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Eliphaz Speaks: Job Undermines Religion


Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered:


“Should the wise answer with windy knowledge,

and fill themselves with the east wind?


Should they argue in unprofitable talk,

or in words with which they can do no good?


But you are doing away with the fear of God,

and hindering meditation before God.


For your iniquity teaches your mouth,

and you choose the tongue of the crafty.


Your own mouth condemns you, and not I;

your own lips testify against you.



“Are you the firstborn of the human race?

Were you brought forth before the hills?


Have you listened in the council of God?

And do you limit wisdom to yourself?


What do you know that we do not know?

What do you understand that is not clear to us?


The gray-haired and the aged are on our side,

those older than your father.


Are the consolations of God too small for you,

or the word that deals gently with you?


Why does your heart carry you away,

and why do your eyes flash,


so that you turn your spirit against God,

and let such words go out of your mouth?


What are mortals, that they can be clean?

Or those born of woman, that they can be righteous?


God puts no trust even in his holy ones,

and the heavens are not clean in his sight;


how much less one who is abominable and corrupt,

one who drinks iniquity like water!



“I will show you; listen to me;

what I have seen I will declare—


what sages have told,

and their ancestors have not hidden,


to whom alone the land was given,

and no stranger passed among them.


The wicked writhe in pain all their days,

through all the years that are laid up for the ruthless.


Terrifying sounds are in their ears;

in prosperity the destroyer will come upon them.


They despair of returning from darkness,

and they are destined for the sword.


They wander abroad for bread, saying, ‘Where is it?’

They know that a day of darkness is ready at hand;


distress and anguish terrify them;

they prevail against them, like a king prepared for battle.


Because they stretched out their hands against God,

and bid defiance to the Almighty,


running stubbornly against him

with a thick-bossed shield;


because they have covered their faces with their fat,

and gathered fat upon their loins,


they will live in desolate cities,

in houses that no one should inhabit,

houses destined to become heaps of ruins;


they will not be rich, and their wealth will not endure,

nor will they strike root in the earth;


they will not escape from darkness;

the flame will dry up their shoots,

and their blossom will be swept away by the wind.


Let them not trust in emptiness, deceiving themselves;

for emptiness will be their recompense.


It will be paid in full before their time,

and their branch will not be green.


They will shake off their unripe grape, like the vine,

and cast off their blossoms, like the olive tree.


For the company of the godless is barren,

and fire consumes the tents of bribery.


They conceive mischief and bring forth evil

and their heart prepares deceit.”


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Job 15:1-35. Second Speech of Eliphaz.

2. a wise man—which Job claims to be.

vain knowledgeHebrew, "windy knowledge"; literally, "of wind" (Job 8:2). In Ec 1:14, Hebrew, "to catch wind," expresses to strive for what is vain.

east wind—stronger than the previous "wind," for in that region the east wind is the most destructive of winds (Isa 27:8). Thus here,—empty violence.

belly—the inward parts, the breast (Pr 18:8).

4. fear—reverence for God (Job 4:6; Ps 2:11).

prayer—meditation, in Ps 104:34; so devotion. If thy views were right, reasons Eliphaz, that God disregards the afflictions of the righteous and makes the wicked to prosper, all devotion would be at an end.

5. The sophistry of thine own speeches proves thy guilt.

6. No pious man would utter such sentiments.

7. That is, Art thou wisdom personified? Wisdom existed before the hills; that is, the eternal Son of God (Pr 8:25; Ps 90:2). Wast thou in existence before Adam? The farther back one existed, the nearer he was to the Eternal Wisdom.

8. secret—rather, "Wast thou a listener in the secret council of God?" The Hebrew means properly the cushions of a divan on which counsellors in the East usually sit. God's servants are admitted to God's secrets (Ps 25:14; Ge 18:17; Joh 15:15).

restrain—Rather, didst thou take away, or borrow, thence (namely, from the divine secret council) thy wisdom? Eliphaz in this (Job 15:8, 9) retorts Job's words upon himself (Job 12:2, 3; 13:2).

9. in us—or, "with us," Hebraism for "we are aware of."

10. On our side, thinking with us are the aged. Job had admitted that wisdom is with them (Job 12:12). Eliphaz seems to have been himself older than Job; perhaps the other two were also (Job 32:6). Job, in Job 30:1, does not refer to his three friends; it therefore forms no objection. The Arabs are proud of fulness of years.

11. consolations—namely, the revelation which Eliphaz had stated as a consolatory reproof to Job, and which he repeats in Job 15:14.

secret—Hast thou some secret wisdom and source of consolation, which makes thee disregard those suggested by me? (Job 15:8). Rather, from a different Hebrew root, Is the word of kindness or gentleness addressed by me treated by thee as valueless? [Umbreit].

12. wink—that is, why do thy eyes evince pride? (Pr 6:13; Ps 35:19).

