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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Job 4

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2484. B.C. 1520.

Eliphaz owns Job’s former usefulness, but infers from his present state and behaviour that he was a hypocrite, Job 4:1-6 . He affirms that God never afflicts man but for his wickedness, Job 4:7-11 . He confirms his assertion by the words he heard in a vision, Job 4:12-21 . By all this he aims to make Job both penitent and patient under his sufferings.

Verse 1

Job 4:1. Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered Job’s three friends reasoning on the principles of an equal providence, and supposing that affliction could happen only in the way of punishment, which necessarily inferred guilt, and thinking his complaints exceeded the bounds of decency, the eldest of them, Eliphaz, here interposes. He desires Job to recollect himself, not to give way to fruitless lamentations, but to put into practice those lessons he had often recommended to others. He reminds him of that, as he thought, infallible maxim, that those who reaped misery must have sowed iniquity, a maxim which he confirms by his own particular experience, and which he supposes was assented to by all mankind. And, in the display of this maxim, he throws in many of the particular circumstances attending Job’s calamity, intimating, that he must have been a great, though secret oppressor, and that, therefore, the breath of God had blasted him at once. He confirms also the truth of this principle by a revelation, which, he says, was made to him in a vision. He urges further, that supposing he, Job, had been guilty of no very atrocious crime; yet the common frailties of human nature were abundantly sufficient to account for any afflictions which it should please God to inflict on man; but takes care, as he proceeds, (as may be seen in the next chapter,) to let him know, they had a far worse opinion of him; representing him as wicked and foolish, and a proper object of divine wrath.

Verse 2

Job 4:2. If we assay to commune with thee, &c. This is nearly the sense, but not exactly the construction of the Hebrew, הנסה דבר אליךְ , hanissah dabar eeleka, is rather, Annon aggrediemur sermonem adversus te. Shall we not attempt a discourse against thee? Shall we suffer thee to go on with thy complaints? Shall we hear thee with patience, and be altogether silent, without so much as attempting a reply? Wilt thou be grieved? Or, Thou wilt be grieved; תלאה , Tileh, moleste feres, thou wilt take it ill. Our words will undoubtedly vex, and not comfort thee, as we desired and intended to do. For truth is surely to be regarded more than friendship, and we cannot, in consistency therewith, speak words of consolation, but we must use those of sharp reproof. This makes me desire to be silent, were it possible. But who can withhold? &c. The Hebrew

ועצר במלין , vagnetser bemillin, &c., is literally, But to refrain from words, who can? Who, when he hears such unreasonable and ungodly words, coming from such a person as thou art, words whereby thou dost accuse thy Maker, reproach his providence, and contemn his blessings, can forbear speaking? No man, who hath any respect to God, or love to thee, can refrain from reproving thee. I will, therefore, suggest to thee some of those observations, which were the thoughts of wise and prudent men of old time; and from which, if well applied, thou mayest receive singular profit. The verse is intended as an apology for what he was about to say.

Verse 3

Job 4:3. Behold, thou hast instructed many It is well known thou hast given good counsel unto others, teaching them those lessons which, it appears, thou hast not thyself learned, and wilt not practise, namely, patiently to bear afflictions, and to submit to God’s will and providence in all things. And thou hast strengthened the weak hands Hast encouraged those that were dispirited; hast administered counsels, supports, and comforts to such as were unable to bear their burdens, or to do their duty.

Verse 4

Job 4:4. Thy words have upholden him that was falling That was ready to sink under his pressures, or to fall into sin, or from God, through despondency and distrust of his providence and promise, or through impatience. And thou hast strengthened the feeble knees Such as were weak-hearted, and fainting under their trials.

Verse 5

Job 4:5. But now it is come upon thee That is, the evil which thou didst fear, (Job 3:25,) or, that which had come upon those whom thou didst so comfort. And thou faintest There is no more spirit left in thee: and thou canst not practise thy own advice. It toucheth thee, and thou art troubled It is now come to be thine own case, and thou art struck with consternation.

