Job 15:4
Yes, you cast off fear, and restrain prayer before God.
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(4) Yea, thou castest off fear.—The tendency also of Job has been to encourage a kind of fatalism (e.g., Job 12:16-25), and therefore to check the offering of prayer to God, besides setting an example which, if followed, as from Job’s position it was likely to be, would lead to murmuring and blasphemy.

Job 15:4. Yea, thou castest off fear — Hebrew, Thou makest void fear; the fear of God, piety, and religion, by thy unworthy speeches of God, and by those false and pernicious principles, that God makes no difference between good and bad in the course of his providence, but equally prospers or afflicts both: thou dost that which tends to the subversion of the fear and worship of God. And restrainest prayer — Thou dost, by thy words and principles, as far as in thee lies, banish prayer out of the world, by making it useless and unprofitable to men. Houbigant’s translation of the verse is, Truly, thou loosest the bonds of religion; thou preventest the groans or prayers which are sent up to God. Thy speeches, says Bishop Patrick, “destroy all religion, and discourage men from pouring out their complaint in prayer to God.”15:1-16 Eliphaz begins a second attack upon Job, instead of being softened by his complaints. He unjustly charges Job with casting off the fear of God, and all regard to him, and restraining prayer. See in what religion is summed up, fearing God, and praying to him; the former the most needful principle, the latter the most needful practice. Eliphaz charges Job with self-conceit. He charges him with contempt of the counsels and comforts given him by his friends. We are apt to think that which we ourselves say is important, when others, with reason, think little of it. He charges him with opposition to God. Eliphaz ought not to have put harsh constructions upon the words of one well known for piety, and now in temptation. It is plain that these disputants were deeply convinced of the doctrine of original sin, and the total depravity of human nature. Shall we not admire the patience of God in bearing with us? and still more his love to us in the redemption of Christ Jesus his beloved Son?Yea, thou castest off fear - Margin, Makest void. Fear here means the fear or reverence of God; and the idea is, that Job had not maintained a proper veneration or respect for his Maker in his argument. He had defended principles and made assertions which implied great disrespect for the Deity. If those doctrines were true; if he was right in his views about God, then he was not a being who could be reverenced. No confidence could be placed in his government; no worship of such a being could be maintained. Eliphaz does not refer here so much to what was personal with Job, as to his principles. He does not mean so much to affirm that he himself had lost all reverence for God, as that his arguments led to that. Job had maintained that God did not in this life reward and punish people strictly according to their deserts. If this was so, Eliphaz says, then it would be impossible to honor him, and religion and worship would be at an end.

The Hebrew word rendered "castest off" - more accurately rendered in the margin "makest void" (תפר tāpēr) - implies this. "And restrainest prayer before God." Margin, "speech." The Hebrew word שׂיחה śı̂ychâh means properly "meditation" - and particularly meditation about divine things: Psalm 119:97. Then it means "devotion" - as to meditate on divine things is a part of devotion. It may be applied to any part of devotion, and seems to be not improperly rendered "prayer." It is that devotion which finds utterance in the language of prayer. The word rendered "restrainest" - תגרע tı̂gâra‛ - means to shave off - like the beard; then to cut off, to take away, detract, withhold; and the idea here is, that the views which Job maintained were such as "to sap the very foundations of religion." If God treated the righteous and the wicked alike, the one would have nothing to hope and the other nothing to fear.

There could be no ground of encouragement, to pray to him. How could the righteous pray to him, unless there was evidence that he was the friend of virtue? How could they hope for his special blessing, if he were disposed to treat the good and the bad alike? Why was it not just as well to live in sin as to be holy? And how could such a being be the object of confidence or prayer? Eliphaz mistook the meaning of Job, and pressed his positions further than he intended; and Job was not entirely able to vindicate his position, or to show how the consequences stated by Eliphaz could be avoided. "They both wanted the complete and full view of the future state of retribution revealed in the gospel, and that would have removed the whole difficulty." But I see not how the considerations here urged by this ancient sage of the tendency of Job's doctrine can be avoided, if it be applied to the views of those who hold that all people will be saved at death. If that be the truth, then who can fail to see that the tendency must be to make people cast off the fear of God and to undermine all devotion and prayer? Why should people pray, if all are to be treated alike at death? How can people worship and honor a Being who will treat the good and the bad alike? How can we have confidence in a being who makes no distinction in regard to character? And what inducement can there be to be pious, when all people shall be made as happy as they can be forever whether they are pious or not? We are not to wonder, therefore, that the system tends every where to sap the foundations of virtue and religion; that it makes no man better; and that where it prevails, it banishes religion and prayer from the world.

