Making Sense of Job’s Suffering

And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they 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.

–Job 2:11-13

It would have been perfect if they just remained silent and went home afterwards. Unfortunately, Job’s friends started talking and from there, things got more complicated. They originally intended to comfort Job but they ended up accusing him of secret sins.

Job’s friends were fairly reasonable (but theologically wrong). They drew their arguments from the common ancient philosophy of the Near East in that day- that righteous people enjoy prosperity while evil gets deserved punishment. Throughout the Old Testament period, the idea that only evil people suffer was widely accepted, and reading the whole book of Job, it is clear that even Job himself subscribed to that belief. This is the reason why Isaiah 53 was such a mind-boggling concept to the Jews. How could a righteous person suffer?

The concept of the righteous who suffers both in Job and Isaiah paved the way for the coming of Jesus, the sinless Messiah who suffered for the sins of other people.