Bible Study – Job:8 to the End

Bible Study – Job
Class Six: Job 8:1-11:1; 11:1-42:22  
From the Orthodox Study Bible. 

JOB 8: [Bildad’s nonsense]

TO THE EARS OF BILDAD, JOB’S SECOND RESPONDENT, a man even less tolerant than Eliphaz, the foregoing lament seems to be an attack on the justice of God and the entire moral order. Unlike Eliphaz, however, Bildad is able to make no argument on the basis of his own personal experience. He is obliged to argue, rather, solely from the moral tradition, which he does not understand very well. Indeed, Bildad treats the moral structure of the world in a nearly impersonal way. To the mind of Bildad, the effects of sin follow automatically, as the inevitable effects of a sufficient cause. The presence of the effect, that is, implies the presence of the cause.

If Eliphaz’s argument had been too personal, bordering on the purely subjective, the argument of Bildad may be called too objective, bordering on the purely mechanical. In the mind of Bildad the principle of retributive justice functions nearly as a law of nature, or what the religions of India call the Law of Karma.

Both Eliphaz and Job show signs of knowing God personally, but we discern nothing of this in Bildad. Between Bildad and Job, therefore, there is even less of a meeting of minds than there was between Eliphaz and Job.

We should remember, on the other hand, that Job himself has never raised the abstract question of the divine justice; he has shown no interest, so far, in the problems of theodicy. Up to this point in the story, Job has been concerned only with his own problems, and his lament has been entirely personal, not theoretical.

Bildad, for his part, does not demonstrate even the limited compassion of Eliphaz. We note, for example, his comments about Job’s now perished children. In the light of Job’s own concern for the moral wellbeing of those children early in the book (1:5), there is an especially cruel irony in Bildad’s speculation on their moral state: “If your sons have sinned against [God], He has cast them away for their transgression” (8:4). What a dreadful thing to say to a man who loved his sons as Job did!

Like Eliphaz before him, Bildad urges Job to repent (8:5–7), for such, he says, is the teaching of traditional morality (8:8–10).

Clearly, Bildad is unfamiliar with the God worshipped by Job, the God portrayed in the opening chapters of this book. Bildad knows nothing of a personal God who puts man to the test through the trial of his faith. Bildad’s divinity is, on the contrary, a nearly mechanistic adjudicator who functions entirely as a moral arbiter of human behavior, not a loving, redemptive God who shapes man’s destiny through His personal interest and intervention.

Nonetheless, in his comments about Job’s final lot Bildad speaks with an unintended irony, because in fact Job’s latter end will surpass his beginning (8:7), and “God will not cast away the blameless” (8:20—tam; cf. 1:1, 8; 2:3). On our first reading of the story, we do not know this yet, of course, because we do not know, on our first reading, how the story will end (for example 42:12).

So many comments made by Job’s friends, including these by Bildad in this chapter, are full of ironic, nearly prophetic meaning, which will become clear only at the story’s end, so the reader does not perceive this meaning on his first trip through the book. As Edgar Allen Poe argued in his review of Bleak House by Charles Dickens, the truly great stories cannot be understood on a single reading, because the entire narrative must be known before the deeper significance of the individual episodes can become manifest. As Poe remarked, we do not understand any great story well until our second reading of it. This insight is preeminently helpful in the case of the Book of Job.

JOB 11 [Zophar’s nonsense]

WE NOW COME TO THE FIRST SPEECH OF ZOPHAR, Job’s most strident critic, a man who can appeal to neither personal religious experience (as did Eliphaz) nor inherited moral tradition (as did Bildad). Possessed of neither resource, Zophar’s contribution is what we may call “third-hand.” He bases his criticism on his own theory of wisdom. Although he treats his theory as self-evidently true, we recognize it as only a personal bias.

Moreover, Zophar seems to identify his own personal perception of wisdom as the wisdom of God Himself. Whereas Bildad had endeavored to defend the divine justice, Zophar tries to glorify “divine” wisdom in Job’s case. If it is difficult to see justice verified in Job’s sufferings, however, it is even harder to see wisdom verified by those sufferings.

Like the two earlier speakers, Zophar calls on Job to repent in order to regain the divine favor. (This is a rather common misunderstanding that claims, “If things aren’t going well for you, you should go figure out how you have offended God, because He is obviously displeased with you.”)

Zophar also resorts to sarcasm. Although this particular rhetorical form is perfectly legitimate in some circumstances (and the prophets, beginning with Elijah, use it often), sarcasm becomes merely an instrument of cruelty when directed at someone who is suffering incomprehensible pain. In the present case, Job suffers in an extreme way, pushed to the very limits of his endurance. It is such a one that Zophar has the vile temerity to call a “man full of talk” (11:2), a liar (11:3), a vain man (11:11–12), and wicked (11:14, 20).

