Then answered Eliphaz the Temanite, and said,
Verses 1, 2. - Then answered Eliphaz the Temanite, and said, Should a wise man utter vain knowledge! literally, knowledge of wind - knowledge, i.e. which is vain, idle, inflated, without solidity or substance. Job, as setting up to be "a wise man," should not have indulged in such empty and foolish speaking. It is observable that Eliphaz does not point out what part of Job's discourses he considers objectionable, but condemns the whole of them under this broad and general description, which even he could not have regarded as applicable to more than a portion of what Job had said. And fill his belly with the east wind? The east wind was regarded as the worst of winds. In Palestine it blew from the great Syrian and North Arabian desert, and was of the nature of a sirocco. (On its deleterious effects, see Genesis 41:6, 23; Jeremiah 18:17; Ezekiel 17:10; Ezekiel 19:12; Ezekiel 27:26; Hosea 13:15, etc.)
Should a wise man utter vain knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind?
Should he reason with unprofitable talk? or with speeches wherewith he can do no good?
Verse 3. - Should he reason with unprofitable talk! Such, Eliphaz implies, had been Job's talk, altogether idle and unprofitable. A wise man should have abstained from such profitless arguments. They were speeches wherewith he could do no good.
Yea, thou castest off fear, and restrainest prayer before God.
Verse 4. - Yea, thou castest off fear. To Eliphaz, Job's words - his bold expostulations (Job 13:3, 15, 22, etc.), his declarations that he knows he will be justified (Job 13:8), and that God will be his Salvation (Job 13:16) - seem to imply that he has cast off altogether the fear of God, and is entirely devoid of reverence. Some of his expressions certainly seem over-bold; but, on the other hand, his sense of God's purity, perfectness, and transcendent power is continually manifest, and should have saved him from the rude reproach here launched against him (comp. Job 9:1-13; Job 12:24 25; 13:11, 21, etc.). And restrainest prayer before God; rather, and hinderest devout meditation before God. Eliphaz means that Job expresses himself in a way so cf. fensive to devout souls, that he disturbs their minds and prevents them from indulging in those pious meditations on the Divine goodness which would otherwise occupy them (comp. Psalm 119:97). Thus, according to Eliphaz, Job is not only irreligious himself, but the cause of irreligion in others.
For thy mouth uttereth thine iniquity, and thou choosest the tongue of the crafty.
Verse 5. - For thy mouth uttereth thine iniquity. Some render, "Thine iniquity teacheth thy mouth," causing it to utter such profane speeches (Vulgate, Dillmann, Canon Cook, Revised Version); but the translation of the Authorized Version is defensible on grammatical grounds, and yields a good sense, so that no alteration is necessary. And thou choosest the tongue of the crafty; or, the tongue of the subtle (comp. Genesis 3:1, where the epithet assigned to the serpent is the same). Eliphaz probably means to tax Job with cloaking his real impiety under a pretence of religiousness.
Thine own mouth condemneth thee, and not I: yea, thine own lips testify against thee.
Verse 6. - Thine own mouth condemneth thee. So of a greater than Job it was said, "He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death" (Matthew 26:65, 66). Malevolence delights in misunderstanding and misinterpreting the utterances of the righteous. And not I. A weak disclaimer! As if Job's supposed guilt did not depend on the construction put upon his words. Yea, thine own lips testify against thee. Therefore, "what further need of witnesses?"
Art thou the first man that was born? or wast thou made before the hills?
Verse 7. - Art thou the first man that was born? That is, "Dost thou claim to have the wisdom of that first human intelligence, which, proceeding direct from God (Genesis 1:27), was without fault or flaw - a perfect intelligence, which judged all things aright?" It is not clear that Eliphaz had ever heard of Adam; but he evidently believed in a "first man," from whom all others were descended, and he attributed to this first man a mind and intellect surpassing those of all other men. His question is, of course, rather a scoff than an inquiry. He knows that Job makes no such foolish pretence; but he throws it in his teeth that, from what he has said, men might suppose he took some such view of himself. Or wast thou made before the hills? This is a taunt of the same kind as the previous one, but intensified. Wisdom is the result of experience. Art thou older than all the rest of us - older than the earth itself, than "the everlasting hills"? There were Greeks who claimed to be ethnically προσέληνοι, "older than the moon," but no inhabitant of earth was ever so foolish as to imagine himself individually more ancient than the earth on which he lived.
