CALL TO REPENTANCE TO EXPERIENCE THE POWER OF A RESTORED RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
David Clines: The function of the speech seems to be ultimately to encourage Job to believe in a future restoration to his wealth and status. But before he offers such encouragement, Eliphaz first attempts to disabuse Job of some misconceptions he believes he holds, such as the idea that God’s punishment is due to some loss God fears he suffers when humans sin and the idea of Job that he is perfectly innocent and undeserving of any suffering at all. . .
The nodal verse, it may be suggested, is v 23: “If you will turn to the Almighty, you will be restored”—for here the advice of Eliphaz, and thus the whole purpose of his intervention in the dialogue, is put in a nutshell.
Tremper Longman: He begins by granting the possibility that Job might be, as he claims, a good person (vv. 2–3). He says, even so, it does not matter. God receives no benefits from such people. However, he is unconvinced that Job really is pious. After all, God is reproving him, so it is obvious that he is evil, not good. At this point, Eliphaz starts listing Job’s sins (vv. 4–9) to make sense of his suffering (vv. 10–11). However, he charges Job with saying that the exalted God is so distant that he does not know what is going on in the world (vv. 12–14), thus showing that he is just one of the wicked who will suffer for their sins, leading the righteous to rejoice (vv. 15–20). Finally, and not surprisingly, Eliphaz calls on Job to repent and thus be restored in his relationship with God and also in his prosperity (vv. 21–30).
John Hartley: In his third speech Eliphaz forthrightly accuses Job of violating the high standards of patriarchal piety. Then he disputes Job’s complaint that the wicked prosper and never are punished by instructing him as to how God actually treats the wicked. Eliphaz concludes by delivering a stirring call for Job to repent. Thus this speech is composed of three sections:
– accusations against Job (vv. 1–11);
– a disputation concerning God’s activity in human affairs (vv. 12–24);
– and a call to repentance (vv. 21–30).
Francis Andersen: If Eliphaz had not misjudged Job (22:5), his proclamation of salvation through forgiveness of the penitent would have been the brightest word that any of the friends have said. As such they have an intrinsic truth that need not be denied. If Job does not accept them it is because they do not apply.
(:1) PROLOGUE – RESPONSE OF ELIPHAZ
“Then Eliphaz the Temanite responded,”
I. (:2-11) SUFFERING IS DESERVED BECAUSE OF SOCIAL SINS
A. (:2-5) Labeling Job a Great Sinner
1. (:2-3) Human Behavior Can’t Benefit God
a. (:2) Man’s Wisdom of No Value to God
“Can a vigorous man be of use to God,
Or a wise man be useful to himself?”
David Thompson: Eliphaz is basically saying – Job, you aren’t of any use to anybody. Job was no use to God or himself. Job had made himself wise, but the wisdom of Job was self-invented and it was of no use to anybody. This is a way of saying Job, you are good for nothing.
John Hartley: In disbelief at Job’s holding on to his innocence so obstinately and disturbed at his bold complaints against God, Eliphaz seeks to demonstrate to Job the fallacy in his reasoning. He wishes to refute Job’s implication from his disputation that since there are wicked people who enjoy prosperity all their lives there may be righteous people who endure calamity in spite of their righteousness (ch. 21). Eliphaz counters this position with the premise that a person cannot benefit God. For emphasis, in the MT God comes first in the question. The words he uses for man refer to his strength (geḇer; cf. 3:3) and his skill in wisdom (maśḵîl). Heb. maśḵîl means to have insight (Prov. 1:3), to act prudently (Ps. 14:3; Prov. 19:14), and to succeed (1 Sam. 18:14, 15). It is used here because it characterizes the person as both righteous and successful. Eliphaz is arguing that the strongest among mankind is not able to do anything that puts God under obligation, not even when he acts wisely in reconciling himself with God. This means then that misfortune can have its cause only in human sin, never in God’s sovereign purpose acting toward an individual irrespective of his righteousness or wickedness. In other words it is unfathomable to Eliphaz that God would permit a righteous person to endure a season of misery even though he has been faithful in obeying God. He, therefore, cannot perceive that Job could get anywhere by seeking to find reconciliation with God (cf. 9:33–34; 16:19; 19:25). His hope is groundless, for a wise person has no advantage with God to demand that God respond to him in a certain way.
