New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Job 15:1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered- Eliphaz in this speech clearly objects to Job having made any comeback whatsoever on what the friends have so far said. This is so often the case in supposed 'dialogue'; once people are persuaded of their own narrative, they accuse any dissent therefrom to be arrogance. Which is in turn really just their own pride.

Job 15:2 Should a wise man answer with vain knowledge, and fill himself with the east wind?-
This is an allusion to inspiration, seeing that "wind" in Hebrew also means 'spirit'. He implies that he and the friends are Divinely inspired, whereas Job is not. Yet the friends state often that they are merely saying what the wise sages thought. But as often happens, by reason of merely repeating their own narrative they become persuaded of its truth and beauty and imply that in fact they are speaking on God's behalf, inspired by Him, and any opposition thereto is therefore uninspired and blasphemous. We note Job never claims to be inspired by God, his speeches are a struggle with God rather than a man claiming Divine inspiration.

Job 15:3 Should he reason with unprofitable talk, or with speeches with which he can do no good?-
This reflects a very utilitarian view of grief and language, as if even in grief a man is supposed to say things which "do good", which somehow put things right. The friends change very quickly from their initial silent grief with Job, and become very aggressive. They cannot cope with their narrative being upset, or being rejected. And then all human sympathy for the individual suffering person goes out of the window.

Job 15:4 Yes, you do away with fear, and hinder devotion before God-
This would appear to be criticism of Job's confidence that he will finally be accepted by God, even if not in this life. Whatever Job said was found wrong by the friends, and this whole drama is a parade example of how dialogue breaks down to the point that every word said is taken issue with and found wrong; and then it is extrapolated to positions never intended by the speaker. In this case, Job's apparent confidence of final acceptance is extrapolated to mean that he is hindering or 'limiting' the power of prayer ["devotion"] to God.

Job 15:5 For your iniquity teaches your mouth, and you choose the language of the crafty-
As noted on :4, the friends were extrapolating from Job's words to positions they imputed to him which were totally untrue. He was hardly "crafty", he blurts out whatever he feels at the moment, oscillating between faith in resurrection and utter denial of it. The whole thing is an object lesson in how not to dialogue.

Job 15:6 Your own mouth condemns you, and not I. Yes, your own lips testify against you-
Although the context of these words is that Eliphaz is twisting Job's words against him (see on :3-5), he states a truth. And this is picked up by the Lord in His words to the one-talent man in the parable: "Out of your own mouth will I judge / condemn you" (Lk. 19:22). The man was condemned for keeping his talent (his spiritual knowledge of the word) to himself rather than sharing it with others. Eliphaz proceeds to make the same rebuke of Job- although he had "heard the secret of God", which may imply the gift of prophesying the word seeing that Job was a prophet, he instead "restrained wisdom unto thyself" (:8 AV). This confirms that the one talent man of the parable is based on Job, thus making him represent the rejected at judgement. No doubt the primary application of the one talent man was to the Jewish believers of Christ's day who did not capitalize on the talent they already had. The taking away of the talent and its being given to others recalls the Kingdom (i.e. the Gospel of the Kingdom) being taken from the Jews and being given to a nation bringing forth the fruits of it (cp. trading the talent).

Job 15:7 Are you the first man who was born? Or were you brought forth before the hills?-
The friends ridiculed Job's evident comparison of himself with Adam: "Are you (the emphasis is on that phrase) the first man (Adam; 1 Cor. 15:45 alludes here) who was born?". See on Job 31:33; 9:17; 10:9. But the idea is that there was more wisdom the further back you went; the further back in history, and also the longer you had lived, the more likely you were to have wisdom. This is a very weak argument; for Adam messed up, and the wisdom of sages is often at variance with God's wisdom.

Job 15:8 Have you heard the secret counsel of God? Do you limit wisdom to yourself?-
 “Dost thou hearken in the council of God?” (Job 15:8 RVmg.) is the language of the Heavenly throne room- note how this is said in the context of Job, where we have the most classic statement of the operation of the court of heaven in the opening chapters. See on Job 1:6. If indeed the friends were the "sons of God" of the prologue, the fellow worshippers who were influenced by the discussion between God and the 'Satan' figure (who was also a human worshipper, it seems, although with Angelic representation in the court of heaven). If indeed all this is in view, the argument would be that Job was wrong to be out of step with the argument of the Satan. Eliphaz's argument would then be that indeed he was only faithful to God because God had blessed him, and Job was then wrong to deny it.