Verse 6

Job 4:6. Is not this thy fear? &c. We now plainly see what was the nature of thy fear of God, thy confidence in him, the uprightness of thy ways, and thy hope in God’s mercy. Thy present conduct discovers that it was but mere talk and appearance. In thy prosperity it was easy for thee to make a splendid profession of religion; but men are best known by affliction, and this trial now shows what thou art. For now thou castest off thy fear of God, and thy confidence and hope in him, and hast relinquished the integrity of thy ways, which before thou didst seem to hold fast; whereas true piety is uniform and constant, and steadfast in all varieties of condition, and under all trials and temptations.

Verse 7

Job 4:7. Remember, I pray thee Consult thy own experience, observation, or reading, and produce one example. Who ever perished That is, was so utterly undone as thou art, so miserably afflicted by such unparalleled and various judgments from God and men, all conspiring against thee; being innocent Who had not, by his wickedness, provoked so merciful a God to do what is so unusual, and contrary to his gracious nature. Therefore thou art guilty of some great, though secret crimes, and thy sin hath now found thee out, and brought down these stupendous calamities upon thee. Or, where were the righteous cut off? By the sword of divine vengeance before his time, which is likely to be thy case. Thus Eliphaz here advances another argument to prove Job a hypocrite, taken not only from his impatience under afflictions, but from his afflictions themselves. His judgment herein was undoubtedly rash and false, but not without some appearance of truth; for God had made many promises, not only of spiritual and eternal, but also of temporal blessings to all that should faithfully serve and obey him, which he accordingly from time to time conferred on such, as we see in the examples of Noah, Lot, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and doubtless many others who had lived in or before their days. And, indeed, this was God’s usual method in all the times of the Old Testament, as we see by the people of Israel, who were generally either in a happy and flourishing, or in an afflicted and miserable state, according to their obedience to God, or apostacy from him. And, therefore, it is not strange that Eliphaz and his friends fell into this mistake.

Verse 8

Job 4:8. Even as I have seen, &c. As thou hast never seen any example of a righteous man cut off, so I have seen many of wicked men cut off for their wickedness. They that plough, &c. They that designedly work wickedness, first preparing themselves for it, and then continuing to execute it, as husbandmen first plough the ground, and then cast in the seed. See the margin. In other words, the observation I have made of such persons is, they are so far from reaping any advantage from their iniquitous practices, that those practices return on their own heads, and their sinful schemes and contrivances recoil wholly on themselves.

Verses 9-10

Job 4:9-10. By the blast of God they perish, &c. These two verses are thus interpreted by Heath: By the breath of God they perish; for, at the blast of his anger, the roarings of the lion, and the growling of the black lion, are hushed, and the teeth of the young lions are broken; that is, by the mere breath of God’s displeasure, or by a secret, and often undiscerned, but mighty and irresistible calamity, their projects are blasted, and they are suddenly carried away, as chaff by the wind, and come to a fearful end. Nor can they escape, were they even as strong as lions, yea, as the strongest and fiercest of them. For when the divine wrath is once kindled against them, their power is immediately broken, and in a moment they are cut off, and totally consumed. He speaks of powerful tyrants, fitly compared to lions, Ezekiel 32:2; Ezekiel 38:13; 2 Timothy 4:17, who, though for a time they persecute and oppress other men, yet in due time they are restrained and crushed by the mighty power of God. Possibly, he might intend secretly to accuse Job, or his children, that, being persons of great wealth and power, they had abused it to ruin their neighbours, and therefore were justly cut off.

