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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Job 6

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Job Replies to Eliphaz: "What Does Your Arguing Prove?"

A. Job laments his affliction.

1. (Job 6:1-7) Job explains his rash words.

Then Job answered and said:
"Oh, that my grief were fully weighed,
And my calamity laid with it on the scales!
For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea;
Therefore my words have been rash.
For the arrows of the Almighty are within me;
My spirit drinks in their poison;
The terrors of God are arrayed against me.
Does the wild donkey bray when it has grass,
Or does the ox low over its fodder?
Can flavorless food be eaten without salt?
Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?
My soul refuses to touch them;
They are as loathsome food to me."

a. Then Job answered and said: Job's friends were kind enough to sit with him in sympathetic silence for some seven days (Job 2:13). Job broke his the silence with an anguished rant (Job 3), and Eliphaz responded with a poetic call to repentance (Job 4-5). Now Job will answer the words of Eliphaz the Temanite.

b. Oh, that my grief were fully weighed: Job's first response to the words of Eliphaz were to complain about the greatness of his suffering, because Eliphaz only made his suffering worse, with his well-intentioned but wrong analysis of Job's problem.

i. This was not only Job's feeling; it was also the judgment of God as revealed at the end of the Book of Job, where He said of Eliphaz and Job's other counselors: You have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has (Job 42:7).

c. Therefore my words have been rash: Job's outburst in Job 3 did not curse God, but it did come close. Job here admitted that his words were indeed rash, but explained that it was because of the excessive heaviness of his grief.

i. "Job declared, in effect, that he did not understand the cry because he did not know the pain." (Morgan)

d. The arrows of the Almighty are within me: Job explained why his suffering was so deep and his words were so rash. It was because he felt that God Himself had attacked and cursed him. He felt that God had shot arrows at him; had sent poison against him; and had arrayed His terrors against Job.

i. Job both opened (Job 6:4) and closed (Job 7:20) this speech with the picture of God shooting arrows in him. "There is an evident reference here to wounds inflicted by poisoned arrows, and to the burning fever occasioned by such wounds, producing such an intense parching thirst as to dry up all the moisture in the system, stop all the salivary ducts, thicken and inflame the blood, induce putrescency, and terminate in raging mania, producing the most terrifying images, from which the patient is relieved only by death." (Clarke)

ii. "Arrows; so fitly calls his afflictions, because, like arrows, they came upon him swiftly and suddenly, one after another, and that from on high, and they wounded him deeply and deadlily." (Poole)

e. Can flavorless food be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in the white of an egg? Job described how the words of Eliphaz "tasted" to him. They were weak and flavorless, and certainly did not give Job any health or strength.

i. "The speech, also, to which Job had listened from Eliphaz the Temanite did not put much sweetness into his mouth; for it was devoid of sympathy and consolation. If you read it at home you will see that it was worthy to be the first of a singular selection of galling utterances. . . . He had spoken as harshly and severely as if he were a judge addressing a criminal who was suffering no more than he deserved." (Spurgeon)

f. Does the wild donkey bray when it has grass? Job insisted that he had reason for his grief. The donkey doesn't bray and the ox doesn't low when they have enough food; in the same analogy, Job's isn't complaining without reason.

i. "The wail is always evident of a want. The wild ass does not bray when he has grass, nor the ox over his fodder." (Morgan)

2. (Job 6:8-10) Job longs for God to grant the escape of death.

"Oh, that I might have my request,
That God would grant me the thing that I long for!
That it would please God to crush me,
That He would loose His hand and cut me off!
Then I would still have comfort;
Though in anguish, I would exult,
He will not spare;
For I have not concealed the words of the Holy One."

a. That it would please God to crush me: Job returns to the theme of his complaint from Job 3, where he mourned the day of his birth and believed he would be better off day. Though Job never seems to have contemplated suicide, he wished God Himself would end his life.