Or the idea may be that Job was not the only one who had heard God's counsel (:9); they had also heard it. And yet they did not accurately speak forth what they had heard, or were even inspired with, as Job did (Job 42:7).



Job 15:9 What do you know, that we don’t know? What do you understand, which is not in us?-
This is all a parade example of how dialogue and inter-personal discussion goes so wrong. The friends were persuaded that their narrative was right, and Job couldn't teach them anything. Any new perspective he might offer was therefore treated as an example of his pride and assuming knowledge. But all this arose from their idea that 'truth' was a closed circle of ideas which they possessed and anything outside of it was just presumed knowledge. And human nature hasn't changed to this day, especially with those who consider that they hold absolute truth.

Job 15:10 With us are both the gray-headed and the very aged men, much elder than your father-
This implies Job's father was still alive. Again, the source of truth is seen as predicated upon how long a person has lived. Human experience and developed philosophy was seen as the authority, rather than Divine revelation. And this is why their arguments are reduced to nothing by the final appearance of God speaking His own words.

Job 15:11 Are the consolations of God too small for you, even the word that is gentle toward you?-
LXX "Thou hast been scourged for but few of thy sins: thou hast spoken haughtily and extravagantly", just as Ezra says that Judah had suffered less than their sins deserved (Ezra 9:13). Again, although what Eliphaz says is true so far as it goes, he is totally wrong because he fails to perceive that the grace of being punished less than sin deserves is but a prelude to glorious restoration.

Job 15:12 Why does your heart carry you away? Why do your eyes flash-
Job was indeed angry, with flashing eyes. But the expression of emotion is misinterpreted as being angry with God (:13). God's special creation, Leviathan, also had flashing eyes (Job 41:18,19). Perhaps this is God's way of saying that eyes flashing with anger is not necessarily sinful of itself, and is all part of the natural created order, and is not worthy of rebuke in itself. This is said against the backdrop of a Bedouin culture where expressions of emotion were only to be made in appropriate ways.


Job 15:13 that you turn your spirit against God, and let such words go out of your mouth?-
As the speeches of the friends continue, they engage less and less with Job's actual words. They argue against their perceptions of his position and deal in vague generalities. This again is typical of the breakdown in meaningful dialogue which we see all around us, whereby the participants become confirmed in their positions and build up an image of their opponent in their mind which gets progressively awful and also the more confirmed as true in their view.

Job 15:14 What is man, that he should be clean? What is he who is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?-
Here and in :15, Eliphaz is just repeating what he has said in Job 4:17-19. I noted there the problems with his ideas, and how questionable it was that he really had the vision he claimed, and in any case, the contents of it contradict Bible teaching elsewhere so it was not of God. And again, this is how human relationships break down, as discussed on :13. The participants revert to their old arguments and refuse to engage with what is being said by their opponent, whom they progressively demonize. Eliphaz's argument that man is inevitably sinful is used to desperately disprove Job's perceived claim of being sinless. But the argument also convicts Eliphaz of sin, as he too was human.

Job 15:15 Behold, He puts no trust in His holy ones. Yes, the heavens are not clean in His sight-
Eliphaz is just repeating what he has said in Job 4:17-19. I noted there the problems with his ideas, and how questionable it was that he really had the vision he claimed, and in any case, the contents of it contradict Bible teaching elsewhere so it was not of God.

It can be argued that the book of Job is a dialogue concerning evil and suffering, with three popular views being represented by the three friends. These views are examined and corrected by the personal history of Job, as well as by the epilogue and prologue to the book. Eliphaz seems to be representative of the idea that Job is being hit by supernaturally controlled evil- Eliphaz speaks of a force of darkness (Job 22:10,11) and sinful or faulty Angels living in an unclean Heaven (Job 4:18; 15:15). Yet the answer to all this is that the Satan figure is under God's control, all Job's misfortunes come from God and His Angels- one of whom may have been called 'the adversary' ('Satan')- are in fact perfectly obedient to Him and not disobedient. And finally, Eliphaz and the friends are rebuked for their various wrong understandings, with God declaring Himself supreme and ultimate sovereign. Likewise Bildad's view of Angels in Job 25:5 "The stars are not pure in God's eyes" is corrected by God in Job 38:7, when He says that "the morning stars sang together and all the Sons of God shouted for joy".

