Eliphaz, Self-Confident & Sure: Chapter 5
As the fifth chapter of Job starts, it is Job’s friend, Eliphaz, who is doing the talking. And he makes an appeal to what we can only assume was “common sense” for his day. He did everything but beg Job to cry out, to just listen to reason, and to consult anyone that was considered Godly. Surely they would tell him the same thing, Eliphaz reckoned.
Although he didn’t exactly accuse Job of being the foolish man that would eventually be killed, he spends a few verses talking about what would happen to that man. I think of all the things that he said in these verses, the reference to Job and his sons, in saying that they were far from safety, as like a slap in the face. In not so many words, Eliphaz had reasoned that the very situation in which Job now found himself was a result of foolishness and sin.
But he goes even farther, to speak in a way that seemed to say he had experience and life observations on his side. Furthermore, there is some back story to the idea of one being “crushed in the gate”. This is actually a reference to an old custom from Eastern countries. There, the city’s gate was actually more like a type of courthouse, or tribunal, if you will. Both plaintiffs and defendants came to see that justice was carried out.
And so that’s exactly what Eliphaz thinks this is: Justice.
Trouble Doesn’t Come From Nowhere
Eliphaz was having a lot of trouble believing that all this mayhem would simply come from nowhere. In speaking about trouble not sprouting up from the ground, Job’s friend is basically saying, “You know, Job, you reap what you sow!”
In verses eight through sixteen, Eliphaz spends some time defending God’s character and His delivery of justice where it’s due. And though he said it with some manner of tact and grace, he still said it: Job wasn’t seeking God and was not coming to God in repentance, even in his affliction.
Eliphaz still makes it clear, verse after verse, that if Job would only realize that he was in sin, if he would only repent, maybe there would still be some hope for him! But even great truth can be misapplied, causing far more harm than good to those that are already hurting!
The Correction of a Mighty God
Eliphaz continues to make a point that sometimes, God simply sends this wrath as a correction for sinful behavior. And he obviously believes Job’s sin, which he still has not yet repented of, is behind this great calamity. Even in making this clear, however, he still encouraged Job to steer clear of despair in God’s correction. He should humble himself! Forsake his sin! Learn the lesson and move on!
He detailed the many blessings that came in the restoration God imparts after sinful confession. Surely this would prompt Job to finally just admit what he had done to bring about this great wrath and judgment!
Eliphaz is Self-Confident
At the end of his mini-sermon from a self-righteous pedestal, Eliphaz defends his own self-confidence:
Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good.Job 5:27
He wanted Job to know that he and his other friends were not simply speaking to be speaking. They have investigated the matter carefully, having “searched it” and not only do they know what they’re talking about, but they also want Job to understand it’s all for his own good that they lay those sticks out straight.
It’s not that Eliphaz was speaking something that wasn’t true. In fact, he spoke well of God. But looking ahead to chapter 42 of this same book, we can see what God thought about this man’s assurance in himself:
And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have no spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.Job 42:7
It wasn’t that God singled him out because he preached an unsound doctrine. It was rather because he was completely incompetent as a counselor.
It seemed so obvious to Job’s friends that he was in the midst of unconfessed sin which had been compounded by God’s wrath against both the sin and the fact that he had not repented. Here in the last verse, Eliphaz simply said, “It is true,” leaving no room for the idea that it could possibly be anything else.
One of the deepest misplaced truths here is that Eliphaz somehow thought that they could figure God out. To him, there couldn’t possibly be anything going on behind the scenes that would account for all of this. God allowed us, the reader of the Word, to see the drama played out in the first couple chapters, but Job had no way of knowing that was what was happening. He just sensed that this “friendly counsel” was wrong. He could feel it in his spirit.
This is a dangerous assumption. To believe that righteous people cannot go through a great and fiery trial without being steeped in sin themselves can be a pit of quicksand to us. Because then, if we DO see it, then we will wrongly think that person couldn’t have been righteous after all.
The truth is, Job’s friends could have done more good through a simple act of sympathy than the ton of dogged self-confidence through which they assured him his sin was “true”.
Job Responds to Eliphaz: Chapter 8
When Job’s great suffering started, his friends sat with him, without saying a word, for an entire week:
So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.Job 2:13
It was Job that broke the silence with his mournful rant, in chapter three. Chapters four and five were all a very poetic outreach by Eliphaz attempting to cause Job to repent and save himself. Here now, we see Job’s answer to his friend.
Job Reflects on His Own Words
To start off with, Job speaks to the fact that his suffering is now worse than before because Eliphaz had no idea that everything he’d said was wrong. He went on to say that his previous rant was rash, but it was rash because his sorrow was so heavy.
In fact, by referencing a poison arrow, he was speaking to a reference that his friends understood. A poison arrow caused an awful array of symptoms, including a horribly high fever that caused a thirst so rampant, that all the body’s moisture dried up, salivary glands stopped working, and the blood became thick. The only real relief at a time like this was death.
And in verses eight through ten, Job continues to speak to the fact that death would, at this point, be a welcome escape. It wasn’t that he was suicidal, and he never talked about killing himself. He simply had a wish that God would end his life for him. Later, he will be glad that was an ungranted request!
Still Claiming Innocence on His Part
Job continued to insist that he was completely innocent in God’s sight. He talked about the fact that he had not disobeyed any of God’s Words. In fact, he knows that if God were to end his life right then and there, that he would die innocent, and that would be a consolation to him.
Afterward, he talks about his own weakness. With no strength left at all, his hope fails him as well. These aren’t the words of a self-help guru, that’s for sure. If he had to depend on inner strength for carrying this burden, he was going to fail miserably!
Challenging and Criticizing Eliphaz
Job says that even a friend should show kindness to one who is suffering, no matter what caused the suffering. He accused the whole lot of them of being like a stream fed by melting snow. When things got hot, they disappeared!
Worse still, it was obvious they were afraid of the doom and the turmoil in which Job was now, they were afraid to do anything other than cry out for him to repent.
He tells them plainly: he wasn’t asking for money, or redemption from an enemy or from God Himself.
No Real Sustenance to Eliphaz or His Words
Eliphaz had said a lot. He had made accusations, however shrouded they were. He had made judgments that he stood by because he had “searched them out”. But instead of showing any kind of sympathy, they just kept telling him that his attitude was not right.
Many of the words Job used in response to his friend indicate a search for evidence. They were accusing him of sin. They were saying that he deserved this wrath and judgment. But they had not produced an ounce of evidence to that effect.
Have you ever known a friend who had to go through a trial or something that seemed to have to reason behind it? How did you respond to them in that time of need?
We must be careful, especially when assuming something comes from God, that we don’t mix up our own beliefs for His Ways. We can see, later in this book, how that turned out for Job’s friends. God took no pleasure in their counsel. And since He does not change, we know that He would still react in the same way.
Father, I come to You today asking that You would give me a tender heart for those going through severe trials! Help me to be careful about the words that come from my mouth and put a right spirit within me to never accuse without hard evidence, as Your Word declares. All to Your great glory alone! In Jesus’ Name, Amen!
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