THE REBUKE FOR IMPIETY ESCALATES TO A FULL-SCALE CHARACTERIZATION OF THE DEMISE OF THE WICKED
Francis Andersen: As Job becomes more vehement, his friends become more severe. At first Eliphaz was gentle and courteous (4:2). Now his politeness diminishes, and he bluntly accuses Job of folly and impiety. If at first, with his great reputation (4:3f.), there had been doubt about Job’s need for divine correction, now his irreverent words (2–6) show how empty are his claims to wisdom (7–16). He needs a fresh reminder of the fate of the wicked (17–35).
David Clines: The tonality of the speech, in line with its function, is sympathetic but firm; Job has spoken unwisely (vv 2–3), self-importantly (vv 7–9), and aggressively (vv 12–13), and he has adopted a position that ill becomes his piety (vv 4–5). He has abandoned proper reverence before God (v 4). He ignores fundamental truths about human nature (vv 14–16) and needs clear correction. There is some sarcasm in the speech, in the questions whether Job has not mistaken himself for the First Man, possessor of superhuman wisdom (vv 7–8), but the very extravagance of the sarcasm blunts its edge, and it seems that Eliphaz is administering a douche of cold water to Job to bring him to his senses rather than essentially attacking Job or attempting to humiliate him.
Elmer Smick: In vv.1–13, Eliphaz plies Job with questions designed to shame him into silence. Most of the speeches start with some form of insult, but Eliphaz surpasses all others with his vitriol and theological flourishes. Verses 14–16 reveal again some interesting architectonics. These verses form an apex about which Eliphaz’s words hinge. They derive from his vision in 4:17–19 and here state his thesis: God’s holiness versus humanity’s corruption. The remaining half of chapter 15 is a dramatic description of the dreadful fate of the wicked.
Tremper Longman: Not surprisingly, since we have observed this at the beginning of the majority of speeches, Eliphaz begins by insulting Job. These insults are particularly noticeable, though, by virtue of their length and theological richness (vv. 1–10). Why, Eliphaz asks next, is Job so angry? Why is he surprised at his predicament? After all, God does not even trust his angels, so Job should know that he would not trust human beings (vv. 11–16). At this point, Eliphaz returns to his earlier argument (see, e.g., 4:6–11), a position shared by his two friends, that only the wicked suffer. His experience, as well as tradition, teaches this (vv. 17–24). The wicked, after all, have defied God, and so they will languish and ultimately perish (vv. 25–35).
Roy Zuck: In his first speech Eliphaz approached Job with a degree of decorum and courtesy, but not so this time. Now he lambasted the bereaved, dejected sufferer with the notion that he was a hardened sinner, disrespectful of his elders and defiant toward God.
– Eliphaz charges Job with impiety in attempting to justify himself, 1-13;
– asserts the utter corruption and abominable state of man, 14-16;
– and, from his own knowledge and the observations of the ancients, shows the desolation to which the wicked are exposed, and insinuates that Job has such calamities to dread, 17-35.
Andrew Bruce Davidson: The speech thus falls into two parts:
– First, vv. 2—16, Eliphaz’s rebuke of Job’s contemptuous treatment of his friends and assumption of superior wisdom, and his irreverence.
– Second, v. 17–35, the doctrine of Eliphaz regarding the wicked man’s conscience and fate.
“Then Eliphaz the Temanite responded,”
I. (:2-16) REBUKE FOR FOOLISH IMPIETY
John Hartley: In the first division Eliphaz delivers a reprimand speech. It comprises a mixture of rhetorical questions (vv. 2–3, 7–9, 11, 13, 14) and definitive statements (vv. 4–6, 10, 15–16). Eliphaz adopts this style to ridicule Job’s self-defense. Also, taken aback by Job’s passionate claim of innocence, he wants to persuade Job that the teaching of the wise, among whom the friends are numbered, far outweighs Job’s knowledge. He believes that Job must abandon his claim to innocence, for his own words are proving him guilty, and certainly he must leave off his harsh complaints against God.
Serious Charges Leveled Against Job:
A. (:2-3) You Are Puffed Up with Useless Hot Air
“Should a wise man answer with windy knowledge,
And fill himself with the east wind?
