Eliphaz’s Second Speech

Please read Job 15

We have heard now from all 3 of Job’s friends – the so-called comforters. And Job has replied to each of them.

The second Round of speeches begin here in Chapter 15 with Eliphaz standing to speak. All three friends are going to speak again, and each are going to cling tenaciously to their belief that suffering comes about as a directly result of sin. Roy Zuck suggests that the monotonous repetition with which they insisted on their views shows the reader of the Book of Job their inability to understand Job’s dilemma.

In this second round the friends increase the pressure. They appear to become more fierce in their condemnation of Job. They become less tolerant of Job’s position and they verge on the abusive as they make their points. Even more worrying is that they cease to hold out to their friend the challenge to repent. There is no call to restoration; so that the sunshine of God’s grace is not mentioned in any of the 3 chapters covering their second speeches – 15, 18 and 20. They are moving further and further away from their primary intention – to console and comfort their suffering friend.

Let us hear first from Eliphaz.

His theme is The Wicked are in Danger!

The speech has 3 sections –

1. 4 Serious Questions and 4 Cynical Statements v 1-6.

2. More questions designed to ridicule Job v 7-16

3. The State of the Wicked – according to Eliphaz v 17-35.

Once more Job has to listen to grievous and unjust words from the oldest of the 3 comforters.

1. 4 Serious Questions and 4 Cynical Statements v 1-6.

First the 4 questions –

Question 1 Should a wise man utter vain knowledge?

Question 2 Should a wise man fill his belly with the east wind?

Question 3 Should he reason with unprofitable talk?

Question 4 Or should he reason with speeches wherewith he can do no good?

1) Should a wise man utter vain knowledge? Rhetorical questions flow thick and fast in the Book of Job. There are 300 or more questions in the Book of Job – more than any other book of the Bible. Such questions make statements and we can see how this works in these questions.

Job – you are supposed to be a wise man – but all we have heard is useless words. Vain Knowledge in verse 2 can read windy knowledge, void of substance. The implication is that Job had shown contempt for the wisdom of the ancient wise men – their theology and philosophy.

2) Should a wise man fill his belly with the east wind?

The East wind is a Sirocco a scorching wind that dries up the springs and vegetation, even destroying houses. It was the Sirocco that destroyed the house of his children; chapter 1 v 19. Job’s words had dried up any semblance of wisdom he may once have possessed. Not helpful talk from Eliphaz!

3) Should he reason with unprofitable talk?

This is almost an accusation that Job had lost his power to reason! No more will Job be able to pass judgement or reprove others – his speech will be unprofitable.

This was a charge as ungenerous and unfeeling as it was untruthful and unjust. Job was no mere talker, though his words were not always wise.

A Christian’s speech should be with grace seasoned with salt, and good to the use of edifying. Colossians 4 v 6. There are some people who can talk the hind leg off a donkey – as we sometimes say. But we must measure our words and be always careful with what comes out of our mouths. The Book of Proverbs says much about what godly speech should look like – with warnings about the opposite –

Proverbs 10 v 18-19 He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool. In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.

Unprofitable talk is the mark of an unregenerate heart. May we all mark this and speak good things to our fellow believers and neighbours!

4) Or should he reason with speeches wherewith he can do no good? V 3b From Eliphaz’s point of view Job was increasing his sin by saying the things that he had said. It was an indictment of irreverent talk coming from Job’s mouth. Eliphaz was under the mistaken impression that Job was treating God lightly, which would result in this – that God would not be feared! This comes out in the statements, starting with

v 4 Yea, thou castest off fear, and restrainest prayer before God.

Proverbs 8 v 13 clearly states

the fear of the Lord is to hate evil.

Has Job truly done away with the fear of God by what he has said? Has he lost the fear of forsaking God? Has he abandoned the fear that drives godly living? Eliphaz thinks so and brings the accusation.

But if this were true, as a result sin would not be hated.

Sadly, Eliphaz applied this to Job – falsely. Yet it was a very serious charge for the comforter to make against Job. We should be careful, whether in suffering or in prosperity, never to say or do anything that would diminish the awe and reverence that people ought to have of the Lord God. My friends it is very easy to do.

* How many people today say that they do not fear God nor believe in Him because they have heard the words of so-called Christian people and have not liked what they heard?

