We have here an account of the kind visit which Job’s three friends paid him in his affliction. The news of his extraordinary troubles spread into all parts, he being an eminent man both for greatness and goodness, and the circumstances of his troubles being very uncommon. Some, who were his enemies, triumphed in his calamities, Job 16:10; 19:18; 30:1 Perhaps they made ballads on him. But his friends concerned themselves for him, and endeavoured to comfort him. A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Three of them are here named (Job 2:11), Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. We shall afterwards meet with a fourth, who it should seem was present at the whole conference, namely, Elihu. Whether he came as a friend of Job or only as an auditor does not appear. These three are said to be his friends, his intimate acquaintance, as David and Solomon had each of them one in their court that was called the king’s friend. These three were eminently wise and good men, as appears by their discourses. They were old men, very old, had a great reputation for knowledge, and much deference was paid to their judgment, Job 32:6. It is probable that they were men of figure in their country-princes, or heads of houses. Now observe,
I. That Job, in his prosperity, had contracted a friendship with them. If they were his equals, yet he had not that jealousy of them—if his inferiors, yet he had not that disdain of them, which was any hindrance to an intimate converse and correspondence with them. to have such friends added more to his happiness in the day of his prosperity than all the head of cattle he was master of. Much of the comfort of this life lies in acquaintance and friendship with those that are prudent and virtuous; and he that has a few such friends ought to value them highly. Job’s three friends are supposed to have been all of them of the posterity of Abraham, which, for some descents, even in the families that were shut out from the covenant of peculiarity, retained some good fruits of that pious education which the father of the faithful gave to those under his charge. Eliphaz descended from Teman, the grandson of Esau (Gen. 36:11), Bildad (it is probable) from Shuah, Abraham’s son by Keturah, Gen. 25:2. Zophar is thought by some to be the same with Zepho, a descendant from Esau, Gen. 26:11. The preserving of so much wisdom and piety among those that were strangers to the covenants of promise was a happy presage of God’s grace to the Gentiles, when the partition-wall should in the latter days be taken down. Esau was rejected; yet many that came from him inherited some of the best blessings.
II. That they continued their friendship with Job in his adversity, when most of his friends had forsaken him, Job 19:14. In two ways they showed their friendship:—
1. By the kind visit they paid him in his affliction, to mourn with him and to comfort him, Job 2:11. Probably they had been wont to visit him in his prosperity, not to hunt or hawk with him, not to dance or play at cards with him, but to entertain and edify themselves with his learned and pious converse; and now that he was in adversity they come to share with him in his griefs, as formerly they had come to share with him in his comforts. These were wise men, whose heart was in the house of mourning, Eccl. 7:4. Visiting the afflicted, sick or sore, fatherless or childless, in their sorrow, is made a branch of pure religion and undefiled (Jas. 1:27), and, if done from a good principle, will be abundantly recompensed shortly, Matt. 25:36.
(1.) By visiting the sons and daughters of affliction we may contribute to the improvement, [1.] Of our own graces; for many a good lesson is to be learned from the troubles of others; we may look upon them and receive instruction, and be made wise and serious. [2.] Of their comforts. By putting a respect upon them we encourage them, and some good word may be spoken to them which may help to make them easy. Job’s friends came, not to satisfy their curiosity with an account of his troubles and the strangeness of the circumstances of them, much less, as David’s false friends, to make invidious remarks upon him (Ps. 41:6-8), but to mourn with him, to mingle their tears with his, and so to comfort him. It is much more pleasant to visit those in affliction to whom comfort belongs than those to whom we must first speak conviction.
(2.) Concerning these visitants observe, [1.] That they were not sent for, but came of their own accord (Job 6:22), whence Mr. Caryl observes that it is good manners to be an unbidden guest at the house of mourning, and, in comforting our friends, to anticipate their invitations. [2.] That they made an appointment to come. Note, Good people should make appointments among themselves for doing good, so exciting and binding one another to it, and assisting and encouraging one another in it. For the carrying on of any pious design let hand join in hand. [3.] That they came with a design (and we have reason to think it was a sincere design) to comfort him, and yet proved miserable comforters, through their unskilful management of his case. Many that aim well do, by mistake, come short of their aim.
2. By their tender sympathy with him and concern for him in his affliction. When they saw him at some distance he was so disfigured and deformed with his sores that they knew him not, Job 2:12. His face was foul with weeping (Job 16:16), like Jerusalem’s Nazarites, which had been ruddy as the rubies, but were now blacker than a coal, Lam. 4:7, 8. What a change will a sore disease, or, without that, oppressing care and grief, make in the countenance, in a little time! Isa. this Naomi? Ruth 1:19. So, Isa. this Job? How hast thou fallen! How is thy glory stained and sullied, and all thy honour laid in the dust! God fits us for such changes! Observing him thus miserably altered, they did not leave him, in a fright or loathing, but expressed so much the more tenderness towards him. (1.) Coming to mourn with him, they vented their undissembled grief in all the then usual expressions of that passion. They wept aloud; the sight of them (as is usual) revived Job’s grief, and set him a weeping afresh, which fetched floods of tears from their eyes. They rent their clothes, and sprinkled dust upon their heads, as men that would strip themselves, and abase themselves, with their friend that was stripped and abased. (2.) Coming to comfort him, they sat down with him upon the ground, for so he received visits; and they, not in compliment to him, but in true compassion, put themselves into the same humble and uneasy place and posture. They had many a time, it is likely, sat with him on his couches and at his table, in his prosperity, and were therefore willing to share with him in his grief and poverty because they had shared with him in his joy and plenty. It was not a modish short visit that they made him, just to look upon him and be gone; but, as those that could have had no enjoyment of themselves if they had returned to their place while their friend was in so much misery, they resolved to stay with him till they saw him mend or end, and therefore took lodgings near him, though he was not now able to entertain them as he had done, and they must therefore bear their own charges. Every day, for seven days together, at the house in which he admitted company, they came and sat with him, as his companions in tribulation, and exceptions from that rule, Nullus ad amissas ibit amicus opes—Those who have lost their wealth are not to expect the visits of their friends. They sat with him, but none spoke a word to him, only they all attended to the particular narratives he gave of his troubles. They were silent, as men astonished and amazed. Curae leves loquuntur, ingentes stupent—Our lighter griefs have a voice; those which are more oppressive are mute.
So long a time they held their peace, to show A reverence due to such prodigious woe.—Sir R. BLACKMORE. They spoke not a word to him, whatever they said one to another, by way of instruction, for the improvement of the present providence. They said nothing to that purport to which afterwards they said much—nothing to grieve him (Job 4:2), because they saw his grief was very great already, and they were loth at first to add affliction to the afflicted. There is a time to keep silence, when either the wicked is before us, and by speaking we may harden them (Ps. 39:1), or when by speaking we may offend the generation of God’s children, Ps. 73:15. Their not entering upon the following solemn discourses till the seventh day may perhaps intimate that it was the sabbath day, which doubtless was observed in the patriarchal age, and to that day they adjourned the intended conference, because probably then company resorted, as usual, to Job’s house, to join with him in his devotions, who might be edified by the discourse. Or, rather, by their silence so long they would intimate that what they afterwards said was well considered and digested and the result of many thoughts. The heart of the wise studies to answer. We should think twice before we speak once, especially in such a case as this, think long, and we shall be the better able to speak short and to the purpose.