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.
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).
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.
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”.
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.