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.

Heb. Thou makest void fear, i.e. the fear of God, as the word is oft used

for the word of God; or piety and religion, which oft cometh under the name of fear. This may be understood either,

1. Of Job himself; that he cast off all reverence to God, by uttering such bold and reproachful expressions concerning God and his providence. Or,

2. With respect to others; that by his insolent and unworthy speeches of and carriage towards God, and by those false and pernicious principles which he had laid down; as that God dealt with men in way of absolute sovereignty, not of justice; and that he made no difference between good and bad in the course of his providence, but did equally prosper or afflict both of them; he did that which tended to the subversion of the fear and worship of God.

Restrainest prayer; as this Hebrew word signifies also, Psalm 102:1. Or, meditation or speech; which well agrees to prayer, which is accompanied with serious thoughts and expressions. The sense is, either,

1. Instead of humble and fervent prayer to God, which thy condition calleth for, thou breathest forth false and blasphemous speeches against him. Or,

2. Thou dost by thy words, and examples, and principles, as far as in thee lies, banish prayer out of the world, by making it useless and unprofitable to men. Yea, thou castest off fear,.... Not of man; a slavish fear of man is to be cast off, because that brings a snare, deters men from their duty, and leads into sin; though there is a fear and reverence of men which ought to be given to them, "fear to whom fear", Romans 13:7; but here the fear of God is meant, which is to be understood of the grace of fear, of which Job was possessed; that could not be cast off, for this is not what is in a man naturally, or is by the light of nature, and arises from natural conviction, which may be cast off, as was by Pharaoh; but this is a blessing of the covenant of grace, sure and firm, and is one of the gifts of grace that are without repentance; it is a part of internal grace, which can never be lost; it is improved and increased by fresh discoveries of the grace and goodness of God, and is an antidote and preservative against apostasy: perhaps the whole worship of God may be meant, external worship, or outward religion in the form of it, which is sometimes signified by the fear of God: Ecclesiastes 12:14; and it is cast off when it is neglected and not attended to, or when men become profane, after they have made a profession of religion; but as neither of these can be thought to be the case of Job, rather the meaning of Eliphaz may be, that Job did not show that reverence to God he should, as his words may seem, in Job 13:20; or that by his way of talk and reasoning, and by the notions he had imbibed and gave out, and the assertions he laid down, all religion would be made void among men; for if, as he had said, God "destroys the perfect and the wicked, and the tabernacles of robbers prosper, and the just men are laughed to scorn", Job 9:22; who would fear God? it might be inferred from hence, that it is a vain thing to serve him, and there can be no profit got by keeping his ordinances, and walking before him; this is the way to put an end to all religion, as if Eliphaz should say, and discourage all regard unto it:

and restrainest prayer before God; prayer is to be made to God and to him only, it is a part of religious worship, directed to by the light of nature, and ought to be performed by every man; it is a special privilege of the saints, who have a covenant God on a throne of grace to go to, and can pray in a spiritual manner for spiritual things; and especially is to be observed in times of trouble, in which Job now was, and never to be disused; now this charge either respects Job himself, that he left off praying, which can hardly be supposed; or that he drew out prayer to a great length, as some understand the words (w), like the tautologies of the Heathen; or he diminished prayer, as others (x), lessened the times of prayer, and the petitions in it: or rather it may respect others; not that it can be thought he should lay his injunctions on those over whom he had any authority, forbidding his servants, or those about him, to pray; but that by his manner of reasoning he discouraged prayer, as Eliphaz thought, as an useless thing; for if God laughs at the trials and afflictions of the innocent, and suffers wicked men to prosper, who would pray to him, or serve him? see Job 9:23.

(w) "tulisti", V. L. "traheres", Cocceius; "multiplicasti", so some in Bar Tzemach. (x) "Imminues", Montanus; "imminuisti", Bolducius; "diminuis", Schmidt; "minuis", Schultens.