David Clines: vv. 2-5 — Eliphaz’s logic takes some fathoming, mainly because there are a couple of elements in it that remain only implicit. But this seems to be what he means: God stands to gain nothing from human behavior, for how can a deity be affected one way or the other by how his creatures behave? So if he brings suffering upon a human, we need not look to God for any explanation of its reasons, as if God had something to gain or lose. The only explanation for human suffering must lie in the humans themselves; “the root of the matter” lies there (19:28). And, since God is not immoral, he cannot be making a human like Job suffer for his piety; if Job is suffering, it can only be for his impiety. The implicit elements assumed by Eliphaz’s argument are these:
(1) Not only is it no gain to God if Job is innocent; it is no loss either if he is wicked.
(2) Suffering is always in proportion to wickedness; great suffering presupposes great wickedness, and temporary suffering presupposes wickedness that can be repented of and eradicated.
b. (:3) Man’s Righteousness of No Value to God
“Is there any pleasure to the Almighty if you are righteous,
Or profit if you make your ways perfect?”
David Thompson: Eliphaz is basically saying to Job that he thinks a lot of himself and his righteousness, but it doesn’t mean a thing to God. Eliphaz is saying God does not need you. God does not need your righteousness. You are of no profit to Him, even though you think you are so righteous and complete.
Elmer Smick: A translation that fits well into the context might be: “Would it please the Almighty if you were vindicated? / Would he gain anything if you did live a blameless life?” Two observations are in order.
– First, Eliphaz does not know of God’s contest with the Accuser over Job’s former, blameless life. The Almighty has especially chosen Job to be an instrument through whom he will gain glory and the Accuser be humiliated.
– Second, Eliphaz seems so convinced of Job’s wickedness—even to the point of exaggeration (v.5)—that he does not believe Job can be vindicated. So in his mind Job’s blamelessness is hypothetical nonsense. For Job to be vindicated would be a lie; so how could God take pleasure in that?
2. (:4-5) Great Judgment Must Be in Response to Great Wickedness
a. (:4) Judgment Not Due to Piety
“Is it because of your reverence that He reproves you,
That He enters into judgment against you?”
Tremper Longman: He has above suggested that God would not even care if Job were blameless, but now he will not even concede his blamelessness as a possibility. Job’s suffering demonstrates sufficiently to him that Job is a man who is enduring divine reproof. He snidely asks Job whether he thinks that this reproof is a result of his “fear.” The fear to which he refers is the fear of God, which is the mark of a pious person (Prov. 1:7). The mere fact of Job’s suffering is a sure sign that he is under the judgment of God; and if he is under the judgment of God, he certainly is not blameless. On the contrary, his evil nature is manifest to everyone (v. 5).
b. (:5) Judgment Must Be Due to Wickedness
“Is not your wickedness great,
And your iniquities without end?”
Francis Andersen: Eliphaz now openly brands Job a sinner more bluntly than anyone has so far dared to do. He accuses him of extreme wickedness. The list of crimes enumerated in verses 6–9 is very revealing. None have to do with religion in the formal sense. Job is not charged with any failure in his duty to God, nor is he blamed for having done anything wrong. To that extent, Eliphaz can still find no flaw in Job’s conduct. Instead, he tests a person’s goodness by the way he treats his fellow-man. The acts Eliphaz describes are not elicited by legal or even moral obligation. Here, too, Job had never failed. For superlative righteousness, a person should be humane towards the needy, not from duty, but from compassion. The destitute were protected from neglect and exploitation (6) by Exodus 22:26f.; Deuteronomy 24:10ff. Job later denies any failure here (31:19). The hungry and thirsty (7) should be succoured. Job insists that he did this (31:17). A woman or child left without the protection of a man (the terms are wider than widow and orphan) (9) are constantly commended to the compassion of the Israelite, especially of rulers (Deut. 10:18; 14:29; etc.), and their neglect is condemned again and again in the Old Testament as the worst social evil (Exod. 22:22; Deut. 27:19; etc.). Once more Job is innocent (31:16f).