Hast thou heard the secret of God? and dost thou restrain wisdom to thyself?
Verse 8. - Hast thou heard the secret of God? or, Hast thou been a hearer in the secret counsel of God? (comp. Jeremiah 23:18, "Who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord, and hath perceived and hoard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it?"). No mortal man was ever admitted to the secret counsel of the Most Highest (comp. Romans 11:34). And dost thou restrain wisdom to thyself? or, Dost thou confine (appropriate) wisdom to thyself? i.e. Dost thou suppose that thou art the only wise man in all the world? (comp. Job 12:2, where Job had brought the same charge against his three friends).
What knowest thou, that we know not? what understandest thou, which is not in us?
Verse 9. - What knowest thou, that we know not? So far as worldly wisdom went, this was probably quite true. Job was not more advanced in knowledge than Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. But he had a keener spiritual insight. He was wiser in the "wisdom which is from above." Perplexed and confused as were his thoughts concerning the Divine government of the universe, they were nearer the truth, more worthy of the Divine nature, than those of his adversaries. In his reply, without claiming any special wisdom, he pours contempt on their pretensions to spiritual understanding (Job 17:4, 10). What understandest thou, which is not in us? A mere repetition of the first member of the verse in different words.
With us are both the grayheaded and very aged men, much elder than thy father.
Verse 10. - With us are both the greyheaded and very aged men. "With us" seems to mean "of our party," or "on our side." Eliphaz claims that all the greybeards of the time, as well as all the ancient men of past times (comp. Job 8:8, and below, ver. 18), are on his side. and think as he does. Much elder than thy father. Men, i.e. not merely of the preceding, but of much more distant generations His Latin to be supported by the voice of antiquity was, no doubt, in strict accordance with fact.
Are the consolations of God small with thee? is there any secret thing with thee?
Verse 11. - Are the consolations of God small with thee? By "the consolations of God" Eliphaz probably means the hopes which he and his friends had held out, speaking in God's Name, that if Job would humble himself, and confess his guilt, and sue to God for pardon, he would be restored to favour, recover his prosperity, and live to a good old age in tranquil happiness (see Job 5:18-27; Job 8:20-22; Job 11:13-19). He wishes to know if Job thinks lightly of all this, regards it as of small account, will make no effort to obtain the blessings held out to him. This is all reasonable enough from his standpoint, that Job is conscious of secret heinous guilt; but it can make no impression on Job, who is conscious of the reverse. Is there any secret thing with thee? rather, And is the word [of small account that dealeth] gently with thee? Eliphaz considers that his own words and those of his two companions have been soft words, dealing "gently" with Job's refractoriness, and that Job ought to have been impressed by them.
Why doth thine heart carry thee away? and what do thy eyes wink at,
Verse 12. - Why doth thine heart carry thee away? or, Whither doth thine heart carry thee away? i.e. to what a pitch of presumption and audacity do thy proud thoughts carry thee? And what do thy eyes wink at? or, Wherefore do thy eyes roll? The verb used occurs only in this place. Its meaning is very doubtful.
That thou turnest thy spirit against God, and lettest such words go out of thy mouth?
Verse 13 - That thou turnest thy spirit against God. To Eliphaz and his companions, the wild remonstrances of Job, his vehement expostulations and despairing outcries, are, one and all, nothing better than indications of a proud and rebellious spirit, that sets itself up against the Almighty, and openly contends with him. They view Job, after the speeches that he has made, as a declared rebel, and no longer regard it as incumbent upon them to use any "gentleness" in their reprimands. And lettest such words go out of thy mouth? It is remarkable that neither Eliphaz nor either of his friends ever points out what particular words of Job they object to and regard as impious, so as to give him the opportunity of defending, explaining, or retracting them. They take refuge in vague generalities, with which it is impossible to grapple. But this vagueness and want of logical accuracy is characteristic of the Oriental nations, who scarcely ever reason cogently or bring matters to a point.
