Is suffering caused by sin?

2,000 years ago, Jesus walked by a man who had been blind since birth and his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind? ”Think about the assumption behind that question. The disciples assumed the blindness was a punishment. Is blindness a punishment? Or to broaden that question into today’s topic, when we suffer, does that mean we are being punished?

Thanks for watching this episode of Bible Mountain dotcom. This is the sixth episode in a series on the book of Job called “Why do People Suffer?”. Today we’re going to study Job chapters 4 and 5 and answer the question: Is suffering caused by sin? Let’s start with some context.

ChartThe Old Testament covers the time period from the beginning of time up until about 400 BC. Within the Old Testament, the first book is Genesis which covers the time period from the beginning of time up until about 2000 BC. Also within the Old Testament is the book of Job which tells us about some events that took place in the life of Job. The Bible doesn’t tell us when Job lived, but Job’s lifestyle indicates he probably lived sometime around 2000 BC.

The first five verses of the book of Job introduce us to Job the man, telling us he was blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he was very wealthy. The rest of chapter one tells us Satan was allowed to test Job’s loyalty to God by taking away all of Job’s possessions. Even though Job’s children were killed and he lost all his possessions, he did not sin nor charge God with wrong. Job 2:1-10 tell us Satan was allowed to test Job a second time by covering his body chartwith boils from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head. Even though Job was in agony and his wife encouraged him to curse God and die, Job did not curse God, nor did he sin with his lips. The rest of chapter two tells us Job’s three friends visited Job to sympathize with him and comfort him. They sat with Job for seven days with no one saying a word. The third chapter tells us Job broke the silence and spoke first.

Job’s words are recorded in poetical form, so let’s review Hebrew poetry by contrasting it with English poetry. English poetry is all about rhyme. Roses are red, Violets are blue, Sugar is sweet, And so are you. You rhymes with blue. This is typical English poetry. English poetry is all about rhyme. Hebrew poetry is all about parallelism. There is synonymous parallelism in which the same idea is stated two or more times using different words. There is antithetic parallelism in which two thoughts are contrasted. And there is synthetic parallelism in which an idea is stated and then expanded. Because of all the repetition, a Hebrew poem can be summarized in just a few statements.

Job’s speech recorded in Job chapter 3 can be summarized in about six statements. Job said, “Let the day perish on which I was to be born, Because it did not shut the opening of my mother’s womb. Why did I not die at birth? For now I would have lain down and been quiet; Or like a miscarriage which is discarded, I would not be. Why is light given to him who suffers?” The bulk of chapter three indicates Job was feeling sorry for himself and wanted to die.

Towards the end he asked a question that has been pondered throughout all of human history: “Why is light given to him who suffers?” In other words, if people are going to suffer, why do they exist? Would they not be better off dead? That is how Job was feeling about his life: if he was going to suffer the way he was suffering, would he not be better off dead?

So that is a summary of the first three chapters of Job. When Job was finished, Eliphaz spoke. Notice the width of the yellow block. Eliphaz’s speech is two chapters long: Job chapters 4 and 5. This is our passage for today. Let’s start at Job 4:1.

Job 4:1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered,

Notice the word answered. Eliphaz was responding to Job’s lament in chapter 3 about his suffering and his desire to be dead.

Job 4:2 “If one ventures a word with you, will you become impatient?

But who can refrain from speaking?

The word ventures indicates Eliphaz was a bit hesitant to respond to Job. He was hesitant because he was afraid Job would be impatient. However, Eliphaz felt compelled to speak.

Job 4:3 “Behold you have admonished many,

And you have strengthened weak hands.

Job 4:4 “Your words have helped the tottering to stand,

And you have strengthened feeble knees.

Notice the synonymous parallelism in verses 3 and 4. Each line essentially says the same thing in different ways: Eliphaz reminded Job he used to help those in need.

Job 4:5 “But now it has come to you, and you are impatient;

It touches you, and you are dismayed.

Notice the word “but”. This indicates some antithetical parallelism. Verse 5 is a contrast to verses 3 and 4. Job had seen many people suffer over the years as indicated in verses 3 and 4, but now he was suffering and he was impatient. Eliphaz rebuked Job’s attitude toward his suffering.

Job 4:6 “Is not your fear of God your confidence,

And the integrity of your ways your hope?

