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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Job 4

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary


4– 5. First Speech of Eliphaz.— Ch. 3 as a whole means, Why is misfortune? We are now to hear from Job’ s friends, what the theology of the poet’ s age had to say on the matter. Eliphaz, who speaks first, is no doubt the eldest of Job’ s friends. He is the calmest and most considerate in his speech. He is a mystic, who claims for his doctrine the authority of a vision ( Job 4:12 f.). The great idea of Eliphaz is the “ fear of God,” i.e. a reverence very much like that attributed to Job in the Volksbuch.

Verses 1-11

Job 4:1-11 . Eliphaz is provoked to reply, in spite of his unwillingness, by the tone of Job’ s speech, which seems to him altogether irreverent. He wonders that Job, who had comforted so many others in trouble, should fall into such despair, when trouble has come to himself. Eliphaz assumes that Job is a righteous man; Job 6 is not meant as sarcasm. Eliphaz would suggest simply that Job’ s trouble has caused him to leave the standing-ground of religion. His complaint (ch. 3) was unsuitable. Eliphaz does not see that Job had been occupied with the problem of God’ s behaviour to him, a problem which is quite outside the circle of the ideas in which Eliphaz, like the rest of the friends, moves. For them religion has no concern with God’ s behaviour to man, but only with man’ s behaviour to God. Eliphaz, therefore recalls Job to the fear of God, whence he has fallen by his unsuitable complaints. He should know ( Job 4:7 that the righteous never perish, as do the wicked ( Job 4:8). If God sends trouble to the righteous, then its function can be disciplinary only. This is the explanation of Job’ s trouble which Eliphaz suggests. The friends at first assume that Job is not a wilful sinner such as God punishes, but one whom God chastens to purify from unintentional sin, and who by humbling himself before God, can be restored again to prosperity. The fundamental opposition between the friends and Job is that they invariably find the cause of misfortune in man, while Job, at least as concerns himself, finds it in God. In fact the one cause of suffering is for them in sin: suffering is either chastisement or punishment, according as it is visited upon the righteous or the unrighteous. The friends begin by making the more charitable supposition in Job’ s case. In Job 4:7 f. Eliphaz guilelessly states his accepted theory as a fact of experience ( cf. Acts 28:4). The figure of the lion in Job 4:10 f. suggests both the strength and the violence of the wicked.

Verses 12-16

Job 4:12-16 . Eliphaz confirms the truth of his doctrine by telling of a vision which he had had. A revelation came upon him like a thief in the night (lit. a word stole upon me). His thoughts were raised to a higher power by the ecstasy of the vision.

Job 4:14 f. describes the presence of the supernatural.

Job 4:16 tells how the spirit, being of a finer matter, could hardly be perceived by the human eye and ear. “ Stillness and a voice I heard means “ I heard a still voice” (hendiadys). The tenses used in the Hebrew are all present. “ A spirit passes by me . . . it stands, and I cannot discern its appearance; a form is before mine eyes, I hear a still voice.” Eliphaz, in recalling the experiences of that awful night, feels as if he were passing through them again, and falls into the present in describing them.

Verses 17-21

Job 4:17-21 . “ This is what the vision said.” Translate as mg.: “ Shall mortal man be just before God, shall a man be pure before his maker?” Even the angels are fallible, how much more man, who inhabits a house of clay, i.e. a body formed from the dust ( Genesis 2:7; Genesis 3:19, 2 Corinthians 5:1). Observe that we are not yet at the point of view of the later Judaism and the NT, according to which some angels are good, some bad. All are fallible. Again, observe that man’ s sin fulness is deduced simply from his creatureliness, especially, however, from his being made from the dust. The spirit that appears to Eliphaz knows nothing of the Fall as an explanation of human sin. His thought is rather that if the angels, who are of spirit (which was conceived by the ancient world in general as a finer kind of matter) are not perfect in God’ s sight, man. who is of the dust, must even less be so. Men are ephemerals ( Job 4:20) they are crushed like the moth ( Job 4:19 mg.) : how can such creatures claim perfection before God, or have a right against Him. Men die, just as a tent is taken down when the tent cord is plucked up, and their life comes to an end without their having obtained wisdom, i.e. in the context, the fear of God, that absolute submission to Him, which is the only wisdom for such “ moths.”

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Job 4". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/job-4.html. 1919.
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