In this chapter, Eliphaz begins his debate with Job. Eliphaz questions Job’s character and innocence. Eliphaz then proceeds to find Job guilty of some unnamed sin because of the great amount of suffering Job is enduring.
Vs 1-2, Eliphaz begins to speak to Job. Evidently Job’s complaints in the previous chapter have moved him to a response and rebuke. Eliphaz believes that Job is in this predicament as a direct result of something sinful that Job has done. And so he doesn’t believe that Job’s desire for relief is justified. He believes Job is getting what he deserves. Hence, Eliphaz begins with the question of whether or not speaking to Job in this regard would cause him to be “grieved” or “impatient.” It’s not that Eliphaz cares whether Job feels this way or not. The question is more really of a design to mean, “If I respond to you Job, are you going to take this in the right way?” Eliphaz then makes it plain that he is compelled to comment upon Job’s situation after the words of complaint that Job has just spoken.
Vs. 3-4 – Eliphaz acknowledges Job’s role in this society. Job was a man who was esteemed and admired by all. He was a counselor and a man of the gate. He was one of the city elders to whom disputes were brought so that they could be settled. This place of honor would be equivalent to our city counsel or perhaps an eldership in a local church. Religion was not so much separated from matters of government in that day and the distinction is not observed by either Job or his friends. Job himself recalls this position of honor in Job 29:7-17. Job had indeed instructed many and Job had also strengthened the feeble and weak. In Job 31:16-23 Job claims that he was always fair to the poor and those in need and he never took advantage of them. And, no one ever questions Job in this regard. It is thus only right for Eliphaz to acknowledge Job’s honors before he begins criticizing him. Yet those few words of praise in Eliphaz mouth don’t appear to mean very much during and after the criticisms. Proverbs 17:17 says “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” When one is truly a friend, he will stick with you through thick and thin. Job’s friends may have been physically there for him, but spiritually, they abandoned him in his time of need.
Vs. 5 – Eliphaz words seem to contain a touch of purposeful irony. Yes, he recognized that Job was at one time in a position to assist others, but now Job, here you are in this situation where you now need the help of others. It’s almost patronizing in its content. Eliphaz’ statement regarding Job’s current situation reveals to us that he though Job to be somewhat hypocritical in his behavior. It is almost as if Eliphaz is saying, “Job helped others in the past, but now that he is suffering, he can’t help himself. When adversity comes upon him, he faints; he is troubled.” This is unfair criticism of Job. It is natural for someone in Job’s circumstances to feel down trodden. Eliphaz ought not to point out what is clearly evident here, emphasizing Job’s sufferings, but instead offer words of comfort. How many of us would walk into the hospital room of a patience whose body is disease ridden and is clearly suffering and say something like, “Well, it’s finally come upon you now.” Not only is it rude, it’s just not necessary to say. Both the one suffering and the one visiting know what the circumstances are. They don’t need to be so repeated so as to emphasize the obvious.
Vs. 6 – Again, Eliphaz appears to be mocking Job’s life. Job was indeed one who had feared God and one whose ways were filled with integrity. Thus, Job had reason to hope that his relationship with God was a good one. Eliphaz seems to be saying here, “Considering your suffering, Job, do you still believe that your fear of God and your personal integrity are reasons to hope that you have a good relationship with God?” This becomes a common element in these three’s criticism of Job. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar all question the necessity of man’s righteousness in relationship to his salvation. They don’t seem to believe that man’s righteousness ultimately makes any difference because man’s sins completely eclipse any good that a man might do (see Job 25:4-6). In that regard, they are similar to modern day Calvinists who state that there is no good thing that a person may do that would affect one’s salvation. Well, the Bible teaches otherwise. John states in 1 John 3:7 “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” Man has a personal responsibility to fear and obey God; this fear and obedience are part of God’s plan for man’s salvation (Ecclesiastes 12:13, Hebrews 5:9). Job’s friends, however, did not believe this. Hence they must conclude that Job deserves every bit of his suffering due to his own personal sins.