Yea, thou castest off {c} fear, and restrainest prayer before God.

(c) He charges Job as though his talk caused men to cast off the fear of God and prayer.

4. Job was more than unwise, he was doing away with all fear of God.

castest off fear] Or, as margin, makest void, doest away with, the fear of God.

restrainest prayer] Rather, impairest reverence or devotion. The charge of Eliphaz is not merely that Job was irreligious himself, but that the tendency of his conduct and principles must be to diminish and do away devoutness and religion among men.Verse 4. - Yea, thou castest off fear. To Eliphaz, Job's words - his bold expostulations (Job 13:3, 15, 22, etc.), his declarations that he knows he will be justified (Job 13:8), and that God will be his Salvation (Job 13:16) - seem to imply that he has cast off altogether the fear of God, and is entirely devoid of reverence. Some of his expressions certainly seem over-bold; but, on the other hand, his sense of God's purity, perfectness, and transcendent power is continually manifest, and should have saved him from the rude reproach here launched against him (comp. Job 9:1-13; Job 12:24 25; 13:11, 21, etc.). And restrainest prayer before God; rather, and hinderest devout meditation before God. Eliphaz means that Job expresses himself in a way so cf. fensive to devout souls, that he disturbs their minds and prevents them from indulging in those pious meditations on the Divine goodness which would otherwise occupy them (comp. Psalm 119:97). Thus, according to Eliphaz, Job is not only irreligious himself, but the cause of irreligion in others. 20 Thou siezest him for ever, then he passeth away;

Thou changest his countenance and castest him forth.

21 If his sons come to honour, he knoweth it not;

Or to want, he observeth them not.

22 Only on his own account his flesh suffereth pain,

And on his own account is his soul conscious of grief.

The old expositors thought that תּתקפהוּ must be explained by תתקף נמנו (Thou provest thyself stronger than he, according to Ges. 121, 4), because תּקף is intrans.; but it is also transitive in the sense of seizing forcibly and grasping, Job 15:24; Ecclesiastes 4:12, as Talm. תּקף (otherwise commonly אתקף as החזיק), Arab. taqifa, comprehendere. The many sufferings which God inflicts on him in the course of his life are not meant; לנצח does not signify here: continually, without intermission, as most expositors explain, but as Job 4:20; Job 20:7, and throughout the book: for ever (Rosenm., Hahn, Welte). God gives him the death-stroke which puts an end to his life for ever, he passes away βαίνει, οἴχεται (comp. Job 10:21); disfiguring his countenance, i.e., in the struggle of death and in death by the gradual working of decay, distorting and making him unlike himself, He thrusts him out of this life (שׁלּח like Genesis 3:23). The waw consec. is used here as e.g., Psalm 118:27.