* How many people have observed the behaviour of professing Christians and concluded that they are no different to themselves – and therefore it is not worth believing in nor fearing God?

We are to be so different in our Christian profession – that the world will be astonished and then driven to notice God – not us – but the God and Saviour whom we serve. They will notice the difference that the Lord Jesus Christ makes in our lives – and will be challenged to fear Him and reverence His name.

Verses 5 and 6 are cruel in their inaccuracy –

For thy mouth uttereth thine iniquity, and thou choosest the tongue of the crafty. Thine own mouth condemneth thee, and not I: yea, thine own lips testify against thee.

We are encouraged, as we read these words, to judge whether Eliphaz is correct or not! His charge is that Job has indulged in crooked behaviour – the meaning of iniquity in verse 5 – which comes out in the sin of his speech. All the organs of speech are mentioned here – a tongue – which he calls crafty – the mouth which condemns with the words that proceed from it – and the lips which testify against him.

As we recall the things that Job HAS said in his speeches, can we find evidence that Job has condemned himself by his words?

My friends it is no new thing for an upright and godly man or woman to be charged with hypocrisy – for that is what is going on here. Think how men twisted the words of the Son of God! How they falsely accused our spotless saviour of blasphemy! At his so-called trial before the High priest we read in Mark 14 v 56-59

For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together. And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. But neither so did their witness agree together.

We heard Him say! Yet they did not hear Him say the many other things which would have led them to fear and glorify God and lead them to faith and repentance!

There may be times ahead that we have to endure false accusations – Christians today more and more find themselves losing their jobs for speaking the truth of the Gospel in innocent situations.

We come to the second section of Eliphaz’s speech –

2. More questions designed to ridicule Job v 7-16

There are 13 questions in these 10 verses!

We will not look at them all. But the introductory question is significant contained in 4 questions in the 2 verses 7 & 8

Art thou the first man that was born? or wast thou made before the hills? Hast thou heard the secret of God? and dost thou restrain wisdom to thyself?

Eliphaz is making another statement – Job is acting as the oldest man on the earth – and therefore the wisest! Who does he think he is? Does he think that he, like wisdom, existed before the creation of the hills? Is he the only wise person alive today? Does he have secret access to the secrets of God?

Eliphaz’s assumptions are unfair. Job had not claimed any of these things. He had simply claimed that his intelligence based on experience was equal to that of his friends. We hear him claim that in chapter 12 v 3

But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you: yea, who knoweth not such things as these?

And in Chapter 13 v 2

What ye know, the same do I know also: I am not inferior unto you.

Eliphaz wants to bring Job down to size! Verse 10

With us are both the gray-headed and very aged men, much elder than thy father.

You are not the only wise man amongst us, of grey hairs and great age! The implication is that Job who had contested the friends’ theology and philosophy was himself disrespecting others of more mature years – he was making himself out to be wise because old! However, Job had earlier admitted the truth – in his reply to Bildad –

chapter 12 v 12-13 With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding. With him is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding.

Job was not claiming infallibility! But he had the right to appeal to the ancients who had wisdom and had passed on their wisdom to the next generation. This was how truth was transmitted – beginning with Adam – down through his family – and then with Noah and his family – until Job’s generation. The point is – older people should be respected and listened to as with them will be knowledge and wisdom that younger ones do not possess.

2 texts come to mind from other parts of scripture, God’s Holy word –

Leviticus 19 v 32 Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.

And in the Proverbs 16 v 31 The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.

Notice the qualification in that second text – if it be found in the way of righteousness.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom – and to depart from evil is understanding.

Valuing our older members who are living righteous lives is God’s commandment for us. Respect and honour for those who have trodden a righteous path, trusting in the Lord Jesus is essential for the health of the body of Christ.

The Prophet Zechariah has an interesting view of the community of God’s people. He shows that the presence of older people in a community is sign of God’s favour –

Zechariah 8 v 4 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age.

And conversely the ABSENCE of older people is a sign of God’s displeasure –

1 Samuel 2 v 31 Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house.

The writers of the Book of Psalms give some wonderful expressions of the trust that older people may have in God. Just one example of many is in Psalm 71 v 18 where we read this testimonial:

Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to everyone that is to come.

Finally, Solomon –

Proverbs 23 v 22 Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.

The Bible makes the point – older people should be valued and respected and given credit for their wisdom when they can express it. May the Lord bless and use our dear older people here and in other congregations of the Lord’s people.

