Job 4 – The First Speech of Eliphaz
This begins a long section in the Book of Job where Job’s friends counsel him and he answers them. His friends speak in more or less three rounds, with each speech followed by a reply from Job. At the end of these speeches, God answers Job and his friends and settles the matter.
A. The opening comments of Eliphaz.
1. (1-6) Eliphaz calls upon Job to remember the advice he has given to others as a helper of the weak.
Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said:
“If one attempts a word with you, will you become weary?
But who can withhold himself from speaking?
Surely you have instructed many,
And you have strengthened weak hands.
Your words have upheld him who was stumbling,
And you have strengthened the feeble knees;
But now it comes upon you, and you are weary;
It touches you, and you are troubled.
Is not your reverence your confidence?
And the integrity of your ways your hope?”
a. Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered: Eliphaz was from Teman, an Edomite city that was known as a center of wisdom (Jeremiah 49:7).
b. If one attempts a word with you, will you become weary: With this tactful beginning, Eliphaz began his speech. We may say that he had earned the right to speak to Job, because in a remarkable display of friendship, he sat wordless with Job through a whole week to show his sympathy and brotherhood with the afflicted man (Job 2:11-13).
c. But who can withhold himself from speaking: Eliphaz felt compelled to speak; his love and concern for Job strongly motivated him to help his suffering friend. Nevertheless, it will be later found that the advice of Eliphaz and the rest of Job’s counselors was wrong (Job 42:7-8).
d. Surely you have instructed many… now it comes upon you, and you are weary: Eliphaz began to confront Job with what he saw as his problem. This took a great deal of courage on the part of Eliphaz; he was the first one to speak, and he spoke to a man with an enviable reputation for godliness and one suffering from terrible calamity.
i. Yet he pointed at this apparent contradiction in Job’s lament recorded in the previous chapter: That this man who had taught and comforted many in their time of need now seems to despair in his own time of need.
ii. “Already there is insinuation that Job is unable to apply to himself what he preached to others.” (Andersen)
iii. “This is galling. But hitherto Eliphaz had commended Job; now he dasheth all, and draweth a black line over that he had spoken once. To commend a man with a but is a wound instead of a commendation… it sprinkleth black upon white, and so smutteth a man’s good name, which is slander in a high degree.” (Trapp)
e. Is not your reverence your confidence: This has the idea of, “Job, does not your despair show that you have lost confidence in your reverence and lost hope in the integrity of your ways?”
i. “Men are best known by affliction, and this now showeth of what metal thou art made; for now thou doth cast off thy fear of God, and all thy confidence and hope in him.” (Trapp)
ii. This begins a section where Eliphaz (and others) will try to make Job see that his problems have come upon him because of some sin on his part, and that he should confess and repent of his sin in order to be restored.
iii. Eliphaz began on the basis of Job’s complaint as recorded in Job 3. He reasoned that Job would not complain in this way unless he was in some way guilty; that his guilty conscience was the root of his suffering. As it turned out, this was a false assumption. Job’s complaint was simply the cry of a life in pain and not because Job consciously or unconsciously understood that he deserved this calamity because of his sin.
2. (7-11) Eliphaz explains what he believed to be the source of Job’s troubles.
“Remember now, who ever perished being innocent?
Or where were the upright ever cut off?
Even as I have seen,
Those who plow iniquity
And sow trouble reap the same.
By the blast of God they perish,
And by the breath of His anger they are consumed.
The roaring of the lion,
The voice of the fierce lion,
And the teeth of the young lions are broken.
The old lion perishes for lack of prey,
And the cubs of the lioness are scattered.”
a. Who ever perished being innocent: Here Eliphaz came to the heart of his argument. He boldly said that Job was guilty of some sin because the innocent do not suffer as he had, and the upright are not cut off as he was.
i. In this context, cut off means to be forsaken by God and goodness. Later in Israel, it would often mean to be executed.
b. Those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same: Eliphaz spoke convincingly from his own experience (Even as I have seen). Job was reaping trouble, so he must have plowed sin (iniquity) and sown the seeds of trouble.
i. The counsel of Eliphaz is full of common sense and rooted in his own observations and experience. We might even say that it is mostly true and can be commonly seen as true. Nevertheless, we also know that in Job’s case he was wrong, and this was the wrong counsel (remembering God’s assessment of Eliphaz and Job’s counselors in Job 42:7).
