We might think that through Job’s last speech the friends have now realized their mistake. They don’t want to admit that right away, but perhaps they will now remain silent. But no. Eliphaz straightens his back again and serves Job in a third speech of reply. And how. He throws off all caution. The brakes go off and without hesitation he accuses Job of the worst sins. The accusations are no longer hidden in his words, they are no longer insinuations or suggestions. In a rock-hard way, he mentions the crimes that Job, according to him, has committed.
He makes no attempt to refute Job’s arguments (Job 21). In his argument he insists on ‘your own fault, big bump’ as proof of the justice and lawfulness of God’s retribution. In his opinion, his friendship for Job is demonstrated by the fact that, at the end of his argument, he tries again to make him repent (verses 21-30).
1 - 5 The Greatness of Jobs Sin
1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite responded,
2 “Can a vigorous man be of use to God,
Or a wise man be useful to himself?
3 “Is there any pleasure to the Almighty if you are righteous,
Or profit if you make your ways perfect?
4 “Is it because of your reverence that He reproves you,
That He enters into judgment against you?
5 “Is not your wickedness great,
And your iniquities without end?
Eliphaz takes the floor again to answer Job (verse 1). He first asks a series of rhetorical questions. He starts with a question about the relationship of “a vigorous man” – with whom he means Job – to God (verse 2). Eliphaz asks the question whether a man would be “of use” to God, because Job insists on his righteousness. As if he is doing God a service. At the same time he complains about his misery. The question contains the answer. Job, with all his righteousness, is of no use to God. He shouldn’t think that God is in need of him. As if God is obliged to honor him for his supposed righteousness instead of disciplining him by pouring disasters upon him.
If Job already thinks he is “wise”, it is only of use to himself. God does not depend on him and does not need the wisdom of Job. God doesn’t need anyone, not a man. The opposite is true, that man needs God. Job adds nothing to the joy of the Almighty by stating that he is righteous (verse 3). He had better drop this claim to his righteousness. Nor does God gain anything if he “makes” his ways “perfect”, always doing everything better to please God.
Eliphaz merely gives a cold impression of God, as if He were not interested in us. If we remember what God says in Job 1-2 of His servant Job, we can see how badly Eliphaz knows God. By his doings and dealings, Job was a joy to God (cf. Acts 10:35). Although what a man does, does not give God any profit in itself, He does have joy in righteousness. The testimony of the Spirit about Job in the first chapters of this book shows that Job did not serve God because he believed that he was useful to God or because God gained something by it, that He was better off. Job feared and served God because He is God. God appreciates this very much.
With some sarcasm in his voice, Eliphaz asks Job if God perhaps reproves him because of his reverence for God and “enters into judgment against” him (verse 4). God of course brings a lawsuit against Job because he serves him so faithfully. In his first speech, Eliphaz still saw Job’s fear of God as something present with him (Job 4:6), but now he no longer believes anything of it. By his sarcastic way of speaking he wants to convince Job of the opposite. Surely it must be clear to Job that God does not punish a man if he fears Him, but only if that man sins against Him.
Then Eliphaz takes off. He openly accuses Job of “wickedness” and “iniquities” (verse 5). With “your” wickedness and “your” iniquities Job is addressed directly. He also leaves no room for misunderstanding that it is more than a little wickedness and the occasional iniquity. It is about nothing less than “great” wickedness and “endless” iniquity. Eliphaz is now exaggerating in order to reinforce his argument.
Although Eliphaz has no proof for this, he throws these overwhelming accusations at Job. He doesn’t care that, before such a thing can be said, there must first be self-judgement. This is lacking in him as well as in his friends (Mt 7:1-5). What he does is not wash his feet (Jn 13:3-6). Job has ventured to resist their oh so valuable call to repentance. Job has ventured to resist their oh so precious call to repentance. He has done so in terms about God that are extremely inappropriate, they think. It is further proof that Job is completely wrong. This is all they need. Job is guilty.
6 - 11 The Direct Charge
6 “For you have taken pledges of your brothers without cause,
And stripped men naked.
7 “To the weary you have given no water to drink,
And from the hungry you have withheld bread.
8 “But the earth belongs to the mighty man,
And the honorable man dwells in it.
9 “You have sent widows away empty,
And the strength of the orphans has been crushed.
10 “Therefore snares surround you,
And sudden dread terrifies you,
11 Or darkness, so that you cannot see,
And an abundance of water covers you.
Eliphaz is going to mention examples of Job’s wickedness and iniquity. He makes the harshest accusations without any foundation. Evidence or witnesses are missing. This goes far beyond imputations – and how quickly we become guilty of this. Eliphaz accuses Job of social injustice. Job may think that he is in God’s favor and that he is pure, but how is that possible when he has wronged his nearest and dearest? That is why God brings these disasters upon him, said Eliphaz who cannot think of any other explanation for suffering.
