The three friends each gave their vision and Job answered after each speech. But they’re not out of words. Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar begin their second round of discussions in this chapter. They will stubbornly, and more fiercely than in the first round, hold on to their rigid view from the first round of discussions, and at the end add their clichés about the terrible fate that always afflicts the wicked. With this they rub salt into Job’s wounds, for he knows that they see him as the paragon of the wicked being punished by the righteous God. As in the first round of conversation, Job responds to each of the friends.
1 - 6 Job Is Condemned by His Own Mouth
1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite responded,
2 “Should a wise man answer with windy knowledge
And fill himself with the east wind?
3 “Should he argue with useless talk,
Or with words which are not profitable?
4 “Indeed, you do away with reverence
And hinder meditation before God.
5 “For your guilt teaches your mouth,
And you choose the language of the crafty.
6 “Your own mouth condemns you, and not I;
And your own lips testify against you.
In this second, shorter, round of discussions, the three friends speak in the same order. Eliphaz begins again. He has been the most cautious and dignified of the three so far. He answers Job’s defense to the words of Zophar (verse 1). In his first speech to Job, he spoke in a relatively friendly tone. In this second speech his tone changes. He listened with growing indignation to Job’s reactions to the visions of them, his friends. Out of the smoldering fire of indignation, a flame of fire emerges in this chapter. In a sharp tone he reproves Job. Little of his original prudence and dignity can be found.
Job does not speak as a wise man (Job 12:3; 13:2), he puts somewhat sarcastically in a rhetorical question (verse 2). This is evident from his answers. The knowledge he expresses in it is nothing but a changeable, elusive wind that gives no hold whatsoever. It is just hot air. No, it’s even worse, it’s like an “east wind”. The easterly wind is a dry and scorching wind that can destroy a harvest. That definitely doesn’t fill his belly. He means there’s no food in it, nothing that gives any ground to his claims of innocence. On the contrary, it is devastating and damaging to his own arguments.
Job may want to argue, but his words make absolutely no sense, they are “useless” (verse 3). His powerful ‘statements’ he thinks he is making, “are not profitable”. Eliphaz uses the usual argument in discussions you cannot win. When you can’t convince someone else because he has a good response, you simply call the other person’s words daydreaming.
In the eyes of Eliphaz, Job messes up things even more. Job’s words and statements are not only meaningless, they have a devastating effect on a person’s reverence or his fear of God and his prayer to God (verse 4). From what Job says, it appears that there is no longer any fear of God in him. He defies God by clinging to his innocence, yet he must realize that God is plunging him into misery because of his sins. With such an attitude, Job takes away his meditation before God, that is, he makes it powerless. He does not have to count on God to hear his prayer.
It is clear from everything Job has said that God cannot listen to him. His own words make everything clear (verse 5). Listen to what guilt comes out of his mouth. What unheard statements about God! On top of that Job has chosen “the language of the crafty”. In his first speech Eliphaz spoke in general about “the crafty”. Now he directly accuses Job of being one of them. This not so nice assessment implies the accusation of hypocrisy. Job speaks lying.
No one at all has to testify against Job, for everything that comes out of his own mouth proves that he is guilty (verse 6). Here we see a parallel with what is said of the Lord Jesus (Mt 26:65). If Job did not feel guilty, he would not speak such words, according to Eliphaz. Eliphaz forgets that truly innocent people want to defend their innocence. He is blind to this because of his short-sighted view of God and His dealings with people. Together with his friends he constantly insists on the same anvil: Job suffers enormously, so he has sinned enormously; Job says he is innocent, so he is a hypocrite, because of course he is guilty (cf. Job 9:20). Nothing remains of his earlier attempts to comfort Job.
7 - 13 Is Job Wiser or Better Than Others?
7 “Were you the first man to be born,
Or were you brought forth before the hills?
8 “Do you hear the secret counsel of God,
And limit wisdom to yourself?
9 “What do you know that we do not know?
[What] do you understand that we do not?
10 “Both the gray-haired and the aged are among us,
Older than your father.
11 “Are the consolations of God too small for you,
Even the word [spoken] gently with you?
12 “Why does your heart carry you away?
And why do your eyes flash,
13 That you should turn your spirit against God
And allow [such] words to go out of your mouth?
Eliphaz asks Job some questions. They are rhetorical questions. The questions contain accusations. They must make it clear to Job that he is arrogant. He has to realize that he thinks he is quite someone and knows quite a lot, but that there is no reason for this.
Eliphaz asks the rhetorical question whether Job is “the first man to be born” and whether he was “brought forth before the hills” (verse 7). With this Eliphaz underlines his thesis that old age is the source of wisdom. He also believes that he has refuted Job’s claim that he possesses wisdom. Eliphaz assumes that wisdom depends on old age: the older, the wiser. He blames Job for pretending to be many times older and thus wiser than Eliphaz.
