4 Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:
2 “If someone ventures a word with you, will you be impatient?
But who can keep from speaking?
Three rounds of dialogue occur between Job and his three friends.
Chapter’s 4-14 contain the first round of dialogue, the three rounds end in Chapter 27:23.
In verses 4:1 – 5:27 we encounter Eliphaz’s first speech. His main emphasis is that no one who was innocent has ever suffered as much as Job, his conclusion being that God has brought this punishment to chasten a sinful Job and restore him to righteousness.
See chapters 15 and 22 for Eliphaz’s other speeches. He spoke profoundly and gently, but knew nothing of the scene in heaven that had produced the suffering of Job.
“Eliphaz” means “My God is Gold.” His name and native land (“Teman”) were associated with Esau and Edom (Genesis 36:11; 1 Chronicles 1:36; Jeremiah 49:7). Eliphaz began his speech with sarcasm, essentially accusing Job of not practicing what he preached.
Eliphaz speaks first. Most likely he was the eldest and wisest. He was also the most compassionate of the three. Eliphaz takes the position of a theologian, emphasizing the greatness of God and His judgment of sin.
Bildad takes the position of a traditionalist, emphasizing the principles of wisdom, which he suggests Job has violated. All three of them take a negative view of Job, assuming that he has done something to bring this trouble on himself.
Eliphaz in his wisdom has shown his respect for Job’s grief and sat in silence with him for 7 days. Now, he believed that it might be time to speak to Job. He was actually asking Job’s permission to speak to him. He felt compelled to say something.
Think how you have instructed many,
how you have strengthened feeble hands.
4 Your words have supported those who stumbled;
you have strengthened faltering knees.
5 But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged;
it strikes you, and you are dismayed.
6 Should not your piety be your confidence
and your blameless ways your hope?
Job had a reputation and at first, Eliphaz believed that this reputation was true. Later, Eliphaz would change his opinion (Job chapter 22). Perhaps Eliphaz heard about Job’s good deeds (Job 29:11-17). Perhaps he had even experienced Job’s good, kindness and faith.
It appears, that Job had been generous to those around him who had problems of any kind. It appears, he had instructed them in the ways of God.
Job’s speech in Job chapter 3 was very self focused and he appeared to have lost an awareness of the presence of God.
Eliphaz’s advice in verse 6 appears to be sound or least technically correct if ill timed and ineffective. In chapter 3, Job hardly thought about God. Job was only thinking about himself. So, Job had no hope. Instead, Job wanted to die. Eliphaz asserted that Job could be confident because he was a holy man. And Job could have hope, because of who God is.
This is a typical narrative when attempting to comfort someone who is grieving. It’s a bit of a statement of the facts and a little bit of a fix it mentality. It’s ineffective because what a grieving person needs is not factual correction but deeper connection.
Eliphaz was pointing out that Job was good at giving advice, but he was not very good at taking advice. He was also saying, take for yourself the advice you have given others. This friend of Job believed that this calamity that had come as a chastisement from God.
7 “Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished?
Where were the upright ever destroyed?
8 As I have observed, those who plough evil
and those who sow trouble reap it.
9 At the breath of God they perish;
at the blast of his anger they are no more.
10 The lions may roar and growl,
yet the teeth of the great lions are broken.
11 The lion perishes for lack of prey,
and the cubs of the lioness are scattered.
Eliphaz illustrated his belief in the principle of divine retribution (“plough” and “reap”) with an example from the animal kingdom, if a lion does not catch its prey, then it and its cubs will suffer.
Eliphaz was partly right. The principle of what he was saying may have been correct but his thoughts were too simplistic and completely unaware of the scenario in the heavens.
The problem of suffering has been a theological problem that has perplexed man for all time. The answers are theological stumbling blocks even today.
God uses suffering to teach us, to test us and to train us (Hebrews 12:5-11). Sometimes suffering is the work of others and we suffer as a result of someone else’s sin (Matthew 5:11-12). There is more at work than we can fully appreciate. God prunes our hearts, refines us and gives us opportunity to grow (Job 23:10, 1 Corinthians 13:10-12). His ultimate goal is to form Christ in us. This is not a process that is brought about with smooth transition. (Romans 8:28-29)
To say that wherever there is suffering, it is the result of sin is theologically inaccurate (Exodus 4:11; John 9:1-3).
Eliphaz argued that God punishes evil. Eliphaz said that evil men are like angry lions. These lions seem terrible. But they are infact just hopeless, because they have no teeth. So evil men seem terrible, but really, they are hopeless and they cannot stand up against God.
In Job 38:39-40, God reminded the men that he created lions. And that he provides food, even for lions.
It is worth remembering that God provides rain, so that the crops of evil people will grow (Matthew 5:45). He does not punish quite as readily as Eliphaz was suggesting.
Eliphaz now, was relating Job to evil men who were spoken of as lions. He was saying that Job had abused his power as a leader. The old lion was a tyrant who had lost his power. In this last statement, it was a terrible blow to Job, because his children were implied as the cubs. He was effectively saying that the death of his children was his own fault. It was a harsh judgment from a friend who may have been well meaning but by now was surely a bit frustrated with Job.
It can happen like this. I have treated people with pious spiritual judgment. It’s pretty ugly when you get down to it.
12 “A word was secretly brought to me,
my ears caught a whisper of it.
13 Amid disquieting dreams in the night,
when deep sleep falls on people,
14 fear and trembling seized me
and made all my bones shake.
15 A spirit glided past my face,
and the hair on my body stood on end.
16 It stopped,
but I could not tell what it was.
A form stood before my eyes,
and I heard a hushed voice:
17 ‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God?
Can even a strong man be more pure than his Maker?
18 If God places no trust in his servants,
if he charges his angels with error,
19 how much more those who live in houses of clay,
whose foundations are in the dust,
who are crushed more readily than a moth!
20 Between dawn and dusk they are broken to pieces;
unnoticed, they perish forever.
21 Are not the cords of their tent pulled up,
so that they die without wisdom?’
Eliphaz appeared to have a dream which he claimed was from God. It supposedly affirmed his view of how divine justice works. His words offered Job no comfort; instead, they conveyed God as a judge unfamiliar with mercy.
We are not told if the dream was from God or not. It doesn’t seem that credible as it appears to assert Eliphaz’ view of God rather than any consistency with what we know from scripture.
He now proceeds to enforce and illustrate what he has said in highly poetical language.
“Secretly brought to me”: Literally, was stolen for me. Joseph uses the same expression of himself in Genesis 40:15.
The description of hair standing on end is a physiological reaction to fear. Maybe it was a dream or an apparition of supernatural origin but there are other possibilities than a message from God within the spiritual realms. Satan is also hugely involved in this story.
The conclusion of Eliphaz’s revelation was that Job suffered because he was not holy enough, not righteous enough. He had in effect brought about all of this calamity by his own sin.
Eliphaz appears to have heard the words in verses 18-21 from the spirit in his dream. But these words seem to accuse God as condemning and without grace.
It appears that all of these accusations were lies from the father of lies.
Job did not worship the ministering spirits “angels”. He put his faith in God. Just as God knew that angels were not infallible, Job knew they were not too.
Eliphaz was saying that God could not even trust Job to do the right thing. He was housed in a body of clay and was therefore worldly.
The final misconception in this section is that in death we are obliterated and God does not care.
These are heavy allegations against God and against Job. Theologically inaccurate and reminiscent of Satan showing up in the garden and manipulating the word of God.