If someone has misfortune in his business, sickness in his family, loses a loved one, then a conclusion is simply drawn. How cruel this is. It also goes against the clear indication that only on the basis of two or three witnesses will any case be confirmed (2Cor 13:1). Later, Job will emphatically deny and refute all these accusations (Job 31).
Eliphaz deduces from the situation in which Job finds himself what crimes Job has undoubtedly been guilty of. He argues according to the principle ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’. God punishes Job with the same things he was guilty of. Job is now without any possessions and without clothing. This means that he must have taken possessions from others and stripped men naked (verse 6).
Eliphaz does not shy away from sketching the situation as if he has been an eyewitness to it. Job lent his brothers, his relatives, money and took a pledge for it. When they failed to repay the loan, he stripped them to their bare bodies (Exo 22:26; Deu 24:6,17). He presents Job as someone who unscrupulously robs the vulnerable, even if it concerns his family.
According to Eliphaz, Job not only robbed people, i.e. took something from them, but also did not give people what they needed (verse 7). He did not give those in need of refreshment any water to drink. He didn’t give bread to the hungry. This shows his criminal, heartless attitude towards the needy. That is why he himself is now tormented by thirst and hunger.
Yes, he has given something to others (verse 8). But this happened out of the same self-interest as why he gave nothing to some. Job has given “a mighty man” land. After all, he himself could benefit from that. The honorable person who lived there would certainly reward the generous Job by using his influence for him when he needed something. You shouldn’t think that Job knew charity. He was one of those people of whom it is sometimes said: ‘They lick up and kick down.’ That is, they flatter some people who are above them in power or prestige, and they despise other people who are powerless and without prestige.
Those powerless, insignificant people include widows and orphans (verse 9). God’s special care goes out to them. He is “a father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows” (Psa 68:5a). But Job did not care about that. When a widow came to him and asked him for a favor, he sent her away empty-handed. He was even more ruthless with the orphans. He crushed “the strength of the orphans”, which means that he took away everything the orphans still possessed and which gave them some support in life. How ruthless!
Therefore Job should not be surprised that “snares surround” him, that he is a prisoner of the consequences of his sins (verse 10). It is precisely “therefore”, because of all those terrible sins he has committed. That is the reason why he has been suddenly overcome by dread. Eliphaz is referring to the terrible disasters that struck Job, and that God took everything from him.
Or is Job blind to the reason for the darkness in which he finds himself (verse 11)? Surely that will not be true? It is as clear as the day he brought this suffering upon himself because of his sins. The “abundance of water” that covers him speaks of the sorrows and pains that have engulfed him. If only Job didn’t think all this happened for no reason. Of course, this is a call from God that he must confess his sins.
12 - 14 Everything Is Known to God
12 “Is not God [in] the height of heaven?
Look also at the distant stars, how high they are!
13 “You say, ‘What does God know?
Can He judge through the thick darkness?
14 ‘Clouds are a hiding place for Him, so that He cannot see;
And He walks on the vault of heaven.’
Surely Job must know that God is far above men (verse 12). He should look at “the distant stars,” the highest observable in creation, “how high they are”. Well, God is once again infinitely high beyond them. What, then, does Job imagine that he takes up the word against Him and pretends to be innocent?
Instead of bowing before that supreme Majesty and acknowledging Him in the punishments He brings upon him, Job dares to attribute ignorance to God. God is so exalted that – as according to Eliphaz, Job imagines himself – He hides in thick darkness. He does not concern Himself with the earth and what happens on it (verses 13-14). And if He cannot or will not see what is happening on earth, He will of course not punish evil. So God’s judgments cannot have come upon Job because He would have sinned.
Eliphaz puts statements in Job’s mouth that Job did not make. He presupposes to know what Job thinks about God and imputes to Job thoughts that are not present in Job’s mind. Eliphaz simply draws his own conclusions from what Job said about the suffering of the God-fearing and the prosperity of the wicked (Job 21:1-16). This makes it clear to him that Job considers God to be Someone Who does not interfere with what people do. But he, the theologian Eliphaz, knows better. Of course God does interfere with what people do. For him, Job is a textbook example of that.
What Eliphaz here assumes of Job is quite absurd. It shows to what foolish ideas a man can come up with about another man, if he continues unremittingly to look at things from his own theological point of view. Then people have put in their mouths things that they have never said and never meant. Words are pulled out of context and around them a conclusion is formed that fits in with the thinking of one’s own theology. That theology is the yardstick to judge the other.
