Lockdown thoughts from Job 15

Day 24. Six more days of full lockdown here in New Zealand. Cheryl’s due date is tomorrow, but no sign of baby yet.

Eliphaz makes a chapter-long reprise today.

Previously: 1:1-5 | 1:6-12 | 1:13-22 | 2:1-6 | 2:7-13 | 3:1-10 | 3:11-26 | 4:1-21 | 5:1-7 | 5:8-27 | 6:1-30 | 7:1-21 | 8:1-7 | 8:8-22 | 9:1-35 | 10:1-22 | 11:1-20 | 12:1-25 | 13:1-16 | 13:17-14:22 |

Translation:

15:1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered, saying:

2 “Does a man answer with blustery knowledge (lit: wind-knowledge),
Or fill his belly with the east [wind]?
3 Arguing with useless speech,
With words that do not have value in them?
4 Indeed, you break off reverence,
And you diminish meditation before the face of God,

5 Because your iniquity teaches your mouth,
And you choose the tongue of the crafty.
6 Your mouth condemns you, and not me;
Your lips answer [back] at you.”

  • Eliphaz is less conciliatory this time round after hearing Job complain about his suffering. The first time round (chapter 5) he encouraged Job to view his plight as discipline from above. Here he scolds Job for his “useless speech” (v3)
  • In Eliphaz’s worldview, he fears that lamenting and complain will discourage people from fearing God (v4); therefore Job’s continued howlings and calls for God to answer threatens the spiritual health of others. But is that actually true? Is there no such thing as lament and complaint from faithful people (e.g., the Psalms?)

7 “Were you the first man born?
Or before hills were you brought forth?
8 The secret counsel of God – have you heard it?
Have you restricted to yourself wisdom?
9 What do you know that we don’t know?
[What] do you understand – that is not with us?
10 The grey-haired too, the aged too, [are] with us,
Mighter than your father of days.
11 Are they too slight for you, the consolations of God?
Or a word in gentleness to you?
12 Why has it carried you away – your heart?
And why do your eyes flash?
13 Because you turn your breath against God,
And you have caused words to proceed from your mouth.
14 What is man, that he be pure;
Or that he be righteous, the one born of woman?
15 Look, in His holy ones He does not trust,
and the heavens are not pure in His sight.
16 Indeed, how disgusting and corrupt,
A man who drinks in evil like water.”

  • TL;DR: “You’re not like God in wisdom Job, you sinful evil person” says Eliphaz
  • But seriously, the way Eliphaz waxes lyrical here is remarkable poetry, yet poor remedy for someone who just needed sympathy, not speechy slander
  • Verse 9 isn’t a bad question: “What do you know that we don’t know?” However, Eliphaz should ask this of himself too! If he had, perhaps he would be more careful to charge Job of evil, iniquity and so on.

17 “Let me tell you, listen to me.
And this I have seen and I shall relate it:
18 What wise men declare,
That they have not hidden,
[that is] from their fathers.
19 To them alone the land was given,
And no stranger has passed through their midst.
20 All his days the wicked one – he writhes,
According to the number of years hidden for the ruthless one.
21 Everything of dread [is] in his ears,
In a time of peace a plunderer comes upon him.
22 He does not have confidence to return from darkness,
And he is marked for the sword.
23 He wanders about for food – where is it?
He knows that it is at hand, the day of darkness.
24 It terrifies him, distress and anguish;
They overpower him like a king ready for battle.”

  • Eliphaz continues with a description of the wicked one’s days. His world is black and white, filled only with either good or bad people.
  • According to the wisdom he relies upon, God’s justice is retributive — if you are wicked, then you suffer.
  • He even gives examples (v21, see also 34) similar to the calamities that fell upon Job in chapter 1.

25 “For he stretches out against God his hand,
And is arrogant against the Almighty.
26 running against him with the neck,
With the thickness of the embossings of his shield.
27 Though he has covered his face with his fat,
And made blubber over his loins,
28 He has lived in cities, desolated places,
[and] houses no one dwells in,
Which they are made ready for heaps.
29 He will not become rich,
And his wealth will not stand,
And it will not spread over the land – his possessions.
30 He will depart from the darkness, a flame will wither his shoots,
And he will depart by the breath of his mouth.
31 Let him not trust in emptiness — being deceived,
For emptiness is his due (lit: exchange).
32 Before his time he will be filled,
And his branches will not be green.
33 He will wrong his sour grapes like a vine,
He will shed off, like an olive tree, his blossom(s).
34 For the company of the godless is barren,
And fire consumes the tents of bribery.
35 They conceive trouble, and beget iniquity, their belly prepares deception.”

  • Verses 25-27 give an unusual image of a fierce warrior assaulting God with his shield, who’s actually a blubbery man smeared with fat (food) on his face. Eliphaz thinks that Job’s protests against God come across as a man ill-prepared for battle, or as an Emperor without clothes.
  • The long tirade against “evil people like Job” starts and ends with the idea of a belly — first filled with the east wind (v1), now preparing deception (v35).
  • There’s not much to like about Eliphaz’s epithets right now. I’m thankful for friends who sympathise, pray, talk, give us reasons to smile instead of point out what’s wrong. In time, God will reveal this to Job. Eliphaz would do better to sit and sympathise with his friend.
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