Job’s friends “sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth” (2:13-3:1). And so begins the great debate between Job and his friends. By the way, I do believe they are genuine friends even though their arguments ultimately are empty and though they sometimes seem harsh. But here’s the thing: they DID sit with Job for seven days and were silent because they saw how greatly he suffered. Only friends would do such a thing, I think.
We can understand Job’s logic, here. If he had died at birth, he would not, now, be suffering so greatly: “For then I would have lain down and been quiet; I would have slept; then I would have been at rest” (3:13). Such a luxury is not given to Job, however. His suffering is great: “My flesh is clothed with worms and dirt; my skin hardens, then breaks out afresh. My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle and come to their end without hope” (7:5-6).
Eliphaz begins to speak to Job: “As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same” (4:8). It’s almost as if he is saying, “Job, you deserve this.” Not much comfort in those words. In fact, Eliphaz and the others get so much wrong but from their faulty logic bursts forth the most urgent of all inquiries: “Can mortal man be in the right before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker?” (4:17) Isaiah answers, yes: “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11).
What language shall I borrow
to thank thee, dearest Friend,
for this, thy dying sorrow,
thy pity without end?
Oh, make me thine forever,
and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
outlive my love to thee. -- Arnulf, Abbot of Villers-la-Ville (13th century)