Elmer Smick: vv. 4-11 — Job’s sins are described in terms of social oppression and neglect. In other words, Eliphaz feels that Job has deceived himself by trusting in his ritual piety (what he had done for God), while his real sin is what he has failed to do for his other people. For this God has sent snares and peril, darkness and floods (vv.10–11). These are not literal but commonly used figures of trouble and distress in the OT (cf. Pss 42:7; 91:3–6; Isa 8:7, 22; 43:2). That these charges are not true and that Job’s suffering is not a result of such sins is clear. In chapter 31 Job himself recounts his past in such a way as to undermine Eliphaz’s assertions (see esp. 31:16–23, 32–33).
John Hartley: A complete turnabout has taken place in Eliphaz’s attitude toward Job. In the first speech Eliphaz praised Job for his righteousness and piety (4:3–4). He supposed that Job was suffering misfortune merely for a brief time while God was seeking to lead Job to repent of some hidden sin. He hoped that with encouragement Job would find restoration to divine favor through repentance. But Job has persisted in his obstinate claim of innocence. Since Job appears to be as recalcitrant as a hardened sinner, Eliphaz has reached the end of his patience. Shamed by his friend’s stubbornness before the obvious divine displeasure, he seeks to convince Job that he is guilty of grievous sins. In fact, he concludes that there is no end to Job’s iniquities (ʿawōnôṯ).
David Clines: He does not adopt Zophar’s view, that God is not even punishing Job as much as he deserves (11:6); he simply reasons that if Job is suffering badly, he must have offended badly. If Job does not allow that his suffering is as great as his deserts, he must be overlooking some of his faults. Eliphaz’s self-imposed duty then is to bring to Job’s attention areas of his life in which Job must have been defective.
B. (:6-9) Leveling Specific Charges against Job = Social Sins
1. (:6) Financial Exploitation
“For you have taken pledges of your brothers without cause,
And stripped men naked.”
2. (:7) Failure to Show Compassion to the Afflicted
“To the weary you have given no water to drink,
And from the hungry you have withheld bread.”
(:8) Aside: You Have Failed to Act as a Powerful and Honorable Man
“But the earth belongs to the mighty man,
And the honorable man dwells in it.”
L. M. Grant: In verse 8 Eliphaz is apparently charging that Job in the past as a mighty man possessed the land, dwelling in it as though he was honourable. But according to the principles of Eliphaz, Job must have been guilty of oppressing the widows and the fatherless.
3. (:9) Failure to Care for Widows and Orphans
“You have sent widows away empty,
And the strength of the orphans has been crushed.”
John Hartley: The sins mentioned include:
– economic abuse of the poor,
– refusal of help to the afflicted, and
– lack of compassion for the bereaved.
C. (:10-11) Listing Consequences of Divine Judgment = Job’s Suffering
1. (:10a) Trapped
“Therefore snares surround you,”
2. (:10b) Terrified
“And sudden dread terrifies you,”
3. (:11a) Blinded
“Or darkness, so that you cannot see,”
4. (:11b) Overwhelmed
“And an abundance of water covers you.”
John Hartley: The light by which Job has lived has turned to darkness so that he can no longer see clearly. The swelling waters (šipʿaṯ-mayim) that devastate the landscape are rising over him. About to cover him, they are threatening to sweep him away. Cold, dark, swelling waters frequently symbolize the unrelenting emotional pressure of despair (Jon. 2:6 [Eng. 5]; Ps. 69:2–3 [Eng. 1–2]). Before his death the sinner gets a foretaste of Sheol, noted both for its watery chaos and for the shadowy, meager life that has to be eked out in dreary darkness. Eliphaz is saying that Job is suffering the curses of God’s judgment for his sins.
