© Jeff Stacey | Last updated: 25 February 2019
3B(JOB)28. Some of Job’s critics responded with divided heart-commitment to God:
They had a concern for God’s honour but also dishonoured Him by what they said, because they misunderstood His ways and also Job’s responses to his calamities
3B(JOB)28(a) Eliphaz’ first response to Job
3B(JOB)28(a)(i) Eliphaz’ simple cause-effect view of God’s favour and judgment
Eliphaz said that the upright were never destroyed Job 4:7 but evildoers always perish under God’s judgment Job 4:8-10,11. It was simply a matter of cause-and-effect sequences. So any calamities or suffering were sure signs of God’s punishment.
3B(JOB)28(a)(ii) Eliphaz’ insights as received in a disturbing vision
Eliphaz then described his experience of a frightening night-time visitation by a “spirit” Job 4:13-16a. In a whispering voice Job 4:12,16b it told him that no angel and certainly no person could be more righteous than God Job 4:17,18-19. Anyone who made such claims was without wisdom andwould be destroyed forever Job 4:20-21.
3B(JOB)28(a)(iii) Eliphaz applied his “wisdom” to Job
Eliphaz then accused Job of being not wise but a fool who was guilty of envy and resentment Job 5:2. So how could he expect God to listen to him? Job 5:1. He then outlined disasters he had seen that overtook fools Job 5:3-5. These were acts of judgment, not just misfortune Job 5:6 even though troubles are common to all Job 5:7.
But he implied that Job’s wisdom had been used for crafty scheming, resulting in God’s judgment and his downfall! Job 5:12-14. The poor and needy he intended to exploit unjustly were delivered from him by God Job 5:15-16.
3B(JOB)28(a)(iv) Eliphaz gave Job a fullsome picture of his potential restoration by God if he was penitent
Eliphaz applied at least ten specific examples of blessing to Job. Some of these would have been grievously painful to Job personally in view of his recent calamities, such as:
Eliphaz even dared to refer to being shielded from harsh critics! Job 5:21a.
Finally Eliphaz told Job to do as Eliphaz said because Eliphaz was right!! Job 5:27.
3B(JOB)28(a)(v) Assessment of Eliphaz’ response
The decision to place Eliphaz’ response under 3B(JOB)28 now has to be assessed. In his and all the other speeches there are three heart motivations of the speakers that can be discerned [3B(JOB)24(a)(ii.v)]. Each of these motivations are now examined in order to assess Eliphaz’ degree of heart-commitment to God.
3B(JOB)28(a)(v.i) Eliphaz’ understanding or “wisdom” concerning God
It is assumed Eliphaz knew that the CONDITION for God’s acceptance was to keep His Covenantal requirements [3A11(b), Arrow 3B20 -> 3B21]. So by “working backwards logically” he saw favorable life circumstances as indicating God’s acceptance. Conversely, troubles were indicators of not having kept God’s requirements, resulting in God’s non-acceptance and judgment [3A12(a)].
Eliphaz believed that God always directly applied the principle of “reap what you sow” Job 4:7-8. This was his simple cause-and-effect understanding of God’s nature and His ways of dealing with people.
Eliphaz’ wisdom did not arise from direct encounters with God. The nearest he had come to that was the mystical and frightening visitation of a spirit amidst his dreams one night. It whispered to him that no mortal man could be more righteous than God Job 4:17. Yet why did such a fundamental insight about God and man require so dramatic an experience for it to be realised?
Eliphaz’ understanding of God was instead drawn from his observations of others Job 4:8a, 5:3. On this basis he had actually said some correct general insights about God. It was true that God did perform wonders and miracles and send rain Job 5:9-10, He was merciful to the needy Job 5:11,15-16, He did bring judgment upon wrongdoers Job 5:12-14 and His corrections were blessings to be welcomed Job 5:17a,18. But this was all seen to operate within a simple cause-and-effect theological system.
