Job 4:7
Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?
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(7) Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent?—He challenges Job’s experience, and quotes his own in proof of the universal connection between sin and suffering. In so doing, his object may be to insinuate that Job is sinful; or, as seems perhaps more probable, and certainly more gracious, to prove to him that if he is what he was supposed to be, that itself is a ground of hope, inasmuch as no innocent person is allowed to perish. He utters here a half-truth, which, however, is after all true, inasmuch as God will never fail, though He may try, those who trust in Him.

Job 4:7. Remember, I pray thee — Consult thy own experience, observation, or reading, and produce one example. Who ever perished — That is, was so utterly undone as thou art, so miserably afflicted by such unparalleled and various judgments from God and men, all conspiring against thee; being innocent — Who had not, by his wickedness, provoked so merciful a God to do what is so unusual, and contrary to his gracious nature. Therefore thou art guilty of some great, though secret crimes, and thy sin hath now found thee out, and brought down these stupendous calamities upon thee. Or, where were the righteous cut off? — By the sword of divine vengeance before his time, which is likely to be thy case. Thus Eliphaz here advances another argument to prove Job a hypocrite, taken not only from his impatience under afflictions, but from his afflictions themselves. His judgment herein was undoubtedly rash and false, but not without some appearance of truth; for God had made many promises, not only of spiritual and eternal, but also of temporal blessings to all that should faithfully serve and obey him, which he accordingly from time to time conferred on such, as we see in the examples of Noah, Lot, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and doubtless many others who had lived in or before their days. And, indeed, this was God’s usual method in all the times of the Old Testament, as we see by the people of Israel, who were generally either in a happy and flourishing, or in an afflicted and miserable state, according to their obedience to God, or apostacy from him. And, therefore, it is not strange that Eliphaz and his friends fell into this mistake.

4:7-11 Eliphaz argues, 1. That good men were never thus ruined. But there is one event both to the righteous and to the wicked, Ec 9:2, both in life and death; the great and certain difference is after death. Our worst mistakes are occasioned by drawing wrong views from undeniable truths. 2. That wicked men were often thus ruined: for the proof of this, Eliphaz vouches his own observation. We may see the same every day.Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? - The object of this question is manifestly to show to Job the inconsistency of the feelings which he had evinced. He claimed to be a righteous man. He had instructed and counselled many others. He had professed confidence in God, and in the integrity of his own ways. It was to have been expected that one with such pretensions would have evinced resignation in the time of trial, and would have been sustained by the recollection of his integrity. The fact, therefore, that Job had thus "fainted," and had given way to impatient expressions, showed that he was conscious that he had not been altogether what he had professed to be. "There must have been," is the meaning of Eliphaz, "something wrong, when such calamities come upon a man, and when his faith gives way in such a manner. It would be contrary to all the analogy of the divine dealings to suppose that such a man as Job had professed to be, could be the subject of overwhelming judgments; for who, I ask, ever perished, being innocent? It is a settled principle of the divine government, that no one ever perishes who is innocent, and that great calamities are a proof of great guilt."

This declaration contains the essence of all the positions held by Eliphaz and his colleagues in this argument. This they considered as so established that no one could call it in question, and on the ground of this they inferred that one who experienced such afflictions, no matter what his professions or his apparent piety had been, could not be a good man. This was a point about which the minds of the friends of Job were settled; and though they seem to have been disposed to concede that some afflictions might happen to good men, yet when sudden and overwhelming calamities such as they now witnessed came upon them, they inferred that there must have been corresponding guilt. Their reasoning on this subject - which runs through the book - perplexed but did not satisfy Job, and was obviously based on a wrong principle - The word "perished" here means the same as cut off, and does not differ much from being overwhelmed with calamity. The whole sentence has a proverbial cast; and the sense is, that when persons were suddenly cut off it proved that they were not innocent. Job, therefore, it was inferred, could not be a righteous man in these unusual and very special trials.

