Job Chapter 4: Eliphaz Interrupts

Jan 9th, 2010 | By | Category: Job, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Job Chapter 4: Eliphaz Interrupts

Job 4:1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said,

Job 4:2 If we assay to commune with thee, wilt thou be grieved? but who can withhold himself from speaking?

Job had been speaking, and he did not really finish his comments when Eliphaz the Temanite interrupted because he could not remain silent any longer. He said in effect, “Pardon us, but we cannot help interrupting you.” Apparently, Eliphaz was the most important of the three individuals, possibly based upon his age but especially based upon the nature of his background, that is, his relationship with the patriarchs of the past. Therefore, he felt he was speaking on behalf of his two friends as well.

The problem was that Job had just spoken the words of his heart, and he expected a different response than that which would be forthcoming. Eliphaz was in a teaching mode, not in a commiserate mode. He did not say, “Oh, Job, we can empathize with your suffering.” The three were not giving proper consideration to the trauma Job had experienced. Of course they came with the motive of comforting Job, but the first thing Eliphaz did, as spokesman for the three, was to interrupt. After hearing Job’s outbursts, they decided that he was in the wrong frame of mind. Now they would supposedly “help” him by taking an aloof, detached mode of reasoning instead of, as the Apostle Paul said, weeping with those who weep and being weak with those who are weak. It was apparent that the three did not have empathy when Eliphaz first opened his mouth.

Comment: The three must have entertained improper thoughts during the seven days so that they now felt a kind of repulsion for Job’s condition.

Reply: That was not the case at first. At this point, they were trying to sound out Job, for in the past, he had received tremendous respect. Not only did God consider Job the greatest man in the East, but as subsequent chapters will show, he had made quite an impression on the locale where he lived. Therefore, the three had to give some deference to Job’s reputation, but we can see that they were beginning to have doubts. Not understanding the philosophy of the permission of evil, they considered grief and sorrow as a sign of disobedience in some manner. They did not see the disciplinary method that God has in teaching His respected servants.

Q: Since Eliphaz came from Teman, an area known for wisdom, would he have felt he was expected to speak up? Is that a tendency we must guard against? We may think we should give counsel when we really need to use caution and be sure our words are scriptural.

A: It is very important not to give wrong counsel. In fact, it is better to remain quiet than to give improper counsel. Eliphaz apparently felt superior to the other two because they showed deference in allowing him to speak first, but he probably did not feel superior to Job at this point. As we proceed, we will learn many details about Job’s broad accomplishments.

Job 4:3 Behold, thou hast instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the weak hands.

Job 4:4 Thy words have upholden him that was falling, and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees.

Job 4:5 But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled.

Job 4:6 Is not this thy fear, thy confidence, thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways?

Eliphaz was saying, “Job, you have helped, instructed, and given strength to others in their need, and now, physician, heal yourself. Accept your own counsel.”

Eliphaz was telling Job in effect, ”In giving counsel to others, you have, to a certain extent, felt a superiority. You have felt higher than those you were counseling in their traumatic experiences, and this feeling has built up in you.” Eliphaz was possibly implying, or insinuating, a false confidence, a confidence that was not really merited because of Job’s weakness. “As a teacher, you have become too confident in your own character structure.”

Comment: Verses 5 and 6 in the Revised Standard Version read as follows: “But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed. Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?” After very few comments, Eliphaz was already rubbing it in.

Reply: Yes, and the comment of Eliphaz was based on Job’s previous unburdening of his heart. Eliphaz did not stop to think what it would have been like to be in Job’s shoes. He should have asked, “What would I do if I had had the experiences of Job? What if I had lost most of my family, all of my goods, and my health and I was nearing death?” The three comforters should have commiserated with Job and not have been aloof as if they were teachers—at least not when they first started to speak.

Comment: Christian Scientists think that ill health is a sign or proof of one’s not being right with God. Thus they have a similar attitude of aloofness.

At this point, Eliphaz was speaking a little tentatively and carefully, but as time went on, he (and the others) spoke more boldly. Certainly they were anything but comforters. At this point, the three were very perplexed about Job’s situation. They were trying to sort out his circumstance in their minds and to reconcile what was happening to him. It was as if their culture was winning out in spite of their wisdom. Those who are really wise weigh matters carefully and detach themselves as far as possible from their training, for they want to give the right counsel. The three were speaking tentatively now, rather than dogmatically.

Job 4:7 Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?

Job 4:8 Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.

Job 4:9 By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed.

Job 4:10 The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the fierce lion, and the teeth of the young lions, are broken.

Job 4:11 The old lion perisheth for lack of prey, and the stout lion’s whelps are scattered abroad.

