Today: [Job Four] Can You Avoid Job’s Fate? In this chapter Job’s friends begin to speak. Eliphaz is the chief orator and suggests that Job is suffering because he has some secret sin in his life. On the surface his argument seems valid until you give some thought to who Eliphaz was and what was driving him to seek out some fault in his friend Job. If in fact all suffering arises from sin then there is no one with a sin nature who can hope to be protected from any calamity. Fortunately for us we find in Christ and in the teachings of Jesus a deliverance from such a bleak prospect.
[Job 4:1-21 KJV] 1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said, 2 [If] we assay to commune with thee, wilt thou be grieved? but who can withhold himself from speaking? 3 Behold, thou hast instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the weak hands. 4 Thy words have upholden him that was falling, and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees. 5 But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled. 6 [Is] not [this] thy fear, thy confidence, thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways?
In studying this chapter we see in the beginning now that Job has expressed his lamentation now his three friends will speak up. To consider what these friends have to say it is a good idea to learn something about them and something more about Job. Little is said in the bible about where these men came from or who their families were but we can look to commonly held beliefs from ancient times to get an idea.
There are several theories about who Job was and from whom he was descended. One repeated suggestion is that he is the grandson of Nahor Abraham’s brother. Nahor was the only other surviving son of Terah, Abraham’s father after the other brother Haran (the father of Lot) died before his time. This would make Job the nephew of Abraham and first cousin of Lot. Therefore it is clear from this perspective that Job was a Semitic descendant and probably lived in the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Who was Eliaphaz? Eliaphaz’ lineage may reveal to us much about this man and the character behind his comments to Job. Eliaphaz was the son of Esau, Jacob’s brother who despised his birthright and later planned to kill Jacob. Jewish writers claim that when Jacob fled from Esau to his uncle Laban that Esau sent his son Eliphaz (this same man – Job’s friend) to murder Jacob. Jacob is confronted by Eliphaz and begs for his life and pays a bribe and Eliphaz returns home. One other telling fact about Eliphaz is that he is the father of Amalek whose descendants Saul was commanded to wipe out completely but consequently failed to do. The people of Amalek were bitter enemies of the Hebrews and their descendants included Haman who sought to commit genocide against the Jews in Esther’s day. So it is in this context that we read Eliphaz’ comments to Job with greater misgivings owing to his lineage that generationally maintained such animus against the line of Abraham.
7 Remember, I pray thee, who [ever] perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off? 8 Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. 9 By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed. 10 The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the fierce lion, and the teeth of the young lions, are broken. 11 The old lion perisheth for lack of prey, and the stout lion’s whelps are scattered abroad.
Job is suffering and his friends after seven days of silence are speaking up hoping to give some context and clarity to what is taking place in their friend Job’s life. Eliphaz does not openly chastise Job but points out to him that in times past Job has helped and mentored others going through difficult times and now he should remember the counsel he gave to others. Eliphaz contends that God never forsakes those who are upright in nature and that his friend Job must have some secret sin that has left him open to the difficulties he is going through in this season.
In the discourses of Job’s friends Eliphaz is always the first one to speak up. Being a descendant of Esau and from the land of Teman he represents the wisdom of the Temanites. The people of Eliphaz lineage were known for their wisdom and understanding and this is apparently why Eliphaz is the lead prosecutor in the dialog in which the three friends seek to correct and comfort Job. Let us remember however the generational character of Edom. Esau, the patriarch of Edom was a great man in his day but his fatal flaw was that he was willing to sacrifice his birthright for the immediacy of creature comforts. Esau would rather have a bowl of beans now than a birthright from heaven later. Esau was ruled by the immediacy of his appetites rather than the destiny of God that was denied him because of compromise. This is the heritage of Edom and it is reflected throughout his lineage in the bible.
