Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Blogging through the Bible: Eliphaz Round 2

The debate between Job and his friends continues in Job 15. In 15-21, the arguments are repeated, but with deepened intensity, while the friends say less than they did in round one. In 15, Eliphaz decides to step back on the stage, beginning the second cycle of arguments from Job’s “friends”.  His message, “Your empty arrogance only adds to your sin. Only an evil man would accuse God”.

Here are some things to notice. The argument begins with a guns blazing opening. He makes clear that Job is not wise (in his opinion). He is answering with “windy knowledge”, and he “fills his belly with the east wind”. He argues in “unprofitable talk”, and by doing this, he does away with “the fear of God” and “hinders mediation before God”. In his opinion, everyone knows that God only judges the evildoer, and therefore, Job must have done something wrong. But not only that, he actually thinks that Job, in claiming to be innocent, is upending the moral order. Anyone who thinks God hands out unjust pain is saying that God is the wrongdoer, and therefore, does away with the fear of God.  Notice that he says that Jobs iniquity teaches his mouth, he chooses “the sound of the crafty”, and the result is that his own mouth condemns him. To Eliphaz, Job’s own lips testify against him.

Notice that Eliphaz never responds to anything job says earlier. He just savages him as he returns to the authority question. He says, you insist you are experienced and as wise as your attackers, “"Are you the first man who was born? Or were you brought forth before the hills?” He asks “Have you listened in the council of God? And do you limit wisdom to yourself?” Job is just another old man, he’s no one special. The he says, a multitude of old men stand with Eliphaz, and they are “older than your father”, which means in a traditional culture like the Ancient Near East, 'their opinions count more'.

Notice further that he says that Job is showing disdain for the comforts God has sent. IN wanting to die, in wanting to be free of the pain, in seeking to justify himself, Job is showing disdain for the comfort God has sent in the form of the three friends. His heart carries him away, and he is turning his spirit against God, Eliphaz says. In his eyes, it seems that Job wants to put God on trial, notes D.A. Carson.

The question that arises for Eliphaz is that Job has no right to do so. Man is not pure, man is not righteous. To Eliphaz, God is so holy that even Heaven is not pure in his sight, how much less a mere man. Which brings us back to Eliphaz’s main argument (17-26); God punishes the wicked, therefore job must be wicked. “The wicked man writhes in pain all his days, through all the years that are laid up for the ruthless”. Why? “Because he has stretched out his hand against God and defies the Almighty, running stubbornly against him with a thickly bossed shield; because he has covered his face with his fat and gathered fat upon his waist” Eliphaz ends his argument by saying that while it appears that there are exceptions to this rule, eventually, God’s justice will prevail; “He will not be rich, and his wealth will not endure, nor will his possessions spread over the earth; he will not depart from darkness; the flame will dry up his shoots, and by the breath of his mouth he will depart”. In essence, God will hunt him down. “He will shake off his unripe grape like the vine, and cast off his blossom like the olive tree. For the company of the godless is barren, and fire consumes the tents of bribery. They conceive trouble and give birth to evil, and their womb prepares deceit." The point is clear, Job is not only wicked and evil, but his riches and honor were nothing more than the calm before the storm, which has now come in fury.

What’s the lesson? Once again, Eliphaz is half right. This is how God acts. But, he doesn’t have all the facts, there’s more going on than meets the eye. Eliphaz is misapplying the truth, and comes off as an idiot who will be rebuked by God. In the end, his attempts to jolt job to repentance don’t work because they can’t work.

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