Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said,XXII.
(1) Then answered Eliphaz.—Eliphaz proceeds to reply in a far more exaggerated and offensive tone than he has yet adopted, accusing Job of definite and specific crimes. He begins by asserting that the judgment of God cannot be other than disinterested, that if, therefore, He rewards or punishes, there cannot be anything personal in it.
Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself?(2) As he that is wise.—It is probably an independent statement: “Surely he that is wise is profitable, &c.”
Will he reprove thee for fear of thee? will he enter with thee into judgment?(4) Will he reprove thee.—That is, Because He standeth in awe of thee. Will He justify his dealings with thee?
Is not thy wickedness great? and thine iniquities infinite?(5) Is not thy wickedness great?—This was mere conjecture and surmise, arising simply from a false assumption: namely, that a just God can only punish the wicked, and that therefore those must be wicked whom He punishes.
For thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother for nought, and stripped the naked of their clothing.(6) Thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother.—These specific charges, false as they were, show the depth to which Eliphaz had sunk.
But as for the mighty man, he had the earth; and the honourable man dwelt in it.(8) But as for the mighty man.—By the “mighty and the honourable” man is probably meant Job. Some understand the words from Job 22:5-10 inclusive, as the words spoken by God on entering into judgment with Job (Job 22:4); but this hardly seems probable.
Therefore snares are round about thee, and sudden fear troubleth thee;(10, 11) Snares . . . about thee.—That is, Fear troubleth thee, or darkness, &c. “If darkness and abundance of waters cover thee so that thou canst not see, is not God in the high heavens, though thou canst not see Him. God is too great to take note of the affairs of men, their sin or their good deeds. He is so far off that He cannot see what goes on in the earth, for His dwelling-place is in heaven.” Eliphaz attributes to Job the kind of sentiments that he had himself attributed to the wicked man in the last chapter, Job 22:14, &c.
Hast thou marked the old way which wicked men have trodden?(15) Hast thou marked the old way . . .?—Rather, Dost thou keep the old way which the wicked men trod? Dost thou hold their tenets?
Which were cut down out of time, whose foundation was overflown with a flood:(16) Which were cut down out of time.—Or, which were snatched away before their time. It is generally supposed that there is an allusion here to the history of the Flood; if so, the reference is of course very important in its bearing on the age of that record, since the Book of Job can hardly fail to be very old itself.
Whose foundation was overflown with a flood.—Or, upon whose foundation a stream was poured out; or, whose foundation became as a flowing stream; or, whose foundation is like a flowing stream: that is, their principles are infectious, and bear all before them.
Which said unto God, Depart from us: and what can the Almighty do for them?(17) Which said unto God, Depart from us.—Here again he attributes to Job the very thoughts he had ascribed to the wicked (Job 20:14-15).
Yet he filled their houses with good things: but the counsel of the wicked is far from me.(18) Yet he filled their houses.—The bitterness of his irony now reaches its climax in that he adopts the very formula of repudiation Job had himself used (Job 14:16).
The righteous see it, and are glad: and the innocent laugh them to scorn.(19) The righteous see it.—That is, the destruction of the wicked, as in the days of Noah.
Whereas our substance is not cut down, but the remnant of them the fire consumeth.(20) Whereas our substance . . .—These are probably the words of the righteous and the innocent: “Surely they that did rise up against us are cut off, and the remnant of them the fire hath consumed.” The rendering in the Authorised Version is probably less correct, though in that also these words seem to be those of the innocent in Job 22:19.
Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee.(21) Acquaint now thyself with him.—As he himself had done in Job 5, and as Zophar had done in Job 11, Eliphaz proceeds to give Job some good advice. “Thereby good shall come unto thee,” or “Thereby shall thine increase be good;” or perhaps he means that peace and rest from the obstinate questionings he was disturbed with would come to him thereby.
Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart.(22) The law from his mouth.—It would be highly interesting to know whether by this law (Torah), the Law, the Torah, was in any way alluded to. One is naturally disposed to think that since Job seems to be the one Gentile book of the Old Testament, the one book in which the literature of Israel touches the world at large, it must, therefore, be prior to the Law, or else have been written in independence and ignorance of it. The former seems by far the more reasonable supposition, and certainly the life depicted appears to be that of the patriarchal times before the giving of the Law. And yet, on the other hand, it is hard to know what could be meant by “His words” prior to the Mosaic Revelation, unless, indeed, the expression is a witness to the consciousness of that inner revelation of the voice of God in the conscience which the holy in all ages have never wanted.
If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles.(23) Thou shalt put away iniquity.—All this implies the imputation of apostasy and iniquity to Job.
Then shalt thou lay up gold as dust, and the gold of Ophir as the stones of the brooks.(24) The gold of Ophir.—And, moreover, that the wealth for which he was so famous among the children of the East was the accumulation of iniquity and wrong-doing. The sense probably is, “Put thy treasure on a level with the dust, and the gold of Ophir among the stones of the brooks”: that is, reckon it of no more value than such stones; do not set thine heart upon it. The situation of Ophir has always been a matter of dispute. Josephus placed it in India (Antt. viii. 6, § 4), as do some moderns; others suppose it to have been an Indian colony in Southern Arabia, and others have placed it on the east coast of Africa.
Yea, the Almighty shall be thy defence, and thou shalt have plenty of silver.(25) The Almighty shall be thy defence.—Rather, And the Almighty shall be thy treasure, and precious silver unto thee. The word thus qualifying silver occurs only three other times in the Bible: Psalm 95:4, “The strength of the hills”; Numbers 22:23-24, “the strength of a unicorn.” Its original idea is probably brightness or splendour.
For then shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty, and shalt lift up thy face unto God.(26) Then shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty.—Zophar had told him the same thing, that he should lift up his face without spot (Job 11:15).
Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways.(28) Thou shalt also decree a thing.—As, for instance, in the memorable case of Abraham’s intercession for Sodom, to which there is not improbably an allusion here.
When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person.(29) There is lifting up.—This may be its meaning, but some understand it in a bad sense: “When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, It was pride that caused their fall.”
He shall deliver the island of the innocent: and it is delivered by the pureness of thine hands.(30) He shall deliver the island of the innocent is undoubtedly an error for He shall deliver him that is not innocent: that is, either God shall deliver, or the humble person, if that is the subject of the former clause; the humble-minded man would have saved them. “He would have delivered him that is not innocent; yea, even so shall he be delivered by the cleanness of thy hands,” as the ten righteous would have saved Sodom. It is remarkable that this, which is the last word of Eliphaz, has in it the significance of a prophecy, for it is exactly thus that the history of Job closes; and Eliphaz himself exemplified his own promise in being indebted to Job for the act of intercession by which he was pardoned, together with his friends; Job 42:8-9.