Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Then answered Eliphaz the Temanite, and said,
Job 15:1-35. Second Speech of Eliphaz.
Should a wise man utter vain knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind?
2. a wise man—which Job claims to be.
vain knowledge—Hebrew, "windy knowledge"; literally, "of wind" (Job 8:2). In Ec 1:14, Hebrew, "to catch wind," expresses to strive for what is vain.
east wind—stronger than the previous "wind," for in that region the east wind is the most destructive of winds (Isa 27:8). Thus here,—empty violence.
belly—the inward parts, the breast (Pr 18:8).
Should he reason with unprofitable talk? or with speeches wherewith he can do no good?
Yea, thou castest off fear, and restrainest prayer before God.
4. fear—reverence for God (Job 4:6; Ps 2:11).
prayer—meditation, in Ps 104:34; so devotion. If thy views were right, reasons Eliphaz, that God disregards the afflictions of the righteous and makes the wicked to prosper, all devotion would be at an end.
For thy mouth uttereth thine iniquity, and thou choosest the tongue of the crafty.
5. The sophistry of thine own speeches proves thy guilt.
Thine own mouth condemneth thee, and not I: yea, thine own lips testify against thee.
6. No pious man would utter such sentiments.
Art thou the first man that was born? or wast thou made before the hills?
7. That is, Art thou wisdom personified? Wisdom existed before the hills; that is, the eternal Son of God (Pr 8:25; Ps 90:2). Wast thou in existence before Adam? The farther back one existed, the nearer he was to the Eternal Wisdom.
Hast thou heard the secret of God? and dost thou restrain wisdom to thyself?
8. secret—rather, "Wast thou a listener in the secret council of God?" The Hebrew means properly the cushions of a divan on which counsellors in the East usually sit. God's servants are admitted to God's secrets (Ps 25:14; Ge 18:17; Joh 15:15).
restrain—Rather, didst thou take away, or borrow, thence (namely, from the divine secret council) thy wisdom? Eliphaz in this (Job 15:8, 9) retorts Job's words upon himself (Job 12:2, 3; 13:2).
What knowest thou, that we know not? what understandest thou, which is not in us?
9. in us—or, "with us," Hebraism for "we are aware of."
With us are both the grayheaded and very aged men, much elder than thy father.
10. On our side, thinking with us are the aged. Job had admitted that wisdom is with them (Job 12:12). Eliphaz seems to have been himself older than Job; perhaps the other two were also (Job 32:6). Job, in Job 30:1, does not refer to his three friends; it therefore forms no objection. The Arabs are proud of fulness of years.
Are the consolations of God small with thee? is there any secret thing with thee?
11. consolations—namely, the revelation which Eliphaz had stated as a consolatory reproof to Job, and which he repeats in Job 15:14.
secret—Hast thou some secret wisdom and source of consolation, which makes thee disregard those suggested by me? (Job 15:8). Rather, from a different Hebrew root, Is the word of kindness or gentleness addressed by me treated by thee as valueless? [Umbreit].
Why doth thine heart carry thee away? and what do thy eyes wink at,
12. wink—that is, why do thy eyes evince pride? (Pr 6:13; Ps 35:19).
That thou turnest thy spirit against God, and lettest such words go out of thy mouth?
13. That is, frettest against God and lettest fall rash words.
What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?
14. Eliphaz repeats the revelation (Job 4:17) in substance, but using Job's own words (see on Job 14:1, on "born of a woman") to strike him with his own weapons.
Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight.
15. Repeated from Job 4:18; "servants" there are "saints" here; namely, holy angels.
heavens—literally, or else answering to "angels" (see on Job 4:18, and Job 25:5).
How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?
16. filthy—in Arabic "sour" (Ps 14:3; 53:3), corrupted from his original purity.
I will shew thee, hear me; and that which I have seen I will declare;
17. In direct contradiction of Job's position (Job 12:6, &c.), that the lot of the wicked was the most prosperous here, Eliphaz appeals (1) to his own experience, (2) to the wisdom of the ancients.
Which wise men have told from their fathers, and have not hid it:
18. Rather, "and which as handed down from their fathers, they have not concealed."
Unto whom alone the earth was given, and no stranger passed among them.
19. Eliphaz speaks like a genuine Arab when he boasts that his ancestors had ever possessed the land unmixed with foreigners [Umbreit]. His words are intended to oppose Job's (Job 9:24); "the earth" in their case was not "given into the hand of the wicked." He refers to the division of the earth by divine appointment (Ge 10:5; 25:32). Also he may insinuate that Job's sentiments had been corrupted from original purity by his vicinity to the Sabeans and Chaldeans [Rosenmuller].
The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days, and the number of years is hidden to the oppressor.