Notice the connection between Job’s confidence/hope, and his fear of God and integrity. Job had confidence and hope because he feared God and had integrity. However, notice Eliphaz worded this as a question. It appears Eliphaz was questioning whether or not Job truly did have integrity. That brings us to verse 7. Everything Eliphaz said up to this point was merely a warm up. Verse 7 is where Eliphaz started speaking what was really on his mind.

Job 4:7 “Remember now, who ever perished being innocent?

Or where were the upright destroyed?

Job 4:8 “According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity

And those who sow trouble harvest it.

Basically, Eliphaz said only guilty people suffer; therefore, since Job was suffering, he must have done something wrong. Let me make a short comment about inerrancy. Inerrancy means the authors of the Bible inerrantly recorded what happened and what was said. That doesn’t mean everything you read is true because sometimes inerrancy means the author accurately recorded a lie or a false teaching. In this case Eliphaz was not inspired, the author of Job was inspired. The author of Job inerrantly recorded what Eliphaz said, but that doesn’t mean Eliphaz was correct. At the end we will discuss whether or not Eliphaz was correct.

Job 4:9 “By the breath of God they perish,

And by the blast of His anger they come to an end.

Job 4:10 “The roaring of the lion and the voice of the fierce lion,

And the teeth of the young lions are broken.

Job 4:11 “The lion perishes for lack of prey,

And the whelps of the lioness are scattered.

The pronoun “they” refers to those who plow iniquity or sow trouble. Verses 9 through 11 are synthetic parallelism. They add to the concept presented in verse 8. Verse 8 is the idea that those who sow trouble harvest it. Verses 9 through 11 basically say those who sow trouble are punished by God, the implication being Job was being punished by God because of sin. Verses 12 through 16 talk about a vision Eliphaz claims he saw.

Job 4:12 “Now a word was brought to me stealthily,

And my ear received a whisper of it.

Job 4:13 “Amid disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night,

When deep sleep falls on men,

Job 4:14 Dread came upon me, and trembling,

And made all my bones shake.

Job 4:15 “Then a spirit passed by my face;

The hair of my flesh bristled up.

Job 4:16 “It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance;

A form was before my eyes;

There was silence, then I heard a voice:

Job 4:17 ‘Can mankind be just before God?

Can a man be pure before his Maker?

This is actually a very good question. Can mankind be just before God? The answer is no. Next, Eliphaz expanded on this.

Job 4:18 ‘God puts no trust even in His servants;

And against His angels He charges error.

Job 4:19 ‘How much more those who dwell in houses of clay,

Whose foundation is in the dust,

Who are crushed before the moth!

Job 4:20 ‘Between morning and evening they are broken in pieces;

Unobserved, they perish forever.

Job 4:21 ‘Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them?

They die, yet without wisdom.’

Again, Eliphaz had a point, however, he intended to prove Job had sinned, but according to his logic, every human on earth should be suffering all the time because none of us is ever pure before God. The fact that not everyone is suffering all the time means this argument does not prove Job was sinning. Chapter five, verse one: Eliphaz continued arguing that people suffer because they are sinning.

Job 5:1 “Call now, is there anyone who will answer you?

And to which of the holy ones will you turn?

Job 5:2 “For anger slays the foolish man,

And jealousy kills the simple.

Job 5:3 “I have seen the foolish taking root,

And I cursed his abode immediately.

Job 5:4 “His sons are far from safety,

They are even oppressed in the gate,

And there is no deliverer.

Job 5:5 “His harvest the hungry devour

And take it to a place of thorns,

And the schemer is eager for their wealth.

Job 5:6 “For affliction does not come from the dust,

Nor does trouble sprout from the ground,

Job 5:7 For man is born for trouble,

As sparks fly upward.

These two verses summarize Eliphaz’s philosophy: “For affliction does not come from the dust, Nor does trouble sprout from the ground, For man is born for trouble, As sparks fly upward.” Again, the implication is Job was suffering because he had sinned. Starting in verse eight, Eliphaz began giving advice.

Job 5:8 “But as for me, I would seek God,

And I would place my cause before God;

Notice Eliphaz’s description of God in the following verses. Remember, Eliphaz was not inspired so he was not necessarily correct in what he said, inerrancy simply means the author accurately recorded what Eliphaz said.

Job 5:9 God does great and unsearchable things,

Wonders without number.

