Friday, September 12, 2003

Job 16: Job Responds to Eliphaz (2)

Job continues his response to Eliphaz.

This post is part of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning. At the end of each post you will find a link to the next.


One of the interesting challenges in reading Job is to sense the changes that occur during a discourse. You may have noted that Job would suddenly begin speaking to God. It seems to me that these next lines of his were spoken neither to God nor to Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar. The sudden emergence of Elihu in chapter 32 suggests that there are others in the entourage who were listening. Perhaps Job now addressed these bystanders:

His anger has torn me and persecuted me; he has gnashed at me with his teeth; my adversary fastens his eyes against me. 

People have opened their mouths against me, they have struck my cheek in scorn; they unite together against me. 

God abandons me to evil men, and throws me into the hands of wicked men. I was in peace, and he has shattered me. He has seized me by the neck and crushed me. He has made me his target; his archers surround me. Without pity he pierces my kidneys and pours out my gall on the ground. He breaks through against me, time and time again; he rushes against me like a warrior. 

I have sewed sackcloth on my skin, and buried my horn in the dust; my face is reddened because of weeping, and on my eyelids there is a deep darkness, although there is no violence in my hands and my prayer is pure. 

O earth, do not cover my blood, nor let there be a secret place for my cry. (Job 16:9-18)

These words marked a change in Job. He was now beginning to claim the moral high ground over God. He was the innocent victim. God, "without pity," had shattered, seized, crushed, targeted, and battled this pure and upright man who had "no violence" in his hands. Job so wanted vindication that he calls on the earth to keep the memory of his pain and coming death alive.

The next words spoken by Job are difficult:

Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; and he contends with God on behalf of man as a man pleads for his friend. For the years that lie ahead are few, and then I will go on the way of no return. (Job 16:19-22)

Who was this witness and intercessor? Although we can read these words and see Jesus Christ, Job had no such understanding. The translation difficulties of this verse are evident by comparing the Net Bible with the NASB here:

Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, And my advocate is on high. My friends are my scoffers; My eye weeps to God. O that a man might plead with God As a man with his neighbor! For when a few years are past, I shall go the way of no return. (Job 16:19-22)

Compare "My intercessor is my friend" with "My friends are my scoffers." Compare "He contends with God on behalf of man" with "O that a man might plead with God." In this case, I prefer the NASB rendering and believe the NET translation to have been influenced by New Testament knowledge.

My understanding of what Job said here is that in heaven there is a record of his deeds. That record is his witness and advocate. The New King James Version suggests this possibility.:

Surely even now my witness is in heaven, And my evidence is on high. (Job 16:19, NKJV)

To be sure, the NASB reading is the reading preferred by most other translations, but I believe the KJV/NKJV reading is correct here. This is not because I am a Hebrew scholar or even an amateur, it is because it better flows with the context before and after and is accurate to the theological understanding of Job's time.

Next: Job has more to say.

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Thursday, September 11, 2003

Out of runway

The day ran out before I did. See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Job 16: Job Responds to Eliphaz    

What can you say when you speak the truth and no one believes you?

This post is part of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning. At the end of each post you will find a link to the next.


I only have time for a very brief post today. Here is the beginning of Job's response to Eliphaz:

Then Job answered, “I have heard many such things; Sorry comforters are you all. Is there no limit to windy words? Or what plagues you that you answer?

"I too could speak like you, If I were in your place. I could compose words against you And shake my head at you. 

"I could strengthen you with my mouth, And the solace of my lips could lessen your pain. 

"If I speak, my pain is not lessened, And if I hold back, what has left me? 

"But now He has exhausted me; 

"You have laid waste all my company. You have shriveled me up, It has become a witness; And my leanness rises up against me, It testifies to my face." (Job 16:1-8)

Job: "I have heard many such things. ... What plagues you that you answer?" I think here that he meant that Eliphaz had not said anything that he, Bildad, and Zophar have not already hammered home. Job wondered why Eliphaz would even speak again. He added nothing new.

Job: "I could speak like you ... and shake my head at you." If the tables were turned, Job could sound just like them. By this he meant that he understood their religious base and why they spoke as they did.

Job: "I could strengthen you..." Here I would wish that the translators had added the word "but" so that this would read, "But I could strengthen you." Job again pleaded for a different track from his friends. 

Job: "If I speak, my pain is not lessened, and if I hold back what has left me?" Job does not realize it yet, but this is exactly one of the gifts that the Lord has given him. Job has nothing to lose. It is clear that his friends would have the same opinion of him whether he spoke or not. It would not matter what he said, except to say, "Have mercy on me a desperately wicked man." and so placate his friends. But Job's issue is first with God and only secondarily with his friends. He cannot ask God, "Have mercy on me a desperately wicked man."

Job: "But now He has exhausted me." Job feels exhausted, but in fact his spirit is becoming stronger.

Job: "You have laid waste all my company. You have shriveled me up." Job spoke to the Lord here and refers to destruction of his property and children and his disease."