3 Should he argue with useless talk,
Or with words which are not profitable?”
John Hartley: He is ridiculing Job, saying that his words flow from a belly filled with hot air, not from his heart, the center of reason. He thus judges Job’s resolve to argue his case directly with God to be merely useless rhetoric. His words, being without value, will have no power to persuade God.
Tremper Longman; Eliphaz thinks Job’s so-called wisdom is insubstantial like the wind. The idiom of v. 2b is strikingly similar to a modern American one: Job is filled with “hot air.” He has passion but no content.
B. (:4-6) You Are Irreverent with Crafty Speech
“Indeed, you do away with reverence,
And hinder meditation before God.
5 For your guilt teaches your mouth,
And you choose the language of the crafty.
6 Your own mouth condemns you, and not I;
And your own lips testify against you.”
David Thompson: v. 4 — This charge is complete nonsense. Job had a greater reverence for God than any of these men ever had. God, Himself, said there was no man like him on this earth. Job had a reverence for God and a trust in his sovereignty when he had lost everything. Job had an ability to truly meditate and think about God’s Word in levels way above and beyond any of these men. This charge that Job was a threat to sabotage sound reverence and worship of God is ludicrous. It all sounds so pious but it is devilish. When you are committed to understanding God’s truth and doctrines, don’t be surprised if the devil doesn’t send some false accusers into your world who will question your relationship with God and your grasp of God’s Word.
v. 5 — The charge Eliphaz is making here is that Job has a crafty way of verbally getting around his guilt. He is basically telling Job that he knows how to use sound, theological arguments in a very crafty, sinful, evasive and artful way.
Francis Andersen: v. 4 — Job is not only stupid; he is dangerous. His words are a threat to sound religion. The Hebrew has simply fear, but this is certainly short for the stock phrase ‘fear of God’ which is attributed to Job in 1:1, 8; 2:3, and equated with wisdom in 28:28. NEB makes Job sabotage his own religion (‘you even banish the fear of God from your mind’), while TEV makes Job undermine other people’s religion (‘you discourage people from fearing God’). If in fact here ‘Eliphaz brands Job’s dangerous ideas as a menace to society’ (Rowley, p. 134), the point is not developed. The emphasis is on the harm Job is doing to himself.
John Hartley: Because Eliphaz cannot fathom that Job’s complaints could possible come from a genuine search for meaning amid suffering, he can only conclude that Job is guilty of speaking too harshly against God.
C. (:7-10) You Are Egotistical with Arrogant Claims
“Were you the first man to be born,
Or were you brought forth before the hills?
8 Do you hear the secret counsel of God,
And limit wisdom to yourself?
9 What do you know that we do not know?
What do you understand that we do not?
10 Both the gray-haired and the aged are among us,
Older than your father.”
Francis Andersen: To belittle Job’s utterances further, Eliphaz subjects him to a string of humiliating questions. It is an irony that his interrogation hits the style of the later interview with the Lord that Job will find so healing (chapters 38ff.). The present passage stands in chiasmus with the preceding, as Eliphaz’s initial charges of folly (verses 2f.) and irreligion (4) are elaborated in inverse order: iniquity (5f.) and ignorance (7ff.). . . The charges are not deserved. Job has made no such exaggerated claims. He had claimed only to be as intelligent as his friends (12:3), not to have a monopoly of knowledge (verse 8).
Tremper Longman: Eliphaz here emphasizes what he perceives throughout to be Job’s arrogance. He will not listen to the correction of others (Prov. 3:11–12; 9:7–9; 12:1; etc.), so he must restrict wisdom only to himself.
David Thompson: vv. 7-16 — All of these questions are based on exaggerated assumptions and all of them are designed to humiliate Job. There is no factual proof of anything they have alleged. These questions are not designed to ascertain truth; they are designed by Satan to further crush a faithful man of God. There are seven questions he presents to Eliphaz.
