Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said,
Verses 1-30. - Eliphaz returns to the attack, but with observations that are at first strangely pointless and irrelevant, e.g. on the unprofitableness of man to God (vers. l, 2), and on the slight importance of Job's case (ver. 3). After this weak prelude, however, there is more vigour in his assault. In vers. 4-9 he directly charges Job with a number of specified sins, and in vers. 10, 11 declares his sufferings to be the consequence of them. He then proceeds to accuse him of denying God's omniscience (vers. 12-14), and, alter some not very successful attempts to retort on him his own words (vers. 15-20), finally recurs to his favourite devices (see Job 5:17-26) of exhorting Job to submission and repentance, and promising him restoration to God's favour and a return of prosperity (vers. 21-30). Verses 1, 2. - Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said, Can a man be profitable unto God? Job had said nothing upon this point; but perhaps Eliphaz thinks his complaints and expostulations to imply a higher value in man, and a greater claim to consideration at God's hands, than can rightly be challenged. Certainly God does not depend on man for profit or advantage of any kind. Neither our wisdom nor our goodness "extendeth to him." As he that is wise may be profitable unto himself; rather, truly he that is wise is profitable unto himself; i.e. to himself only, and not to God. Man's intelligence and researches can add nothing to God's knowledge.
Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself?
Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous? or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect?
Verse 3. - Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous? As "our goodness extendeth not to God," and as his all-perfect happiness knows neither increase nor diminution, we cannot he said to advantage him by our goodness. Still "good works, which are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification, are pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ;" and God himself condescends to say that he "takes pleasure in his people," "in them that fear him" (Psalm 147:11; Psalm 149:4). Or is it gain to him that thou makest thy ways perfect? Of course, the "gain" is to the man himself, and not to God. He saves his soul alive. God has one more worshipper in the courts of heaven, one more voice added to the choir which hymns his praise for evermore, But what is one drop added to an ocean?
Will he reprove thee for fear of thee? will he enter with thee into judgment?
Verse 4. - Will he reprove thee for fear of thee? rather, Is it for thy fear of him that he reproveth thee? Surely not. If he reproves thee, it must be because thou fearest him not. The fact of thy reproof is sure evidence of the fact of thy guilt. Will he enter with thee into judgment? rather, that he entereth with thee into judgment (see the Revised Version).
Is not thy wickedness great? and thine iniquities infinite?
Verse 5. - Is not thy wickedness great? Judging from the greatness of Job's punishment, Eliphaz concludes, logically from his premisses, that his wickedness must be commensurate. He must have been guilty of almost every form of ill-doing. And thine iniquities infinite? literally, and is there not no end to thine iniquities? These general conclusions seem to Eliphaz to justify him in proceeding to the enumeration of details.
For thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother for nought, and stripped the naked of their clothing.
Verse 6. - For thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother for nought; i.e. thou hast lent to thy brother on pledge, without reasonable cause, when thou weft rich enough to need no security (comp. Nehemiah 5:2-11). And stripped the naked of their clothing. When thy brother, on borrowing from thee, pledged his raiment, thou didst retain it, and so didst leave him to shiver all night without covering (see Exodus 22:26, 27). We may, perhaps, gather from this that the Mosaic Law on the subject was founded on an anterior custom widely prevalent in SouthWestern Asia.
Thou hast not given water to the weary to drink, and thou hast withholden bread from the hungry.
