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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
Job 4



Verses 1-6

Eliphaz"s rebuke of Job 4:1-6

Eliphaz began courteously but moved quickly to criticism. He commended Job for having encouraged others in the past, but rebuked him for not encouraging himself in the present. He did not offer encouragement to his distressed friend. It is unclear whether Job 4:6 is an ironic rebuke or a subtle reminder.

Verses 1-22

B. The First Cycle of Speeches between Job and His Three Friends chs4-14

The two soliloquies of Job (chs3,29-31) enclose three cycles of dialogue between Job and his three friends. Each cycle consists of speeches by Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, in that order, interspersed with Job"s reply to each address. This pattern continues through the first two cycles of speeches (chs4-14,15-21) but breaks down in the third when Zophar failed to continue the dialogue.

"Now the discussion begins. Soon it will become a debate, then a dispute; and the Lord will have to intervene to bring matters to a head." [Note: Wiersbe, p15. Cf. Hartley, pp38 , 42.]

"There are two basic lines of interaction which run through Job -Job"s crying out to God and Job"s disputations with his three friends. The absence of the third speech of Zophar is consistent with the fact that each of the speeches of the three friends is progressively shorter in each cycle and that Job"s responses to each of the friends (which also are progressively shorter) are longer than the corresponding speech of the friends. This seems to signify Job"s verbal victory over Zophar and the other two friends. It is also indicative of the bankruptcy and futility of dialogue when both Job and the three friends assume the retribution dogma (which for the friends implies Job"s guilt and for Job implies God"s injustice). Consequently, this structural design marks a very gradual swing toward a focus on Job"s relationship and interaction with God in contrast to the earlier primary interaction between Job and his friends." [Note: Parsons, p140.]

Throughout the three cycles of speeches, Job"s friends did not change their position. They believed that God rewards the righteous and punishes sinners in this life, the theory of retribution. [Note: See Sarles, pp329-52.] They reasoned that all suffering is punishment for sin, and since Job was suffering, he was a sinner. They believed that what people experience depends on what they have done (cf. John 9:2). While this is true often, it is not the fundamental reason we experience what we do in life, as the Book of Job proceeds to reveal.

"At the heart of the debate between Job and his three friends is a question, Who is wise? Who has the correct insight into Job"s suffering? Both Job and the friends set themselves up as sources of wisdom and ridicule the wisdom of the other ( Job 11:12; Job 12:1-3; Job 12:12; Job 13:12; Job 15:1-13). As we will see, this question, "Who is wise?" dominates the whole book." [Note: Longman and Dillard, p229.]

As the speeches unfolded, Job"s friends became increasingly vitriolic and specific about Job"s guilt. This was true of Eliphaz (cf. Job 5:8; ch15; Job 22:5-9), Bildad (cf. Job 8:6; ch18; Job 25:5-6), and Zophar (cf. Job 11:14; ch20).

In several of his speeches, Job affirmed his innocence of great sin ( Job 6:10; Job 9:21; Job 16:17; Job 27:6). In his first five responses he charged God with afflicting him ( Job 6:4; Job 9:17; Job 13:27; Job 16:12; Job 19:11). In each of his first three replies in the first cycle he asked, "Why?" ( Job 7:20; Job 10:2; Job 13:24). In six of his speeches he longed to present his case to God ( Job 9:3; Job 13:3; Job 16:21; Job 19:23; Job 23:4; Job 31:35).

Job"s friends each emphasized a different aspect of God"s character, though they all saw Him as a judge. Eliphaz pointed out the distance between God and Prayer of Manasseh , His transcendence ( Job 4:17-19; Job 15:14-16), and stressed God"s punishment of the wicked ( Job 5:12-14). Bildad said God is just ( Job 8:3), great ( Job 25:2-3), and that He punishes only the wicked ( Job 18:5-21). God"s inscrutability impressed Zophar ( Job 11:7), who also stated that God punishes the wicked quickly ( Job 20:23).

Eliphaz spoke to Job with the most respect and restraint, Bildad was more direct and less courteous, and Zophar was the most blunt and brutal. Eliphaz based his arguments on experience ( Job 4:8; Job 5:3; Job 15:17), Bildad on tradition ( Job 8:8-10), and Zophar on mere assumption or intuition ( Job 20:1-5). Eliphaz viewed life as a mystic, Bildad as an attorney, and Zophar as a dogmatist. Bildad and Zophar picked up themes from Eliphaz"s speeches and echoed them with slightly variant emphases (cf. Job 5:9 and Job 22:12 with Job 8:3; Job 8:5; Job 22:2 a with Job 11:7; Job 11:11; Job 15:32-34 with Job 18:16 and Job 20:21-22; and Job 5:14 with Job 18:5-6; Job 18:18 and Job 20:26).

"A consideration of the dramatic framework of the book of Job offers great insight into the book"s message. The author penetrates deeply into the issue of human suffering by setting up many sharp contrasts. The interplay of these contrasts gives dramatic movement to the story.

"The basic tension is between one"s belief in God and one"s personal experience." [Note: Hartley, p43.]

Verses 1-27

1. Eliphaz"s first speech chs4-5

Eliphaz"s first speech has a symmetrical introverted (chiastic) structure that emphasizes the central section.

"A Opening remark ( Job 4:2)

B Exhortation ( Job 4:3-6)

C God"s dealings with men ( Job 4:7-11)

D The revelation of truth ( Job 4:12-21)

C" God"s dealings with men ( Job 5:1-16)

B" Exhortation ( Job 5:17-26)

A" Closing remark ( Job 5:27)" [Note: Andersen, p111.]

Verses 7-11

Eliphaz"s view of suffering4:7-11

This is one of the clearest expressions of Eliphaz"s view of why people suffer and his view of the basis for the divine-human relationship ( Job 4:7). He believed good people always win and the bad always lose. He was asserting that Job"s sins were finding him out. Bildad and Zophar shared this conclusion, but experience does not support it, as Job pointed out later. Eliphaz also explained the basis for his arguments: personal experience ( Job 4:8). Unfortunately, any one person"s individual experience is too limited to provide enough data with which to answer the great questions Job and his friends discussed.

Verses 12-21

Eliphaz"s vision4:12-21

Eliphaz"s authority was a vision ( Job 4:12). It seems that his vision was not a revelation from God for the following reasons. He did not say that it was from the Lord. God normally identified revelations from Himself as such, to those who received them, when He used this method of revelation. Furthermore, the content of what Eliphaz received in the vision ( Job 4:17-21) does not represent God as He has revealed Himself elsewhere in Scripture. Specifically, God appears here as unconcerned with people. Evidently Eliphaz"s "spirit" ( Job 4:15) was not the Holy Spirit, and the Hebrew word translated "spirit" never unambiguously describes a disembodied spirit. Perhaps the spirit was an evil angel. What he heard from this spirit contained elements of truth: man cannot make himself pure before God, and man is mortal. Still, Eliphaz was wrong in applying these words to Job as though Job was a willful sinner (cf. Job 1:1; Job 1:8; Job 2:3). [Note: See James L. Crenshaw, "The Acquisition of Knowledge in Israelite Wisdom Literature," Word & World7:3 (Summer1986):251.]


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Job 4:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 31st, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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