3B(JOB)28(a)(v.ii) Eliphaz’ justification and defence of his own wisdom and reputation
Eliphaz did not see any need to justify his wisdom. Based on his own observations and experiences of life he believed he was right! Job 5:27a. This arrogant attitude became apparent in the superior and condemning way that he addressed the destitute Job Job 4:5-6, 5:1,8,27b.
3B(JOB)28(a)(v.iii) Eliphaz’ applications of his wisdom to Job’s situation
Eliphaz believed Job must be guilty of evil, as evidenced by his disasters as well as his questioning of God Job 3:11-12,20,23. To Eliphaz it was just a clear case of reaping troubles due to sowing bad attitudes and actions. Being confident of his own wisdom, Eliphaz felt compelled to uphold God’s rightness Job 4:2b by accusing Job of wrongdoing and exhorting him to repent Job 5:8,17,27.
3B(JOB)28(a)(v.iv) Eliphaz’ heart-commitment assessed
It is apparent that Eliphaz lacked insight into Job’s crisis and responded accordingly. He could not see that complex theological issues were raised by Job’s calamities. His displays of self-righteousness indicated his strong heart-commitment to his own right-ness. He was almost ignoring what his mysterious vision had revealed to him! Job 4:17.
Although Eliphaz had made some sound general observations about God, he virtually became the Satan’s spokesman by piling false accusations onto Job.
It is concluded that Eliphaz had at best a divided heart-commitment to God in his initial reaction and then response to Job’s first speech. This would agree with God’s ultimate judgment of his speeches Job 42:7b,8d.
3B(JOB)28(b) Bildad’s first response to Job
3B(JOB)28(b)(i) Bildad stated his “wisdom”
Bildad defended God’s justice by cruelly claiming that the deaths of Job’s children were due to their sins! Job 8:3-4.
Next he predicted God’s restoration and even increased blessing of Job IF he earnestly sought God and was actually “pure and upright” Job 8:5-7. To give authority to this advice he appealed to the understanding passed down from their ancestors Job 8:8-10.
Bildad then contrasted such positive outcomes with the brief flourishing but flawed foundations and downfall of the wicked Job 8:13-14a. He illustrated this with three examples from nature Job 8:11-12,14b-15,16-17,18-19.
Finally he summarized his simple analysis and applied it to Job. God surely accepts the blameless and could bring joy to Job on this basis Job 8:20a, 21. Since God opposes evildoers He could bring shame on Job’s enemies and remove them Job 8:20b,22. So both Job and his opponents would reap whatever they sowed.
3B(JOB)28(b)(ii) Assessment of Bildad’s response
3B(JOB)28(b)(ii.i) Bildad’s’ understanding or “wisdom” concerning God
Like Eliphaz, Bildad had correctly understood some aspects of God’s nature and requirements. But again these were not drawn from a direct relationship with God.
3B(JOB)28(b)(ii.ii) Bildad’s justification and defence of his own “wisdom” and reputation
Bildad’s understandings of God were only as passed down from former generations. He considered that his own generation knew nothing! Job 8:9. So he did not refer to his own “wisdom” at all.
3B(JOB)28(b)(ii.iii) Bildad’s applications of his wisdom to Job’s situation
Bildad very insensitively misapplied his ideas to Job’s situation with a superior and unsympathetic attitude. He too lacked insight into Job’s true relationship with God and the resulting dilemmas raised by his dire circumstances.
3B(JOB)28(b)(ii.iii) Bildad’s heart-commitment assessed
Despite some good intentions, Bildad only brought further false accusations against Job, with some trite advice. So he also had virtually become the Satan’s spokesman! Therefore he had at best responded with a divided heart-commitment to God and to Job.
3B(JOB)28(c) Bildad’s third response to Job
3B(JOB)28(c)(i) Bildad could only repeat himself and again imply that Job was wicked
Bildad’s short response with no initial reaction suggests that he had run out of ideas (later Zophar did not even reply at all). He could only repeat some very general statements and questions endorsing God’s sovereignty Job 25:1-3 and deploring the grubby unrighteousness of all people by comparison Job 25:4-6. He did not apply the latter specifically to Job although obviously challenging his claims of moral integrity.
