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Bible Commentaries

Dunagan's Commentary on the Bible

Job 4

Verse 1

“Job's three companions-Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar had come to him to sympathize with him and comfort him (2:11). No doubt their motives were pure, their intentions honest. Their weeklong silence expressed their sympathy as well as their bewilderment and grief. Then when Job broke the silence with his outcry of anguish, the three felt compelled to speak. Shocked by his death-desire, they took upon themselves the responsibility of correcting Job for his brash remarks. Each friend spoke and was in turn answered by Job. The cycle occurs three times, with one variation in the third round: the third friend did not speak a third time” (Zuck p. 29).

· Throughout their speeches these friends remain convinced that all suffering is due to sin. Job is suffering; therefore he must be guilty of some hidden sin.

· As time goes on the speeches become more pointed and specific. At first there is the hint that Job has sinned (5:8; 8:6; 11:14). In the second round we move from suggestion to insinuation (15,18,20). In the third open there is outright accusation (22:5-9).

· In every one of his speeches Job will affirm his innocence (6:10; 9:21; 16:17; 27:6). He will also state that God has afflicted him (6:4; 9:17; 13:27; 16:12; 19:11). In each speech in the first round, Job will ask the question “why?” (7:20; 10:2; 13:24). He longed to present his case to God) 9:3; 13:3; 16:21; 19:23; 23:4; 31:35).

Eliphaz's First Speech: Chapters 4-5

In this section Eliphaz will rebuke Job (4:1-6), give his reasoning about suffering (4:7-11), report a vision he has had (4:12-21), give his recommendation (5:1-17), and remind Job of God's blessings (5:18-27).

Verse 2

4:2 "If one ventures a word with you, will you become impatient?": In light of Job's outburst in chapter 3, Eliphaz wonders if Job will lash out at him for anything that he says. In addition, is Job physically and psychologically able to bear his advice? "But who can refrain from speaking?": He fears an outburst from Job, but he must respond to what Job has said.

Verse 3

4:3-5 "Behold you have admonished many, and you have strengthened weak hands, your words have helped the tottering to stand, and you have strengthened feeble knees, but now it has come to you, and you are impatient"

Eliphaz commends Job for helping and comforting others in the past, but in this compliment there is a rebuke, that is, Job is refusing to listen to his own type of advice. He had advised others to be patient under trial, but he is unwilling to take his own medicine. It is easy for a man to give sound advice, but much harder to take that same advise when one is suffering.

Verse 6

4:6 "Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?": "Literally, your 'fear' of God should sustain you. He should have confidence in his past faithfulness to God. After all, Job's piety and integrity are not being questioned---yet" (Strauss p. 38). This is either a rebuke to Job for his lack of confidence because he was no longer fearing God, or it is a reminder that because Job had trusted God in the past, that he should continue to trust Him now.

Verse 7

4:7 "Remember, now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright destroyed?": This is his theory on suffering. Whoever heard of an innocent man suffering? Yet this theory is false. Abel was innocent and he was killed (Genesis 4). The Israelites were God's people, yet they suffered in bondage for 400 years (Genesis 15:13). In addition, many of the prophets suffered as well as the apostles (Hebrews 11; 2 Corinthians 11). The supreme example of the just suffering is seen in the life of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:21-25).

Verse 8

4:8 "According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it": Eliphaz will often base his arguments on experience. Three times he will say, "I have seen" (4:8; 5:3; 15:17). It is true that what a person sows he will reap (Hosea 10:13; Galatians 6:7). But Eliphaz is assuming that all the sowing and reaping are done in this life, that is good guys always win, bad guys always lose here on the earth, and such is not always the case (Psalm 73). While his observations might have been extensive, his knowledge was not universal. There are exceptions to the above rule in this life. Thus this man's argument is that sin equals suffering and righteousness equals prosperity. A good number of religious people to this day still hold to this basic error. That is, if one is faithful, they will be healthy and prosperous. If you are prospering it is proof that God is blessing you, and if you are suffering it is proof that God is punishing you. Yet often the innocent do suffer in this life (Luke 13:4-5; John 9:1-3; 1 Peter 2:19-20), while it seems that the wicked are prosperous and do not have any problems. This man's authority was not Scripture, but history and personal experience "according to what I have seen".

Verse 9

4:9-11 The idea here might be that though lions are strong, their teeth can be broken, and they can perish. In like manner, Job, who used to be strong, was broken and his children lost.

Verse 12

4:12 "Now a word was brought to me stealthily": Eliphaz now seeks to strengthen his case by relating a dream that he has allegedly experienced. In this dream a voice whispered to him (verse 17). Here is the claim that God spoke to him in a still, quiet voice. Jackson rightly notes that this section reveals the absolute worthlessness of subjective feelings and dreams. Eliphaz is sure that God has spoken to him, and yet he will be dead wrong.

Verse 13

4:13-16 Here we have a good description of what people call a nightmare. Such an experience was so frightening that he was shaking all over and his hair stood up on end (4:14-15). Then he claims that a spirit passed by, actually stood still (4:16), and then spoke to him. While this all sounds impressive, God rebukes this man in the end. "Nothing is more essential than testing experience by an objective standard of reality. When God has spoken concerning a matter, that is decisive for all the issues involved. This word must be the court of appeal for all thoughts, impressions, and views" (Jackson p. 36). Today people try to make arguments like the above. They claim that God has told them something, but one writer reminds us. "We pray to the same God. Why hasn't He said the same thing to me? Secret visions and whispered voices that bring private messages attributed to God are immediately suspect" (McKenna p. 61). God has already told us that He has given us all the truth (John 16:13; Jude 3; 2 Peter 1:3).

Verse 17

4:17 "Can mankind be just before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker?"

Supposedly this is what the "spirit" said to him in the above dream. Eliphaz's argument appears to be that no man can stand pure before God, including Job. Therefore, Job must have sinned in some way to deserve such suffering. "No one is blameless or innocent before our holy God. Eliphaz is emphasizing that Job should accept God's verdict" (Strauss p. 41) The question with this argument, that no one is blameless before God, therefore everyone deserves to be punished, is "Why isn't Eliphaz suffering as well?"

Verse 18

4:18 "He puts not trust even in His servants; and against His angels He charges error"

This indicates that Job and his friends understood the Biblical truth that some angels had sinned in the past (2 Peter 2:4).

Verse 19

4:19-20 "How much more those who dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, who are crushed before the moth!"

If God even charges the angels with error, how much more moral man. "Man's mortality is pictured in several ways: He lives in mere perishable houses made of clay and built on dust, he is easily crushed like a moth, he is broken in pieces like a vessel (Ecclesiastes 12:6), and his tent-cord is plucked up (4:19-21)" (Zuck p. 33). "The moth is one of the easiest insects to catch and crush" (Strauss p. 41). Man's life is quickly over, it happens between "morning and evening".

Verse 21

4:21 "They die, yet without wisdom": "Job obviously is not a wise person according to Eliphaz" (Bible Knowledge Comm. p. 726). "To die without ever finding wisdom was the ultimate disaster for a wise man of the East" (Zuck p. 33).

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Bibliographical Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Job 4". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dun/job-4.html. 1999-2014.