Verse 7. - Thou hast not given water to the weary to drink. To give water to the thirsty was regarded in the East as one of the most elementary duties of man to man. The self-justification of the dead in the Egyptian Hades contained the following passage: "I gave my bread to the hungry, and drink to him that was athirst; I clothed the naked with garments; I sheltered the wanderer" ('Ritual of the Dead,' ch. CXXV. § 38). The same claim appears continually on Egyptian tombs. "All men respected me," we read on one; "I gave water to the thirsty; I set the wanderer in his path; I took away the oppressor, and put a stop to violence" ('Non-Biblical Systems of Religion,' p. 46). In the proverbs assigned to Solomon, "which the men of Hezekiah copied out" (Proverbs 25:1), the duty was declared to be one owed even to enemies (see Proverbs 25:21, "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink"). Isaiah notices it as praiseworthy in the Temanites (Eliphaz's people), that they "brought water to him that was thirsty and prevented with their bread him that fled" (Isaiah 21:14). Jael is praised for going further than this: He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish" (Judges 5:25). And thou hast withholden bread from the hungry. Later on Job absolutely denies this, as well as many of the other charges. "If I have withheld," he says, "the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof," then let mine arm fall from my shoulder-blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone" (Job 31:16-22).
But as for the mighty man, he had the earth; and the honourable man dwelt in it.
Verse 8. - But as for the mighty man, he had the earth; literally, as for the man of arm; i.e. the man strong of arm. Job's retainers are probably meant, whom Eliphaz supposes to have been allowed by Job to oppress the poor, and have their own way in the world. This charge was doubtless as baseless as the others (comp. Job 29:16, 17). And the honourable man dwelt in it; of the accepted man - "the favoured man," i.e. those of whom Job approved and whom he favoured.
Thou hast sent widows away empty, and the arms of the fatherless have been broken.
Verse 9. - Thou hast sent widows away empty. Job, on the contrary, declares that he "caused the widow s heart to sing for joy" (Job 29:13). The sin of oppressing widows was one of which Job deeply felt the heinousness. He is certainly a priori not likely to have committed it (Job 1:1; Job 4:3, 4), and the prejudiced testimony of Eliphaz will scarcely convince any dispassionate person to the contrary. And the arms of the fatherless have been broken; i.e. the strength of the fatherless has been (by thy fault) taken flora them. Job has allowed them to be oppressed and ruined. The reply of Job is, "When the ear heard, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw, it gave witness to me: because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him" (Job 29:11, 12; see also Job 31:21, 22).
Therefore snares are round about thee, and sudden fear troubleth thee;
Verse 10. - Therefore snares are round about thee. As Bildad had threatened (Job 18:8-10), and as Job himself had acknowledged (Job 19:6). And sudden fear troubleth thee (comp. Job 3:25; Job 7:14; Job 13:21, etc.).
Or darkness, that thou canst not see; and abundance of waters cover thee.
Verse 11. - Or darkness, that thou canst not see. Job had complained of the "darkness" that was "set in his paths" (Job 19:8), meaning probably his inability to discover the cause of his afflictions. And abundance of waters cover thee. The comparison of severe affliction to an overwhelming flood is very common in Scripture (see Psalm 42:7; Psalm 69:1-3, 14, 15; Psalm 124:4, 5; Lamentations 3:54, etc.). So Shakespeare speaks of "a sea of troubles."
Is not God in the height of heaven? and behold the height of the stars, how high they are!
Verse 12. - Is not God in the height of heaven? From taxing Job with definite open sins, Eliphaz proceeds to accuse him of impious thoughts and principles. He does not acknowledge, Eliphaz says, either the majesty or the omniscience of God. Here he has, at any rate, some tangible ground for his reproaches. Job's words have been over-bold, over-venturesome. He has seemed to forget the distance between God and man (Job 9:30-33; Job 10:2, 3; Job 13:3, etc.), and to call in question either God's omniscience or his regard for moral distinctions (Job 9:22, 23; Job 21:7-13, 23-26). Hence Eliphaz is enabled to take a high tone and ask, "Hast thou forgotten that God is in the height of heaven, far up above all us poor wretched mortals? Dost thou need to be reminded of this? He is above the stars, and yet behold the height of the stars, how high they are! Even they are infinitely above men, yet how far below him!" (comp. Job 35:5).
And thou sayest, How doth God know? can he judge through the dark cloud?