What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?
Verse 14. - What is man, that he should be clean? A vain "beating of the air." Eliphaz had asserted the same truth in his first speech, when he said, "Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his Maker? Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he taxeth with folly: how much less in them that dwell in houses of clay whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth?" (Job 4:17-19); and Job had given his full assent to it, when he exclaimed, "I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand" (Job 9:2, 3). The true question was not whether Job or any other man was" clean," i.e. wholly sinless but whether Job had sinned so deeply and grievously that his sufferings were the natural and just punishment for his sins. And a mere repetition of the statement that all men were sinful and unclean was off the point - nihil ad rem-altogether futile and superfluous. And he that is born of a woman, that he should be righteous? (setup. Job 25:4). The clause is a mere variant of the preceding one.
Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight.
Verse 15. - Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; rather, in his holy ones (see the Revised Version). The word "saint" has in course of time come to be so exclusively attached to holy men' that it can no longer be applied, without danger of being misunderstood, to angels. Eliphaz here, as in Job 5:1, speaks not of holy men, but of the holy angels. Without taxing them with sin, he is strongly convinced of their imperfection - their defective wisdom (Job 5:18), weakness, and untrustworthiness. His views are decidedly peculiar, and not borne out by the rest of Scripture. Yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight. The material heavens are probably intended. That limpid liquid blue in which the human eye sees no stain or speck, to the Divine eye is tinged with uncleanness The idea is that neither animate nor inanimate nature contains any form of being that is absolutely without spot or blemish. In God alone is there perfect purity.
How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?
Verse 16. - How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water? rather, How much less one that is abominable and impure a man that drinketh in iniquity etc.? It cannot be doubted that Job is individually pointed at. Not mankind generally, but a particular man, is intended; and the particular man can be none other than Job. Thus we see how the progress of the controversy has tended to exasperate the disputants, and change the "comforters" from smooth-tongued friends into open enemies and accusers.
I will shew thee, hear me; and that which I have seen I will declare;
Verse 17. - I will show thee, hear me; and that which I have seen I will declare. Eliphaz here introduces, with an elaborate preface (vers. 17-19) what is either a citation from a book, as Professor Lee thinks, or a studied description by himself of the proceedings and consequent sufferings of the wicked. This description extends from ver. 20 to the end of the chapter, and is plainly levelled at Job, though it may originally have been intended to apply to some other person or persons.
Which wise men have told from their fathers, and have not hid it:
Verse 18. - Which wise men have told from their fathers, and have not hid it (comp. Job 8:8-10). Whether the words are his own or not, the sentiments, at any rate, Eliphaz declares to have come down to him from remote times. The "wise men" to whom he refers may have been men of the Beni Kedem (Job 1:3). who were noted for their wisdom (1 Kings 4:30), or possibly Egyptians or Babylonians. Books containing moral aphorisms and instructions were certainly composed both in Egypt and in Babyhmia at a very ancient date (see 'Records of the Past,' vol. 2. pp. 11-16; vol. 3. p. 135; vol. 7. pp. 119-122).
Unto whom alone the earth was given, and no stranger passed among them.
Verse 19. - Unto whom alone the earth was given. The reference is clearly to a very remote time, when men were comparatively few, and lived in quiet possession of their own lands, undisturbed by invasions, wars, or struggles for territory. Professor Lee thinks that the times immediately after, and even those before, the Flood are glanced at; while Schultens regards Eliphaz as alluding to the first settlements of the Joktanidae in Arabia. In either case, the passage tells in favour or, and not against, the antiquity of the Book of Job, since it marks the composer as "living at a time when the memory of an age of patriarchal simplicity was yet fresh in men's minds" (Canon Cook). And no stranger passed among them. Races were not mixed up one with another, and so the purity of primitive doctrine remained undisturbed.
The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days, and the number of years is hidden to the oppressor.
