What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?…
Eliphaz accuses Job of his attempt to justify himself, and speaks with great apparent acerbity of spirit. His words are cutting and cruel. He secretly declares Job to be sinful in proportion to his sufferings. He branches into generalities, and affirms the general human sinfulness with the quiet accusation, "All men are sinful; therefore thou art. Sorrow is the punishment of the wicked; therefore thy suffering is proof of thy guilt." Eliphaz's view is imperfect, and needs to be supplemented. Job, in his struggling, cries aloud for that supplement. It is found only in the assurance of the future, and in the fact that, with the future in view, it pleases the Almighty to discipline and prepare men for it. Suffering is seen to be a method of that discipline. Of human sinfulness it is affirmed -
I. IT IS AN INHERENT CONDITION OF HUMAN LIFE. "What is man, that he should be clean? and he that is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?" as though he had said, "It is of the nature of man to be unclean." "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." The human nature derived from the imperfect and unholy is necessarily unholy and imperfect. Evidences of this may be seen in the general observed depravity of man; in the necessity for very powerful influences to check sinfulness; in the constant recognition of the Fall in Holy Scripture; in the difficulty with which even good men preserve their goodness; and in the sad examples of deep degradation in all lands.
II. THIS SINFULNESS IS MOST APPARENT TO THE DIVINE JUDGMENT. Men are not always alive to their own sinfulness. Not apprehending righteousness, they have not an accurate standard by which to judge themselves. But in the Divine view the very angels, who are superior to men, are not pure: "The heavens are not clean in his sight."
III. THIS SINFULNESS EXHIBITS ITSELF IN GREAT IMPURITY OF LIFE AND SPIRIT. Happily there are many exceptions, and we live in brighter, better times than did Job; yet how truly is it still to be said, "How much more abominable and filthy is man!"
IV. THIS SINFULNESS IS ESPECIALLY SHOWN IN AN ACTIVE PREFERENCE OF EVIL BEFORE GOOD. He "drinketh iniquity like water." Eliphaz has been led from general views to single out the sad cases which all may observe, and which bear such painful testimony, that if human life be not checked in its natural tendencies, it degenerates to the worst conditions of evil. Therefore:
1. Life to be guarded with great care, lest degenerating influences exert destructive power over it.
2. The most potent corrections to be sought; the need of regeneration.
3. The instruction, grace, and sanctification of the Spirit of God to be thankfully received and most carefully cherished. - R.G.
Parallel VersesKJV: What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?