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CHAPTERS 4-5 The First Address of Eliphaz
1. He rebukes Job (Job 4:1-5 )
2. The righteous are not cast off (Job 4:6-11 )
3. An awe-inspiring vision (Job 4:12-21 )
4. Experience and exhortation (Job 5:1-16 )
5. Happy is the man whom God correcteth (Job 5:17-27 )
With this chapter the long and tedious controversy between Job and his three visitors begins. His pitiful lamentation brings forth the addresses of his friends. Eliphaz and Bildad speak thrice, each answered by Job, and Zophar twice with corresponding rebuttals by Job. Job delivers his last word, the lengthy speech of chapters 27-31 in which he gives a summary of what he contended for, namely, his own integrity, but the problem of his suffering remains unexplained.
The controversy is progressive. The thought which the three friends follow is that all suffering is the result of the justice of God and therefore punitive. For this principle they contend in a dogmatic way. As the controversy continues they become more harsh, suspicious and finally almost abusive. Job’s answers are first marked by despair; then hope enters in. In a measure he rises above his sufferings in answering his friends in a sharp way. He has the last word, but, as already stated, the mystery and problem of his suffering is not cleared up.
Eliphaz’s address is first in the series of controversies in which each maintains the punitive character of suffering and each answer given by Job (chapters 6-7; 9-10; 12-14) is filled with despair reflecting the state of his mind. After these preliminary remarks we briefly examine each address and Job’s answers.
Job 4:1-5 . Eliphaz is the most dogmatic of the three friends and in his first address makes much of the greatness and justice of God. He had come to comfort; but little comfort could he bring to the afflicted one. He begins very politely. “If one replied to thee (to Job’s lament) wouldst thou be grieved? But who can refrain from speaking?” But at once he stabs Job to the heart.
Behold thou hast instructed many
And thou hast strengthened the weak hands
Thy words have upholden him that was stumbling;
And thou hast strengthened oft the feeble knees.
But now it is come upon thee and what grief?
Because it toucheth thee, thou art troubled.
Hath not thy piety been thy confidence,
And the perfection of thy ways thy hope?
All this was of course perfectly true. But he did not understand what Job needed in his suffering. The words of Eliphaz, the wise man from Teman, must have acted upon Job like an application of an irritant to a bleeding wound. What Job needed was tender sympathy, a good Samaritan, to pour oil and to give him wine. But Eliphaz reveals in this at once the harshness of his nature, the lack of discernment between the suffering of the righteous and the wicked, and finally he develops into a false accuser.
Job 4:7-11 . Eliphaz had told Job he was a pious and righteous man (verse 6). And now he tells him: “Remember I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? Or when were any righteous ones cut off?” Only those that plow iniquity and sow wickedness reap what they have sown. God makes such to perish in His wrath. They are cut off even if they were like strong lions. What dogmatic logic! Job, if thou art righteous and suffering thus, then God is destitute of all justice; but if God is justice, then thou hast plowed iniquity and sown wickedness and all thy suffering is thine own harvest.
Job 4:12-21 . The words which follow, describing a vision which Eliphaz had, are so sublime that we must quote them.
Now a thing was brought secretly to me,
Mine ear did catch a whispering thereof
In thoughts from visions of the night
When deep sleep falleth upon men:
Great fear came upon me, and trembling too,
It made my very bones to shake.
Then a spirit passed before my face;
The hair of my flesh stood up--
I stopped--but nothing could I then discern--
I looked, and lo, I saw a form
Silence: and then I heard a voice--
“Shall mortal man be more just than God?
Shall a man be purer than his Maker?
In His own servants He trusteth not,
His angels He chargeth with folly.
How much more than they that dwell in houses of clay
Whose foundation is the dust,
Who are crushed as the moth!
From morning to evening are they smitten
They perish utterly, without any regarding it.
Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them?
They die and without wisdom.”
This vision describes the greatness and majesty of God and of course is again true. That it was a real vision cannot be doubted. Man’s punity, his utter nothingness, is thus made known in this vision. But did this meet the need of afflicted Job? It could not explain the reason of Job’s suffering. And something like this is suggested by these words--Job, you are just like other men before God; your present experience of affliction testifies to this. You thought you were right with God and that He blessed and protected you, but as He is holy and just, your suffering shows, you are reaping the consequences of your sin, as others do.
Job 5:1-16 . He gives Job next a bit of experience, which is very true indeed. But the insinuation is wrong. He reasons from experience that suffering is the lot of the wicked, and therefore Job must belong to that class. The advice he gives to Job is in full keeping with his dogmatic assertion.
For man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upwards.
But as for me I will seek unto God,
And unto God commit my cause;
Who doeth great things and unsearchable,
Marvellous things without number.
But the advice, while good, is most subtle, for it is built upon wrong premises. He maintains his previous assertion that Job was an ungodly sinner, reaping what he had sown; with this in view he spoke these words.
Job 5:17-27 . The first address of Eliphaz closes with a marvellous climax upon the same wrong premises, that Job had sinned, that he must seek God, but Job had not renounced God; he had not left Him. Otherwise this final utterance of Eliphaz tells out the gracious power of the Almighty in a most blessed way. Read these verses and get the help and comfort which they breathe.
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Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Job 4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24