jehovah had not stepped in and punished Job for uttering rash and disrespectful words. (Job 35:13-15) And rather than pretending to have all the answers, Elihu humbly acknowledged: “God is greater than we can know.”—Job 36:26.
Though his counsel was frank, Elihu remained kind. He spoke of a wonderful hope, that Jehovah would one day restore Job’s health. God would say of his loyal servant: “Let his flesh become fresher than in youth; let him return to the days of his youthful vigor.” Another instance of Elihu’s kindness: Instead of simply lecturing Job, he kindly invited Job to speak, to answer him. “Speak,” he said, “for I want to prove you right.” (Job 33:25, 32) But Job did not answer. Perhaps he felt no need to defend himself against such kind, encouraging counsel. Perhaps he wept in relief.
We can learn a great deal from both of these faithful men. From Elihu we learn how to counsel and comfort those in need. A true friend will not hold back from pointing out a serious fault or a dangerous course of action. (Proverbs 27:6) We want to be a friend like that, remaining kind and encouraging to those in need, even when they speak rashly. And when we ourselves are in need of such counsel, Job’s example may remind us to listen humbly to counsel instead of dismissing it. All of us need counsel and correction. Accepting it can save our life.—Proverbs 4:13.
“Out of the Windstorm”
As Elihu spoke, he often mentioned wind, clouds, thunder, and lightning. He said of Jehovah: “Listen carefully to the rumbling of his voice.” Moments later Elihu referred to a “storm wind.” (Job 37:2, 9) It seems that as he spoke, a storm was brewing, growing steadily more intense. Finally, it was an all-out windstorm. And then something far more dramatic happened. Jehovah spoke!—Job 38:1.
Imagine the privilege of attending a lecture about the natural world, delivered by the Creator of the universe!
When reading the book of Job, it is a wonderful relief to come to these marvelous chapters containing Jehovah’s speech to Job. It is as if a windstorm of truth were blowing away all the empty speeches, all the false words of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Jehovah did not even address those men until later. His focus was on Job alone; he firmly addressed his beloved servant as a father would correct a son.
Jehovah knew Job’s pain. And he felt pity for the man, as he always does when his beloved children suffer. (Isaiah 63:9; Zechariah 2:8) But he knew, too, that Job had been “speaking without knowledge,” making his own problems worse. So Jehovah corrected Job by questioning him extensively. “Where were you,” he began, “when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you think you understand.” At the dawn of creation, “the morning stars,” God’s family of angels, shouted in applause over the wonders of creation. (Job 38:2, 4, 7) Job, of course, knew nothing of this.
Jehovah went on to speak of his creative works. In a sense, he gave Job a brief tour of what humans today might call the natural sciences, touching on such subjects as astronomy, biology, geology, and physics. In particular, Jehovah described a number of animals then found in Job’s part of the world—the lion, the raven, the mountain goat, the wild donkey, the wild bull, the ostrich, the horse, the falcon, the eagle, Behemoth (evidently the hippopotamus), and finally Leviathan (likely the crocodile). Imagine the privilege of attending a lecture about the natural world delivered by the Creator of the universe!*
Teaching About Humility and Love
What was the point of all of this? Job urgently needed a dose of humility. By complaining of what he thought was mistreatment at Jehovah’s hand, Job was only increasing his own pain, distancing himself from his loving Father. So Jehovah asked again and again where Job was when such marvels came into existence and whether Job could feed, control, or tame the creatures He had made. If Job could not master even the basic elements of Jehovah’s creation, how could he presume to judge the Creator? Were not Jehovah’s ways and thoughts far beyond the scope of Job’s limited view?
Job did not argue with Jehovah, justify himself, or make excuses
In all that Jehovah said, there was also a strong undercurrent of love. It is as though Jehovah were reasoning with Job: ‘My son, if I can create and care for all these things, do you really think that I will fail to care for you? Would I really abandon you, rob you of your children, your security, your health? Am I not the only One who can restore your losses and heal your terrible pain?’
