Now Job’s silent companions break their silence and begin their lectures. We assume they overheard Job’s lament in chapter three. And to their ears those words of despair sounded like Job was not just cursing the day of his birth, but the God who allowed him to be born! Perhaps in their minds Job was indeed fulfilling Satan’s desire that Job curse God. They may have even thought that he was following the advice of his wife and was in reality cursing God and waiting to die.
II. The Exhortations of Eliphaz: Round One (Ch. 4)
Most of the rest of the book of Job records the exchanges between Job and his friends. If we take the testimony of chapter one seriously, most of their advice to Job is misguided. He did not bring these tragedies on himself by his sinful conduct. He is, as it were, a human actor in a cosmic showdown between God and Satan. He does not know this, nor do his “counselors.” And so the lectures begin.
Eliphaz begins his first lecture by reminding Job of the power of words. Job had instructed and strengthened many with his words (v. 4). Now he needs to listen so that he will be encouraged.
Eliphaz immediately raises one of the primary issues in this book when he asks, “Who, being innocent, has ever perished?” (v. 7). This concept, sometimes referred to as divine earthly retribution, insists that those who sow evil in this life will experience judgment in this life (v. 8). Eliphaz states that “At the breath of God they [the wicked] perish; at the blast of his anger they are no more” (v. 9). [We will deal later with the suggestion that the wicked will be put out of existence by God, a false view known as annihilationism].
Eliphaz then resorts to a time-honored approach of those who would counsel the broken: “I’ve had a vision from the Lord!” He claims a spirit “glided past my face” at night, terrifying me (v. 15). And the spirit had a message: “Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can even a strong man be more pure than his Maker?” (v. 17). Compared to the angels, mortal man is like the dust from which he was formed, liable to being broken to pieces like pottery, subject to dying without wisdom (vv. 19-21).
II. The Exhortations of Eliphaz: Round One (Ch. 5)
Eliphaz’s round one lecture continues into chapter 5 of Job. He accuses Job of resentment and envy (v. 2). He even says that such a fool’s children are crushed in court without a defender (v. 4). Job’s children had been crushed by that wind which brought their house down! It is in this part of Eliphaz’s lecture that we get the very famous statement “man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” (v. 7).
Eliphaz then pleads with Job to make his appeal to God, to lay out his cause before Him (v. 8). He then rehearses the mighty works of God: unfathomed wonders, incalculable miracles, rain for the earth. God thwarts the plans of the crafty, saves the needy from the powerful, “so the poor have hope” (vv. 9-16).
It is obvious to Eliphaz that Job is under the discipline of the Lord (v. 17). Eliphaz then recounts the actions of God for those who respond to His correction. God will heal, rescue, deliver from death. You will laugh at destruction and famine and not even need to fear the wild animals (v. 22). You will have confidence that your tent is secure; none of your property will be missing. Your children will be many and you will come to the grave in full vigor (v. 26).
Lastly, Eliphaz appeals to Job and says, “We have examined this, and it is true. So hear it and apply it to yourself.” (v. 27).
These words are hard and direct from Eliphaz. This first lecture is only the beginning. And Eliphaz appears to be the leader of these friends, as we see at the end of the book when the Lord specifically addresses him and says, “I am angry with you and your two friends because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” (42:7).
How Job responds to this first well-intentioned “intervention” will be the focus in our next post.