Job 5:17-21 – Accept Suffering as the Discipline of the Almighty
SummaryEliphaz suggests that suffering may have a positive value. It may be God's way to exert discipline, gain our attention, or persuade us to change our ways before greater damage is done.
AnalysisProbably the two most common biblical ways to explain suffering are through the law of retribution for sin or by arguing that it is God's way to teach the sufferer something that will be helpful in the long run. Already, in his first speech, Eliphaz has used them both. When one is immersed in the pain of immediate suffering, it may be too difficult to see any greater good that can come from it, but time may show that "it was for your own good." Later in the book, the fourth counselor, Elihu, will also use this interpretation of Job's suffering.
The idea that suffering leads to some greater good occurs elsewhere in the Old Testament, as at the end of the Joseph story (Genesis 50:15-21). It is very common in the New Testament, especially in the epistles, as a way to make sense out of the death of Jesus and the persecution of the early Christians (see Romans 5:1-5 and Hebrews 12:3-11).