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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Job 5

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Eliphaz Explains the Cause of Job's Troubles

A. The fate of the foolish man.

1. (Job 5:1-7) Eliphaz appeals to common wisdom.

"Call out now;
Is there anyone who will answer you?
And to which of the holy ones will you turn?
For wrath kills a foolish man,
And envy slays a simple one.

a. Call out now; is there anyone who will answer you? Eliphaz begged his friend Job to listen to reason and to agree with the common wisdom regarding Job and his problem. If he would merely consult any godly person, they would tell him the same as Eliphaz did (to which of the holy ones will you turn?)

b. For wrath kills a foolish man: Eliphaz did not directly accuse Job; he more suggested that Job do all he could to not be like a foolish man who would be killed by wrath.

2. (Job 5:3-7) The fate of the foolish man.

I have seen the foolish taking root,
But suddenly I cursed his dwelling place.
His sons are far from safety,
They are crushed in the gate,
And there is no deliverer.
Because the hungry eat up his harvest,
Taking it even from the thorns,
And a snare snatches their substance.
For affliction does not come from the dust,
Nor does trouble spring from the ground;
Yet man is born to trouble,
As the sparks fly upward."

a. His sons are far from safety: These were backhanded references to Job and his own sons. Eliphaz argued that the fact that such great disaster fell upon them proves that they were foolish and in sin.

i. Again, we notice Eliphaz's frame of reference: I have seen. He speaks from his own experience and observation on life.

ii. His sons are far from safety, they are crushed in the gate, and there is not deliverer: "There is reference here to a custom which I have often had occasion to notice, that in the Eastern countries the court-house, or tribunal of justice, was at the GATE of the city; here the magistrates attended, and hither the plaintiff and defendant came for justice." (Clarke)

b. Affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble spring from the ground: Eliphaz believed that this trouble did not come to Job from nowhere; it didn't just spring from the ground. The implication is clear: this affliction came upon Job from God.

i. "Trouble does not sprout up like weeks in the field. He was implying that one must sow and cultivate trouble." (Smick)

c. Yet man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward: This point connects with the one Eliphaz just made. Trouble doesn't come to man from nowhere; it comes as a judgment from God, or at least because man has sown trouble so now he reaps it. Since just as it is true that as the sparks fly upward, it is also true that man is born to trouble, then it can also be said that all men sin and deserve the affliction and trouble that comes to them.

i. As the sparks fly upward: Literally, the Hebrew can be translated, as the sons of Resheph fly upward. "We cannot hope for further progress until we can find out who 'the sons of Resheph' are. Since Resheph is a Canaanite god about whom we now know a great deal, the possibility must now be faced that we have here another scrap of imagery from old myths." (Andersen)

B. Eliphaz defends God.

1. (Job 5:8-16) Eliphaz praises God's omnipotence and justice.

"But as for me, I would seek God,
And to God I would commit my cause;
Who does great things, and unsearchable,
Marvelous things without number.
He gives rain on the earth,
And sends waters on the fields.
He sets on high those who are lowly,
And those who mourn are lifted to safety.
He frustrates the devices of the crafty,
So that their hands cannot carry out their plans.
He catches the wise in their own craftiness,
And the counsel of the cunning comes quickly upon them.
They meet with darkness in the daytime,
And grope at noontime as in the night.
But He saves the needy from the sword,
From the mouth of the mighty, And from their hand.
So the poor have hope,
And injustice shuts her mouth."

a. As for me, I would seek God, and to God I would commit my cause: Eliphaz said it tactfully, yet he still said it - that Job was not seeking God and was not committing his cause to God in his affliction.

b. Who does great things, and unsearchable, marvelous things without number: According to the counsel of Eliphaz, this is why Job should seek God and commit his way to Him. It is because God is a great God, great in both His power over creation (He gives rain on the earth) and in His moral justice (he frustrates the devices of the crafty … injustice shuts her mouth).

i. Again, the implication is clear. Eliphaz believed that the justice of God, at this present time, worked against Job because Job was in sin and refused to see it. Yet if Job would only see this and repent, perhaps the justice of God would once again work on his behalf.

ii. "These lines are a fine example of hymn genre in OT poetry. A similar creedal hymn appears in Isaiah 44:24-28. That is why the apostle Paul could cite a line from Job 5:13 in 1 Corinthians 3:19: 'He catches the wise in their craftiness.' But in Eliphaz's case what is absolutely true is misapplied - the sick from is not the place for theological strictures that may turn out to do more harm than good. . . . Great truths misapplied only hurt more those who are already hurting." (Smick)

iii. He saves the needy from the sword, from the mouth of the mighty: "Thus the meaning is the same as in Psalm 57:4; 55:21; 64:3. . . . 'Mouth' is put for the edge of the sword." (Bullinger)

2. (Job 5:17-26) Eliphaz attributes Job's suffering to God's chastening for sin in his life.

"Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects;
Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.
For He bruises, but He binds up;
He wounds, but His hands make whole.
He shall deliver you in six troubles,
Yes, in seven no evil shall touch you.
In famine He shall redeem you from death,
And in war from the power of the sword.
You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue,
And you shall not be afraid of destruction when it comes.
You shall laugh at destruction and famine,
And you shall not be afraid of the beasts of the earth.
For you shall have a covenant with the stones of the field,
And the beasts of the field shall be at peace with you.
You shall know that your tent is in peace;
You shall visit your dwelling and find nothing amiss.
You shall also know that your descendants shall be many,
And your offspring like the grass of the earth.
You shall come to the grave at a full age,
As a sheaf of grain ripens in its season."

a. Happy is the man whom God corrects: With poetic power, Eliphaz emphasized his point that Job's problems are because God corrects His sinful children, and Job is one of those sinful children.

b. Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty: Eliphaz did not wish to push Job into despair. He believed that Job should not despise this correcting work in his life, but instead humble himself under it, forsake his sin, and learn from it.

c. He bruises, but He binds up … He shall deliver you in six troubles: Eliphaz wanted to encourage Job further. "Job, God will heal your wounds and deliver you if you will confess your sin and turn to Him." Eliphaz continued and described in detail all the blessings of restoration that would come to Job's life if he would only repent and turn to God (you shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue … you shall laugh at destruction and famine … you shall know that your tent is in peace, and so on).

i. You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue: "Perhaps no evil is more dreadful than the scourge of the tongue: evil-speaking, detraction, backbiting, calumny, slander, tale-bearing, whispering, and scandalizing, are some of the terms which we use when endeavouring to express the baleful influence and effects of that member, which is a world of fire, kindled from the nethermost hell." (Clarke)

ii. Spurgeon preached this sermon on the words "You shall come to the grave at a full age, as a sheaf of grain ripens in its season." These were his points of development regarding the death of a Christian:

- Death is inevitable (You shall come)
- Death is acceptable (You shall come)
- Death is timely (at a full age)
- Death is honorable (as a sheaf of grain ripens in its season)

iii. "Even as the color of the wheat is golden, so that it looks more beauteous than when the greenness of its verdure is on it, so the gray-headed man has a crown of glory on his head. He is glorious in his weakness, more than the young man in his strength, or the maiden in her beauty. Is not a shock of corn a beautiful picture of the state of man, moreover, because very soon it must be taken home? The reaper is coming." (Spurgeon)

3. (Job 5:27) Eliphaz declares his confidence in his words.

"Behold, this we have searched out;
It is true.
Hear it, and know for yourself."

a. Behold, this we have searched out: Eliphaz wanted to persuade Job, so he gave his statement the authority of communal knowledge (we have searched out). "Job, we all together here - your friends and counselors - have investigated this carefully and know what we are talking about."

i. It is worthy to remember that the Lord singled Eliphaz out at the end of the book for a special rebuke: the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has" (Job 42:7). "Eliphaz's fault is not that his doctrine is unsound; it is his ineptness as a counselor. True words may be thin medicine for a man in the depths." (Andersen)

ii. "One thing is clear. The words of Eliphaz, however well meant, fall wide of their mark. Truth after truth has been uttered by him. But these truths bring no comfort or conviction to his afflicted friend. To him this wholesome food seems poison." (Bradley)

b. It is true: Eliphaz said this with absolute confidence. "Job, God's principle of cause and effect together with your reaction to your calamity proves that you were and are in sin and you must repent to be restored." To Eliphaz and the rest of Job's friends this was so obvious that it did not need to be proven; he simply confidently explained, "It is true."

i. "It is not what Eliphaz knew that is wrong; it is what he was ignorant of - God's hidden purpose - that made all his beautiful poetry and grand truth only a snare to Job." (Smick)

ii. "Aspirin is a good and effective medicine. But it is useless against cancer. Similarly, so much of the advice that Eliphaz and the other friends dole out is, in its own right, correct and good and true. But because it is wrongly applied it becomes useless. More than useless, it is a lie." (Mason)

iii. Eliphaz preaches a God who can be figured out. For Eliphaz, there are no unknowns behind the scenes; there is no drama or purpose in the heavens that motivate what God does and what He allows to be done. However, we know this heavenly drama from the first two chapters, and we see how shallow and unknowing the counsel of Eliphaz was. Job didn't know what we know, but he could feel that the counsel of Eliphaz was wrong in his situation.

iv. "Preconceptions exist in our own head; if we start out with the preconception that God will never allow the innocent to perish and then we see a righteous man perishing, we will have to say, 'You cannot be a righteous man, because my preconception tells me that if you were, God would not allow you to suffer; therefore you are proved to be a bad man.' " (Chambers) It was this exact reasoning on the part of the religious authorities of Jesus' day that motivated them to put him on the cross, and to mock Him at His crucifixion.

v. The famous atheist Huxley said, "I object to Christians - they know too much about God." So did Eliphaz and his friends. "If the study of the Book of Job is making us reverent with what we don't understand, we are gaining insight. There is suffering before which you cannot say a word … all you can do is remain dumb and leave room for God to come in as He likes." (Chambers)

c. Hear it, and know for yourself: In the mind of Eliphaz, Job only needed to accept these obvious truths in order to find the answers to his current crisis.

i. "Their persistent mistake was that of attempting to explain everything by their knowledge which, spacious as it was, was altogether too narrow." (Morgan)

ii. "The speech ends with a somewhat self-complacent exhortation to the poor, tortured man: 'We have searched it, so it is.' We wise men pledge our wisdom and our reputation that this is true. Great is authority. An ounce of sympathy would have done more to commend the doctrine than a ton of dogmatic self-confidence." (Maclaren)

iii. "It is one of the supreme ironies of this book that only after the arrival of these three bosom friends of his does Job really lose a grip on himself and fall off the edge into despair. Their pedantic theology, their reforming zeal, and their subtle slights are more than the poor man can take, and undoubtedly this backhanded betrayal by his friends is Job's final and most severe trial." (Mason)

© 2007 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

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Study Guide for Psalm 1 Next Book →
Study Guide for Job 4 ← Prior Chapter
Study Guide for Job 6 Next Chapter →
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