i. "When the answer does not come, when instead of the release of cutting off, we have the continuity of pain, and a great silence, then let us remember this story: and remain confident that there is some explanation, and that when it comes, we shall thank God that He did not give us our request." (Morgan)

b. That He would loose His hand and cut me off: The idea may again have God as an archer shooting arrows at Job. He pleads that God might simply launch more arrows and end his life (cut me off).

c. I have not concealed the words of the Holy One: Here Job again insists on his basic innocence before God. The calamity in his life was not due to some sin such as concealing the words of the Holy One (perhaps better translated as that I had not denied the words of the Holy One, as in the NIV).

i. "With the sense that I have not denied or disobeyed the words of the Holy One. I should die calmly, for I should die innocent." (Bradley)

ii. "He would have one consolation left before he died - that he had not denied the words of the Holy One, though he emphatically rejected the words of Eliphaz." (Smick)

iii. If Job sensed a responsibility to not deny or conceal the words of the Holy One, we have an even greater responsibility. "Did you listen to that splendid sermon? What rhetoric! What oratory! But those poor people in the aisles did not understand a word, or if they did they only comprehended disconnected sentences, and lost the soul of the discourse. Is this right? Is this according to the Scriptural idea of preaching? … If the next generation should become more wicked than the present, and still more ignorant of the gospel, the fact will be chargeable upon those who conceal the words of God today." (Spurgeon)

3. (Job 6:11-13) Job laments his weakness.

"What strength do I have, that I should hope?
And what is my end, that I should prolong my life?
Is my strength the strength of stones?
Or is my flesh bronze?
Is my help not within me?
And is success driven from me?"

a. What strength do I have, that I should hope? Job reflected the sense of hopelessness of the severe and chronic sufferer. Sensing no inner strength to meet the present and future challenges, he felt no hope at all.

i. We can sense the depth of Job's anguish: Is my strength the strength of stones? Is my flesh bronze?

b. Is my help not within me? We should not think that Job is like a motivational self-help speaker encouraging himself to looking within for a hidden resource of help. Instead these words from the pain-wracked man sitting on a burned-out place in a garbage dump indicate Job's absolute sense of helplessness. If Job's only help is within him, then he has no help. Indeed, all success is driven from him.

i. The NIV translation of Job 6:13 is helpful: Do I have any power to help myself, now that success has been driven from me?

ii. "The words of Job can bring immense comfort for the simple reason that many sufferers have felt rage but have been too ashamed to express it." (Smick)

B. Job challenges Eliphaz.

1. (Job 6:14-23) Job criticizes Eliphaz and defends himself.

"To him who is afflicted, kindness should be shown by his friend,
Even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
My brothers have dealt deceitfully like a brook,
Like the streams of the brooks that pass away,
Which are dark because of the ice,
And into which the snow vanishes.
When it is warm, they cease to flow;
When it is hot, they vanish from their place.
The paths of their way turn aside,
They go nowhere and perish.
The caravans of Tema look,
The travelers of Sheba hope for them.
They are disappointed because they were confident;
They come there and are confused.
For now you are nothing,
You see terror and are afraid.
Did I ever say, 'Bring something to me'?
Or, 'Offer a bribe for me from your wealth'?
Or, 'Deliver me from the enemy's hand'?
Or, 'Redeem me from the hand of oppressors'?"

a. Kindness should be shown by his friend: Job here made his most basic accusation against Eliphaz. "You should show me kindness, even if were true that I had forsaken the fear of the Almighty."

b. My brothers have dealt deceitfully like a brook: Even though only Eliphaz had previously spoken, Job addressed his brothers collectively. Either this was out of politeness (not wanting to single out Eliphaz), or because Job believed that the attitude and silence of his other companions meant they agreed with Eliphaz. Job accused them of being as unreliable as a snow-fed stream that vanishes when it is hot.

i. "Incidentally this touch supports our suspicion that Job's homeland was to the east of the Lebanon complex, rather than near Edom, where snow waters would not be seen." (Andersen)

ii. "How great a contrast to the love and friendship of Jesus! Not like a brook that dries in the time of drought, but like a well of water springing up within the heart for ever." (Meyer)

iii. For now you are nothing, you see terror and are afraid: "Verse 21 is the climax of Job's reaction to his friends' counsel. They offered no help. The verse is like a sermon about the special strength needed to be willing to make oneself available when we see others in a truly dreadful condition. The risk involved makes us afraid." (Smick)

c. Did I ever say: Job wasn't asking his friends to pay him money or to ransom him from kidnappers. All he wanted was some words of comfort, and he heard none.