II. (:12-20) DIVINE JUDGMENT ALWAYS TARGETS THE WICKED
David Clines: In this section of the speech, Eliphaz continues his suppositions about Job’s sins that have brought him into the present straits. Whereas in vv 6–9 he had alleged particular misdemeanors against Job, here he attributes to him a general attitude of godlessness that he must assume if he is to account for God’s present punishment of Job. But the speech loses its way a little in the middle of this section; for by v 16 Eliphaz has lost sight of Job and has begun to expatiate yet again on the fate of the wicked in general. And in v 17 the words of the wicked, “Depart from us,” are not in any way ascribed to Job himself, while the scornful laugh of the righteous at the discomfiture of the wicked has even less to do with the case of Job himself.
A. (:12-14) Don’t Question God’s Concern for Moral Behavior
1. (:12) Transcendence of God Doesn’t Mean He Doesn’t Care
“Is not God in the height of heaven?
Look also at the distant stars, how high they are!”
John Hartley: Eliphaz turns abruptly from accusing Job to instructing him about God’s punishment of the wicked. He begins by quoting a hymnic line in praise of God’s exaltedness (v. 12) to counter Job’s supposed position that God lacks knowledge about what happens on earth (vv. 13–14). God is most high. Whoever observes the heavens is awed by the vastness of the universe and the great distance of the stars, especially the dense Milky Way. But God is more distant than even the farthest stars. Because he is so transcendent, there can be no doubt that he is the exalted Lord of the universe.
Tremper Longman: Eliphaz reminds Job that God is exalted. He is even above the highest stars, and they are themselves exalted. One would think that from that vantage point, God would see everything, and indeed Eliphaz believes so. However, he suspects that Job does not. After all, Job is wicked and thought he could get away with his crimes. He attributes to Job the belief that the clouds between the heavens and the earth prevent God from seeing what is going on in the world. God cannot discern the goings-on and judge the actions of people he cannot see. Job thinks, according to Eliphaz, that God keeps himself up in the vaults of heaven, pacing about with no interest or ability to interact with human affairs (vv. 13–14).
2. (:13) Transcendence of God Doesn’t Mean He Doesn’t Know or See
“And you say, ‘What does God know?
Can He judge through the thick darkness?’”
Francis Andersen: Eliphaz thinks that Job has charged God with moral indifference to the conduct of wicked men, saying, ‘What does God know?’ (verse 13). This alleged quotation is not found in any of Job’s reported words. Job has never questioned God’s knowledge. But it seems to Eliphaz that Job feels that God doesn’t care. Eliphaz is shocked at the idea, and is genuinely alarmed for the spiritual safety of a person who can say such a thing.
3. (:14) Transcendence of God Doesn’t Mean He Doesn’t Stay Involved
“Clouds are a hiding place for Him, so that He cannot see;
And He walks on the vault of heaven.”
John Hartley: From the ancient perspective, when God created the universe, he drew a circle to hold back the heavenly waters from covering the earth (Prov. 8:27). His abode is located above this circle. There thick clouds surround him so that the heavenly creatures are not consumed by his glory (cf. Ps. 97:2). But according to Eliphaz, Job misconstrues this affirmation about God. He thinks that this dark cloud serves as a dense barrier which keeps God from seeing and judging affairs on earth (cf. Job 9:22–24). Job’s supposed position contrasts with that of the devout person who reasons that God’s exalted position affords him a great vantage point from which to view all the activities of mankind (Isa. 40:22–23; Ps. 33:13–15). The devout believe that from his lofty dwelling God immediately can thwart the plans of any leader that threaten his purpose for mankind.
Eliphaz fears that a right view of God’s transcendence has led Job to a wrong position regarding God’s immanence and his constant influence in events on earth. In Eliphaz’s opinion Job’s view is heretical, being close to what is classified today as modern deism or practical atheism: God created the world but has left it to its own course. For Eliphaz this view of God is faulty, being far too inadequate for an orthodox faith. Therefore, without a radical change in his belief in God, Job has little hope of escaping the ultimate punishment of death. But Eliphaz has not correctly heard Job’s complaints. If he had listened more carefully, he would have heard that it is not Job’s concern that God is not active in affairs on earth, but that it seems from appearances that God judges the wicked erratically and capriciously. Sadly, Eliphaz is charging Job with heretical thoughts by over-interpreting his sincere complaints against God.