Or where were the righteous cut off? - That is, by heavy judgment; by any special and direct visitation. Eliphaz could not mean that the righteous did not die - for he could not be insensible to that fact; but he must have referred to sudden calamities. This kind of reasoning is common - that when men are afflicted with great and sudden calamities they must be especially guilty. It prevailed in the time of the Savior, and it demanded all his authority to settle the opposite principle; see Luke 13:1-5. It is that into which people naturally and easily fall; and it required much observation, and long experience, and enlarged views of the divine administration, to draw the true lines on this subject. To a certain extent, and in certain instances, calamity certainly does prove that there is special guilt. Such was the case with the old world that was destroyed by the deluge; such was the case with the cities of the plain; such is the case in the calamities that come upon the drunkard, and such too in the special curse produced by indulgence in licentiousness. But this principle does not run through all the calamities which befall people. A tower may fall on the righteous as well as the wicked; an earthquake may destroy the innocent as well as the guilty; the pestilence sweeps away the holy and the unholy, the profane and the pure, the man who fears God and him who fears him not; and the inference is now seen to be too broad when we infer, as the friends of Job did, that no righteous man is cut off by special calamity, or that great trials demonstrate that such sufferers are less righteous than others are. Judgments are not equally administered in this world, and hence, the necessity for a future world of retribution; see the notes at Luke 13:2-3.

6. Is not this thy fear, thy confidence, &c.—Does thy fear, thy confidence, come to nothing? Does it come only to this, that thou faintest now? Rather, by transposition, "Is not thy fear (of God) thy hope? and the uprightness of thy ways thy confidence? If so, bethink thee, who ever perished being innocent?" [Umbreit]. But Lu 13:2, 3 shows that, though there is a retributive divine government even in this life, yet we cannot judge by the mere outward appearance. "One event is outwardly to the righteous and to the wicked" (Ec 9:2); but yet we must take it on trust, that God deals righteously even now (Ps 37:25; Isa 33:16). Judge not by a part, but by the whole of a godly man's life, and by his end, even here (Jas 5:11). The one and the same outward event is altogether a different thing in its inward bearings on the godly and on the ungodly even here. Even prosperity, much more calamity, is a punishment to the wicked (Pr 1:32). Trials are chastisements for their good (to the righteous) (Ps 119:67, 71, 75). See Preface on the Design of this book (see [495]Introduction). Give me one example hereof out of all thy experience or reading.

Who ever perished, i.e. was so utterly undone, as thou art, so miserably afflicted by such unparalleled and various judgments from God and men, all conspiring against thee?

Being innocent; who had not by his wickedness provoked so merciful a God to do that which is so unusual, and in some sort unpleasing to himself. Therefore thou art guilty of some great, though secret, crimes, and thy sin hath now found thee out, and hath brought down these stupendous plagues upon thee.

Where were the righteous cut off by the sickle of Divine vengeance before his time, which is like to be thy case? His judgment herein was rash and false, but not without some appearance of truth; for God had made many promises, not only of spiritual and eternal, but also of temporal, blessings, to all that should faithfully serve and obey him, which accordingly he did from time to time confer upon them, as we see by the examples of Noah, Lot, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and doubtless many others which had lived in or before their days. And this was God’s usual method under all the times of the Old Testament, as we see by the people of Israel, who were generally either in a happy and flourishing, or in an afflicted and miserable, state, according to their obedience to God, or their apostacy from him. And therefore it is not strange that they fell into this mistake. But allowing for this mistake, and the consequence of it, his uncharitable opinion of Job, the method which he useth with Job is commendable, and to be imitated by others in their dealing with persons in sickness or affliction; for he doth not flatter him in his sins, nor immediately and unseasonably apply comforts to him, but endeavours to convince him of his sins, and to bring him to repentance, as the only regular way to his remedy.

Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent?.... Here Eliphaz appeals to Job himself, and desires him to recollect if ever anyone instance had fallen under his observation, in the whole course of his life, or it had ever been told him by credible persons, that an "innocent" man, by whom he means not one entirely free from sin original or actual, for he knew there was no such persons in the world, since the fall of Adam, but a truly good and gracious man, who was not guilty of any notorious and capital crime, or did not live a vicious course of life; if he ever knew or heard of any such persons that "perished", which cannot be understood of eternal ruin and destruction, which would be at once granted, that such as these described can never perish in such a sense, but have everlasting life; nor of a corporeal death, which is sometimes the sense of perishing, since it is notorious that innocent and righteous persons so perish or die, see Ecclesiastes 7:15 Isaiah 57:1; and could it be meant of a violent death, an answer might have been returned; and Eliphaz perhaps was not acquainted with it himself, that that innocent and righteous person Abel thus perished by the hands of his brother: but this is rather to be understood of perishing by afflictions, sore and heavy ones, not ordinary but extraordinary ones; and which are, or look like, the judgments of God on men, whereby they lose their all, their substance, their servants, their children, as well as their own health, which was Job's case; and therefore if no parallel instance of an innocent person ever being in the like case, it is insinuated that Job could not be an innocent man:

