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Investigating Job – Does God Inflict People with Sickness or Death?

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 The book of Job raises a number of questions about God’s goodness and righteousness. Such questions include: If God is so good, why is there so much evil in the world? Why do people fall sick? Does God inflict people with sickness?

Questions like these contradict what the Bible says in James 1:17 (NKJV) – “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” Death, affliction, distress and other terrible things that visited Job are definitely not good and perfect gifts. Yet, it seems that God “gifted” Job with these things.

Why would God, the Father of lights, allow such misfortune befall a “righteous” man like Job?  In accordance with 2 Timothy 3:16, the book of Job will be examined to set doctrine aright and to teach viable lessons about the personhood of God.

The book of Job examined properly (In accordance with 2 Timothy 3:16) set doctrine aright and to teach viable lessons about the personhood of God. Click To Tweet

Before we delve into the book of Job, the question about the ‘problem of evil’ must be briefly examined. The problem of evil is such that its existence can be traced to the exercise of man’s will. God wants us to be free moral agents- which is why He has given us a will (the power to choose). God is love (1 John 4:8) and for us to have a love relationship with Him, there must be a will. If we were programmed to love, then a relationship wouldn’t be necessary. For love to be love, we must be capable of hate. To exercise love or hate, we must have a will. Because we have a will, we can choose to do good or to do evil.

God is love (1 John 4:8) and for us to have a love relationship with Him, there must be a will. Click To Tweet

Another thing to consider about the conversation about the problem of evil is that it is usually discussed, exclusive of these two notions:

  1. The person of Satan.
  2. The fallen state of mankind and the earth.

If these two notions are considered when questions about the origin of evil arise, the present debate about the presence of evil and the goodness of God will be different. Portions in the Bible that seem to portray God as a doer of both good and evil is a testimony to the fact that Biblical actors were growing in the knowledge of God. They were also unaware of the presence of Satan. In Genesis 3:1, we see the presence of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. In Revelation 12:9, John reveals Satan’s identity to us – the devil who deceives the whole world.

In the ministry of Jesus, we see for the first time the casting out of demons. Another example that shows the development of knowledge in the Bible is prayer. People did not always know that prayer can be rendered to God. In Genesis 4:26b (NKJV) the Bible records for the first time, that “men BEGAN to call on the name of the Lord.” Before then, there is no record that this act was done.

Portions in the Bible that seem to portray God as a doer of both good and evil is a testimony to the fact that Biblical actors were growing in the knowledge of God. Click To Tweet

Now, the book of Job

Job is the oldest book of the Bible. Historically, it was discovered that Job lived around the time of Moses and not after. This is an indicator that the development of knowledge was still underway at that time. It means man was still largely unaware of Satan which will be proven in the course of this write-up.

In Job's time, man was still largely unaware of Satan. Click To Tweet

Job 1:1-5 introduces us to Job, a man who lives in Uz. He is a rich man with lots of livestock and possessions. He is so rich that his seven sons can afford to party on various appointed days. A lot of carousing must have been going on for their father to feel the need to offer sacrifices for their sanctification (vs 5). Job is described as a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil.

Job 1:6-12 relays a narrative where satan comes before God, alongside the sons of God. A discussion ensues between God and satan. God praises Job by calling him “a blameless and upright man.” He says “there is none like him on the earth.” Such high praises for a mortal. Satan scoffs at this description. According to him, Job fears God only because of the benefits that are being bestowed on him – protection, blessings and riches (vs 10). “Touch him!” Satan jeers, “And he will curse You to Your face!”

God chooses not to attack Job as satan requested. However, permission is given to Satan to do so (Job 1:11-12). In one day, Job lost everything – his livestock, servants and children (Job 1:13-20). After receiving this bad news, Job wrenches his clothes into pieces in great sorrow. He shaves his head and falls down flat to the ground in worship. He says, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” – Job 1:21 NKJV. Job was wrong! The Lord gave but Satan took it away. Why? Chapter one ends with Job not sinning nor charging God with wrong. Yet.

'Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.' – Job 1:21 NKJV. Job was wrong! The Lord gave but Satan took it away. Click To Tweet

Chapter 2 begins with another “conference” between God and satan. A similar conversation as in Chapter one ensues between them. God praises Job for holding fast to his integrity; satan scoffs, as usual, being the adversary of mankind that he is. He says that Job’s life is important to him- therefore God should inflict Job with a disease. “And he will surely curse You to Your face,” he says. God permits satan to strike Job; however, satan is commanded to spare his life. Sure enough, Job becomes afflicted with painful boils all over his body.

At this juncture, his wife tells him to curse God and die. Job replied, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In other words, Job believed his affliction was from God. He believed God was capable of doing both good and evil. But we, with the privilege of a panoramic view of the situation are aware that Job’s afflictions were from satan and not God.

Job believed his affliction was from God. He believed God was capable of doing both good and evil. But we, with the privilege of a panoramic view of the situation are aware that Job’s afflictions were from satan and not God. Click To Tweet

Hearing of the adversity that befell Job, his three friends – Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite make an appointment together to go mourn with him and comfort him. It is a moving sight for them to see their friend as a shadow of his former self. The emotions evoked within them is so great that they weep. They tear their robes and sprinkle dust on Job’s head toward heaven. For seven days and night, they sit with him without saying a word, “for they saw that his grief was very great.” (Job 2:13 NKJV).

Job doesn’t speak until the beginning of Chapter 3. He begins by cursing the day of his birth. Isn’t that what men do when they go through adversity? Rather than pray, they curse the day of their birth. It didn’t matter to Job that life had been good before then.

Job begins Chapter 3 by cursing the day of his birth. Isn’t that what men do when they go through adversity? Rather than pray, they curse the day of their birth. Click To Tweet

In summary, he wishes he had never been born because of his present suffering (Job 3:11); and if so, a stillbirth (Job 3:16). According to him, dead people do not undergo suffering. He then reveals- “the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me (Job 3:25).” Isn’t that an interesting line of thought? A blameless man need not fear adversity. He should not expect it from God either. After all, he is blameless. So why was Job fearful?  Nevertheless, the speech, that ensued between him and his friends, begins to go back and forth. It persists for over 29 chapters of the book of Job. In their discussion, we are exposed to the man Job really is.

A blameless man need not fear adversity, So why was Job fearful?. Click To Tweet

Eliphaz is the first to respond to Job’s tirade. He rebukes him. He reminds Job that he also has once strengthened people going through adversity. “But now, it comes upon you, and you are weary, it touches you, and you are troubled (Job 4:5).” In other words, one who has strengthened others in adversity should for able to do the same for himself in a similar situation.

Furthermore, in the next verse, he makes a mockery of Job – “is not your reverence your confidence? And the integrity of your ways your hope?” In essence, Eliphaz is saying that a man who glories in his uprightness need not fear adversity. Eliphaz is of the opinion that an innocent man should never perish, only those who are lovers of iniquity (Job 4:7-8).

At this juncture, we begin to wonder – “was Job really an upright man?” His friend seems to be saying here – “Job, you are not upright. You got what you deserve. Job, you are proud, hence your suffering.” He then further elaborates the subsequent chapters that man cannot be more righteous nor pure than his Maker. In Chapter 5:17-18, he suggests that God is correcting Job of his wrong ways with adversity, and that Job ought to be happy, rather than sorrowful. He goes on to extol the benefits of God’s chastening in the subsequent verses.

Job responds by begging his friend to show some empathy towards his situation. He wishes his grief could be measured. According to him, his grief would be heavier than the sand of the sea. He says so to justify his rash words (Job 6:1-3). Without further ado, he goes ahead to plead with God to kill him,  for he has lost all hope of recovery. He also asks that his friends show him kindness even if he “forsakes the fear of the Almighty” (Job 6:14). Job begins to ask questions concerning his integrity. According to him, he is blameless and just yet his friend chooses to rebuke him (Job 6:15-30).