3B(JOB)28(c)(ii) Assessment of Bildad’s response
Bildad had not prevailed in the debates with Job. So perhaps he was now showing some respect for Job and expressing a divided heart-commitment to God.
3B(JOB)28(d) Elihu’s responses to Job and his three critics
In three very long speeches (160 verses! JOB 32:6 – 37:24) Elihu laid out his arguments in favour of God and against both Job and his other three critics. The first of these speeches was addressed only to Job Job 33:1-33, the second to Job’s three critics Job 34:1-37 and the third to both Job and his three critics Job 35:1 – 37:24.
3B(JOB)28(d)(i) Elihu’s introductory remarks
Elihu began by explaining to the three older critics that as a younger man he had kept quiet in deference to them Job 32:6b-7,11-12a. But after they fell silent he angrily judged that none of them had refuted Job with their wisdom Job 32:3,12b-13. Instead they were now dismayed and speechless! Job 32:15,16b.
He believed that understanding of true wisdom was given to any man, young or old Job 32:9 by the Spirit of God Job 32:8, 33:4. So he earnestly asked the three men to listen to him Job 32:10,16-17. He was bursting with arguments that were different to theirs Job 32:14b,18-20. In the fear of God he would avoid any partiality in stating his wisdom Job 32:21-22.
3B(JOB)28(d)(ii) Assessment of Elihu’s introductory remarks
Elihu obviously believed he had God-inspired wisdom to offer and the principles on which he based this claim were profoundly insightful. But whether these claims were valid or not can only be assessed on the basis of what he went on to say.
3B(JOB)28(d)(iii) Elihu’s speech to Job
Elihu again asked for Job’s attention Job 33:1-2 and made some further fulsome declarations of his own sincerity and divine inspiration Job 33:3-4. He then challenged Job to refute him without fear if he could! Job 33:5-7.
Elihu began by quoting his own version of Job’s words. He alleged that Job had claimed he was sinless yet God had found fault with him and forcibly restrained him Job 33:8-11.
Elihu then rejected Job’s claim that God did not respond to his complaints Job 33:12-13. Elihu summarised various ways that God spoke Job 33:14-16a to warn or save men from sin and death Job 33:16b-18.
More pointedly for Job, Elihu outlined how a man could be suffering from life-threatening illness and its ugly side-effects Job 33:19-20,21-22. Yet an angel could instruct him and mediate with God for him Job 33:23-24,25 so that the man could pray, be healed and restored to communion with God! Job 33:26. He would acknowledge to others his sins and errors of wisdom Job 33:27a as well as the grace of God in saving him from death and restoring him Job 33:27b-28. God might even do this for a man several times Job 33:29-30.
3B(JOB)28(d)(iv) Assessment of Elihu’s speech to Job
Much of what Elihu said about God and His ways with people was basically true. He sometimes expressed rather more humility Job 32:22, 33:6-7 and spiritual insight Job 32:8, 33:4,14-18,23-25 than the other three critics.
But Elihu’s allegations and challenges were based on distortions of Job’s words Job 33:8-9,13. Job had said several times that he desired to maintain his moral integrity Job 6:10,28-29, 27:3-4. He also often claimed or implied that he had done so Job 6:30, 9:21a, 10:7a, 13:18-19, 16:17, 17:9, 23:7,11-12, 27:5-6, 29:12-17, 30:25, 31:1,6,17-18,23,29-30,31-32,37. Yet he had never claimed sinless perfection Job 9:2b,15,20, 14:4 but had acknowledged his own sinfulness several times Job 7:21a, 9:28-29, 10:6, 13:26b, 14:16b-17, 19:4.
Job’s complaints that God did not reply to him were entirely related to his own personal experience. So any generalising of this by Elihu as being how God typically communicated with all people was not valid. In fact Job’s complaint was that God no longer “typically communicated” with him as he had in the past Job 29:1-3,4-5.