Verse 10

Job 4:10. How much less in them Doth he put trust, &c., or, How much more (as the Hebrew particle א Š, aph, equally signifies) doth he charge folly on them, &c. One or other of these supplements seems necessary to complete the sense, and they are either of them natural and easy, being fetched from the former verse. The sense then is, If he put no trust in his angels, how much less will he put any in them that dwell in houses of clay; or, If he charged his angels with folly, how much more will he charge frail and mortal men therewith! What strange presumption then is it for a weak, sinful, and dying man to pretend to a higher privilege than the angels can lay claim to, and to make himself more just and pure than God, which all do, in effect, who complain of, or are impatient under, the righteous dispensations of the divine providence. That dwell in houses of clay Whose immortal spirits dwell in mortal bodies, which are great clogs, encumbrances, and snares to them. These are called houses, because they are the receptacles of the soul, and the places of its settled abode; and houses of clay, because they were made of clay or earth; and to denote their great frailty and mutability; whereas the angels are free spirits, unconfined to such carcasses, and dwell in celestial, glorious, and everlasting mansions; whose foundation No less than the rest of the building; is in the dust Who, as they dwell in dust and clay, so they had their original from it, and must return to it. We stand but upon the dust: some have a higher heap of dust to stand upon than others. But still it is mere earth and dust that stays us up, and will soon swallow us up; which are crushed before the moth “Which are as subject to be destroyed,” says Bishop Patrick, “as a garment to be fretted with moths;” which, though it be wrought with ever so much art and strength; though it be ever so curious, fine, and beautiful, is soon defaced and spoiled by that subtle and devouring insect. Or, sooner than, or like as, a moth is crushed, which is easily done by a gentle touch of the finger: an hyperbolical expression. Or, as לפני , liphnee, is still more properly rendered, before the face, or, at the presence of a moth. This interpretation, which is approved by Hervey, makes the passage to represent the body of man so exceedingly frail, that even a moth flying against it may dash it to pieces. And, “besides its closer correspondence,” says he, “with the exact import of the Hebrew, presents us with a much finer image of extreme imbecility; for it certainly implies a far greater degree of weakness to be crushed by the feeblest flutter of the feeblest creature, than only to be crushed as easily as that creature by the hand of man.” Certainly no creature is so weak and contemptible, but, one time or other, it may have the body of man in its power.

Verse 11

Job 4:11. The old lion perisheth for lack of prey Dares not venture out of his den in search of prey, amidst the roar of thunder, the blaze of lightning, and the violence of the storm, that blast of God, mentioned in the preceding verse. And the young lion’s whelps are scattered abroad Are so affrighted with the lightning and thunder, that, being separated, they flee different ways, and cannot find the path which leads to the den of the lioness, their dam. Thus do the divine judgments suddenly oppress, scatter, and bring to nothing the fierce and powerful tyrants of the earth, and unexpectedly strip them of all their wealth gotten by injustice and oppression.

Verse 12

Job 4:12. Now Hebrew, and, or moreover, a thing, &c. To show Job more evidently the sin and folly of impatience, and to impress what he had already advanced, or should yet further advance on that subject, more fully on his mind, Eliphaz relates a vision he had had, perhaps since he came to him: as if he had said, If these observations be not sufficient to convince thee, hear what God himself hath secretly revealed to me. In those early ages of the world, before God had vouchsafed to mankind a written revelation, it was usual with him to communicate the knowledge of his will to those that were pious, and earnestly desired it, by dreams and visions. A thing Hebrew, a word, oracle, or message from God; was secretly brought to me The Hebrew expression יגנב , jegunnab, is very elegant, namely, stole in upon me; or, was brought by stealth unto me; that is, privately and secretly, as the word of God used to come to the prophets, being spoken to their ear with a low and still voice, or signified to their minds in a mild and gentle manner. This is opposed to the more public declaration of God’s word to the people by the prophets, which was frequently by their crying aloud, Isaiah 58:1. Mine ear received a little thereof The word, שׁמצ , shemets, here rendered little, occurs but once more in the Bible, namely, Job 26:14, where it is also translated little: How little a portion is heard of him? Symmachus translates it here ψιθυρισμον , and in chap. 26. ψιθυρισμα , both which words signify whisper, which here may be interpreted a hint or intimation. Eliphaz does not pretend to have understood the revelation that had been made to him in this vision perfectly, but something of it he perceived. He certainly would take care not to lose a syllable of what the spirit said, but he intends by the expression, that he did not fully comprehend the deep meaning of the words which he heard. Or he may be considered as expressing himself thus through modesty and humility, from a deep sense of his own weakness, and the small measure which he judged he possessed of the knowledge of divine things. As if he had said, Many, I doubt not, have a much more familiar acquaintance with God, and more full revelations from him, than I can pretend to; but a little of that treasure he hath been pleased to impart to me.

Verse 13

Job 4:13. In thoughts Or, By reason of my thoughts; my perplexing thoughts. These thoughts, it seems, arose from the visions of the night, which, probably, he had had before, and were the occasion of the fear mentioned Job 4:14. Visions differed from dreams herein, that God imparted his mind to men in dreams when asleep, but in visions when they were awake. And these visions were sometimes communicated by day, but most frequently by night, whence we read of visions of the night, as Genesis 46:2; Job 20:8; and Job 33:15. And such this was, which made it the more terrible. When deep sleep falleth on men In the dead of the night, when men usually are in a deep sleep, and all around is still and quiet.