Verses 20-35. - Schultens calls this "a magnificently elaborate oration, crowded with illustrations and metaphors, in which it is shown that the wicked cannot possibly escape being miserable, but that the punishment which they have so richly deserved assuredly awaits them, and is to be inflicted on them, as an example and terror to others, by a holy and just God, because, just as he loves virtue, so he pursues vice with a fierce and deadly hatred" ('Liber Jobi,' p. 104, edit. R. Grey). Verse 20. - The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days. Certainly an over-statement of the truth. With a much nearer approach to the facts of the case, the Psalmist remarked, "I was grieved at the wicked: I do also see the ungodly in such prosperity. For they are in no peril of death, but are lusty and strong. They come in no misfortune like other folk; neither are they plagued like other men" (Psalm 73:3-5). And the number of years is hidden to the oppressor; rather, even the number of years that is laid up for the oppressor. So Merx and the Revised Version. Another possible meaning is, "And a [small] number of years is laid up," etc. If we take the former view, we must regard the clause as exegetical of "all his days."
A dreadful sound is in his ears: in prosperity the destroyer shall come upon him.
Verse 21. - A dreadful sound is in his ears; literally, a sound of terrors. Fears of all kinds beset him, lest he should lose his prosperity. Sometimes they seem actually to sound in his ears. Prosper as he may, he feels that in prosperity the destroyer shall one day come upon him. "The destroyer" may be either the destroying angel, or the avenger of blood, or a robber-chief at the head of a band of marauders.
He believeth not that he shall return out of darkness, and he is waited for of the sword.
Verse 22. - He believeth not that he shall return out of darkness. He has no hope of recovering his prosperity, when calamity has once stricken him down, since he knows that his calamity is deserved, and feels that it is God's judgment upon him for his sins. And he is waited for of the sword. He feels as if an enemy was lying in wait for him at every turn, with his sword drawn, ready to slay him. Professor Lee compares the words of Cain, "It shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me" (Genesis 4:14).
He wandereth abroad for bread, saying, Where is it? he knoweth that the day of darkness is ready at his hand.
Verse 23. - He wandereth abroad for bread, saying, Where is it? This, again, might appropriately have been said of Cain, who was "a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth" (Genesis 4:14), and may at times have had difficulty in procuring his daily bread. At any rate, it is the frequent experience of the wicked who lose their ill-gotten gains, and are brought down to abject poverty, and actual want of the necessaries of life. "He wanders abroad to be the food of vultures" is a translation of the passage suggested by some moderns (as Merx), and has the support of the Septuagint, κατατέτακται εῖς σῖτα ψυψίν. But it requires a slight change in the pointing. He knoweth that the day of darkness is nigh at hand. "The day of darkness" is probably the day of his decease: this he "knows," or at any rate, surmises, to be near.
Trouble and anguish shall make him afraid; they shall prevail against him, as a king ready to the battle.
Verse 24. - Trouble and anguish shall make him afraid; they shall prevail against him, as a king ready to the battle. Eliphaz seems covertly to allude to Job's misfortunes, which came against him with such force, and crushed him as a mighty king crushes his foes in battle.
For he stretcheth out his hand against God, and strengtheneth himself against the Almighty.
Verse 25. - For he stretcheth out his hand against God. The wicked man ventures even to threaten the Almighty. So in Eastern legend Nimrod was supposed to have done, and in Greek legend the giants. And strengtheneth himself against the Almighty; rather, behaveth himself proudly. See the Revised Version, and compare Schultens, who renders the Hebrew יתגבּר, by "ferocius et insolentius se gessit."
He runneth upon him, even on his neck, upon the thick bosses of his bucklers:
Verse 26. - He runneth upon him, even on his neck; rather, with his neck. It is not God who runneth upon the wicked man, as our translators seem to have supposed, but the wicked man who rushes furiously against God. Like an infuriated bull, he makes his charge with his neck, i.e. with head lowered and neck stiffened, thinking to carry all before him. Upon the thick bosses of his bucklers; rather, with the thick bosses of his shield The metaphor of the bull is dropped, and God's enemy represented as charging him like a warrior, with the shield-arm outstretched, and the heavy bosses of the shield pressing him down.
Because he covereth his face with his fatness, and maketh collops of fat on his flanks.