Chapter 7 is filled with litanies of woe from Job.  He has lost all hope. “My eyes will never again see good”, he says, in verse 7. At this point, he has decided to speak freely to God because he will soon be dead anyway. He begins to question his Maker. “Have I sinned? What have I done to You, O watcher of men? Why have You set me as a target, so that I am a burden to myself?”  (Job 7:20).

In other words, Job is saying that he had done nothing to deserve his sufferings.  “Why then do You not pardon my transgression, And take away my iniquity? For now, I will lie down in the dust, And You will seek me diligently, But I will no longer be” (Job 7:21) Wooah! This is a great show of effrontery towards the Maker by his creation. Job here expresses bitterness towards God.

Bildad replies Job in Chapter 8.  His answer is similar to Eliphaz’s. In summary, he says that Job’s misfortune is self-caused and God is teaching him a lesson. If Job repents and calls upon the Almighty, he will be restored. His latter will be much better than his beginning.

Job finds no comfort in Bildad’s words. He extols the power of God on one hand, and on the other hand, accuses God of being a judge and jury in every matter. In a sense, he suggests that though he is blameless, God did not deal justly with him (Job 9:23-24). Job further says that if God were a man like him, he would take Him to court (Job 9:32-35). Chapter 10 is a continuation of Job’s complaint against God. He kept on insisting on his innocence.

Zophar responds to Job in Chapter 10. He said Job keeps vindicating himself without just cause. He is of the opinion that Job has received less than his iniquity deserves! (Job 10:11). Make no mistake that these people are his friends, they know him intimately. All three insist that Job is not as upright as he thinks he is. Eventually, Zophar implores Job to humble himself and repent (Job 11:15-20).

These people are his friends, they know him intimately yet all three insist that Job is not as upright as he thinks he is. Click To Tweet

The subsequent chapters continue with Job’s friend asking him to repent and Job responding to their pleas with belligerence. He extols his (self) righteousness which is a direct contradiction to how God speaks of him in Job 1:8 (Job 13:15).  He justifies himself before God (Job 12:4). He accuses God of duplicity (Job 12:13-25). He derides his friends’ pleas (Job 13:1-12). He calls God to court and defends himself (Job 13:18, 24-27).

Chapter 14 records another litany of Job’s woes. Eliphaz replies in chapter 15. According to him, Job speaks as a foolish man for his words are empty and his lips refrain from prayer (Job 15:1-5). He accuses Job of being right in his own eyes (Job 15:7-13). He ends his speech by reiterating that man’s righteousness is abominable, filthy and futile (Job 15:14-35).

Job’s reply is to shame his unsympathetic friends. Who rather than comfort him, scorned him. Chapter 16 captures all these in full details- from Job’s point of view.

In Chapter 17, Job prays for the relief of death. Bildad replies Job with even more cutting words. He calls Job one without understanding (Job 18:2) and a wicked person sure to meet a destructive end (Job 18:5-21). Job’s friends have such unsympathetic words for him, even though they mean well. Sure enough, their friend replied to them with more reasons for the justification of his innocence. He says in Job 19:6: “Know then that it is God who has wronged me and surrounded me with His net. Job refuses to repent; rather he accuses God of being unjust!

Chapter 20 and 22 contain conversations about the wicked and how God deals with them according to Eliphaz and Job respectively. In Job 22, Eliphaz outrightly accuses Job of sin. He says God is correcting Job because of his great wickedness and unending iniquity.  He gives examples of his great wickedness: receiving of bribes, deprivation of the needy of food and clothing for example (Job 22:5-8). He reiterates that Job got what he deserved. His response should, therefore, be humility before God and repent of his ways (Job 22:12-30).

Eliphaz reiterates that Job got what he deserved. His response should, therefore, be humility before God and repentance from his ways Click To Tweet

Job replies with more self-righteousness and indignation (Job 23:17). In chapter 24, he accuses God thriftiness. In essence, God deceives man into security and then cuts him off suddenly (Job 24:22-25). He ends by saying no one can prove him wrong (not even God). In Chapter 25, Bildad tells Job that man cannot be righteous before God. He calls man a maggot and a worm.