The question "How can a man be just with God?" is the same question as 'How can a man ever be clean before a perfect God?', and is repeated in this form in Job 9:30; 15:15; 25:5; here, we have the claim that even heaven is unclean before God. The exiles had considered themselves cleansed whiter than snow because of their obedience to some parts of the Mosaic law (Lam. 4:7), but failed to accept that such cleansing to be whiter than snow is only possible by doing what David did, and casting ourselves upon God's grace outside of justification by works (Ps. 51:7). Job was to learn this lesson at the end. It was this offer which was made to Job just as it was to Judah under judgment (Is. 1:18).

Job 15:16 how much less one who is abominable and corrupt, a man who drinks iniquity like water!-
Eliphaz seems to be claiming this about all humanity, in order to desperately prove Job wrong in claiming to be sinless (as Eliphaz liked to perceive Job's words). There is error all around here. For Job was not claiming to be sinless, and Eliphaz was himself human, so his argument that we are all inevitable sinners would apply to himself. But self-awareness and humility aren't present in him; he is driven to prove Job wrong, and he will use any argument to do so. The simple truth is as Job put it- God has a tender desire to man, the work of His hands (Job 14:15). And whatever we posit about human nature, we say about the Lord Jesus. He fully shared that nature and yet was holy, harmless and undefiled (Heb. 7:26). Man by nature, just standing there as flesh and blood before God, is not "abominable" to Him of himself. It is sin which is the problem; and sin is not inevitable. We must bear full responsibility for our sins and cannot just pass them off as an inevitable function of our humanity. The wrong view of human nature held by the friends affected their view of Job and people in practice. They claim man is "abominable" to God, and therefore the same word is used of how they abhorred Job, treating him as "abominable" (Job 19:19; 30:10). The lower our view of human nature, the more likely we are to despise human beings rather than value them and speak well of them because they are made in the image of God (James 3:9).


Job 15:17 I will show you, listen to me; that which I have seen I will declare-
Eliphaz again is appealing to his supposed vision which he "saw", first referenced by him in Job 4:17-19. I noted there the problems with his ideas, and how questionable it was that he really had the vision he claimed, and in any case, the contents of it contradict Bible teaching elsewhere so it was not of God. 

Job 15:18 which wise men have told by their fathers, and have not hidden it-
Eliphaz is careful to emphasize that what he 'has seen' in his vision is perfectly in line with the wisdom of the sages of old. This is so important in legalistic societies- to always speak in line with accepted, historical wisdom. There is no humility in this, no openness to truth or to the possibility that Divine revelation may in fact contradict all we once held as 'truth'. This is the power of God's final appearance and words at the end of the book.

Job 15:19 to whom alone the land was given, and no stranger passed among them-
Eliphaz claims that his "fathers" were given the eretz alone and no other ethnic group. This could sound like an early form of the land dispute amongst the children of Abraham which we see to this day. We marvel at the relevance of this ancient book. Adding this point was irrelevant as to whether Eliphaz is speaking rightly about God, but for him it was obviously significant.   

Job 15:20 the wicked man writhes in pain all his days, even the number of years that are laid up for the oppressor-
Clearly he has Job in view, who was oppressed by raiders, and was apparently writhing in pain constantly. Eliphaz suggests that Job must suffer this for a Divinely decreed "number of years". This is the phrase used of the number of years Judah and Israel were to suffer for their sins in exile at the hands of their oppressors (Ez. 4:5; Dan. 9:2). "Laid up" is AV "hidden". Perhaps Elihu alludes to this when he uses the same phrase to say that "the number of years" cannot be "searched out" because God is great (Job 36:26). This may refer to how Daniel tried to search out the number of years Judah ought to be in captivity, and had to conclude that the 70 years time period was flexible, depending upon Judah's repentance and other preconditions. We note Ez. 4:5 gives a different period.    

Job 15:21 A sound of terrors is in his ears. In prosperity the destroyer shall come on him-
In God's final revelation to the friends and Job, they all heard the terrifying sound of the approaching theophany in the thunderstorm. They were thereby convicted of Divine judgment, expressed in their own terms.

 Eliphaz says that Job's sudden problems amid his prosperity were what would happen to all the wicked. This seems to be alluded to in 1 Thess. 5:3 concerning the sudden destruction of rich, spiritually self confident believers- but at the Lord's coming, not in this life. Again we see the friends stating things which are true as far as they go, but framing them in a context which makes them untrue; and this can happen today.

