Gospel News · January - April 2019

secret sinner who had now been caught out by
Divine judgment and unless he admitted that,
he was going to die. They developed an image
of ‘Job’ in their minds as a self righteous, im-
penitent hypocrite and their dialogue with him
was controlled by that
image. So convinced
were they that their
image was correct that
they twisted his every
word to confirm to
that image. They ‘felt’
things about what he
was saying which were
untrue. Thus: “Why are
we counted as animals,
which have become un-
clean in your sight?”
(18:3). Job has not
treated them as ani-
mals. They have them-
selves proclaimed all
men as ‘unclean’ by
birth (15:14), and yet
they decide Job has
called them unclean
and they object to it.
They transfer their feelings about themselves
back onto him. They may posit that all men
are unclean, including themselves; but if Job
is even supposed to have said this then he is
to be condemned. This again is an example to
us of what happens when dialogue goes wrong.
The dialogues begin and end with Job and the
friends in silence. The implication is that all
that was said had been better not said.
They decide Job must have committed various
sins; and what began in their minds as suspi-
cion became for them absolute truth about
him. They insist he must have refused help to
the poor, which was the opposite of how Job
had been (29:12 cp. 20:19). Job engages with
what Bildad says about this and denies it
(29:12; 31:17). Their obsession with their
straw man image of Job leads them to keep
droning on about things like the greatness of
God, which Job is not at all in disagreement
with. And so their arguments contribute noth-
ing to actual understanding of each other. We
see the same today. One party goes on at
length about a position which their opponent
agrees with, because they are failing to under-
stand ‘the other’, but are arguing against a
straw man position.
Not engaging with what’s been said
As the speeches of the friends continue, they
engage less and less with Job’s actual words;
although he does with theirs. They argue
against their perceptions of his position, ignor-
ing him as a person and the actual words he
says, and dealing in vague generalities. This
again is typical of the breakdown in meaning-
ful dialogue which we see all around us,
whereby the participants become confirmed
in their positions and build up an image of
their opponent in their mind which gets
progressively awful and also the more con-
firmed as true in their view.
In Job 18, Bildad doesn’t even engage with
Job’s words, but rather just vents his anger in
this speech, threatening Job with all manner
of condemnation; and the longer he rants on,
the more convinced he becomes that Job is
~ continued ...
Editorial | To Understand Each Other