15 Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:
2 “Would a wise person answer with empty notions
or fill their belly with the hot east wind?
3 Would they argue with useless words,
with speeches that have no value?
4 But you even undermine piety
and hinder devotion to God.
5 Your sin prompts your mouth;
you adopt the tongue of the crafty.
6 Your own mouth condemns you, not mine;
your own lips testify against you.
Eliphaz returns to the conversation and this time around he launches into a scathing attack on Job.
He began by accusing Job of sinning that involved attacking God with his complaints. He felt Job was guilty of empty words and had not exhibited godly fear and righteous prayer (verse 4), but rather was sinning in his prayer (verses 5-6). He was accused of being full of wind and of being rather bombastic.
..So the heat is turned up.
Job said that he was as wise as his friends (Job 12:3). He even said that they could learn from his words (Job 13:5-6). This caused a strong reaction in Eliphaz.
Eliphaz begins with a question. There are over three hundred questions in the Book of Job which is more than in any other book in the Bible. They express the viewpoint of wisdom and the search for understanding. Their constant use in the book clearly reflects it’s Near Eastern origin.
Eliphaz was criticizing Job for his talking, referring to it as “unprofitable”. He thought all of Job’s talk was in vain. He thought that God regarded it no more than he would the blowing of the wind. The east wind in that part of the world was the most “blowy” and “blustery” of winds.
Job claimed and reasoned that good men often have things that are not good in life and that evil men often prosper (Job 12:6). Eliphaz did not agree. He believed that God rewards good and punishes evil. Job’s words appeared to be disrespectful to his creator. He believed that Job was not showing reverence toward God and that he was hindering other’s prayers to God.
Eliphaz now accuses Job of “iniquity” and being “crafty” deceitful, whereas in his first speech he seemed to assume Job’s sincerity.
Now even Job’s own words were condemning himself, there was no need for further testimony! The accusation levied against Job was of being irreverent and blasphemous in his speech. This is a shadow of the accusations levied against Jesus much later in time.
7 “Are you the first man ever born?
Were you brought forth before the hills?
8 Do you listen in on God’s council?
Do you have a monopoly on wisdom?
9 What do you know that we do not know?
What insights do you have that we do not have?
10 The grey-haired and the aged are on our side,
men even older than your father.
11 Are God’s consolations not enough for you,
words spoken gently to you?
12 Why has your heart carried you away,
and why do your eyes flash,
13 so that you vent your rage against God
and pour out such words from your mouth?
True wisdom is not necessarily linked to age but to consistent trust and obedience to God’s ways (Psalm 119:99-100). Wisdom comes from walking with God and discovering that his commands are trustworthy and true (Deuteronomy 4:6; 1 Timothy 4:12).Solomon was reportedly the wisest man that ever lived. He was granted wisdom in his youth (1 Kings 3)
In verses 7-1, Eliphaz condemned Job for rejecting the conventional wisdom, as if he had more insight than other men (verses 7-9) and could reject the wisdom of the aged (verse 10) and the kindness of God (verse 11). It was a serious charge against Job. He was saying that Job was going against conventional wisdom, the society norm and accepted culture and beliefs of his elders.
The common belief was that an older man was wiser (Job 32:7). Eliphaz said that many of the respected elders believed the same ideas as Eliphaz himself. Their forefathers had the same ideas. They thought that someone inflicted with illness or disease must be opposed by God because of some sin. Even Jesus’ disciples had a similar worldview (John 9:2). But Jesus challenged this (John 9:3).
Eliphaz charges Job with these words…
“Are you older than the hills?” As wisdom herself is (Proverbs 8:23). “Did you exist before the earth was created?”
He was accusing Job of believing that he had supernatural intelligence. He was also asking Job if he was the firstborn of God. In other words he was saying, are you trying to compare yourself to God.
The words are harsh, condemning, full of judgment and misunderstanding.
“Are you privy to the secret council of God?”
No mortal man had ever been included in the counsel of God, and yet that was what Eliphaz was saying that Job believed he had done. He was suggesting Job thought he was the only wise man on the earth and accusing him of great pride and arrogance.
Eliphaz defended the position of the friends. It appears that at least one of Job’s friends was as old as Job’s father. It probably would have been Eliphaz, because he always spoke first.
Job said that he wanted to meet God. He wanted to reason with him because he could not understand his troubles. It went against his belief system so he was wrestling with and struggling with the common belief that suffering equals a result of sin. He could not fathom it. It was a sincere wrestling. Eliphaz misunderstood this and assumed that Job was angry with God.
Eliphaz was insisting that he and his friends had offered a solution to Job. He should repent of his sins and seek God with all his heart, and then perhaps God would stop the punishment against him.
His conclusion was that Job was rebellious and too proud to admit his sin against God.
I wonder how Job must have felt under all this judgment and condemnation on top of his grieving and immense suffering. I know that if I am mildly sick I can barely engage with normality, let alone emotive dialogue.
14 “What are mortals, that they could be pure,
or those born of woman, that they could be righteous?
15 If God places no trust in his holy ones,
if even the heavens are not pure in his eyes,
16 how much less mortals, who are vile and corrupt,
who drink up evil like water!
In verses 14-16, Eliphaz delivers a strong but accurate statement about the sinfulness of man (Romans 3:23), the statement attacked Job’s claim to righteousness. Verse 15 refers to holy angels who fell and brought impurity into the heavens (Revelation 12:1-4). Whilst it is true and theologically accurate that all men are sinners it is quite irrelevant to the context of Job’s complaint and question. His suffering was not due to any sin.
