Book traversal links for Job 15-21
The second speech of Eliphaz is recorded in
Job 15, and in it we can
detect an increased tone of severity. The friends had come intending to
comfort, but their efforts in that direction soon got diverted into
argument; their tempers rose and bitterness spoiled their spirits, as
each argued to establish his own point of view. How often through the
centuries has this tragedy, ending in dissension and division, marred
the testimony of God-fearing folk, even down to our own day.
This discourse of Eliphaz is short for he felt that he was a wise
man reasoning with unprofitable talk, and listening to speeches that
were of no worth. Job, he considered was casting off fear; or as
another version has it, making "piety of none effect," and thus
restraining prayer. In his view piety had the profitable effect of
bringing upon one the favour of God, expressed in earthly prosperity.
If it did not, where then was the practical gain of piety? Therefore
the terrible afflictions of Job could only have one explanation, so he
thought, though Job so insisted on maintaining his integrity.
This idea of Eliphaz and his friends is a very common one. It was to
be found when Paul wrote his First Epistle to Timothy in very much
worse form than in the days of Job, for he speaks of "men of corrupt
minds" who indulge in "perverse disputings," because they suppose that
"gain is godliness" (1 Tim. 6: 6). The New Translation slightly
paraphrases it as, "holding gain to be the end of piety." Now this was
pretty much the opinion of Eliphaz, and there are not a few people
today who would agree with him. They would say, What is the use of
being pious if it does not guarantee things of profit in this life?
Ideas of that sort were less to be blamed in the days of Job, since
things of eternity and heaven were then but dimly known.
Eliphaz now denounced Job in vigorous terms and rather unjustly, as
we see in verse 6. To him Job's arguments were crafty and
self-condemnatory. He met them by a series of six questions, recorded
in verses 7-9, all of them having the sting of sarcasm in them. In
verse 10, he claimed that the position, advanced by himself and his
friends, had the sanction and support of very aged and venerable men.
No doubt it was so. The three friends of Job were advancing the idea
generally held, based perhaps on God's deliverance of Noah and his
family when the flood came. Then the godly were favoured and the wicked
destroyed, and thus, they felt, it must always be.
Further questions follow in verses 11-16. His assertions as to the
holiness of God are quite right. The lower heavens, defiled by the
presence of Satan, are indeed "not clean in His sight." His assertions
as to the filthiness of man are equally true; but the inference that
Job must be guilty of secret evils, which he "winked at" instead of
acknowledging, were wide of the mark.
From verse 17 to the end of the chapter we find a vivid description
of the governmental judgment of God against the wicked. He assured Job
that he had actually seen God acting in this way. It was the fruit of
his own observation that he declared; and as he closed he did not fail
to make further indirect charges against Job, speaking of men who were
"deceived," of "hypocrites," of "tabernacles of bribery," and of
This moved Job to the reply recorded in
Job 16 and 17. We can all
sympathize with his opening words. His friends had been simply
repeating the same basic idea in a variety of ways; namely, that the
disasters that had overwhelmed him could have but one explanation. He
must have been a hypocrite with evils lying beneath his pious exterior.
If this was the comfort they had to offer him, it was of a very
miserable kind. He told them at once that if the position were reversed
and he visited them in their disasters, he could speak as they had
spoken but he would not, but rather aim at assuaging their grief.
But it is noticeable that, after his opening reply to Eliphaz, Job's
words passed into prayer and complaint, poured into the ear of God. It
looks as if verses 9, 10 and 11 are a reference to what he had suffered
by the speeches of his friends, and if so, even this he took as
chastisement from the hands of God as well as all the losses and
disaster that had come upon him. That he did take it all from the hands
of God was indeed good, but we still perceive that note of
self-righteousness and self-vindication marring his prayer, especially
in verse 17. This being so, his prayer did pass into a complaint that
he was being hardly dealt with by God, and this especially because he
felt he could speak of God as being on high the Witness to his
integrity, even though his friends scorned him.
The opening words of verse 21 have been translated, "Oh that there
were arbitration for a man with God!" Thus his mind reverted to his
desire for the "Daysman," recorded at the end of Job 9. A man might
plead for his neighbour or friend but he felt there was no one to step
in between God and himself, and he could only anticipate a short time
before his end. His breath was corrupt and the grave ready for him, as
he stated in the first verse of Job 17. We have probably but little
conception of the state of extreme and prolonged bodily corruption and
misery that he had been enduring.
Yet some further insight as to it is granted to us in
So extreme was it that the statements of his friends seemed to him but
mockery. Among the people generally he had become a "byword," or a
"proverb," and the second clause of that 6th verse is elsewhere
translated, "I am become one to be spit on in the face." This however
would astonish upright men, and Job seems to turn the tables on his
critics by inferring that they might prove to be the hypocrites, whilst
the righteous would hold on his way, and the one who had the clean
hands would increase in strength. As for these "friends," there was not
one wise man among them.