Job 5:10 “He gives rain on the earth

And sends water on the fields,

Job 5:11 So that He sets on high those who are lowly,

And those who mourn are lifted to safety.

Job 5:12 “He frustrates the plotting of the shrewd,

So that their hands cannot attain success.

Job 5:13 “He captures the wise by their own shrewdness,

And the advice of the cunning is quickly thwarted.

Job 5:14 “By day they, the cunning, meet with darkness,

And grope at noon as in the night.

Job 5:15 “But He saves from the sword of their mouth,

And the poor from the hand of the mighty.

Job 5:16 “So the helpless has hope,

And unrighteousness must shut its mouth.

Verse 17 is Eliphaz’s final bit of advice.

Job 5:17 “Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves,

So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.

Eliphaz told Job to not despise the discipline of the Almighty. In the following verses, notice all the good benefits that supposedly would accrue to Job if he would repent.

Job 5:18 “For God inflicts pain, and gives relief;

He wounds, and His hands also heal.

Job 5:19 “From six troubles He will deliver you,

Even in seven evil will not touch you.

Job 5:20 “In famine He will redeem you from death,

And in war from the power of the sword.

Job 5:21 “You will be hidden from the scourge of the tongue,

And you will not be afraid of violence when it comes.

Job 5:22 “You will laugh at violence and famine,

And you will not be afraid of wild beasts.

Job 5:23 “For you will be in league with the stones of the field,

And the beasts of the field will be at peace with you.

Job 5:24 “You will know that your tent is secure,

For you will visit your abode and fear no loss.

Job 5:25 “You will know also that your descendants will be many,

And your offspring as the grass of the earth.

Job 5:26 “You will come to the grave in full vigor,

Like the stacking of grain in its season.

Notice how many times Eliphaz said to Job, “You will …. You will laugh, you will not be afraid, you will know, etc.” Eliphaz promised Job would prosper if he repented. Once again, remember Eliphaz was not speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit so what he said is not necessarily true.

Job 5:27 “Behold this; we have investigated it, and so it is.

Hear it, and know for yourself.”

And that is the end of Eliphaz’s speech. Let’s review Eliphaz’s main message.

Job 4:7-8 “Remember now, who ever perished being innocent?

Or where were the upright destroyed?

According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity

And those who sow trouble harvest it.”

Job 5:6-7 “For affliction does not come from the dust,

Nor does trouble sprout from the ground,

For man is born for trouble, As sparks fly upward.

Is this true? Is it true that suffering is an indicator that someone has sinned? In Job’s case it was not true. Consider Job 1:8.

Job 1:8. The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”

This is Yahweh Himself praising Job’s righteousness. Obviously, Job’s suffering was not the result of sin.

Job 2:3 The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.”

Again, this is Yahweh Himself praising Job’s righteousness. Job’s story is proof that suffering does not necessarily indicate that someone has sinned. Having said that, let’s look at the opposite argument.

2Chr. 26:16 But when King Uzziah became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God, for he entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.

Only priests were allowed to burn incense in the temple.

2Chr. 26:20 Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous on his forehead; and they hurried him out of there, and he himself also hastened to get out because the LORD had smitten him.

Notice it clearly says Yahweh had smitten Uzziah.

2Chr. 26:21 King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death;

This is a clear example of a person suffering because of his sin. Here’s another example.

1Cor. 11:27-30 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.

In the case of the Corinthians, some of them were weak, sick, and dead due to sin.

So, we have evidence that sometimes suffering and sickness are the result of sin. So, how do we know? When we are suffering, how do we know whether or not there is some sin in our life we need to address?

This may sound simplistic, but it’s true. We need to know the Bible. If a person is Biblically illiterate, then when suffering comes he is just guessing whether or not there is some sin he needs to address. On the other hand, if a person knows the Bible, then when suffering comes and he starts to question his righteousness, he has objective, written criteria to evaluate himself and come to a correct conclusion.

One last thought: ultimately, our health and comfort is not the indicator of our righteousness or lack thereof. In other words, sometimes suffering is the result of sin and sometimes it is not; therefore, we shouldn’t wait for suffering to come to evaluate our own righteousness. Instead, the Bible is the indicator of our righteousness or lack thereof; therefore, we need to constantly study the Bible so that we can correctly evaluate our own righteousness and take corrective action.


“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”


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