20. travaileth—rather, "trembleth of himself," though there is no real danger [Umbreit].
and the number of his years, &c.—This gives the reason why the wicked man trembles continually; namely, because he knows not the moment when his life must end.
A dreadful sound is in his ears: in prosperity the destroyer shall come upon him.
21. An evil conscience conceives alarm at every sudden sound, though it be in a time of peace ("prosperity"), when there is no real danger (Le 26:36; Pr 28:1; 2Ki 7:6).
He believeth not that he shall return out of darkness, and he is waited for of the sword.
22. darkness—namely, danger or calamity. Glancing at Job, who despaired of restoration: in contrast to good men when in darkness (Mic 7:8, 9).
waited for of—that is, He is destined for the sword [Gesenius]. Rather (in the night of danger), "he looks anxiously towards the sword," as if every sword was drawn against him [Umbreit].
He wandereth abroad for bread, saying, Where is it? he knoweth that the day of darkness is ready at his hand.
23. Wandereth in anxious search for bread. Famine in Old Testament depicts sore need (Isa 5:13). Contrast the pious man's lot (Job 5:20-22).
knoweth—has the firm conviction. Contrast the same word applied to the pious (Job 5:24, 25).
ready at his hand—an Arabic phrase to denote a thing's complete readiness and full presence, as if in the hand.
Trouble and anguish shall make him afraid; they shall prevail against him, as a king ready to the battle.
24. prevail—break upon him suddenly and terribly, as a king, &c. (Pr 6:11).
For he stretcheth out his hand against God, and strengtheneth himself against the Almighty.
25. stretcheth … hand—wielding the spear, as a bold rebel against God (Job 9:4; Isa 27:4).
He runneth upon him, even on his neck, upon the thick bosses of his bucklers:
26. on his neck—rather, "with outstretched neck," namely, that of the rebel [Umbreit] (Ps 75:5).
upon … bucklers—rather, "with—his (the rebel's, not God's) bucklers." The rebel and his fellows are depicted as joining shields together, to form a compact covering over their heads against the weapons hurled on them from a fortress [Umbreit and Gesenius].
Because he covereth his face with his fatness, and maketh collops of fat on his flanks.
27. The well-nourished body of the rebel is the sign of his prosperity.
collops—masses of fat. He pampers and fattens himself with sensual indulgences; hence his rebellion against God (De 32:15; 1Sa 2:29).
And he dwelleth in desolate cities, and in houses which no man inhabiteth, which are ready to become heaps.
28. The class of wicked here described is that of robbers who plunder "cities," and seize on the houses of the banished citizens (Isa 13:20). Eliphaz chooses this class because Job had chosen the same (Job 12:6).
He shall not be rich, neither shall his substance continue, neither shall he prolong the perfection thereof upon the earth.
29. Rather, he shall not increase his riches; he has reached his highest point; his prosperity shall not continue.
perfection—rather, "His acquired wealth—what he possesses—shall not be extended," &c.
He shall not depart out of darkness; the flame shall dry up his branches, and by the breath of his mouth shall he go away.
30. depart—that is, escape (Job 15:22, 23).
branches—namely, his offspring (Job 1:18, 19; Ps 37:35).
dry up—The "flame" is the sultry wind in the East by which plants most full of sap are suddenly shrivelled.
his mouth—that is, God's wrath (Isa 11:4).
Let not him that is deceived trust in vanity: for vanity shall be his recompence.
31. Rather, "let him not trust in vanity or he will be deceived," &c.
vanity—that which is unsubstantial. Sin is its own punishment (Pr 1:31; Jer 2:19).
It shall be accomplished before his time, and his branch shall not be green.
32. Literally, "it (the tree to which he is compared, Job 15:30, or else his life) shall not be filled up in its time"; that is, "he shall be ended before his time."
shall not be green—image from a withered tree; the childless extinction of the wicked.
He shall shake off his unripe grape as the vine, and shall cast off his flower as the olive.
33. Images of incompleteness. The loss of the unripe grapes is poetically made the vine tree's own act, in order to express more pointedly that the sinner's ruin is the fruit of his own conduct (Isa 3:11; Jer 6:19).
For the congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate, and fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery.
34. Rather, The binding together of the hypocrites (wicked) shall be fruitless [Umbreit].
tabernacles of bribery—namely, dwellings of unjust judges, often reprobated in the Old Testament (Isa 1:23). The "fire of God" that consumed Job's possessions (Job 1:16) Eliphaz insinuates may have been on account of Job's bribery as an Arab sheik or emir.
They conceive mischief, and bring forth vanity, and their belly prepareth deceit.
35. Bitter irony, illustrating the "unfruitfulness" (Job 15:34) of the wicked. Their conceptions and birthgivings consist solely in mischief, &c. (Isa 33:11).