When he is descended into Hades he knows nothing more of the fortune of his children, for as Ecclesiastes 9:6 says: the dead have absolutely no portion in anything that happens under the sun. In Job 14:21 Job does not think of his own children that have died, nor his grandchildren (Ewald); he speaks of mankind in general. כּבד and צער are not here placed in contrast in the sense of much and little, but, as in Jeremiah 30:19, in the wider sense of an important or a destitute position; כּבד, to be honoured, to attain to honour, as Isaiah 66:5. בּין (to observe anything) is joined with ל of the object, as in Psalm 73:17 (on the other hand, להּ, Job 13:1, was taken as dat. ethicus). He neither knows nor cares anything about the welfare of those who survive him: "Nothing but pain and sadness is the existence of the dead; and the pain of his own flesh, the sadness of his own soul, alone engage him. He has therefore no room for rejoicing, nor does the joyous or sorrowful estate of others, though his nearest ones, affect him" (Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, i. 495). This is certainly, as Ewald and Psychol. S. 444, the meaning of Job 14:22; but עליו is hardly to be translated with Hofmann "in him," so that it gives the intensive force of ἴδιος to the suff. For it is improbable that in this connection, - where the indifference of the deceased respecting others, and the absolute reference to himself of the existence of pain on his own account, are contrasted, - עליו, Job 14:22, is to be understood according to Job 30:16 (Psychol. S. 152), but rather objectively (over him). On the other hand, Job 14:22 is not to be translated: over himself only does his flesh feel pain (Schlottm., Hirz., and others); for the flesh as inanimate may indeed be poetically, so to speak zeugmatically, represented as conscious of pain, but not as referring its pain to another, and consequently as self-conscious. On this account, עליו, Job 14:22, is to be taken in the signification, over him equals upon him, or as Job 14:22 (beyond him), which is doubtful; or it signifies, as we have sought to render it in our translation in both cases, propter eum. Only on his own account does his flesh suffer, i.e., only applying to himself, only on his own account does his soul mourn, i.e., only over his own condition. He has no knowledge and interest that extends beyond himself; only he himself is the object of that which takes place with his flesh in the grave, and of that on which his soul reflects below in the depths of Hades. According to this interpretation אך belongs to עליו, after the hyperbaton described at Job 2:10, comp. Job 13:15, Isaiah 34:15. And he עליו, Job 14:22, implies the idea (which is clearly expressed in Isaiah 66:24, and especially in Judith 16:17: δοῦναι πῦρ καὶ σκώληκας εἰς σάρκας αὐτῶν καὶ κλαύσονται ἐν αἰσθήσει ἕως αἰῶνος) that the process of the decomposition of the body is a source of pain and sorrow to the departed spirit, - a conception which proceeds from the supposition, right in itself, that a connection between body and soul is still continued beyond the grave, - a connection which is assumed by the resurrection, but which, as Job viewed it, only made the future still more sorrowful.

This speech of Job (Job 12-14), which closes here, falls into three parts, which correspond to the divisions into chapters. In the impassioned speech of Zophar, who treats Job as an empty and conceited babbler, the one-sided dogmatical standpoint of the friends was maintained with such arrogance and assumption, that Job is obliged to put forth all his power in self-defence. The first part of the speech (Job 12) triumphantly puts down this arrogance and assumption. Job replies that the wisdom, of which they profess to be the only possessors, is nothing remarkable, and the contempt with which they treat him is the common lot of the innocent, while the prosperity of the ungodly remains undisturbed. In order, however, to prove to them that what they say of the majesty of God, before which he should humble himself, can neither overawe nor help him, he refers them to creation, which in its varied works testifies to this majesty, this creative power of God, and the absolute dependence of every living thin on Him, and proves that he is not wanting in an appreciation of the truth contained in the sayings of the ancients by a description of the absolute majesty of God as it is manifested in the works of nature, and especially in the history of man, which excels everything that the three had said. This description is, however, throughout a gloomy picture of disasters which God brings about in the world, corresponding to the gloomy condition of mind in which Job is, and the disaster which is come upon himself.

As the friends have failed to solace him by their descriptions of God, so his own description is also utterly devoid of comfort. For the wisdom of God, of which he speaks, is not the wisdom that orders the world in which one can confide, and in which one has the surety of seeing every mystery of life sooner or later gloriously solved; but this wisdom is something purely negative, and repulsive rather than attractive, it is abstract exaltation over all created wisdom, whence it follows that he puts to shame the wisdom of the wise. Of the justice of God he does not speak at all, for in the narrow idea of the friends he cannot recognise its control; and of the love of God he speaks as little as the friends, for as the sight of the divine love is removed from them by the one-sidedness of their dogma, so is it from him by the feeling of the wrath of God which at present has possession of his whole being. Hegel has called the religion of the Old Testament the religion of sublimity (die Religion der Erhabenheit); and it is true that, so long as that manifestation of love, the incarnation of the Godhead, was not yet realized, God must have relatively transcended the religious consciousness. From the book of Job, however, this view can be brought back to its right limits; for, according to the tendency of the book, neither the idea of God presented by the friends nor by Job is the pure undimmed notion of God that belongs to the Old Testament. The friends conceive of God as the absolute One, who acts only according to justice; Job conceives of Him as the absolute One, who acts according to the arbitrariness of His absolute power. According to the idea of the book, the former is dogmatic one-sidedness, the latter the conception of one passing through temptation. The God of the Old Testament consequently rules neither according to justice alone, nor according to a "sublime whim."

