Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said,…
Eliphaz again takes up the word. He does not contest Job's position, that life presents many examples of the prosperity of the godless, and of the calamities of the godly, but he still maintains that only grievous sins, such as he proceeds to specify - oppression, hard-heartedness, injustice to his neighbours - could be the cause of his misfortunes and miseries (vers. 2-10). He then proceeds to give an earnest warning against further indulgence in profane thoughts and words, because the fatal end of the wicked man, whatever his course may have been, can be no other than dreadful, like that of all wicked men from olden time (vers. 11-20). Then comes an invitation to repentance and conversion, and to the enjoyment of the blessings promised to the penitent by God (vers. 21-30).
I. ACCUSATION OF JOB AS A GREAT SINNER. (Vers. 2-10.)
1. These questions taken together (vers. 2-5) form a syllogism (Zockler). The major premiss (vers 2, 3) expresses the thought: in God, the all-sufficing One, who is not affected by man's good or evil, the cause of Job's unhappiness cannot lie; the minor premiss shows that if Job himself bears the blame, this cannot possibly be because of his reverence for God (ver. 4); and the conclusion is drawn to the prejudice of the moral character of Job (ver. 5). "Does man bring profit to God? No, the man of sense profits himself." God needs nothing, and gains nothing, whether man's conduct be wise or foolish; therefore if he has acted wisely, man is but cousulting his own interest. "Is it an advantage to the Almighty, if thou art just? or a gain, if thou makest thy ways sound?' i.e. pure and free from blame and punishment. Therefore it cannot be selfish or arbitrary motives which determine God to afflict men. "Will he chastise thee for thy reverence, go with thee to judgment?" If the reason of your doom is to be found in yourself, can it be reverence to him for which he punishes you? It must be the very opposite. Then comes the conclusion, "Is thy wickedness not great, and of thy transgressions no end?" On the rigid principles of Eliphaz and his companions, no other conclusion can be drawn. "The things said are good, but they are carnally understood. For the wisdom of the flesh thinks that blessing outwardly belongs in this world to the godly, and to the ungodly, curses; but the truth teaches that the godly enjoy blessing in this life under the guise of cursing, life in death, salvation in seeming condemnation; but, on the contrary, the ungodly are cursed under the show of blessing, are dead while they live, are condemned though in seeming safety" (Brenz).
2. Enumeration of Job's supposed sins (vers. 6-10). They are the sins of the rich and powerful, such as Job had been. "For thou didst take a pledge of thy brother without cause," thine abundance rendering such measures against a poor neighbour unnecessary. Note the indignation with which the Bible ever treats sins against the poor and needy. "And stripped off the clothes of the naked," i.e. the ragged, the scantily clothed. Common humanity would forbid the taking of the last garment of such in pledge; and the Law of Moses strictly, prohibited it (Exodus 22:25,. sqq.; Deuteronomy 24:6, 10, sqq.) "Thou gavest... not the thirsty water to drink, and didst refuse the hungry bread;" comp. Isaiah 58:10, and the beautiful contrast in the words of Christ concerning giving the cup of cold water to the little one (Matthew 10:42). "And the powerful man [literally, 'the man of arm'], his was the land, and the man of consideration was to dwell in it." A picture, as the speaker supposes, true to the life of what Job had been. "Widows thou didst send empty away, and the arms of the orphans were crushed'" i.e. their rights and their resources, all that they could rely on (Psalm 37:17; Ezekiel 30:22). "Therefore snares are round about thee, and terror comes upon thee suddenly" (comp. Job 18:11; Proverbs 3:25). The truth of God's special care over widows and orphans, over the poor, the prisoners, and the oppressed is thus incidentally brought out with force. Sins against them are amongst the vilest that cry to Heaven (Sirach 35:14, 15, 18, sqq.).
II. WARNING OF FURTHER PUNISHMENT. (Vers. 11-20.)
1. "Or darkness that thou canst not see, and a flood of waters covers thee" - the night of woe and the deep misery which have come upon him in consequence of his sins (ver. 1). "Is not Eloah heaven-high?" - infinitely exalted - "and do but behold the head [or, 'highest'] of the stars, how exalted they are!" (ver. 12). Then how idle is every thought of the limitation of his power, and every doubt of the absolute justice of his doings! In vers. 13,14 Job's doubts of the justice of God's government are construed by the speaker as denials of God's knowledge of earthly things and his providence over mankind, like the Epicureans in ancient and the deists in modern times. "And thou sayest, What knoweth God? will he judge through the dark clouds? clouds are his covering, that he seeth not; and he walketh on the circumference of the heaven," deigning not to give heed to this little and insignificant earth. Similar expressions of ancient scepticism are found in Psalm 73:11; Psalm 94:7; Isaiah 29:15; Ezekiel 8:12. Its refutation is in the words of Jeremiah 23:23, sqq.. God is not afar off, but near to every creature - not far from every one of us (vers 27, 28; Acts 17.). To think that God is too exalted to attend to our mean affairs, is to set out on the road of unbelief, sin, and ruin. Rather, because God is so exalted, nothing is hidden from him. He is as manifest in the microscopic dust as in the planetary worlds. He knows our most secret deeds, our inmost feelings, our sufferings that most retire from the notice of others (Jeremiah 23:23, 24; Psalm 139:1, sqq.; Matthew 6:8; 1 John 3:20).