13. That is, frettest against God and lettest fall rash words.

14. Eliphaz repeats the revelation (Job 4:17) in substance, but using Job's own words (see on Job 14:1, on "born of a woman") to strike him with his own weapons.

15. Repeated from Job 4:18; "servants" there are "saints" here; namely, holy angels.

heavens—literally, or else answering to "angels" (see on Job 4:18, and Job 25:5).

16. filthy—in Arabic "sour" (Ps 14:3; 53:3), corrupted from his original purity.

drinketh—(Pr 19:28).

17. In direct contradiction of Job's position (Job 12:6, &c.), that the lot of the wicked was the most prosperous here, Eliphaz appeals (1) to his own experience, (2) to the wisdom of the ancients.

18. Rather, "and which as handed down from their fathers, they have not concealed."

19. Eliphaz speaks like a genuine Arab when he boasts that his ancestors had ever possessed the land unmixed with foreigners [Umbreit]. His words are intended to oppose Job's (Job 9:24); "the earth" in their case was not "given into the hand of the wicked." He refers to the division of the earth by divine appointment (Ge 10:5; 25:32). Also he may insinuate that Job's sentiments had been corrupted from original purity by his vicinity to the Sabeans and Chaldeans [Rosenmuller].

20. travaileth—rather, "trembleth of himself," though there is no real danger [Umbreit].

and the number of his years, &c.—This gives the reason why the wicked man trembles continually; namely, because he knows not the moment when his life must end.

21. An evil conscience conceives alarm at every sudden sound, though it be in a time of peace ("prosperity"), when there is no real danger (Le 26:36; Pr 28:1; 2Ki 7:6).

22. darkness—namely, danger or calamity. Glancing at Job, who despaired of restoration: in contrast to good men when in darkness (Mic 7:8, 9).

waited for of—that is, He is destined for the sword [Gesenius]. Rather (in the night of danger), "he looks anxiously towards the sword," as if every sword was drawn against him [Umbreit].

23. Wandereth in anxious search for bread. Famine in Old Testament depicts sore need (Isa 5:13). Contrast the pious man's lot (Job 5:20-22).

knoweth—has the firm conviction. Contrast the same word applied to the pious (Job 5:24, 25).

ready at his hand—an Arabic phrase to denote a thing's complete readiness and full presence, as if in the hand.

24. prevail—break upon him suddenly and terribly, as a king, &c. (Pr 6:11).

25. stretcheth … hand—wielding the spear, as a bold rebel against God (Job 9:4; Isa 27:4).

26. on his neck—rather, "with outstretched neck," namely, that of the rebel [Umbreit] (Ps 75:5).

upon … bucklers—rather, "with—his (the rebel's, not God's) bucklers." The rebel and his fellows are depicted as joining shields together, to form a compact covering over their heads against the weapons hurled on them from a fortress [Umbreit and Gesenius].

27. The well-nourished body of the rebel is the sign of his prosperity.

collops—masses of fat. He pampers and fattens himself with sensual indulgences; hence his rebellion against God (De 32:15; 1Sa 2:29).

28. The class of wicked here described is that of robbers who plunder "cities," and seize on the houses of the banished citizens (Isa 13:20). Eliphaz chooses this class because Job had chosen the same (Job 12:6).

heaps—of ruins.

29. Rather, he shall not increase his riches; he has reached his highest point; his prosperity shall not continue.

perfection—rather, "His acquired wealth—what he possesses—shall not be extended," &c.

30. depart—that is, escape (Job 15:22, 23).

branches—namely, his offspring (Job 1:18, 19; Ps 37:35).

dry up—The "flame" is the sultry wind in the East by which plants most full of sap are suddenly shrivelled.

his mouth—that is, God's wrath (Isa 11:4).

31. Rather, "let him not trust in vanity or he will be deceived," &c.

vanity—that which is unsubstantial. Sin is its own punishment (Pr 1:31; Jer 2:19).

32. Literally, "it (the tree to which he is compared, Job 15:30, or else his life) shall not be filled up in its time"; that is, "he shall be ended before his time."

shall not be green—image from a withered tree; the childless extinction of the wicked.

33. Images of incompleteness. The loss of the unripe grapes is poetically made the vine tree's own act, in order to express more pointedly that the sinner's ruin is the fruit of his own conduct (Isa 3:11; Jer 6:19).

34. Rather, The binding together of the hypocrites (wicked) shall be fruitless [Umbreit].

tabernacles of bribery—namely, dwellings of unjust judges, often reprobated in the Old Testament (Isa 1:23). The "fire of God" that consumed Job's possessions (Job 1:16) Eliphaz insinuates may have been on account of Job's bribery as an Arab sheik or emir.

35. Bitter irony, illustrating the "unfruitfulness" (Job 15:34) of the wicked. Their conceptions and birthgivings consist solely in mischief, &c. (Isa 33:11).