Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Call now, if there be any that will answer thee; and to which of the saints wilt thou turn?1. Call now, if there be any] Rather, call then, is there any …? The imperative call then is not ironical, but merely a very animated way of putting a supposition: if thou appeal then against God is there any that will hear thee or aid thee?
which of the saints] Better, the holy ones, that is, the angels, as ch. Job 15:15; Psalm 89:6-7; will any of these exalted beings receive thy complaint against God? In ch. Job 33:23 the angels are interpreters, conveying the meaning of God’s providences to men. But the converse idea that they convey men’s representations to God or intercede for them with Him is not found here, because the reference is to a complaint against God. There underlies the passage the idea that the angels are helpful to men, and the question is asked, If Job appeals to any of them against God will they hear his appeal and aid him? The question is only a vivid way of saying that they would turn away from him, abhorring his folly. Being holy, they know, for that very reason, the unapproachable holiness and rectitude of God, and the distance of all creatures from Him.
Ch. Job 5:1-7. Having laid this broad ground, Eliphaz proceeds to apply the principle to Job.
For wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly one.2. Job 5:1 asked, Will any one answer thy complaint? will complaining bring any deliverance? This verse gives the other side—nay, rather, such murmuring betrays a mind “most incorrect to heaven,” and such a fool will by his impatience but bring upon himself increased calamity till he altogether perish.
Nay, rather, the foolish man impatience killeth,
And the silly one his passion slayeth.
The meaning, of course, is not that the fool and silly one vex themselves to death, but that their rebellious impatience and resentment of the chastisements of heaven bring down upon them more grievous chastisement, under which they perish. There are several words for “fool” in the Old Testament. Two characteristics of the fool here spoken of are mentioned: he rejects instruction or correction, Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 12:15; and he openly exhibits his chagrin or angry impatience, Proverbs 12:16 (ka‘as as here). The last word describes impatient bearing under affliction, or under that which offends, such as an affront. These words of Eliphaz hurt Job deeply, and in the very first sentence of his reply he alludes to them, “Oh that my impatience (ka‘as) were weighed and laid in the balances against my affliction,” ch. Job 6:2. The word in the second half of the verse means properly heat, hence any strong passion, as jealousy, the wild ardour of battle, Isaiah 42:13, and the like. On the use of “fool” and similar words in a moral sense to denote wicked, that is, without true insight into the ways of God and right feeling towards Heaven, see on ch. Job 2:10.
I have seen the foolish taking root: but suddenly I cursed his habitation.3. the foolish] Rather perhaps, a foolish man, the same word as in Job 5:2. Eliphaz cites an instance from his own experience confirming the truth stated in Job 5:2. He saw a man of this character taking root, and for the moment appearing to give promise of prosperity.
but suddenly I cursed] The meaning is not that Eliphaz cursed his habitation before-hand, foreseeing that destruction would certainly overtake him; but that, though this fool appeared prosperous and seemed preparing for enduring happiness, suddenly God’s judgment fell on him, and Eliphaz, seeing his desolation and knowing the true meaning of it, pronounced his habitation accursed; and this he did “suddenly,” so speedily in the midst of his apparent luxuriance did the curse of God wither up the prosperity of the fool.
His children are far from safety, and they are crushed in the gate, neither is there any to deliver them.4. they are crushed in the gate] The gate of the town is the seat of the Oriental court of law, where justice is administered, ch. Job 29:7, Job 31:21; Psalm 127:5. The words are crushed might be reciprocal, “crush one another;” more likely the word means exactly, “must let themselves be crushed,” as the last clause indicates: having none to deliver them. In the East he has right who has power (ch. Job 22:8), and the poor, who cannot bribe the judge or find powerful men to speak for them, go to the wall.
The iniquity of the father is visited upon the children, Exodus 20:5, a law of providence which does not quite meet Job’s approval, ch. Job 21:19-20. That this principle created difficulty to thoughtful men about this time appears also from Ezekiel 18:19 seq.
4, 5. These verses describe the desolation that befell the home and family of the man who hardened himself against God. The speaker falls here into the present tenses because, though he is describing an instance which he saw, the instance illustrates a general truth.
Whose harvest the hungry eateth up, and taketh it even out of the thorns, and the robber swalloweth up their substance.5. even out of the thorns] i. e. from within the enclosed field, protected by the thorn-hedge. The roving, hungry Bedawin carry their thievish depredations up to the very homestead and in-fields of the ruined estate of the wicked man.
the robber] This word occurs again ch. Job 18:9, in the certain meaning of snare; and the sense would thus be, and the snare gapes for their substance, the general idea being that their substance falls a prey to the greed of every crafty and cunning one. This is rather vague and colourless. The ancient versions by alteration in the punctuation give the meaning of the thirsty. This agrees with the parallel “the hungry” in the preceding clause, and therefore naturally suggested itself. While “the thirsty” suits “gapes” very well, it is less suitable to “substance.” On the whole, as the meaning snare is assured from ch. Job 18:9, it is safer to rest content with this sense. The whole forms a very graphic picture of desolation.
Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground;6. Although affliction] Rather, for affliction. The foregoing examples, the general evil and imperfection of man, ch. Job 4:12 seq., and the particular rebelliousness of the fool, ch. Job 5:2 seq., shew how affliction arises, and Eliphaz confirms the whole with his general maxim, for.… Eliphaz reverts here to his principle already enunciated, They that sow trouble reap the same, ch. Job 4:8. Affliction does not spring out of the earth like weeds, it is not a necessary product of the nature of things, turned out by the friction of the universe, it is due to the evil nature of men.
6, 7. Eliphaz now sums up into an aphorism the great general principle which he seeks to illustrate in this section of his speech, ch. Job 4:12 to Job 5:7. It is that affliction is not accidental, nor a spontaneous growth of the earth, but men acting after the impulses of their evil nature bring it on themselves.
Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.7. Yet man is born unto trouble] Rather, but man. The true explanation of affliction is now given, as the false explanation was denied in Job 5:6. The words “man is born unto trouble” mean, it is his nature through his sin to bring trouble upon himself; evil rises up out of his heart as naturally as the sparks fly up out of the flame. Cf. the words of Christ, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts,” and the appalling list which follows. Eliphaz is severe on human nature, but the broad generality of his doctrine is fitted to enable Job to find himself in his history and let himself be led back to a more devout demeanour. See the concluding remark to ch. 4.
I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause:8. I would seek unto God] Rather, But I would seek; i. e. in humility, and for help and light.
8–27. Eliphaz, in Job’s place, would seek unto God, all whose ways are marked by one purpose, to do good, and whose chastisements, therefore, but open the way to a richer blessing
The passage attaches itself to the picture of man’s evil nature just given, and suggests where man should find refuge from himself, even in God. Eliphaz in Job’s place would seek unto God for help—God who is so great in power, and wonderful in His ways (Job 5:8-9). His ways are not only surpassingly wonderful, but one purpose of goodness runs through them, for even the thirsty wilderness where no man dwells He satisfies with rain, and sets the humble on high (Job 5:10-11). So on the other hand He disappoints the devices of the crafty and delivers the poor from their hand, and the end is reached towards which all His working tends: the poor hath hope, and evil, ashamed, shuts her mouth (Job 5:12-16).
And under this general purpose of universal goodness fall even the chastisements of God, and in this light happy should Job consider himself in being afflicted, for God afflicts only that He may be able the more richly to bless (Job 5:17-18). And, anticipating that his afflictions will “yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness,” Eliphaz draws a brilliant picture of Job’s restoration and happy future,—the divine protection (Job 5:18-19), the plenty and security (Job 5:20-23), the peaceful homestead (Job 5:24), the offspring numerous as the grass (Job 5:25), and the ripe and peaceful end of all (Job 5:26).
The passage like the preceding section has two divisions, Job 5:8-16 describing the purpose of goodness running through all God’s ways; and Job 5:17-26 applying this to Job’s calamities and painting his restoration; to which is added a concluding verse, in which Eliphaz beseeches Job to ponder his words (Job 5:27).
Which doeth great things and unsearchable; marvellous things without number:9. This description of God as great in power and wonderful in working supports the implied exhortation in Job 5:8. Eliphaz in Job’s place would commit his cause, or exactly as we say colloquially, his case, unto God, for He, being great and wonderful in His ways, is capable of dealing with it, perplexed and mysterious though it be. A touch of humanity seems here almost to get the better of the moral and religious severity of Eliphaz.
Who giveth rain upon the earth, and sendeth waters upon the fields:10. upon the earth] lit. upon the face of the earth; and so next clause, upon the face of the fields. He watereth the earth when it is thirsty, with a universal goodness.
To set up on high those that be low; that those which mourn may be exalted to safety.11. to set up] If this construction be adopted, the watering of the earth, Job 5:10, must be regarded as the means to this which is effected in Job 5:11. He watereth the fields, giving abundant pasture and harvest, that the humble may be set on high. God’s operations in the lower creation, though instances of goodness to it, have the wider end of blessing man in view. The words, however, may mean, setting up, and be another operation of benevolence parallel to that in Job 5:10. This view is rather confirmed by the second clause of the verse.
that those which mourn may be] Or, and those which mourn are.
He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise.12–16. Job 5:10-11 describe how the stream of God’s goodness acts when it moves directly, bearing up upon it the humble and those that mourn towards safety or salvation. These verses describe how the stream moves when it meets with obstacles, such as craft and evil.
he disappointeth] The same word is rendered, he frustrateth, Isaiah 44:25.
their enterprise] A difficult word to translate. It is a technical term of the Hebrew Wisdom or Philosophy, and, except in Isaiah 28:29, Micah 6:9, occurs only in Job and Proverbs. It seems to mean that which is essential. Hence it is said of a state or action when it corresponds to the idea; and conversely of thought when it corresponds to the reality, as ch. Job 11:6, Job 12:16. It is used here in the former sense (cf. ch. Job 6:13), and the words mean, their hands perform nothing effectual (Sept. true), or nothing to purpose.
