posted on Oct, 6 2017 @ 05:01 PM
On the face of it, the book of Job is about the troubles of one man.
Of course we understand him as a representative. We regard the story as a debate about the origins of human troubles.
Strictly speaking, why bad things happen to good people instead of being limited to bad people.
I believe the original question may have been why God’s people Israel were allowed to suffer at the hands of the Babylonians.
The troubles of Job were described in the first two chapters.
Job feels a sense of grievance, arising out of these troubles, which will develop into what amounts to a lawsuit against God.
Like any other lawsuit, this case begins with a plaintiff’s complaint (ch3).
Since God is not offering an immediate response, the “comforters” who are sitting with Job begin putting forward their own counter-arguments.
Eliphaz, first speech
Eliphaz is responding to Job’s emotions, rather than his words (ch4)
He assumes that the state of grief is coming from a sense of being unjustly punished, and he argues accordingly.
He observes that Job has encouraged people in the past, when they were in trouble;
“Your words have upheld him who was stumbling” (v4).
Yet when he finds himself in the same situation, he does not follow his own good advice;
“But now it has come to you, and you are impatient”(v5).
You are convinced that your fear of God and your integrity should be enough to preserve you from trouble (v6).
Job has not said this, but Eliphaz sets out to refute it anyway.
He claims that the innocent and the upright never perish, while those who work with iniquity and cause trouble only bring trouble upon themselves. God
is able to consume even the strongest of them, “the young lions”.
These axioms are supposed to be based on observation (vv7-11).
Then he reports a message which he received in a terrible vision, “when deep sleep falls upon men… A spirit glided past my face, the hair of my
flesh stood up… but I could not discern its appearance” (vv12-16).
This resembles the setting of Abram’s vision in Genesis ch15, and the point is evidently that the message comes direct from God.
The message is that NO man can be truly innocent (and therefore immune from punishment);
“Can mortal man be righteous before God?
Can a man be pure before his maker?” (v17)
Fragile humanity has no chance, since even the spirits cannot be without fault.
Therefore there is no help to be found from powers below God (ch5 v1).
Observation confirms the message from the experience of “the fool”; that is, the man who ignores or rejects God, and finds himself suddenly
“His sons are far from safety, they are crushed in the gate” (v4).
Not the most tactful image, when talking to a man with Job’s experiences.
The problem is that affliction does not come into our lives accidentally, from outside. It does not “sprout from the ground”.
Rather, it is attracted into our lives by our own (sinful) nature. We are born into it, and it comes as naturally as “the sparks fly upwards”
Therefore Eliphaz is content to trust in God entirely, and commit his cause to God (v8).
He lists the good things that God does.
He provides rain and other necessary things for the world.
He “lifts up” the lowly and those who mourn.
He frustrates the crafty (and so protects their victims).
Thus he saves the fatherless and the poor.
Even his chastening is beneficial;
“He wounds, but he binds up” (v18).
He will protect you from famine, from the sword, and even from the scourge of the tongue.
Your descendants will be many, and you shall come to your grave at a ripe old age, as a natural event.
What more could a man want?
Job begins by re-stating his grief, which Eliphaz has not been taking seriously.
“O that my vexation were weighed, and all my calamity laid in the balances” (ch6 v1).
They would find it “heavier than the sands of the sea”.
“The terrors of God are arrayed against me” (v4).
Do they really think he would be complaining about nothing?
“Does the wild ass bray when it has grass?” (v5)
He also re-states his original conclusion, that in the circumstances he would prefer death.
“O that I might have my request… that it would please God to crush me, that he would let loose his hand and cut me off… This would be my
He would accept this result while maintaining his consciousness of innocence; “I have not denied the words of the Holy One” (vv8-10).
He simply does not have enough strength for the alternative, which would be “waiting patiently”.
Then he complains about the reaction he’s received.
His friends have “withheld their kindness”.
He was hoping to be refreshed by them, as travellers look to an expected stream, but their support has “dried up” like a stream in the hot
They are appalled and useless In the face of such disaster, even though he has asked for no material help (vv14-23).
“Teach me and I will be silent” (v24).
He challenges them to specify what was wrong with his remarks.
And he demands that they pay close attention to what he is about to say, observing the truth in his face (“Be pleased to look at me”).
He will tell them the truth, because “my vindication is at stake” (v29).
There is no fault in his tongue, because it can truly recognise the “taste” of calamity.
His case is the case of men in general;
“Has not man a hard service upon the earth, and are not his days like the days of a hireling?” (ch7 v1)
His nights are full of misery, waiting for the dawn.
“My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and come to their end without hope” (v6).
He turns back to addressing God directly.
He reminds God that his own life is short – “My life is a breath”.
He may disappear in an instant, “as the cloud fades and vanishes”.
Once he has gone, he will never return;
“He who goes down to Sheol does not come up, he returns no more to his home” (vv7-10).
Consequently, he has nothing to lose from speaking his mind;
“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit” (v11).
The main thrust of his complaint is that God is giving him too much attention.
The implication is that all his troubles are the product of God’s attention, and they would stop coming if God could only be persuaded to lose
“Am I the sea, or a sea-monster, that thou settest a guard over me?” (v17)
The sea is the source of evil, symbolically, a remnant of the “great abyss”. Job does not think his own contribution to evil is quite that
important. “Let me alone, for my days are a breath”.
He adds an ironic version of the wondering question in Psalm 8;
“What is man, that thou dost make so much of him, and that thou dost set thy mind upon him?” (v17)
For he sees no good coming from this close observation.
It means being terrified with dreams and visions.
It means being “visited” every morning.
Worst of all, it means being “tested” every moment.
People tell Job that he is being punished for his guilt.
For the sake of argument, he lays aside his claim of innocence, and puts forward a more radical proposition.
Granting, for the moment, that he is guilty, why must there be a connection between guilt and affliction?
Why not break that link, by NOT punishing guilt?
“If I sin, what do I do to thee, thou watcher of men?...
Why dost thou not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity?” (vv20-21)
God could afford to do that, because, as Job repeats, his life is not going to last very long anyway.
That cutting of the Gordian knot would surely solve the problem.