When Good Theology Is Bad – Job 4 – 27

By John Bellingham on November 20, 2016
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When Good Theology is Bad

Job 4-27

Many inadequate solutions have been proposed to the ‘Problem of Evil’:

  • God is not good/ God does not exist (Atheism)
  • God does not interfere with His creation (Deism)
  • God is locked in cosmic battle with an evil counterpart (Dualism)
  • God has good intentions in the world but limited power to restrain evil (Process Theology)
  • Evil/suffering is an illusion (Pantheism)

The middle chapters of Job reveal another popular, but unsuccessful attempt to explain the existence of evil and suffering in the world:  Suffering is Divine Punishment  (Often called ‘Karma’ in our contemporary culture)


 I.  Counsel of Job’s Friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar)

1)     The Good

  1. Their counsel is rooted in a Biblical Principle:  Divine Retribution (cf. Galatians 6:7;  Psalm 1)
  2. These men have a sincere and commendable desire to uphold God’s justice and goodness

2)     The Bad

  1. A good theological principle is misapplied and made absolute à ‘suffering is always a punishment for sin’  (cf. 4:7-9; 5:
  2. A False Conclusion:  Job must have sinned
  3. Unhelpful Advice:  ‘Repent of your ‘sin’ and God will once again prosper and bless you’ (cf. 8:5-7)
    1. Their advice supports Satan’s original challenge:  The righteous value God’s gifts but care very little about God Himself
    2. If Job seeks prosperity at the cost of his integrity, Satan will be vindicated

3)     The Ugly

  1. False Accusations  (cf. 8:4, 11:4-6, 22:5-11)
  2. No love or sensitivity in their words (cf. 19:1-4)


– When a good Biblical principle is wrongly applied, the outcome can be very destructive and harmful

– When studying God’s Word always be sure to interpret one passage (book, chapter, paragraph, verse) in light of the whole:  ‘Scripture interprets Scripture’

II.  Job’s Response

1)     The Good

  1. Job maintains his innocence and integrity – he wants God to vindicate him, not to prosper him (cf. 23:8-12, 27:1-6)
  2. Job has a far more nuanced and Biblical understanding of Retribution than his friends
    1. He believes that the general principle of divine retribution is valid and true (cf. 12:3)
    2. He acknowledges what his friends will not:  the wicked sometimes prosper while the righteous suffer unjustly (cf. Job 21, 24)
    3. He has the hope for ultimate justice in the after-life  (cf. 11:13-14, 16:19, 19:25-27)
  3. Much of Job’s response to his friends is in the form of prayer to God!  (cf. 7:12-21, 10:2-22, 13:20-28)

2)       The Bad and the Ugly

  1. Job crosses the line into blasphemous and ungodly speech (cf. 9:22-23;  16:7-17)
  2. He must later repent (cf. 42:1-6)


– The error of Job’s friends is still being promoted today by prosperity preachers.   Beware of false teachers who twist biblical principles into something destructive

– Sin will always result in negative consequences, but suffering in this life is not always the result of personal sins we have committed (cf. John 9:1-3; Lk 13:1-5)

– Jesus Christ will ultimately punish the wicked and vindicate His children who suffer unjustly– we can suffer with hope knowing that our Redeemer lives!

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