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The Ministry of Consolation.
pp. 59 - 61
The word sympathy does not occur in the A.V., but that is not to say that it does not
occur in Scripture. Sympathy is a Greek word in English dress, and is composed of sun =
"with", and pathein = "to suffer". The LXX uses the word in Job 29: 25, and the
version of Symmachus uses it in Job 2: 11. Before turning to the N.T. it will help us to
take a note of these passages in Job:--
"Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they
came every one from his own place . . . . . for they had made an appointment together to
come and mourn with him and to comfort him" (Job 2: 11).
Here is sympathy. They came not only to comfort, but to share--"to mourn with
him", sym-pathy--"suffer or feel together". Further, they had the grace to keep their
sympathy in its right place, they did not obtrude. They did not come blustering into Job's
grief, slap him on the back and cry, "Cheerio!" It has been said that the pessimist is he
that is obliged to live with an optimist. These friends of Job seeing that his grief was
great sympathized with him:--
"So they sat down with him upon ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake
a word unto him; for they saw that his grief was very great" (2: 13).
Yet they failed; "miserable comforters are ye all" is Job's protest (16: 2). Wherein
did these worthy men fail? If we examine the utterances of these three friends we shall
find the fly in the ointment of their sympathy was that they could not refrain from
lecturing Job, from giving the benefit of their experience, from exasperating the facts of
his sorrow with their unfelt theories. Eliphaz's lecture is an expansion of the principle
that no innocent man can perish, that he who sows evil must reap it. The beauty and the
superficial truth of his speech is spoiled by the assumption that Job must have sinned in
secret. This was but added gall to Job's bitterness (4: & 5:). Job in his reply in 6: & 7:
likens his friends to a dried up brook, and speaks feelingly upon their lack of sympathetic
"Do ye reprove by fast'ning on my words,
When one in sheer despair (at random) speaks
Like to the wind?" (6: 26)
Human nature is much the same in all ages.
"I then, all smarting with my wounds being cold,
To be so pestered with a popinjay,
Out of my grief and my impatience,
Answered neglectingly, I know not what;
He should, or he should not . . . . .