Explaining the Book

Bible Study Guide

Job

Job 15 Commentary

Job 15 Commentary
Explaining the Book of Job

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Let’s open our Bibles to Job chapter 15 for this Job 15 commentary. The 15th chapter of the Old Testament book of Job.

To bring us up to speed, for the last few lessons we’ve seen Job speak in response to his friends’ assertions concerning him. That was in chapters 12-14.

And now in Job 15, Eliphaz responds for the second time. He’ll have one more response after this one.

And in Eliphaz’s response to Job, he insults Job, accuses Job of offending the friends and attacking God, and then goes into great detail as to how Job’s life matches that of the typical wicked man.

So, let’s dive in to this chapter and allow it to minister wisdom to us.

Eliphaz insults Job

Eliphaz begins this chapter by letting Job know that he does not at all appreciate what the suffering Job just communicated in chapters 12-14 of this book.

KJV Job 15:1 Then answered Eliphaz the Temanite, and said,

2 Should a wise man [utter/answer with] [vain/windy/blustery] knowledge,
and fill his belly with the east wind?

3 [Should/Does] he [reason/argue] with [unprofitable/useless] talk?
or with [speeches/words] wherewith he can do no good? [i.e., the words have no profit or value…]

So, this is how Eliphaz summarizes all that Job has argued over the last three chapters. Job’s defense of his own righteousness – the flaws inherent in Retribution Theology – all that and much more, Eliphaz simply dismisses as windy and unprofitable.

And I think you’d agree with me in thinking that Eliphaz is definitely over-generalizing. It very well is the case that Job made overstatements in chapters 12-14. It’s fairly evident that certain ways that Job is thinking and how he communicated that was not right.

And yet, when it comes down to it – even if Job is wrong, the most tactful way to approach him is not to paint a picture of this man sucking in a tremendous amount of air into his belly and then breathing it out in a most unprofitable manner.

Eliphaz simply lacks wisdom in communicating with one who’s suffering.

Job is slandering God

And I think that probably in Eliphaz’s mind, he’s not lacking wisdom. Actually, he is going head-to-head with a man who is impious and slandering God.

4 [Yea/Indeed/But], thou [castest off/do away with/even break off] [fear/reverence/piety],
and [restrainest/hinder] [prayer/meditation] before God.

In other words, Job is quitting being godly. And the result in his life is apparently a lack of prayer to and meditation before God.

And Eliphaz knows why Job isn’t praying to God like he ought – he’s sinning!

5 For thy mouth [uttereth/is taught by/is inspired by] thine [iniquity/guilt/sin],
and thou choosest the [tongue/language] of the crafty.

And since Job is sinning with his mouth – and has used that mouth to express the ideas that Eliphaz finds to be so impious – Eliphaz maintains that Job stands condemned by his very speech.

6 Thine own mouth condemneth thee, and not I:
yea, thine own lips testify against thee.

And therefore, Eliphaz doesn’t even need to say anything – since Job has already said everything that needs to be said in order to condemn him as a sinner. And because Job is a sinner, it makes sense in Eliphaz’s mind that Job should be suffering.

So, case closed – according to Eliphaz.

And yet… Eliphaz will continue and stretch this chapter in which he responds to Job out to 35 verses!

So, Eliphaz claims that Job is self-condemned and that there’s no need for further discussion. And yet, he won’t let that stop him from continuing to speak!

Eliphaz insists that he’s wise

And so, the next thing that Eliphaz wants to address is how Job has made Eliphaz and the two other friends look bad.

Remember? In chapters 12-14 Job claimed a few times that these guys really weren’t as wise as they viewed themselves to be.

And it’s pretty apparent from verses 7-9 that Eliphaz took some offense at that notion and is now going to seek to remonstrate Job on that point.

7 Art thou the first man that was born?
or wast thou [made/brought forth] before the hills?

8 Hast thou heard the [secret/secret counsel] of God?
and dost thou [restrain/limit] wisdom to thyself?

9 What knowest thou, that we know not?
what understandest thou, which is not in us?

10 [With us/Among us/On our side] are both the [grayheaded/gray-haired] and [very aged men/the aged],
[much elder/far older] than thy father.

And I’m not sure if Eliphaz is claiming that these three friends are gray-haired ad much older than even Job’s father – or if he’s saying that the wisdom that they’re trying to convey to Job is from men like that.

Either way, Eliphaz is trying to get Job to buy into his wisdom. And that wisdom is once again the idea that sinners – and sinners only – get punished by God in this life. And therefore, because Job is “being punished” by God – he’s a sinner. Case closed. Job just needs to stop sinning and pray to God – and then God will turn and start blessing Job once more.

