Job 2:11-3:26 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What do Job’s three friends do when they hear about Job’s calamity? See Job 2:11 (printed below)

When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz theTemanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the calamity that had come upon him, they each came from their own home and, meeting together, they agreed to go to console and comfort him. (Job 2:11)

The three friends show concern for Job as well as uncertainty as to how to deal with the situation, this is seen by the fact that they first meet together to discuss what they should do. Having met together, they agree that they should visit Job in order to console and comfort him.

2. How do the friends react when they see Job? See Job 2:12a (printed below)

When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. (Job 2:12a)

The friends find Job in such a state of misery and severe suffering that they did not recognize him. That is to say, in his present condition not only was Job almost beyond recognition, but his situation was beyond comprehension. The three friends could not believe what had happened to him.

3. What do the friends wind up doing? See Job 2:12b-13 (printed below)

They began to wail and to weep; each one tore his robe, and they tossed dust into the air and upon their heads. (13) So they sat with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights. No one spoke a word to him, because they saw that his grief was very great. (Job 2:12b-13)

At this point they are wise enough not to attempt to offer Job words of consolation or counsel. On the contrary, they mourn for him—wailing, weeping, casting dust upon one’s self are all expressions of mourning. Then the friends sat with Job in complete silence for seven whole days, “because they saw that his grief was very great.” At this initial stage of their meeting with Job, the friends merely seek to empathize with Job and to identify with him in his suffering, which proves to be the best course of action they could take. Later, when they seek to offer Job counsel, they show their failure to understand his situation and they are rebuked by the Lord (42:7-8).

4. When Job finally breaks the silence after seven days, what does he say? Summarize his speech given in Job 3:11-19 (printed below.)

Why did I not die at birth, and expire as I came out of the womb? (12) Why did the knees receive me, and the breasts that I might be nursed? (13) If I had died, I would now be lying down in peace; I would be asleep and at rest (14) with kings and counselors of the earth who built ruins for themselves; (15) or with princes who had gold, who filled their houses with silver—(16) or why could I not have been like a miscarriage that is discarded? Then I would not exist, like an infant who never saw the light—(17) there the wicked cease from causing trouble; and there the weary are at rest. (18) There even the prisoners are at ease; they do not hear the shout of the taskmaster. (19) The insignificant and the great alike are there; and the slave is freed from his master. (Job 3:11-19)

Following this seven-day period, when Job himself breaks the silence, he gives expression to the most extreme sentiments that he has felt in his heart because of the severity of his suffering. Job begins by cursing the day in which he was born (3:3) and the night in which he was conceived (3:6-7). He then goes on to lament the fact that he did not die at the time of his birth (3:11-12).

5. What question does Job raise in verses 20-23 (printed below?)

Why is light given to those who are in misery, and life to those whose souls experience bitterness? (21) Why is life given to those who long for death—but it does not come—and who dig for it more than for hidden treasures; (22) to those who rejoice exceedingly and are elated when they find the grave? (23) Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, one who has been hedged in by God? (Job 3:20-23)

Job raises the question, “Why must those who are in misery and whose lives are bitter go on living (3:20)?” Job asks, “Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, one who has been hedged in by God?” (3:23) Here is a man whose destiny and purpose (“his way”) “is hidden” (i.e.; it is incomprehensible); here is a man for whom life has become futile and meaningless. Furthermore, this is a man “who has been hedged in by God.” That is to say, God has surrounded the man with a wall so that he cannot escape his predicament. Job, aware that his present calamities are not the just consequence of any willful transgression on his part, finds his present situation incomprehensible and begins to question the meaning of life. If life is characterized by misery and meaninglessness, then death, (which in the Old Testament era appears to have been a state of soul sleep), is preferable to life in this present world.