ii. Many people today believe the counsel of Eliphaz and believe it as an absolute spiritual law instead of a general principle. Some take the passage from Galatians 6:7: Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. Yet it is important to understand the context of Paul’s statement, which was encouragement and exhortation for Christians to give materially for the support of their ministers. It is true that the principle of Galatians 6:7 has application beyond giving and supporting teachers and ministers. It has a general application in life; what we get out is often what we put in. Yet Paul did not promote some law of spiritual karma that ensures we will get good when we do good things or always get bad when we do bad things. If there were such an absolute spiritual law, it would surely damn us all. Instead, Paul simply related the principle of sowing and reaping to the way we manage our resources before the Lord. He used the same picture in 1 Corinthians 9:11 and 2 Corinthians 9:6-10.
iii. Job and his friends have built their whole life on the belief that God helps the good and hinders the bad; that in fact God can be seen as morally good in the affairs of men. “The friends must infer from Job’s suffering that he has sinned; Job must infer from his innocence that God is unjust.” (Andersen)
c. By the blast of God they perish: Eliphaz here clearly implied that Job’s suffering came as the judgment of God against him; that the breath of His anger burned against Job.
i. The idea is also that the mere breath of His anger is enough to destroy God’s foes. “He puts himself to no great pain to punish them; but blows them away as so many dust-heaps.” (Trapp)
d. The teeth of the young lions are broken: Eliphaz painted the picture of how strong the anger of God is, that it is strong enough to humble and defeat even strong young lions. The idea is that the anger of God has also brought Job low.
B. A revelation regarding the frailty of man.
1. (12-16) A spirit comes to Eliphaz by night.
“Now a word was secretly brought to me,
And my ear received a whisper of it.
In disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night,
When deep sleep falls on men,
Fear came upon me, and trembling,
Which made all my bones shake.
Then a spirit passed before my face;
The hair on my body stood up.
It stood still,
But I could not discern its appearance.
A form was before my eyes;
There was silence;
Then I heard a voice saying:
a. A word was secretly brought to me: Eliphaz claimed that he received this word in a dream, when deep sleep falls on men, and he received it by a spirit that passed before his face in his dream.
i. “Eliphaz bolstered the authority of his words by an appeal to the supernatural – an eerie and hair-raising experience in which he received a divine oracle.” (Smick)
b. A spirit passed before my face: The words in the following section came to Eliphaz from this strange and mysterious spirit.
i. “Whether it came from heaven or hell, we know not, for its communication shows and rankles a wound, without providing a cure.” (Clarke)
2. (17-21) What the spirit said.
‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God?
Can a man be more pure than his Maker?
If He puts no trust in His servants,
If He charges His angels with error,
How much more those who dwell in houses of clay,
Whose foundation is in the dust,
Who are crushed before a moth?
They are broken in pieces from morning till evening;
They perish forever, with no one regarding.
Does not their own excellence go away?
They die, even without wisdom.’“
a. Can a mortal be more righteous than God: Eliphaz called attention to the common sinfulness of man. The idea is clear: “Job, we all sin. There is no great shame in admitting that you have sinned and that is why this calamity has come upon you.”
b. If He charges His angels with error, how much more those who dwell in houses of clay: Eliphaz made this interesting comment to point out man’s spiritual and moral frailty. He noted that even angels had fallen into error, therefore it should surprise no one that man – including Job – has also fallen into error.
i. This statement hit closer to the real truth than Eliphaz could know. It was one of these angels charged with error – Satan himself – who was the real cause of Job’s calamity. Satan also led a large number of angelic beings into rebellion against God (Revelation 12:4, 12:9). The Bible also says that in the age to come, redeemed man will in some way judge these fallen angels (1 Corinthians 6:3). Eliphaz was correct on this point: He charges His angels with error.
ii. “It is all very beautiful, but absolutely short-sighted. Eliphaz had no knowledge of those secret councils in heaven, and was making the mistake of attempting to press all things into the compass of his philosophy.” (Morgan)
iii. “The speaker seems serenely unconscious that he was saying anything that could drive a knife into the tortured man. He is so carried along on the waves of his own eloquence, and so absorbed in the stringing together the elements of an artistic whole, that he forgets the very sorrows which he came to comfort.” (Maclaren)
©2019 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission