Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, July 16th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Job 4

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said,

Eliphaz - the mildest of Job's three accusers. The greatest of Job's calamities, and his complaints against God, and the opinion that calamities are proofs of guilt, led the three to doubt Job's integrity.

Verse 2

If we assay to commune with thee, wilt thou be grieved? but who can withhold himself from speaking?

If we assay to commune. Umbreit makes two questions, 'May we attempt a word with thee? Wilt thou be grieved at it?' But the English version is good sense, and accords with the Hebrew. Even pious friends often count that only a touch which we feel as a wound.

Verse 3

Behold, thou hast instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the weak hands.

Weak hands - (Isaiah 35:3; 2 Samuel 4:1).

Verse 4

Thy words have upholden him that was falling, and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees. Thy words have upholden him that was falling, and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 5

But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled.

Thou art troubled - thou hast lost thy self-command (1 Thessalonians 3:3).

Verse 6

Is not this thy fear, thy confidence, thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways?

Is not this thy fear, thy confidence ... - Does thy fear, thy confidence, etc., come to nothing? Does it come only to this, that thou faintest now? Rather (Job 15:4), 'Is not thy fear [of God], thy confidence, and the uprightness of thy ways, thy hope?' (Job 8:14). "Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished being innocent?" (Maurer). But Luke (Luke 13:2-3) shows that though there is a retributive divine government even in this life, yet we cannot judge by the mere outward appearance. "One event is outwardly to the righteous and to the wicked" (Ecclesiastes 9:2); but yet we must take it on trust that God deals righteously even now (Psalms 37:25; Isaiah 33:16). Judge not by a part, but by the whole of a godly man's life, and by his end, even here (James 5:11). The one and the same outward event is altogether a different thing in its inward bearings on the godly and on the ungodly even here. Even prosperity-much more calamity-is a punishment to the wicked (Proverbs 1:32). Trials are chastisements for their good-to the righteous (Psalms 119:67; 71:75 ). See Preface on the Design of this Book.

Verse 7

Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 8

Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.

They that plow iniquity ... reap the same - (Proverbs 22:8; Hosea 8:7; Hosea 10:13; Galatians 6:7-8). "Plow" - i:e., plow and plant.

Verse 9

By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed.

Breath of his nostrils - God's anger. A figure from the fiery winds of the East (Job 1:16; Isaiah 5:25; Psalms 18:8; Psalms 18:15).

Verse 10

The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the fierce lion, and the teeth of the young lions, are broken.

Lion - i:e., wicked men, upon whom Eliphaz wished to show that calamities come in spite of their various resources, just as destruction comes on the lion in spite of his strength (Psalms 58:6; 2 Timothy 4:17). Five different Hebrew terms here occur for lion. The raging of the lion-the tearer [ 'aryeeh (H738)] - and the roaring of the bellowing lion [ shaachal (H7826)], and the teeth of the young lions [ kªpiyriym (H3715)], not whelps [ bªneey (H1121)], but grown up enough to hunt for prey; the strong lion (English version, old), etc., [ layish (H3918)], the whelps of the lioness, not the stout lion, as English version, [ laabiy' (H3833)] (Umbreit). The various phases of wickedness are expressed by this variety of terms: obliquely Job, his wife, and children, may be hinted at by the lion, lioness, and whelps. The one verb, are broken does not suit both subjects: therefore supply, 'the roaring of the bellowing lion is silenced.' The strong lion dies of want at last and the whelps, torn from the mother, are scattered, and the race becomes extinct.

Verse 11

The old lion perisheth for lack of prey, and the stout lion's whelps are scattered abroad. The old lion perisheth for lack of prey, and the stout lion's whelps are scattered abroad.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 12

Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ear received a little thereof.

A thing - Hebrew, a word. Eliphaz confirms his view by a divine declaration or revelation which was secretly and unexpectedly imparted to him (cf. margin, 'by stealth') [ yªgunaab (H1589)].

A little - literally, a whisper-a word quickly passing away. Implying the still silence around, and that more was conveyed than articulate words could utter (Job 26:14; 2 Corinthians 12:4).

Verse 13

In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men,

In thoughts from the visions. So Winer and English version. Whilst revolving night visions previously made to him (Daniel 2:29; Psalms 4:4). Rather 'In my manifold (Hebrew text, divided) thoughts, before the visions of the night commenced;' therefore not a delusive dream (Umbreit). But Maurer supports the English Version, which gives good sense by connecting it with what follows (not with the preceding verse, as Winer's view given above connects it). Fear came upon me in my distracted thoughts from the visions of the night, then presented to me.

Deep sleep - (Genesis 2:21; Genesis 15:12).

Verses 14-15

Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 16

It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image was before mine eyes, there was silence, and I heard a voice, saying,

It stood still. At first the apparition glides before Eliphaz, then stands still, but with that shadowy indistinctness of form which creates such an impression of awe; a gentle murmur! not (English version) there was silence. For in 1 Kings 19:12 the still small voice, as opposed to the previous storm, denotes a gentle still murmur [ qowl (H6963) dªmaamaah (H1827)], translated, 'I heard a whisper and a voice' - i:e., a whispering voice.

Verse 17

Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker?

Mortal man ... a man. Two Hebrew words for man are used: the first implying his feebleness [ 'ªnowsh (H582)], the second his strength [ geber (H1397)]. Whether feeble or strong, man is not righteous before God.