Job replies with even more self-righteousness in Chapter 26 and 27. In summary, he says God is the unjust one and he is the righteous one (Job 27:1-6). In chapter 29, Job remembers his past wealth with great nostalgia, he recalls his standing in the society amongst other benefits and rounds off the speech with more self-pity (Job 30). In chapter 31, he continues to defend his righteousness.

Then, he ends his with the explanation provided above, we can tell two things: that Job was self-righteous and proud while his friends were ignorant of the person of God because they believed God was responsible for Job’s adversity. Both parties were unaware of the person of satan and the fallen state of the world. Not every bad thing that happens to us is because of our sins or actions. In fact, God’s protection shields us from destruction and like Job, it might be breached if we do not take heed to ourselves. Even at that, God is not responsible for evil.

Not every bad thing that happens to us is because of our sins or actions. In fact, God’s protection shields us from destruction Click To Tweet

Job 32:1-3 summarises the discussion between Job and his friends. It goes thus: “So these three men ceased to answer Job because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram: because Job justified himself rather than God. Also against his three friends was his wrath kindled, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job.”

Elihu happened to be present while these discussions were ongoing but had remained silent because the other men were older than him. Alas! They had nothing useful to say so his anger was aroused against them. (Job 32:4-5). He spoke from a different perspective. In the subsequent verses, he informs the older that “age should speak, and a multitude of years, should teach wisdom.” Unfortunately, it didn’t, else Job’s friends would have succeeded in chastising him properly (vs 12). Elihu, on the other hand, though young, believed the spirit of the Lord had given him understanding so much that he can correct his elders. And he did.

From chapter 33 to 37, he proceeds to correct Job. In summary, he points out that:

  • Job was wrong to say that God had dealt unkindly with him (Job 33:8-11).
  • God had tried to warn Job about impending danger one way or the other, but he didn’t pay attention because of pride (Job 33:12-22).
  • Job was a self-righteous man (Job 34:5-9, 35:1-3).
  • Job was morally bankrupt- yet God had been protecting him all along (Job 34:7-8).
  • If God was to reward Job for his actions, he wouldn’t stand justified at all (Job 35:13-16).
  • Job spoke without knowledge- but with rebellion (Job 34:35-37).
  • God is not wicked (Job 34:10-15).
  • If Job had prayed, God would have delivered him (Job 36:13-17).

These are some of the things Elihu pointed out to Job in love (Job 33:7). In chapter 38-41, God finally replies Job. He showed him the height of his ignorance in choosing to contend with His Maker- the Almighty. At this point, all spirit had left Job and he feebly replied: “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand over my mouth.” (Job 40:4). In chapter 42, Job humbles himself before God. He admits that he had spoken out of ignorance and repents (Job 42:1-6). After this, God chastises Job’s friends because they had not spoken the right things about Him. He instructs them to offer a sacrifice as a sign of repentance. They did so and Job prayed for them. Did you notice that God did not chastise Elihu?

God restored Job to a better state than that of his former years. After his adversity, he lived a hundred and forty years before dying, old and full of days. Despite all Job did, we see God forgiveness and goodness at work. We need to have a big picture mindset when we are going through trials. God is always faithful. He is always good.

We need to have a big picture mindset when we are going through trials. God is always faithful. Click To Tweet

The present-day believer should make no mistake- we live in a much better time than Job as the devil has no legal right to harm us because of the Jesus’ sacrifice (Romans 8:33-34). God cares about us. We, however, have a responsibility to be sober and vigilant. We must give no place to the devil. He is to be resisted steadfastly in the faith (1 Peter 5:7-9).

God cares about us and we live in a much better time now, the devil can not accuse us any longer. Click To Tweet

Have you always thought that Job was a humble and righteous man? I’m sure the above will convince you otherwise.

You can also read

Is God Good? Investigating Egypt’s Plagues and the Flood

If God Is Really Good, Then Why Do People Die?

Is God Really Good? – Revealing The Other Actors

Bolanle Abiola
Omobolanle Abiola is a young Christian lady who's currently trying out new things while finding her authentic self (in Christ, of course). She loves to read, draw and engage in interesting conversations (amongst other things).

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