Eliphaz reproves Job. (1-6) And maintains that God's judgments are for the wicked. (7-11) The vision of Eliphaz. (12-21)
Verses 1-6 Satan undertook to prove Job a hypocrite by afflicting him; and his friends concluded him to be one because he was so afflicted, and showed impatience. This we must keep in mind if we would understand what passed. Eliphaz speaks of Job, and his afflicted condition, with tenderness; but charges him with weakness and faint-heartedness. Men make few allowances for those who have taught others. Even pious friends will count that only a touch which we feel as a wound. Learn from hence to draw off the mind of a sufferer from brooding over the affliction, to look at the God of mercies in the affliction. And how can this be done so well as by looking to Christ Jesus, in whose unequalled sorrows every child of God soonest learns to forget his own?
Verses 7-11 Eliphaz argues, 1. That good men were never thus ruined. But there is one event both to the righteous and to the wicked, ( Ecclesiastes 9:2 ) , both in life and death; the great and certain difference is after death. Our worst mistakes are occasioned by drawing wrong views from undeniable truths. 2. That wicked men were often thus ruined: for the proof of this, Eliphaz vouches his own observation. We may see the same every day.
Verses 12-21 Eliphaz relates a vision. When we are communing with our own hearts, and are still, ( Psalms 4:4 ) , then is a time for the Holy Spirit to commune with us. This vision put him into very great fear. Ever since man sinned, it has been terrible to him to receive communications from Heaven, conscious that he can expect no good tidings thence. Sinful man! shall he pretend to be more just, more pure, than God, who being his Maker, is his Lord and Owner? How dreadful, then, the pride and presumption of man! How great the patience of God! Look upon man in his life. The very foundation of that cottage of clay in which man dwells, is in the dust, and it will sink with its own weight. We stand but upon the dust. Some have a higher heap of dust to stand upon than others but still it is the earth that stays us up, and will shortly swallow us up. Man is soon crushed; or if some lingering distemper, which consumes like a moth, be sent to destroy him, he cannot resist it. Shall such a creature pretend to blame the appointments of God? Look upon man in his death. Life is short, and in a little time men are cut off. Beauty, strength, learning, not only cannot secure them from death, but these things die with them; nor shall their pomp, their wealth, or power, continue after them. Shall a weak, sinful, dying creature, pretend to be more just than God, and more pure than his Maker? No: instead of quarrelling with his afflictions, let him wonder that he is out of hell. Can a man be cleansed without his Maker? Will God justify sinful mortals, and clear them from guilt? or will he do so without their having an interest in the righteousness and gracious help of their promised Redeemer, when angels, once ministering spirits before his throne, receive the just recompence of their sins? Notwithstanding the seeming impunity of men for a short time, though living without God in the world, their doom is as certain as that of the fallen angels, and is continually overtaking them. Yet careless sinners note it so little, that they expect not the change, nor are wise to consider their latter end.
Job 4:1-21 . FIRST SPEECH OF ELIPHAZ.
1. Eliphaz--the mildest of Job's three accusers. The greatness of Job's calamities, his complaints against God, and the opinion that calamities are proofs of guilt, led the three to doubt Job's integrity.
2. If we assay to commune--Rather, two questions, "May we attempt a word with thee? Wilt thou be grieved at it?" Even pious friends often count that only a touch which we feel as a wound.
3. weak hands-- Isaiah 35:3 , 2 Samuel 4:1 .
5. thou art troubled--rather, "unhinged," hast lost thy self-command ( 1 Thessalonians 3:3 ).
6. Is not this thy fear, thy confidence, &c.--Does thy fear, thy confidence, come to nothing? Does it come only to this, that thou faintest now? Rather, by transposition, "Is not thy fear (of God) thy hope? and the uprightness of thy ways thy confidence? If so, bethink thee, who ever perished being innocent?" [UMBREIT]. But Luke 13:2 Luke 13:3 shows that, though there is a retributive divine government even in this life, yet we cannot judge by the mere outward appearance. "One event is outwardly to the righteous and to the wicked" ( Ecclesiastes 9:2 ); but yet we must take it on trust, that God deals righteously even now ( Psalms 37:25 , Isaiah 33:16 ). Judge not by a part, but by the whole of a godly man's life, and by his end, even here ( James 5:11 ). The one and the same outward event is altogether a different thing in its inward bearings on the godly and on the ungodly even here. Even prosperity, much more calamity, is a punishment to the wicked ( Proverbs 1:32 ). Trials are chastisements for their good (to the righteous) ( Psalms 119:67 Psalms 119:71 Psalms 119:75 ). See Preface on the DESIGN of this book
8. they that plough iniquity . . . reap the same--( Proverbs 22:8 , Hosea 8:7 , 10:13 , Galatians 6:7 Galatians 6:8 ).