We must move on to the final section which is what Eliphaz has been leading up to in his long preamble.

3. The State of the Wicked – according to Eliphaz v 17-35.

Actually verse 16 introduces this passage –

How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?

What is sin? Is it merely engaging in bad behaviour? Is it making poor choices? No, it is much more than this! It is love for what is evil that deeply motivates sinful mankind to pursue evil with energy and enthusiasm. Verse 16 implies this –

How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?

As we considered this morning the heart of man itself is corrupt. This human corruption is infectious. It corrupts everything in human life. Consider some of these texts –

Genesis 6 v 5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Proverbs 4 v 23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

Romans 3 v 10-12 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Our problem is who we are and what we love.

1 John 2 v 15-16 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

Surely this affects us all and our sense of need of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Eliphaz appeled to Job to hear him so that he could show the condition of the wicked by declaring what he has seen. Here is a personal testimony that Eliphaz offers. He has heard from the wise men, who had heard from their fathers, the details of mankind’s sinfulness.

v 17-18 I will shew thee, hear me; and that which I have seen I will declare; Which wise men have told from their fathers, and have not hid it:

Wicked men struggle with pain all their lives v 20

The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days, and the number of years is hidden to the oppressor.

The sound of terror is in their ears v 21

A dreadful sound is in his ears: in prosperity the destroyer shall come upon him.

He fears the darkness concerned that he will not escape it. v 22

He believeth not that he shall return out of darkness, and he is waited for of the sword.

He strays away from his home place seeking for bread and asking ‘where is it?’ v23

He wandereth abroad for bread, saying, Where is it? he knoweth that the day of darkness is ready at his hand.

He is distressed and in anguish fearing he will be over powered. v 24

Trouble and anguish shall make him afraid; they shall prevail against him, as a king ready to the battle.

Wicked men have stretched out their hands against God and shake their fists at the Almighty! v 25

For he stretcheth out his hand against God, and strengtheneth himself against the Almighty.

Wicked men are stiff necked – arrogant and defiant – trusting in their own defensive strategies – the reference to the ornamented bosses of their shields. v 26

He runneth upon him, even on his neck, upon the thick bosses of his bucklers:

These verses are enough to give us the flavour of Eliphaz’s description of wicked men – including Job amongst them!

Now, on the principle that we can find the Lord Jesus Christ in every section of the Bible, we will find it difficult to find Him here, in this chapter!

Yet we can observe this one thing. That Eliphaz has been a miserable comforter. He has been useless to Job. His words bring no comfort.

But we know One who knows how to dispense comfort to us.

Psalm 94 v 17-19 Unless the LORD had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence. When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O LORD, held me up. In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.

These are the words of our saviour. His comforts can be a delight to our souls. What are the comforts that He gives? They are in the Gospel.

The Gospel of the grace of God, provides free and immediate forgiveness through the blood of the cross to the chief of sinners, the blessed and only remedy in such a case. The oil of pardoning mercy alone is able to smooth that surging sea. Jesus is the only Physician that can minister to that mind diseased. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” “Fear not, only believe.”

What a difference there is between Divine comfort and human comfort! One depresses but the other delights!

Eliphaz meant well but he went the wrong way about comforting Job in his time of need. It has been said that clumsy hands only deepen a wound.

When we meet those whose hearts are broken and smitten with grief, we need the finest of tact and sensitivity. If we do not, we can deepen the grief and increase the sorrow. Crushed spirits need delicate handling.

The Lord God knows how to comfort. He is understanding, kind and tender. Not only does the Lord Jesus mean well but he does all things well! Do we have what it takes to be different to Eliphaz? Do we know how to be agents of God’s mighty comfort to others? This requires us to be in tune with the master.

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer's ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole,
And calms the troubled breast;
'Tis manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary rest.

Dear name! the rock on which I build,
My shield and hiding-place,
My never-failing treasury filled
With boundless stores of grace.

Jesus! my Shepherd, Brother, Friend,
My Prophet, Priest and King,
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
Accept the praise I bring.

Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I'll praise Thee as I ought.

Till then I would Thy love proclaim
With every fleeting breath;
And may the music of Thy name
Refresh my soul in death!

John Newton (1725-1807)

May we be true comforters to all that need it – and resist the temptation to do as Eliphaz did to Job!