The Book of Job-Chapter Fifteen:
"Angry and Still Wrong"
Remember Eliphaz? He's back. I imagine he has been observing Job all along. He hasn't spoken since chapters 4-5, but now's he's motivated to join the discussion again. Not for the better, unfortunately. Apparently Eliphaz has not been impressed at all by Job's spiritual survival and growth, nor is he about to offer comfort in response to Job's recent loss of hope. No, he remains concerned mainly about himself and he feels threatened by Job in a new and strange way.
Verses 1-6: "Then answered Eliphaz the Temanite, and said, Should a wise man utter vain knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind? Should he reason with unprofitable talk? or with speeches wherewith he can do no good? Yea, thou castest off fear, and restrainest prayer before God. For thy mouth uttereth thine iniquity, and thou choosest the tongue of the crafty. Thine own mouth condemneth thee, and not I: yea, thine own lips testify against thee."
It is strange. Job has become tangled in hopelessness. And in his new philosophy, which we studied in chapter 14, he basically says all men are subject, if not doomed, to a life of chaos. I would think that he would now be more in accord with Eliphaz, who seemed to revel in his own dark philosophy of graceless works and rewards and punishments from the Lord. So why is Eliphaz so angry with Job?
Verses 7-9: "Art thou the first man that was born? or wast thou made before the hills? Hast thou heard the secret of God? and dost thou restrain wisdom to thyself? What knowest thou, that we know not? what understandest thou, which is not in us? "
Even in the errors of chapter 14, Job has still managed to offend this man. It was unintentional, I'm sure. But Eliphaz needs to hold to a very narrow vision of God. Job, even while slipping into error, has violated the demands of Eliphaz's exacting theology.
Verses 10-13: "With us are both the grayheaded and very aged men, much elder than thy father. Are the consolations of God small with thee? is there any secret thing with thee? Why doth thine heart carry thee away? and what do thy eyes wink at, That thou turnest thy spirit against God, and lettest such words go out of thy mouth? "
Can you see it? To Eliphaz Job is a rebel even when he adjusts (and as I said, I believe wrongly in this case) his views.
Verses 14-16: "What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous? Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?"
Job has just implied that ALL men are really equal in God's sight because they are subject to equally rotten treatment and neglect by Him. Job is wrong and reasoning from incomplete knowledge of his situation. Eliphaz is none the less sickened by Job's stance. He doesn't mind that Job is being morose and dark. He could agree with the dark part, he just doesn't like where it's being aimed.
Verses 17-19: "I will shew thee, hear me; and that which I have seen I will declare; Which wise men have told from their fathers, and have not hid it: Unto whom alone the earth was given, and no stranger passed among them."
Eliphaz wants to correct Job and set him straight. Everyone can't be subject to suffering in this life. In his view there is a group that is not meant to suffer and can't really suffer, and of course he's part of that group in his thinking. Now there's another group that can't help but suffer, and in light of recent events he sees Job, of course, as being part of that group:
Verses 20-24: "The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days, and the number of years is hidden to the oppressor. A dreadful sound is in his ears: in prosperity the destroyer shall come upon him. He believeth not that he shall return out of darkness, and he is waited for of the sword. He wandereth abroad for bread, saying, Where is it? he knoweth that the day of darkness is ready at his hand. Trouble and anguish shall make him afraid; they shall prevail against him, as a king ready to the battle."
I can almost see Eliphaz waving his arms and desperate: "Don't you see Job? ALL do not suffer in life. Just the unrighteous, just people like you!" This is not going to be any more comfort for Job than Eliphaz's first speech. Poor theology rarely is. He will expound a bit now: the wicked and hypocrite only get what they deserve. So in Eliphaz's world, when you see someone suffering, as Job is, they are under attack from the Lord. He goes on to reason that it must be because they attacked first:
Verses 25-27: "For he stretcheth out his hand against God, and strengtheneth himself against the Almighty. He runneth upon him, even on his neck, upon the thick bosses of his bucklers: Because he covereth his face with his fatness, and maketh collops of fat on his flanks."
Job has grown so much to this point, even with his setbacks. But Eliphaz is stuck on works and rewards and fear. The truth is if Satan had been directed to take a look at Eliphaz back in chapter 2, well, I'll speculate that there never would have been a "Book of Eliphaz." But I can't hate the man, for I too am capable of clinging to works and rewards and cruelty in evaluating others in their time of need. Also, compared to brother Job, my faith remains quite untested up to now. No, I'm in no place to judge either of these men.
To Eliphaz the fate of the wicked in this life is as obvious and expected as the next sunrise:
Verses 28-30: "And he dwelleth in desolate cities, and in houses which no man inhabiteth, which are ready to become heaps. He shall not be rich, neither shall his substance continue, neither shall he prolong the perfection thereof upon the earth. He shall not depart out of darkness; the flame shall dry up his branches, and by the breath of his mouth shall he go away."
Condemning Job is really a form of self-defense for Eliphaz as he tries to maintain a safe distance (at least in his mind) between himself and real suffering. In his final passage he "unmasks" his old friend as the worst kind of wicked man, a secret, deceitful one:
Verses 31-35: "Let not him that is deceived trust in vanity: for vanity shall be his recompence. It shall be accomplished before his time, and his branch shall not be green. He shall shake off his unripe grape as the vine, and shall cast off his flower as the olive. For the congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate, and fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery. They conceive mischief, and bring forth vanity, and their belly prepareth deceit."
In these last two chapters we've been wading through a lot of error, beloved. It's dark and deep, but I think we were led here. I've given the opinion before that we can learn as much from the negative as the positive in God's Word if we are thoughtful and vigilant and led by God's Spirit. But it's still unsettling, I know. Some relief may be on the way. Eliphaz has failed again to comfort Job, but he has at least stirred him up, and we are about to benefit.