Job 16, Exegetical Notes from Abner Chou

In Job 16 and 17, Job responds to Eliphaz’s second speech (Job 15) where Eliphaz said, Let me give you the historical definition of a wicked man—he looks just like you, Job. His focus shifted from pre-modern to modern (i.e., This is what man has always been, and Job you look just like him, therefore, you must be guilty). Job’s response here is, in summary, The reason I look guilty is because I was framed. He challenges their fallacy of a closed system.[1]

“Job 16 and 17 help to show you the fallacy of a closed system.”

Job 16:2

Job has already heard their ideas, and he says they aren’t even comforting. Two things: 1) Job has always wanted comfort, not an intellectual explanation of his pain, and 2) his friends came to comfort him in the first place. So Job is saying they are absolute failures as counselors. They bring no comfort.

Job 16:3

Job isn’t the only one with windy words (as Eliphaz said in Job 15:2), they are too. And if windy words mean guilt, Job says, Then we are all guilty together.

“What plagues you…” Why do you respond? Why do they keep trying to argue if they know he’s guilty? It’s not Job that has the problem, it’s them. They aren’t sure of something. They are talking, still, because they are afraid.[2]

Eliphaz said, That’s the definition of a guilty man, and Job turns the tables and says That’s the definition of a fearful man, and that’s you, Eliphaz.

Job 16:4–5, The Hypocrisy of the Position

If Job were in their shoes he would actually encourage and comfort.

Job 16:6

But it doesn’t matter because Job can’t even comfort himself.

Job 16:7–8

Now Job will deliberately clash with Eliphaz’s allegation. Job says God did it to me. That’s the sum of “I was framed,” and He says God did it. Job says God formulated Job’s circumstances so Job would look guilty.

The word “witness” is key to Job, and right now, the evidence stands as witness against him, but God is the one who caused the witness to exist in the first place.

Job 16:9–11

An in-depth analysis of how this took place. God is like an animal who tears him apart. God is vicious. So 1) God tore him apart, and 2) people have gathered around to laugh. God gives him up to the ruffians. God caused them to mock him. So God frames him and sends people to mock him.

Job 16:12–14

Job’s point is his innocence. “I was at ease” I had no part in this whatsoever. But God set him up as the target: God premeditated it.

Job 16:13

God shoots him in the kidneys, a lethal shot, and God is the one who did it.

Job 16:14

God broke through his defenses and totally destroyed him. Eliphaz said Job is like a soldier running against God with just a shield (Job 15:26) and now Job says, It wasn’t me running, Eliphaz, it was God running at me!

“God allows Satan to manipulate your senses so all you see is nonsense and you make the wrong conclusion. And that’s the modernistic problem. Your sense sometimes is nonsense and you can’t even see what’s in front of your face. That’s the point: to show you how finite you are. And that’s why you need the Scriptures…And that’s Job’s demonstration of wisdom.”

Job 16:15–17, The Result of Job’s Despair

Job didn’t really sew sacks to his body, but he may as well; he’s showing the permanence of his despair. He looks like he’s been crying. He says, I had no part in this, God did it all, and I am innocent.

Job 16:18

Job says, At least the dirt kind of gets me.

Job 16:19

Keyword: “witness” (cf. Job 16:8). The job of a witness is to be a third-party verification of the evidence. A witness isn’t like a mediator.

This is a new wish for Job. Job has asked for death (Job 6:8–10), fairness (Job 7:17–19), forgiveness (Job 7:20–21), and a mediator (Job 9:32–35), an overcomer of death and purifier, and now he wants a witness, a new thing. So now Job has wished for an entire courtroom.[3] Job needs a witness because no one knows the whole story—all the facts. Two points:

  1. How is Job saying this? Is he affirming his knowledge of a witness in heaven? No. This is an unfulfilled wish.
  2. Who is Job taking about? 1) God or 2) someone else in heaven? It can’t be God because Job doesn’t see Him as on his side right now. It must be someone else who is in heaven. But Job doesn’t know Jesus exists; Job is just wishing for Him to exist.

“The irony of this whole situation is this is exactly what happens. God does know the whole story; Christ does know all the facts and can advocate rightly, mediate perfectly, and judge equitably for Job.”

Job 16:20

Job says, My appeal is with God, not man; man is too finite to deal with this matter.

Job 16:21–22

He wishes again here for someone to intervene, a witness/mediator to bring God near. Of course, his wishes are granted, but that’s still to come.


  1. A closed system is a system that operates in isolation without any outside input; an open system isn’t nailed-down shut—it leaves room for outside input.  ↩

  2. Remember, they are selfishly using Job to try to find out why evil exists so they can prevent this from happening to them.  ↩

  3. The irony is he gets it, and double irony is that the witness, mediator, and judge are all the same person, but Job doesn’t know that.  ↩

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