The closing words of this speech of Job are a very mournful
complaint as to the hopelessness of his outlook. As to his poor body,
only corruption and the worm were before him, when his soul would be in
the unseen world. The word translated "grave" in verse 13, and that
translated "pit" in verse 16, is the Hebrew, sheol, the equivalent of
the Greek, hades, used in the New Testament. This pathetic lament might
well have touched the hearts of his friends.
Yet Bildad begins his second speech, recorded in
on a very harsh note. Job certainly had not yet come to the end of
himself, and in his friends' arguments there was nothing to cause him
to "make an end of words." The second part of verse 2 has been
translated, "Be intelligent, and then we will speak." He evidently
regarded Job's repudiation of their position and the assertions they
advanced, as degrading to themselves as though they had been beasts,
and so he indulged in an insulting repartee. All four men who feared
God, Job especially so, but see how the spirit animating their words
And let us learn a serious lesson from this. There have been
innumerable discussions among Christians, developing into
controversies, and ending in recrimination. Such is the flesh in every
one of us. Even Paul and Barnabas were not exempt, as Acts 15: 39
shows. So, let us be warned.
The rest of Bildad's speech follows the pattern that the friends had
established. In a variety of ways, displaying a mind very fertile in
its observation and in its use of figures, he reiterated the main
theme; that God always judges and destroys the wicked. The inference
being, of course, that Job must be after all a wicked man.
Job 19. Job's reply to these rather cruel words was
on an altogether higher level. They were indeed vexing him with words,
and breaking him in pieces, but he did not claim to be perfect-far from
it, as we saw in Job 9. Here, in verse 4, he admits to erring, but he
claimed that his errors had only affected himself and not other people.
What had befallen him he took from the hand of God, as verse 6 shows,
yet he felt that His dealings were unnecessarily severe.
So, in verses 7-20, we have a graphic description of the miseries he
was enduring. He complained that God had stripped him, fenced up his
way, destroyed him on every side, kindled His wrath against him as
though he was one of His enemies. As a result of this, he was an object
of contempt and forsaken by all. Even his servants and his wife would
have nothing to do with him. The words with which he closed this
description of his sorrows in verse 20, alluding to his physical state,
have passed into a proverbial saying amongst us.
Having thus spoken, he appealed to his friends for pity rather than
argument and reproach, which almost amounted to persecution. It was the
hand of God that had touched him-God, who was more merciful than they.
Hence he longed that his words might be preserved in a book, or even
permanently be engraved upon the rock, as was a custom in those days on
the part of kings and great men. Such rock records have been discovered
and deciphered, yet his desire was granted in a more wonderful way than
he imagined; for they have been recorded in the inspired Scriptures,
which out-live and out-distance all else.
But why did he desire this? It was because he knew that his Redeemer
was the living One, and that as "the Last," He would stand upon the
earth. The New Translation renders it thus, as being really a name of
God, referring us to Isaiah 48: 12. Thus again, and quite clearly, did
Job reveal that he knew that death was not the end of everything for
man, and that he expected a resurrection which would touch his body.
What was not then revealed was that state of incorruption into which
resurrection introduces us, for life and incorruptibility came to light
by the Gospel, as 2 Timothy 1: 10, rightly translated, reads.
Though truth has been progressively revealed, certain great facts of
a prophetic sort came to light in very early days. There was, for
instance, the prophecy of Enoch, uttered before the flood, though not
put on record in Scripture until the last epistle of the New Testament.
Without a doubt Job would have known this prediction of Enoch, and it
is remarkable that nothing he says here is out of harmony with what is
revealed in later ages. When the glorious Christ raises the saints, Job
amongst them, he will indeed "see God," and see Him, as he said, "in my
flesh," though he did not know he would be raised with a spiritual body
like unto the resurrection body of our Lord.
Job's discourse in this chapter ends with a warning to his friends.
He claimed that "the root of the matter" was found in himself, and that
the judgment of God is impartial, so that they themselves should be
afraid of it.
This moved Zophar to speak once more, and this time he revealed
quite clearly the base on which his argument rested. He said,
"Therefore do my thoughts cause me to answer;" and again, "the spirit
of my understanding causeth me to answer." Eliphaz had based his
remarks mainly upon what he had seen, and Bildad mainly upon what he
had heard, handed down from times of old. Zophar based his words upon
what he had arrived at in his own inward cogitations, and he was not in
the least behind the others in self-confident dogmatism, indeed, he
seems to have excelled them.
In 1 Corinthians 2: 9, the Apostle Paul refers to Isaiah 64: 4, and
he shows that the things of God are only known by us as the fruit of
revelation. In this connection he mentions the three faculties by which
mankind obtains its knowledge of things and affairs in this world. The
eye sees them; the ear hears them; they enter into the heart by an
intuitive process. But for the things of God we need another
faculty-that which springs from the Spirit of God.
