Job 22 – “Eliphaz’s final Speech”

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Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Chapter 22 is Eliphaz’s final speech to Job. He accuses Job of corruption, describes how the wicked are destroyed, and encourages Job to turn to God.

II. Photo
For the first time in the book, Eliphaz accuses Job of a specific sin: “You exact pledges from your fellows without reason, and leave them naked, stripped of their clothes.” (v. 6)

III. Important Verses
vv. 5-7: You know that your wickedness is great, And that your iniquities have no limit. You exact pledges from your fellows without reason, And leave them naked, stripped of their clothes; You do not give the thirsty water to drink; You deny bread to the hungry.
vv. 13-14: You say, “What can God know? Can He govern through the dense cloud? The clouds screen Him so He cannot see As He moves about the circuit of heaven.”
vv. 15-16: Have you observed the immemorial path That evil men have trodden; How they were shriveled up before their time And their foundation poured out like a river?
vv. 23-28: If you return to Shaddai you will be restored, If you banish iniquity from your tent;  If you regard treasure as dirt, Ophir-gold as stones of the wadi, And Shaddai be your treasure And precious silver for you, When you seek the favor of Shaddai, And lift up your face to God,  You will pray to Him, and He will listen to you, And you will pay your vows. You will decree and it will be fulfilled, And light will shine upon your affairs.

IV. Outline

1. Introduction
2-11. Accusation
12-20. The fate of the wicked
21-30. The path of return, and its rewards

V. Comment
Chapter 22 is Eliphaz’s final speech. He accuses Job of social injustice (vv. 2-11), describes the fate of the wicked (vv. 12-20), and encourages him to turn to God (vv. 21-30). The speech is a disputation speech, and it includes elements of the psalmic and prophetic tradition (see below).

Eliphaz’s speech is the first in the third cycle of speeches. The third cycle differs from the first two in a few ways: (a) Zophar doesn’t speak, (b) Bildad’s speech is extremely short (6 verses), and (c) many of Job’s statements don’t seem to make sense (see comments on chaps. 24, 26, and 27). Clines writes about the third cycle (p. 550): “Especially in its later chapters, the text is in some disarray, to the extent that at some points we cannot be sure who is the speaker.”

For the first time in the book, one of the friends accuses Job of a specific sin (vv. 5-9): “You know that your wickedness is great, And that your iniquities have no limit. You exact pledges from your fellows without reason, And leave them naked, stripped of their clothes; You do not give the thirsty water to drink; You deny bread to the hungry… You have sent away widows empty-handed; The strength of the fatherless is broken.” The theme of oppressing the poor is common in the prophets. See, for example, Isa. 1:23: “Your rulers are rogues And cronies of thieves, Every one avid for presents And greedy for gifts; They do not judge the case of the orphan, And the widow’s cause never reaches them.” Jer. 22:3 says: “Thus said the LORD: Do what is just and right; rescue from the defrauder him who is robbed; do not wrong the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow; commit no lawless act, and do not shed the blood of the innocent in this place.” For statements of other prophets, see Ezek. 22:7, Zech. 7:10, and Mal. 3:5.

Clines points out that Eliphaz is not accusing Job of breaking “any of the social laws we are familiar with from the Hebrew Bible in general. His sins are mostly sins of omission, and, even in the case of taking pledges, it is not the act as such that is wrong but its circumstances… There is no murder nor false witness nor idolatry here, nothing against the Ten Commandments, nothing indeed except a hardheartedness and a failure of social conscience. They are not, in fact, sins committed by the man Job, and readers are not supposed to imagine they are anything other than Eliphaz’s desperate attempt to find reason in Job’s experience of suffering.” Hakham  explains what the sin was (p. 173): “from all these matters it makes sense that Job was a judge [shofet] in his locale. According to Eliphaz, when people would come before Job regarding land disputes, he would rule according to the rule ‘may the stronger one win.’ Thus he would remove the weak ones from their land.” For sins regarding improper pledges see Deut. 24:6, 10-13, 17 and Ex. 22:25-26.

