Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 22–31. The Third Circle of Speeches
In the first round of speeches the three friends exhausted the argument from the general conception of God. In the second they exhausted the argument from the operation of His providence in the world, as observed in the fate of the wicked. To the last Job had replied by a direct contradiction, adducing facts and testimony in proof that the fate of the wicked man in God’s providence was in no way so uniformly miserable as the three friends had represented (ch. 21.) There is, manifestly, now left but one weapon in the hands of the three friends, namely, to express openly what they had hinted at formerly in a veiled manner, and charge Job directly with great sins. This charge is made by Eliphaz in the opening speech of the third round of debate (ch. 22.)
As in the two preceding circles of debate, Job’s mind is too much absorbed in the contemplation of the great mystery of providence, which he had set before himself in ch. 21, to be able for a time to give heed to the shameful charges of Eliphaz against him. He dwells in his reply still, continuing the thought of ch. 21, upon the riddle of God’s rule of the world. He misses rectitude in this rule, and can observe no principle of moral government as he understands it. This is true not only in his own instance (ch. 23), but also on the broad field of the world in general (ch. 24.) God, though He knows his innocence, has resolved to destroy him (ch. Job 23:13). It is this feeling about God that terrifies and paralyses him, not his mere calamities in themselves (ch. Job 23:15-17). But the same absence of righteousness in the rule of the world is observed everywhere. Men cannot perceive God doing judgment and dispensing righteousness among them (ch. Job 24:1).
Bildad in his reply (ch. 25) passes by the facts adduced by Job, and touches only his arrogance in assuming to be innocent before God: How should man, who is a worm, be pure before the omnipotent ruler of the world? Such words in no way help Job. He knows God’s power and greatness not less than Bildad, and he replies by rivalling this speaker in extolling the greatness of God (ch. 26).
Then he comes to what he had not yet directly touched upon, the charges of wickedness made against him. These he denies under a solemn oath (ch. Job 27:1-6). Here follow in ch. Job 27:7 seq. and ch. 28 two passages which are difficult to fit into this part of the Book.
Finally Job takes a comprehensive survey of his mysterious history as a whole, ch. 29–31:—
First, looking back with pathetic regret upon his former days, when his children were about him and he was prosperous and honoured among men, ch. 29;
Second, contrasting with this happier past his present abasement, the contempt in which he is held by the lowest of mankind, and the mysterious afflictions of God upon him, ch. 30;
And third, protesting that this affliction had come upon him for no sin of which he had been guilty; and ending with the impassioned cry that God would make known to him the charge which He has against him, ch. 31.
Ch. 22. Eliphaz directly charges Job with great Wickedness
Nothing now remains for the Friends but to make against Job openly the charge of great wickedness which they had hitherto only covertly insinuated. Eliphaz makes this charge in the present chapter. The charge, however, arises naturally out of Job’s last speech. He had there spoken as if no moral principle could be detected in God’s treatment of men (Job 21:23-26). He had said the like of this, indeed, before, but only in the heat of debate (Job 9:22): now he propounded the theory as part of a settled conviction, and sustained it by arguments. Moreover, his fascinating pictures of the felicity and joyous existence of the wicked, who bade God depart from them, were painful to a righteous mind, and naturally suggested that, in spite of his professed repudiation of them (Job 21:16), he was in secret sympathy with the principles of such men (Job 22:15). To these two points in Job’s speech Eliphaz attaches his rejoinder.
First, to Job’s statement that he missed all principle of righteousness in God’s providential rule of men Eliphaz replies that there must be some principle in it. The cause of God’s afflicting a man is not to be sought for in God Himself, as if it arose out of any self-seeking on His part, or any respect He had to Himself, for a man’s righteousness is no profit to God, neither is his wickedness any loss to Him. The reason of God’s treatment of men is therefore to be sought in themselves. But it is inconceivable that He should chastise a man for his piety. It must therefore be for his sins (Job 22:2-5).
Having by means of this syllogism confirmed his conviction of Job’s guiltiness, Eliphaz proceeds to suggest what sins Job must have committed, which are those that a powerful, irresponsible, rich ruler of his time might most naturally be guilty of (Job 22:6-10).
Then Job’s pictures of the joyous life of the wicked man suggest to Eliphaz the kind of feeling under which, no doubt, Job committed the sins which he must be guilty of. It was under the feeling that God was enthroned on high in heaven and took no note of the affairs of earth—How doth God know? This was the state of mind of the ancient sinners who were carried away by a flood, and Eliphaz earnestly warns Job against such a feeling (Job 22:12-20).
Finally he exhorts Job to reconcile himself with God, making Him his treasure and casting away earthly treasures. Then shall he have peace and great prosperity (Job 22:21-30).
Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said,
Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself?2. This verse reads,
Can a man be profitable unto God?
Nay, he that is wise is profitable unto himself.
A man’s actions cannot affect God; the advantage of wisdom, that is, prudent and right conduct, can only accrue to a man himself.
2–5. God’s treatment of men cannot be due to any respect which He has to Himself, for He is too lofty to be affected by anything human. He deals with men according to their ways, and Job’s afflictions can be due only to his sin.
Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous? or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect?3. Is it any pleasure] Or, advantage, concern; see on ch. Job 21:21. The idea that men’s actions cannot affect God is common in the Book, see ch. Job 7:20, Job 35:5-8. Job 22:2-3 go together, and express this single conception that God’s treatment of men is not due to any respect He has to Himself, but is strictly according to the character of men.
Will he reprove thee for fear of thee? will he enter with thee into judgment?4. God’s treatment of men being for their sakes and according to what they are, it is inconceivable that He should chastise them for their piety.
for fear of thee] Rather, for thy (godly) fear, thy piety; comp. ch. Job 4:6, Job 15:4 for this use of the word fear by Eliphaz. The words scarcely contain the idea that if God derived advantage from men’s piety He might be supposed to afflict them in order to increase their godliness (Ew.). The simple thought is that man’s conduct does not affect God. If God deals with man it is on account of man himself. Can it be supposed then that God would afflict a man because he is pious? (Job 22:4). This is too extravagant a suggestion, therefore if Job is afflicted it is for his sins (Job 22:5). Job 22:4 forms a mere foreground to Job 22:5 seq., in order to suggest by contrast the real cause of Job’s calamities.
Is not thy wickedness great? and thine iniquities infinite?5–9. Job’s afflictions are because of his sins—sins which Eliphaz now suggests and enumerates. They are such sins as a powerful Oriental ruler naturally falls into, inhumanity, avarice, and abuse of power.
For thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother for nought, and stripped the naked of their clothing.6. Compare the laws, Exodus 22:26; Deuteronomy 24:10. The “naked” are those poorly clad. See Job’s reply to this, ch. Job 31:19.
Thou hast not given water to the weary to drink, and thou hast withholden bread from the hungry.7. Compare Job’s answer, ch. Job 31:16-17.
But as for the mighty man, he had the earth; and the honourable man dwelt in it.8. The “mighty man,” lit. man of arm, i. e. the powerful (Psalm 10:15), and the “honourable,” lit. man of respect, i. e. high in rank (Isaiah 3:5), is of course Job himself.
he had the earth] Or, his is the land.
dwelt in it] Or, shall dwell in it.
These words describe the feeling that, according to the supposition of Eliphaz, pervaded Job’s conduct—his idea was that the land or earth belonged to him, and under this feeling he oppressed the poor and drove them from it.
Thou hast sent widows away empty, and the arms of the fatherless have been broken.9. His treatment of widows—he ejected them empty; or when they came seeking redress, or pleading their rights, he let them go unheard. Comp. Job’s own language as to himself, ch. Job 29:13, Job 31:16.
The “arms” of the fatherless are their helps or rights, on which they relied, and by which they were supported.
Therefore snares are round about thee, and sudden fear troubleth thee;10, 11. The consequence of this inhumanity and injustice is seen in the snares and terrors from God that surround Job.
11. This verse should probably be read,
Or seest thou not the darkness,
And the floods of waters that cover thee?
i. e. dost thou not perceive the true meaning of the darkness and the overwhelming calamities that have come on thee? On the figures comp. ch. Job 18:18; Job 11:16; Job 27:20. See Job’s reply, ch. Job 23:16-17.
Or darkness, that thou canst not see; and abundance of waters cover thee.
Is not God in the height of heaven? and behold the height of the stars, how high they are!12, 13. Eliphaz points to God’s place of abode in the lofty heavens (Job 22:12); and under this feeling of His infinite distance from the earth Job said, How doth God know? Men’s conduct was not observed by Him; the thick clouds obscured His vision.
And thou sayest] Rather, and thou saidst. On this mode of thought comp. Psalm 94:7; Isaiah 29:15; Ezekiel 8:12.
12–20. Eliphaz, having in Job 22:6-10 suggested what Job’s offences must have been, now suggests under what feeling in regard to God he must have committed them. He thought God so far removed from the world that He did not observe men’s conduct.
And thou sayest, How doth God know? can he judge through the dark cloud?
Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not; and he walketh in the circuit of heaven.14. in the circuit of heaven] Rather, on the circle, i. e. the arch of heaven that overspans the earth, Isaiah 40:22.
Hast thou marked the old way which wicked men have trodden?15. It was under a similar feeling in regard to God that the great sinners before the Flood filled the earth with violence, and Eliphaz asks Job whether he will go the length of accepting the principles and following the conduct of such men? Compare the words of Elihu, ch. Job 34:8.
Hast thou marked the old way] Rather, wilt thou keep …? i. e. follow the path they walked in.
Which were cut down out of time, whose foundation was overflown with a flood:16. out of time] i. e. before their time, prematurely, by the judgment of God for their sin. Comp. Job 15:32.
whose foundation was overthrown] lit. whose foundation was poured away and became a flood—that on which they stood became a flood in which they sank. The reference is probably to the Deluge, though others, e.g. Ewald, think of the Cities of the Plain.
Which said unto God, Depart from us: and what can the Almighty do for them?17. do for them] Rather, do unto them.
