This begins a third (and shortened) round of debate between Job and his three friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Through these three rounds, “A certain movement can be detected. In the first cycle the friends are content to talk generalities, without venturing to apply their doctrine directly to Job. In the second round the main theme is the fate of the wicked and Job’s point of view comes into open contradiction with that of his friends… Now it comes into the open and the breach between them is complete. Once this point is reached there can be no further dialogue, and the discussion grinds to a halt.” (Andersen)
A. Eliphaz attacks Job’s character.
1. (1-3) Eliphaz asks: “What good are you to God?”
Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said:
“Can a man be profitable to God,
Though he who is wise may be profitable to himself?
Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that you are righteous?
Or is it gain to Him that you make your ways blameless?”
a. Can a man be profitable to God, though he who is wise may be profitable to himself: Eliphaz heard all of Job’s anguished outpourings to God, and seemed to think that Job simply thought too highly of himself. He wondered why Job thought he was so special, so profitable to God, and why he thought God owed him so much.
i. “It is the now familiar unbalanced stress on divine transcendence: the concept that man is nothing in God’s eyes, even his virtue is useless. God does not need man; it is man who needs God. Since everything has its origin in God, man’s giving it back – even in service – does not enhance God in any way.” (Smick)
ii. “Is he not simply arguing the case for the self-sufficiency of God? God needs nothing; God lacks nothing. Since God is already absolutely perfect, He did not create man out of any personal deficiency or compulsion, and therefore man cannot give anything to God. This is standard orthodox doctrine.” (Mason)
b. Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that you are righteous: Eliphaz thought Job was arrogant, and believed himself to be a special favorite to God because (he thought that) he was so righteous. He wanted Job to consider that God needed nothing from him, and Job added nothing to God.
i. In one aspect, Eliphaz certainly had correct theology; God does not “need” Job in the way Job needs God. Nevertheless, Eliphaz’s application of this principle was wrong in this context, because it was indeed a pleasure to the Almighty that Job was righteous (as seen in Job 1-2). According to those first two chapters, it was indeed a gain to Him that Job made his ways blameless.
ii. Earlier (as recorded in Job 11), Zophar objected to Job’s complaint on what one might today call the grounds of Calvinistic or Reformed theology. Here, Eliphaz took up an argument upon similar lines. It was as if he said, “Job, God is sovereign and self-existent. He needs nothing of you and owes you absolutely nothing. God takes no pleasure in your imperfect righteousness and it is no gain to Him that you are considered blameless.” Though there is certainly some merit in this theology, it does not apply to every context and it did not apply to Job in his context.
2. (4-11) Eliphaz describes Job’s great wickedness.
“Is it because of your fear of Him that He corrects you,
And enters into judgment with you?
Is not your wickedness great,
And your iniquity without end?
For you have taken pledges from your brother for no reason,
And stripped the naked of their clothing.
You have not given the weary water to drink,
And you have withheld bread from the hungry.
But the mighty man possessed the land,
And the honorable man dwelt in it.
You have sent widows away empty,
And the strength of the fatherless was crushed.
Therefore snares are all around you,
And sudden fear troubles you,
Or darkness so that you cannot see;
And an abundance of water covers you.”
a. Is it because of your fear of Him that He corrects you: Eliphaz pressed the point home to Job. Surely, the catastrophe that came upon Job (which Eliphaz lightly called “correction”) did not come because Job feared God; it came because Job’s wickedness was great and his iniquity was without end.
i. “He no longer believed that Job was basically a God-fearing man. Job’s troubles were God’s rebuke. That they were great testified to the extent of his sin. So Eliphaz felt free, perhaps obligated, to expound on the possible nature of those sins.” (Smick)
ii. What Eliphaz did not, and seemingly could not consider, was that Job’s crisis had nothing to do with correction; it had nothing to do with the Almighty entering into judgment with Job. Because he could not see the heavenly drama that took place in Job Chapters 1 and 2, Eliphaz simply could not conceive of other reasons.
b. For you have taken pledges from your brother for no reason, and stripped the naked of their clothing: This begins a remarkable list of groundless accusations against Job. He accused Job mainly of greed and cruelty for the sake of riches. None of this was true, but Eliphaz assumed it was because Job was once rich and was now beset by such tragedy. The only evidence he could offer was Job’s condition, and he could not think of another possible explanation for Job’s crisis.
i. “They were the most dastardly sins possible to a man of wealth and position: those of the spoliation of the poor, neglect of the starving, the oppression of the helpless.” (Morgan)
ii. The mighty man: Literally, “the man of arm. Finger, hand, and arm, are all emblems of strength and power. The man of arm is not only the strong man, but the man of power and influence, the man of rapine and plunder.” (Clarke)
c. Therefore snares are all around you, and sudden fear troubles you: Eliphaz again stated this simple formula that dominated the analyses of Job’s friends.
B. Eliphaz attacks Job’s theology.
1. (12-20) A contrast between the wicked and the righteous.
“Is not God in the height of heaven?
And see the highest stars, how lofty they are!
And you say, ‘What does God know?
Can He judge through the deep darkness?
Thick clouds cover Him, so that He cannot see,
And He walks above the circle of heaven.’
Will you keep to the old way
Which wicked men have trod,
Who were cut down before their time,
Whose foundations were swept away by a flood?
They said to God, ‘Depart from us!
What can the Almighty do to them?’
Yet He filled their houses with good things;
But the counsel of the wicked is far from me.”