And yet, if Job does that, Satan wins. If Job confesses to some fake sin in order to get God to start blessing him again, then Satan’s claim that Job worships God for the stuff that God gives him would be proven true. God – further – would be proved to be one who bribes people into worshipping him with stuff. And what kind of God would that be – who’s so inglorious that he needs to bribe his creatures to worship him?

So, Eliphaz’s wisdom is foolishness. Not helpful to Job at all.

And yet, Eliphaz touches on where true wisdom would lie – if only man could get at it somehow. That was in verse 8 where Eliphaz asks Job if he has access to the secret counsel of God.

Because – when it comes down to it – if a person has access to that, he has wisdom. And I just want once more to declare to us that we have God’s counsel in his word. What a treasure we have in the Bible that we neglect to our own detriment.

Now, don’t get me wrong – there are things that are not revealed to us in the Bible. And yet, God blesses us with wisdom beyond what the eye can see or the ear can hear. And he does that in his word.

Let’s be individuals and let’s be a church that is in God’s word regularly. And maybe we’ll end up having fewer Eliphaz-moments in our lives for it.

So, Eliphaz is rather offended that Job is not buying into the wisdom that he and the two other friends are presenting to Job.

Eliphaz’s wisdom is God’s consolation

And Eliphaz goes on to equate his wisdom – that Job needs to start praying and stop sinning – with God’s consolations to him.

11 Are the consolations of God [small/too small/too trivial] [with/for] thee?
[is there/or] [any secret/a gentle] [thing/word] with thee?

So, if Job is rejecting Eliphaz’s unhelpful ideas that he’s being punished by God for secret sins, then Eliphaz is saying here that he’s rejecting God’s consolation. How arrogant!

And we do need to be careful to not be like Eliphaz. When we give advice to others – especially when we don’t have a word from God on the matter – how foolish it would be to treat our human wisdom as if it were on the same level as God’s wisdom. Let’s not do that.

If you have God’s wisdom on a matter give it with confidence and even dogmatism. When that’s lacking, don’t pretend like you have it.

Job is attacking God

So, in Eliphaz’s mind, Job is rejecting God’s wisdom. And because Job is responding to Eliphaz’s annoying and wrong ideas with some level of heat and even anger – Eliphaz now accuses Job of attacking – not Eliphaz’s ideas – but God himself.

12 Why doth thine heart carry thee away?
and [what/why] do thy eyes [wink at/flash],

13 That thou turnest thy [spirit/rage] against God,
and lettest such words [go/escape] out of thy mouth?

So, to reject Eliphaz’s ideas is to reject God’s wisdom. To attack Eliphaz’s ideas as simply wrong is to attack God. This is the level to which Eliphaz has elevated his own manmade wisdom.

And it seems like Eliphaz considers Job’s words in chapters 12-14 as Job’s doing this – of Job’s attacking God. The words that Job had expressed there are now being classified by Eliphaz as amounting to an attack on God.

And is there some element of truth in this thought? I think there actually is – but not for the reasons Eliphaz is saying.

And it all comes back to Retribution Theology – which as I’ve said before – Job and his three friends all adopt – though, Job is adopting it less and less as the book goes on.

But if Retribution is the principle upon which God works in this world, then in Job’s life God is not holding to his end of the bargain.

If God always gives blessings for obedience and punishes disobedience almost immediately in this life – then God is not doing right in Job’s life. God is acting out of keeping with his character. God is… unjust.

And Job has gotten very close to this way of thinking – if he hasn’t actually totally adopting this mindset. And yet, Job knows that God can’t be unjust. But none of this is making sense to Job and he’s willing to admit that as well.

So, yes, I think Eliphaz’s accusation that Job is in some ways attacking God with the words of his mouth is actually somewhat valid – though not for the reason Eliphaz is thinking.

Eliphaz attacks the idea that man can be righteous

Well, if Job is attacking God, then Eliphaz next is going to attack the idea that man can be righteous before God.

14 What is man, that he should be [clean/pure]?
and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?

So, the idea is that man cannot be clean and righteous. And this actually seems to contradict Eliphaz’s own theology. Because if man can’t be righteous, then how can God bless anyone within the parameters of Retribution Theology?

At the very least, Eliphaz is arguing against the idea that man can be sinless before God – which would be a good argument to make, because the Scripture and nature itself teaches us that truth.

And according to Eliphaz, it’s not that man alone finds himself in this position of being totally clean and righteous morally. No – even angels have a hard time measuring up to God’s standards.

15 Behold, he putteth no trust in his [saints/holy ones];
[yea/and/if even], the heavens are not [clean/pure] in his sight.

16 How much more [abominable/detestable] and [filthy/corrupt] is man,
which [drinketh/drinks in] [iniquity/evil] like water?

So, the argument made is one from greater to lesser.

