1 - 5 Experience of God’s ways
1 “Call now, is there anyone who will answer you?
And to which of the holy ones will you turn?
2 “For anger slays the foolish man,
And jealousy kills the simple.
3 “I have seen the foolish taking root,
And I cursed his abode immediately.
4 “His sons are far from safety,
They are even oppressed in the gate,
And there is no deliverer.
5 “His harvest the hungry devour
And take it to a [place of] thorns,
And the schemer is eager for their wealth.
Eliphaz is sure of his view on ‘the Job matter’. He challenges Job to summon as a witness someone who proves he (Job) is right (verse 1). In Job 3, Job has made a complaint against God. Eliphaz wants to refute this complaint in this chapter. The call here is not a call for help, but a call for justice. Is there anyone “of the holy ones” to whom Job can turn who has had to endure suffering similar to his? But, as Eliphaz’s challenge sounds, there is no such holy one, for God does not do this to God-fearing people (cf. Psa 9:10b; 37:25). So Job must ascribe this suffering to himself. All that crying out of Job in Job 3 has been meaningless. It also sounds that all holy people have the same opinion about this as Eliphaz and that Job stands alone in his vision of his suffering.
The anger of Job (verse 2) against the law of God – that he who sows sin reaps punishment – is more than useless in the eyes of Eliphaz, it is harmful. Eliphaz puts it this way: the foolish and simple – that is Job, for he does not agree with the logic of Eliphaz – is provoked, angry, jealous. He resists judgment, but this reaction will eventually kill and destroy him.
Yes, none of this is a fabrication of Eliphaz, he has seen it with his own eyes (verse 3). He has seen a fool take root, that is to say that such a person had prosperity. Again Eliphaz reasons from his own rich experience what he has seen and heard (Job 4:8,12), but not from what God has shown him, because he is not open to it. The curse he pronounces on the fool’s dwelling-place immediately after his observation, he pronounces because he supposes that a fool’s prosperity was obtained by deceit. It is again such a veiled allusion to the prosperity of Job which he must have obtained in an unfair way given the misery in which he now finds himself.
Following his observations, Eliphaz alludes in verse 4, in a veiled way, to what happened to Job’s children. The fool does not serve God and therefore his children will suffer too. They are far from safety because of the foolishness of their father, who does not take God into account. Deliverance from a situation of need can only be found with God. But what do you do if you do not take Him into account? Even “in the gate”, the place where justice is done, there is no one to deliver them, no one to stand up for them. Instead of deliverance there is oppression, literally “crushing”, for them.
Eliphaz could hardly have said anything more insensitive than this allusion to the children of Job. He is sitting opposite a man who has lost all his possessions, all his health, and, moreover, all his children, and he knows nothing better to say than that the children of a fool have been crushed by the accident. Let us be wary that we do not make such unsophisticated, insensitive allusions to someone who is in the deepest misery.
Then Eliphaz speaks of the possession of the fool (verse 5). The fool will not be able to enjoy his possessions either, for that too is taken away from him. Hungry people come to plunder him and to eat what he intended for himself and his family. Even if something edible has come up between the thorns, it is not for the fool, but for the hungry. The fool is left to himself, without children and without possessions and food.
Eliphaz’s argument is very transparent. Without mentioning the name of Job, it is clear to the listener that with the fool here he means Job.
6 - 11 Exhortation for Job to Seek God
6 “For affliction does not come from the dust,
Nor does trouble sprout from the ground,
7 For man is born for trouble,
As sparks fly upward.
8 “But as for me, I would seek God,
And I would place my cause before God;
9 Who does great and unsearchable things,
Wonders without number.
10 “He gives rain on the earth
And sends water on the fields,
11 So that He sets on high those who are lowly,
And those who mourn are lifted to safety.
Eliphaz returns to his theme of the general principle of sowing and reaping (verse 6; Job 4:8). What appears above the ground is the result of what has been sown. Grief and trouble are not isolated events. It is not a coincidence when a human being is affected by them. As soon as a human being is born, trouble is his part. His struggles do not come out of nowhere. According to the theology of Eliphaz, Job should not attribute his suffering to coincidence or bad luck or something like that. Job has to look for a negative cause of his negative experience. According to Eliphaz’ reasoning, there must be sin underlying Job’s suffering.
However, Eliphaz also sees that suffering is part of our earthly existence. “Man is born for trouble” (verse 7). This observation is correct. As born under sin, nothing but trouble can be his part. We sin because we are sinners and we must bear the consequences (Gen 3:17-19). Those consequences are far from pleasant. But we may know that the Lord Jesus said: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). We may also take to heart the admonition that the Lord disciplines whom He loves (Heb 12:5-11; Rev 3:19).
Eliphaz’ advice to Job is to seek God and present his situation to Him (verse 8). It is good to point out to people that they should submit their affairs to God in the confidence that He knows best what is right (Psa 62:8; 1Pet 5:7). But in this case, where Job is accused of causing his suffering through hidden sins, such advice only arouses resistance. It also has to do with Eliphaz saying what he himself would do if he were Job. If he were Job, he would not expect assistance from anyone (verse 1) and would address his words directly to God and certainly not accuse Him.
