In chapter 3, Job has expressed his grief and loss because of the suffering that has befallen him. The day of his birth is a cursed day that should be removed from the calendar altogether. Job’s three friends, who are pictured as possessors of wisdom, have come to bring Job comfort and sympathy (2:11). We will look at the help that the friends give, consider Job’s response to the friends, and then draw applications for our lives for dealing with suffering and trials.
Eliphaz’ First Speech (4:1-5:27)
Who can be righteous before God (4:1-21)
Eliphaz begins with message to Job with soft, helpful words. Eliphaz asks if he can say a word to Job and begins by pointing out the good things Job has done (4:3-5). You are a good man, Job. But now that troubles comes to you, you are impatient and dismayed. Your righteousness should be your confidence (4:6). Your faith and blameless conduct should save you. Do not fail to apply the lessons you taught others to yourself.
This is the point of verses 7-11. In these verses Eliphaz describes the fate of the wicked. You reap what you sow (4:7-9). This is a principle that is repeatedly taught in the scriptures (Galatians 6:7-9; Proverbs 22:8; 1 Corinthians 9:11; 2 Corinthians 9:6). This is a key foundational truth for these three friends. You always reap what you sow. So Job should have confidence in his blamelessness. If you have done nothing wrong, then you have nothing to worry about. But Job needs to consider something according to Eliphaz: Who being innocent has ever perished and who has been destroyed who was upright? (4:7)
Eliphaz then appeals to the supernatural (4:12-16). He says that he received a vision or a dream. Essentially, Eliphaz is saying that God gave him a message to give to Job. He has the answer from the Lord. The advice he is giving Job is godly advice and Job needs to listen and follow it. The message begins in verse 17: “Can mortal man be in the right before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker?” Eliphaz says that Job should reconsider his position. Yes, Job is righteous but can anyone really be pure before God? If angels are faulty, how much more are humans found faulty before God (4:18-19)? Our existence is as fragile as a tent. It takes just one trip on the cord and the whole thing pulls up, going back to the dust from which we came (4:20-21). All deserve some sort of punishment for sin. No one is completely pure.
Make your appeal to God (5:1-27)
In chapter 5 Eliphaz shifts his advice. Eliphaz says in chapter 4 that you are righteous and you should put your confidence in your righteousness. But understand that you are not that righteous. Everyone deserves some sort of punishment from God. Now Eliphaz warns Job to not be a fool because devastation certainly comes to fools. Vexation kills a fool. His dwelling is cursed, his children are far from safety and crushed, and no one delivers them. So do not show irritation and jealousy like a fool (cf. Proverbs 27:3). You cannot help but notice that Eliphaz’ description of the fool sounds like what has happened to Job. Evil is the root of trouble. Suffering does not come from nowhere. Everything happens for a reason. You reap what you sow. Trouble has a cause (5:6-7). Just as sparks fly upward, so people are born to experience trouble because they are naturally foolish.
This leads Eliphaz to bring his full advice to Job (5:8-16). Eliphaz says what he would do is make his appeal to God. You will notice that this appeal to God is not to ask for help, but an admission of guilt. The Hebrew word translated “appeal” refers to seeking an oracle to find your offense or discover the pathway to appeasement. So admit your guilt and it will be all better. God can turn the tables if you would admit what you have done. You need to be humble, not clever, because reaches down to help the humble (5:11-13).
In verses 17-27 Eliphaz ends his speech with beautiful pictures of the restoration Job will receive if he will simply repent. When restoration comes Job will receive great blessings and then everything will be okay. When you repent, then God will not even allow danger to come near you (5:21-22). Now we must consider the advice of Eliphaz. If Job does what Eliphaz says, then Satan is correct in his accusation. It will confirm that Job is only interested in God’s blessings, not righteousness. If Job seeks restoration at any cost, then Job does not serve God for nothing but for what he receives. Thus, Eliphaz is telling Job to fear God for the rewards of righteousness, just like Satan said people do. Therefore, as we read Job’s responses going forward in this book we must consider that Job pursuing his own vindication shows that he does not serve God for prosperity and health, but that righteousness is at the forefront of this thoughts.
Thoughts about the arguments of Eliphaz
Up to this point in our studies we have repeatedly notice how people use godly, scriptural principles found in God’s word incorrectly. This is what we have with Eliphaz. Eliphaz says all kinds of truthful things. In fact, 5:13 is quoted by Paul and used to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 3:19. So Eliphaz is not speaking unbiblical things. Eliphaz says that God uses suffering to restore sinners to a proper relationship with him (5:17).
Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal. (Job 5:17–18 ESV)
The scriptures confirm this in Proverbs 3:11-12 and Hebrews 12:5-6. Proverbs and Hebrews may even be quoting Eliphaz. Suffering is disciplinary. The scriptures do bear this out. So where is error? The error is twofold. First, while God uses suffering to restore sinners it does not mean that all suffering is because of sins to bring a person back. Second, Eliphaz looks at what happened to Job and draws the conclusion that he must have sinned and repentance will fix it. But the error is to look at the outcome and declare that Job must have sinned. This is why the first two chapters were so important to the study. Job is not experiencing this suffering because of his sins. So while what Eliphaz says is true as a general principle, it is not an absolute rule and it is not true in Job’s life, the lives of the apostles, or the lives of Jesus.