Eliphaz’ primary believe is that the righteous do not perish and that the wicked alone suffer. Therefore in his view he focuses upon Job’s secret sin. This is a strong argument but it arises from a flawed supposition. Eliphaz speaks from the high ground of his own opinion of himself. He is telling Job that he has erred in some way. He wants to help Job find out his own secret sin. He thinks that Job has some hidden pride and arrogance that must be exposed. In laying this out as his comfort to Job he exposes how he looks at others. He is a fault finder willing to excuse himself and highlight the failings of those around him. The writer of Proverbs tells us:
[Pro 27:19 KJV] 19 As in water face [answereth] to face, so the heart of man to man.
What does this mean? What Eliphaz would point out as Job’s problem actually exposes what is in his own. Eliphaz is looking upon Job and his dilemma and making a judgment. In so doing he classes himself in the company of those hypocrites that Paul addresses in the book of Romans:
[Rom 2:1 KJV] 1 Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
Jesus says in Matthew 7:1 “Judge not that you be not judged…” The word judge here means to “have or to hand down an opinion…” Eliphaz is a man who loves the sound of his own voice. He has something to say about everything. He commends his friends for deferring to him and allowing him to speak first. He is more interesting in getting his viewpoint out even if it pours salt on Job’s wounds. This is the opposite of David’s character in such matters who made the following statement in the Psalms:
[Psa 131:1 KJV] 1 [[A Song of degrees of David.]] LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.
Job is struggling to understand his plight and Eliphaz feels as though he is an expert and proceeds to educate Job and any one else that will listen. Even if he is correct it doesn’t help Job. Job doesn’t need an explanation even though he demands one. He needs a savior. He needs a comforter. He needs friends who will stand by him without handing down their opinions and just be his friends.
Eliphaz renders his verdict and now he must set the seal on his authority to speak. He get religious and portrays himself as a mystic telling of a visitation he has had in the night. When people are insistent that they must be heard and that their opinions may not be questioned they will come up with a vision, an angelic visitation or some other subjective experience designed in the telling of it to force everyone around them to capitulate to their views whether they are proven to be correct or not:
12 Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ear received a little thereof. 13 In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men, 14 Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake. 15 Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up: 16 It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image [was] before mine eyes, [there was] silence, and I heard a voice, [saying], 17 Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker? 18 Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly: 19 How much less [in] them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation [is] in the dust, [which] are crushed before the moth? 20 They are destroyed from morning to evening: they perish for ever without any regarding [it]. 21 Doth not their excellency [which is] in them go away? they die, even without wisdom.
What is Eliphaz saying to Job in the report of this vision? “Job are you more righteous than God?” Eliphaz is blasting Job for complaining about his suffering. “Who do you think you are Job? Don’t you know that the only reason you are suffering is because you deserve it?” Of course we are all born in sin therefore from a certain perspective all human suffering falls under the heading of divine justice but that is not all the Eliphaz is contending. Eliphaz is saying “Job you are suffering but I am not” therefore in suggesting Job is suffering for some secret sin he is contend that he (Eliphaz) has no such flaw and is righteous before God.
Eliphaz’ thinking arises from a performance based approach to God. He contends that Job suffers because he is wicked in some way and beyond that he (Eliphaz) is not suffering like Job because he is righteous – more righteous than Job. In the teachings of Jesus this argument is soundly defeated:
[Luk 13:1-5 KJV] 1 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
In Jesus’ day it was commonly believed if something bad happened to someone it was because they were wicked in some way. Jesus gives two examples – and suggests that the fate of these poor victims was not connected in any way to whether or not they were good or evil people. He then goes on to reprove the people for thinking this way and warns them if they don’t change their minds about such things that they themselves are vulnerable to the same calamity. The first thing we draw from this is the plain inference that calamity can be avoided and that our thought life and judgments in life are connected with the level of casuality that we experience. Jesus went through life with angels attending him lest he dash his foot against a stone. In other words the angels assigned to Jesus were chiefly concerned with protecting him from casuality and accident. Likewise if we learn from Eliphaz’ errors and the errors of the people Jesus is teaching in Luke we can insulate ourselves in great measure from suffering arising not from sin but from living out our lives in a fallen creation.
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