Question #1 – Were you the first human born? 15:7a
Question #2 – Were you the first chronologically created? 15:7b
Question #3 – Are you the only one who knows the secret things of God? 15:8
Question #4 – Aren’t we as knowledgeable and as spiritual as you? 15:9-10
Question #5 – Aren’t you listening to our godly consolations? 15:11
Question #6 – Why are you drawing away from God and turning against God? 15:12-13
Question #7 – How can you think you are pure and righteous when no man is? 15:14-16
D. (:11-13) You Are Angry in Rejecting Godly Counsel
“Are the consolations of God too small for you,
Even the word spoken gently with you?
12 Why does your heart carry you away?
And why do your eyes flash,
13 That you should turn your spirit against God,
And allow such words to go out of your mouth?”
John Hartley: Eliphaz derides Job for not accepting the comforts of God. God’s consolations (ṯanḥumôṯ ʾēl) are the words spoken gently by the friends, who represent God to Job and who utter the wisdom of the ages. Thus, in Eliphaz’s opinion, to reject their consoling advice is tantamount to rejecting God’s consolations. In particular, Eliphaz means that Job has not heeded the message he had received in a vision (4:12–16). Therefore, Eliphaz reiterates that message at the end of this pericope (vv. 14–16). .
Eliphaz is claiming that the flashing in Job’s eyes reveals his anger at God for punishing him. The word translated anger, rûaḥ (lit. “wind, spirit”), may stand for a dominant mood, e.g., lust (Hos. 4:12), anger (Judg. 8:3; Prov. 16:32), or extreme displeasure (Eccl. 10:4). Eliphaz uses rûaḥ, for he perceives that Job’s crafty thinking is controlled by his anger. That is why Job’s mouth is pouring out such caustic and reproachful words against God. Whereas Job has stated that his distress arises from being discredited (12:2–6; 13:1–12), Eliphaz says that the cause of his anger is frustrated pride.
E. (:14-16) You Are Detestable and Corrupt
“What is man, that he should be pure,
Or he who is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?
15 Behold, He puts no trust in His holy ones,
And the heavens are not pure in His sight;
16 How much less one who is detestable and corrupt,
Man, who drinks iniquity like water!”
Elmer Smick: Eliphaz repeats the thought that came to him by “revelation” (4:17–19)—that a human being is too vile even to stand before God. That oracle has made a deep impression on the counselor.
Tremper Longman: Once again, Eliphaz repeats the argument that he made in his first speech (4:17–19) that humans are incapable of being pure or righteous. He points out that God does not even trust spiritual beings in heaven. Fallen humans are inherently corrupt. He does not state it explicitly, but the obvious conclusion is that human beings deserve whatever they get, and so by definition Job deserves what he gets. The only problem with Eliphaz’s argument is that he is wrong, and we, who have read Job 1–2, know that he is wrong about Job.
II. (:17-35) REMINDER OF THE DREADFUL FATE OF THE WICKED
John Hartley: In the second division, after requesting Job’s attention (vv. 17–19), Eliphaz, like a wisdom teacher, vividly describes the plight of the wicked person (vv. 20–35). That person is characterized as a tyrant who brazenly defies even God. For Eliphaz, the ways of nature guarantee that such a person will not escape his destined ill-fate. By implication he is warning Job of the consequences that will befall him if he does not repent from his stubborn way.
David Thompson: Eliphaz presents 15 lecture points, some of which are true and some of which are false. As it relates to Job it is all false:
Point #1 – The wicked will live a shortened life and a painful life. 15:20 = false
Point #2 – The wicked will live a terrified life that lacks tranquility. 15:21 = false
Point #3 – The wicked do not have any hope of deliverance. 15:22 = true
Point #4 – The wicked live a life that lacks contentment due to pending judgment. 15:23 = false
Point #5 – The wicked live a distressed life because he has arrogantly opposed God. 15:24-25 = false
Point #6 – The wicked are insanely hostile against God, even charging Him. 15:26 = true
Point #7 – The wicked are self-sufficient and self-indulgent. 15:27 = true
Point #8 – The wicked live in places cursed by God. 15:28 = true
Point #9 – The wicked do not gain an enduring wealth. 15:29 = true
Point #10 – The wicked will not escape the judgment of God. 15:30 = true
Point #11 – The wicked deceptively trusts in himself. 15:31 = true
Point #12 – The wicked will not live to a ripe old age. 15:32 = false
Point #13 – The wicked will go into eternity with an unfruitful life. 15:33 = true
Point #14 – The wicked will end up barren. 15:34 = true
Point #15 – The wicked have minds that are dark and deceptive. 15:35 = true
A. (:17-19) Call for Attention
“I will tell you, listen to me;
And what I have seen I will also declare;
18 What wise men have told,
And have not concealed from their fathers,
19 To whom alone the land was given,
And no alien passed among them.”
