Job 2, Exegetical Notes from Abner Chou

Big Ideas

God is right and Job survives to affirm that.

Epistemological Certainty: the confidence by which you can make an assertion (like Job does). Job proposes the scheme that both he and God are right, and we come along to find out how he can know that. One system of thought is undefined; it’s new and untapped territory. The other system is the Divine Retribution Principle: what goes around comes around. This is the central problem, and it’s a philosophical problem. That’s why Job is wisdom literature.

Job 2

Job 2:1

“present..” implies summons.

This sounds like Job 1:6 but now it’s different. This summons adds info about Satan, “Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord.” He has explicitly come because God has explicitly summoned him.

Job 2:2

Job 1:6 refers to the general location: Where did you come from? Here it is more specific. God wants to know about a specific place and event. He wants Satan to talk about Job.

“From roaming about…” Satan uses a contraction here in Hebrew because he is saying this quickly—he’s mumbling and rushing his answer.

Job 2:3

“Have you considered…” Notice the strict repetition. God is just really rubbing in it. There really is none like Job. God says verbatim what He said the first time (Job 1:9). God is vaunting His victory.

“Still holds fast…” denotes Job’s perseverance. He doesn’t deviate from his integrity. He seizes hold of it and doesn’t let it go. “Integrity” sounds like “blameless” but it refers to the interior character of Job. It looks at the repeated action of that blameless status. This all deals with the view from the outside, but we still haven’t seen the inside. And this is what is next. The first test proved Job’s outside (his blameless horizontal status), but this next test will deal with Job’s inside. God separates the two tests to prove each differently.

“you incited me…” This is a true statement, as said from Satan’s perspective, but God is the one who started this.

“without cause” refers to vanity, pointless. The first test was pointless because Satan was wrong, but also because there needs to be a second test.

Job 2:4

Satan answered. He will comply exactly with what God said in Job 2:3.

“Skin for skin!” The referent is the equal testing of Job. He hasn’t been tested to bring out his true nature so it’s not a legitimate test. The sense implies what is going to happen to Job (he will get boils on his skin). Satan is saying that as soon as God harms Job’s person, he will fail. The test now is against Job himself.

Job 2:5

“bone and flesh” denote the internal and external of Job’s body. That’s what’s next.

Job 2:6

God, as before, gives authority to Satan because God is sovereign. But God shows his sovereignty not just in what He permits but what He doesn’t. (spare his life). The issue here isn’t God’s niceness but His rightness. This will hurt Job but it has a purpose toward God’s rightness.

Job 2:7

“Boils” here is the same term as the boils of the plagues of Egypt. They are probably terrible blisters that cause your skin to rot. They are “sore” boils because the Hebrew means “catastrophe.” These are catastrophic, afflicting the maximum amount of pain possible; it’s the worst kind of boil. It’s extreme. And they are everywhere. The normal Hebrew idiom is “head to foot” but here they are from the bottom of the foot to the tip-top of his head.

Job 2:8: Job’s reaction to the pain

The scene is shocking because Job is picking up a potsherd—the potsherd is trash. Why is he using trash? Where is he? Job is at the dump; he’s sitting in the ash-heap. Why is he there? He is expressing his shame. He feels ruined and cast out of society, but he expresses his pain; he doesn’t mask it; he expresses it. But he doesn’t fight it.

The verb “sitting” denotes he’s been there a while, probably since the first test. He’s been there, just sitting. He’s not standing, shouting, flailing his arms, nothing. Just sitting and popping boils to ease pain. “But notice: he doesn’t fight back. That’s the key.”

Job 2:9

This is the first time we see his wife, and her words are bad. She sounds like Satan. And she plays into the Divine Retribution Principle like Satan. She thinks either God is right or Job is, and Job should just give into God and die.

She uses the same Hebrew construction with the word “bless” for “curse” (same as before, more on that later).

She is right in that Job must die (at the end of the book he dies), and she sets up the fundamental argument of the book. Both God and Job can’t be right. In the macro view of the book she is correct, but in the immediate, she is wrong. She is right that Job must give up his integrity to God and submit to him, then Job will find out the truth.

Job 2:10

Job accepts both good and evil from God because He has the right to do it. Job doesn’t give up his integrity. He is arguing that both God is right and he is right.

“lips…” Satan has been focusing on what Job will say, but here, Job says the opposite of what Satan expects. He declares God to be right and Satan, wrong.

The question is why? How does Job really know both he and God are both right, contrary to His wife? This is due to their different epistemologies. Both God and Job can be right but they need new epistemologies.

Job 2:11

Job has four friends, but here only three are introduced. Where is Elihu? This is the same narrative tactic used with Job’s wife who comes on the scene late as well. (She gets no introduction.) They are both programmatic characters—very formative to the book.

“Each came from his own place…” They don’t live near; the news has spread. Job’s issue is regional, and impacts the whole world, not just his community. This universality reminds us of Job 1:1 and Job being also a general stand-in for humanity in a literary way. His story, and the point it makes, is universal to human history and geography and culture.

These three friends aren’t Israelite. They are probably Edomite and Moabite. That’s a problem. They made an appointment because this was a planned visit—like a summit. This begins to transfer us from the heavenly court to the earthly court. Something is going on that demands a thoughtful response: Job’s suffering.

“Sympathize” has the idea of shaking or wandering. Typically it’s used as in shaking the head in disgust, an external demonstration, which is not the same idea as comfort. They want to do something external to show sympathy to Job, but all they end up doing is mocking him.

“Comfort” is the internal strengthening and encouraging of the soul of the individual. So the friends are going to help Job externally and internally, but they end up doing neither.

Job 2:12

If they didn’t recognize him, then why did they start crying? The term “recognize” doesn’t always mean intellectual recollection; it means association. They completely disassociated themselves with Job.

They tear their clothes to identify his death. He is no longer Job. Sociologists call this “complete disassociation.” Already we see they aren’t about comforting him but about getting away from him. They are worried they will become collateral damage. They are there in order to find out how they can keep it from happening to themselves.

“Dust toward heaven…” Look at the contrast. Job is just sitting there while they are going crazy weeping, wailing, throwing ashes, etc. They don’t know what to do. They are doing incompatible things. It’s like laughing at a crying woman at the hospital. How comforting.

Job 2:13

They sit. They realize what they did was stupid. It was not what they were supposed to do. It was the traditional thing to do, but it just wasn’t appropriate. It was fake.1

Some people say this is the most profound moment they have, but silence is odd in the ANE. They are still not associating with him. This is the silent treatment, not some sort of empathetic action. Clines suggests they are still worried about themselves because they can’t handle what is happening.2

His friends were almost enemies. In fact, the Hebrew word for “friend” looks like the word “evil.” The irony here is that there is this wordplay: “God says you should accept good and evil; here are your friends, they are the same thing.” With friends like these…

The friends are here to ask questions of their worldview at Job’s expense, so they can be assured this doesn’t happen to them.

  1. The mourners at Jairus’s house did the same thing—they faked their grief. We know this because they went from grief to laughter immediately (Luke 8:53).
  2. David J. A. Clines. Job 1-20, Volume 17 (Word Biblical Commentary).