2. The overthrow of the godless. (Vers. 15-20.) "Wilt thou observe the way of the old world, which men of perdition trod?" - alluding, perhaps, to those before the Deluge (2 Peter 2:5). Swept away before their time, their foundation was poured away like a stream, so that they could not remain (ver. 16). These ungodly ones had said to God, "Depart from us;" had asked, "What can the Almighty do for us?" (ver. 17). Job had in the previous chapter (vers. 14, 15) put words like these into the mouth of the prosperous bad men; and now Eliphaz ascribes them to the subject of his description, to show Job that he approves up to a certain point of the representation he had made of the relation of external happiness to human guilt (Zockler). "And yet it was he that had filled their houses with blessing," giving the contrast between the sudden Divine judgments and the previous prosperous condition which suggested their exemption from punishment. "The counsel of the wicked be far from me!" exclaims the speaker (ver. 18), echoing Job (Job 21:16), as if to imply only one who, like myself, has no doubt of God's retributive justice, may dare thus to speak. The wish of the godly is that God may draw near, ever nearer, to him; that of the ungodly is always, "Remove, depart from us!" "They would willingly leave God his heaven, if he would only leave them their earthly comfort "(Starke). Ver. 19, the overthrow of the wicked is a subject of rejoicing even of derision, to the righteous and innocent, according to the proverb, "He laughs best who laughs last" (comp. Psalm 58:10, 11; Psalm 64:9, 20). Ver. 20 contains the words of triumph of the godly, "Verily, our adversaries are destroyed, and their remainder the fire has consumed." Contrast the spirit of Christ (Matthew 23:37; Luke 19:42, sqq.; James 5:19, 20).
III. EXHORTATION TO REPENTANCE AND PROMISE OF SALVATION. (Vers. 21-30.)
1. Exhortation. "Make friends with him, and be at peace" (James 4:8), "thereby blessing will come to thee ' (ver. 21); "Take instruction from his mouth" (Proverbs 2:6). "If thou returnest to the Almighty, thou wilt be built again; if thou put wrong far from thy tents, and lay in the dust the precious metal, and under the gravle of the brooks the Ophir gold" - getting rid of it as a worthless thing - "then will the Almighty be thy Treasure, and silver in heaps" (vers. 23, 25; see on this sentiment the New Testament passages, Matthew 6:20, 33; Matthew 19:21; Luke 12:33; 1 Timothy 6:16-19). God's grace builds up what sin destroys. To enjoy that grace is competency, is wealth. Deus meus et cranial (Psalm 73:25, 26). "Let thy heart rely on God, and thou mayest cast away thy gold, lose it without care; the Almighty remains thine inviolable Treasure; whilst, on the other hand, without him the most troubled watching and anxiety are of no avail" (vide Gerlach).
2. Promises continued. (Vers. 26-30) "Yea, then thou writ delight thyself, in the Almighty, and lift up thy face to God" (ver. 26), in the freedom of a conscience without guilt (Job 11:15; comp. Psalm 37:4; Isaiah 58:14). "If thou prayest to him, he will hear thee, and thy vows thou wilt pay" (Psalm 22:25; Psalm 50:14; Psalm 61:8; Psalm 65:2). The vow is looked at in the light of promise rather than of duty; God will always grant so much that thou canst fulfil all thy vows. "If thou resolvest on anything, it will come to pass, and light shall beam on thy way. If they [the ways] go downwards, thou sayest, Up!" - a cry of triumph and thanksgiving. "And to the cast down he gives help. He will deliver the not-innocent, and he is delivered by the cleanness of thy hands" (vers. 28-30). For the sake of thy innocence, which thou shalt have regained, God will be gracious to others who need atonement for their guilt. Little does the Pharisaic speaker dream that it is he who will receive the pardon at God's hands for Job's sake (Job 42:8). The "prayer of a righteous man availeth much." At his intercession evil-doers may be spared, and not visited with the merited punishment (Genesis 18:23, 24; Ezekiel 14:14, sqq.). - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said,