Verse 13. - And thou sayest, How doth God know? Job had not said this in so many words, but, by equalizing the godly and the wicked (Job 9:22; Job 21:23-26), he might be supposed to mean that God took no note of men's conduct, and therefore had not a perfect knowledge of all things. The psalmist implies that many men so thought (Psalm 10:11; Psalm 73:11; Psalm 94:7). Can he judge through the dark cloud? rather, through the thick darkness. God was supposed to dwell remote from man, in the highest heaven, and, according to many, "clouds and darkness were round about him" (Psalm 97:2) - he "dwelt in the thick darkness" (1 Kings 8:12) - he "made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him was waters, and thick clouds of the skies" (Psalm 18:11). The imagery was, no doubt, at first used in reference to man's inability to see and know God; but when men became familiar with it, they turned the metaphor round, and questioned God's ability to see and know anything about man. Job had not really ever shared in these doubts; but it suits Eliphaz's purpose to malign and misrepresent him.
Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not; and he walketh in the circuit of heaven.
Verse 14. - Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not (see the comment on the preceding verse); and he walketh in the circuit of heaven; or, on the circumference of the heavens. The heavens are regarded as a solid vault, outside which is the place where God dwells.
Hast thou marked the old way which wicked men have trodden?
Verse 15. - Hast thou marked the old way which wicked men have trodden? rather, Wilt thou keep the old way etc.? (see the Revised Version). Eliphaz assumes that it is Job's intention to cast in his lot with these persons whose prosperous wickedness he has described in the preceding chapter (vers. 7-15). And this notwithstanding Job's final protest, "Be the counsel of the wicked far from me" (ver. 16). He calls the mode of life pursued by these wicked persons "the old way," either with allusion to the seed of Cain before the Flood, who "corrupted their way" (Genesis 6:12), or perhaps with reference to the descendants of Nimrod after it (see Professor Lee's 'Book of Job,' p. 361).
Which were cut down out of time, whose foundation was overflown with a flood:
Verse 16. - Which were cut down (rather, swept or snatched away) out of time; i.e. before their time, prematurely. Whose foundation was overflown with a flood. Some suppose an allusion to the general destruction of mankind by the Noachian Deluge; but perhaps no more is meant than that the supports of the wicked are ordinarily loosened and carried away by a flood of calamity. No single event need be referred to.
Which said unto God, Depart from us: and what can the Almighty do for them?
Verse 17. - Who said unto God, Depart from us (comp. Job 21:14). Eliphaz tries, though with no very great success, to turn Job's words against him. And, What can the Almighty do for them? i.e. and ask what the Almighty can do for them. A change from the second to the third person, without any change of subject, is not unusual in Hebrew. The wicked renounce God, and bid him depart from them - conduct which they justify by asking what good he could do them if they acted otherwise. The idea is the same as that of Job 21:15, though not expressed so pointedly. What Eliphaz thinks to gain by echoing Job's words is not very apparent.
Yet he filled their houses with good things: but the counsel of the wicked is far from me.
Verse 18. - Yet he filled their houses with good things. The "he" is emphatic (הוּא). Translate, Yet it was he that filled their houses with good things; and comp. Job 21:16, where the prosperity of the wicked is said not to have proceeded from themselves. But the counsel of the wicked is far from me; or, but let the counsel of the wicked be far from me. Again, Job's words in Job 21:16 are echoed, perhaps that Eliphaz may show himself to be at least as pious as Job.
The righteous see it, and are glad: and the innocent laugh them to scorn.
Verse 19. - The righteous see it, and are glad; i.e. "the righteous see both the short-lived prosperity (ver. 18) and the ultimate destruction (ver. 16) of the wicked, and rejoice over them. especially over the latter" (comp. Psalm 58:10; Psalm 107:40-42; Proverbs 11:10). And the innocent laugh them to scorn (comp. Psalm 2:6). Scorn and derision are the just portion of the wicked, and in Old Testament times even saints did not scruple to pour them out on those who deserved them. But the gospel spirit is different.
Whereas our substance is not cut down, but the remnant of them the fire consumeth.
