Let's take a look at Job 22 for this Job 22 commentary. The 22nd chapter of the Old Testament book of Job.
Last time, we saw Job give a speech to his friends. He told them something that would have shocked them.
The friends have been telling Job that he's being punished by God because he's committing secret sin. And in their minds – this is the only viable explanation. If a person is suffering, it's because God is punishing them. And if God is punishing a person, it’s because that person is sinning.
But we saw last time that Job denied their assertions. But then he pointed to all the cases in which wicked men don't get punished. He pointed to situations in which wicked men actually prosper!
And so, at this point Job is hoping that these friends would actually pay attention to what he's saying and stop accusing him of being secretly wicked – and to instead rather comfort him.
But the sad reality is that Job is not going to get what he wants.
Because in Job 22 today we're going to witness Eliphaz’s last speech. And in this last speech, Eliphaz is going to once more accuse Job of being wicked. He apparently didn’t understand Job’s message from the previous chapter. Or – more likely – he understands – but doesn’t agree.
So, let's witness this chapter that basically boils down to an extended false accusation against Job on the part of Eliphaz.
Job 22 Commentary: Man is worthless to God
And so, we begin with verses 1-3 where Eliphaz claims that man is worthless to God.
KJV Job 22:1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite [answered and said/responded/answered],
2 Can a [man/vigorous man/strong man] be [profitable/of use/of benefit] unto God,
[as/or] he that is wise may be [profitable/useful] unto [himself/him]?
3 Is it any [pleasure/special benefit] to the Almighty, that thou art righteous?
or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways [perfect/blameless]?
So, Eliphaz is telling Job that it's really no big deal if he's righteous. The fact that Job is a good man doesn't really make a difference to God.
God's not in need of strong men. He's not in need of righteous men even.
In other words, if no one in this world was physically strong or morally good – God would still be God.
On the other hand, if a person is strong or righteous – it's not like God is impressed and owes the guy something.
That's Eliphaz's point.
And so, as he's hearing Job declare his own moral integrity, Eliphaz says basically, "Who cares? No big deal, Job! That doesn't impress God."
Job 22 Commentary: When it comes down to it, God is punishing you for sin
But when it comes down to it – even though Eliphaz appears to give Job the benefit of the doubt and assumes for the benefit of the doubt that he's righteous – just for a little while, at least – the reality is that Eliphaz does not at all for a second really believe that Job is being honest.
How could Job be suffering so horrendously if he's truly as righteous as he claims!? That's the incredulity that Eliphaz expresses in verse 4.
4 [Will/Does] he [reprove/rebuke] thee for [fear of thee/your reverence/your piety]?
[i.e., and…] [will he enter/enters] with thee into judgment?
So, Eliphaz is asking Job if it really makes any sense that God is judging him for his fear of God. You can imagine Eliphaz cocking his head to one side and looking out the corner of his eye at Job as he asks this question.
So, despite what Eliphaz said in verses 2 and 3 – what Eliphaz really thinks of Job comes out in verse 4 in the form of a question – Job is it really because of your righteousness that God is punishing you – as if you were a wicked person???
Because Eliphaz assumes that righteousness doesn't meet with punishment – but rather with reward. So, when he sees a man like Job seeming to be receiving punishment – well, the implication is clear. Job must be wicked.
Job 22 Commentary: Cut to the chase!
And so, Eliphaz stated his suspicion in verse 4 in the form of a kind of sarcastic question.
But now in verse 5 he comes right out and asks a rhetorical question that demands the answer of "yes" that demonstrates without a doubt that Eliphaz thinks that Job is unrighteous!
5 Is not thy wickedness great?
and thine iniquities [infinite/without end]?
The answer that Eliphaz expects? YES! Yes, Job's wickedness is great. Yes, his iniquities are infinite! Despite what Job maintains – Eliphaz wants Job to stop the nonsense and admit that he's a sinner and that that's why God is punishing him.
Job 22 Commentary: How Job is secretly wicked
And so, to help his accusation to have some weight to it, Eliphaz now in verses 6-9 is going to level several indictments against Job – just kind of guessing – in a very confident manner – what Job might have done to deserve the treatment he's receiving from God.
Who knows – maybe Eliphaz is thinking – maybe one of these accusations will stick!
6 For thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother [for nought/without cause/for no reason],
and stripped the naked of their clothing.
7 Thou hast not given water to the weary to drink,
and thou hast withholden [bread/food] from the hungry.
8 [But as for/Although you were] the mighty man, [he/and] [had/owned] [the earth/land];
and [i.e., you were...] the honourable man [i.e., who...] dwelt in it.
9 Thou hast sent widows away empty[-handed],
and the [arms/strength] of the [fatherless/orphans] have been [broken/crushed] [by you...].
So, the gist of Eliphaz's accusations is that Job has mistreated people who are disadvantaged – people who are lower in social standing than him – the poorly clothed, the weary, the hungry, widows, and orphans.
By the way – isn't Eliphaz guilty of the very thing that he's accusing Job of? Here Job is – in great need in every way. And what is Eliphaz doing to help him? Nothing! He's accusing him and heaping more misery on his already-miserable condition.