Eliphaz and his friends primary moral code and philosophy was one of retributive justice. They could not distinguish the difference between the fact that all suffering is a result of our sinful nature but not all the suffering is loaded proportionately on the being whose acts are sinful. Cause and effect is not necessarily delivered with equality. Such is the nature of a fallen world. The innocent sometimes suffer and the wicked sometimes get away with it but at the end of all things God will sort it out.
I remember myself and one of my younger brother’s being sat on a stool in the bathroom whilst my dad sorted out a particular issue that had occurred in the house. It’s a very simplistic illustration but in the end God will sift through it all and bring it back to perfect judgment.
Eliphaz was saying that if even the heavens, and the angels in heaven were not clean, the earth and its inhabitants were filthy. They were filled with iniquity.
Theologically accurate but completely unhelpful. Sometimes it’s good to think beyond being right and start thinking about being effective. Eliphaz was completely ineffective in his counsel of Job.
17 “Listen to me and I will explain to you;
let me tell you what I have seen,
18 what the wise have declared,
hiding nothing received from their ancestors
19 (to whom alone the land was given
when no foreigners moved among them):
20 All his days the wicked man suffers torment,
the ruthless man through all the years stored up for him.
21 Terrifying sounds fill his ears;
when all seems well, marauders attack him.
22 He despairs of escaping the realm of darkness;
he is marked for the sword.
23 He wanders about for food like a vulture;
he knows the day of darkness is at hand.
24 Distress and anguish fill him with terror;
troubles overwhelm him, like a king poised to attack,
25 because he shakes his fist at God
and vaunts himself against the Almighty,
26 defiantly charging against him
with a thick, strong shield.
Eliphaz continues his rant about Job’s sin being the cause of his suffering. To support his relentless point, he launches into a lengthy monologue about the wicked and their outcomes in life, drawing many parallels to the sufferings of Job. He had pain, and didn’t know when his life would end (verse 20). He suffered from fear, every sound alarmed him, and he thought his destroyer was near (verses 21-22). He worried about having food (verse 23). His suffering made him question God (verses 24-26).
Once well-nourished, housed and rich (verses 27-29), he would lose it all (verses 30-33). Eliphaz concluded by calling Job a hypocrite (verses 34-35), saying that this was the reason things were going so badly.
Eliphaz again asserts his personal experience as his authority: “from what I have seen.” He then surveys the judgments that fall on the wicked, implying that Job is to be numbered among them.
Verse 18 refers to the oral tradition of the time. There were few or quite possibly no written records during this period.
Knowledge among the ancients was communicated chiefly by tradition from father to son. They had few or no written records, and hence, they embodied the results of their observation in brief, pious sayings, and transmitted them from one generation to another.
Eliphaz said that even the wise men of old and the fathers had warned their children of the punishment that came to those who sin. These were not secrets but common knowledge.
Verse 19 alludes to the idea that the land they lived in had been kept safe from foreign invasion, cultural invasion or religious invasions. It seems evident that Job’s time was the time of the Patriarchs most likely after Noah and Abraham.
Eliphaz warned Job not to accuse God. He should not argue but just accept that he is guilty.
I have been on the receiving end of counsel like that and I have also delivered counsel like that. It is unhelpful and hurtful to the recipient and if my experience it is anything to go by delivering that type of counsel it only serves to make me feel better about myself, take my focus off my own shortcomings and place myself above the person I am giving counsel to in my imagined hierarchy. It doesn’t seem that there is anything fruitful or productive in that.
27 “Though his face is covered with fat
and his waist bulges with flesh,
28 he will inhabit ruined towns
and houses where no one lives,
houses crumbling to rubble.
29 He will no longer be rich and his wealth will not endure,
nor will his possessions spread over the land.
30 He will not escape the darkness;
a flame will wither his shoots,
and the breath of God’s mouth will carry him away.
31 Let him not deceive himself by trusting what is worthless,
for he will get nothing in return.
32 Before his time he will wither,
and his branches will not flourish.
33 He will be like a vine stripped of its unripe grapes,
like an olive tree shedding its blossoms.
34 For the company of the godless will be barren,
and fire will consume the tents of those who love bribes.
35 They conceive trouble and give birth to evil;
their womb fashions deceit.”
Job had observed that many evil people are successful (Job 12:6). Eliphaz argued that their success was temporary. Their wealth would not last. Soon, they would lose everything (verse 29).
Job had spoken about a tree that someone had cut down (Job 14:7-9). This idea gave hope to Job. Perhaps God would allow Job to live, even after death. Eliphaz rebutted what he perceived as a stupid idea. If someone burns a tree, that tree will not live again (verse 30).
Eliphaz seemed to think that a person’s spirit dies with that person. He thought that the only new life after death would be through our children. They would be our only hope for the future. An evil man would have no children (verse 33). As Job’s children were dead, Job’s own death would be his end.
In verse 27 Eliphaz accused Job of gluttony, coveting and greed and yet he lived in ruin. Surely God took away his riches. Maybe Eliphaz had been jealous of how Job had been previously blessed and was now gloating on his disaster.
He believed that Job had to be a hypocrite. Job had proclaimed faith in God. Eliphaz said Job’s faith was just for show and that he was corrupt, prideful and greedy.
We don’t know what was behind such a disproportionate response.