After having proved his superiority over the friends in perception of the majesty of God, Job tells them his decision, that he shall turn away from them. The sermon they address to him is to no purpose, and in fact produces an effect the reverse of that intended by them. And while it does Job no good, it injures them, because their very defence of the honour of God incriminates themselves in the eyes of God. Their aim is missed by them, for the thought of the absolute majesty of God has no power to impart comfort to any kind of sufferer; nor can the thought of His absolute justice give any solace to a sufferer who is conscious that he suffers innocently. By their confidence that Job's affliction is a decree of the justice of God, they certainly seem to defend the honour of God; but this defence is reversed as soon as it is manifest that there exists no such just ground for inflicting punishment on him. Job's self-consciousness, however, which cannot be shaken, gives no testimony to its justice; their advocacy of God is therefore an injustice to Job, and a miserable attempt at doing God service, which cannot escape the undisguised punishment of God. It is to be carefully noted that in Job 13:6-12 Job seriously warns the friends that God will punish them for their partiality, i.e., that they have endeavoured to defend Him at the expense of truth.

We see from this how sound Job's idea of God is, so far as it is not affected by the change which seems, according to the light which his temptation casts upon his affliction, to have taken place in his personal relationship to God. While above, ch. 9, he did not acknowledge an objective right, and the rather evaded the thought, of God's dealing unjustly towards him, by the desperate assertion that what God does is in every case right because God does it, he here recognises an objective truth, which cannot be denied, even in favour of God, and the denial of which, even though it were a pientissima fraus, is strictly punished by God. God is the God of truth, and will therefore be neither defended nor honoured by any perverting of the truth. By such pious lies the friends involve themselves in guilt, since in opposition to their better knowledge they regard Job as unrighteous, and blind themselves to the incongruities of daily experience and the justice of God. Job will therefore have nothing more to do with them; and to whom does he now turn? Repelled by men, he feels all the more strongly drawn to God. He desires to carry his cause before God. He certainly considers God to be his enemy, but, like David, he thinks it is better to fall into the hands of God than into the hands of man (2 Samuel 24:14). He will plead his cause with God, and prove to Him his innocence: he will do it, even though he be obliged to expiate his boldness with his life; for he knows that morally he will not be overcome in the contest. He requires compliance with but two conditions: that God would grant a temporary alleviation of his pain, and that He would not overawe him with the display of His majesty. Job's disputing with God is as terrible as it is pitiable. It is terrible, because he uplifts himself, Titan-like, against God; and pitiable, because the God against which he fights is not the God he has known, but a God that he is unable to recognise, - the phantom which the temptation has presented before his dim vision instead of the true God. This phantom is still the real God to him, but in other respects in no way differing from the inexorable ruling fate of the Greek tragedy. As in this the hero of the drama seeks to maintain his personal freedom against the mysterious power that is crushing him with an iron arm, so Job, even at the risk of sudden destruction, maintains the stedfast conviction of his innocence, in opposition to a God who has devoted him, as an evil-doer, to slow but certain destruction. The battle of freedom against necessity is the same as in the Greek tragedy. Accordingly one is obliged to regard it as an error, arising from simple ignorance, when it has been recently maintained that the boundless oriental imagination is not equal to such a truly exalted task as that of representing in art and poetry the power of the human spirit, and the maintenance of its dignity in the conflict with hostile powers, because a task that can only be accomplished by an imagination formed with a perception of the importance of recognising ascertained phenomena.

(Note: Vid., Arnold Ruge, Die Academie, i. S. 29.)

In treating this subject, the book of Job not only attains to, but rises far above, the height attained by the Greek tragedy: for, on the one hand, it brings this conflict before us in all the fearful earnestness of a death-struggle; on the other, however, it does not leave us to the cheerless delusion that an absolute caprice moulds human destiny. This tragic conflict with the divine necessity is but the middle, not the beginning nor the end, of the book; for this god of fate is not the real God, but a delusion of Job's temptation. Human freedom does not succumb, but it comes forth from the battle, which is a refining fire to it, as conqueror. The dualism, which the Greek tragedy leaves unexplained, is here cleared up. The book certainly presents much which, from its tragic character, suggests this idea of destiny, but it is not its final aim - it goes far beyond: it does not end in the destruction of its hero by fate; but the end is the destruction of the idea of this fate itself.


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