Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, June 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Job 15

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-6


Job 15:1 to Job 21:34

Eliphaz Speaks (15:1-35)

Your Attitude Is Irreverent (15:1-6)

One of the evident structural features of the Book of Job is a marked difference in the leading themes of the three stages of discussion. In keeping with the general freedom of the book these themes are not followed slavishly, and they always allow some room for much variety and many auxiliary ideas. There can be little doubt, however, that in the first round of speeches (chs. 3-14) the author meant to call attention to Job’s case as an exception to the generally accepted view that righteousness is rewarded. In the second cycle the theme shifts. The atmosphere becomes darker, the speeches of the friends more acrimonious, and the situation more tense. The theme now is the ultimate fate of the wicked. The friends are represented as following through their suspicion that Job is not an exception to the general rule but is in fact an illustration of its inflexible working, an example of the fact that the wicked are always visited with punitive suffering.

As he did in his first speech (Job 4:2-6), so here Eliphaz begins with at least the appearance of hesitation and a justification of what must be said. He appears to be debating with himself, asking whether answering Job will be worth the effort (vss. 2-3). That he does speak is explained by the fact that to him Job’s attitude and words were actually destructive of religion. The phrase "fear of God" (vs. 4) is virtually equivalent to "reverence" or even "religion." It is often the case that honestly spoken expressions of actual doubt are taken as dangerous blaspheming. Nothing could be farther from the truth than that Job was destroying either faith or "meditation," but to those whose faith was perhaps none too secure, his daring challenge of God could seem to do so. At any rate, Eliphaz does not hesitate to call Job’s words the product of "iniquity" and to say that Job stands condemned by what he has said (vs. 6).

Verses 7-16

Your Demand Is Impossible (15:7-16)

Sarcasm, which plays a considerable part in this book, appears again when Eliphaz asks if Job imagines that he is "the first man." The reference, of course, is to Adam who might be supposed to have had some immediate, firsthand knowledge of God. Eliphaz asks if Job thinks that he has, or can have, the very wisdom of God. In the Book of Proverbs "wisdom" speaks saying, "Before the hills, I was brought forth" (Proverbs 8:25). Job, in his search, is squarely in line with the thought of the writer of Proverbs 8, 9, who believed that the wisdom of God, by which — or by whom — the world was brought into being, resided also in the mind of man (see Proverbs 8:15-16; Proverbs 8:31). But to Eliphaz such an assumption is incredible; to him the way of "wisdom" would be to retire from the effort to understand, and to give up asking the kind of apparently arrogant questions Job asks.

Or, the way of wisdom would be to submit to the recommendations of the friends, who represent the accumulated wisdom of the past. Eliphaz defends the right of the friends to speak and the validity of their advice (vss. 9-11) , reminding Job that they have the advantage of age (Job, it must be remembered, was not an old man), and that they represent the very words of God for Job. Eliphaz does not lack self-sufficiency when he identifies himself and the others as "the consolations of God." He also betrays his complete indifference to the dimensions of Job’s provocation when he asks in surprise, "Why do you talk this way?" (see vss. 12-13).

In verse 14 Eliphaz apparently refers to Job’s assertion in Job 14:4, although it is also a repetition of his own thought in Job 4:17-18. Both men, then, agree that in comparison with God no man can be accounted clean or righteous. But they differ in their conclusions. Job insists that the question is not man’s righteousness in comparison with God’s, but his own righteousness as a man living under the demands of God. (He might have pointed out that if the question were man’s absolute cleanness, then Eliphaz himself would stand, like the rest of mankind, under judgment.) Eliphaz draws a different conclusion: that since absolute righteousness is impossible, it is futile to attempt to establish relative righteousness or to question the assumption that suffering is punitive.

Verses 17-35

A Wicked Man Is Destined for Distress (15:17-35)

The definition of the wicked man’s destiny which comes in verses 20-35 is introduced by the solemn declaration that this is no new and foreign doctrine, but is the truth of the past which has been handed down in pure form from the time of the fathers. No "stranger" has formed it — a gratuitous intimation that Job’s views are not only unorthodox, they are positively alien.

It has been pointed out that at times the three friends seem literally to turn their backs on Job as they set forth their predetermined conclusions about his case, as though they do not wish to be confused by the facts (see Job 5:17-27). Here Eliphaz goes a step further and turns his back on life itself, declaring the absolute truth of principles that are plainly contradicted by life. This is another place where the words of the Book of Job are not to be taken as literally or universally true. Even the most superficial acquaintance with life affords illustrations of the fact that the wicked man does not writhe "in pain all his days" (vs. 20).

It is worthwhile to reflect on what is true here, and it must be noted that as a statement of the emptiness of the wicked life and the futility of an arrogant attempt to contravert the will of God this is profoundly true. It is true, moreover, that the wicked is "destined for the sword," and that defiance of God is the way of ultimate defeat (vss. 22, 25-26).

In verses 27-30 Eliphaz describes the pride of the wicked man ("fatness" is a symbol of arrogance and pride), his heedlessness (as he inhabits places which God has plainly marked out as fit only for destroying judgment) , and the certainty of his unprofitable end. The latter thought is extended in verses 31-35, where a series of images points up the precarious character of the life of the "godless" and his lack of any future save barrenness and destruction.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Job 15". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/job-15.html.
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