or where were the righteous cut off? such as are truly righteous in the sight of God, as well as before men, who have the gift of righteousness bestowed on them, and live soberly, righteously, and godly; in what age or country was it ever known that such persons, in their family and substance, were cut off by the hand and providence of God, and abandoned and forsaken by him, and reduced to such circumstances that there could be no hope of their ever being in prosperous ones again? and Job now being in such a forlorn and miserable case and condition, it is suggested, that he could not be a righteous man: but admitting that no such instance could be produced, Eliphaz was too hasty and premature in his conclusion; seeing, as it later appeared, Job was not so cut off, abandoned, and forsaken by God, as not to rise any more; for his latter end was greater than his beginning: and besides, innocent and righteous persons are often involved in the same calamities as wicked men are, and their afflictions are the same; only with this difference, to the one they are the proper punishment of sin, to the other they are fatherly chastisements and trials of their grace, and issue in their good; the Targum explains it of such persons, as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, none such as they perishing, or being cut off.

Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being {d} innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?

(d) He concludes that Job was reproved seeing that God handles him so extremely, which is the argument that the carnal men make against the children of God.

7. Eliphaz would have Job remember that the afflictions of the righteous are disciplinary, and not designed for their destruction—who ever perished being innocent? He puts his principle first negatively, the righteous do not perish under affliction; and then positively, it is the wicked, they who plough iniquity that reap it, Job 4:8 seq.

Verse 7. - Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? The heart of the matter is now approached. Job is called upon to "remember" the long-established moral axiom, that only evil-doing brings down upon men calamities, and that therefore, where calamities fall, them must be precedent wickedness. If he does not admit this, he-is challenged to bring forward examples, or even a single example, of suffering innocence. If he does admit it, he is left to apply the axiom to himself. Or where were the righteous cut off? Was the example of "righteous Abel" (Matthew 23:35) unknown to Eliphaz? And had he really never seen that noblest of all sights, the good man struggling with adversity? One would imagine it impossible to attain old age, in the world wherein we live, without becoming convinced by our own observation that good and evil, prosperity and adversity, are not distributed in this life according to moral desert; but a preconceived notion of what ought to have been seems here, as elsewhere so often in the field of speculation, to have blinded men to the actual facts of the case, and driven them to invent explanations of the facts, which militated against their theories, of the most absurdly artificial character. To account for the sufferings of the righteous, the explanation of "secret sins" was introduced, and it was argued that, where affliction seemed to fall on the good man, his goodness was not real goodness - it was a counterfeit, a sham - the fabric of moral excellence, so fair to view, was honeycombed by secret vices, to which the seemingly good man was a prey. Of course, if the afflictions wore abnormal, extraordinary, then the secret sins must be of a most heinous and horrible kind to deserve such a terrible retribution. This is what Eliphaz hints to be the solution in Job's case. God has seen his secret sins - he has "set them in the light of his countenance" (Psalm 90:8) - and is punishing them openly. Job's duty is to humble himself before God, to confess, repent, and amend. Then, and then only, may he hope that God will remove his hand, and put an end to his sufferings Job 4:7 6 Is not thy piety thy confidence,

Thy Hope? And the uprightness of thy ways?

7 Think now: who ever perished, being innocent?!

And where have the righteous been cut off?!

8 As often as I saw, those who ploughed evil

And sowed sorrow, - they reaped the same.

9 By the breath of Eloah they perished,

By the breath of His anger they vanished away.

10 The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the shachal,

And the teeth of the young lions, are rooted out.

11 The lion wanders about for want of prey,

And the lioness' whelps are scattered.

In Job 4:6 all recent expositors take the last waw as waw apodosis: And thy hope, is not even this the integrity of thy way? According to our punctuation, there is no occasion for supposing such an application of the waw apodosis, which is an error in a clause consisting only of substantives, and is not supported by the examples, Job 15:17; Job 23:12; 2 Samuel 22:41.

(Note: We will not, however, dispute the possibility, for at least in Arabic one can say, zı̂d f-hkı̂m Zeid, he is wise. Grammarians remark that Arab. zı̂d in this instance is like a hypothetical sentence: If any one asks, etc. 2 Samuel 15:34 is similar.)


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