But Eliphaz is not Job, and he is certainly not in Job’s circumstances. What does he know about the enormous loss and the deep sorrow of Job and his great questions as to why? It is always dangerous to say what you would do if you were in the other person’s shoes, because you don’t know how you yourself would react if really happened to you what happened to the other person.
To reinforce his argument, Eliphaz describes the greatness of God through the words of verse 9. God “does great and unsearchable things”. That’s why it takes an eternity to see more and more of that and to admire Him more and more. Eliphaz says this to show Job that he can’t reconstruct God in His actions after all. It is best for him to take his rightful place opposite Him, the Almighty and Unfathomable, by acknowledging his guilt and confessing his rebellion against Him.
If Eliphaz himself had believed in the true words he says about God, he would have remained silent and sought God himself. God is “the God Who works wonders” (Psa 77:14). Eliphaz places the greatness of God before Job, so that Job may understand how great God is and how small he himself is. But Eliphaz does not see that God is also working wonders in the life of Job. He is blind to God’s wonders in His reign, wonders that we can only marvel at. Eliphaz says to Job, as it were, that he, Job, does not understand God’s dealings with him, but that he, Eliphaz, does understand God’s dealings with Job.
In verses 10-11 Eliphaz mentions some of those unsearchable things and wonders from which God’s reign and power are evident. He points to the rain that God gives (verse 10). God sends rain and water as blessing. We often see rain as something very ordinary, but if we look closely at how it originates and what it does, we see that it is a great work of God’s power and goodness (Mt 5:45; Acts 14:17). It is a work of nature for the benefit of the earth and the fields.
This is also how God works in the world of man. He is concerned with the lowly and the mourning (verse 11). He gives the lowly a high place (Lk 1:52b). He also has a special place for the mourners. He lifts them “to safety”. If Job takes this attitude towards God, he will experience what Eliphaz tells him.
12 - 16 God’s Triumph Over Evil
12 “He frustrates the plotting of the shrewd,
So that their hands cannot attain success.
13 “He captures the wise by their own shrewdness,
And the advice of the cunning is quickly thwarted.
14 “By day they meet with darkness,
And grope at noon as in the night.
15 “But He saves from the sword of their mouth,
And the poor from the hand of the mighty.
16 “So the helpless has hope,
And unrighteousness must shut its mouth.
The truth of verses 12-13 is emphasized by Paul. He quotes these verses in the first letter to the Corinthians (1Cor 3:19). The apostle wants to deprive the Corinthians of their carnal trust in human wisdom. What Eliphaz says is certainly true, although God certainly does not always frustrate all the plans of all shrewd people. It is in any case wrong to apply this truth to Job and his circumstances. Job had no shrewd plans; therefore they cannot have been frustrated by God (verse 12; cf. Neh 4:15; Est 7:3-10). God does indeed capture the wise in their own shrewdness, but Job is not a devious man whose counsel God has made fail (verse 13).
It is not the mind of Eliphaz with his human conclusions that knows how to use the truth correctly, but a heart that loves the truth and lives in fellowship with God. The latter is lacking in Eliphaz. Job may be in darkness in broad daylight (verse 14), but not for the reasons Eliphaz supposes. Job gropes around in the night and sees no path in front of his foot, but that is not because he has cursed God.
Contrary to the shrewd – the word “but” indicates that there is a contradiction with the foregoing – God helps the poor. If only Job would take the place of the poor, God would deliver him from those who with their words hurt him with their false accusations, and exercise power over him (verse 15). Eliphaz is also unaware that he himself is such a person. Whoever takes God’s side, so Eliphaz continues, has hope, for to him belongs victory over evil (verse 16). What Eliphaz does not suspect here is that Job will indeed experience this when he turns to God at the end of the book.
17 - 27 The Use of Discipline
17 “Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves,
So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
18 “For He inflicts pain, and gives relief;
He wounds, and His hands [also] heal.
19 “From six troubles He will deliver you,
Even in seven evil will not touch you.
20 “In famine He will redeem you from death,
And in war from the power of the sword.
21 “You will be hidden from the scourge of the tongue,
And you will not be afraid of violence when it comes.
22 “You will laugh at violence and famine,
And you will not be afraid of wild beasts.
23 “For you will be in league with the stones of the field,
And the beasts of the field will be at peace with you.
24 “You will know that your tent is secure,
For you will visit your abode and fear no loss.
25 “You will know also that your descendants will be many,
And your offspring as the grass of the earth.
26 “You will come to the grave in full vigor,
Like the stacking of grain in its season.
27 “Behold this; we have investigated it, [and] so it is.
Hear it, and know for yourself.”
In the closing part of this first speech by Eliphaz, we again receive wonderful instruction in wonderful language about God and His dealings with man. Only Eliphaz applies it in the wrong way because he applies it to the wrong person.