Does Job think that he was born before the hills? Hills also refer to creation and represent stability (cf. Psa 90:2; Pro 8:25; Gen 49:26). Of course Job is not the first human being born and of course he was not born before the hills, but Job speaks as if he were, Eliphaz says. Eliphaz emphasizes ‘you’, underlining the fierceness of his speech. The caution of his first argument has completely disappeared.
Eliphaz then asks Job whether he sometimes attended a secret counsel of God that was hidden from mortals (verse 8). There he must have gained the wisdom that he now pretends to possess. He has drawn this wisdom to himself and possesses it alone, while it remains hidden from everyone else. This absurd representation of the way in which Job would have acquired his wisdom is also intended to relieve Job of his arrogance.
Job imagines a great deal, but he is terribly mistaken when he thinks he knows more than his friends. Does Job really think he knows something they don’t (verse 9)? Job’s posturing is completely unacceptable. It seems that Eliphaz is offended in his pride. We are hearing his complacency. Does Job really think he understands the situation more than they do? Don’t let him think they lack understanding.
With them is “the gray-haired and the aged” (verse 10). Probably Eliphaz means himself. The elderly, in Eliphaz’s view, have the wisdom by definition. Job may have the illusion that he has it, but with them there is even someone even older than Job’s father. What does Job still want to say to that? He should stop pretending that he has the wisdom. Surely he can’t hold on to that in the face of the heavy hitters that Eliphaz puts forward? What Eliphaz forgets is that he is bringing in human wisdom and not the wisdom of God. A man remains a man, no matter how old he is.
In verse 11, Eliphaz calls the ministry of the friends “consolations of God” for Job. They are not only consolations that come from God, but they are also great consolations. Those great consolations would then be the blessings they have pointed out, and Job would become a part of them if he confessed his sins. Surely you have to have a lot of imagination to take comfort from such accusations as the friends make. Eliphaz also dares to call the sharp, accusing language they use against Job “the word [spoken] gently with you”.
According to Eliphaz, Job’s heart is not well at all (verse 12). In it there is a lot of anger towards God and rebellion against Him, which gets him carried away. His eyes show that. They flash with anger. Job does not submit to God, but his spirit turns against God (verse 13). This is evident from the words he speaks out of his mouth. With this Eliphaz says that Job deliberately speaks the words he says. That there is a severely tormented man speaking, who does not always control his emotions, is not an issue for Eliphaz.
14 - 16 The Holiness of God
14 “What is man, that he should be pure,
Or he who is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?
15 “Behold, He puts no trust in His holy ones,
And the heavens are not pure in His sight;
16 How much less one who is detestable and corrupt,
Man, who drinks iniquity like water!
In his first speech, Eliphaz already spoke about the holiness of God (Job 4:17-19). Here he does it again and thereby summarizes his first speech in a few words. He wants to convince Job that his appeal to his innocence is groundless. For there is no man who is pure before God (verse 14). No man who has ever been born of a woman is righteous. With this he tells Job nothing new. Job himself has already said so (Job 14:4). It seems that Eliphaz did not listen to Job properly.
He only applies everything to Job and forgets that he himself is a human being. He judges, but forgets to judge himself (cf. Rom 2:1). He would do well to take his place beside Job, as Elihu does later (Job 33:6). Like Job, he is a man, born of a woman, and therefore just as Job, not pure and righteous before God.
According to Eliphaz, God does not even trust in “His holy ones”, the angels (verse 15). ‘Trusting on’ here has the meaning of ‘building on’. Not only the earth with men, but also heaven with the heavenly beings is not pure in God’s eyes (cf. Job 25:4-5). They are all creatures of Him, and as Creator He does not need to build (trust) on His creatures. It sounds impressive, but what evidence does Eliphaz have for his claims? That God does not trust in any creature belongs to His Being. He is the perfectly Independent One, Who finds everything in Himself. Everything outside of Him must trust in Him.
If God puts no trust in those who are so close to Him, and His dwelling place “heaven” is not even pure in His eyes, how should He see a man like Job? This cannot but be as “detestable and corrupt” (verse 16; cf. Job 25:6). Eliphaz depicts Job here as someone whom God disgusts, someone whom He sees as corrupt. The reason for God’s abhorrence, Eliphaz explains, is that Job is someone “who drinks iniquity like water” (c.f. Job 34:7; Pro 19:28). This has been so his whole life and it still is. Job’s life has been imbued with injustice from the beginning until now. That is why he came into this misery and why he is still in it.