The thrust of Elihu’s outline of the experiences of the wicked and his exhortations to Job to repent indicate that he also was fixated with the idea of “reap what you sow”. That is, he too was convinced that Job must be a terrible sinner to be suffering such troubles. So in the same way as the other three critics, Elihu was certain these were God’s justified punishments upon Job.
Elihu had not discerned Job’s true attitudes towards God or the limits of what he was claiming about having maintained his moral integrity. Nor did he perceive that some of Job’s words were emotional outcries in his anguish and confusion. Instead, very confident of his own wisdom and understanding, Elihu just told Job to be quiet and listen to him!
In summary, Elihu intended to help Job Job 33:32b and had some true understandings of God. But although claiming humility he was too sure of the rightness of his own insights. He had presumed to know that Job’s ways were evil, distorted his claims of integrity, then rather arrogantly rushed to judgment and exhortations for Job to repent. So although Elihu meant well and had some wisdom, he had not said or done what was right to Job. Taken overall, this indicated that he had a divided heart-commitment to God.
3B(JOB)28(d)(v) Elihu’s speech to Job’s three critics
Elihu then boldly addressed Job’s three critics although he was much younger than them Job 34:1-2. He presumptively elevated himself to being one of their “colleagues” who together desired to learn wisdom Job 34:3-4.
He repeated his version of Job’s protests of innocence and injustice, distorting them as being claims of guiltlessness Job 34:5-6. He also fabricated specific allegations of Job’s wickedness Job 34:7-8. He even accused Job of seeing no value in pleasing God Job 34:9 echoing the very accusation of the Satan himself! Job 1:9. Obviously Elihu was again assuming that Job’s troubles were God’s punishments for his alleged evil excesses and failures.
He said that since God did no wrong, His punishments were always right and deserved Job 34:10b,11-12. As God is sovereign, all people depended totally on Him for their existence Job 34:13-15. Since God sees all, no-one can hide their sinfulness from Him Job 34:21-23. He impartially and justly brings punishment upon oppressive rulers who disregarded His ways Job 34:18-19,20,24-25,26-28. Yet should He decide to remain silent and hidden, no-one could dispute it Job 34:29a. He would still have power over all people and their rulers Job 34:29b-30.
Then with direct reference to Job, Elihu said that even if a man expressed repentance Job 34:31-32 God would only take notice if it was genuine Job 34:33. Elihu finally called on his three “colleagues” to agree with his absolute verdict that Job had no wisdom or understanding Job 34:34-35. He concluded with an outburst demanding Job’s extreme testing for his sinful, rebellious and scornful words against God! Job 34:36-37.
3B(JOB)28(d)(vi) Assessment of Elihu’s speech to Job’s three critics
Most of what Elihu said about God’s sovereignty and justice was basically true Job 34:10b-33. But he continued to accuse Job of wickedness and distort his words Job 34:7-9. Then he delighted in self-righteously and vehemently calling for judgment upon him Job 34:36-37.
So Elihu was basically no different to Job’s other three critics. He too had assumed that Job’s troubles were obviously a reaping of the evil he must have sown Job 34:11. Although Elihu had much true wisdom about God and earnestly wanted to uphold His righteousness, he did not understand or say what was right about Job. This further indicates that he had a divided heart-commitment to God.
3B(JOB)28(d)(vii) Elihu’s speech to both Job and his three critics
Finally Elihu challenged both Job and his three critics Job 35:4. Once more he began by questioning Job’s words. This time he alleged that Job had made an obviously wrong statement Job 35:2 as well as asking a wrong question Job 35:3. On this false basis Elihu made another attempt to refute Job’s “case” by further expounding his own knowledge of God.
Elihu declared that God in His lofty detachment was unaffected by all people, whether wicked or righteous Job 35:5-7. So their actions only affected themselves and others Job 35:8. Even if people cried out under oppressive rulers Job 35:9 God would not answer them because they did not seek Him and His wisdom and were arrogant Job 35:10-11,12-13. Therefore even less would God heed Job’s complaints about His silence, that He was neither responding to Job’s “case” nor punishing wicked people Job 35:14-15. Elihu dismissed these as simply ignorant and empty words! Job 35:16.