B. (:20-22) The Wretched State of the Wicked
1. (:20) He Lives in Pain for the Fixed Duration of His Life
“The wicked man writhes in pain all his days,
And numbered are the years stored up for the ruthless.”
2. (:21) He is Pursued by Terror
“Sounds of terror are in his ears,
While at peace the destroyer comes upon him.”
3. (:22) He Has No Hope of Deliverance
“He does not believe that he will return from darkness,
And he is destined for the sword.”
Thomas Constable: vv. 20-35 – Several troubles come on the wicked person because of his sin (vv. 20-35). He writhes in pain—the same Hebrew word describes labor pains—all his life (v. 20a; cf. 14:22). He dies earlier than the godly do (v. 20b; cf. 14:5). He has irrational fears (v. 21a). He suffers destruction while at peace (v. 21b; cf. 1:13-19; 12:6). He experiences torment by a guilty conscience (v. 22a). He feels he is a hunted person (v. 22b). He is anxious about his basic needs (v. 23), and he feels distressed and in anguish (v. 24; cf. 7:14; 9:34; 13:21; 14:20). Job had confessed every one of these troubles. Eliphaz implied that Job had all the marks of a wicked man. He stressed the inner turmoil of the wicked in this list. He also reminded Job that God will destroy the wicked (v. 20).
The writer set forth verses 20-35 in a chiastic structure to emphasize the reasons for these judgments, which form the heart of the section:
A Judgments of the wicked 15:20-24
B Reasons for the judgments 15:25-26
B’ Reasons for the judgments 15:27-28
A’ Judgments of the wicked 15:29-35
The reasons for the judgments were essentially two: rebellion against God (vv. 25-26) and self-indulgence (vv. 27-28). Verse 28 may mean: “He proudly lived in ruined cities and rebuilt houses previously unoccupied, thus defying the curse on ruined sites (15:28; cf. Josh. 6:26; 1 Kings 16:34).”
Seven more judgments follow in verses 29-35. The wicked person will not prosper (v. 29) but will die (v. 30a). His works will fail (v. 30b-c) and he will suffer prematurely (v. 31-32a; cf. 4:8). His wealth will fail (v. 32b-33), he will experience barrenness (v. 34; cf. 3:7; 4:21; 8:22), and he deceives himself (v. 31). Note that Eliphaz began this section with a reference to childbirth (v. 20) and ended it with another reference to the same thing (v. 35).
John Hartley: v. 21 — The wicked person is filled with anxiety. He continually hears terrifying sounds. Even when his dwelling place is at peace, i.e., free from threat, he imagines that a marauder is waiting in the shadows to assail him, for he knows that the quietest times are the most opportune for an opponent to make a surprise raid. Apprehensive that the worst is about to happen, he is startled by every noise. Never able to relax, he has no inner tranquility (cf. Prov. 28:1).
C. (:23-26) The Anxiety and Distress of the Wicked Who Oppose God
1. (:23) Anxiety
“He wanders about for food, saying, ‘Where is it?’
He knows that a day of darkness is at hand.”
2. (:24) Distress
“Distress and anguish terrify him,
They overpower him like a king ready for the attack,”
3. (:25-26) Opposition to God
“Because he has stretched out his hand against God,
And conducts himself arrogantly against the Almighty.
26 He rushes headlong at Him
With his massive shield.”
Francis Andersen: vv. 25-26 — At its base, the wicked person’s attitude to God is one of insane hostility, ‘pitting himself against the Almighty’ (NEB).
