The second chapter of the Book of Job gives us a view of heaven and Job’s integrity, so that the believer can understand the appropriate way to respond.
The chapter begins days after the events happened to Job, stating “[a]gain there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord…” (Job 2:1). Being that it was not the next day, there is a possibility that God was intent to let some time pass in order to test Job’s resolve and prove Satan wrong.
God, with great pride smiles upon Job: “For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 2:3). He declares to Satan that even though he “incited” Him to harm Job, the man “still holds his integrity.”
God’s pride here reveals two things. First, Satan was wrong about Job’s piety being self-serving. Second, that Job’s response in 1:21 was upright and revealed his integrity.
Satan quotes a proverb (“skin for skin”) whose meaning is unknown, but it has something to do with his contention that “all that a man has he will give for his life” (Job 2:5). Perhaps, what Satan meant that Job would trade his soul if his life was threatened, much like a wicked man may kill someone else to save his own skin in war.
Nonetheless, God hands Job over to Satan, commanding him only to spare his life. Satan, confident that if Job was afflicted enough would prove him right, did not hold back. Giving Job some sort of itching skin disease, in conjunction with other ailments that are detailed later in the book, Satan brings Job to the point of death.
As time passes and after Job scratches open his wounds, his wife says a strangely insensitive comment: “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9)! What is she talking about?
Recent commentators have tried taking a more “understanding” view of Job’s wife. After all, she just lost all of her children and possessions. She was shaken for obvious reasons.
However, the text does not clue us in on the multi-dimensional nature of Job’s wife’s feelings. Instead, the Scripture appears to inescapably present her in a negative light. It would seem that her asking her husband to curse God is tantamount to her cursing God herself. Further, there are old American adages that encapsulate what is really going on here: “to add insult to injury” or “to rub salt into the wound.” Simply, Satan has through trial used her to add to the misery of her husband.
We know this to be the case, because it is the only explanation that makes sense given Job’s response: “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity” (Job 2:10)?
The narrator then approvingly states that in all this Job did not sin with his lips. Because of this, we know that Job refused to curse God and that he spoke rightly about his wife. Now, it is possible that because of Satan’s temptations, Job had in his heart considered cursing God. The choice of wording may imply this.
However, what it does say explicitly is that how the wife is acting is foolish and that we should accept both fortune and woe (Is 45:7) from the hand of God. This explains the approving tone of the narration.
All in all, Job’s response is correct. It makes sense that if we have faith in God’s righteousness, that we will accept all from His hand. God does not always shown His love by blessing, because often discipline is necessary. Even in family relations we know this to be true:
Do not hold back discipline from the child,
Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die.
You shall strike him with the rod
And rescue his soul from Sheol (Prov 23:13-14).
How much more can we accept a disciplinarian like God over a man?
Further, we can extrapolate another idea from Job’s response. God metes out both good and adversity and does not apologize for it. This runs contrary to most theodicy from both the Christian and Muslim traditions. This may be because theodicy is a product of Hellenistic philosophy and Epicurus’ problem of evil has held such sway for so long, that apologists have fallen into the trap of essentially conceding Epicurus’ point and arguing the ridiculous: that evil does not exist or that it is essentially good.
Philosophers often try taking something that is immaterial and not empirically testable, that is evil, and try to rationalize it. Scripture is hardly a philosophical treatise and if we accept it as revealed by God, its truth is of a greater nature than that of human observation and reason. It is strange that the Christianized West appears to be so heavily affected by the philosophical tradition when it pertains to theodicy, but we should not allow that to distract us from what the Scripture plainly teaches. So, if the Scripture teaches that God ordains evil for discipline for the believer, judgment for the unbeliever, and for other reasons left unsaid, it isn’t necessary to defend God against charges of evil.
Back to the matter at hand, after some period of time, Job’s three friends who have “heard of all this adversity that had come upon him” (Job 2:14) in order to mourn with him. Job was so disfigured from the ailments, they did even not recognize him (Job 2:15). This may be a detail that gets glossed over, but it reflects how disturbing Job’s trial from Satan was. He must have looked hideous, and even if he pulled through, it would appear that he would be disfigured his whole life and scoffed at.
Yes, even something this terrible, God has control over it and has a reason for it: “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28).
It would be true to say if evil befalls an evil person God is not necessarily working good for that person (unless its purpose is to bring that evil person to repentance.) However, this is not true of the people whom God has “called” for His purposes. These “called” people are the ones who love God.
This fact should give confidence to the faithful and make the faithless shudder, though they won’t because they do not believe in God to begin with. The faithful do not love God because they wanted to on their own: “There is none who seeks for God” (Rom 3:11). We love God because before we were “born and had not done anything good or bad” so “God’s purpose according to His choice would stand” (Rom 9:11), He “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4). This is “not because of works [what anyone does good or bad], but because of Him who calls” (Rom 9:11).
If we don’t even have faith in Christ by our own choice and are called by God because of His own good pleasure to love Him, then we have a real reason to be confident in trial: God promises he will work all things for good in those who love Him. We may not know where it is all heading, but there is a good reason behind it.
The faithless have no such guarantee and their trials give them no benefit ultimately.
Our last comment on chapter two pertains to the attitude of Job’s friends. Their intent was genuinely to console Job and not rub his nose in anything. For “they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great” (Job 2:13). Their pity was genuine.
Because this is the case, we should interpret their verbal exchanges strictly as theological disputes and not that they are purposely berating Job for personal reasons.