Whatever the other person says or does to prove the opposite, he is always wrong. Admitting that the other is right, means the end of one’s own right. And that is not possible, because that right is based on solid theological research. Recently, in a report of a theological debate, there was a sentence with which criticism of a certain theological view was parried: ‘Your criticism concerns the results of one hundred years of exegetical research’. This is an example of a bad response to a question about what Scripture says. Findings of people in any field should never be the end of all contradiction. This is particularly true of the study of Scripture. In such a way, Job is approached by Eliphaz and his friends.
Our experiences, our traditions or our findings should not be the yardstick by which we measure our observations. It must always be only God’s Word. In Eliphaz and his friends, man dictates the interpretation of God’s actions. Each of us must be aware that we can fall into the same fault as Job’s friends. We judge another according to what we know of God. But we can only judge something properly if we live in a living relationship with God. We then have no high regard for our knowledge of God, but will be humble. In that state of mind we can judge all things through the Holy Spirit and God’s Word (1Cor 2:15).
15 - 18 The Way of the Wicked
15 “Will you keep to the ancient path
Which wicked men have trod,
16 Who were snatched away before their time,
Whose foundations were washed away by a river?
17 “They said to God, ‘Depart from us!’
And ‘What can the Almighty do to them?’
18 “Yet He filled their houses with good [things];
But the counsel of the wicked is far from me.
Eliphaz accuses Job of persisting in the path of the “wicked” (verse 15). He draws a thick line under his vision that evil people suffer because of their sins. Job suffers, so he must be on the path of sinners. It is “the ancient path” that all the wicked have gone. Job is no exception. He too has followed these wicked people.
But when does Job plan to leave that path? Doesn’t it dawn on him that all the wicked have been snatched away (verse 16)? We can think of the days of Noah and the Flood. Then “their foundations”, and of course what they had built upon it, was washed away by a river. “Before their time,” means that they did not grow old, but died an untimely death. Doesn’t Job recognize that it happened to him too?
What Job has said about the wicked, that they say to God, “Depart from us” (Job 21:14), Eliphaz now uses against Job, thinking that Job is one of them (verse 17). Job is someone who wants to have nothing to do with God. This is evidenced by the fact that he does not bow down to the discipline that God brings upon him. He does not want to accept that God punishes him for his sins. A God Who deals with him in this way cannot mean anything to him, nor can He do anything for him.
Eliphaz reminds Job that God had “filled” the houses of the wicked “with good [things]” (verse 18). God had done the same with Job’s house. But because the wicked did not allow Him into their lives, or only as far as they wished, He had to take everything away from them. And then Eliphaz again quotes a word that Job spoke: “But the counsel of the wicked is far from me” (cf. Job 21:16). It seems that he is rubbing this under Job’s nose to make him feel the incongruity of it. How can Job say that he does not share the intention of the wicked, when he is so clearly one of them?
19 - 20 Their Righteous Judgment
19 “The righteous see and are glad,
And the innocent mock them,
20 [Saying], ‘Truly our adversaries are cut off,
And their abundance the fire has consumed.’
When the judgment of the wicked comes, the truly righteous see it and are glad (verse 19; Psa 58:10-11). The innocent mock the wicked when they are judged. Judgment removes the barrier to blessing. Now Eliphaz points his finger at Job in the midst of his terrible suffering. He portrays Job as an opponent of the righteous who is exterminated, while all his possessions are consumed by fire (verse 20).
21 - 25 Last Call to Repentance
21 “Yield now and be at peace with Him;
Thereby good will come to you.
22 “Please receive instruction from His mouth
And establish His words in your heart.
23 “If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored;
If you remove unrighteousness far from your tent,
24 And place [your] gold in the dust,
And [the gold of] Ophir among the stones of the brooks,
25 Then the Almighty will be your gold
And choice silver to you.
After his harsh accusations, Eliphaz calls Job to repent, with associated promises of blessing (verses 21-30). We still hear the same accusation in the exhortations that he is resisting God. Job remains an evil man for him. But, he promises Job, if he ceases his resistance and submits to God, he will be richly blessed.
Apart from the context in which these words are spoken, we can apply them to our personal life of faith. They contain valuable exhortations and motivating blessings for us. The starting point is the call to submit to God and not to oppose Him. As a result, we will receive rich blessings. Therefore, let us listen carefully to this wonderful message in itself and take it to heart and work it out in our lives.
Eliphaz begins by telling Job to yield (verse 21). If Job simply submits to God’s dealings with him, he will once again have a confidential relationship with God and thus experience peace. Also good – in a material and spiritual sense – will come to him. From the mouth of Eliphaz it is a cold call addressed to someone who wrestles with God and is not yet out of it. Eliphaz interprets this wrestling with God as opposition to God. According to Eliphaz, this is why all these disasters have come over Job.
The word of Eliphaz is an important word, not to tell others, but to ourselves. Getting used to God means getting used to God through daily contact with Him. Then we don’t get upside down when things go differently than we thought, but accept that He has the best for us, even though we can’t always understand why He acts this way with us. It has to do with knowing God, with His way of acting.
