Job 8-10: Would that there were an arbiter between us?

Chapter 8

This chapter begins with Bildad the Shuhite challenging Job’s alleged false innocence – acting as the effective “judge” of Job, launching accusations against him time and time again.  Is not Bildad more a type of Satan than he is of Christ, for Satan is the chief accuser of those in Jesus (Revelation 12:10)?  The refrain from Bildad – “If your children have sinned against him”, “If you will seek God…”, “If you are pure and upright…” (v.4-6), which is better understood as your children have sinned, you have not sought God, and you are not pure and upright.  That is the only answer which Bildad can give – hardly the words of encouragement, and hardly the theology which Christ holds (John 9).  Here, Bildad appeals to nature for his arguments (v.11-15):

  • Papyrus grows with marsh (v.11)
  • Reeds flourish where there is water (v.11)
  • Trust is not as a spider’s web (v.14)
  • The righteous man’s house shall stand and endure (v.15)
  • The righteous man shall not be like a lush plant, entwined to a stone heap and destroyed from his place (v.16-18).

As Adam Clarke states:

” Verse 15… is all allusion to the spider. When he suspects his web, here called his house, to be frail or unsure, he leans upon it in different parts, propping himself on his hinder legs, and pulling with his fore claws, to see if all be safe. If he find any part of it injured, he immediately adds new cordage to that part, and attaches it strongly to the wall. When he finds all safe and strong, he retires into his hole at one corner, supposing himself to be in a state of complete security, when in a moment the brush or the besom sweeps away both himself, his house, and his confidence. This I have several times observed; and it is in this that the strength and point of the comparison consist. The wicked, whose hope is in his temporal possessions strengthens and keeps his house in repair; and thus leans on his earthly supports; in a moment, as in the case of the spider, his house is overwhelmed by the blast of God’s judgments, and himself probably buried in its ruins. This is a very fine and expressive metaphor, which not one of the commentators that I have seen has ever discovered.

…Verse 16… is another metaphor.  The wicked is represented as a luxuriant plant, in a good soil, with all the advantages of a good situation; well exposed to the sun; the roots intervolving themselves with stones, so as to render the tree more stable; but suddenly a blast comes, and the tree begins to die. The sudden fading of its leaves, that its root is become as rottenness, and its vegetable life destroyed. I have often observed sound and healthy trees, which were flourishing in all the pride of vegetative health, suddenly struck by some unknown and incomprehensible blast, begin to die away, and perish from the roots. I have seen also the prosperous wicked, in the inscrutable dispensations of the Divine providence, blasted, stripped, made bare, and despoiled, in the same way.”

Clarke’s observations point out the subtlety in Bildad’s accusation – for Bildad is stating not simply a black and white situation of God’s righteousness (i.e. evil will be destroyed and the sinners are easily identifiable).  Contrarily, it is the evil ones who appear as lush plants; who appear to have reliable households – both accusations specific to Job, who was teeming with (as Bildad alleges) children who only appeared to be godly, and a household which only appeared to be built on God’s precepts.  

Yet, the accuser once again looks at these elements outside of Christ, and presents the Christless man before God, emphasising (like Eliphaz) the need to be justified by one’s works.  It is in fact only the righteous man (Psalm 1-2) who is the living water (Jeremiah 17:13; John 7:38); it is onlyChrist’s house which shall stand and endure for all time (1 Peter 2:5).  As Adam Clarke continues to observe:

“Job’s friends must have been acquainted, at least, with the history of the ancient patriarchs; and most certainly they contained facts of an opposite nature. Righteous Abel was persecuted and murdered by his wicked brother, Cain. Abram was obliged to leave his own country on account of worshipping the true God; so all tradition has said. Jacob was persecuted by his brother Esau; Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers; Moses was obliged to flee from Egypt, and was variously tried and afflicted, even by his own brethren. Not to mention David, and almost all the prophets. All these were proofs that the best of men were frequently exposed to sore afflictions and heavy calamities; and it is not by the prosperity or adversity of men in this world, that we are to judge of the approbation or disapprobation of God towards them. In every case our Lord’s rule is infallible: By their fruits ye shall know them.”

Chapter 9

Bildad’s accusations are cut short and Job immediately responds with an opening – “How can a man be in the right before God?” – surely a rhetorical question.  Yet he is not necessarily saying that Bildad is wrong per se.  Rather, he is saying that Bildad is stating the obvious – no man is sinless!  Nor can any man state that he is “in the right” and argue that before God.  This is a God of love and goodness and justice.  As Clarke states, “He is supreme, and will give account of none of his matters. He is infinitely wise, and cannot mistake. He is infinitely kind, and can do nothing cruel. He is infinitely good, and can do nothing wrong. No one, therefore, should question either his motives or his operations” (c.f. Isaiah 45:9; 2 Corinthians 4:7). 