If God doesn’t trust these greater beings of his – these “saints” or simply “holy ones” which is likely a reference to heavenly beings…

And Eliphaz doesn’t stop with claiming that heavenly beings are in some way unclean in God’s eyes – even the place they inhabit – “the heavens” aren’t clean either in God’s estimation…

Well, if these things aren’t the case with God’s greater creation, then how much less would they be the case for God’s lesser creation – mankind.

And Eliphaz points to some very unflattering realities in mankind that would make this the case. We are abominable and filthy as a race. We drink in sin like it’s water. These things are unfortunately true.

But to use this as part of an argument for why Job is suffering just doesn’t seem to work.

What Eliphaz just explained might help Job understand why he’s suffering – because he’s filthy morally – just like all mankind. I mean, it’s not true – Job is not suffering for his sin. But we’ll just pretend that’s the case – that Job is suffering for his sin.

And yet, if all mankind is filthy, then shouldn’t Retribution Theology really just be one-sided? Shouldn’t there be no blessings at all in this life since all are filthy? And yet, it’s evident that God does choose to bless some of mankind – this mankind which is universally filthy.

So, I think Eliphaz offers a solid argument here… that basically undermines his position. I wonder if he caught that.

Eliphaz prepares Job for more “wisdom”

Well, it doesn’t seem like he caught the contradiction to his theology that he just presented. Because in verses 17-19, Eliphaz is going to very poetically try to prepare Job for some more of his wonderful wisdom.

17 I will [shew/tell/explain to] thee, [hear/listen to] me;
and that which I have seen I will declare;

And yet, Eliphaz doesn’t want to leave himself open to Job’s accusations that Eliphaz is nothing special and that neither is his wisdom. And so, Eliphaz puts some more authority behind the statements that are to follow. That is, he’s communicating the wisdom of the ancients.

18 [Which/what] wise men have told from [their fathers/the traditions of their anscestors],
and have not hid it:

19 Unto whom alone the [earth/land] was given,
and no [stranger/alien/foreigner] passed among them.

And that last verse is very strange. It almost seems like Eliphaz is applying nativism and patriotism to the realm of wisdom. As if – assuming that these characters are living in ancient Edom – the purest form of wisdom to be found would have come from a time in which there were only pure-bred Edomites living in the land. Not these crazy foreigners whose ideas are corrupt – or at least not as wise as what our original ancestors thought and taught.

And I think for us Americans who really do deeply appreciate the wisdom of the founding fathers of America – I think it’s important to not fall into this line of thinking that Eliphaz is promoting. America’s founding fathers – as wise as they were – were not inspired. Where their wisdom agreed with God’s wisdom, rejoice and use it. Where it deviates, abandon it.

Ancient wisdom

Well – back to Eliphaz – here comes the ancient wisdom for the suffering Job!

And what it comes down to is Eliphaz telling Job how wicked men suffer. He speaks of the individual wicked man in verses 20-33. And then he speaks of them as a group in verses 34 and 35 to end this chapter and Eliphaz’s thoughts.

The wicked man is in physical pain

To start, the wicked man experiences constant physical pain. And – hey! – Job experiences constant physical pain, too!

20 The wicked man [travaileth with/writhes in/suffers] [pain/torment] all his days,
and [he travails all…] the number of years [is hidden to/stored up for/that are hidden away for] the [oppressor/ruthless/tyrant].

The wicked man is alarmed by the destroyer

In addition, the wicked man is suddenly alarmed by the noise of people coming to destroy their goods. And hey! Job experienced this too!

21 A [dreadful/terrifying] sound [is in/fills] his ears:
[in prosperity/while at peace/in a time of peace] [the destroyer/marauders] [shall come upon/attack] him.

And this did happen to Job in the first few chapters of this book. All was peace and blessing. And then – whammo! – the raiding bands of men came and took all his stuff. And then his kids all died. Out of nowhere. Sounds like more than a coincidence to Eliphaz!

The wicked man is pessimistic of escape

And not only this, but the wicked man is pessimistic about his chance to escape God’s treatment of him. And – once more – this description fits the bill when it comes to Job.

22 He [believeth/expects] not that he shall [return/escape] [out of/from] darkness,
and he is [waited for of/destined for/marked for] the sword.

And the sword hasn’t come to Job’s body physically. But that’s because God gave the parameters for Satan in the first few chapters of this book. He said Satan could touch him, but needed to save his life. Otherwise, I’m guessing the sword would have gotten Job a while ago.

The wicked man goes hungry

Next, the wicked man looks for bread. And with all of Job’s servants and livestock gone, he probably wasn’t eating very well at this point.

