I understand that the entire Bible is God-breathed. In the light of this
unchangeable truth how are we to apply the book of Job to our lives? I
don’t mean here, the overall theme i.e. that sometimes bad things do
happen to good people. God’s integrity was at stake here. Job’s friend’s
speeches take up quite a lot of the book and from what God says about
these discourses or ‘explanations’ it seems they did not really have their
theology right as in Job 42:7, After the LORD had said these things to
Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two
friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant
Job has.

So then how would we for all practical purposes have to view these words?

You ask a very good question which more of us should ask. Many of us do
not think carefully at all about such things. My favorite example of such
a thing is in John 9:31, where the man born blind said to the Pharisees;
“We know that God does not listen to sinners…” Here, a man is making a
point that could be used to set doctrine, yet he clearly is not speaking
with any authority whatever. Does God listen to sinners? That is a
separate question, but the fact is that we cannot create a doctrine based
on this quote. Why, then, is such a statement in the gospel of John? The
answer is simple. That is what the man said.

The same, only in a bigger way, can be said of Job. What is recorded is
what they said. One reads Job in order to get the big picture. Who is
right, Job, Elipihaz or Elihu? The answer is that none of them are
completely right. I pondered this for years. At first, I thought perhaps
Eliphaz was right. It did not take long to see that he was not right,
especially in view of the passage you quote. Then I wondered if Job was
right. Although he seems to somewhat pridefully declare himself righteous
before God, at least God supports him in the end. But then, in the end,
one cannot support a claim that Job is right. There are simply too many
ways he justifies himself and does not fully trust God. Job says some
right things, but his words are not infallible. Finally, after several
years, I began to think Elilhu was a spokesman for God in this case.
Again, although he may have a better perspective than any of the others,
in the end, one cannot completely support even Elihu. Finally, I realized
the only one whose words can be taken as the words of God in the book are
the words of God himself. So, we should take the rest of the story as
drama, as a working out of the human condition, as a human commentary on
the nature of suffering, as the background for God’s response and so
forth. It may be a lot of this and only a little of God himself speaking,
but that is what we have in Job. For this reason, one needs to use
specific verses of Job with caution when supporting one particular view of
God, unless, of course, one looks to the very beginning and the end, where
God is speaking.

To summarize, there are an almost unlimited number of cases in the Bible
where people speak and we are clearly not to take their words as “the
Words of God.” The historical books are absolutely loaded with examples of
this truth. In these cases, the words quoted are in the Word of God
because that is what the person said, but their words are not God directly
speaking to us. The case of Job is special, not because this happens in
the book: it is special because the large majority of the book is just
this sort of thing. I wish you good luck sorting all this out, and even
more good luck communicating this to others.

A side comment. One could interpret the verse you quote as implying that
God does indeed support all the words of Job as being from him. I
personally do not view Job’s words this way. God is supporting Job in
general, as opposed to his supposed friends. The general thrust of Job’s
words are correct, in that he was right that God considered him righteous.
The general thrust of Eliphaz et al’s words were wrong. Nevertheless, I do
not believe God is granting that every word Job spoke was “the very words
of God.”

John Oakes, PhD

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