He taketh the wise in their own craftiness: and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong.13. in their own craftiness] Quoted by St Paul, 1 Corinthians 3:19. This is the only quotation from the Book of Job in the New Testament, though Romans 11:35 seems a reminiscence of Job 41:11. Php 1:19 contains language similar to ch. Job 13:16.
carried headlong] lit. hastened, i. e. precipitated before it be ripe, and so frustrated.
They meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope in the noonday as in the night.14. A picture of the perplexity and bewilderment of those crafty men whose counsels God has come athwart, Job 5:13.
But he saveth the poor from the sword, from their mouth, and from the hand of the mighty.15. but He saveth] Rather, so He saveth. The salvation of the poor is the consequence of defeating the devices of the crafty, as it is the object in view.
from the sword, from their mouth] It is evident that this verse wants the usual balance of clauses, and probably there is some corruption in it. Some mss omit from before mouth, “from the sword of their mouth.” The omission wants support, but the sense is probably that of the words as they stand: from the sword (which cometh) from their mouth; or the two expressions may be in apposition: from the sword even from their mouth. Others have proposed to point the word from-the-sword differently, making it to mean the desolate. This restores balance to the verse: thus he saveth the desolate from their mouth, and the poor from the hand of the mighty. The word “desolate” occurs Ezekiel 29:12, said of cities, and the verb is often applied to lands, mountains, &c., but does not seem used of persons.
So the poor hath hope, and iniquity stoppeth her mouth.16. The end contemplated and reached by the all-embracing sweep of God’s benevolent purpose and providence.
Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty:17. The idea of this verse occurs often in Scripture, cf. Psalm 94:12, Proverbs 3:11, Hebrews 12:5.
17–27. The imagination of Eliphaz himself kindles as he contemplates the universal goodness of God. And Job seems to him happy in being made the object even of God’s afflictions, for He afflicts only with the purpose of more abundantly blessing.
For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.18. maketh sore and bindeth up] Maketh sore in order to bind up, smiteth in order more perfectly to heal. If this physician induce disease, it is in order to procure a sounder health.
He shall deliver thee in six troubles: yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee.19. “Six” and “seven” are round numbers meaning “many” or “all,” like “three” and “four” and other numbers, elsewhere, cf. Proverbs 6:16; see Amos 1:3 seq., Micah 5:5. Eliphaz assumes that God’s afflictions will have their due effect on Job, he will turn unto the Lord, whose hands will “make him whole,” and the care and protection specified in this and the following verses shall mark his restored life.
In famine he shall redeem thee from death: and in war from the power of the sword.
Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue: neither shalt thou be afraid of destruction when it cometh.
At destruction and famine thou shalt laugh: neither shalt thou be afraid of the beasts of the earth.
For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field: and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee.23. When man is at peace with God he is at peace with all God’s creation, he has a league with all nature and every creature: “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God,” Romans 8:28.
And thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace; and thou shalt visit thy habitation, and shalt not sin.24. Job 5:19-23 describe the immunity which Job himself, restored to peace with God, would enjoy from every evil, the evils specified being those which God in His judgments brings upon men or a people, cf. Ezekiel 5:17; Ezekiel 14:21; this verse describes the safety and peace of his homestead, or rather the perfect confidence which he would feel in regard to his possessions,—thou shalt know that thy tent is in safety.
tabernacle shall be in peace] Or, tent (i. e. dwelling) is in peace.
visit thy habitation] Or, perhaps, muster, look over, thy homestead; the reference is to his cattle and possessions.
shalt not sin] lit. shalt not miss or fail; that is, probably, he shall find that his actual possessions correspond to what he expected. The general meaning is, thou shalt miss nothing.
Thou shalt know also that thy seed shall be great, and thine offspring as the grass of the earth.25. Another much-desired joy he shall feel that God has given him, a numerous offspring.
Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season.26. And finally he shall receive the crowning blessing of man on earth, to live long and die old and full of years; cf. Psalm 102:24; Isaiah 38:10; Numbers 23:10. The Speaker’s Comm. quotes the following from Milton,
So mayest thou live, till, like ripe fruits, thou drop
Into thy mother’s lap; or be with ease
Gathered, not harshly plucked; for death mature.
The speech of Eliphaz is one of the masterpieces of the Book. The surprising literary skill of the Author is hardly anywhere so conspicuous. (See remark at the end of ch. 4)
Nevertheless, if we follow the clue which the Author himself puts into our hand in the reply which he causes Job to make, we must infer that Eliphaz erred in two particulars. If his religious tone was not too lofty, it was at least too cold, and too little tempered with compassion for the sufferings of men. The moral impropriety of Job’s murmurs and despair so engrosses his mind that he forgets the unbearable misery of the sufferer before him, and the just claims of sentient life not to be put to the torture. The consequence is that he will have to hear from Job language still more shocking to his religious feeling (ch. Job 7:17 seq.). This error was due to another, his theory of suffering (see preliminary remarks to ch. 4–14). This theory gave a full explanation to his mind of Job’s afflictions and compelled him to take the tone towards him which he did. However true his theory might be as a general principle of moral government, it was not universal and did not include Job’s case. Job’s conscience told him this. Hence the admonitions of Eliphaz fell wide of the mark, and he only aggravated the evil which he sought to heal.
Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good.