The friends insist that "the destroyer" [by which they surely meant an early equivalent to 'the devil' of popular belief today] had touched Job- whereas Job insists that it is God who had destroyed him (Job 15:21 cp. 19:10; 13:21), perhaps through the Divine Angel known as "the destroyer" (1 Cor. 10:10). I suggested on Job 1:6 that the 'Satan' may have reference to an obedient Divine Angel. In some ways the book of Job is a deconstruction of the popular Persian and Canaanite myths about a 'satan' figure. Job, both in the story of his sufferings and his specific words, seeks to demonstrate that the essential issues in life is being "just with God", and not whether or not we are touched by the hand of an evil being; for the hand of God which touched Job (Job 19:21) is the hand of 'satan' into whom God delivered Job temporarily (Job 1:12). Job says that the attitude of the friends is wrong- they should be looking into themselves, rather than fantasizing about the action of some unseen evil being they imagined: "Ye should say, Why persecute we him, seeing the root of the matter is found in me?... know that there is a [personal] judgment" (Job 19:28,29).

Job 15:22 He doesn’t believe that he shall return out of darkness. He is waited for by the sword-
The oblique references to Job continue. He has oscillated between faith in a return from the darkness of death, and yet disbelief in this. Uncharitably, Eliphaz focuses upon the low points of his statements. This too can be how we handle interaction with others- seizing upon their lowest points. Job was constantly writhing in pain (:20), so to focus upon his words at his lowest points shows a wilful desire to judge and not save him. We need to learn from this not to mentally record every word spoken in a dialogue- if we are truly seeking to help and restore, rather than judge. Eliphaz was sure that it was only a matter of time before the sword of Divine judgment fell upon Job; hence God's appearance and justification of Job was so fatal for Eliphaz.

Job 15:23 He wanders abroad for bread, saying, ‘Where is it?’. He knows that the day of darkness is ready at his hand-
LXX "and a dark day shall carry him away as with a whirlwind"; the language of Judah's destruction, and also alluding to Job's sons being slain by a whirlwind. Eliphaz implies that that is coming for Job too. It could seem from what Eliphaz says that Job was even driven to begging for bread by this point.

Job 15:24 They prevail against him, as a king ready to the battle- Eliphaz claims that God is preparing to judge Job like a king ready to ride into the battle. But God's later revelation includes Him demonstrating that man cannot participate successfully in any battle with what God has willed (Job 41:8), and the horse runs foolishly into battle with no regard for consequence (Job 39:25). The connection with the words of Eliphaz may be in that it was effectively Eliphaz who was rushing into battle to do judgment against Job; and he was acting like the foolish horse, forgetting that God alone will fight in the battle, and win (Job 38:23).

Job 15:25 Because he has stretched out his hand against God, and behaves himself proudly against the Almighty-
A noted above, Eliphaz is imputing positions to Job, extrapolating from Eliphaz's general impression of Job's positions and turning them into something far removed from reality- in this case, accusing Job of actively stretching out his hand against God. To stretch out the arm is an idiom for judging (Jer. 6:12 and often). The idea is that Job has judged God. Hence the first half of the verse reflects the second half- he has behaved proudly against God. 

Job 15:26 he runs at Him with a stiff neck, with the thick shields of his bucklers-
As noted on :25, this again is a grotesque extrapolation from Job's positions, claiming that he is proactively against God, charging at Him as a fully armed solider charges at an enemy.

Job 15:27 because he has covered his face with his fatness, and gathered fat on his thighs-
Eliphaz refers to how Job was once full fleshed because of the good life he enjoyed, whereas now he was emaciated and begging for bread (:23).

Job 15:28 He has lived in desolate cities, in houses which no one inhabited, which were ready to become heaps-
LXX "and what they have prepared, others shall carry away"- the language of the Babylonian captivity and the curses for disobedience to the covenant. Job had not broken the covenant, but is suffering as if he had, as the representative suffering servant. It could be implied that Job was now living in deserted homes in deserted settlements, as well as begging for bread (:23). This would all imply a period of time during which the historical Job suffered.