17 - 24 The Experience of the Wicked
17 “I will tell you, listen to me;
And what I have seen I will also declare;
18 What wise men have told,
And have not concealed from their fathers,
19 To whom alone the land was given,
And no alien passed among them.
20 “The wicked man writhes in pain all [his] days,
And numbered are the years stored up for the ruthless.
21 “Sounds of terror are in his ears;
While at peace the destroyer comes upon him.
22 “He does not believe that he will return from darkness,
And he is destined for the sword.
23 “He wanders about for food, saying, ‘Where is it?’
He knows that a day of darkness is at hand.
24 “Distress and anguish terrify him,
They overpower him like a king ready for the attack,
Self-confidently Eliphaz points to his authority to teach Job (verse 17). Just as Job asked his friends to listen to him (Job 13:6,17), so now Eliphaz commands Job to listen to him. For Job cannot ignore the observations he, Eliphaz, has made with his own eyes. In his first speech he appealed to observation (Job 4:8,12-16). His observations are in keeping with tradition, with what the wise men have revealed and handed down to the fathers (verse 18). He took note of this and embraced it as truth. The latter is at the heart of his second speech.
Eliphaz thus draws his wisdom from purely human sources. And with this he thinks he can convince Job. But with all his knowledge, obtained through observation and tradition, Eliphaz has no knowledge of God, nor of his own heart, and certainly not of the why of the suffering that Job undergoes.
In verse 19 “the land” could be Teman, the land where Eliphaz came from, known for his wisdom (Jer 49:7; Oba 1:8-9). In any case, it is a land where wise men lived who were nowhere else to be found. That land was given to them. It did not make them humble, however, but they boasted of their wisdom. The fact that no alien passed among them could mean that no one could influence their wisdom with wrong ideas. It was an unmixed, pure wisdom. Eliphaz speaks high and mighty about the wisdom he observed in others and especially in himself.
After his extensive introduction Eliphaz starts in verse 20 with the contents of his second argument. In verses 20-24 he applies his acquired wisdom to an ungodly bully. An ungodly bully, Eliphaz says, writhes in pain all his days (verse 20). Job is in pain every day, but because of his wickedness he does this to himself. The ruthless lives only a small number of years. Job must take this into account if he persists in his resistance against God.
Eliphaz speaks in general terms, but the application of this to Job is very clear. He doesn’t pay attention to the fact that what he says doesn’t apply to all sinners. Thus we know of the wicked King Manasseh, who committed a great deal of violence, that he reigned for no less than fifty-five years (2Chr 33:1; cf. Psa 73:3).
Verse 21 is also a clear allusion to Job, for Job expressed himself in these terms in his first complaint (Job 3:25-26). He said this in the distress of his soul, sitting on the ruins of a destroyed life. That Eliphaz has been insensitive to these expressions of sorrow is shown here. He now uses these words against Job.
A wicked bully can indeed live in riches and abundance, while the slightest unknown sound he hears frightens him. One who has a guilty conscience has no rest. He constantly lives in fear and never feels any certainty that he is safe. Even if he seems to be doing well, the destroyer comes upon him.
The hopeless situation in which he then finds himself is not reversible (verse 22). He also expects no change. He will not leave the darkness in which he finds himself. Fate has struck and he cannot but accept this, no matter how great the repugnance. He is constantly threatened by the danger of sudden violent death.
Because of all the disasters that have struck him, he has also fallen to begging (verse 23). He tries to prolong his life by searching everywhere for food. But he does not know where to find it. The situation is hopeless. What awaits him, he knows, is “a day of darkness”. That day of downfall is “at hand” for him like a day worked by him with his own hand. It’s really all his own fault.
Peace and prosperity have given way to “distress and anguish” (verse 24). They ambush him, without him being able to resist. He wants to, but he cannot. He is overwhelmed by it, according to a plan calculated in advance. The terrors by which he has been attacked and overwhelmed are like a king who, after good preparation, is ready for battle and goes to war. Job cannot stand and is defeated.
25 - 35 Their Retribution
25 Because he has stretched out his hand against God
And conducts himself arrogantly against the Almighty.
26 “He rushes headlong at Him
With his massive shield.
27 “For he has covered his face with his fat
And made his thighs heavy with flesh.
28 “He has lived in desolate cities,
In houses no one would inhabit,
Which are destined to become ruins.
29 “He will not become rich, nor will his wealth endure;
And his grain will not bend down to the ground.
30 “He will not escape from darkness;
The flame will wither his shoots,
And by the breath of His mouth he will go away.
31 “Let him not trust in emptiness, deceiving himself;
For emptiness will be his reward.
32 “It will be accomplished before his time,
And his palm branch will not be green.
33 “He will drop off his unripe grape like the vine,
And will cast off his flower like the olive tree.