The final two verses (19–20) contain an implied warning against the “death wish” to which Job has several times given voice. This very sentiment, Zophar says, stands as evidence of Job’s wickedness.

The author of the Book of Job surely understands this extended criticism by Zophar as an exercise in irony. Though the context of his speech proves the speaker himself insensitive and nearly irrational in his personal cruelty, there is an undeniable eloquence in his description of the divine wisdom (11:7–9) and his assertion of the moral quality of human existence (11:10–12). Moreover, those very rewards that Zophar promises to Job in the event of his repentance (11:13–18) do, in fact, fall into Job’s life at the end of the book.

In this story of Job, men are not divided into those who have wisdom and those who don’t. In the Book of Job no one is really wise. There is no real wise man, as there is in, say, the Book of Proverbs. While wisdom is ever present in the plot of the story, no character in the story has a clear grasp of it. True wisdom will not stand manifest until God, near the end of the narrative, speaks for Himself. Even then God will not disclose to Job the particulars of His dealings with him throughout the story.

From St. Gregory the Great

Ver. 3. Doth God pervert judgment? Or doth the Almighty pervert justice?

xxxvi. 59. These things blessed Job had neither in speaking denied, nor yet was ignorant of them in holding his tongue. But all bold persons, as we have said, speak with big words even well known truths, that in telling of them they may appear to be learned. They scorn to hold their peace in a spirit of modesty, lest they should be thought to be silent from ignorance. But it is to be known that they then extol the rectitude of God’s justice, when security from ill uplifts themselves in joy, while blows are dealt to other men; when they see themselves enjoying prosperity in their affairs, and others harassed with adversity. For whilst they do wickedly, and yet believe themselves righteous, the benefit of prosperity attending them, they imagine to be due to their own merits; and they infer that God does not visit unjustly, in proportion as upon themselves, as being righteous, no cloud of misfortune falls. But if the power of correction from above touches their life but in the least degree, being struck they directly break loose against the policy of the Divine inquest, which a little while before, unharmed, they made much of in expressing admiration of it, and they deny that judgment to be just, which is at odds with their own ways; they canvass the equity of God’s dealings, they fly out in words of contradiction, and being chastened because they have done wrong, they do worse. Hence it is well spoken by the Psalmist against the confession of the sinner, He will confess to Thee, when Thou doest well to him. Ps. 49:18. For the voice of confession is disregarded, when it is shaped by the joyfulness of prosperity. But that confession alone possesses merit of much weight, which the force of pain has no power to part from the truth of the rule of right, and which adversity, the test of the heart, sharpens out even to the sentence of the lips. Therefore it is no wonder that Bildad commends the justice of God, in that he experiences no hurt therefrom.

60. Now whereas we have said that the friends of blessed Job bear the likeness of heretics, it is well for us to point out briefly, how the words of Bildad accord with the wheedling ways of heretics. For whilst in their own idea they see the Holy Church corrected with temporal visitations, they swell the bolder in the bigness of their perverted preaching, and putting forward the righteousness of the Divine probation, they maintain that they prosper by virtue of their merits; but they avouch that she is rewarded with deserved chastisements, and thereupon without delay they seek by beguiling words a way to steal upon her, in the midst of her sorrows, and they strike a blow at the lives of some, by making the deaths of others a reproach, as if those were now visited with deserved death, who refused to hold worthy opinions concerning God.

We have heard what Job, his wife, and his three friends have to say.  They cycle through similar things several times.  Next week, we will briefly see what a new speaker, Elihuh has to say and spend most of the class – the last one before Great Lent – to look at God’s conversation with Job.  During Great Lent, we will work through chapters of Tito Coriander’s Way of Ascetics.



Scriptural review 

Mentioned historically as Jobab in Genesis (4), Joshua (1), and 1 Chronicles (5)

Ezekial 14:20. Though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness. 

James 5:11. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

Liturgical review

Mentioned (through James) at Holy Unction; “You have heard of the patience of Job.”

From the Funeral for a Priest

Beatitudes: Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

  “Why do you lament me bitterly, O men? Why do you murmur in vain?” he that has been translated proclaims unto all. For death is rest for all. Therefore, let us listen to the voice of Job saying, “Death is rest unto man.” But give rest with Thy Saints, O God, unto him whom Thou hast received.

Ode Six:

  I remind you, O my brethren, my children, and my friends, that you forget me not when you pray to the Lord. I pray, I ask, and I make entreaty, that you remember these words, and weep for me, day and night. As said Job unto his friends, so I say unto you: Sit again and say: Alleluia.

