Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Eliphaz v. Job

Our Bible reading today brings us to Job 5-6

Eliphaz rebukes Job
Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves;
therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. …
Behold, this we have searched out; it is true.

Hear, and know it for your good
(Job 5:17, 27)

Job’s physical misery was extreme, his wife was tempting him, and now Job had to deal with his friend’s insensitive advice. Oy. With friends like Eliphaz, who needs enemies?

In the Bible Gateway list of All Named Men of the Bible, (they also have lists of unnamed men, and the same for women, it’s a handy list!) they describe Eliphaz thus:

Teman was noted for its wisdom and this Temanite descendant was a law unto himself. His name means “refined gold” but his fine gold was that of self-glory and of self-opinion from which he would not budge. As a wise man he gloried in his wisdom, and represented the orthodox wisdom of his day. This wise man from the East declared that God was just and did not dispense happiness or misery in a despot fashion, committing people to what He deemed best.

In his first speech (Job 4, 5), Eliphaz begins by informing Job of all his affliction, namely, sin. Approaching Job in a courteous yet cold manner, Eliphaz seeks to prove that all calamity is judgment upon sin. The crux of his argument is: “Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?” (Job 4:7).

Eliphaz was so sure Job had sinned and so sure he knew God and His plan well enough to rebuke Job for Job’s invisible sins.

I think it’s a skill to be sure about what you believe, yet teachable. We should be settled in our convictions, but pliable as we add wisdom and understanding as we grow in sanctification.

Here is an example: Theologian RC Sproul, who was recently called home to heaven, for most of his career believed in an old-earth. After more study, changed his mind and believed in a literal 6-day, young earth in the end. (source).

Sadly Eliphaz was too dogmatic. He would not countenance the fact that there might be something he did not know. He was sure of his philosophical construct: that God did not penalize the righteous. Suffering comes from personal sin, either overt or hidden. But there was something Eliphaz did not know: the conversation God had initiated with Satan about Job’s piety.

Here, David Clines (recommended as best Job Commentary) weighs in:

Eliphaz here announces the premise on which the whole speech depends: if Job is suffering (and he is) and God has nothing to gain or lose personally from Job (and he hasn’t) and God is just (and he is), then Job is suffering for his sins. And is he is suffering much (as he is), it follows that he has offended much. And if there is no evidence of Job’s sins, then all his sins must be secret and observable ones. However what undermines Eliphaz’s logic is something he does not know, but we readers know; that God indeed has much to gain (or lose) from Job’s behavior; for Job is a test case for the gratuitousness of piety. If Job does not remain pious when all his blessings have been taken away, it proves humans serve God for the sake of the rewards and it shows religion up as a self-seeking practice of humans.

Eliphaz relied on the strength of his logic, rather than the frailty of human knowledge in the face of God’s higher wisdom.

True wisdom remains in God only. Whether we veer from settled conviction to extreme dogmatism, through it all we should maintain a teachable spirit. By Chapter 22, Eliphaz was blatantly calling for Job to repent of his evil wickedness (Job 22:21-23) because Eliphaz was sure Job had sinned.

Job did not heatedly rebut. He humbly expressed his longing to maintain fellowship with God so he could experience God’s love and goodness and hear from him the meaning of all his suffering. (John MacArthur Study Bible).

Who had the more teachable spirit?

Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, (Proverbs 1:5).

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