5 “Call if you will, but who will answer you?
To which of the holy ones will you turn?
2 Resentment kills a fool,
and envy slays the simple.
3 I myself have seen a fool taking root,
but suddenly his house was cursed.
4 His children are far from safety,
crushed in court without a defender.
5 The hungry consume his harvest,
taking it even from among thorns,
and the thirsty pant after his wealth.
According to Eliphaz, Job was abandoned and heaven would not answer his “call” for assistance because of his assumed wrongdoing.
If God did not help Job, there was surely no help available to him from the heavenly realms at all.
An evil man is angry because he hates God. So, God punishes the evil man for his behaviour. This is why the evil man dies is the explanation given by Eliphaz to explain Job’s misfortunes. He insinuates that all his misfortunes were owing to his folly and weakness, or to his sin.
Eliphaz believed that Job had placed his trust in something, or someone, other than God. He couldn’t figure out with his mind what was happening to Job, and he was seeking logical ideas about this.
Eliphaz was convinced that ‘trouble” always starts somewhere; it does not just “happen”. He was saying that he had seen people who dealt foolishly with God, and were destroyed. The emphasis was that something Job did or didn’t do had caused God to turn on him.
All of Job’s suffering, his loss was his own fault. This was a consequence of his sin according to Eliphaz.
6 For hardship does not spring from the soil,
nor does trouble sprout from the ground.
7 Yet man is born to trouble
as surely as sparks fly upwards.
Here, Eliphaz linked his dream (Job 4:12-21) with his story (Job 5:1-5). If nobody is innocent, then everybody deserves trouble.
Eliphaz’s mistake was that his speech was too simplistic. God’s punishment is rarely immediate. His heart is that we learn from error and grow. He is slow to anger and abounding in love. Eliphaz thought that God was punishing Job for some evil deed.
Eliphaz was still trying to say that the evil that Job had done was like a seed that brought in a harvest of affliction.
Eliphaz was telling Job that man was evil, and that it was inevitable for trouble to come. Just as sure as a spark of a fire goes up and not down, the troubles come to all.
He was getting what he deserved. This of course was not God’s perspective. The lesson here is to be careful with how we judge a situation. Who am I that I can discern the mind of God?
8 “But if I were you, I would appeal to God;
I would lay my cause before him.
9 He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted.
10 He provides rain for the earth;
he sends water on the countryside.
11 The lowly he sets on high,
and those who mourn are lifted to safety.
12 He thwarts the plans of the crafty,
so that their hands achieve no success.
13 He catches the wise in their craftiness,
and the schemes of the wily are swept away.
14 Darkness comes upon them in the daytime;
at noon they grope as in the night.
15 He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth;
he saves them from the clutches of the powerful.
16 So the poor have hope,
and injustice shuts its mouth
Speaking in spiritual platitudes, Eliphaz presumed to know the cause of Job’s suffering. Eliphaz also told him if he would just submit to the chastening of the Almighty”, Job would reap a harvest of blessing. This was a speculative but common thought about the nature of God.
The whole of Eliphaz’s argument is based on the moral perfection of God, so he went into an inspiring poetic narrative about God’s greatness and goodness.
Eliphaz seemed to be a man who knew a great deal about God. His real error was in judging his friend. Sometimes people who mean well, say insensitive things to those they love. I know that many times I have given erroneous counsel as a result of misunderstanding or assuming bad motives rather than attempting to truly understand someone’s heart. To judge externals alone is naive. The externals are always a symptom of a deeper issue. If we are to assume the role of counsellor or leader it is important to grasp this otherwise we will never truly reach people and certainly never galvanize hearts to facilitate change.
It appears that Eliphaz was saying, that Job’s wisdom was not wisdom at all. That he was crafty and scheming to get where he was. God would tear down such an enterprise, but we know that this was a huge assumption and misjudgment. .
Eliphaz implied that Job’s light had gone out, and that he was groping around in the dark even though the sun was up outside.
This was a reprimand of Job for complaining of his plight. Eliphaz said that God had stopped the mouth of Job.
…and all the time he was innocent.
17 “Blessed is the one whom God corrects;
so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
18 For he wounds, but he also binds up;
he injures, but his hands also heal.
19 From six calamities he will rescue you;
in seven no harm will touch you.
20 In famine he will deliver you from death,
and in battle from the stroke of the sword.
21 You will be protected from the lash of the tongue,
and need not fear when destruction comes.
22 You will laugh at destruction and famine,
and need not fear the wild animals.
23 For you will have a covenant with the stones of the field,
and the wild animals will be at peace with you.
24 You will know that your tent is secure;
you will take stock of your property and find nothing missing.
25 You will know that your children will be many,
and your descendants like the grass of the earth.
26 You will come to the grave in full vigor,
like sheaves gathered in season.
27 “We have examined this, and it is true.
So hear it and apply it to yourself.”
Eliphaz thought that God was teaching Job about his errors. So, he urged Job to learn discipline from God.
It’s actually not bad theology in some ways (Hebrews 12:5-11). But we are fortunate to have a bigger picture and know that this was not the case with Job.
Eliphaz put a positive spin on his advice by telling Job that it is a blessing to receive God’s discipline. “If only Job admitted his sin, he could be happy again” was the advice.
This was a true statement but it did not apply to Job and his situation. I am sure that Job was aware that God chastens those he loves.
I wonder how many pat religious answers I gave over the years without any thought to them being helpful or effective.
One very good friend told me once that leadership is not about being right it is about being effective. I happen to believe that. There were times that I would deliver the truth with no thought to how it would be received and sometimes I would package the truth up with so much positive spin that it lacked sincerity and the sharpness of the truth was less a double edged sword and more a blunt butter knife. Both of these responses came from fear. Fear of someone thinking differently and feeling threatened by that, so having to manage them with vehemently strong words or fear of upsetting someone.
Neither are helpful. Great leadership is about connecting, understanding and asserting the truth all in equal measure with love, compassion and the other persons best interests at heart.
Verses 18-27 hint at the language of Leviticus chapter 26 promising the blessing of a faithful covenant relationship with God. If Job confessed, he would have prosperity, security, a family, and a rich life.
Verse 25 is reminiscent of God’s promise to Abraham. See Genesis 12:2; Genesis 15:2-5; Hebrews 11:11-12.
Telling Job what he already knew may have felt patronizing or condescending. Eliphaz was calling Job to repentance. He had made assumptions about Job that were inaccurate and had attempted several tactics to get him out of his grieving.
Grieving is a heart issue not an intellectual or theological problem. Using head knowledge to deal with grieving is using the wrong tool for the job. If it is a condition of the heart then it needs to be met with the heart.