Initially, the remarks of Eliphaz were somewhat conciliatory in tone, but now his background training came to the fore. He felt that the innocent and the righteous would not be cut off. He was saying in effect, “Can you, Job, call to mind any single instance where this axiom has not taken place?” Of course Eliphaz was making a rhetorical comment and was not expecting an answer. Notice that he now detached himself from the “we” approach and said, “Even as I have seen”; that is, “It is my personal experience that those who plow iniquity sow wickedness, and they reap the same.” What he was saying is true, and the thought is given in many other Scriptures. Even God said, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).

However, there are exceptions, so if we judge a person by the effects of his experience, we might give an erroneous interpretation. In other words, there are two types of chastening: (1) for disobedience and (2) for development of character for office. The ancients were not familiar with the second type of chastening, which is the gospel teaching. The Apostle Peter said, “The trial of your faith is precious indeed,” but he also said, “If you are punished for wrongdoing, you are to suffer it. It is for your good but not in the same sense as being schooled or disciplined for office and for doing well” (1 Pet. 1:7; 2:20 paraphrase).

Eliphaz began to extrapolate further with dramatic but uncalled-for words: “By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed.” He was improperly becoming an orator. He went into the animal creation about the old, the middle-aged, and the young lion, but these were just words—unnecessary words—at a time when Job was suffering. Here was a case of overspeak, overkill.

Job 4:12 Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ear received a little thereof.

Job 4:13 In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men,

Job 4:14 Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake.

Job 4:15 Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up:

Job 4:16 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,

Job 4:17 Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker?

Job 4:18 Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly:

Job 4:19 How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth?

Job 4:20 They are destroyed from morning to evening: they perish for ever without any regarding it.

Job 4:21 Doth not their excellency which is in them go away? they die, even without wisdom.

The “thing … secretly brought” to Eliphaz is the advice that was given to him by a fallen spirit.

This demon had spoken and reasoned with him sometime in the past, and Eliphaz accredited the advice as being true wisdom, superior to that of man. He was saying, “I had an experience in my life in which a thing was brought to my attention.” He felt he was given a little insight by the experience of a vision. While he was in a deep sleep at night, the sensation of fear came upon him so strongly that his body trembled and his bones shook. It was as though he had a premonition that something would happen, and lo and behold, something did happen. A spirit passed before his face in a somewhat nebulous fashion, and the hair of his flesh raised up. Then the spirit stood stationary in front of him, although Eliphaz could not discern the form with distinctness. All of a sudden, he heard this being speak (verses 17-21). Eliphaz felt the advice of this spirit being was superior to the wisdom of mortal man down here. Therefore, he said, “Listen, Job, to my experience, which is related to what you just told us. Your comments were extraordinary in that you were trying to justify yourself before God. Shall a mortal man like you be more important than his Maker, the Creator?”

Eliphaz spoke in an earnest mode. Although he did not condemn Job, he said Job’s words did not make sense. “You should realize, Job, that you are putting yourself in a superior attitude.”

Eliphaz continued to relate what the spirit being had told him, saying the advice was what Job needed. “Behold, God does not trust His servants, and He charges His angels with folly.” In other words, the spirit being called to remembrance the relegating of angels to tartaroo in chains of darkness. Part of the fuzziness of the vision was because the demons had less power and ability at that time to develop the means of communication, which they have subsequently been honing to perfection up to the present day. The advice was that God Himself does not implicitly trust the angels, but we know that God has a lot of trust in the holy angels, for they passed a severe test and will not die anymore (Luke 20:36). Therefore, the holy angels are in a different situation from those who are bound in chains of darkness. The advice of the demon was superior in that it was uncanny, but it contained flaws.

The dream, or vision, was so vivid that even now, when talking to Job, Eliphaz was getting an aftershock. Just in calling the experience to memory, he got a chill. The chill he felt has been mentioned by many people who have had the experience of a spirit materialization or a spirit talking to them.

Now Eliphaz told the effect of the advice, or logic, of the spirit being. “If God does not trust His angelic servants—if He does not trust the angels—how much less He would trust mortal beings down here on earth who are made of clay, whose foundation is in the dust.” The word “Adam” pertains to earth; man was made from the dirt of the earth. Eliphaz was really saying, “Job, you are in the house of clay. Do you really think your line of reasoning is correct? Your words are out of place and unbecoming. You are of the earth, earthy.”

The spirit being had continued, “They are destroyed from morning to evening: they perish for ever without any regarding it”; that is, “Many people die every day, and death is regarded as a natural thing.” The spirit being said further, “Doth not their excellency which is in them go away? they die, even without wisdom.” In other words, “Does not the excellency of a human being cease? One is born a beautiful and healthy baby, he grows up in stature and age, and finally, in time, he gets wrinkles, dies, and goes into the tomb. Human beings die not knowing anything.” This reasoning is true today of the vast majority of people. They follow the pursuit of happiness with the philosophy of eat, drink, and be merry, and they die without any real substantive knowledge. Thus the demon spoke a degree of common sense.

(2001-2003 Study)

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