Job. Lesson Two. Eliphaz and Company. Where Did They Go Wrong?

Key Notes: Premise: the wicked suffer; the righteous prosper.

At this point, we hope that you have read the whole book 2–3 times. It takes about 75 minutes to read it through aloud.

Job's three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar used similar arguments in attempting to answer Job.
God is righteous.
God punishes sin and rewards righteousness.
Sickness is punishment.
What have you done wrong?

When the dialogues were concluded, Job's three friends were stymied, unable to convince him. A fourth friend, Elihu, then tried to resolve the questions Job asked. In the end the three friends were condemned by God, but Elihu was not criticized.

"The Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, 'My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has.'" (Job 42:7)

Let us try to understand why God was angry with them. Job said they had been cruel to him. But God did not criticize their treatment of Job, but of Himself.

Not that Job was above reproach! He did not curse God, even though he came close in his anger and dismay.
"He destroys both the blameless and the wicked". (9:22)
"When disaster brings sudden death, He mocks at the calamity of the innocent." (9:23)
"The earth is given into the hand of the wicked; He covers the faces of its judges--if it is not He, who then is it?" (9:24)
"Does it seem good to Thee to... favor the designs of the wicked." (10:3)
"I cry aloud but there is no justice." (19:7)

That was dangerous talk and the friends rebuked him:
Eliphaz said "Why does your heart carry you away and why do your eyes flash, that you turn your spirit against God?" (15:12)
Elihu said "...he has said,' It profits a man nothing that he should take delight in God.'" (34:9)
And God said of Job: "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?" (38:2), and "Shall a fault-finder contend with the Almighty?" (40:2)

But it is the three counsellors who deliver thoughtful doses of God's wrath. Their message is simple: You have done wrong. What you sow, you also reap. Get right with God.

"...those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same." (4:8)
"Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves." (11:6)
"How then can man be righteous before God? How can he who is born of woman be clean?" (25:3)

Is the message not sound? The basic truth that the wicked fail and the righteous prosper is written large in Scripture in both the OT and the NT.

Deut.28–30 lists blessings for those who obey and curses for those who do not.
Psa.1 contrasts the blessed man with the wicked who do not prosper. Also Jer.17:7–8
"Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing." (Psa.34:10)
"The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short". (Prov.10:27)
"The righteous will never be removed, but the wicked will not dwell in the land." (Prov.10:30)
"He who sows injustice will reap calamity." (Prov.22:8)
"Tell the righteous that it will be well with them for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds. Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him, for what his hands have done shall be done to him." (Isa.3:10–11)
"You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice." (Hos.10:13)

"Take heed what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you." (Mk.4:24)
"Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get." (Lk.6:38)
"There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality." (Rom.2:9–11)
"Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." (Gal.6:7–8)

The three friends, especially Eliphaz, offer Job salvation.
"As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause...." (5:8)
"If you will seek God and make supplication...surely then He will rouse Himself for you...." (8:5–6)
"Agree with God and be at peace; thereby good will come to you." (22:21)
"For God abases the proud, but he saves the lowly." (22:29)

And they never reproach God or call Him into question. It must have come as a shock to them that God said they had not spoken of Him rightly--that they must make large sacrifices and must be reconciled by Job's intercession!

Look to Elihu for clues, because God does not condemn him.
Elihu intends to be kind. 33:6,7
He believes the Holy Spirit gave him life. 33:4
He offers Job the possibility that God is disciplining him rather than merely punishing him. 33:14–33
He defends God's righteousness. 34:10–30
He warns Job that his suffering is leading him into sin, whereas the others said his sin led him into suffering. 36:17–18
He brings in the theme of God's power in nature, which God later pursues. 37:1–24
Elihu appears to know God, to be more merciful to Job, and more correct in his assessments of Job's situation.

It appears that the three friends are like Pharisees, with a zeal for the Law, and sound but incomplete theology. They have a care for their friend, but without knowing God. Without a knowledge of God and an understanding of Job's situation, their spiritual efforts are cruel and destructive, goading a righteous man to rage and dangerously reckless speech.

We must be careful that in our counseling efforts, we know whom we are talking to and what we are talking about.

Listen much; talk little.