John Hartley: vv. 24-25 — Thoughts about the day of darkness, i.e., the day of death, terrify the wicked. Distress [ṣar] and anguish [meṣûqâ] overpower him. He feels as though a mighty king were commanding a swooping attack (kîḏôr) against him. The reason for his great anguish is that he has defiantly stretched out his hand against God (cf. Isa. 5:25). Thinking that he possessed extraordinary strength, he vaunted himself against Shaddai. But now filled with terror, he faces the full punishment for his ruthless behavior.
v. 26 — In his days of prosperity when he felt like an invincible champion, this tyrant welcomed any challenge. Protected by his armor, he felt invincible. His gallant victories have made him self-assured. In his new arrogance he believes that he could defeat even God, should such an opportunity present itself. His haughty presumption has grown out of the fact that he has been able to victimize the morally upright, those whom God is supposed to protect, without suffering any divine reprisals. In full armor and protected by a thick-bossed shield, he charges at God with an outstretched neck.
Roy Zuck: Why such misfortunes? The reason, this verbal pugilist said, is that a sinner is defiant (shakes his fist) and arrogant against God (vaunts himself), attacking God head-on. This contradicted Job’s words that God was attacking him (7:20; 13:24; cf. 19:11; 33:10).
Tremper Longman: Verses 25–27 begin by describing the heart of the crime of the wicked—their defiance of God. They stretched their hands against, not toward, God. In other words, they lifted their hands in violence and not in worship to God. In v. 25b the verb is from the root gbr in the Piel and means “to strengthen” or “to excel.” In some contexts, this verb is positive (as when God strengthens his people; Zech. 10:6, 12), but for humans to strengthen themselves or attempt to excel over God is to defy him. The description of the defiance of the wicked continues as Eliphaz pictures them running toward God with a shield, as if to do battle.
D. (:27-29) The Futility of the Self Indulgence of the Wicked
“For he has covered his face with his fat,
And made his thighs heavy with flesh.
28 And he has lived in desolate cities,
In houses no one would inhabit,
Which are destined to become ruins.
29 He will not become rich,
nor will his wealth endure;
And his grain will not bend down to the ground.”
John Hartley: v. 27 — This boastful champion has forgotten that his style of living has robbed him of his great strength. Indulging himself in much feasting, his face has become chubby and fat enlarges his loins. This fat, at first symbolic of health (cf. 2 Sam. 1:22), affluence, and ease, robs him of his agility and prowess. In similar fashion Jeremiah portrays the wicked as becoming wealthy through deeds of injustice and then growing fat and sleek (Jer. 5:26–28). Even though they have experienced no bounds to the success of their evil schemes, they will not escape God’s punishment (Jer. 5:29). With this description of an arrogant warlord attacking God, Eliphaz is criticizing Job for his eagerness to dispute with God himself as the height of presumptuous arrogance.
v. 28 — This mighty warlord pays a high price for his foolish arrogance. He is driven from his place of rule and can find lodging only in vacant, crumbling houses in a devastated city. Such a city was thought to be under God’s curse; thus they were left a heap of ruins. No one dared even to venture near one, let alone rummage through it (Deut. 13:13–17 [Eng. 12–16]; 1 K. 9:8; Jer. 19:8).
v. 29 — This person’s wealth and authority will vanish quickly. Conceding that a wicked person might become rich for a season, Eliphaz states that his wealth will not endure and his possessions will not spread over the earth. That is, he will not be able to continue in power indefinitely. One day a mighty blow will knock him down so forcefully that he will never be able to recuperate his losses and rebuild his wealth.
E. (:30-32) The Inevitability of the Demise of the Wicked
“He will not escape from darkness;
The flame will wither his shoots,
And by the breath of His mouth he will go away.
31 Let him not trust in emptiness, deceiving himself;
For emptiness will be his reward.
32 It will be accomplished before his time,
And his palm branch will not be green.”
Tremper Longman: Verse 30 takes a metaphorical turn, first describing the darkness that will permanently envelop these people and then using a botanical figure to describe their demise: their shoots will be dried up by flame, and their blossoms blown away by the wind. They may have been a fruitful plant at one point, but their end is certain and dire.
