Job and prayer

What is the book of Job about? What do Job’s friends get wrong? What does Job do right? Job’s friends seem to be giving him some very good answers, and Job responds with some very strange ones. Do we go back and analyze everywhere Job gets it right and everywhere Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar and Elihu make theological mistakes? Let me suggest the answer to that is ‘No’.

What matters is not our assessment, but Yahweh’s. The all-supreme Creator gives his summation in chapter 42. The ESV says, “After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has’” (Job 42:7; cf. 42:8).

But that is not what is literally there. No translation or commentary that I have seen has the usual translation of the Hebrew preposition: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken to me what is right, as my servant Job has”.

From my brief look at the concordance, the word translated “of me” here by the ESV is translated “to me” 99% of the time. The same preposition is used earlier in the verse when the Lord speaks to Eliphaz.

Perhaps what God is saying is that the others have not prayed to God like Job has. Here’s some supporting evidence:


  1. Job prays when his life is first hit by tragedy (1:21).
  2. Over and over again, Job wants to speak to God; his friends merely speak about God.
  3. The Satan wants to test Job’s relationship with God, not his theological positions (1:8-9).
  4. At Yahweh’s appearing, only Job speaks and confesses his folly, and God seems to accept it (42:1-6). The clincher is what God says next in verses 7-8.
  5. Having shown Job to be a man of faith-breathing (prayer), Yahweh orders Job to intercede in prayer for his friends (42:9-10). The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective:

So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them, and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.

And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. (Job 42:9-10)

Job treats God as someone with whom he has a relationship (albeit a scary relationship sometimes); his friends treat God as a theological debate. They may score good theological points, but it’s Job who trusts God.

Rather than being just a book about the problem of evil, the book of Job contains a sharp and scary message for would-be theologians. These people actually infuriate God with their endless discussions if they are not men and women of prayer (Job 42:7). Perhaps, at least in part, the message of the book of Job is a word of strengthening to people who pray.

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