  Forsaking all things, we depart, and naked and afflicted we become. For beauty withers like grass, but only we men delude ourselves. Thou wast born naked, O wretched one, and altogether naked shall you stand there. Dream not, O man, in this life, but only groan always with weeping: Alleluia.

  If thou, O man, hast been merciful to a man, he shall be merciful there unto thee. And if thou hast been compassionate to any orphan, he shall deliver you there from need. If in this life thou hast covered the naked, there he shall cover thee, and sing the psalm: Alleluia.


Wednesday of Cheesfare Week; Matins Canticle Eight

Let us preserve these virtues: the fortitude of Job, the singlemindedness of Jacob, the faith of Abraham, the chastity of Joseph and the courage of David.

Saturday of Cheesefare Week; Matins; Canticle Two

… a second Job was Benjamin in his constancy …

Thursday of Clean Week (and Thursday of the Fifth Week); Great Canon Ode 4

Thou hast heard, O my soul, of Job justified on a dung-hill, but thou hast not imitated his fortitude. In all thine experiences and trials and temptations, thou hast not kept firmly to thy purpose but hast proved inconstant.

         Have mercy on me, Oh God, have mercy on me.

Once he sat upon a throne, but now he sits upon a dung-hill, naked and covered with sores. Once he was blessed with many children and admired by all, but suddenly he is childless and homeless. Yet he counted the dung-hill as a palace and his sores as pearls.

         Have mercy on me, Oh God, have mercy on me.

A man of great wealth and righteous, abounding in riches and cattle, clothed in royal dignity, in crown and purple robe, Job became suddenly a beggar, stripped of wealth, glory and kingship.

         Have mercy on me, Oh God, have mercy on me.

If he who was righteous and blameless above all men did not escape the snares and pits of the deceiver, what wilt thou do, wretched and sin-loving soul, when some sudden misfortune befalls thee?

         Have mercy on me, Oh God, have mercy on me.

I have defiled my body, I have stained my spirit, and I am all covered with wounds: but as physician, O Christ, heal both body and spirit for me through repentance. Wash, purify and cleanse me, O my Saviour, and make me whiter than snow.

Read at Vespers/PSL on Monday of Holy Week: Job 1:1–12.

Read at Vespers/PSL on Tuesday of Holy Week: Job 1:13–22.

Read at Vespers/PSL on Wednesday of Holy Week: Job 2:1–10.

Read at Vespers/Vesperal Liturgy on Thursday of Holy Week: Job 38:1–21; 42:1–5.

Read at Vespers on Friday of Holy Week: Job 42:12–17 (LXX ending)


NOW THE LORD HIMSELF WILL SPEAK, for the first time since chapter 2. After all, Job has been asking for God to speak (cf. 13:22; 23:5; 30:20; 31:35), and now he will get a great deal more than he anticipated. With a mere gesture, as it were, God proceeds to brush aside all the theories and pseudoproblems of the preceding chapters.

… [Whirlwind, Lord] …

At this point, all philosophical discussion comes to an end. There are questions, to be sure, but the questions now come from the Lord. Indeed, we observe in this chapter that God does not answer Job’s earlier questions. The Lord does not so much as even notice those questions; He renders them hopelessly irrelevant. He has His own questions to put to Job.

The purpose of these questions is not merely to bewilder Job. These questions have to do, rather, with God’s providence over all things. The Lord is suggesting to Job that His providence over Job’s own life is even more subtle and majestic than these easier questions which God proposes and which Job cannot begin to answer, questions about the construction of the world (verses 4–15), the courses of the heavenly bodies (verses 31–38), the marvels of earth and sea (verses 16–30), and animal life (38:39–39:30). Utterly surrounded by things that he cannot understand, will Job still demand to know mysteries even more mysterious?

If the world itself contains creatures that seem improbable and bewildering to the human mind, should not man anticipate that there are even more improbable and bewildering aspects to the subtler forms of the divine providence? God will not be reduced simply to an answer to Job’s shallow questions. Indeed, the divine voice from the whirlwind never once deigns even to notice Job’s questions. They are implicitly subsumed into a mercy vaster and far richer.

Implicit in these questions to Job is the quiet reminder of the Lord’s affectionate provision for all His creatures. If God so cares for the birds of the air and the plants of the fields, how much more for Job!

39 – 41. On the Behemoth and the Leviathan

Both behemoth and Leviathan are God’s household pets, as it were, creatures that He cares for with gentle concern, His very playmates (compare Psalms 104[103]:26). God is pleased with them. Job cannot take the measure of these animals, but the Lord does.