It is important to point out that Job will reject Eliphaz’s claims in 31:16-22: “Did I deny the poor their needs, Or let a widow pine away, By eating my food alone, The fatherless not eating of it also?  Why, from my youth he grew up with me as though I were his father; Since I left my mother’s womb I was her guide. I never saw an unclad wretch, A needy man without clothing, Whose loins did not bless me As he warmed himself with the shearings of my sheep. If I raised my hand against the fatherless, Looking to my supporters in the gate, May my arm drop off my shoulder; My forearm break off at the elbow.” This defense is in line with the book’s introduction (i.e. that Job is saintly, cf. 1:1), and is yet another indication that Eliphaz was assuming that Job “must have sinned,” not that he actually saw Job do so.

In vv. 12-20 Eliphaz speaks about the fate of the wicked: “Surely their substance was destroyed, And their remnant consumed by fire” (v. 20). Hakham (p. 180) makes an interesting point about how the friends often turn to tradition to support dogmas such as this (cf. 20:4-5, 8:8-10, 15:17-19): “Eliphaz doesn’t understand the words of Job. He sees them as proof that Job is wicked, similar to the wicked people who are the subject of ancient tales, e.g. those about the generation of Enosh [cf. Gen. 4:26], the generation of the flood [cf. Gen. 7-9], the generation of dispersion [cf. Gen. 11], and the men of Sodom [cf. Gen. 19].” Thus, according to Hakham, the friends are basing their theology on stories much like those found in the book of Genesis.

Eliphaz “quotes” Job in vv. 13-14: “You say, ‘What can God know? Can He govern through the dense cloud (‘arafel)? The clouds screen Him so He cannot see As He moves about the circuit of heaven.’” This seems to be a paraphrase of 21:22 (against Clines), “Can God be instructed in knowledge, He who judges from such heights?” Clines (p. 558) points out that God’s cloud (‘arafel) usually serves to protect Him from human gaze, but here, according to Eliphaz’s interpretation of Job’s statements, it serves to obstruct God’s view of earth. For two examples of the ‘arafel “dense cloud” shielding God from humans, see Ex. 20:18, “So the people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud (‘arafel) where God was,” and Deut. 4:11, “You came forward and stood at the foot of the mountain. The mountain was ablaze with flames to the very skies, dark with densest clouds (‘arafel).”

In v. 19 Eliphaz says that the righteous laugh at the wicked, “The righteous, seeing it, rejoiced; The innocent laughed with scorn.” This statement is similar to many of the verses found in the book of Psalms. For example, see Ps. 107:42: “The upright see it and rejoice; the mouth of all wrongdoers is stopped.” Also see Ps. 58:11: “The righteous man will rejoice when he sees revenge; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.” Another instance in which Eliphaz’s speech incorporates psalmic elements is his reference to paying vows in v. 26: “Because of You I offer praise in the great congregation; I pay my vows in the presence of His worshipers.” For a similar verse, see Ps. 61:9: “So I will sing hymns to Your name forever, as I fulfill my vows day after day.” Also see Ps. 22:26: “Because of You I offer praise in the great congregation; I pay my vows in the presence of His worshipers.”

In v. 23 Eliphaz tells Job what to do: “If you turn (tashuv) to Shaddai you will be restored, If you banish iniquity from your tent.” While one might think that tashuv means “to repent,” Clines believes (p. 564) that here the word means to “turn to,” much like in Prov. 1:23: “Turn to (tashuvu) to my rebuke; I will now speak my mind to you, And let you know my thoughts.” He writes (p. 571) that tashuv “is a demand not for repentance but for a reverant and trustful commitment of his cause to God.”

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Clines, Job 21-37 (Word Biblical Commentary)
Hakham, Job (Daat Mikra (Hebrew))
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