Let’s turn to the 4th chapter of the Old Testament book of Job. Job chapter 4.
We’ve been exploring the book of Job for over a month and now we’re in our fifth message in this book.
And I hope that we’ve been encouraged and strengthened by the message of this book – which is that “When We Can’t Understand God’s Ways, We Must Trust His Wisdom.”
And so, we saw in the first chapter of this book that Job could understand God’s ways. Job did right and God blessed him. That makes sense.
But things started not making sense real quick and Job lost everything. And so, in chapter 3 last we saw Job expressing the grief that he had been experiencing as a result of not being able to understand God’s ways.
And that chapter was pretty dark. There was a lot of talk of death. Job wanted to die. He didn’t want to live anymore. That’s the way that people can feel when God’s ways are just inexplicable – and those ways are turning out for our material harm – not our prosperity and good.
And I don’t know what you thought about chapter three. You probably wouldn’t have labeled it as “uplifting.” No one would blame you if you walked away from that chapter rater depressed yourself.
Job 4 Commentary | Enter the Friends!
But now, remember that Job had three friends who came for the purpose of comforting him. And we haven’t heard from them yet. But today they break their silence and start to do their comforting work on Job.
Job 4 Commentary Eliphaz
And so, Eliphaz begins to speak and tries to comfort Job today. But I think we’ll see in chapters 4 and 5 of the book of Job in this lesson that whatever it is that Eliphaz is trying to do – it doesn’t turn out to be very comforting at all.
And the main reason why Eliphaz’s attempt at comforting Job falls flat is because he keeps pointing to his own personal experiences… which really do not apply to Job’s situation.
So, let’s see that in action. Starting in verse 1 of chapter 4.
4:1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said,
Job 4 Commentary Transition
And Eliphaz essentially provides himself a smooth transition in verse 2.
2 If we [assay/attempt] to [commune/communicate] with thee, wilt thou be [grieved/impatient/weary]?
but who can withhold himself from speaking?
Job 4 Commentary | He Helped Others
And apparently Eliphaz can’t withhold himself from speaking. So, now he’s going to remind Job of how he used to help others who were in trouble in verses 3 and 4.
3 Behold, thou hast instructed many,
and thou hast strengthened the weak hands.
4 Thy words have upholden him that was falling,
and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees.
Job 4 Commentary | Why Can’t He Help Himself?
And so, in light of the fact that Job counseled and helped others in times past, Eliphaz expresses some surprise that Job isn’t able to counsel and help himself now that he’s in trouble. We see that in verse 5.
5 But now it is come upon thee,
and thou faintest;
it toucheth thee,
and thou art troubled.
Job 4 Commentary | Hope
Then Eliphaz reminds Job of the fact that Job’s only hope and reason for confidence is his own piety and blameless ways.
6 Is not this thy [fear,/piety] thy confidence,
thy hope[, and the uprightness of thy ways/your blameless ways]?
And so, Eliphaz wanted to remind Job of his own piety and blameless ways because – in Eliphaz’s mind – that means that there is reason to think that Job can get himself out of this mess that he’s apparently brought upon himself. His only hope is his righteousness – and so – according to Eliphaz – if Job RETURNS to that righteousness, he has hope.
Job 4 Commentary | Remedy
And Eliphaz goes on to ask Job a rhetorical question to start into his idea of a remedy for Job’s situation in verse 7.
7 [Remember/Call to mind], I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent?
or where were the righteous cut off?
And Eliphaz expects an answer like “Well, of course, no one who was innocent has ever perished!“
But that’s simply not the case. How do you account for the first murder in the Bible – Cain murdering his brother Abel?
Abel perished – he was cut off – even though he was righteous.
Eliphaz would have known at least that account from history. But he doesn’t appeal to biblical testimony. He overlooks that kind of reality in an attempt to explain to Job how he can fix the mess he’s made – as Eliphaz views things.
Job 4 Commentary | The Wicked
OK, so if a person is righteous, they’re protected from calamity – according to Eliphaz. And the exact opposite is true as well. Verse 8.
8 Even as I have seen,
And that’s the key – this is Eliphaz’s limited personal experience. He’s SEEN that…
they that plow iniquity,
and sow wickedness,
reap the same.
9 By the blast of God they perish,
and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed.