Job: "It has become a witness; and my leanness rises up against me, it testifies to my face." What God has done is the source of Eliphaz, Bildad's and Zophar's condemnation.

What at least can be said is that Job has an accurate picture of his situation. When our troubles come, this is an important place to be.

Thursday: Job's speech continues

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Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Job 15: Eliphaz Speaks Again (2)

In the part of Eliphaz's monolog covered yesterday, he had rejected Job's words completely. As we will see today, he went on to claim a superior source of wisdom and then told Job what lay in his future.

This post is part of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning. At the end of each post you will find a link to the next.


After rejecting Job's defense out of hand, Eliphaz had this to say about the source of his own source of wisdom. It is an interesting piece of language and does require some decoding:

I will explain to you; listen to me, and what I have seen, I will declare, what wise men declare, hiding nothing, from the tradition of their ancestors, to whom alone the land was given when no foreigner passed among them. (Job 15:17-19, The Net Bible)

First Eliphaz appealed again to his experience ("what I have seen, I will declare'). But he also connected it with ancient wisdom and thereby appropriated Bildad's support. Now here is this curious turn of phrase, "the tradition of their ancestors, to whom alone the land was given when no foreigner passed among them." Let's take "the land" to be a metaphor for wisdom. Eliphaz was not speaking of the Jews here, because there were no Jews yet. But compare his words with these of Paul's:

... Israelites. To them belong the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from them, by human descent, came the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 9:4-5)

Eliphaz was saying something similar about the ancients. They had been given wisdom. and that wisdom was pure because it had not been polluted by the foreign ideas. People must then be careful of introducing foreign ideas, because of their polluting effect. Job's crafty words were foreign to the pure strain and must be rejected. It is interesting to note that the context of Paul's words was the rejection of Jesus by many Jews because of ancient traditions.

So on that self-proclaimed firm footing, he then continued to harangue Job.

All his days the wicked man suffers torment, throughout the number of the years that are stored up for the tyrant. Terrifying sounds fill his ears; in a time of peace marauders attack him. 

Eliphaz here implies that wickedness was the cause of Job's loss of livestock to the Chaldeans and Sabaeans.

He does not expect to escape from darkness; he is marked for the sword; he wanders about—food for vultures; he knows that the day of darkness is at hand. Distress and anguish terrify him; they prevail against him like a king ready for attack, for he stretches out his hand against God, and vaunts himself against the Almighty, defiantly charging against him with a thick, strong shield! 

Eliphaz here described Job's agitated state, but drew the wrong conclusions. Job complained that God had attacked him, but Eliphaz saw it as Job attacking God. All the darkness that surrounded Job stemmed from a wicked character. To be precise, Eliphaz was not saying this directly. His words had the following force, "A wicked man would lose his property, live in dread of God's coming judgment and lash out in anger. Job is lashing out in anger, lives in darkness and fear, and has lost his property. Job is a wicked man." The logic, of course, is faulty, but there are three men connecting the dots anyway.

Because he covered his face with fat, and made his hips fat, he lived in ruined towns and in houses where no one lives, where they are ready to crumble into heaps. He will not grow rich, and his wealth will not endure, nor will his possessions spread over the land. He will not escape the darkness; a flame will wither his shoots and he will depart by the breath of God’s mouth. Let him not trust in what is worthless, deceiving himself; for worthlessness will be his reward. Before his time he will be paid in full, and his branches will not flourish. Like a vine he will let his sour grapes fall, and like an olive tree he will shed his blossoms. For the company of the godless is barren, and fire consumes the tents of those who accept bribes. They conceive trouble and bring forth evil; their belly prepares deception. (Job 15:20-35) 

It is clear that Eliphaz had heard nothing of what Job said. He laid it out for Job, "Your life, Job, will be just more of the same until you shape up or get shipped out!"

This is what we students of the scriptures have missed by not examining Job's middle section. As you should now be able to see, the situation is quite ugly. Although Job has the upper hand, for now, in terms of a reasonable argument, the book does not end with his vindication, but rather his repentance. Nevertheless, Job is changing, because he must. Eliphaz, soon to be joined again by Bildad and Zophar are men trapped by their religious ways. It is a scary and terrifying thing to have the bedrock of your life shaken by facts that will not go away. Much of what they say has a general truth, but they have not allowed for exceptions. They are, therefore, unkind to an extraordinary degree. If they had been correct that Job was a wicked man, their words would have been the right thing to say. 