More just than God ... more pure than his Maker. Since this would be self-evident without, an oracle, Umbreit and Maurer, etc., translate 'Is (mortal) man just before (in the presence or judgment of) God!' not "more just than God." Job 9:2, "How should man be just with (margin, before) God?" and Job 25:4 confirm this view. The Hebrew [ min (H4480)] expresses 'Regarded FROM God's point of view' (cf. Hebrew, Jeremiah 51:5).

Verse 18

Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly:

Folly. Imperfection (Job 2:10) is to be attributed to the angels, in comparison with Him. The holiness of some of them had given way (2 Peter 2:4), and at best is but the holiness of a creature. Folly is the want of moral consideration (Umbreit).

Verse 19

How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth?

Houses of clay - "earthly house of this tabernacle" (2 Corinthians 5:1). Houses made of sun-dried clay bricks are common in the East; they are easily washed away (Matthew 7:27). Man's foundation is this dust: "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Genesis 3:19).

Before the moth - rather, as before the moth, which devours a garment (Job 13:28, "He, as a rotten thing, consumeth, as a garment that is moth-eaten;" 27:18; Psalms 39:11; Isaiah 50:9). Man who cannot, in a physical point of view, stand before the very moth, surely cannot, in a moral, stand before God (cf. remark; Job 3:24). So Vulgate translation, Umbreit. But as the moth does not crush or destroy anything by force, but rather consume it by gnawing (Isaiah 51:8), Maurer thinks the moth is used as an image of an object after the crushed, and translates 'Crushed like (literally, after the manner of) the moth.'

Verse 20

They are destroyed from morning to evening: they perish for ever without any regarding it.

From morning to evening - unceasingly; or, better, between the morning and evening of one short day (so Exodus 18:14; Isaiah 38:12). 'From day even to night wilt thou make an end of me' (Umbreit). "In the morning it flourisheth-in the evening it is cut down" (Psalms 90:5-6). "They are destroyed." (literally, broken in pieces) in the space of a day." Therefore man must not think to be holy before God, but to draw holiness, and all things else, from God (Job 4:17).

Verse 21

Doth not their excellency which is in them go away? they die, even without wisdom.

Their excellency - (Psalms 39:11; Psalms 146:4; 1 Corinthians 13:8). But Umbreit by an Oriental image from a bow useless, because unstrung. 'Their nerve or string would be torn away.' Michaelis, better in accordance with Job 4:19, makes the allusion be to the cords of a tabernacle taken down (Isaiah 33:20; Isaiah 38:12; Isaiah 54:2; Jeremiah 10:20), 'Is not their cord in them snapped asunder?' (so that their tabernacle falls down, 2 Corinthians 5:1).

They die, even without wisdom - rather, 'They would perish, yet not according to wisdom,' but according to arbitrary choice, if God were not infinitely wise and holy. The design of the Spirit is to show that the continued existence of weak man proves the inconceivable wisdom and holiness of God, which alone says man from ruin (Umbreit). Bengel shows from Scripture that God's holiness [ qaadowsh (H6918), holy], comprehends all his excellencies and attributes. As holiness and wisdom are inseparable, so sin and folly (cf. Job 4:18). DeWette loses the scope in explaining it of the shortness of man's life contrasted with the angels, 'before they have attained to wisdom.' The English version seems to me good sense, and accords with the parallelism: 'Their excellency (or their cord) goes away: they die, and their wisdom dies with them.'-literally, not with wisdom (Psalms 49:14; Psalms 49:17; Job 36:12).


(1) How much easier it is to give good counsel to the afflicted, than to act on that good counsel when we are in affliction ourselves! Many a one who has, like Job, "instructed many, and strengthened the weak hands," has fainted in the day of his own calamity. The day of trial is the testing day. "If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small" (Proverbs 24:10).

(2) Teachers of religion especially ought to be careful that the religious consolations which they minister to others officially, should be realized in their own experience personally. Nothing is more calculated to give power to exhortation, than that it should be recommended by example; and nothing gives more occasion to the enemies or false professors of religion to blaspheme, than that the otherwise godly man should be seen to he impatient in adversity, and seemingly unsustained by those holy principles which he had urged upon others.

(3) Still there are special cases, like that of Job, which call for tender dealing and sympathy, rather than harsh suspicious and insinuations of insincerity. Job was no hypocrite, though so sorely tried; nor are severe afflictions, and even impatience on the part of the sufferer, proofs, as Eliphaz thought, that such a one must be a knave, or else a self-deceiver in religion, and therefore especially obnoxious to God's displeasure. We ought to be very slow in forming unfavourable opinions of others, and particularly of those whose general course of life has been that of consistent children of God. "Charity hopeth all things," and "rejoiceth not in iniquity."

(4) Eliphaz' premises are sound, though his harsh inference as to Job was unwarranted. When we, like Job, curse the day of our birth (Job 3:1-26), under the pressure of present sufferings, we virtually arraign God's wisdom and God's holiness, which are inseparable, and set ourselves up as good and wise before God. But man's utter frailty and speedy mortality demonstrate how vain is his claims to either purity or wisdom in the presence of the all-holy, all-wise God. Still Eliphaz had much to learn from Job, notwithstanding minor blemishes. Better a diamond with a flaw, than a pebble without one. His faith, sincerity, integrity and even, in the main, patience (Job 1:1-22; Job 2:1-13), were most remarkable, and will be throughout all ages a noble example of the power of God's grace (James 5:10-11).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/job-4.html. 1871-8.
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