Job clearly understands the ambit of God’s righteousness – though a man may consider himself righteous, it is ultimately God who decides the man’s righteousness.  His rhetoric of how man can be right before God is in the vein of every statement regarding man’s standing before God in this chapter (c.f. Matthew 7:22).  What “laughter” which Bildad spoke of in chapter 8 is but false as Job prescribes – “If I forget my complaint, I will put off my sad face, and be of good cheer” (v.27), yet he would become “afraid of all [his] suffering, for [he knows God] will not hold [him] innocent.”  Job understands the gravity of falling on the wrong side of God’s justice, and reminds Bildad that there is no judge greater than the LORD – but Bildad and Eliphaz clearly are not of the same ilk.  As Job’s rhetoric continues in v.33, “Would that there were an arbiter between us” (as the ESV footnote provides, as the Hebrew could be translated this way)?  Such an arbiter would take the Father’s rod away from Job, and let not the dread of the Father terrify him.  Then Job would speak without fear of God; otherwise, if Job were to stand alone outside of Jesus, then he should accordingly be consumed with such fear (v.33-35).  Such is the Redeemer and Arbiter whom Job speaks of in Job 19:25.  However, until such Redeemer becomes the central tenet of his response, Job continues to plead to God for mercy in the following chapter.

Chapter 10

This chapter begins with “I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul” (v.1).  Such is the honesty of a man righteous in Jesus.  He knows it is the LORD who placed him in the current situation (v.3-7); he also knows that the LORD is not punishing Job because Job is not guilty (v.7).  Despite what appears to be a complaint, Job describes his theology of God clearly – He fashioned Job, made him, clothed him with skin and flesh and knit him together with bones and sinews, granted him life and steadfast love, and His care has preserved Job’s spirit (v.8-12).  Such is the great God whom Job describes – the same God who could destroy him, who could return him to dust, who would curdle him like cheese, who could decide not to acquit Job of his iniquity, who could hunt him like a lion, work wonders against him, renew His witnesses against him, increase His vexation against him, bring fresh troops (v.8-17).  

Thus, Job’s substance of complaint is that of a righteous man.  What is the purpose of being righteous and blameless if one were to receive such trials from the LORD?  A common question asked by Christians of all ages.  “Why did you bring me out from the womb?” as some have undoubtedly questioned the LORD.  Yet, Job is not done with his exposition, just as the Teacher’s main point is not driven until the final chapters of Ecclesiastes.


Job 8-10: Would that there were an arbiter between us?

Job 4-7: the Innocent One

After the opening humility led by Job’s three friends, Eliphaz is the first of the three to speak from chapters 4-5, with Job responding in chapters 6-7.

Before we begin scrutinising the words of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, the LORD noticeably stays silent for the majority of the book of Job – until chapter 42:

“7  After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8  Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” 9  So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the LORD had told them, and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.

10  And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11  Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold. “

It is important to understand at the outset of studying this book that none of the three friends (we shall speak about Elihu when we come to him later in the book) have spoken what is right of the LORD.  Au contraire, Job has spoken rightly and is appointed the mediator of his friends, interceding on their behalf.  “And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly.  For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (emphases included) 

In this context, we now turn to Eliphaz’s incorrect words which oddly sound reasonable – if only from a worldly viewpoint.

Chapter 4

The opening verses (2-4) lift up Job as a “righteous” man (righteous as defined by his moral uprightness, as righteous is defined by the world), but quickly tears him apart as a man of contradiction.  Verse 5 begins, “But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed.” – as if accusing Job of losing not only faith, but failing to fear God (v.6).  The crux of his chapter, however, is girded by v.7 – “Remember: who that was innocent ever perished?  Or where were the upright cut off?”  This is where Eliphaz’s error lies.  Our Christ, the Meek and Innocent One, indeed shall perish to bruise the head of the Satan (Genesis 3:15), a promise which not only Adam and Eve but certainly their descendants were very familiar with.  This offspring shall himself be attacked by his heel – and why should he be attacked, why should he perish even, for being the Man of Righteousness defeating the evil one on our behalf?  Because of grace which is not cheap nor free.  Christ was the price, in spite of his innocence.

Thus, the remainder of this chapter is Eliphaz preaching works righteousness, the covenant of works – and not the Christian grace which God rebuked Eliphaz for failing to preach.  Those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same (c.f. Proverbs 22:8, Hosea 8:7; 10:12-13, Galatians 6:7-8), by the breath of God they perish?  Indeed they do – but so does the Innocent One, on behalf of those who plow iniquity!  So does the Innocent One, on behalf of those who would otherwise have perished!  Eliphaz has completely removed Jesus from the equation, and sought to place all men before God as if we could be righteous outside of Christ!  Such is the blasphemy which required Job to repent on Eliphaz’s behalf for.

V.12-17 seems to be a vision which Eliphaz received, as if to grant Eliphaz more authority for speaking these words.  It culminates with the climactic v.17 – “Can mortal man be in the right before God?” which Adam Clarke translates more powerfully as “Can the poor / weak / sinful man be justified before God?” – thankfully, for Job who understood the gospel, this is a resounding YES!  Though we dwell in houses of clay, we are given a renewed body (1 Corinthians 15) – the hope we hold in our faith, dying with wisdom in Christ Jesus (v.21).  

