Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said, If we assay to commune with thee, wilt thou be grieved? but who can withhold himself from speaking? — Job 4:1-2
Have you ever been given poor advice? Most of us have received unsolicited “words of wisdom” from someone who really did not have the whole picture.
One time when I was in my late teens, I was helping my mom with her candy display at a local grocery store. As we set up the tables and arranged the assortment of chocolates and other sweets, a previous employer of mine approached me. The conversation started with typical generalities but quickly became more focused as he proceeded to voice how he thought I should plan my future. Granted, he was a successful businessman, but he was proposing that I pursue the job market with a “they need me” type of mentality.
His was not the only advice I had received. In fact, several people offered opinions and suggestions as to where they thought I would best succeed in life. Most of them were honest suggestions from people who cared for me, and I listened to them with that thought in mind. However, it seemed this individual was more concerned with voicing his personal philosophy than actually providing me with legitimate direction for my life.
Respectfully, I told him that he did not know me at all if he thought his ideas would work for me. It hurt to realize that someone I thought understood me at least a little did not understand me at all. He was looking at my situation strictly from his perspective, not taking into account that I wanted to follow God’s direction for my life.
No doubt Job felt all of these emotions and more as he listened to his friend, Eliphaz, tell him why he was experiencing such devastating circumstances. Eliphaz accused Job of sinning, and voiced his philosophy that God punishes those who sin against Him and blesses those who obey Him. He thought that Job must have sinned and simply needed to confess the sin in his life and allow God to restore him. Job must have wondered how his friend could say such a thing.
The right words spoken to a friend who is suffering can be greatly encouraging. Conversely, we may speak words of criticism and deeply hurt someone who is experiencing a difficult situation. How vital it is that we are careful to weigh prayerfully any opinions we might offer!
This block of text describes the discourse of Eliphaz, the first of Job’s friends to respond following Job’s complaint. He was the chief of the three friends, so he spoke first in each of the sets of speeches. Teman, where he was from, was known traditionally for its wise and learned men.
In his monologue, Eliphaz first commended Job for his words of kindness and support to others, mentioning that his words had “upholden him that was falling.” He could not overlook Job’s reputation; his wisdom and encouragement were renowned throughout the area where he lived. He exhorted Job to react to his circumstances as he had encouraged others to do.
Based on his personal experience, Eliphaz stated that punishment is the result of wrongdoing (4:7-11), implying that Job had sinned. He illustrated his statements by speaking of lions, using the words roaring, fierce, young, old, stout, and whelps. He was drawing a verbal picture to show that even those who are strong and in authority will be put down by God if they are wicked.
Eliphaz next spoke of an experience he had in the night (4:12-16). It is unknown whether he actually had a vision. However, verses 17-21 give his point: God alone is righteous, and people cannot rid themselves of sin.
Chapter 5 continues Eliphaz’s discourse. In verses 1-7 he indicated that the wicked may seem to prosper, but ultimately they will suffer. Again, he was trying to point out to Job that he must have sinned. In verses 8-16 he encouraged Job to seek God and extolled His virtues. Verses 17-27 speak of how God chastises but will also bring deliverance. Eliphaz wanted to convince Job that what he proposed was the appropriate course of action.
While many of the statements made by Eliphaz were correct, his premise was incorrect. He believed that Job suffered because he had done wrong.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The solution of Job’s three friends
B. The first cycle of speeches
1. Eliphaz’s advice (4:1 — 5:27)
a. The rebuke of Job (4:1-6)
b. The propositions of Eliphaz (4:7 — 5:7)
(1) Only the guilty are punished (4:7-11)
(2) Only God is righteous (4:12 — 5:7)
(a) Man is impure (4:12-21)
(b) Suffering is universal (5:1-7)
c. The points of Eliphaz (5:8-27)
(1) Trust God for help (5:8-16)
(2) God’s punishment is corrective (5:17-27)
When offering words of support to another, we should remember that we do not see the whole picture and carefully weigh what we say.