The Word Made Fresh
1Then Eliphaz the Temanite spoke up and said, 2“Would it offend you if someone should offer a word? But who could hold back from saying something? 3Look, you have given advice to a lot of people. You have supported those whose hands are weak. 4You have given counsel to those who were going astray, and you have strengthened those were weary.
5“But now, troubles have come to you, and you are upset and agitated. 6Shouldn’t you be confident in your respect for God? Shouldn’t you find hope in your own integrity?
7“Just think for a moment; can you recall anyone dying who was innocent, or anyone whose life was squelched because they were good? 8What I have seen is that those who are corrupt and cause troubles for others eventually pay for their deeds. 9God whispers a word and they perish; or God’s anger blasts them away. 10They may roar like a grown lion or bare their teeth like a young lion, but they are broken. 11Even a strong lion can die of hunger, and their young ones scattered.
12“An idea came to me; I could hear it whispering. 13In the midst of dreams when mortals are deep in sleep, 14I was suddenly filled with a dread that made my bones tremble. 15A ghost glided past my face, and my hair stood on end. 16It stopped before me, but I couldn’t make out exactly what it looked like – it was just a shape in front of me. At first everything was silent, but then I heard a voice say, 17‘Can mortals be more righteous than God? Can humans be purer than their maker? 18If God’s servants can’t be fully trusted; if God’s angels can make mistakes, 19how much more can mortals who live in bodies made of clay, who are formed from the dust, be crushed as easily as a moth. 20Between sunrise and sunset they can be wiped out forever, and no one will take notice of it. 21The chord of their tent is simply pulled up and they die not knowing anything.’”
1-6: Eliphaz is not willing to let Job simply vent his grief but has to challenge his nihilism. You’ve always been somebody to look up to, he says, don’t blow it now.
7-21: Eliphaz presents Job with arguments that he has probably heard Job make in the past: we think that surely the innocent are not the ones who perish, but then there are ample examples to show the folly of that line of reasoning. In nature even the strong are sometimes defeated by circumstances. He gives a dramatic presentation of a revelation that has come to him in a vision: human beings cannot be righteous or pure next to God. They all perish. Job is not exempt even though his reputation may be spotless.
If you were in Job’s place and heard the counsel of Eliphaz, would you be comforted? Basically, he is saying that good people are not exempt from suffering. He is correct; but we have to wonder if this lecture helps Job. Perhaps Eliphaz’s intention is to demonstrate to Job that his suffering is not necessarily a judgment on his character. Good and evil alike eventually suffer the same fate of death.