Verse 27. - Because he covereth his face with his fatness. The ground and origin of the wicked man's audacity is his luxurious and intemperate living. In the days of his prosperity he pampered his body, freely indulged all his carnal appetites, and gave himself up to gluttony and gourmandism. This depraved his moral nature, separated between him and God, and finally produced in him the insolence and presumption described in vers. 25, 26 And maketh collops of fat on his flanks. The same idea, only very slightly varied, as so often in the second member of a verse.
And he dwelleth in desolate cities, and in houses which no man inhabiteth, which are ready to become heaps.
Verse 28. - And he dwelleth in desolate cities. Blot only was he sensual and gluttenous, but he was covetous and rapacious also. He dwelt in cities which his hand had desolated - in houses which no man inhabiteth - since he had driven their owners from them - and which were ready to become heaps, i.e. were in a ruinous condition.
He shall not be rich, neither shall his substance continue, neither shall he prolong the perfection thereof upon the earth.
Verse 29. - He shall not be rich; i.e. he shall not increase, or maintain, his riches. Neither shall his substance continue, His riches shall make themselves wings, and take their departure. Neither shall he prolong the perfection thereof upon the earth; rather, neither shall their possessions be extended upon the earth. (So Rosenmuller, Professor Lee, and Renan.) The transition from the singular to the plural is not unusual, when it is a class, and not an individual, that is really spoken of.
He shall not depart out of darkness; the flame shall dry up his branches, and by the breath of his mouth shall he go away.
Verse 30. - He shall not depart out of darkness (comp. ver. 23, where the wicked man is threatened with "a day of darkness"). When the darkness once falls, it shall continue; there shall be no escaping out of it The flame shall dry up his branches; rather, a flame. The "flame" intended seems to be the wrath of God. ' And by the breath of his mouth; i.e. "of God's mouth" (comp. Job 4:9). Shall he go away; or, pass away; i.e. disappear, be consumed, perish.
Let not him that is deceived trust in vanity: for vanity shall be his recompence.
Verse 31. - Let not him that is deceived trust in vanity; rather, let him not trust in vanity (or, in falsehood)' deceiving himself (see the Revised Version). All the supports and stays of the wicked are vanity - unsubstantial, futile, utterly vain and useless. It is only a man who "deceives himself" that can trust in them. For vanity shall be his recompense. Such as do so trust gain nothing by it; they sow vanity and reap vanity.
It shall be accomplished before his time, and his branch shall not be green.
Verse 32. - It shall be accomplished before his time. "It [i.e. the recompense] shall be accomplished [or, 'paid in full '] before its time [i.e. before payment is due]." A vague threat, probably intended to signify that death will come upon the wicked man prematurely, before he has lived out halt the days of his natural life. And his branch shall not be green; i.e. he shall wither and fade, like a tree not planted by the waterside (Psalm 1:3).
He shall shake off his unripe grape as the vine, and shall cast off his flower as the olive.
Verse 33. - He shall shake off his unripe grape as the vine. Blight and untimely cold cause the vine to drop its grapes before they are mature. So the wicked man will be deprived, one by one, of his possessions. And shall cast off his flower as the olive. The olive often sheds its blossoms in vast numbers. "In spring," says Canon Tristram, "one may see the bloom, on the slightest breath of wind, shed like snowflakes, and perishing by millions" ('Natural History of the Bible,' p. 375). According to some commentators, this happens regularly in alternate years.
For the congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate, and fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery.
Verse 34. - For the congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate; or, shall be sterile or barren like the vine and olive of the preceding verse. The entire company of the wicked shall suffer this punishment. And fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery. God's lightning shall fall from heaven, and burn up the tents (i.e. the habitations) of those who take bribes to pervert justice. It is suggested that Eliphaz intends to accuse Job of the two secret sins of hypocrisy and corruption.
They conceive mischief, and bring forth vanity, and their belly prepareth deceit.
Verse 35. - They conceive mischief, and bring forth vanity; rather, as in the margin, iniquity. And their belly prepareth deceit. Internally, i.e. in their inner nature - in their heart, as we should any - they make ready deceits. "The viscera," as Professor Lee observes, "are often made by the Hebrews the seat of thought."