Job 4


‘Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied: “If someone ventures a word with you, will you be impatient? But who can keep from speaking? Think how you have instructed many, how you have strengthened feeble hands. Your words have supported those who stumbled; you have strengthened faltering knees. But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are dismayed. Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope?’ Job 4:1-6

Eliphaz First Speech

This chapter begins with the first cycle of speeches. Eliphaz emphasises God’s holiness and goodness. Bildad emphasises God’s righteousness and Zophar emphasises God’s wisdom. There is nothing much known of any of them. The theme of most of what they have to say is the nature of God.

It is believed by many that Eliphaz spoke first because he was the older of the friends, or the wisest. He uses a diplomatic approach, hesitating to talk to Job for fear of offence. But it doesn’t stop him from saying eventually what he wants to say.

He felt that Job’s outburst of complaint couldn’t go unanswered, hence why he rebuked Job for being impatient. He has a short introduction and he recalls Job’s good old days and reminds him that he had given comfort to others by strengthening their faltering knees.

Now Eliphaz mentions the shoe is on the other foot, that is, he forgot the advice he gave to others. Job revered God, Job 1:9 / Exodus 14:31 / Leviticus 19:14 / Leviticus 19:32 / Leviticus 25:17 / Ecclesiastes 12:13, and so, this should be his confidence before God.

‘Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it. At the breath of God they perish; at the blast of his anger they are no more. The lions may roar and growl, yet the teeth of the great lions are broken. The lion perishes for lack of prey, and the cubs of the lioness are scattered.’ Job 4:7-11

Eliphaz now begins his theological argument, the innocent and the upright do not perish, in other words, you reap what you sow, Galatians 6:7. The reaping is not always fully accomplished in this life. Eliphaz concluded that there was sin in the life of Job because of all the evil that had come upon him.

Notice that the wicked are compared to the lion. Although the lion had a great roar and was fierce, when his teeth were broken, he starved to death. The cubs then scatter and starve because they had no one to provide them with food. Eliphaz is saying that Job, the lion, has been broken and is facing destruction.

‘A word was secretly brought to me, my ears caught a whisper of it. Amid disquieting dreams in the night, when deep sleep falls on people, fear and trembling seized me and made all my bones shake. A spirit glided past my face, and the hair on my body stood on end. It stopped, but I could not tell what it was. A form stood before my eyes, and I heard a hushed voice: ‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can even a strong man be more pure than his Maker? If God places no trust in his servants, if he charges his angels with error, how much more those who live in houses of clay, whose foundations are in the dust, who are crushed more readily than a moth! Between dawn and dusk they are broken to pieces; unnoticed, they perish forever. Are not the cords of their tent pulled up, so that they die without wisdom?’ Job 4:12-21

This argument is supported by a fright vision he said he experienced. Many commentators doubt this vision, but people chosen of God had visions, Jeremiah 1:4 / Jeremiah 2:1 / Jeremiah 2:4.

The contents of this revelation are basically this, ‘is a man more just, than God?’ The implied answer is that no one is mortal but God is eternal.

God is just in sending affliction on evil men because God is just. To bring suffering upon a man without cause is unjust. This is the theory of retribution.

No matter what God does it cannot be said to be unjust. Eliphaz therefore would have to be claiming God is unjust if Job is innocent. He concludes that Job is a sinner.

The whole design of his argument is to get Job to extract a verdict of guilty upon himself. He becomes bolder and says he is so sure of Job’s guilt, that no one could stand in his defence, not even the angels.

He argued that even the angels can’t be compared to the righteousness of God, and so, are charged with an error in comparison to the purity of God.

If angels aren’t considered pure before God, then certainly mortal man, who is the product of clay shouldn’t be considered pure before God.

Just like a moth, our lives on earth are crushed and we pass away. It’s in death, that we are plucked up like a tent peg, that is, that which we have acquired in life is torn from us by death.

Because Eliphaz claims he is a wise man and seeks God, he claims that God’s goodness should motivate Job to repentance, in saying that he is a sinner and is wrong. One of the thoughts of Eliphaz is that material possessions and prosperity follow the upright and adversity come upon sinners.

Eliphaz hasn’t finished speaking yet, he really goes to town with Job, as the saying goes, in the next chapter.

Go To Job 5