He sat on the ground, his body covered from head to foot with painful boils, or ulcers. Picture him, his head bowed, shoulders slumped, alone, barely able to summon the energy to shoo away the flies that buzzed around him. Sitting amid ashes to signify his mourning, he could only scrape his diseased skin with a shard of pottery. He had lost so much, had fallen so far! His friends, neighbors, and relatives had abandoned him. People, even children, mocked him. He thought that his God, Jehovah, had turned against him as well, but he was wrong about that.—Job 2:8; 19:18, 22.
Do you face hardship and misfortune? Job’s story can bring you great comfort. It can also give you insight into a quality that every faithful servant of God needs—integrity. Humans show integrity when they are so completely devoted to God that they continue to do his will even in the face of hardship. Let Job teach us more.
What Job Did Not Know
There is reason to believe that some time after Job died, the faithful man Moses wrote down the story of Job’s life. Under divine inspiration, Moses was able to reveal not only the events on earth that affected Job but also some events that unfolded in heaven.
At the beginning of the account, we find Job leading a full and happy life. He was prosperous, a man well-known and respected in the land of Uz—possibly in northern Arabia. He shared freely with those in need and championed the cause of the helpless. Job and his wife were blessed with ten children. Above all, Job was a spiritual man. He eagerly sought to please Jehovah, much as his distant relatives Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph had done. Like such patriarchs, Job acted as a priest for his family, regularly offering up sacrifices in behalf of his children.—Job 1:1-5; 31:16-22.
Suddenly, though, the scene shifts in Job’s story. We get a glimpse into heaven, and we learn things that Job could not have known. Jehovah’s faithful angels were gathered before God, and the rebel angel Satan entered. Jehovah knew that Satan despised the righteous man Job, so God addressed Satan, pointing out Job’s outstanding integrity. Satan boldly replied: “Is it for nothing that Job has feared God? Have you not put up a protective hedge around him and his house and everything he has?” Satan hates people of integrity. When they show such wholehearted devotion to Jehovah God, they expose Satan for the loveless traitor that he is. So Satan insisted that Job served God only for selfish reasons. If Job were to lose everything, Satan asserted, the man would curse Jehovah to his face!—Job 1:6-11.
Job could not know it, but Jehovah had entrusted him with a great privilege: Prove Satan wrong. Satan was allowed to rob Job of all that he had. Only the man himself he was not to touch. So Satan eagerly set about his sadistic work. In a single day, a series of terrible blows rained down on Job. He learned that his livestock—first his cattle and donkeys, then his sheep, and then his camels—were suddenly wiped out. Worse, the servants who tended them were killed. In the case of one group, the cause was reported to Job as “fire from God”—possibly lightning. Before Job could even contemplate the loss of human lives or the poverty he now faced, the heaviest blow landed. His ten children were gathered together in the home of the oldest when a sudden windstorm struck the house, destroying it and killing them all!—Job 1:12-19.
It is hard, perhaps impossible, to imagine how Job felt. He ripped apart his clothes, cut off his hair, and collapsed to the ground. Job concluded that God had given to him and God had taken from him. Indeed, Satan had cleverly made it look as if God had sent those disasters. Nonetheless, Job did not curse his God as Satan had predicted. Rather, Job said: “Let the name of Jehovah continue to be praised.”—Job 1:20-22.
“He Will Surely Curse You”
Infuriated, Satan refused to quit. He again came before Jehovah during a gathering of angels. Again Jehovah praised Job’s integrity, which was holding up under all of Satan’s attacks. Satan retorted: “Skin for skin. A man will give everything that he has for his life. But, for a change, stretch out your hand and strike his bone and flesh, and he will surely curse you to your very face.” Satan was certain that if Job got sick enough, he would curse God. Fully trusting Job, Jehovah allowed Satan to take away his health—as long as Satan did not kill Job.—Job 2:1-6.
Soon, Job was stricken as described at the outset. Imagine his poor wife. Already shattered with grief over the loss of her ten children, she now had to watch, helpless, as her husband suffered horribly! Agonized, she cried out: “Are you still holding firmly to your integrity? Curse God and die!” She did not sound like the wife that Job knew and loved. He could only say that she was talking like one who had lost her senses. Still, he refused to curse his God. He uttered no sinful speech.—Job 2:7-10.
Did you know that this sad, true story affects you personally? Notice that Satan aimed his venomous charge not only against Job but against mankind in general. He said: “A man will give everything that he has for his life.” In other words, Satan believes that integrity is beyond each of us! He insists that you have no real love for God, that you would quickly abandon God to save your own skin. In effect, Satan says that you are as selfish as he is! Would you like to prove him wrong? Each of us has that privilege. (Proverbs 27:11) Let us now see what challenge Job faced next.
The Comforters Who Failed
Three men who knew Job—the record describes them as companions, or acquaintances—heard of his troubles and traveled to visit him and offer comfort. When they saw him from a distance, he was unrecognizable. Racked with pain, his skin blackened with disease, he was barely a shadow of his former self. The three men—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—put on a great show of grief, wailing loudly and throwing dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground near Job and said nothing. For a full week they sat there, day and night, uttering not a word. We should not mistake their silence for comfort, for they asked the man no questions and learned only what was obvious—Job was in great pain.—Job 2:11-13; 30:30.
Finally, Job had to begin the conversation himself. In words drenched with pain, he cursed the day he was born. And he revealed a deep cause of his agony. He thought that God was the source of his troubles! (Job 3:1, 2, 23) Though still a man of faith, Job desperately needed comfort. But when those acquaintances began to speak, Job soon realized that their silence was better.—Job 13:5.