Now it is very striking that, as we have seen, Eliphaz relied upon
his powers of observation, and Bildad upon tradition from ancient days.
Zophar now came in, very sure that his powers of intuition in this
matter must be correct and beyond contradiction. All three were wrong,
and it was not until there was a revelation of the power and wisdom of
God, in the later chapters of the book, that the truth of the situation
came out with clearness. We are provided with an interesting
illustration of what Paul lays down in 1 Corinthians 2.
As in the other cases so here, a number of true things are stated.
It is certainly a fact that, "the triumphing of the wicked is short,"
and "the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment." What was not true was
the application made of the fact, as supplying the explanation of all
Job's sorrows. The "pleasures of sin" are only "for a season," as we
read in Hebrews 11, but it is also a fact that saints may be "for a
season" involved in "heaviness through manifold temptations," as we
read in 1 Peter 1. Now the thought of a godly man being under severe
trial and sorrow for a season never seems to have entered the minds of
the three friends. They assumed that Job was getting what all along he
Zophar claimed that what he intuitively knew was supported by what
had taken place from "of old, since man was placed upon earth." Reading
Job 20 we can see how underlying his statements, as to
various acts of wickedness, was the insinuation that Job had been
guilty of them. He it was who had laboured to swallow down the
substance of others, to oppress the poor; who had violently taken away
a house which he had not built, and so on. The fact is that the man who
bases his argument on his own intuition is always very dogmatic and
cocksure. He has to be, to make up for the lack of outward evidence,
which would corroborate his assertions.
His final conclusion was that heaven was revealing Job's iniquity,
and the earth was rising up against him, and all this was appointed to
him from God.
Job's reply is chronicled in
Job 21, and a
trenchant one it proved to be. Naturally he was provoked to retaliate
with equal dogmatism, and to begin on a note of sarcasm. Verse 2 has
been translated, "Hear attentively my speech, and let this replace your
consolations." Summing up the speeches of the three friends as
"consolations," was of course a piece of sarcasm. How he really viewed
their words is plain at the end of the next verse, when he told them
that after he had spoken they might "mock on!" He fully realized the
force of their words, implying that he must have been guilty of
grievous unrighteousness and sin, while all the time outwardly
appearing to be a man of great piety.
His first point is this: his complaint was not to man but to God.
Had it been to man, well might his spirit have been troubled, or
"impatient." He reminded them that it was with God both he and they had
to do. In view of this fact, and marking God's dealings with him, they
might well lay their hands upon their mouths and cease to condemn him.
For himself he was afraid and trembled in the remembrance of it.
Commencing with verse 5, we find the counter-assertions to which he
committed himself. It was not the case, he affirmed, that the wicked
were always overwhelmed with disaster. On the contrary, they often
lived, became old, mighty in power and prosperous, with their seed
established in their sight. They had times of merriment and pleasure
and at the end had no long drawn out misery such as he was enduring,
but "in a moment go down to the grave [or, Sheol]." And all the time
their attitude to God was, "Depart from us, for we desire not the
knowledge of Thy ways."
Let us note two things. First, Job here correctly diagnosed the
attitude of the natural man to God, about two thousand years before
Paul was inspired to write his Epistle to the Romans. There, in the
first chapter, we read that men, "when they knew God, they glorified
Him not as God, neither were thankful;" and again that, "they did not
like to retain God in their knowledge." This is the tremendous fact
that we have to face. Sin has so completely alienated man from God that
he has not the least desire for Him. "There is none that seeketh after
God," as Romans 3 states.
Job's statements in verses 14 and 15, agree with this, and they
explain the state of heathenism and barbarism into which men sank at an
early stage of the world's history-a state that has persisted to our
own days. In earliest ages men had some knowledge of God, from which
they wilfully departed.
And it is obvious that if men have to do with God, they will have to
serve Him. So, in the second place, they view the whole matter from the
standpoint of earthly profit. This is just what multitudes do today,
when they ask, What is the good of being religious; what do we get out
of it? They are but echoing the words we have here, "What profit should
we have, if we pray unto Him?" We know that, "Godliness is profitable
unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that
which is to come" (1 Tim. 4: 8). But that kind of profit the world has
no eyes to see.
In the rest of the chapter Job speaks of the end of those who aim at
shutting God out of their thoughts and lives. Ultimately disaster comes
upon them and their "candle" is put out. Some may die in apparent ease
and prosperity and others in bitterness; but into the dust and among
the worms all of them go. In saying these things Job seems to be
agreeing with what Psalm 73 tells us, as a matter of the writer's
experience. The wicked may depart from God and appear to prosper, for
their judgment from God lies beyond this life.
So once more Job counters the arguments of his friends, declaring
that he found falsehood in them. Consequently, though they had come to
comfort him, he found that the "comfort" that they had offered was
empty and vain.