John Hartley: vv. 31-23 — The wicked person who has been broken should not trust in vain, hoping that he will rule again. He is not like a broken tree which may again grow stalwart and yield fruit (cf. 14:7–9). This is not his fortune, for his stately date palm will be worthless. Before its day, i.e., the harvest, it will wither. Its branches will turn brown, and its young fruit will drop off. Renewal is not possible for this tree, because an austere environment squeezes out its energy, its life. With this illustration from nature Eliphaz is discouraging Job’s speculation that there might be hope beyond death for a person, a thought prompted by his observation that a felled tree may sprout again (14:7–9; cf. Ps. 55:24 [Eng. 23]; Ps. 102:24 [Eng. 23]).
F. (:33-35) Metaphors of the Barrenness of the Wicked
“He will drop off his unripe grape like the vine,
And will cast off his flower like the olive tree.
34 For the company of the godless is barren,
And fire consumes the tents of the corrupt.
35 They conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity,
And their mind prepares deception.”
John Hartley: vv. 34-35 — Eliphaz closes with metaphors picturing the certainty of the doctrine of retribution, particularly the tenet that the wicked assuredly suffer a hard fate. He first compares the failure of the wicked to unprofitable farming. The band of the profane is like sterile soil (galmûḏ; cf. 3:7). No matter how many wicked join forces and no matter how hard they strive for their own success, they never reap a harvest, for they are working soil that is hard and sterile. In their pursuit of wealth and power this company is so notorious for offering bribes that their dwellings are labeled the tents of the briber (ʾohŏlê šōḥaḏ; cf. Ps. 26:10). With bribes they sought to corrupt the authorities and get their own way. Nevertheless, in due time they are judged: fire devours their tents. In Scripture fire is frequently the instrument God uses to punish the profane, whether it be the fire of war or lightning from heaven. Here it probably means that this band will fall prey to a raid in which their possessions will be consumed by fire.
Second, Eliphaz quotes a proverb using birth language. When an animal gives birth, its offspring is similar in looks and disposition to its parents. Likewise in the moral realm, if one conceives mischief or trouble (ʿāmāl; cf. 4:8; 5:6, 7), he will surely bear iniquity (ʾāwen; cf. Ps. 7:15 [Eng. 14]; Prov. 22:8). Bernhardt points out that in passages like this one, Heb. ʾāwen has the sense of “self-deception, vanity.” That is, the one who mischievously plans to cause another person trouble for his own personal gain produces results that are not simply worthless to him—they even deceive him into thinking he has something when he has nothing. The second line, their womb fashions deceit (mirmâ), reinforces this meaning. It is saying that what is conceived in mischief produces that which is unreliable, faulty, and treacherous. The use of womb (beṭen) ties the conclusion to the opening verse, where Eliphaz said that Job’s belly (beṭen) is filled with the east wind. Disparagingly Eliphaz is locating the source of Job’s trouble in his belly, charging that it is filled with hot air and deceitful thoughts.
Eliphaz’s description of the demise of the wicked person is powerful. Whoever benefits from wrongdoing enjoys greater and greater power, making his thoughts heady. The flame of his arrogance is fueled to the point that he defies even God. When he appears like a stately, enduring palm tree or like an olive tree covered with blossoms promising an abundant crop, God employs natural forces to dry up this proud tree. Over a period of time the arrogant evildoer experiences bad luck and serious reversals. Then one day a catastrophe destroys all his wealth and power. Overnight he is reduced to wandering, inhabiting desolate ruins. Plagued by physical distress and emotional agony, he finds no rest. As a vagabond alone in the world with no sense of belonging, he falls prey to the terrors of death long before reaching a venerable age.
Peter Wallace: In verses 31-35, Eliphaz concludes by saying that the godless are empty and barren. In chapter 14, Job had used the image of a tree, saying that man was not like a tree – because even if a tree dies, it may put forth shoots. Now Eliphaz says that a man is like a tree – the wicked are like a barren tree, while the righteous (presumably) are like a fruitful tree.
Tremper Longman: Eliphaz’s speech concludes (vv. 34–35) with the statement that the “assembly of the godless” will be barren (another metaphor of ineffectiveness). But worse than this barrenness, their tents will burn up. The last verse is one final description of the wicked. Here they are seen as giving birth to evil deeds, a metaphor also found in Ps. 7:14 and Isa. 59:4.