So, according to Eliphaz, Job was secretly unrightous to those who are most needy in society.
Job 22 Commentary: The result of Job's secret sin
And so – even though Job's wickedness was in secret – Eliphaz asserts in verses 10 and 11 that God's punishment for these secret sins is now being played out very publicly.
10 [Therefore/That is why] snares [are round about/surround] thee,
and [why...] sudden [fear/dread] [troubleth/terrifies] thee;
11 Or [why...] darkness [surrounds you...], [that/so that] thou canst not see;
and [abundance/why a flood] of waters cover thee.
And verses 10 and 11 are definitely happening to Job. There's no denying that.
But the problem with Eliphaz's thinking is that he sees the results. And he can accurately identify the results in Job's life. But he's getting the cause wrong. Eliphaz assumes the cause by seeing the effects. You can't do that!
When a person falls upon hard times – with sickness or financial struggles or relationship issues – we can't assume that it's a result of some direct punishment from God for specific sin in that man's life. Now – at the same time - those things could be direct punishment from God for sin in this man's life – couldn't it? But we don't know. And we shouldn't assume.
Job 22 Commentary: God is aware of your secret sin
But Eliphaz does assume.
And so, based on what he sees happening in Job's life, he's now going to declare to Job in verses 12-14 that God is well aware of Job's secret sin.
12 Is not God in the height of heaven?
and behold the height of the stars, how high they are!
13 [And/But] thou sayest,
[How/What] doth God know?
can he judge through [the dark cloud/such deep darkness]?
14 Thick clouds are a [covering to/veil for] him, that he seeth not [us...];
and he [walketh/goes back and forth] in the [circuit/vault] of heaven.
In other words, Eliphaz says that Job's attitude toward God is that God can't see his wickedness because God is so far removed from proximity of the evil that he's supposedly committing on this earth.
This is a huge and incorrect – and plainly slanderous – assertion from Eliphaz. How can he possibly presume to know Job's uncommunicated thoughts about God?
But what we've seen from these friends throughout this book is that assumptions prevail with them. They love to assume the worst of others. And that kind of behavior is going to get them a stern reprimand from the God who - in the New Testament - commands his people to bear, believe, hope, and endure all things from others.
Job 22 Commentary: Job is following the sin of men before him
But Eliphaz isn't about ready to believe the best about Job.
And so, in verses 15-18, Eliphaz is going to accuse Job of following the sin of men who had gone before him.
15 [Hast/Will] thou [marked/keep to] the [old/ancient] [way/path]
which wicked men have trodden?
And here's what happened to those wicked men of old...
16 Which were [cut down/snatched away/carried off] [out of/before their] time,
whose foundation was overflown with [a/the] flood:
And why did this happen to them?...
17 Which said unto God,
[Depart/Turn away] from us:
and what can the Almighty do for [them/us]?
And they spoke this way of God even though he was good to them...
18 Yet he filled their houses with good things:
but the counsel of the wicked is far from me.
So, let's try to follow what Eliphaz is saying. Job is following the sin of wicked men from ancient times. That's not reality – but it's Eliphaz's perception of things. And – as they say – perception is reality.
And Eliphaz is arguing against what Job said in the last chapter where he identified places where the wicked are actually blessed rather than punished.
And it's like Eliphaz just wants to totally ignore and forget about that. Because it doesn't mesh with his theology.
No – instead Eliphaz wants to remember the places in history where his man-made theology proved itself right. And so, he seems to harken back to Noah's flood.
Noah's flood is a place where Retribution Theology works for the most part. The people of the earth were wicked. And as a result, God destroyed them. That's Retribution Theology. You do bad. You get bad.
And so Eliphaz wants to ignore the other areas where his theology doesn't work – and instead focus on this instance where it does work.
And Eliphaz also appears to be interacting – somewhat indirectly – with Job's message from last time when he speaks the words of verse 18.
Verse 18 sounds very similar to what Job said in chapter 21. And I think what's going on is that Eliphaz is saying - "Yes, Job – sometimes God does give good things to wicked and ungrateful men. But you need to understand that in the end – in this life, God always punishes these wicked men. You need an example, Job? Look no farther than what happened to the wicked men during the flood."
Job 22 Commentary: The righteous rejoice when the wicked are surely punished
And it seems that Job’s assertion that wicked men sometimes are blessed in this life – that thought is particularly troubling to Eliphaz. And so, Eliphaz wants to emphasize with Job in verses 19 and 20 that when the wicked are punished – and they are surely punished!!! – well, when that happens, the righteous rejoice.
19 The righteous see [it/their destruction], and [are glad/rejoice]:
and the innocent [laugh/mock] them [to scorn/scornfully] [saying...].
20 [Whereas/Truly/Surely] our [substance/adversaries/enemies] [is not cut down/are cut off/are destroyed],
but [the remnant of them/their abundance/their wealth] the fire consumeth.
So, the righteous see that they’re doing fine – but that the wicked and his stuff are consumed with fire – and he rejoices.