What, then, do these considerations say to Job? Well, Job has been treading on some very dangerous ground through some of this book, and it is about time that he manifest a bit more deference before things he does not understand. Behemoth and Leviathan show that the endeavor to transgress the limits of human understanding is not merely futile. There is about it a strong element of danger. A man can be devoured by it.

It is remarkable that God’s last narrative to Job resembles nothing so much as a fairy tale, or at least that darker part of a fairy tale that deals with dragons. Instead of pleading His case with Job, as Job has often requested, the Lord deals with him as with a child. Job must return to his childhood’s sense of awe and wonder, so the Lord tells him a children’s story about a couple of unimaginably dangerous dragons. These dragons, nonetheless, are only pets in the hands of God. Job is left simply with the story. It is the Lord’s final word in the argument.

42.  Finale

THE TRIAL OF JOB IS OVER. This last chapter of this book contains (1) a statement of repentance by Job (verses 1–6), (2) the Lord’s reprimand of Eliphaz and his companions (verses 7–8), and (3) a final narrative section, at the end of which Job begins the second half of his life (verses 9–17). The book begins and ends, then, in narrative form.

First, one observes in Job’s repentance that he arrives at a new state of humility, not from a consideration of his own sins, but by an experience of God’s overwhelming power and glory. (Compare Peter in Luke 5:1–8.) When God finally reveals Himself to Job, the revelation is different from anything Job either sought or expected, but clearly he is not disappointed.

All through this book, Job has been proclaiming his personal integrity, but now this consideration is not even in the picture; he has forgotten all about any alleged personal integrity. It is no longer pertinent to his relationship to God (verse 6). Job is justified by faith, not by any claims to personal integrity. All that is in the past, and Job leaves it behind.

Second, the Lord then turns and deals with the three comforters who have failed so miserably in their task. Presuming to speak for the Almighty, they have fallen woefully short of the glory of God.

Consequently, Job is appointed to be the intercessor on their behalf. Ironically, the offering that God prescribes to be made on behalf of the three comforters (verse 8) is identical to that which Job had offered for his children out of fear that they might have cursed God (1:5). The Book of Job both begins and ends, then, with Job and worship and intercession. In just two verses (7–8) the Lord four times speaks of “My servant Job,” exactly as He had spoken of Job to Satan at the beginning of the book. But Job, for his part, must bear no grudge against his friends, and he is blessed by the Lord in the very act of his praying for them (verse 10).

Ezekiel, remembering Job’s prayer more than his patience, listed him with Noah and Daniel, all three of whom he took to be men endowed with singular powers of intercession before the Most High (Ezekiel 14:14–20).

The divine reprimand of Job’s counselors also implies that their many accusations against Job were groundless. Indeed, Job had earlier warned them of God’s impending anger with them in this matter (13:7–11), and now that warning is proved accurate (verse 7). Also, ironically, whereas Job’s friends fail utterly in their efforts to comfort him throughout almost the entire book, they succeed at the end (verse 11).

Third, in the closing narrative we learn that Job lives 140 years, exactly twice the normal span of a man’s life (cf. Psalm 90[89]:10). Each of his first seven sons and three daughters is replaced at the end of the story, and all of his original livestock is exactly doubled (Job 1:3; 42:12). St. John Chrysostom catches the sense of this final section of Job:

  His sufferings were the occasion of great benefit. His substance was doubled, his reward increased, his righteousness enlarged, his crown made more lustrous, his reward more glorious. He lost his children, but he received, not those restored, but others in their place, and even those he still held in assurance unto the Resurrection (Homilies on 2 Timothy 7).


Saint Gregory the Great, Morals on the Book of Job, vol. 1 (Oxford; London: John Henry Parker; J. G. F. and J. Rivington, 1844), 83.

Robert Charles Hill.  St. John Chrysostom Commentaries on the Sages, Volume One – Commentary on Job.  Holy Cross Orthodox Press.

Patrick Henry Reardon, The Trial of Job: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Job (Chesterton, IN: Ancient Faith Publishing, 2005), 22.

Manlio Simonetti and Marco Conti, eds., Job, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 4–5.

Orthodox Church, The Lenten Triodion, trans. Kallistos Ware with Mother Mary, The Service Books of the Orthodox Church (South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 2002), 222.

Mother Mary, Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, trans., The Lenten Triodion: Supplementary Texts, The Service Books of the Orthodox Church (South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 2007), 60.

Orthodox Church, The Lenten Triodion, trans. Kallistos Ware with Mother Mary, The Service Books of the Orthodox Church (South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 2002), 559.

St. Tikhon’s Monastery, trans., The Great Book of Needs: Expanded and Supplemented, vol. III (South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 2002), 283.





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