The result is that we have peace in our hearts. There is no peace if we live in a state of war with God. But when we are accustomed to Him, to His way of acting, peace descends in our lives. That peace is a benefit for our mind, for our thinking, for our conscience, for our body. As long as we criticize Him and want to dictate to Him how He should act, we do not know this peace.
Job must open himself to receiving instruction from the mouth of God, whatever that instruction may be (verse 22). The words he hears from God’s mouth must then be established in his heart. It means embracing the truth of God and not forgetting it. This is also an important word for us. Are we open to the teaching of God’s Word and do we want to take it into our hearts? Only then is it able to control our deepest feelings and all our actions, for from the heart flow “the springs of life” (Pro 4:23).
Eliphaz still presupposes that Job is an unrepentant sinner. Therefore, he must first return to the Almighty (verse 23). After that, everything that has been broken down can be “restored” again. He will then become healthy again, live in prosperity and enjoy a happy family life. He can show the authenticity of his conversion by removing the unrighteousness far away from his tent. As long as he banishes sin from his life, the way to restoration is open for him.
Job is advised by Eliphaz to place the gold “in the dust”, yea, the pure gold of Ophir (cf. 1Kgs 9:28) among the stones of the brooks (verse 24). This means that from now on Job must no longer put his trust in his riches, but in God alone. Then God the Almighty will be his gold and his treasures of silver, yea, He will be his true treasure (verse 25).
26 - 30 Prediction of a Beautiful Future
26 “For then you will delight in the Almighty
And lift up your face to God.
27 “You will pray to Him, and He will hear you;
And you will pay your vows.
28 “You will also decree a thing, and it will be established for you;
And light will shine on your ways.
29 “When you are cast down, you will speak with confidence,
And the humble person He will save.
30 “He will deliver one who is not innocent,
And he will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.”
Eliphaz promises Job wonderful things, if only he would acknowledge that his accusers are right and follow their advice. He would then no longer complain about God, but delight in the Almighty (verse 26). The bowed head as a sign of guilt (Lk 18:13) he would then raise up again to God to look Him straight in the face again.
For us the encouragement is that we, when Christ is everything to us, have fellowship with Him. That fellowship gives joy (1Jn 1:1-4). We then know that we are fully accepted by the almighty God who is our Father and feel at home in His presence, especially when there are difficulties in our lives (Rom 5:1-3).
When Job’s relationship with God is in order again, he can approach God again in prayer (verse 27), which is not the case now, according to Eliphaz. These prayers are then heard by God, for they come from the mouth of a righteous person with a sincere heart. He will also be able to keep the vows he made during his prayers. As a result, God gives him the blessings for which he has made vows.
It is one of the blessings of living in fellowship with God that we can tell Him all that is in our hearts (1Jn 3:21-22). We can be sure that He listens to us and hears us in His time and in His way. Making vows is not part of the New Testament believer’s relationship to God. Making vows means that we want to do something for God with the purpose that He will give us what we ask for. That doesn’t suit those of us who know God as a Father and trust Him completely, that He knows what is good for us.
Eliphaz also promises Job the blessing of prosperity in his activities (verse 28). If he decides and does something, failure is out of the question. What he intends to do will succeed (Pro 16:3). In all his ways the light will shine instead of the deep darkness that now reigns. Then nothing more is uncertain and dark. He will continue his way with joy and prosperity, because he is walking in the light of God’s favor.
We may know that we are walking in the light, as God is in the light (1Jn 1:7). We are “Light in the Lord” (Eph 5:8a). Our command or responsibility is that we behave in conformity with the light and walk as “children of Light” (Eph 5:8b).
When Job is restored to fellowship with God, he can also be a blessing and help for others, Eliphaz says to him. He can help others with the experiences he has had. He can encourage someone who has been cast down, who is down, to come up (verse 29). He helps others to get back up. God will join him. He will lift up from his misery the one who has lowered his eyes and does not dare to look up at Him.
All the bitter experiences or setbacks in life make us capable of understanding and helping others. In any case, this is one of God’s goals with the disasters that affect us. God doesn’t want us to succumb to them, but to go through them with Him in order to come out of them purified. With the experience we have gained, we can serve others who have to go through similar situations (2Cor 1:3-4).
Job will even be able to deliver people who are not innocent, Eliphaz predicts (verse 30). This thought is a law. Someone who has returned to God and is seen by Him as His friend can pray for others and thus deliver them from the punishment they deserve.
What Eliphaz says here, Job, ironically, will do for him and his friends. Indeed, by the cleanness of his hands – for he has not sinned – Job will deliver the not innocent Eliphaz and his friends from the wrath of God by praying for them (Job 42:8-9). Job is a righteous one whose prayer has much power (Jam 5:16b).