Verse 14

Job 4:14 . Fear came upon me, and trembling The Hebrew is very poetical, namely, Fear called me, or called to me. Job expresses himself in similar language, Job 17:14. I have said, קראתי , karati, literally, I have called to corruption. Thus also Jeremiah 30:5, We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear. As in a poem every thing is, or ought to be, alive, so fear is here represented as a person, who comes up to Eliphaz, and speaks to, and arrests him, as an officer of justice. Which made all my bones to shake Which affected me to such a degree that my mind and body lost all power, and my very bones shook and trembled. It should seem, before he either heard or saw any thing, he was seized with this terror.

Verse 15

Job 4:15. Then Hebrew, And, as the particle ו , vau, generally signifies. A spirit passed before my face An angel in a visible shape, otherwise he could not have discerned it, nor would have been affrighted by it. The hair of my flesh stood up Through that excessive consternation and horror, which seized me at the sight of so glorious and unusual an appearance.

Verse 16

Job 4:16. It stood still Though it passed by me, it did not immediately disappear and vanish, but made a stand, as having some business with me, and designing to address me. But I could not discern the form thereof Namely, exactly and distinctly, so as to know what or who it was. An image was before my eyes My eyes could not be deceived. I am thoroughly satisfied there was an image which showed itself to me visibly. There was silence The spirit stood motionless; all other persons and things about me were entirely silent; and I also kept in my voice and breath as much as I could, that I might distinctly hear what I perceived the spirit was about to speak to me. In the Hebrew it is, Silence, and a voice I heard. Houbigant’s translation of the verse is, It stood still indeed, but I knew not its form; the appearance vanished from before my eyes, but I heard a voice.

Verse 17

Job 4:17. Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall man, fallen man, as the word אנושׁ , enosh, here used, signifies, subject as he is to diseases, troubles, and all those calamities which are the necessary consequences of sin and disobedience, pretend more strictly to observe the laws of justice, and therefore to be more just, than the righteous God? The sense is, Thou, O Job, dost presumptuously accuse God of dealing harshly and unrighteously with thee in sending thee into the world upon such hard terms, and punishing an innocent and righteous man with unparalleled severity; but, consider things calmly within thyself. Were it possible for God and thee to come to trial before any equal and impartial judge, canst thou think that thou wouldest go away justified, and that the great God would be condemned? No righteous man will punish another without cause, or more than he deserves; and, therefore, if God do so with thee, as thy words imply, he is less just than man, which it is blasphemous and absurd to imagine. Shall a man Hebrew, גבר , geber, a great and mighty man, as this word signifies; shall even such a one a man eminent for wisdom, or holiness, or power, or any other perfections, who therefore might expect more favour than a poor, miserable, and contemptible man, signified by the former word enosh; be more pure than his Maker? More holy and righteous; show a greater hatred to injustice, or be more equitable in his proceedings, which he would be if he could justly reprehend any of the divine dispensations, and would not act toward his fellow-creatures, as he supposes God acts toward him or others? No, this cannot be: it would be the most daring presumption to entertain a thought of the kind; for though a man may have some qualifications which are not in others of his fellow-creatures, and some pre-eminences above many of them; yet, in the presence of his Maker, from whom he has received every excellence which he possesses, and on whom he is daily dependant for them, and all things, he must acknowledge his own comparative nothingness, and confess that the highest qualities which are in him are both derived from God, and exist in God in an infinitely greater degree. It is not without reason that enosh, fallen man, is here placed in opposition to Eloath, the great and holy God; and geber, a mighty man, to gnoseh, his Maker. For the contrast in both cases is remarkably striking, namely, between man, sinful, miserable, mortal, and the immutable, holy, blessed, and immortal God; and between even a great and mighty man, and the Being from whom he has received all his might and greatness, nay, and his very existence, and on whom he is dependant for them every moment; or between the man of power, and the maker and upholder of that power. In this expression of the angel, Shall a man be more pure than his Maker?

was contained an unanswerable argument against, and a forcible reproof of, Job’s impatience and complaints: as if he had said, He made thee, and that for himself and his own glory; and therefore he hath an unquestionable right to deal with thee and dispose of thee, who art the work of his hands, as he sees fit. Wo to him that striveth with his Maker, Isaiah 45:9.

