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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Job 5

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



Eliphaz’ speech revealed some good qualities in him. He no doubt believed that Job had been a righteous man; and in spite of the fact that he even suggested that the terrible misfortunes that came upon Job might have been in the category of `chastening’ rather than as punishment, his smug and erroneous belief that such calamities were usually if not always the proof and punishment of wickedness must have been quite painful to Job.

Verses 1-7


“Call now; is there any that will answer thee? And to which of the holy ones wilt thou turn? For vexation killeth the foolish man, And jealousy slayeth the silly one. I have seen the foolish taking root: But suddenly I cursed his habitation.. His children are far from safety, And they are crushed in the gate, Neither is there any to deliver them: Whose harvest the hungry eateth up, And taketh it even out of the thorns; And the snare gapeth for their substance. For affliction cometh not forth from the dust, Neither doth trouble spring out of the ground: But man is born unto trouble, As the sparks fly upward.”

“Is there any that will answer thee” Such a question in Hebrew was an emphatic negative, with the meaning that, “Not even any of the angels would hear Job’s prayer.” “What he says is that, `it is futile to call out in prayer,’ for no one will answer.”(F1) Eliphaz himself had just claimed that God heard him in prayer; so, “It is Job himself who is disqualified to pray.”(F2)

“Vexation killeth the foolish man” Eliphaz has concluded that Job’s vexation and jealousy show that Job has become a fool. In his description of what happens to the fool, “Eliphaz deliberately goes through a whole roll of disasters corresponding so exactly to what had happened to Job, that each word is a poisoned arrow.”(F3)

“His children are far from safety” The implication of this is that Job’s sins have also brought sorrow to his children. Of course, it is true that sin injures others besides the sinner. It is against God, against the sinner’s family, against society, and against the sinner himself; “It is inevitable that when a man disgraces himself that his family share in it.”(F4) However. the tragedy of Eliphaz’ observation here is that it had no application whatever to Job.

“Eliphaz and the other friends of Job were like men who close their eyes to the real facts, rock back on their heels, and speak of general principles, every one of which is contradicted by the indisputable facts before them.”(F5)

“And taketh it even out of the thorns” The imagery here is that of ancient harvests which were protected from raiders and vandals, “by thorn hedges.”(F6)

“Affliction cometh not forth from the dust… Man is born unto trouble, as sparks fly upward” “Here Eliphaz says that trouble comes naturally to man; but he had just said the opposite,”(F7) i.e., that trouble did not just rise up out of the dust, but it came as a consequence of wickedness.

Eliphaz’ idea that disasters and calamities were invariably due to the sin of those who suffered such things was generally received throughout the ancient world. Even the Twelve asked Jesus, concerning the man born blind, “Who sinned? This man or his parents that he should have been born blind”? (John 9:2). Jesus put that old lie to rest with the declaration that neither the blind man nor his parents had sinned, but, “That the glory of God should be manifested in him.”

It is true, of course that sin is the root and cause of all the sorrow and suffering of mankind; but that cannot mean that an individual sufferer of this or that misfortune is suffering because of his personal sin. David, Jeremiah, Jacob, Tamar, Uriah, - call the roll of Old Testament heroes; they all suffered from the sins of others, not from their own wickedness. “And what about Our Saviour himself?. He did no wrong, in fact, committed no sin whatever, yet he suffered the agony of the Cross. The argument of Eliphaz does not hold water.”(F8)

“As the sparks fly upward” In the Hebrew, this reads, “As the sons of Reseph, an old Canaanite god. Here Eliphaz has given up his attempt at a moral explanation of Job’s disasters, offering dismal comfort.”(F9)

Verses 8-16


“But as for me, I would seek unto God, And unto God would I commit my cause; Who doeth great things, and unsearchable, Marvelous things without number: Who giveth rain upon the earth, And sendeth waters upon the fields; So that he setteth upon on high those that are low, And those that mourn are exalted to safety. He frustrateth the devices of the crafty, So that their hands cannot perform their enterprise. He taketh the wise in their own craftiness; And the counsel of the cunning is carried headlong. They meet with darkness in the daytime, And grope at noonday as in the night. But he saveth from the sword of their mouth, Even the needy from the hand of the mighty. So the poor have hope, And iniquity stoppeth her mouth.”