9. breath of his nostrils--God's anger; a figure from the fiery winds of the East ( Job 1:16 , Isaiah 5:25 , Psalms 18:8 Psalms 18:15 ).
10, 11. lion--that is, wicked men, upon whom Eliphaz wished to show that calamities come in spite of their various resources, just as destruction comes on the lion in spite of his strength ( Psalms 58:6 , 2 Timothy 4:17 ). Five different Hebrew terms here occur for "lion." The raging of the lion (the tearer), and the roaring of the bellowing lion and the teeth of the young lions, not whelps, but grown up enough to hunt for prey. The strong lion, the whelps of the lioness (not the stout lion, as in English Version) [BARNES and UMBREIT]. The various phases of wickedness are expressed by this variety of terms: obliquely, Job, his wife, and children, may be hinted at by the lion, lioness, and whelps. The one verb, "are broken," does not suit both subjects; therefore, supply "the roaring of the bellowing lion is silenced." The strong lion dies of want at last, and the whelps, torn from the mother, are scattered, and the race becomes extinct.
12. a thing--Hebrew, a "word." Eliphaz confirms his view by a divine declaration which was secretly and unexpectedly imparted to him.
a little--literally, "a whisper"; implying the still silence around, and that more was conveyed than articulate words could utter ( Job 26:14 , 2 Corinthians 12:4 ).
13. In thoughts from the visions of the night--[So WINER]. While revolving night visions previously made to him ( Daniel 2:29 ). Rather, "In my manifold (Hebrew, divided) thoughts, before the visions of the night commenced"; therefore not a delusive dream ( Psalms 4:4 ) [UMBREIT].
deep sleep--( Genesis 2:21 , 15:12 ).
16. It stood still--At first the apparition glides before Eliphaz, then stands still, but with that shadowy indistinctness of form which creates such an impression of awe; a gentle murmur: not (English Version): there was silence; for in 1 Kings 19:12 , the voice, as opposed to the previous storm, denotes a gentle, still murmur.
17. mortal man . . . a man--Two Hebrew words for "man" are used; the first implying his feebleness; the second his strength. Whether feeble or strong, man is not righteous before God.
more just than God . . . more pure than his maker--But this would be self-evident without an oracle.
18. folly--or, "nor in his angels, in whom he put light." Imperfection is to be attributed to the angels, in comparison with Him. The holiness of some of them had given way ( 2 Peter 2:4 ), and at best is but the holiness of a creature. Folly is the want of moral consideration [UMBREIT].
19. houses of clay--( 2 Corinthians 5:1 ). Houses made of sun-dried clay bricks are common in the East; they are easily washed away ( Matthew 7:27 ). Man's foundation is this dust ( Genesis 3:19 ).
before the moth--rather, "as before the moth," which devours a garment ( Job 13:28 , Psalms 39:11 , Isaiah 50:9 ). Man, who cannot, in a physical point of view, stand before the very moth, surely cannot, in a moral, stand before God.
20. from morning to evening--unceasingly; or, better, between the morning and evening of one short day (so Exodus 18:14 , Isaiah 38:12 ).
They are destroyed--better, "they would be destroyed," if God withdrew His loving protection. Therefore man must not think to be holy before God, but to draw holiness and all things else from God ( Job 4:17 ).
21. their excellency--( Psalms 39:11 , 146:4 , 1 Corinthians 13:8 ). But UMBREIT, by an Oriental image from a bow, useless because unstrung: "Their nerve, or string would be torn away." MICHAELIS, better in accordance with Job 4:19 , makes the allusion be to the cords of a tabernacle taken down ( Isaiah 33:20 ).
they die, even without wisdom--rather, "They would perish, yet not according to wisdom," but according to arbitrary choice, if God were not infinitely wise and holy. The design of the spirit is to show that the continued existence of weak man proves the inconceivable wisdom and holiness of God, which alone save man from ruin [UMBREIT]. BENGEL shows from Scripture that God's holiness (Hebrew, kadosh) comprehends all His excellencies and attributes. DE WETTE loses the scope, in explaining it, of the shortness of man's life, contrasted with the angels "before they have attained to wisdom."