Verse 20. - Whereas our substance is not cut down. It is best to take these as the words of the righteous in their triumph over the wicked; but they can scarcely bear the interpretation given them in the Authorized Version. The clause is not really negative but affirmative, and the word קִים. does not mean "substance," but "adversary." Translate, Surely they that rose up against us (or, our adversaries) are cut off; and compare the Revised Version. The "adversaries" of the righteous are the "wicked men" who have been "snatched away before their time," and have had their "foundation overflown with a flood" (ver. 16). But the remnant of them the fire consumeth; rather, and the remnant of them hath the fire consumed (see the Revised Version). The "fire" here, like the "flood" in ver. 16, is a metaphor, and therefore not to be pressed. All that is essential is that the wicked are destroyed. Over this the "righteous" and the "innocent" rejoice.
Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee.
Verses 21-30. - At this point a transition occurs. Eliphaz turns away from reproaches, open or covert, designed to exhibit Job as an example of extreme wickedness, and falls back on those topics which were the main subjects of his first exhortation (Job 5:8-27), viz. an earnest appeal to Job to return to God, to repent and amend (vers. 21-23) and a lavish outpouring of promises, or prophecies, that in that case he should be delivered from all his troubles, should recover his wealth and prosperity, obtain of God all that he should pray for, succeed in all his enterprises, and be able to help and ease others, even those who might be guilty in God's sight (vers. 24-30). Verse 21. - Acquaint now thyself with him (i.e. God), and be at peace; or, make, I beseech thee a trial of him, and be at peace; i.e. risk everything, throw thyself upon his mercy, and so make thy peace with him. To do so is well worth thy while, for thereby good shall come unto thee. It is a question what sort of "good" is meant. If we are to explain the "good" of this passage by vers. 24, 25 exclusively, Eliphaz will become a mere utilitarian, and he will be rightly characterized as "selfish and sordid" (Cook) - an anticipation of the Mammon of Milton. But there seem to be no sufficient grounds for singling out vers. 24, 25 from the rest of the passage, and regarding them as forming its key-note. The "good" which Eliphaz promises to Job includes, besides "the gold of Ophir" and "plenty of silver," such things as "delight in the Almighty," and confident trust in him (ver. 26), God's hearing of his prayers (ver. 27), the shining of light upon his path (ver. 28), his own payment of his vows (ver. 27), his giving assistance to the poor and needy (ver. 29), and even his deliverance of the guilty by the pureness of his hands (ver. 30); so that other besides material considerations are clearly taken into account, and the worldly prosperity which Eliphaz promises forms a part only of the good result which he anticipates from the patriarch making his peace with the Almighty.
Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart.
Verse 22. - Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth; or, receive now instruction from his mouth. The supposition of some commentators, that the "Law of Moses" is intended, is negatived by the entire absence from the Book of any allusion to the details of the Mosaic legislation, as well as by the primitive character of the life depicted in the book, and the certainty that no one of the interlocutors is an Israelite. The Hebrew תּורה, without the article prefixed, is properly "instruction," and is only to be assumed as meaning "the Law" when the context shows this meaning to be probable. The "instruction" to which Eliphaz here points, and which he regards as instruction from God's mouth, is probably the teaching of religious men, such as himself, which he considered to have come from God originally, though, perhaps, he could not have explained how. And lay up his words in thine heart. This is a mere variant of the preceding clause, and adds no fresh idea.
If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles.
Verse 23. - If thou shalt return to the Almighty. Eliphaz, like Bildad in Job 8:5, and Zophar in Job 11:13, taxes Job with having fallen away from God, almost with having apostatized. All his prophecies of future prosperity rest upon the assumption that Job, having fallen away, is now about to turn to God, repent of his misdoings, and be again received with favour. Thou shall be built up; i.e. "restored, re-established! Thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles (comp. Job 11:14, where Zophar implies that Job's tents have ill-gotten gains concealed in them).
Then shalt thou lay up gold as dust, and the gold of Ophir as the stones of the brooks.