Job 15:29 He shall not be rich, neither shall his substance continue, neither shall their possessions be extended on the earth-
The "substance" of Israel would continue blessed if they continued obedient (Dt. 33:11 s.w.) and be removed if they were not (s.w. Is. 10:14; Jer. 15:13). Again we see Job suffering as the representative of sinful Israel whilst himself innocent, all looking forward to the nature of the Lord's work for us as the ultimate suffering servant.

Job 15:30 He shall not depart out of darkness-
Job had perceived that God would and could bring light out of darkness (Job 12:22). To predict that the darkness was endless is presented here as a major sin and mistaken position. And so it was for those who thought the darkness of exile in Babylon could never end.

The flame shall dry up his branches. By the breath of God’s mouth shall he go away- The theme of 'drying up' or 'withering' is significant. Bildad considers Job to have been 'dried up' by God's judgment (Job 8:12), and the word is used of how God withered or dried up Judah at the hands of their invaders (Jer. 12:4; 23:10; Ez. 17:9,10,24; Zech. 11:17; Lam. 4:8; Is. 40:7,8- although the prophetic word of God requiring their restoration would endure, despite their drying up). The dry bones of Judah in captivity were withered or dried up (Ez. 37:11). So Job's 'drying up' was again, a sharing in the representative suffering of God's people. Job's personal response to his 'drying up' was to reflect that God dries up waters and also sends them forth as floods (Job 12:15 s.w.); He can give and He can take, just as Job had initially realized (Job 2:10). Just as He dried up Job / Israel, so He could abundantly send forth waters; just as He did at the Red Sea. Restoration and salvation was just as easy for Him as destruction, to put it another way. The drying up of Job was also understood by him as referring to his death (Job 14:11), but God could raise him from the dead and have a desire to him again (Job 14:15). Eliphaz wrongly argues that the Divine 'drying up' of a person means permanent extinction (Job 15:30), as does Bildad (Job 18:16); but Job always sees the 'drying up' as part of a Divine action which also has a counterpart, the pouring out again of waters, or resurrection of the dried up, withered bones. Likewise Judah in captivity thought that their drying up, their dry bones, were incapable of revival (Ez. 37:11); but the message is that they could indeed be revived, and their drying up was but a presage to their eternal revival.       

Job 15:31 Let him not trust in emptiness, deceiving himself; for emptiness shall be his reward-
This idea that we become like that which we trust or worship is again true, so far as it goes. "Trust" is the usual word for "belief"; and "emptiness" is s.w. "vanities", a term often used about idols. There is here the definite suggestion Job was an idol worshipper. This was untrue. Now Eliphaz has been driven to absolutely wrong conclusions about Job, because he is so convinced that suffering means major sin has been committed. We see a progressive imputation of sin to Job by the friends, all dramatically reversed when God appears and imputes righteousness to Job.

Job 15:32 It shall be accomplished before his time. His branch shall not be green-
To die before man's time, to die young, was seen as a sign of Divine judgment. The death of the Lord Jesus at 33 reveals what a misunderstanding this was.

Job 15:33 He shall shake off his unripe grape as the vine, and shall cast off his flower as the olive tree-
The idea is that he would begin having fruit, but it would be shaken off before it came to maturity. The reference would be to the way Job had had children, but they had been slain in relative youth. The friends are later accused of 'wronging' Job by wicked "devices" (Job 21:27). 'Wronging' is the same word as "shake off" in Job 15:33. Eliphaz was so convinced that God would do Job 'wrong' that he developed to the point of actually devising to do wrong to Job, thus confirming the sense that the friends became the 'Satan' figure and actually did the evil to Job which he initially wanted done.

Job 15:34 For the company of the Godless shall be barren, and fire shall consume the tents of bribery-
It was Job's tents that had been consumed, and so clearly Eliphaz implies Job's children had practiced bribery. Perhaps they had- for they were indeed destroyed by "the fire of God". But he is wrong to imply some kind of guilt by association whereby Job had done the same and was about to be judged for it.

Job 15:35 They conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity. Their heart prepares deceit
- Eliphaz thought there were only a few very sinful people in the world, of whom Job was one; but his words are quoted by the Spirit in Is. 59:4 concerning the whole nation of Israel; and this in turn is quoted in Rom. 3:15-17 concerning the whole human race. This same path of progressive realization of our sinfulness must be trodden by each faithful individual, as well as on a communal level. The association between Job's supposed sins and those of Israel again confirms the idea that Job is the prototype suffering servant of Is. 53, carrying Israel's sins and the judgments for them, whilst personally innocent.