1. Eliphaz -- the mildest of Job's three accusers. The greatness of Job's calamities, his complaints against God, and the opinion that calamities are proofs of guilt, led the three to doubt Job's integrity.
2. If we assay to commune -- Rather, two questions, "May we attempt a word with thee? Wilt thou be grieved at it?" Even pious friends often count that only a touch which we feel as a wound.
3. weak hands -- Isa 35:3; 2Sa 4:1.
5. thou art troubled -- rather, "unhinged," hast lost thy self-command (1Th 3:3).
6. Is not this thy fear, thy confidence, &c. -- Does thy fear, thy confidence, come to nothing? Does it come only to this, that thou faintest now? Rather, by transposition, "Is not thy fear (of God) thy hope? and the uprightness of thy ways thy confidence? If so, bethink thee, who ever perished being innocent?" [Umbreit]. But Lu 13:2, 3 shows that, though there is a retributive divine government even in this life, yet we cannot judge by the mere outward appearance. "One event is outwardly to the righteous and to the wicked" (Ec 9:2); but yet we must take it on trust, that God deals righteously even now (Ps 37:25; Isa 33:16). Judge not by a part, but by the whole of a godly man's life, and by his end, even here (Jas 5:11). The one and the same outward event is altogether a different thing in its inward bearings on the godly and on the ungodly even here. Even prosperity, much more calamity, is a punishment to the wicked (Pr 1:32). Trials are chastisements for their good (to the righteous) (Ps 119:67, 71, 75). See Preface on the Design of this book (see Introduction).
8. they that plough iniquity ... reap the same -- (Pr 22:8; Ho 8:7; 10:13; Ga 6:7, 8).
9. breath of his nostrils -- God's anger; a figure from the fiery winds of the East (Job 1:16; Isa 5:25; Ps 18:8, 15).
10, 11. lion -- that is, wicked men, upon whom Eliphaz wished to show that calamities come in spite of their various resources, just as destruction comes on the lion in spite of his strength (Ps 58:6; 2Ti 4:17). Five different Hebrew terms here occur for "lion." The raging of the lion (the tearer), and the roaring of the bellowing lion and the teeth of the young lions, not whelps, but grown up enough to hunt for prey. The strong lion, the whelps of the lioness (not the stout lion, as in English Version) [Barnes and Umbreit]. The various phases of wickedness are expressed by this variety of terms: obliquely, Job, his wife, and children, may be hinted at by the lion, lioness, and whelps. The one verb, "are broken," does not suit both subjects; therefore, supply "the roaring of the bellowing lion is silenced." The strong lion dies of want at last, and the whelps, torn from the mother, are scattered, and the race becomes extinct.
12. a thing -- Hebrew, a "word." Eliphaz confirms his view by a divine declaration which was secretly and unexpectedly imparted to him.
a little -- literally, "a whisper"; implying the still silence around, and that more was conveyed than articulate words could utter (Job 26:14; 2Co 12:4).
13. In thoughts from the visions of the night -- [So Winer]. While revolving night visions previously made to him (Da 2:29). Rather, "In my manifold (Hebrew, divided) thoughts, before the visions of the night commenced"; therefore not a delusive dream (Ps 4:4) [Umbreit].
deep sleep -- (Ge 2:21; 15:12).
16. It stood still -- At first the apparition glides before Eliphaz, then stands still, but with that shadowy indistinctness of form which creates such an impression of awe; a gentle murmur: not (English Version): there was silence; for in 1Ki 19:12, the voice, as opposed to the previous storm, denotes a gentle, still murmur.
17. mortal man ... a man -- Two Hebrew words for "man" are used; the first implying his feebleness; the second his strength. Whether feeble or strong, man is not righteous before God.
more just than God ... more pure than his maker -- But this would be self-evident without an oracle.
18. folly -- Imperfection is to be attributed to the angels, in comparison with Him. The holiness of some of them had given way (2Pe 2:4), and at best is but the holiness of a creature. Folly is the want of moral consideration [Umbreit].
19. houses of clay -- (2Co 5:1). Houses made of sun-dried clay bricks are common in the East; they are easily washed away (Mt 7:27). Man's foundation is this dust (Ge 3:19).
before the moth -- rather, "as before the moth," which devours a garment (Job 13:28; Ps 39:11; Isa 50:9). Man, who cannot, in a physical point of view, stand before the very moth, surely cannot, in a moral, stand before God.
20. from morning to evening -- unceasingly; or, better, between the morning and evening of one short day (so Ex 18:14; Isa 38:12).
They are destroyed -- better, "they would be destroyed," if God withdrew His loving protection. Therefore man must not think to be holy before God, but to draw holiness and all things else from God (Job 4:17).
21. their excellency -- (Ps 39:11; 146:4; 1Co 13:8). But Umbreit, by an Oriental image from a bow, useless because unstrung: "Their nerve, or string would be torn away." Michaelis, better in accordance with Job 4:19, makes the allusion be to the cords of a tabernacle taken down (Isa 33:20).
they die, even without wisdom -- rather, "They would perish, yet not according to wisdom," but according to arbitrary choice, if God were not infinitely wise and holy. The design of the spirit is to show that the continued existence of weak man proves the inconceivable wisdom and holiness of God, which alone save man from ruin [Umbreit]. Bengel shows from Scripture that God's holiness (Hebrew, kadosh) comprehends all His excellencies and attributes. De Wette loses the scope, in explaining it, of the shortness of man's life, contrasted with the angels "before they have attained to wisdom."