Verse 24. - Then shalt thou lay up gold as dust; rather, then shalt thou lay thy treasure in the dust; i.e. hold it in slight esteem, because of its abundance. And the gold of Ophir (literally, and Ophir) shall be to thee as the stones of the brooks, (comp. 2 Chronicles 9:27, "And the king [i.e. Solomon] made silver in Jerusalem as stones"). "Ophir" stands, no doubt, for untold wealth, being the great gold- producing country (see 1 Kings 9:28; 1 Kings 10:11; 1 Kings 22:48; 1 Chronicles 29:41; Psalm 45:9; Isaiah 13:12). (On its location, see the article on "Ophir," in Smith's 'Dict. of the Bible,' vol 2. pp. 637-652, and compare the comment on Job 28:16.)
Yea, the Almighty shall be thy defence, and thou shalt have plenty of silver.
Verse 25. - Yea, the Almighty shall be thy defense; rather, thy treasure. The word is the same as that used in the first clause of ver. 24, It properly signifies "ore." The general meaning of the passage seems to be, "However rich thou mayest be in the precious metals, thy true treasure - that which thou wilt value most - will be the Almighty himself." And thou shalt have plenty of silver; or, and he shall be previous silver unto thee (see the Revised Version).
For then shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty, and shalt lift up thy face unto God.
Verse 26. - For then shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty. God shall no longer be a terror and alarm to thee, as he is at present (Job 7:17-20; Job 9:17, 34; Job 10:15-17; Job 13:21; Job 19:6-13, etc.), but a source of rejoicing and joy. Thou shalt have blessings at his hands instead of sufferings, rewards instead of punishments. Therefore shalt thou delight in him, and shalt lift up thy rites unto God; i.e. "shalt turn towards him, like the sunflower towards the sun, end bask in the light of his countenance."
Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall hear thee, and thou shalt pay thy vows.
Verse 27. - Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall hear thee. Now Job prays, but is not heard; he asks for death, but it does not come; he begs for a respite from suffering, but it is refused him; he beseeches God to enter into argument with him (Job 9:32-34; Job 10:2), but God vouchsafes no answer. Let him follow Eliphaz's advice, "return to the Almighty" (ver. 23), humble himself in the dust, repent and "put away his iniquity" (ver. 23), and then, Eliphaz promises him, all shall be changed - God will become gracious to him, will listen to him, and grant his requests, will remove his heavy hand, and crown him with mercy and loving-kindness. Then, he adds, thou shalt pay thy vows. Thou shalt have wealth enough, and strength enough, to pay any vows that thou hast made, which now in thy afflicted state thou canst not do. Vows are part of natural religion, and were widely prevalent over all the East in ancient times. The performance of vows, which was strictly enjoined in the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 23:21), must at all times have been felt as obligatory by the natural conscience.
Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways.
Verse 28. - Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee. Whatever thou resolvest on, i.e., God shall ratify with his authority, and bring to pass in due time for thy benefit - a promise which has certainly "a touch of audacity" about it (Cook). David is less bold, but intends to give the same sort of encouragement when he says, "Delight thyself in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart; commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass (Psalm 37:4, 5). And the light shall shine upon thy ways. Job had complained of the "darkness" by which his path was shadowed (Job 19:8). Eliphaz promises that this cause of complaint shall be removed. Job's way shall be "made plain before his face." A bright light shall illumine it - a light that shall ever "shine more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18).
When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person.
Verse 29.- When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; rather, when men cast down and thou shalt say, Let there be lifting up
He shall deliver the island of the innocent: and it is delivered by the pureness of thine hands.
Verse 30. - He shall deliver the island of the innocent; rather, he shall deliver even him that is not innocent (see the Revised Version). It is now generally admitted that אי in this place is for אין, as in 1 Samuel 4:21; Proverbs 31:4. The meaning seems to be that God will deliver, at Job's prayer, even guilty persons, who will be delivered by the pureness of Job's hands. Eliphaz thus prophesies his own deliverance and that of his two friends from God's wrath at the intercession of Job, as actually came to pass afterwards (see Job 42:7-9).