Job 5 – “Eliphaz’s First Speech – Part II”

mountain_topHebrew-English Text

I. Summary
Chapter 5 contains the second section of Eliphaz’s conciliatory speech. Eliphaz makes three main points: (1) people bring suffering upon themselves, (2) suffering can be a positive experience, and (3) God is benevolent to those who accept His rebuke.

II. Photo
Eliphaz tries to convince Job to accept his situation and turn to God because God  “Raises the lowly up high, So that the dejected are secure in victory.” (v. 11)

III. Important Verses
v. 6: Evil does not grow out of the soil, Nor does mischief spring from the ground.
vv. 8-11: But I would resort to God; I would lay my case before God, Who performs great deeds which cannot be fathomed, Wondrous things without number; Who gives rain to the earth, And sends water over the fields; Who raises the lowly up high, So that the dejected are secure in victory.
vv. 15-16: But He saves the needy from the sword of their mouth, From the clutches of the strong. So there is hope for the wretched; The mouth of wrongdoing is stopped.
vv. 17-18: See how happy is the man whom God reproves; Do not reject the discipline of the Almighty. He injures, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands heal.
v. 25: You will see that your offspring are many, Your descendants like the grass of the earth.
v. 27: See, we have inquired into this and it is so; Hear it and accept it.

IV. Outline

1. Motivation
2-7. The fool is cursed
    2. Proverb
    3-7. Imprecation
8-16. Turn to God
    8. Introduction
    9-10. Ruler of the world
    11-14. God controls human affairs
    15-16. God punishes humans to halt their sinning
    17. Beatitude: God’s rebuke is for the best
    18-26. God will grant you all good things
27. Conclusion

V. Comment
Job 5 is the second section of Eliphaz’s conciliatory speech. Eliphaz attempts to convince Job that he sinned, and that if Job accepts this fact he will be rewarded by God. In terms of structure, the chapter incorporates three familiar elements of Wisdom literature. The first is the “beatitude” (“happy is the man who…”) in v. 17, the second is the “ascending numeration” (… x times, no x + 1 times….) of v. 19, and the third is the wisdom saying in v. 2. Beatitudes come up more than 25 times in the book of Psalms, ascending numeration occurs frequently in the book of Proverbs, and wisdom sayings make up the bulk of the book of Proverbs.

In his lament (ch. 3) Job made it clear that he wants to die: “Why did I not die at birth, Expire as I came forth from the womb?” (v. 11), “Why does He give light to the sufferer And life to the bitter in spirit; To those who wait for death but it does not come, Who search for it more than for treasure, Who rejoice to exultation, And are glad to reach the grave?” (vv. 20-22) However, Eliphaz assumes that what Job really wants is to be healed. He therefore speaks of a happy existence awaiting him in vv. 19-26: “You will know that all is well in your tent; When you visit your wife you will never fail. You will see that your offspring are many, Your descendants like the grass of the earth. You will come to the grave in ripe old age, As shocks of grain are taken away in their season.” It is no wonder that Job, who feels misunderstood, speaks up in ch. 6 and says (vv. 2-3), “If my anguish were weighed, My full calamity laid on the scales, It would be heavier than the sand of the sea; That is why I spoke recklessly.” Eliphaz seems to be misunderstanding Job’s desires.

In v. 2 Eliphaz speaks of the ‘awil “fool.” The fool here does not mean someone stupid, but someone who is “always morally bad” (BDB). Is Eliphaz calling Job a fool, and implicitly wishing him and his family harm (vv. 4-5)? This is unlikely, especially because Eliphaz asserts that Job can expect to live a long life if he accepts his fate (the fools can expect immediate death). Rather, Eliphaz seems to speak about a “fool” in order to demonstrate a general principle: people are the cause for their own troubles. Implicit in this statement is that Job, who isn’t entirely evil, is nevertheless a sinner. Thus, 4:7 says, “Think now, what innocent man ever perished? Where have the upright been destroyed?”

It was pointed out in the comment to the previous chapter that Eliphaz’s tone seems to be conciliatory. One of the reasons for this assertion is v. 8: “But I would resort to God; I would lay my case before God…” Clines writes, “it is a sign of Eliphaz’s attempted delicacy, as also of his self-assuredness, that he speaks only of himself and does not presume to tell Job what to do.” Indeed, throughout the entire speech Eliphaz never tells Job what to do, nor does he explicitly call him a sinner. Yet, Eliphaz is still assertive; he tells Job confidently in v. 27, “See, we have inquired into this and it is so; Hear it and accept it.”

In vv. 17-19 Eliphaz says, “See how happy is the man whom God reproves; Do not reject the discipline of the Almighty. He injures, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands heal. He will deliver you from six troubles; In seven no harm will reach you.” This statement must have deeply troubled Job: on the one hand Eliphaz is telling him how great “rebuke” is for improving one’s relationship with God, but on the other hand Job knows that he has done nothing wrong. Once again, Job has been punished chinam “for no reason.”

Eliphaz asserts that if Job accepts his state “You will see that your offspring are many, your descendants like the grass of the earth.” While it is true that Job will live to see many offspring (cf. 42:13, 16), it is interesting that Isa. 44:3 also refers to offspring with a grass metaphor: “Even as I pour water on thirsty soil, And rain upon dry ground, So will I pour My spirit on your offspring, My blessing upon your posterity.” Other verses in Tanach use similar analogies.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

Clines, Proverbs 1-20 (Word Biblical Commentary)

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