“The righteous see it and are glad,
And the innocent laugh at them:
‘Surely our adversaries are cut down,
And the fire consumes their remnant.’”
a. Is not God in the height of heaven: Here, Eliphaz instructed Job in the basics of theology. He thought that because Job would not admit his error, he must be fundamentally wrong in his understanding of God. So he begins with the basic idea of the might, majesty, and sovereignty of God.
b. Will you keep to the old way which wicked men have trod: Eliphaz warned Job to not harden his heart and mind as those did who were swept away by a flood. This is possibly an obscure reference to the flood in Noah’s time, and Eliphaz warned Job to not follow in the wickedness of those antedelluvian people.
i. “Sarcastically, he asks Job if he plans to continue going in the wrong direction – along the path of the wicked. He says this same path that Job is now traveling led to the drowning of an entire generation in Noah’s day ‘by a river,’ a reference to the Flood.” (Lawson)
ii. John Trapp suggested another idea: “This some understand of that river of brimstone and fire poured from heaven upon Sodom and her sisters; but better take it of those in Noah’s days.”
iii. “The oft-used images of darkness and flood of water are also applied to Job, for these are the best examples of God’s judgment, even though they do not match the events of chapters 1 and 2.” (Andersen)
c. The righteous see it and are glad: In contrast to the previously mentioned wicked men, the righteous are happy for the judgments of God. This was another way for Eliphaz to say that Job was wicked and not righteous, because he did not rejoice in the judgments of God.
2. (21-30) Eliphaz counsels Job to make himself right with God.
“Now acquaint yourself with Him, and be at peace;
Thereby good will come to you.
Receive, please, instruction from His mouth,
And lay up His words in your heart.
If you return to the Almighty, you will be built up;
You will remove iniquity far from your tents.
Then you will lay your gold in the dust,
And the gold of Ophir among the stones of the brooks.
Yes, the Almighty will be your gold
And your precious silver;
For then you will have your delight in the Almighty,
And lift up your face to God.
You will make your prayer to Him,
He will hear you,
And you will pay your vows.
You will also declare a thing,
And it will be established for you;
So light will shine on your ways.
When they cast you down, and you say, ‘Exaltation will come!’
Then He will save the humble person.
He will even deliver one who is not innocent;
Yes, he will be delivered by the purity of your hands.”
a. Now acquaint yourself with Him, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you: This was great advice for Job, assuming that the problem was sin in Job’s life. Yet we know (on the basis of Job 1-2) that this assumption was wrong, and therefore the advice was wrong.
i. “These words introduce a most exquisite picture of the blessings consequent on return to God. They do not fit the case of Job, to whom they were addressed, because he had not left God; and they sound strange coming from the mouth of Eliphaz. Still they are full of sublime truth.” (Meyer)
ii. We can say that Eliphaz was right about the need of man to acquaint himself with God. “What a man needs in order to be blessed himself, and to be a blessing to others, is knowledge of God… In Him there shall be delight: with Him communion: and through Him triumph. Moreover the result will be ability to deliver others.” (Morgan)
b. For then you will have your delight in the Almighty: Eliphaz assumed much, because Job was agonizing with God instead of finding delight in Him. Job’s agony with God was a real, though temporary phenomenon.
i. “To the Almighty; or, home to the Almighty; or, so as to reach the Almighty and be joined to him. The Hebrew phrase is extraordinary, and emphatical, and implies a thorough and effectual turning not only from sin… but also unto God, so as to love him, and cleave to him.” (Poole)
ii. And lift up your face to God: In a sermon titled Delight in the Almighty, Charles Spurgeon explained what this means.
· It means to have joy in God. “When a man hangs his head down he is unhappy: it is the attitude of misery; but oh, when our thoughts of God are changed, and our relationship to God is different, we lift up our faces and sun our countenances in the light of God’s favor.”
· It means to have guilt put away. “Guilt makes a man hang his head. “Conscience doth make cowards of us all”; but oh, my brothers, when the atoning sacrifice has come with all its power to us, when we are washed in the blood of the Lamb, and we are clean every whit, then we lift up our face unto God.”
· It means to be free from fear. “Fear covers her face, and would fain hide herself altogether, even though to accomplish concealment the rocks must fall upon her.”
· It means to have expectation. “Oh, to lift one’s face toward God, looking for deliverance, safety, and rest, and expecting both grace and glory from his right hand!”
c. So light will shine on your ways… He will save the humble person: For Eliphaz and his friends, the equation was rather simple. All Job needed to do was to confess the deep and great sins that had brought this calamity upon his life, and then receive God’s restoration.
i. “It is a tribute to his own spirituality that, whereas in Job 5:17-26 he had emphasized the material advantages of religion, here intimacy with God and success in prayer are of chief importance. While it is hurtful to remember that Job has already made these his supreme values, the irony will be felt at the end when Eliphaz will be the chief beneficiary of Job’s power as an intercessor (Job 42:8).” (Andersen)
ii. “Great and wonderful words are these. Had Eliphaz applied them to himself he would have found that his own imperfect acquaintance with God was the reason why he was not able to bring any real comfort to his suffering friend.” (Morgan)
iii. “Thus ends Eliphaz the Temanite, who began with a tissue of the bitterest charges, continued with the most cruel insinuations, and ended with common-place exhortations to repentance, and promises of secular blessings in consequence.” (Clarke)
©2019 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission