Job was suffering, and his friends couldn't keep their mouths shut. They didn't have much capacity for suffering and couldn't just stay with him silently as he asked (16:2-3). Instead, they were compelled to try to make sense of it. Not that making sense of suffering is wrong, but it seems these friends were trying to avoid facing the most bitter element of his suffering: that all the loss was, by human standards, completely undeserved and inexplicable. These "friends" persisted in their view that Job must have done something wrong simply because it was the only way to fend off the destruction of their safe, ordered way of interpreting the world, and they couldn't handle life any other way. As a result, they also held a specific view of God: "Around God is awesome majesty. The Almighty - we cannot find him (out)" (37:23). He is untouchable, unreachable, beyond knowing. No one who lives can see him. No one can understand his ways. "Therefore mortals fear him; he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit" (37:24).
By the end of the book, however, we know these friends were "wise in their own conceit," evaluating Job wrongly as a sinner, and evaluating God wrongly as well. In the very next verse (38:1), the Almighty actually does make himself known, answering Job out of the whirlwind. In fact, he directly contradicts Job's friends' claims by regarding Job, who was (for different reasons than his friends) "wise in [his] own conceit." The Lord declares, "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man. I will question you" (38:2-3). In the ensuing interaction he declares his own awesome majesty and unsearchable wisdom, which Job's friends were pointing out, and, in the end, Job repents (42:6) and acknowledges that he has "uttered what [he] did not understand" (42:3). But even as God asserts his impenetrability, he offers a very different response than Job's friends. They were unable to suffer alongside Job and tried to find a reason for the suffering. God's only explanation was, in effect, "I don't need to explain myself to you." Yet in his presence Job was able to accept suffering without an explanation. Why? I think the key is in Job's final response to the LORD: "I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you" (42:5). When the Almighty cannot be found, suffering is beyond our capacity. But when he speaks, when he makes himself known to us and interacts with us personally, we are able to bear even what appears to have no cause and no meaning. And in the end it is Job who offers sacrifices and prayers for his friends - not because he understands God better, but because he has encountered God in the midst of his suffering.