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?
Eliphaz, the first one of the friends to speak, tries to set Job up for his criticism of him by asking, apparently having talked about this with the others, if Job would be angry at their giving him advice. Then, he comments at the end of that verse that they can hardly restrain themselves from speaking.
We all know when we have such definite opinions about someone’s tragedy that we can hardly contain ourselves or stop from telling them what we think, to expose what we see as their error. But you have not experienced their suffering or known the loss that they feel, usually. In a tragedy their wounded hearts are still raw and bleeding. We are told;
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
Eliphaz accuses Job of being a hypocrite. He tells him that while he had the right words to say for others when they faced a time of trial and weakness, when it came down to it Job couldn’t apply the same words as a balm to his own broken heart.
In other words, “I hope you don’t mind me saying this and I hope you don’t get mad but I can’t help myself. You are a fraud and a phony. You could talk the talk but not walk the walk.” Strange how we do that when we are explicitly told by Paul.
2Corinthians 1:3 ¶ Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
Can you imagine going to a friend who had been an inspiration to you of Godliness and what it meant to be a Christian but who had just lost his entire family in a car accident and who was in tears doubting whether or not he could go on and saying what Eliphaz has said to Job?
Job was the kind of person who followed the thoughts of these verses given to the Jews before they were written.
Isaiah 35:3 Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. 4 Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.
And yet, when calamity came to Job, as would be expected of any human being who loved his family and honored God’s sovereignty, who thought he was putting good money in his spiritual bank, he was devastated when that which he feared the most happened to him. Now, Job is crushed and Eliphaz calls him a phony for it.
As Job’s wife encouraged him to do what Satan expected him to do, to curse God, his friend uses Satan’s dismissive and contemptuous words in belittling what has happened. Compare “it toucheth thee,” in verse 5 with Satan’s words in Job 1:11 and 2:5.
How we do the work of Satan when we hold in contempt the response of our Christian brothers and sisters to their own suffering as proof they are not what they pretended to be. “Keep a stiff upper lip, Job. The church is watching you. Be an example. Keep your chin up. Don’t be a hypocrite.”
Verse 6 basically calls out those traits of Job that God was talking about glowingly as being mere pretence, the implication being that if Job had really been sincere none of this stuff would have happened to him. Do you see yourself in Eliphaz at all, even if you never had the nerve to say what you were thinking?
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.
Eliphaz tells Job that bad things don’t happen to good people. Here, in verse 7, we see a method by which the Bible defines itself. In this verse, cut off and perished are linked a synonymous. Of course we can see that in other verses where cut off is used.
Here is another example of what it means to be “cut off.”
2Kings 9:8 For the whole house of Ahab shall perish: and I will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel:
Here are two verses in Zechariah;
Zechariah 11:9 Then said I, I will not feed you: that that dieth, let it die; and that that is to be cut off, let it be cut off; and let the rest eat every one the flesh of another.
Zechariah 13:8 And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein.
So, Eliphaz even goes so far as to imply that Job’s children must have been wicked or they wouldn’t have been taken from the land of the living. After all, he couldn’t imagine this happening to them unless it was an act of God’s judgment.
When you saw that a young person had died suddenly and violently did you not wonder what great sin that young person was guilty of? I’ve heard it before from Christians. There is an assumption that bad things happening to a Christian, or anyone for that matter, are always the result of God’s judgment on sin in their lives.
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.
Eliphaz brings up an experience he claims he had, sort of a personal revelation from the world of the spirit. This ghost, which he claimed visited him either in reality, or not literally, but as a method of making a rhetorical point, does not identify itself as coming from God. It simply terrified him, like the “angel” that visited Mohammed and terrified him. Then, it gave its message which, as in most such occasions of this sort, is mostly true but misleading as Eliphaz says several true things but applies them in the wrong way.
It is true that mortal man cannot be more just than God.
Psalm 145:17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.
Ecclesiastes 7:20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.
There is as huge a gap between the most wicked man or woman on earth and God as there is between the most righteous man or woman on earth and God. As Jonathan Edwards said in his sermon, “Pardon for the Greatest Sinners,”;
The mercy of God is as sufficient for the pardon of the greatest sins, as for the least; and that because his mercy is infinite. That which is infinite, is as much above what is great, as it is above what is small. Thus God being infinitely great, he is as much above kings as he is above beggars; he is as much above the highest angel, as he is above the meanest worm. One finite measure doth not come any nearer to the extent of what is infinite than another.–So the mercy of God being infinite, it must be as sufficient for the pardon of all sin, as of one. If one of the least sins be not beyond the mercy of God, so neither are the greatest, or ten thousand of them.(12)
With regard to Eliphaz’ statement about angels, we know from the Bible that a number of the sons of God, or angels, left their first estate…
Genesis 6:2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose….4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
…and are held in expectation of their final judgment.
Jude 1:6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
So, it is true, how can man, who inhabits a weak body of flesh, be wiser or more righteous even than those spirit beings who have communed personally with God but have been charged with evil?
We are weak in body and our biological lives are temporary.
James 4:14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
James 1:10 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.
Psalm 39:5 Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah.
1Peter 1:24 ¶ For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
Yes, we often go to the grave no more wise than when we came into the world. Solomon, in the progress of his thinking in the book of Ecclesiastes, considered the value of mankind, based on what he had seen in life. Although this wasn’t his final conclusion it is interesting to note in the context of what Eliphaz is saying here about the weakness of the flesh and the lack of wisdom that characterize mankind. Note that Solomon, in this passage, implies that no one even really knows if a man’s spirit, when he dies, goes to a place different than an animal’s spirit.
Ecclesiastes 3:18 I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. 19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. 20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. 21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?
The point is, man is weak, mentally and spiritually handicapped, and wicked. Eliphaz says some very true things. But, the question is, how does that make true Eliphaz’s declaration that Job is a hypocrite and he and his children must have deserved what happened?
(12) Jonathan Edwards, “Pardon for the Greatest Sinners,” http://www.whatsaiththescripture.com/Fellowship/Edwards.Pardon.for.Sinners.html.htm. (accessed 8.9.2014).