1. Structure and outline

The makeup of Job 3–37

Job 3:1–37:24 (ESV)

1 After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.

Job’s friends came to him with the purpose of comforting him (Job 2:11). Yet it is Job who breaks the silence (Job 3:1). Now the discussion about Job’s suffering begins. It is described for us in Job 3:1–37:24, where Job and each of his friends take turns to speak. The speeches are given to us in the form of masterful poetry.

Job has only one thing left: his uprightness (or innocence) before God. He is now forced to defend this, because his friends are certain that his suffering must be a punishment for sin. They can only see two possibilities: Either God or Job must be guilty of wrongdoing.

We know from Job 1:1–2:13 that Job’s friends are wrong: God is not guilty, but neither is Job. Job and his friends do not have the knowledge that we have of the dispute between God and Satan. Still Job refuses to accept his friends’ reasoning. His conscience is clear before God. At the same time, he also knows that it is God who has brought this misery over him (see Job 1:21; Job 2:10). The false reasoning of his friends now causes him to draw a false conclusion himself. If he is not guilty (and he knows he is not), then God must have been unjust!

This does not mean that Job turns his back on God. He is far from cursing God. His deepest sorrow is not the loss of his possessions, but the loss of his heavenly Friend. He cannot bear thinking that God has been unjust or that God has made an enemy out of him. That is why we sometimes find Job directing his speech away from his friends and toward God. He prays prayers which shock his friends, but which are shouts of despair to the God that he cannot live without. Eventually he calls on God to defend him against God!