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What We Learn from Job’s Three Friends

The story of Job, from the Old Testament, is well known. He is the man who lost everything—family, wealth, health—and yet did not lose his faith in God. While in the midst of Job’s suffering, Job’s three friends came to pay him a visit. Their names were Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.

How do I know they were friends of Job, besides the text telling me so? By their actions. From Job 2:11:

“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, they came each one from his own place…and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him.”

So far, so good. And then, from v.12:

“…they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe, and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky.”

Again, so far, so good. And then from v.13:

“Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.”

From their actions, these men were not just friends, they were good friends.


“Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.”


Have you ever done this for a friend? Sat with them for seven days? Or has a friend done this for you when you were in pain and suffering? It seems that Job’s three friends were the ultimate model for the rest of us.

The Wrong Turn

So why do the names of these three men not resonate with us like the names of other Old Testament characters? The names Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar don’t have quite the ring to them as do Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And yet, these men spent seven days and seven nights, sitting on the ground with their friend. Such a great sacrifice.

Why then do these three men have such a bad reputation? The short answer is, they opened their mouths. I suppose seven days is a long time to hold one’s tongue. It seems Job’s friends felt they had all the answers. In their limited knowledge, his friends were convinced that Job wouldn’t have been in his awful predicament if not for something he’d done. Some hidden sin in his life.


“In their limited knowledge, his friends were convinced that Job wouldn’t have been in his awful predicament if not for something he’d done.”


The innocent don’t suffer, they said. God rewards the good, they said. If Job would only come clean and admit his sin he would be restored, they said. But even though their hearts were in the right place, not only were their words wrong—they were hurtful and discouraging.

Making the Same Mistake

I recall an incident from when I was a new Christian. At the time, I worked with a man named Sam. His biblical knowledge was impressive, always being quick with a Scripture quote. Being new in my faith and a biblical novice, I wanted to emulate him. Until the day he behaved much like Job’s three friends.

One day, when one of the women I worked with came to work visibly upset, it became known that she’d recently had a miscarriage. When Sam found out, he offered sympathy and condolences. He wrapped his arm around her shoulder and offered to pray for her. So far, so good.

But then he did it. He made the same mistake as Job’s three friends. He opened his mouth. He told her that her miscarriage was due to some hidden sin in her life, and that she needed to confess.


“He told her that her miscarriage was due to some hidden sin in her life, and that she needed to confess.”


Needless to say, this didn’t sit well with the young lady and she stormed out of the room in tears. Not to be dissuaded by the negative results, Sam maintained his stance and insisted he’d given the correct counsel. So sure of himself. Sound familiar? The incident left me with a sour taste in my mouth.

So, where did Sam and Job’s three friends go wrong? Why was their counsel in error? Let’s go to Jesus for the answer.

Jesus on the Why Questions

Jesus answered the question of why bad things happen to innocent people on more than one occasion.

In John 9:2, referencing a man born blind, the Scripture says, “And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” A common assumption in those times.

“Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Much like the story of Job. On another occasion, in Luke 13:1-4, the disciples came to Jesus to report about some Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. Jesus said,

“Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but, unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”


“Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”


And he added to his thoughts with this: “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but, unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

What’s Needed Most

Job’s friends, because they weren’t suffering like Job, became self-righteous in their words, assuming that, because they weren’t struck with Job’s calamities, they were therefore right before God. Jesus’ teachings from the Gospels of John and Luke put that notion to rest. We are all sinners, and we err when we assign life’s tragedies to something we’ve done to cause them. (For sure, some sin does lead to tragedy; a drunk driver killing someone in a car accident, for example. But the person killed by the drunk driver didn’t suffer that fate because of a hidden sin in their life.)

So, what’s the lesson for you and for me? Be a good friend. Like Job’s three friends, go to your friend in time of need, when they’re hurting, and sit with them. For seven days if that’s what it takes.


“Go to your friend in time of need, when they’re hurting, and sit with them.”


But be mindful of your words and careful when offering advice, for you might find yourself in the position of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar (and Sam), who suffered God’s displeasure because they put themselves in God’s place. From Job 42:7: “And it came about after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has.”

Sometimes the best counsel is no counsel at all. Sometimes all that is needed is your presence.

From AVoiceofOneCrying.wordpress.com. Used with permission. 

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