Eliphaz speaks about God Who chastises and punishes the mortal with whom he means Job. Yet he calls that mortal “happy” (verse 17; Psa 94:12). Here he means to say that discipline or punishment has such important advantages that we should submit to it without complaining about it. What eludes Eliphaz is that God can discipline someone, without this necessarily being an expression of His displeasure with such a person. Discipline indicates the existence of a relationship. God wants to improve that relationship through discipline (Heb. 12:5-6,10; Pro 3:11-12).
Eliphaz sees the discipline of God as proof that there is something sinful in the life of Job. He calls upon Job to listen to this discipline and not to despise it, but to obey it. Job must know that the sorrow and wounds that are his share have been inflicted on him by the Almighty (verse 18). They come from Him. But Job must also know that the same Almighty is able to give relief and that His hands heal. Salvation will come from the same hand that strikes (cf. Hos 6:1).
For the first time, Eliphaz does not speak to Job in veiled terms, but speaks directly to him with ‘you’. We can apply the “six troubles” (verse 19) that struck Job as follows: three in his possessions, the fourth in his children, the fifth in his health, the sixth in his wife. There is a seventh trouble. We recognize it in his friends. As with the six previous plagues, we must also acknowledge that the coming of the friends has been arranged by God. Their contribution to Job’s suffering must be seen as coming from God. God also has with their actions His purpose in His upbringing of Job. He wants to use them to discover Job to himself through them.
Perhaps we can also say the following of these numbers. Six is the number of man’s toil, seven is the number of perfection. This leads to the thought that after the toil of man, rest with God follows.
Eliphaz presents Job with further blessings that will be his share if he accepts the discipline of the Almighty. Thus God will not let him die of starvation, but deliver him from it (verse 20). Nor will he be killed if war is waged against him. If he trusts in God, God will protect him in times of hunger and war.
God will also ensure that his reputation is not tarnished by slanderous tongues (verse 21). He does so by ensuring that the truth exposes the lie and slander. Nor will he have to fear imminent destruction, as he has now experienced. If such devastation comes to pass, he will be safe and happy. He will even laugh at them (verse 22), which means that he does not take them seriously because they are not a threat to him.
The same goes for wild animals, which must always be taken into account. He doesn’t have to be afraid that these animals will attack him. Nor will they cause any damage to his harvest.
There will be no stones on his land that make his way impassable or prevent the corn from rising (verse 23; 2Kgs 3:19; Isa 5:2; 62:10). He will live in peace with the wild animals. Such harmony between man and animals will be a reality in the realm of peace (Isa 11:6-9; Hos 2:17). All elements of nature that can be against man will then work together with the righteous.
There will also be peace in his home (verse 24). When he is on the road, he does not have to worry about what happens at home. He has flawlessly arranged the care for his home, for everything that happens. God will take care of it for someone who trusts in Him. The same goes for his offspring (verse 25). It will be many and prosperous (Psa 128:1,3).
Finally, Eliphaz points to the long life that is the part of those who trust in God (verse 26). He will grow old and not be torn from life prematurely due to sickness or accident as a result of sin. He will not be taken away from life until he is fully satisfied with life and the fruit of righteousness has ripened in his life. Eliphaz compares it to a “stacking of grain” which, when the corn is ripe, is brought in “in its season”. Grain is not cut off when it is still green, but only when it is golden yellow.
Of the whole picture sketched by Eliphaz, nothing can be recognized in Job. So there must be something wrong with him. That is why Eliphaz concludes his first speech to Job by emphasizing once more the research he and his friends have done into the cause and effect of sins (verse 27). Again we hear that he is basing himself on his observation: they have “investigated” it. The results of his investigation and those of his friends are not open to discussion, for “so it is”. It is the certainty of someone who says: “I have the truth, and I alone.”
Eliphaz here resembles someone who was called to account for a very unhealthy interpretation of Scripture once. The answer this person gave was: ‘We spent a lot of time in that explanation and certainly didn’t go over night.’ An answer like that silences any criticism. It means that you have to be impressed by their research and that you have to accept the result, the explanation, on that basis. Such an approach is of course reprehensible. Someone who adopts such an attitude disqualifies himself as a trustworthy interpreter of Scripture.
Eliphaz says something similar to Job. Now, let Job be sensible enough to resign himself to the results of their investigation and make use of them. To oppose this is, of course, very stupid. Then you just put their ‘thorough’ investigation aside. That would be very stubborn. It’s the soothing: “Listen to us, and everything will be fine.’ Responding in such a way to the need in which someone is, we call ‘manipulating’ today. But Job does not allow himself to be manipulated as the following two chapters show.
The attitude of Eliphaz and his friends in the beginning can be an example for us. They first start by observing a silence of seven days, a full week. But as they begin to speak, we see that Job’s personal struggle encounters a high wall of incomprehension. Eliphaz comes with strong criticism (Job 4:1-11), with watertight theological arguments (Job 4:17; 5:7), with personal experience – a vision he wrongly attributes to God (Job 4:12-21). He speaks with such conviction of his own right that he challenges Job to turn to God himself; then he will hear from God the same thing he has heard from him (Job 5:8). Finally, to top it all off, Eliphaz in his pride declares his own right as an omniscient – as if he were God himself – by saying “so it is” (Job 5:27).