Chapter 5

Eliphaz continues his words of folly – “Is there anyone who will answer you?  To which of the holy ones will you turn?” (v.1) To the Holy One of course.  To the sacrificial Lamb.  Yet, Eliphaz’s words (v.2-7) continue to sting, continue to make reference to the “punishments” which have been dealt on Job for his alleged sinfulness.  He contrasts these words with his reverential words of God in v.8-27.  However, as God indicated in chapter 42, are these words also folly? 

Indeed, it would appear such words are folly, where they are applied inappropriately.  Here, Eliphaz’s error is that the LORD is reproving Job for his sins – yet, at the outset of the book of Job, the LORD already stated that Job is without sin.  The episodes happening against him are permitted of Satan, to display the LORD’s protection of Job against even the evil one’s doomed schemes – a shadow of the Satan’s greatest scheme against mankind being foiled by the death and resurrection of the Innocent One.  V.17 should therefore not describe Job, but describe the Christ – blessed is He who is reproved by the Father, for it is only Christ who is shattered and healed (v.18), not us.  To emphasise the Father’s exaltation, v.19 is reminiscent of Proverbs 6:16 – deliverance from six troubles; in seven no evil shall touch you; so also, there are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him.  The number seven indicating completeness and rest, the LORD’s day.  So his deliverance (as in Job) and his wrath (as in Proverbs) are two sides of the same coin – that on the LORD’s day, likely the Son’s second coming, such deliverance and wrath will be fully realised.  Such words, indeed, are true – but true of the Son, and not of Job himself.  Eliphaz has quite simply missed “the point” – Jesus.

Chapter 6

Thus begins Job’s response – a response which the LORD weighed as accurate of the LORD’s words and intentions (see chapter 42). 

Firstly Job does not “blame” Satan – he very much understands that it is the LORD who is sovereign even over the evil one.  Thus, it is the LORD’s arrows and poison which are in Job, not Satan’s.  Yet, the words of his brothers are described as trecherous (v.15).  As Adam Clarke describes, “the approach of Job’s friends promised much of sympathy and compassion; his expectations were raised: but their conduct soon convinced him that they were physicians of no value; therefore he compares them to the deceitful torrents that soon pass away.”  Job’s questions are also relentless from v.8 onwards.  Just as the caravans of Tema look, and the travelers of Sheba hope – yet are failed:

“The caravans coming from Tema are represented as arriving at those places where it was well known torrents did descend from the mountains, and they were full of expectation that here they could not only slake their thirst, but fill their girbas or water-skins; but when they arrive, they find the waters totally dissipated and lost. In vain did the caravans of Sheba wait for them; they did not reappear: and they were confounded, because they had hoped to find here refreshment and rest.” – Adam Clarke

Job challenges his friends.  V.22-23

  • Have I said, ‘Make me a gift’? Or,
  • ‘From your wealth offer a bribe for me’?  Or,
  • ‘Deliver me from the adversary’s hand’?  Or,
  • Redeem me from the hand of the ruthless’?

Indeed, Job states that Eliphaz’s words are misdirected.  “How forceful are upright words!  But what does reproof from you reprove?” (v.25) – for Job’s speech is that of a despairing man, which is wind.  What use is Eliphaz rebuking the wind?  (c.f. Mark 4:39 for an accurate rebuke against a storm).  Job maintains his righteousness (v.30), as already stated by the LORD at the outset of the book of Job.  Adam Clarke states – “As you have proved no fault you have consequently reproved no vice”.

Chapter 7

Job changes his tone drastically in chapter 7, for he now emphasises that his life is but a breath (v.16), in line with the end of chapter 6 where he says the words of a despairing man is like wind.  He seeks some rest in the midst of his temporary pain (v.13-15), a result of the sin of Adam (v.1).  Yet, Job is made a scapegoat of sorts (v.19-21) – when Job is saying that though man goes down to Sheol and does not return (v.9), he is emphasising the weakness that is fallen man.  This is the fallen nature of man now, as described by Job in this chapter.  Eliphaz is no different from Job in this respect – yet Job at no stage is saying that such iniquities are a result of Job’s sin.  Quite the contrary, this is the result of the Fall – experienced equally by Eliphaz and Job.  The key question for Eliphaz is this: “Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity?  For now I shall lie in the earth; you will seek me, but I shall not be.” (v.21)  Adam Clarke comments:

“If I have sinned, then why should not I have a part in that mercy that flows so freely to all mankind?

That Job does not criminate himself here, as our text intimates, is evident enough from his own repeated assertions of his innocence. And it is most certain that Bildad, who immediately answers, did not consider him as criminating but as justifying himself; and this is the very ground on which he takes up the subject.  Were we to admit the contrary, we should find strange inconsistencies, if not contradictions, in Job’s speeches: on such a ground the controversy must have immediately terminated, as he would then have acknowledged that of which his friends accused him; and here the book of Job would have ended.”

Again, Job states that Eliphaz has missed the point.  The Fall caused the period of iniquity; the Son caused the period of new creation.  Eliphaz focused on man, but Job focuses on the Son; Eliphaz focused on Job’s sins, but Job focuses on his righteousness in Christ.  




Job 4-7: the Innocent One