23 He wandereth abroad for bread, saying, Where is it?
he knoweth that the day of darkness is ready at his hand.

The wicked man is full of trouble

Further, the wicked man is full of trouble and anguish. Again, in Eliphaz’s mind there is a really uncanny resemblance between Job and the wicked man as described by the ancients…

24 [Trouble/Distress] and anguish [shall make him afraid/terrify him];
they [shall prevail against/overpower] him, as a king ready to [i.e., launch…] [the battle/an attack].

The wicked man attacks God

But why all of this ill treatment from God for the wicked man?

Well, it’s because this man attacks God – which Eliphaz has accused Job of doing in this very chapter.

25 For he stretcheth out his hand against God,
and [strengtheneth/conducts arrogantly/vaunts] himself against the Almighty.

The wicked man battles God

And it’s as if the wicked man is in a literal battle against God.

26 He runneth upon [him/God], [even on his neck/headlong],
[upon/with] the thick bosses [i.e., convex surface…] of his [bucklers/shield]:

The wicked man is a fat glutton

What’s more, this wicked man is a fat glutton – according to Eliphaz.

27 Because he covereth his face with his fatness,
and maketh [collops of/heavy with/bulge with] fat on his [flanks/thighs/hips].

And I’m not quite sure if Eliphaz is thinking that Job was a fat glutton or not. Most likely, he did think that of Job.

The wicked man lives outside of society

And as a result of his general odiousness, the wicked man lives far from society. And you know where Job was living right? In the city dump – as it were! Away from society.

28 And he dwelleth in desolate cities,
and in houses which no man inhabiteth,
which are [ready/destined] to [become/crumble into] [heaps/ruins].

The wicked man’s wealth flies

In addition, the wicked man’s wealth will fly from him. And this once more was the case with Job.

29 He shall not [be/become/grow] rich,
neither shall his [substance/wealth] [continue/endure],
neither shall he [prolong/spread] [the perfection thereof/his possessions] upon the earth.

The wicked man will be destroyed

And ultimately, God will wither and destroy the wicked man. And is that not what God has been doing to Job?

30 He shall not [depart/escape] [out of/from] darkness;
the flame shall [dry up/wither] his [branches/shoots],
and by the breath of [his/God’s] mouth shall he [go away/depart].

The wicked man is admonished

And therefore, Eliphaz has an admonition for the wicked man. And look! There’s one such man – in Eliphaz’s mind – sitting right in front of him!

31 Let not him that is deceived trust in vanity: [i.e., he’s deceived by trusting vanity…]
for [vanity/emptiness/worthlessness] shall be his [recompence/reward].

The wicked man is paid in this life

And this payback will certainly happen in this life – as it has been with Job.

32 [It shall be accomplished/He will be paid in full] before his time,
and his branch shall not [be green/flourish].

The wicked man lacks fruit

And when the payback from God does come – the retribution arrives – then what the wicked man has worked for will not come to fruition.

33 He shall [shake off/drop off/let fall] his [unripe/sour] grape [as the/like a] vine,
and shall [cast off/shed] his [flower/blossoms] [as the/like an] olive [i.e., tree…].

And in both of those similes, the idea is premature de-fruition. Unripe grapes eventually turn into ripe ones. Olive blossoms usually eventually turn into olives.

But when those things fall off before they come to fruition, there’s fruitlessness. And that’s what Eliphaz is seeing in Job’s life. Lack of fruit. Things are looking bad. And Eliphaz knows why. Job is a wicked man.

The wicked congregation

And Eliphaz finishes his pretty pointed accusations of Job by speaking not only of the singular wicked man – but now he expands out to a whole congregation of wicked men.

This group will be desolate.

34 For the [congregation/company] of [hypocrites/the godless] shall be [desolate/barren],
and fire shall consume the [tabernacles/tents] of [bribery/the corrupt/those who accept bribes].

And that last phrase makes us think that Eliphaz is suspecting Job of taking bribes. Perhaps that’s the sin that God is fingering in Job. Job was supposed to judge and bring right verdicts as a patriarch of that time. But instead, Job took bribes and forgot about real justice!

And lastly, Eliphaz compares what happens to the entire group of wicked men on the earth to the process of pregnancy and birth.

35 They conceive [mischief/trouble],
and bring forth [vanity/evil],
and their belly prepareth [deceit/deception].

What a way to end this long chapter that’s pregnant with accusations against Job!

In short, Eliphaz has rebuked Job for questioning God – and particularly the way that Retribution Theology portrays him. Eliphaz rebuked Job for offending him and the other friends for their lack of wisdom. And finally, we’ve seen Eliphaz draw the most obvious parallels between Job and the typical wicked man.

So, we’ll see how Job responds next time. But I’ll give you a hint. You can see if you look down a line or so this phrase from Job in verse 2… “miserable comforters are ye all.” That’s Job’s assessment of this chapter that we’ve just covered. We’ll see what else he says next time.

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