I just examined salvation in Job. I will come back to the salvation question, but I figured that now would be a good time to bring up a related side-issue.
Job can be a tricky book to interpret properly. This is because multiple long passages were spoken entirely by men who were ultimately rebuked by God for what they said (Job 42:7–8).
Thus we simply cannot trust many individual verses in Job.
This does not mean that the book itself is not reliable. It is a perfectly reliable record of the discourses between Job and his friends, but those discourses represent the opinions of men, not God.
By my count, there are twelve speaking characters in the book. They are Job, Yahweh, Satan, four messengers, Job’s wife, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu.
We must understand who is speaking at all times. Most of the book consists of the speeches by Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, Elihu, and Yahweh.
Job himself was “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1, ESV). Through all his trials, “Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22, ESV). He “did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10, ESV). And he spoke rightly about Yahweh (Job 42:7–8).
Thus Job’s words should be held in high regard. However, after being confronted by Yahweh, Job himself said, “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. … I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:3–6, ESV).
So we must still read his words as simply those of a wise human.
Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar
Job’s friends were intelligent men, and they did trust in Yahweh. However, they had a skewed understanding of God’s blessings.
Similar to preachers of the “prosperity gospel” today, they assumed that blessings indicate God’s favor and that hardships indicate God’s displeasure. Thus they reasoned that Job’s suffering must have been the result of his own sin.
Much of what they said was correct but misapplied knowledge. We must evaluate it all by comparing it with the rest of Scripture.
Elihu is distinctly different from the other friends. He was younger, and he waited to speak until the others had finished (Job 32:4–5).
He argued that Job was wrong in his defense of himself and that his friends were wrong in their attacks on Job.
Unlike the three, Elihu was not rebuked by Yahweh for what he said. But Yahweh did not state approval of his words either.
There is no commentary at all on any of Elihu’s speeches by any character in the book of Job. While much of what he said may be accurate, we must still evaluate it as simply the words of a wise human.
Finally, in chapter 38, Yahweh stepped on to the scene to set the record straight.
I shouldn’t need to clarify this, but since he is God, every one of his words is absolutely true and trustworthy. We can hold to the reliability of his words with absolute confidence.
Some copies of the Bible include headings to show you who is speaking in each passage from the book of Job. But if you don’t have those, it can be a bit of work to track down the speaker for a given verse.
To help you out, I put together this color-coded chart. With it, you should be able to tell at a glance who is speaking. Verses not listed on this chart are from the narrator, and they can be taken as accurate historical information.
|Job 1:14–15||Messenger 1|
|Job 1:16||Messenger 2|
|Job 1:17||Messenger 3|
|Job 1:18–19||Messenger 4|
|Job 2:9||Job’s Wife|
I hope this is helpful. If you notice any errors I may have made, please let me know, and I will correct them as quickly as possible.