B. (:15-17) Don’t Follow in the Footsteps of Wicked Men in the Past
1. (:15-16) Remember the Catastrophic Judgments on the Wicked in the Past
“Will you keep to the ancient path
Which wicked men have trod,
Who were snatched away before their time,
Whose foundations were washed away by a river?”
John Hartley: By establishing an analogy between Job’s punishment and those past catastrophes, he identifies Job as the same kind of reprobate as those whom God abandoned to their evil imaginations (cf. Gen. 6:5–8). Therefore, he finds that Job is more than deserving of his present plight.
2. (:17) Remember the Arrogant Independent Spirit of the Wicked
“They said to God, ‘Depart from us!’
And ‘What can the Almighty do to them?’”
John Hartley: Eliphaz points out that evil men who believe that God is too distant to observe affairs on earth pursue their evil plans without any fear of divine reprisals (cf. Ezek. 8:12).
C. (:18-20) Don’t End Up Being Mocked by the Righteous as You Are Judged
1. (:18) Retribution Theology
“Yet He filled their houses with good things;
But the counsel of the wicked is far from me.”
2. (:19-20) Righteous Gloating over the Destruction of the Wicked
“The righteous see and are glad,
And the innocent mock them,
20 Saying, ‘Truly our adversaries are cut off,
And their abundance the fire has consumed.’”
John Hartley: To heighten his argumentation and to prepare for the coming exhortation to repentance Eliphaz describes the enthusiastic reaction of the righteous to the destruction of the wicked. The righteous see their ruin and rejoice. They even participate in the punishment of the wicked by mocking them. Gleefully pointing to the ashes of their destroyed possession, the innocent will say, their abundance the fire has devoured. All that they had accumulated as the proof of their power and as the basis of their prestige will be consumed. Nothing will survive them as a memorial. In addition, the survival of the righteous will stand as proof that these wicked people have brought this harsh fate on themselves.
Tremper Longman: He finishes this section of his argument with a quote from the righteous, who gloat over the destruction of the wicked. They are happy that the wicked and their wealth are destroyed by the fires of God’s judgment (v. 20).
III. (:21-30) REPENTANCE YIELDS THE POWER OF A RESTORED RELATIONSHIP
Roy Zuck: Eliphaz set forth what Job needed to do:
a. Submit to God, rather than questioning and accusing Him;
b. be at (make) peace with Him;
c accept God’s teachings (as if Job were not willing to do that!);
d. assimilate and live out His words;
e. return to the Almighty;
f. get rid of wickedness (again assuming that Job was a secret sinner);
g. quit trusting in wealth (assign your nuggets to the dust, your gold of Ophir
A. (:21-25) Process of Repentance Yields Abundant Blessing
1. (:21) Relinquish Rebellious Spirit (Submit) and Make Peace with God
“Yield now and be at peace with Him;
Thereby good will come to you.”
David Clines: What troubles Eliphaz about Job is, evidently, not that he is a dreadful sinner in imminent danger of annihilation but that he continues a fruitless disputation against God that only prolongs his agony.
2. (:22) Receive Instruction and Apply God’s Word
“Please receive instruction from His mouth,
And establish His words in your heart.”
3. (:23a) Return to God and Be Restored
“If you return to the Almighty,
you will be restored;”
4. (:23b-25) Remove Sin and Pursue God
“If you remove unrighteousness far from your tent,
24 And place your gold in the dust,
And the gold of Ophir among the stones of the brooks,
25 Then the Almighty will be your gold
And choice silver to you.”
John Hartley: With such a gesture a person makes a statement that the wealth of this world has no claims on his affections. Eliphaz is subtly suggesting that Job has secured his treasures from unjust practices, such as extortion. Therefore, for Job to remove iniquity from his tent is for him to get rid of his ill-gotten wealth. His violating the divine teaching in securing this wealth means that he has valued material treasures more than genuine trust in God. Now he must renounce his gold by laying it on the ground.
David Clines: There is more than one way of taking these verses, and it is very revealing of the prejudices of commentators to see what they choose. The prevailing view is that Job is being encouraged by Eliphaz to abandon his trust in material wealth and put his hopes in Shaddai instead. . .