Verse 18

Job 4:18 . Behold, &c. For it deserves thy serious consideration. These and the following words seem to be the words of Eliphaz, explaining the former vision, and applying it to Job’s case, and enforcing it by further arguments. He put no trust in his servants That is, in his angels, as appears both by the next words of this verse, in which, by way of explication and restriction, they are termed his angels; and by the verse following, where men are opposed to them. They are called his servants by way of eminence, the general name being here appropriated to the chief of the kind, to intimate that sovereign dominion which the great God hath, even over the glorious angels, and much more over men: and God is said to put no trust in them, because if they were left to themselves, and the supplies of God’s power and grace were withdrawn from them, they would not even continue to exist, much less to be loyal and faithful. And his angels he charged with folly That is, with vanity, weakness, infirmity, imperfection, in comparison with himself, their Maker. The word תהלה , toholah, here rendered folly, is one of the απαξ λεγομενα , the words only once occurring, and of consequence the more difficult to be understood. The Chaldee paraphrast renders it iniquity; Ab. Ezra, folly; Schultens derives it from an Arabic word, which denotes lapsing, or from another, which signifies deficiency, or imperfection. Houbigant renders the clause, And in his angels mutability was found. The most probable opinion seems to be, that this refers to the angels who foolishly and wickedly fell from God.

Verse 20

Job 4:20. They are destroyed Bruised, or broken, as the same word, יכתו , juccattu, is rendered, Micah 1:7, where we read, The graven images shall be broken to pieces; from morning to evening That is, either speedily, between the morning and evening, like the grass, Psalms 90:5-6. They flourish in the morning, and in the evening are cut down: or rather, all the day long; there is not a moment wherein man is not sinking toward death and corruption. If these words were considered as being connected with the latter clause of the preceding verse, as Dr. Grey thinks they ought to be, the sense would be, they are crushed and destroyed all the day long, as moths are, which, being an insect hurtful and injurious, every one is ready to destroy. They perish for ever In reference to the present worldly life, which when once lost is never recovered; without any regarding it Or laying it to heart, say most commentators. But the literal interpretation of the Hebrew, מבלי משׂים , mibbeli meesim, Chappelow thinks, is preferable, namely, absque imponente, without any one’s adding to their misery; or, according to Junius and Tremellius, nemine disponente, without any one’s ordering or appointing it. That is, they are continually perishing and going to destruction, of their own accord, through the mere frailty of their nature, even if no external violence be offered to them. Our translation, however, conveys an important and instructive truth, namely, that few or none that survive, lay to heart, as they ought to do, the death of those that are taken away. For it is so common a thing for all men, though ever so high and great, to perish in this manner, that no man regards it, but all pass it by, as a general accident not worthy of observation.

Verse 21

Job 4:21. Doth not their excellency which is in them go away? Whatsoever is really, or by common estimation, excellent in men, all their natural, and moral, and civil accomplishments, as high birth, great riches, power, and wisdom; these are so far from preserving them from perishing, as one would think they should, that they perish themselves, together with those houses of clay in which they are lodged. Or, the Hebrew יתרם , jithram, may be rendered reliquiæ illorum, their remains go away. In a little time the departure of the most skilful projectors, who seem to lay the deepest and strongest foundations for permanent wealth, power, and enjoyment, is such, that every thing belonging to them is absolutely removed. If you inquire after the place and station of life they filled; the fortunes they possessed; the families they raised, you shall find them all taken away, and nothing, not the least remains to be seen. And, what is still worse, they die even without wisdom All that skill and policy, all those arts and contrivances, which distinguished them from others, and placed them in a superior rank and situation, are, at the point of death, even in their own opinion, no better than worldly craft and human folly. They die like fools, without having attained that only wisdom for which they came into the world. Now shall such a mean, weak, foolish, sinful, dying creature as this pretend to be more just than God, more pure than his Maker? No, instead of quarrelling with his afflictions, let him admire that he is out of hell!

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Job 4". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/job-4.html. 1857.
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