Yet he filled their houses with good things: but the counsel of the wicked is far from me.18. Eliphaz expresses his abhorrence of the ingratitude and evil principles of such men, repeating the words employed by Job, ch. Job 21:16 (far be from me the counsel of the wicked); but while Job referred to the worldly prosperity of such persons, in spite of their ungodliness, Eliphaz lays stress upon their sure destruction, and how the righteous see in their downfall an illustration of God’s righteous rule of the world (Job 22:19-20).
The righteous see it, and are glad: and the innocent laugh them to scorn.19. The righteous see it and are glad,
And the innocent laugh them to scorn,
20. Saying, Surely our adversaries are cut off,
And that which they have left the fire hath consumed.
The “remnant” of the wicked, or “that which they leave,” is their substance and possessions.
19, 20. These two verses are connected together,
Whereas our substance is not cut down, but the remnant of them the fire consumeth.
Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee.21. and be at peace] i. e. thus shalt thou have peace, or, safety.
21–30. Eliphaz exhorts Job to reconcile himself with God; assuring him of restoration and great felicity if he will do so.
The passage consists of two parts, first, a series of exhortations, each of which is accompanied by a promise (Job 22:21-25); and second, a series of great promises simply (Job 22:26-30). The exhortations are: (1) that Job should reconcile himself with God and receive His words into his heart—thus should he be in peace and good would come to him (Job 22:21-22); (2) that he should put away his evil—then should he be restored (Job 22:23); (3) that he should set his heart no more on earthly treasure, but fling it to the dust and among the pebbles of the brooks—then should the Almighty be his treasure (Job 22:24-25). The promises are: (1) that, delighting himself in the Almighty, he would be able to lift up his face to God in confidence, unashamed by afflictions (Job 22:26); (2) he would pray unto God with the assurance of being heard, and the vows which he made to God when presenting his request he would have cause to pay, his request being fulfilled (Job 22:27); (3) his purposes in regard to the future would stand and be realized, for the light of God would be on his ways (Job 22:28); (4) any casting down that might happen to him would speedily be turned by God into up-raising, because of his meekness and humility (Job 22:29); and finally, even others who had incurred guilt would be saved through his availing prayer (Job 22:30).
Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart.22. the law] Or, instruction. The word is a general expression for “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,” as the parallel “his words” in the next clause indicates. Comp. Job’s reply to this advice, ch. Job 23:11-12.
If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles.23. built up] i. e. probably rebuilt, or, restored.
thou shalt put away] Or, if thou put away. The words take up “if thou return” of the first clause.
Then shalt thou lay up gold as dust, and the gold of Ophir as the stones of the brooks.24, 25. These verses read,
24. And lay thou thy treasure in the dust,
And gold of Ophir among the stones of the brooks;
25. Then shall the Almighty be thy treasure,
And silver in plenty unto thee.
The word rendered “treasure” means properly ore. The expression “silver in plenty” is obscure, meaning perhaps “silver in bars,” a phrase which may signify “precious” rather than plentiful silver. The word occurs again, Numbers 23:22; Numbers 24:8, of the “horns” of the “unicorn” (wild-ox), and in Psalm 95:4, of something pertaining to mountains, probably the “towering heights.” The Arabic poets compare the glittering peaks of distant mountains suddenly appearing to gleaming swords brandished upright. The word seems to express the idea of rising up in great length. Most interpreters think of bars of silver; the A. V. has uniformly strength, as here in marg.
Eliphaz exhorts Job to fling earthly treasures away from him, making God his treasure. Comp. the reply of Job, ch. Job 31:24-25.
Yea, the Almighty shall be thy defence, and thou shalt have plenty of silver.
For then shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty, and shalt lift up thy face unto God.26. lift up thy face unto God] i. e. in confidence, and no more ashamed by God’s afflictions. Cf. Job 10:15 and Job 11:15.
Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall hear thee, and thou shalt pay thy vows.27. pay thy vows] In making requests in prayer it was customary to make a vow to sacrifice or offer unto the Lord if the prayer was granted. Job shall have cause to fulfil his vows, his prayers being heard.
Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways.
When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person.29. When men are cast down] The words must mean either: when they (i. e. thy ways, Job 22:28) go downwards, when decline or misfortune befalls thee; or, when men cast thee down.
there is lifting up] The word “lifting up” or simply, “Up!” is that which Job shall utter in prayer. The “humble person,” lit. him that is lowly of eyes, is of course Job himself.
He shall deliver the island of the innocent: and it is delivered by the pureness of thine hands.30. the island of the innocent] Rather, him that is not innocent. Even others who are blameworthy shall be saved through Job’s intercession, because of the cleanness of his hands, for the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. The curious translation “island of the innocent” arose from confounding ’I, an unusual form of the privative particle “not,” with ’I, an island. This form of the privative appears occasionally in proper names as, I-chabod, “not glory” (inglorious). For and it is, better, yea, he shall be.
The charges of unrighteousness (Job 22:5-11) and ungodliness (Job 22:12-17), which Eliphaz allows himself to make against Job, furnish a singular illustration of the length to which good men will suffer their theoretical opinions in religion to carry them. His concluding words, however (Job 22:21-30), are conciliatory and humane, and not unworthy of the very aged and very devout speaker.