2. (Job 6:24-30) Job challenges his friends to point out his error and lack of discernment.

"Teach me, and I will hold my tongue;
Cause me to understand wherein I have erred.
How forceful are right words!
But what does your arguing prove?
Do you intend to rebuke my words,
And the speeches of a desperate one, which are as wind?
Yes, you overwhelm the fatherless,
And you undermine your friend.
Now therefore, be pleased to look at me;
For I would never lie to your face.
Yield now, let there be no injustice!
Yes, concede, my righteousness still stands!
Is there injustice on my tongue?
Cannot my taste discern the unsavory?"

a. Do you intend to rebuke my words, and the speeches of a desperate one: Job believed that Eliphaz was unduly harsh in his reply and failed to see that his Job's rant recorded in chapter 3 was made up only of words from a desperate one.

i. "Throughout the dialogue they make veiled accusations, deliver general moral pronouncements, hum and haw, and equivocate. But all their insinuations are without substance, and by way of actually identifying and getting at the root of Job's problem … the best they can do is suggest that his 'attitude' is all wrong." (Mason)

ii. Eliphaz, in his insensitivity, acted as if Job's words were as wind. "Do you take me for a desperate and distracted man, who knows not or cares not what he saith, but only speaks what comes first into his mind and mouth? The wind is oft used to express vain words, as Job 15:2; Jeremiah 5:13; and vain things, Job 7:7; Proverbs 11:29." (Poole)

iii. Instead of comforting Job, Eliphaz was as bad as someone who would overwhelm the fatherless and undermine his friend. "Now he seems to retaliate with charges of his own: You would even gamble over an orphan and bargain over your friend. This is pretty rough stuff. There is no more indication that the friends gambled for orphans than there is that Job asked for bribes. Perhaps this is what Job is getting at. But their relationship has certainly deteriorated if they are already swopping insults like this." (Andersen)

b. Now therefore, be pleased to look at me: "Here it appears that throughout Job's speech the friends have been hanging their heads and refusing to meet his gaze, while in an odd reversal of roles the sick man now holds his head high and looks his sleek and healthy inquisitors straight in the eye." (Mason)

c. Yes, concede, my righteousness still stands! Job very much wanted Eliphaz and his other friends to see that his present calamity was not judgment for some grievous (though hidden) sin.

i. The words "teach me," "cause me," "what does your arguing prove," and "concede" are all demands for evidence and proof. "He turns to Eliphaz and says, 'You say that I'm suffering because of sin, but you've never pointed anything out specifically. Teach me and tell me what my sin is. But until you do, there's no proof of your argument." (Lawson)

ii. Because we know the story-behind-the-story from Job 1 and 2, we understand this to be true. Yet Job's friends have a very hard time believing this, and will continue the contention with Job over this point.

d. Is there injustice on my tongue? Cannot my taste discern the unsavory? Previously in this chapter Job has represented the words of Eliphaz as bits of food; bits that were very unsatisfying to Job in his present suffering.

- According to the analogy of animals, if the words of Eliphaz had comforted and satisfied Job, he would not have cried out as he did in Job 3 (Job 6:5)
- The words of Eliphaz were like flavorless food (Job 6:6)
- The words of Eliphaz were like rotten, loathsome food (Job 6:7)
- Job can discern the unsavory character of the words of Eliphaz (6:30)

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

Study Guide for Esther 1 ← Prior Book
Study Guide for Psalm 1 Next Book →
Study Guide for Job 5 ← Prior Chapter
Study Guide for Job 7 Next Chapter →
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