Eliphaz, possibly the eldest and much older than Job, began. In time, the other two followed suit. In general, we might say that they sheepishly followed the lead of Eliphaz. Some of what those men said might have seemed harmless, as they spouted spiritual-sounding platitudes about God being lofty, punishing bad people, and rewarding the good. From the first, though, there was an undercurrent of unkindness. Eliphaz used simplistic logic to suggest that if God is good and he punishes the bad, and Job was clearly being punished, then what must be true? Must not Job himself be bad in some way?—Job 4:1, 7, 8; 5:3-6.
Not surprisingly, Job did not take well to that line of reasoning. He rejected it forcefully. (Job 6:25) But the three counselors became ever more convinced that Job was guilty of some hidden wrongdoing; he must somehow deserve all the bad things happening to him. Eliphaz accused Job of being presumptuous, wicked, and devoid of godly fear. (Job 15:4, 7-9, 20-24; 22:6-11) Zophar told Job to put away his evil and his enjoyment of sin. (Job 11:2, 3, 14; 20:5, 12, 13) And Bildad struck a particularly cruel blow. He suggested that Job’s sons must have sinned in some way, so they deserved to die as they did!—Job 8:4, 13.
Integrity Under Attack!
Those misguided men did something even worse. They actually cast doubt on not only Job’s integrity but the very idea of integrity! In his opening speech, Eliphaz described an eerie encounter with an unseen spirit. The conclusion that Eliphaz drew from that demonic experience was poisonous: God “has no faith in his servants, and he finds fault with his angels.” By that reasoning, mere humans can never please God! Later, Bildad claimed that Job’s integrity would not matter to God—any more than would that of a maggot!—Job 4:12-18; 15:15; 22:2, 3; 25:4-6.
Have you ever tried to comfort someone in the throes of great pain? It is not easy. But we can learn a great deal from Job’s misguided acquaintances—mostly about what not to say. In their endless flow of high-sounding words and faulty logic, those three men never even addressed Job by name! They gave no thought to Job’s wounded heart and saw no need to treat him gently. * So if someone you care about is feeling low, try to remain warm, personal, and kind. Seek to build up the person’s faith and courage, helping that one to trust in God and to believe in His great kindness, mercy, and justice. That is what Job would have done for his companions had he been in their place. (Job 16:4, 5) How, though, did he react to their persistent attacks on his integrity?
Job Stood Firm
Poor Job was already in a state of despair when this long debate began. From the outset, he admitted that his words sometimes amounted to “wild talk” and “a desperate man’s sayings.” (Job 6:3, 26) We can understand why. His words reflected the agony of his heart. They also reflected his limited perspective. Because the tragedies that befell him and his family came so suddenly and even appeared to be supernatural, Job assumed that Jehovah was the cause. There were important events of which Job knew nothing, so he rested some of his reasoning on faulty assumptions.
However, Job was a man of deep, strong faith. His faith came through in much of what he said in that long debate—words that are true, beautiful, and encouraging to us today. When he spoke of the marvels of creation, he glorified God in ways that no human could without God’s help. For instance, he said that Jehovah is “suspending the earth upon nothing,” a statement many centuries in advance of scientific knowledge. * (Job 26:7) And when Job spoke of his own hope for the future, he expressed a confidence that other men of great faith have held as well. Job believed that if death should take him, God would remember him, would miss him, and would eventually restore him to life.—Job 14:13-15; Hebrews 11:17-19, 35.
What, though, about the issue of integrity? Eliphaz and his two friends insisted that a man’s integrity makes no difference to God. Did Job swallow that vile teaching? Far from it! Job asserted that integrity matters to God. He said confidently of Jehovah: “He will recognize my integrity.” (Job 31:6) Further, Job saw clearly that the false reasoning of his would-be comforters amounted to an attack on his integrity. It stirred Job to make his longest speech, one that finally closed the mouths of those three men.
Job saw that his integrity involved his everyday life. So he defended the way he lived and acted. For example, he avoided all forms of idolatry; he treated others with kindness and dignity; he kept morally clean, cherishing his marriage; and above all, he remained loyally devoted to the only true God, Jehovah. Thus Job was able to say with his whole heart: “Until I die, I will not renounce my integrity!”—Job 27:5; 31:1, 2, 9-11, 16-18, 26-28.
Imitate the Faith of Job
Do you share Job’s view of integrity? It is an easy word to use, but Job saw that integrity is much more than a matter of words. We show our complete, wholehearted devotion to God by obeying him and doing what is right in his eyes in our everyday life—even when facing hardship. If we live in that way, we will surely make Jehovah happy and frustrate his enemy, Satan, just as Job did so long ago. There is no better way to imitate the faith of Job!
Still, Job’s story was far from over. He was out of balance, so caught up in defending his own righteousness that he forgot about standing up for his God. He needed correction and spiritual help. And he was still suffering from profound pain and grief, in dire need of genuine comfort. What would Jehovah do for this man of faith and integrity? Another article in this series will address those questions.
^ par. 17 Oddly, Eliphaz thought that he and his friends spoke gently to Job, perhaps because they had not raised their voices. (Job 15:11) But even words spoken in soft tones can be harsh and cutting.
^ par. 19 As far as is known, only some 3,000 years later did scientists advance a viable theory substantiating the idea that there was no need for the earth to rest on any physical object or substance. It was not until photographs were taken from space that humankind in general could see convincing visual proof of Job’s words.