Elihu pressed on with his “defence of God” Job 36:1-2. Perhaps buoyed by the silence of Job and his other three critics, he made ridiculous claims that his superior knowledge was absolute truth! Job 36:3-4.
He affirmed that because God is mighty, He killed the wicked but vindicated the afflicted and honoured the righteous forever Job 36:5-7. The afflicted were actually under God’s merciful correction and His command to repent for their arrogant sins Job 36:8-10,15. If they repented He would prosper them but if not they would die Job 36:11-12. Yet godless-hearted people would only resent God’s corrective affliction, so would die young and in utter shame Job 36:13-14.
Again patronizingly applying all this to Job, Elihu declared that he was wicked and under God’s just judgment! Job 36:17. He said Job’s sufferings were actually God’s well-meant corrective affliction Job 36:16. But he presumed to warn Job against relying on wealth Job 36:18-19 or oppressing people Job 36:20. He even accused Job of prefering evil to affliction! Job 36:21.
Elihu had much more to say in God’s defence. He returned to his theme that God is powerful and righteous, beyond human correction and understanding Job 36:22-23,26, 37:5b. All should give due honour to His works Job 36:24-25. Elihu then graphically described rainfall and snowfalls Job 36:27-28, 37:6b,11a thunderstorms Job 36:29-30,32-33, 37:2-3,4-5a,11b and blizzards Job 37:6a,8-10 as awesome demonstrations of God’s providence Job 36:31 and purposes Job 37:7,13.
In view of all these wonders, Elihu then bluntly asked Job his final two sets of questions Job 37:14
# Could anyone dare to ask God to listen to them? (2 questions) Job 37:20
Assuming the answers to all these questions was “no”, Elihu told Job that no-one can “present their case” to God because of their darkness Job 37:19. But God is as blindingly bright as the sun, awesome in splendour and majesty Job 37:21-22. So He is beyond reach of all people in His power, justice, righteousness and mercy Job 37:23.
With a final barb presumably intended for Job, Elihu asserted that God favours the wise who revere Him Job 37:24b.
3B(JOB)28(d)(viii) Assessment of Elihu’s speech to Job and his three critics
Again it is concluded that in his wisdom Elihu had made many true assertions about God Job 35:6-7,10b-13, 36:5,6b-10,15,22-23,26,27-33, 37:2-13,22-23. In describing thunderstorms and blizzards as evidences of God, Elihu even made reference to God’s primary purpose Job 36:5b, 37:7a.
Elihu also understood something of the key role of a person’s “heart” Job 36:13, 37:24. He had previously claimed that he had “an upright heart” Job 33:3. So he believed that because he had “sowed” honor of God’s justice he was now “reaping” inerrancy of knowledge! Job 36:3-4. But this was assuming for himself the very kind of perfection that he had accused Job of claiming! Job 33:8-9, 34:5-6.
Like the other three critics, Elihu’s basic assumption about God and Job’s situation was “you reap what you sow”. That is, troubles were always God’s just punishment. So he boldly accused Job of many alleged sins and called on him to confess them and repent.
But these accusations about such evil words spoken and bad deeds done by Job were wrong.
Despite some correct views about God, Elihu really had nothing new to offer despite his self-exalted understanding of God. His perceptions of his own and Job’s “heart” were also deeply flawed. This was why he completely missed the real issues involved in Job’s predicament. It was about integrity of heart as the basis of relationship with God.
So taken overall, Elihu’s words again indicated that he had a divided heart-commitment to God.
Elihu’s assertions and questions about God provided something of a connecting bridge to how God at last responded to Job.
(Continue to Arrows below)
Arrow 3B(JOB)25 -> 3B(JOB)28
This arrow indicates that some of the heart-motivations of Job’s four critics were in fact divided in their commitment to God. These had already been exposed by their initial reactions and were then expressed in their subsequent responses.