What we see at this point in the book of Job, and will continue to see for several more chapters, is what Jesus referred to as old wineskins:

He also told them a parable: “No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old garment. If he does, he will have torn the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. Instead new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’” (Luke 5:36-39)

Eliphaz is an old wineskin filled with the new wine of an unexpected situation: a righteous man who is suffering. Such a thing could not be, so he clings to the old truth. In Luke, just after Jesus spoke this parable, the following event occurred:

On another Sabbath, Jesus entered the synagogue and was teaching. Now a man was there whose right hand was withered. The experts in the law and the Pharisees watched Jesus closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they could find a reason to accuse him. But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Get up and stand here.” So he rose and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do evil, to save a life or to destroy it?” After looking around at them all, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” The man did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with mindless rage and began debating with one another what they would do to Jesus. (Luke 6:6-11)

The dynamic at work in the Pharisees was the same dynamic at work in Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. If we are not careful, the dynamic will work in us. God will offend the mind to reveal the heart. You and I have been taught things that have a logical sense to them that may be dead wrong. God may lead us into situations that challenge that teaching and we will panic. The thing to do is to calm down, trust God, get the facts, take your time, pray, study, and come to know the truth. It will be that sometimes, the teaching holds firm. It will be that other times, it will not. 

Very often, the new must come along in order to pass the gospel to the next generation, but the new is troubling to the old. Job like tensions arise in the body and we inflict much pain on each other. These are the times to discern and understand the core gospel message and separate message and transmission. Should Gentiles be circumcised? Can the scriptures be translated to the language of its hearers? Are there musical forms that are a priori wrong? Can a young girl tattoo a cross on her arm or pierce her tongue with one?

May God grant us discernment in such areas.

Wednesday: Job Responds to Eliphaz

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Monday, September 08, 2003

Job 15: Eliphaz Speaks Again

The second of three speech cycles begins with Eliphaz. How will he react to Job's declaration of innocence?

This post is part of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning. At the end of each post you will find a link to the next.


In his first speech, Eliphaz told Job, "Is not your piety your confidence, and your blameless ways your hope?" (Job 4:6, The Net Bible) Now, after Job and Bildad and Zophar have spoken, Eliphaz is no longer so kind:

Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered: “Does a wise man answer with blustery knowledge, or fill his belly with the east wind? Does he argue with useless talk, with words that have no value in them? But you even break off piety, and hinder meditation before God. Your sin inspires your mouth; you choose the language of the crafty. Your own mouth condemns you, not I; your lips testify against you." (Job 15:1-6)

Job had asserted his innocence and had argued that some innocent suffer and some wicked prosper. For Eliphaz such talk was no better than wasted breath and so much hot air, which is a more contemporary understanding of "blustery knowledge" and a belly filled "with the east wind." Eliphaz declared Job's words to be useless and having no value.

Eliphaz was wrong. Job was innocent and he suffered. This was evidence against Eliphaz's view of God and the universe. Eliphaz's compartmentalized view of the world, as one in which only wicked suffer, had met its counter-example. This meant that Eliphaz either had to refashion how he saw the world or filter out the facts laid before him. He filtered the facts. That was why he described Job's words as so much useless hot air.

His next words hinted at his inner distress, "But you even break off piety, and hinder meditation before God." Job had rattled him a little. Unable to accept the challenge to his ideas, Eliphaz accused Job of crafty language. Job remained a sinner in Eliphaz's eye.

Eliphaz next said:

Were you the first man ever born? Were you brought forth before the hills? Do you listen in God’s council? Do you limit wisdom to yourself? What do you know that we do not know? What do you understand that is not understood by us? The gray-haired and the aged are on our side, men far older than your father. (Job 15:7-10)

We see this kind of language in contentious political discourse. When you have no logic with which to gain advantage, you attack your opponent in some other area. So Eliphaz accused Job of being too young to really know anything, but offered no evidence of Job's wrongdoing, and no counter argument to the fact that the innocent suffer. He could only say that some really old guys agree with his position.

Moving on:

Are God’s consolations too trivial for you; or a word spoken in gentleness to you? Why has your heart carried you away, and why do your eyes flash, when you turn your rage against God and allow such words to proceed from your mouth? What is man that he should be pure, or one born of woman, that he should be righteous? If God places no trust in his holy ones, if even the heavens are not pure in his eyes, how much less man, who is abominable and corrupt, who drinks in evil like water! (Job 15:11-16)

Eliphaz spoke some truth here. Job had expressed anger and frustration at God. But if Eliphaz had accepted the truth of Job's situation, he would have understood Job's reaction. Besides, Eliphaz's words had been far from gentle. In his first speech, he had said, "I myself have seen the fool taking root, but suddenly I cursed his place of residence. His children are far from safety, and they are crushed at the place of judgment, nor is there anyone to deliver them. (Job 5:3-4)" The reminder to Job of his children's death had not been a word spoken in gentleness.

Now the words, "What is man that he should be pure..." come close to an argument that many of us might make to someone such as Job. Our theology tells us that "there is no one righteous, not even one" (Romans 3:9) However, the book of Job exists to invalidate that argument. Job was declared in the beginning to be pure and upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. This is not to say that he was perfect, but dealing the universal sin card is not productive in this discussion. The sin card is a cop out by which we avoid having to deal with just the issues that the book of Job makes us face. If you must play the sin card, then stop reading here. Eliphaz must be correct. There is nothing more to say. However, the Lord's assessment of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar was that they had "not spoken about me what is right as my servant Job has." (Job 42:7)

Tuesday: More on Eliphaz

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