Job’s Response (6:1-7:21)
Faithfulness brings no relief (6:1-13)
Job begins his response by saying that if Eliphaz knew his pain then he would understand why he speaks the way he does. Job is in great misery. He has been shot by God with arrows (6:4). His devastation is the basis for his complaint (6:5). The words of Eliphaz have been no help (6:6-7). Job is starving for helpful words as food for his soul. But Eliphaz did not provide it. Thus, Job returns to his plead that God would not restore him but finish off destroying him so that he could finally be at rest (6:8-13). His only consolation is that he has not denied the words of the Holy One. Eliphaz can say what he wants, Job knows that he has not turned his back on God. Job declares that he has no hope. Repentance is not the fix because he has nothing to repent from. There are no sinful things to change. Yet Job is begging for God to do something because he does not believe he will last much longer in this trial (6:11-13). His strength is not stone and his flesh is not bronze.
Friends brings no comfort (6:14-30)
Job says that his friends have not brought him comfort or sympathy. Listen to this key responsibility for a friend: “He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty” (6:14). Job says that when you withhold kinds from your friend you no longer fear God. This sentence could also be saying that there should be kindness shown to Job even if his friends thought he had forsaken the Lord. The first rendering as found in the ESV, NRSV, NIV, and NLT makes more sense because Job would not state that he had forsaken the Lord.
His friends, rather than being a help, are like the promise of a river that has turned into a dry riverbed (6:15-21). Job was seeking relief from his friends but his friends did not follow through with what Job hoped for. I had such high hopes when you arrived, but you have dashed my hope. Job continues in verses 22-30 telling these friends that he did not ask anything from them from words of help and love. Job says that he can take truthful words, but what have you given me (6:25)? You treat my words like wind are not really listening (6:26). It is easy for you to say the words you are saying and have all the answers but it is no help (6:27). Tell me what my sin is and I will be silent (6:24)! Job asks his friends to just look at him. I do not deserve what has happened to me (6:29). So take back your malicious words because my integrity is at stake (6:29).
Job’s lament (7:1-7)
In chapter 7 Job returns to his lament. Life is just hard and miserable (7:1-2). He experiences sleepless nights and pain (7:3). He is completely miserable, living in hopelessness (7:6). Yet Job is still praying in his pain, though he is devastated and has no joy (7:7).
God scrutinizes humans (7:8-21)
Job ends his response to Eliphaz declaring that God scrutinizes humans. He looks at their lives too closely. Again, Job indicates that his life is coming to an end (7:8-10). He is because he feels that he does not have much life left in him that he will speak with boldness about his circumstances. Job will speak from his pain without restraint (7:11). Job cannot rest at night (7:13-14). There is no comfort and when he does sleep he is terrified (7:14). He feels like God has consigned him to pain and feels the weight of God on him at all times. He wants God to stop analyzing him because he is going to die soon (7:16).
You will notice in verse 17 that is sounds similar to Psalm 8. In Psalm 8 it is exclaimed as a blessing. How amazing that God has made much of us for we are nothing. Job declares that it is terrible that God pays so close attention to humans. God is pictured as being petty. He like the police officer who gives tickets for going 56 mph in a 55 mph zone. God has too much time on his hands and he is nitpicking Job’s life (7:18-19). Job does not admit guilt but makes the point that even if he had, his sin would not justify God’s present attitude and action toward him. God could simply forgive whatever small offense God may have found in Job, but prefers to punish instead (7:20-21).
Messages For Today
I would like to consider two points that Job makes regarding other humans and about God that we should consider for help in suffering and trials. First, regarding one another, we need help through trials (Job 6:14-30). Job correctly observes that he was hoping for his friends to be like a refreshing river in a dry desert. Job needed words of relief and comfort. But that is not what Job found. There was no kindness to be found in his friends. The scriptures speak about the need for us to be those kinds of true, godly friends with each other.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17 ESV)
Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend, and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away. (Proverbs 27:9–10 ESV)
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 ESV)
Do not run from the troubles of others. Be the dependable, godly friend to each other when calamity and adversity hits. There is no doubt that one of the reasons God gave us this body of believers who are to be joined and knit together is so that we can help and encourage each other through trials and temptations. Be dependable. Be the encourager, like Barnabas, to one another.
Second, let us consider what Job says about God. Is God the faultfinder who seeks to find every little unknown error and makes us miserable and afflicts us when we make any misstep? This is the way Job feels. But this is not God’s disposition toward us. The scriptures never speak of God as a nitpicking, wrathful God who is looking for any reason to lash out against us. We have read in the prophets the longsuffering nature of God. When God presents himself at Mount Sinai, this is the presentation of God:
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6–7 ESV)
In trials remember that we have a God who loves us and has not pushed us beyond the strength that God supplies for us (1 Corinthians 10:13). His goal is not your destruction but your salvation. This trial is allowed by God to refine your faith to make you what God desires so that you can be his child and enjoy eternal life with him. Hold strong through trials and continue to trust in God.