John T. Willis

Monday, September 14, 2009

Eliphaz's First Speech--Part 1

As we move through the book of Job, and now turn to a consideration of Job 4-31, several thoughts naturally come to mind. Here are a number of introductory ideas.

A. Job [3] 4-31 present a DEBATE, or a series of debates. [One might prefer to use the term Dispute or Controversy or Argument or something similar. But, it seems to me that DEBATE is the best word to describe Job [3] 4-31].
B. There is an ongoing connection between Job [3] 4-31 and Job 1-2. Some scholars insist that one must separate Job 1-2 from Job 3-31, but the more one actually reads the text, one finds numerous connections between the two parts of this book. Just for beginning, (1) Job 4-31 assume that the hearers [readers] of the book of Job already know about Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, Job's friends who have come to Job from far distances; (2) "the fear of the Lord" keeps occurring again and again: see for example: Job 1:1, 8, 9; 2:3; 4:6; 6:14; etc.
C. Job and his three friends begin on precisely the same level--in their social, physical, and religious set of circumstances. So, naturally, Job's friends assume Job holds the same beliefs they do. And Job did--UNTIL all of his afflictions struck his life. And Job's ideas NOW, slowly but surely, change. This VERY THING happens to many people. It has happened to me. What about you? It is so easy to GET IN A RUT--and Job [and his friends] were in a rut. BUT, when Job's afflictions came upon him, Job HAD to change.
D. Initially, Job had been thinking RATIONALLY in a certain way for 60 years or more. It is very difficult to CHANGE when one has lived and thought a certain way for six decades. This happens to people, to churches, to communities, to states, to countries. NOW, with all these afflictions, two new dimensions enter into the picture: EMOTION and FAITH--REAL FAITH when life does not turn out to be like I thought it was or would be.
E. NOTE--Job's friends consistently deal with Job's problem RATIONALLY. We human beings think that REASON will solve all our problems. The book of Job brings into light the fact that REASON is NOT the solution to human life. There is something from God in life which is broader and deeper than REASON. Job's friends cannot get over this--ever!!! At the end of the book of Job, God becomes angry with Job's friends because they are trying to HELP Job solve his problems by REASON (Job 42:7). As the book of Job unfolds, it becomes clearer and clearer that in human life, there is an ongoing struggle between REASON and FAITH. Right now, in Job 4-31, JOB AND HIS FRIENDS are both OBSESSED by trying to solve Job's problems by REASON. Watch as the book of Job progresses.
F. Job's friends offer ONLY ONE ARGUMENT about Job's situation: ALL RIGHTEOUS PEOPLE PROSPER; ALL WICKED PEOPLE SUFFER. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar drive THIS ONE POINT home in numerous ways. But THIS is their ONLY ARGUMENT. And surprise, surprise, surprise!!! This is PRECISELY what Job believed UNTIL his afflictions came upon him.
G. The debate between Job and his three friends falls into 3 order, well-planned speeches. In each of the three stages of the debate, the order invariably is: Eliphaz with Job's response; Bildad with Job's response, Zophar with Job's response.
We will attempt to follow these three stages.
H. Job 32:11 indicates that Job's three friends first got together and "hammered" out their ideas and arguments, and only then each friend spoke in a pre-planned prescribed order. Hence, it probably took several days, if not several weeks, to work through the stages of debate related in Job 4-31.
I. Job 32:11 and several other statements in Job 32-37 indicate that other people were watching and listening to this debate all along, including Elihu. There was [is] an audience paying careful attention to what Job and his three friends did and said.

The First Series or Stage of the Debate is Job 4-14. Broadly speaking, this falls into the following chapters:
1. First Speech of Eliphaz. Job 4-5.
2. Job's Response to Eliphaz. Job 6-7.
3. First Speech of Bildad. Job 8.
4. Job's Response to Bildad. Job 9-10.
5. First Speech of Zophar. Job 11.
6. Job's Response to Zophar. Job 12-14.

Now, let us BEGIN Eliphaz's First Speech. Job 4-5.
A. Eliphaz's First Speech falls into four paragraphs.
1. 4:1-11.
2. 4:12-5:7.
3. 5:8-16.
4. 5:17-27.
B. In this blog, we will consider Job 4:1-11.
1. Eliphaz begins speaking to Job very tenderly. Eliphaz does not want to offend Job; Eliphaz realizes that Job is suffering greatly. BUT, Eliphaz feels compelled to speak to Job BECAUSE Eliphaz just cannot allow Job to get by Job's declaration that Job wishes that he were dead. Job 4:1-2.
2. Eliphaz commends Job very highly because Eliphaz and his friends had known very well for many years that Job instructed many people, strengthened peoples' weak hands, supported people who were stumbling, and made firm peoples' feeble knees. Eliphaz and his friends openly acknowledge that Job is a righteous person. Job 4:3-4.
3. But Eliphaz REASONS that Job is NOW receiving the very afflictions that Job had encouraged other people to endure. And NOW, Job is IMPATIENT. Job is dismayed. Job 4:5.
4. Eliphaz now utters a tremendously significant statement, whether Eliphaz actually realizes it or not: Job, Your fear of God is your confidence, and the integrity of your ways is your hope. Job 4:6. NOTE: There is a HUGE difference between Fearing God and HAVING PERSONAL CONFIDENCE in Fearing God. In my opinion, this may be Job's problem. Job TRUSTS in his own Fear of God, Job's own confidence. It is so easy for a person to trust in his or her own confidence rather than trusting in God. The difference seems to be very thin, but it is HUGE.
5. Eliphaz appeals to Job to accept Job's own prior beliefs.
"Those who plow iniquity
and sow trouble reap the same." Job 4:7-8.
This sounds like Eliphaz just quoted Galatians 6:7-9. But, if one thinks about what is going on in Eliphaz's mind, it is reversed. By deduction, Eliphaz concludes: Whatever one reaps PROVES what one sowed. Hence, since Job is suffering, Job MUST have committed a great sin--otherwise, he would not suffering.
6. Eliphaz concludes with an analogy. A powerful lion loses his strength. In a similar way, God consumes wicked people by the blast of his anger, and they perish. By implication, this is what God has done in Job's life. Job 4:9-11.

What are your thoughts and insights? Share with your friends and others. Let me hear from you.

John Willis


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