“Unto God would I commit my cause” We like Dilday’s paraphrase here: “If I were you Job, I would quit complaining and humbly trust God to help me. He thinks that Job should rejoice in sufferings because they open the way to richer blessings.”(F10) Eliphaz, however, was mistaken. “Suffering does not come to men in proportion to their sins, and neither is prosperity granted in proportion to one’s piety. Everything depends upon the will of God.”(F11) Indeed God did, at a later time, bless Job superlatively, “But not upon the conditions which Eliphaz here imagined.”(F12)

“He setteth up on high those that are low” Barnes pointed out that the Virgin Mary very beautifully expressed much the same thought in Luke 1:52-53.(F13)

“He taketh the wise in their own craftiness” Also, it appears that Eliphaz’ remarks here prompted the apostle Paul to write 1 Corinthians 3:19; but our own opinion is that no New Testament writer quoted from the Book of Job. Some scholars think that Paul did so in the verse cited; but Driver and Gray pointed out that, “If Paul here quoted from Job, he either translated from the Hebrew himself, or quoted from some other than any of the known versions.”(F14) We learned in our New Testament studies that Paul often used the language of Old Testament passages to formulate his own inspired writings, and that in a number of passages where Paul is sometimes alleged to have “misquoted” or garbled some Old Testament Scripture, he was by no means `quoting’ Scripture; he was `writing’ Scripture.(F15) Heavenor stated that 1 Corinthians 3:19 is the only clear case of a quotation from Job to be found in the New Testament;(F16) and, in the light of Driver’s analysis, this writer does not believe that even that reference qualifies as a bona fide quotation.

Eliphaz’ message to Job in this speech is, “Repent, confess your sins to God, and he will bless you.” “Good old orthodox, conceited prosperous Eliphaz; he thinks he is a prophet; but, if he had been tried like Job, he would have been just as unreasonable, just as perplexed, just as eager for death and just as wild and passionate as was Job,”(F17) perhaps more so.

“He taketh the wise in their craftiness” DeHoff reminds us that Sanballat, Ahithophel and Haman are Old Testament examples of instances when God did that very thing.(F18) But what comfort is there in such information for one who is not wicked, and who is not planning some crafty deception against another?

“He saveth from the sword of their mouth” What an eloquent description we have here of a slanderous tongue. It is the `mouth-sword’ of evil men.

Verses 17-27


“Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: Therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty. For he taketh sore, and bindeth up; He woundeth, and his hands make whole. He will deliver thee in six troubles; Yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee. In famine he will redeem thee from death; And in war from the power of the sword. Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue; Neither shalt thou be afraid of destruction when it cometh. At destruction and dearth thou shalt laugh; Neither shalt thou be afraid of the beasts of the earth. For thou shalt be in league with the beasts of the field; And the beasts of the field shall be in league with thee. And thou shalt know that thy tent is in peace; And thou shalt visit thy fold, and shalt miss nothing. Thou shalt know also that thy seed shall be great, And thine offspring as the grass of the earth. Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, Like a shock of grain cometh in its season. Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; Hear it, and know thou it for thy good.”

“Despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty” “It is true, of course, that God chastens those whom he loves; but it is not true that we can know every time one suffers that he is being chastened of the Lord.”(F19)

One of the most offensive elements of Eliphaz’ ineffective and futile efforts to comfort Job was his conceited assumption that he knew all the answers. How often must all of us ministers of the gospel have fallen into the same error! “Eliphaz had not yet learned that reverent humility exhibited by the apostle Paul in his words, `We now see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.’ How often must we find a place for this confession in our religious thinking”!(F20)

In the last few verses of this chapter, Eliphaz enumerates all of the blessings that may come to Job, if only he will confess his wickedness and ask God to help. Perhaps the most tasteless and tactless blunder of all is that which he stated in Job 5:25.

“Thy seed shall be great, and thine offspring as the grass of the earth” Imagine saying that to a man whose children have all been killed in a tragic accident! To say to a man in the clutches of a mortal illness that he shall attain to a ripe old age, and that his children shall multiply as the grass (when, as a matter of fact, his children were all dead) was an almost unforgivable insult. “Oh yes, it actually came to pass, but that did not altar the situation. Here, as elsewhere, Eliphaz was not speaking that `which was right’ (Job 42:7). His overconfident and arrogant conclusion (Job 5:27) did not comfort Job, but only added to his irritation.”(F21) “What Job needed here was love and understanding, not theological doctrine and criticism.”(F22)

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Job 5". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/job-5.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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