So, wicked people are destroyed by God. That’s what Eliphaz claims.
And, so, let’s consider – is that true? And we have to admit – yes, it can be true in this life.
Think of Noah’s flood – again, a historical account that Eliphaz would have known about. Did God destroy the world with a flood because of the wickedness of mankind? Yes!
And yet, for how many generations did God delay his justice with sinful man? A long time. And in that timeframe, Eliphaz’s theory really isn’t all that sound.
Or again, think of Cain. Did he perish “by the blast of God” after he committed the first murder in the history of the world? No. He lived.
And yet, this faulty logic is what Eliphaz is operating on. “Do right, be blessed. Do wrong, be destroyed by God.”
Job 4 Commentary | The Wicked as Lions
Then Eliphaz continues and pictures wicked men as strong lions – who – despite their strength – will be destroyed in verses 10 and 11. And what we need to keep in mind is that Eliphaz is sort of suspecting that Job has become one of these wicked men.
10 The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the fierce lion,
[and/but] the teeth of the young lions, are broken.
11 The [old/mature] lion perisheth for lack of prey,
and the stout lion’s whelps are scattered abroad.
And that mention of whelps – or cubs – of lions – is the first of a few times where Eliphaz appears to be pretty oblivious to the pain that Job would have still had regarding the loss of his children.
You can imagine a man like Job who is heartbroken over the loss of his children – only to have a man like Eliphaz make a bold and confident statement that could be construed as blaming Job’s supposed wickedness for the death of his children.
As I say, Eliphaz will do that again in this section.
In addition, Eliphaz is starting to indicate that he thinks that Job is wicked – and that’s why these bad things have happened to him. And of course we know that’s not true because of chapters 1 and 2 of this book.
But Eliphaz doesn’t have access to that information at this point. And he’s not asking Job any questions. All Eliphaz can do is judge Job based on his own personal experiences in this life.
Job 4 Commentary | Eliphaz’s Vision
And so, at this point, Eliphaz wants to relate a vision he supposedly had starting in verse 12.
12 Now a thing was secretly brought to me,
and mine ear received a little thereof.
13 In thoughts from the visions of the night,
when deep sleep falleth on men,
14 Fear came upon me, and trembling,
which made all my bones to shake.
15 Then a [spirit/breath of air] passed before my face;
the hair of my flesh stood up:
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,
17 Shall mortal man be [more just than/just before] God?
shall a man be [more pure than/pure before] his maker?
And it’s more likely that this vision of Eliphaz is asking if it’s possible for man to be just or righteous in God’s sight – rather than if man can be more righteous than God.
And actually, we’ve already had this question determined for us in the first and second chapters of this book. It was established there that Job was a righteous man.
So, Eliphaz has this experiential vision that – in question form – denies that man can be righteous before God. But we have God’s word in Job chapters 1 and 2 that tells us that this is possible.
Eliphaz then relies too heavily on his experience. He needs to – and we need to – rely on God’s word and interpret our experience through that – rather than the other way around.
Job 4 Commentary | Angels
Well, now, Eliphaz is now going to use a “greater-to-lesser” argument to establish the point he just made – that man cannot be righteous before God. Verse 18.
18 Behold, he put no trust in his servants; [who are these “servants”?…]
and his angels he charged with folly:
So, Eliphaz says that God blames angels for their sin. And he apparently did just that at some point when Lucifer rebelled against him.
OK, so far so good.
Job 4 Commentary | Men
But now, Eliphaz is going to focus on the lesser being of mankind. And he focuses on the weakness of man in comparison with the angels – whom apparently God puts no trust in.
19 How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay,
whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed [before/like] the moth?
20 They are destroyed [from/between] morning [to/and] evening:
they perish for ever without any regarding it.
21 Doth not their [excellency which is in them/excessive wealth] go away?
they die, even without wisdom.
OK, so what Eliphaz just said there seems somewhat reasonable. God had to judge angels for their sin. He’s right about that, from what we know in Scripture.
But he doesn’t seem to be quite right about man’s inability to be righteous before God. Job was. We heard God say it twice. The narrator himself said it at least once beside that.
So, again, Eliphaz isn’t quite right in what he’s saying.
And that’s how we end chapter 4. Continue to our Job 5 CommentaryTags: Old Testament Poetry Old Testament Wisdom