In Chapter 6, Job maintains his faith, but justifies himself rather than God.
Job responds to Eliphaz in complete surprise. Perhaps expecting consoling words, but instead receiving a volley of accusations against his character, he is initially apologetic: “my words have been rash…for the arrows of the Almighty are within me” (Job 6:3-4).
El Shaddai, or “God Almighty,” is the most common name for Jehovah/YHWH/God in the book. The emphasis on using this title for God is quite fitting, as it encapsulates His omnipotence and how that relates to His preeminence in dispensing justice. Let’s just keep this idea under our hat for a while.
Certainly, Job knows he is speaking rashly to the Almighty, but as we discussed before in Chapter 3, how else could he respond? Everything he thought he knew about God, and his relationship with Him, has been upside down. In effect, Job is experiencing the most profound existential crisis in history.
After Job’s apology, he begins to “justify” himself (Job 32:2) yet again using metaphors which are not very easy to interpret. Job 6:5 appears to be a simple rhetorical question where the answer is “no.” A man won’t complain when he is satisfied any more than a donkey will when it is eating. Then, immediately afterward Job uses another food metaphor that has the opposite conclusion: “Can something tasteless be eaten without salt, or is there any taste in the white of an egg? My soul refuses to touch them; they are like loathsome food to me” (Job 6:6-7).
The answer again is “no,” but instead of conveying satisfaction the opposite is the case. Eliphaz’s “comfort” is tasteless and hard to swallow, like an egg-white omelette. There seems to be very little transition between his conveying of satisfaction and that of dissatisfaction. This style of writing in the book sometimes overwhelms the reader and prevents him for understanding its meaning, but we have no reason to believe that the meaning here is obscure. Simply, Job after apologizing for being emotional as part of justifying himself rightly says in his despair that Eliphaz’s bad advice merely exacerbates matters.
Job then reiterates what he already spoken about wishing he was no longer alive and then maintains his integrity that he has “not denied the words of the Holy One” (Job 6:10, see also 6:14). These words, as other similar affirmative statements of Job’s faith in God, are important in the book. Job, despite all of his strong language wishing he was dead and questioning God’s justice does not deny His maker nor curse Him. As we had spoken about before, Job is communicating his dismay over not being able to understand God’s justice. He does not hate God, rather he does not think he knows Him anymore.
Rightly, in verses 11 and 12 Job reflects on his lack of strength and his need for deliverance (Job 6:13). However, he finds that either God directly, or indirectly, has driven deliverance from him. There is no hope for Job, but this is the beginning of him coming to grips with the fact that man needs a mediator between him and God.
Before challenging his friends to speak rightly, which is interesting in of itself because as of yet only Eliphaz has spoken, Job compares them to a desert mirage (Job 6:15-20). It is likely the reason that Job lumps all of his friends together is simply because they must have been nodding along with Eliphaz during his speech. Nevertheless, the comparison to a mirage is quite scathing. Job asserts that his friends acted “deceitfully” (Job 6:15) and have essentially betrayed his trust (Job 6:20).
Lastly, Job challenges his friends to show him where he is wrong (Job 6:26). He again defends his integrity by reminding them he never asked for a “hand out” (Job 6:22) nor asked them for help from those who stole his property and killed his servants (Job 6:23). He accuses them of maliciousness (Job 6:27) and warns them rightly to desist from such advice because of his own blamelessness (Job 6:29-30).
One may infer from this that Job’s friends were risking committing a grave injustice, because speaking falsely about Job would in effect be to define justice wrongly. Ultimately, “the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness” (Psalm 11:7). Accusing someone of sinning when he is blameless in God’s eyes is to not love what God loves. Hence, to misunderstand righteousness is to misunderstand the will of God.
Job’s friends do not repent of this and for this reason, bring about God’s condemnation against them later.