The alternative view, which is to be preferred, is that Job is here being promised by Eliphaz that if he “returns” to the Almighty (v 23), he will regain his former wealth. Either he will become so rich that he will regard gold as no less common than dirt (or rather, even more common than dirt or dust, the signifying excess), or else he will “lay up” (KJV) his gold like dust in piles as if it were as plentiful as stones in the wadi, or (improbably) he will be so secure that he will be able to leave his gold lying about on the ground without risk of losing it (Gordis). The Almighty would then have “become” his gold and silver in the sense of having been the provider of it. This is a less “religious” interpretation but a more concrete one; the alternative idea of God becoming Job’s “gold” and “silver” in the sense that Job will esteem God as the highest good is quite banal, since Job has little doubt about the supremacy of the divine. . .
A more serious difficulty with the view that Job should trust in God rather than his wealth is that Job now has no wealth to divest himself of (as Rowley remarks), and in any case Eliphaz himself can hardly envisage Job’s restoration as anything other than a restoration of his possessions. What would it mean for Shaddai to “be” Job’s silver if no actual wealth is in view? How will Job be able to employ servants again, and how will he manage to pay his vows (v 27) if he lives the life of a penniless pietist?
B. (:26-30) Power of a Restored Relationship
1. (:26) Power of Delighting in God
“For then you will delight in the Almighty,
And lift up your face to God.”
2. (:27) Power of Prayer and Thanksgiving
“You will pray to Him, and He will hear you;
And you will pay your vows.”
3. (:28) Power of Guidance and Accomplishment
“You will also decree a thing, and it will be established for you;
And light will shine on your ways.”
John Hartley: Reunited with God, Job will have great spiritual power in order that he may bless others. Since he has God’s will at heart, God will bring to pass whatever Job decrees. His dreams and ambitions will no longer be in vain, for God will give him insight into how to proceed in difficult matters. Whatever he does will prosper, for God’s light will shine on his ways. This is a direct promise that counters Job’s feeling of being lost in darkness (19:8).
4. (:29) Power of Personal Deliverance
“When you are cast down, you will speak with confidence
And the humble person He will save.”
5. (:30) Power of Intercession to Deliver Others
“He will deliver one who is not innocent,
And he will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.”
John Hartley: From his renewed relationship with God, Job will be able to help those who are facing troubles. To the disheartened he may speak an encouraging word: Be lifted up! God will hear his righteous servant’s charge and honor it by granting deliverance to the oppressed. Job also will be able to intercede for others, for his prayers will be grounded in his righteous deeds, as symbolized by the phrase the cleanness of your hands. Although one’s acts of righteousness do not transfer directly to the account of another, the righteous person does have power to stand in the gap for another. His prayers, coming from a pure heart that is obedient to God, have authority. God acknowledges his prayers and delivers the guilty. While God alone grants them forgiveness, he allows a human being to participate in the process of rescuing that person. The patriarchs were known for their ability to petition God for mercy in order to avert judgment on the rebellious (cf. Ezek. 14:12–20). When Job makes peace with God, he will have the same spiritual power as these great patriarchs.
Tremper Longman: Verses 29–30 conclude with a comment about God’s pattern of deliverance. The principle, according to Eliphaz, is that God saves the humble and the innocent. God humiliates the proud. Eliphaz imagines a chastened Job agreeing with God’s assessment. Right now Job insists that God is humiliating him unfairly. He does not deserve it. In the future, when Job’s heart is set straight, he will accept the divine judgment that he is proud and will humble himself (with downcast eyes). God rescues the innocent, so Eliphaz counsels Job to pay attention to the purity of his acts (hands).
Peter Wallace: There is a delicious irony in Eliphaz’s conclusion. “He delivers even the one who is not innocent, who will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.” Eliphaz thinks that when Job repents and is restored, then God will use Job to deliver others. Little does he know – that he, Eliphaz, will be one of those “who is not innocent.” At the end of the book God will require Eliphaz, to offer sacrifices through the intercession of Job! So finally, Eliphaz is right about something! Job will indeed become the mediator who delivers others through the cleanness of his hands!