“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great” (Job 2:11-13 NKJV).
Job’s friends get a bum rap. Granted they were obtuse when they opened their mouths, and the epithet “Job’s Comforters” fits them well. But in fact Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar acted more honorably than first glance might reveal, for at first they did the right things. Look at what they did:
1. They came from a long way to be with their friend.
2. They mourned with him, wept with him, comforted him.
3. They knew enough to keep their mouths shut. For seven days and seven nights they were “just there,” which oftentimes is really what counts.
4. The friends let Job speak first. They didn’t say a thing until Job was ready to talk.
So they had the right idea. They knew what they needed to do. But sadly they did not know what they needed to say.
Bible students have puzzled for millennia over Job. How could it be that a righteous man could suffer so much? The puzzle speaks through the ages, and Job’s friends faced the same dilemma. “Surely,” the three friends asked, “you must be suffering because of some sin. What have you been up to, Job?” In trying to make it better, their mouths made matters worse.
“Miserable comforters are you all!” Job finally said in exasperation (16:2).
They would have done well to say less and listen more. A wise man once pointed out that God gave us two ears and one mouth because he wants us to listen twice as much as we talk.
Certainly in the case of Job’s friends it would have been the wise thing to do. But I keep coming back to the good things they did. They were there for Job. They knew the wisdom later taught by Solomon: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17 ).