34 “For the company of the godless is barren,
And fire consumes the tents of the corrupt.
35 “They conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity,
And their mind prepares deception.”
Eliphaz argues that the suffering he has described in the previous verses comes over the wicked because he stretches out his hand “against God” in rebellion and because he conducts himself arrogantly “against the Almighty” (verse 25). He is still speaking in generalities, but Job will know that he himself is being directly addressed. Who but Job raises his fist to God and rises up against Him in rebellion?
The whole description does injustice to who Job really is and what he is going through. It shows a lack of empathy to speak in this way about and to a righteous man like Job who suffers greatly. It must make clear to us how hard we can be in judging someone who is suffering. That judgment becomes harsher the more the suffering person does not recognize himself in our judgment and even resists it.
We then feel attacked in our ‘theology’; and with it our identity falls or stands. Instead of admitting it, we go into the trenches and keep firing our arrows of truth in order for the suffering person to be touched by it only once. In our opinion, that will mean the end of his suffering and we will be proved right. This last point is the most important: we have not lost face.
Eliphaz tells Job that he sees God as his enemy and that he will run against Him to defeat Him (verse 26). “Headlong”, i.e. in overconfidence, he clings to his opposition to God. He does not intend to bend his neck and submit to Him. On the contrary. He rushes toward God “his massive shield” to defend himself against the arrows that God shoots at him.
He also thinks he has every right to defend himself against God in this way. The fat on his face and the flesh on his thighs indicate the prosperity of Job (verse 27). Fat is an expression of prosperity. Eliphaz says that Job’s face and thighs were covered with it by his own actions. He supposes that Job attributed his prosperity to his own merit.
What Eliphaz says of Job recalls the reasoning of the later Nabal, who considered all his possessions as his own, without any gratitude to David (1Sam 25:11). Eliphaz suggests that through his prosperity Job turned away from God (cf. Deu 32:15), so that God again took away from him everything He had first given him. What Eliphaz supposes goes against the testimony God Himself gave of Job (Job 1:1,8; 2:3).
With the description in verses 28-35, Eliphaz depicts the situation in which the wicked will end up. In fact, it is the situation in which Job finds himself and in which, according to Eliphaz, he has ended up because of his rebellion against God. From this he can see that Job is an ungodly man. Only someone who has sinned heavily is punished by God.
The facts prove it. Look at his habitations. They have been destroyed (verse 28). There is no longer a house to live in. He’s in a mess. He should have no illusions about becoming rich, for he has lost everything and has nothing to start again with (verse 29). The wealth he possessed is gone. It did not stand when the disasters struck him. The expansion of his possessions has come to an end.
He cannot escape from the darkness of suffering that has come upon him (verse 30; cf. verses 22-23). He is in it and cannot get out. He is surrounded by it. “His shoots”, by which are meant his children, does not come to life. The flame of God’s judgment coming out of His mouth (cf. 2Thes 2:8a) has taken away their lives.
No, there is nothing he can trust to come out of misery (verse 31). Any trust will prove to be useless and misleading. If he relies on anything that is useless, he will receive uselessness as retribution. It underscores the worthlessness of such trust. It will hasten his death (verse 32). His life will come to an end sooner than was intended.
He will not see the green of new life. If anything resembles fruit, it will turn out to be immature fruit (verse 33). Even the promise of fruit, which is seen in the blossom, remains unfulfilled. This means that the offspring of the wicked will perish. This must be a slap in the face of Job, who recently lost all his children.
Eliphaz concludes his description with an explanation of what “the company of the godless (or: of the hypocrites)” yields (verse 34). It is clear that he includes Job in that company. The company of the hypocrites is a company made up of hypocrites. Their common part and purpose is hypocrisy. Whoever is part of that company “is barren”. A company of hypocrites is not a close-knit unit, but consists of individuals who live only for themselves. They will lose the family or friends they have. There is nothing present that God or others could enjoy as fruit.
Eliphaz adds that the homes of those who accept “a bribe” (as ‘the corrupt’ is literally), who therefore allow themselves to be bribed, are consumed by fire. Lives based on bribery practices have no basis, but are destroyed. In doing so, Eliphaz insinuates that Job has accepted gifts and that, therefore, his homes have been consumed. It all belongs to someone who is a hypocrite.
By definition, hypocrites and corrupt people are unreliable people (verse 35). “They conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity.” The plans they make and carry out are deceptive. What they incubate in their minds and what comes out of them is a plague for others. They produce only mischief and deceit.
Eliphaz has finished describing the evil that, according to him, affects all wicked people. The fact that he tells Job these things means that he sees Job as such. With this, he completely misses the point. And not only that. He adds enormously to the already heavy suffering of Job. It’s a completely misplaced accusation of a sincere man.