Job spoke only twice in answer to Jehovah’s probing questions. He did not argue, justify himself, or make excuses. He humbly acknowledged how little he really knew, and he repented of his rash words. (Job 40:4, 5; 42:1-6) Here we see Job’s faith in the finest light. After all that he had endured, he remained a man of great faith. He accepted Jehovah’s correction and took it to heart. We may thus be moved to ask ourselves a probing question, ‘Am I humble enough to accept correction and counsel?’ We all need such help. When we accept it, we are imitating the faith of Job.
“You Have Not Spoken the Truth About Me”
Jehovah now took action to comfort Job in his pain. Addressing Eliphaz, evidently the eldest of the three false comforters, Jehovah said: “My anger burns against you and your two companions, for you have not spoken the truth about me as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7) Think about those words. Was Jehovah saying that everything those three men had said was false or that every word that Job had uttered was correct? Of course not.* However, there was a vast difference between Job and his accusers. Job was brokenhearted, racked with grief, and stung by false accusations. Thus, it is understandable that he would speak rashly at times. However, Eliphaz and his two friends did not bear such burdens. Weak in their own faith, they spoke deliberately and arrogantly. Not only did they attack an innocent man, but worse, they misrepresented Jehovah himself, in effect painting him as a harsh, even wicked, God!
Little wonder, then, that Jehovah demanded a price from those men. They had to sacrifice seven bulls and seven rams—no small matter, for the bull was later designated in the Mosaic Law as the sacrifice that the high priest would have to offer if his sin brought guilt on the whole nation. (Leviticus 4:3) It was the costliest of the animals offered as a sacrifice under that Law. What is more, Jehovah said that he would accept the offering of Job’s accusers only if Job first prayed in their behalf.* (Job 42:8) How it must have soothed Job’s heart to be vindicated by his God and see Jehovah’s justice prevail!
”My servant Job will pray for you.”—Job 42:8
Jehovah was confident that Job would do as he asked him to, forgiving those men who had hurt him so deeply. And Job did not disappoint his Father. (Job 42:9) His obedience was the greatest proof of his integrity, far more powerful than words. And it paved the way for the greatest blessings of Job’s life.
“Very Tender in Affection”
Jehovah was “very tender in affection and merciful” with Job. (James 5:11) How so? Jehovah restored Job to health. Imagine how Job felt when he realized that his flesh had, indeed, become “fresher than in youth” as Elihu had foretold! His family and friends rallied around him at last, extending sympathy and gifts. Jehovah restored Job’s wealth, giving him twice the possessions he had before. And what of the deepest of wounds—the loss of his children? Job and his wife found a measure of comfort in becoming parents to ten more children! And Jehovah miraculously extended Job’s life. Job lived for 140 more years, long enough to see four generations of his descendants thriving. “Finally,” we read, “Job died, after a long and satisfying life.” (Job 42:10-17) And in Paradise, Job and his dear wife will be reunited with their family, including the ten children Satan took from them.—John 5:28, 29.
Why did Jehovah reward Job so richly? The Bible answers: “You have heard of the endurance of Job.” (James 5:11) Job endured more hardships than most of us can even imagine. The word “endurance” tells us that Job did more than just survive those trials. He endured with his faith and his love for Jehovah intact. Rather than turning hard and bitter, he remained willing to forgive even those who had deliberately hurt him. And he never let go of his precious hope or his own prized possession, his integrity.—Job 27:5.
Each of us needs to endure. We can be sure that Satan will try to discourage us as he did Job. But if we endure in faith, remaining humble, willing to forgive others, and determined to protect our integrity, we too may hold on to our precious hope. (Hebrews 10:36) Nothing would frustrate Satan more or delight the loving heart of Jehovah more than if we were to imitate the faith of Job!
Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar spoke a great many words to Job—enough to fill up some nine chapters of the Bible—yet, the record shows not a single instance when they addressed Job by name.
At times, Jehovah moves seamlessly from concrete, realistic descriptions to more figurative or poetic expressions. (See, for example, Job 41:1, 7, 8, 19-21.) In either case, God’s aim was the same—to help Job increase his awe for his Creator.
There is no record that Job was required to offer a similar sacrifice in behalf of his wife.