By the way, I wonder what Job was thinking as Eliphaz says this. We remember that some of Job’s stuff was indeed consumed by “the fire of God.” If Eliphaz is saying that Job is wicked, and Eliphaz is maintaining that he himself is righteous – is Eliphaz saying that he’s rejoicing in the fact that Job is suffering?
Job 22 Commentary: A plea to repent
Or maybe not – because what we’re going to see next is uncharacteristic of a man who is rejoicing in the suffering of his friend – even if the friend is secretly wicked.
Yes, what Eliphaz is going to do in verses 21 and 22 would be the loving thing to do under different circumstances. Because he’s going to plead with Job to repent.
21 [Acquaint now/Yield now/Reconcile] thyself with [him/God], and be at peace:
thereby good shall come unto thee.
22 [Receive/Accept], I pray thee, [the law/instruction] from his mouth,
and [lay up/establish/store up] his words in thine heart.
So, Eliphaz urges Job to be reconciled to and at peace with God. This will be for Job’s good – Eliphaz admonishes.
Of course, Eliphaz has no idea that God is fine with Job. No need for reconciliation.
But the really interesting statement came in verse 22 that we just read. Eliphaz advises Job to receive God’s law – his instruction – his torah in Hebrew.
And then Eliphaz follows that up with an admonition to lay up God’s words.
And I point this out to say that this is uncharacteristic of Eliphaz or any of these three friends – to direct Job to God’s word.
In fact, this is the only place in the book of Job where that Hebrew word torah is used.
I unfortunately can’t explain why Eliphaz just now starts directing Job to God’s instruction and his words. I don’t know why he never mentions them again.
Because this really is where a godly counselor begins – with God’s words.
So much of what these men have given Job is tradition from ancient wisdom men – or their own personal experience. And this has not helped him at all.
But now – finally someone is pointing Job to God’s words.
The problem is that this advice has come too late. And it won’t be repeated again. And Eliphaz does nothing to direct Job to specific statements that God has made that would help Job in his life situation.
In fact, given how Eliphaz has handled himself thus far, I wouldn’t be surprised if Eliphaz is simply asserting to Job that whatever Eliphaz is saying to Job is indeed the very word of God – his law – his torah!
And if that’s the case, then this is yet another instance in which one of these three friends reaches closer and closer to the height of arrogance. But they’re not getting any closer to helping Job.
Job 22 Commentary: Promise of blessings for repentance
And yet, that’s not what Eliphaz thinks. Eliphaz feels that what he’s sharing with Job is going to revolutionize his life. In fact, Eliphaz is going to take the rest of his speech to highlight to Job the abundant blessings that Job will meet with if and when he does repent of his sin and start hearing Eliphaz’s wise counsel – which is pretty much the “words of God!”
And what could be more helpful to Job than to get all of his stuff back – all of his blessings from the Lord back?!
Job 22 Commentary: Forsake wicked riches, get good riches from God
So, Eliphaz starts with a conditional sentence in verses 23-25 that amount to Eliphaz promising true riches to Job when he forsakes his wicked riches and returns to God.
23 If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be [built up/restored],
[thou shalt/if you] [put away/remove] [iniquity/unrighteousness/wicked behavior] far from thy tabernacles.
24 [Then shalt thou lay up/and place your/and throw your] gold [as/in the] dust,
and the gold of Ophir [as/among] the stones of the brooks.
25 [Yea/Then], the Almighty shall be thy [defence/gold],
and thou shalt have [him as...] [plenty of/choice] silver.
And so, Eliphaz is urging Job to depart from the sin that he accused him of back in the beginning of this chapter – that of making money off of the losses of others – by exploiting them and mistreating them – swindling them.
Eliphaz says that if Job throws away the gold made in that kind of a transaction and if he abandons the kind of practices that resulted in him getting that kind of – as the KJV would say – “filthy lucre,” then God will basically replace Job’s gold with gold that’s lawfully gained.
Job 22 Commentary: God will answer your prayers
Furthermore, if Job forsakes the secret sin that Eliphaz assumes that he’s involved in – Job will start having God answer his prayers once more, according to verses 26-30.
26 For then shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty,
and shalt lift up thy face unto God.
27 Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him,
and he shall hear thee,
and thou shalt [pay/fulfill to him] thy vows.
28 [Whatever...] Thou shalt also [decree/decide on] a [thing/matter], and it shall be established [unto/for] thee:
and the light shall shine upon thy ways.
29 When men are [cast down/brought low], then thou shalt say, [There is lifting up/Lift them up!];
and he shall save the [humble/downcast] person.
30 He shall deliver the [island of the/one who is not/someone who is not] innocent:
and [it is/he will be] delivered [by/through] the [pureness/cleanness] of thine hands.
So, Job isn’t having his prayers answered anymore. Well, Eliphaz has the solution. Just repent of being corrupt and wicked and God will starts answering your prayers once more!
Well, it’s no wonder that with advice like this – that’s so one-dimensional and false and unhelpful – it’s no wonder that Job doesn’t even immediately respond to Eliphaz in the next chapter. Instead, he yearningly laments that he can’t seem to find God anywhere. And these friends aren’t helping Job find him either. We’ll see that next time.