The language of Eliphaz is not one of gentle reproof but of suspicion and of harsh crimination. This has been shown—shown that the conviction of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar is, that Job has fallen and has been walking in the customary gross sins of the wicked. To this conviction Eliphaz gives expression, first in a kind of veiled (chapters 4 and 5), and later in language characterized by brutal frankness—a language that leaves no doubt as to what his solution is of Job’s pain. The reason of this pain is Job’s great sins. There rests upon him the guilt of special, gross sins. Hence, Job’s folly is not of a kind common to all believers. In his last discourse, he reproaches Job particularly and in detail with sins of a grievous character,—with sins of arrogance, of cruelty, and of injustice toward his neighbor. He thereupon affirms that the cause of Job’s sufferings lie only in these sins. He earnestly warns Job against pursuing any further his unholy thoughts and speeches. He concludes with exhorting Job to repent and to return to God and to enter into the possession of the blessings promised by God to the penitent.
How, it was asked, does Eliphaz dare to ascribe to Job these atrocious sins? He has not detected him in any such acts. He can bring no witnesses in proof of his charges. To understand Eliphaz’s attack upon Job, one must know to what view he was addicted—he and his two friends—and upon which he, as upon a foundation, proceeded in his argumentation. To know this view, one must acquaint himself with his description of the experiences of the wicked. This has been done. According to Eliphaz, the wicked, though they may triumph for a season, soon find themselves in the midst of sorrow and are speedily cut off. The righteous, on the other hand, prosper in this life.
But we found that the language uttered by Eliphaz and his two friends is not necessarily wrong. The collection of Psalms, it was shown, contain a language substantially identical to the language to which these three friends give utterances in their descriptions of the state and experience of the just and the wicked. Also according to the Psalms and even according to Job, the wicked are overtaken by many troubles in this life and come to a sorrowful end. But with the righteous, it is exceedingly well. They eat the labors of their hands, are satisfied with length of days and come to the grave in full age, (Ps. 91). So, if we have regard solely to the form of the words, then all do say the same thing: Job, his three friends and the Psalmist.
But, so we finally asked, if the above-quoted language is, according to the form of the words, thoroughly scriptural, wherein then do these friends err? That these friends are addicted to a wrong view is certain. And to this view they give expression in a language that as to the form of the words is thoroughly scriptural. One illustration to show that this is possible. When the pre-millenarian repeats God’s promise to Abraham, “Unto thee and to thy seed I will give this land (Canaan) for an eternal inheritance” he gives expression to the wrong view that eventually the Jews will come into the everlasting possession of the earthly Canaan. And he does this in a language that according to the form of the words is thoroughly correct.
What now is Eliphaz’s error? This cannot be known solely from his delineations on the condition of life of the wicked on this side of the grave. For, as has been shown, these delineations, as to the form of the words, are correct. The language employed is identical to that used by the true prophets of Scripture. Yet, as uttered by Eliphaz, it sets forth a wrong view. The circumstance that Eliphaz accuses Job of having been side-tracked upon the paths of wickedness, shows that in his thought-structure the “wicked are writhing and twisting in pain all their days, and cut down out of time in the midst of their days.” That is to say, Eliphaz’s contention is that without exception all the wicked are overtaken in this present time with outward physical calamity such as sudden loss of possessions, of health and life, or positively expressed, abject poverty, terrible bodily disease, nameless physical woe and untimely death, and that this calamity forms the mark of distinction by which the wicked are known.
So, as one firmly rooted in this conception, Eliphaz beholds Job, his amazing distress and he says first in his heart and eventually in Job’s audience, “Job reaps the reward of each and every wicked man. Job is thus standing in the way of sinners. Job is wicked.”
Eliphaz’s view, to be fully understood, must be contemplated in the light of the following considerations. Firstly that God in His just judgment does indeed punish the wicked also temporally. This is the element of truth contained in Eliphaz’s conception, namely, that God is angry with the wicked every day, is solely against them for evil, so that all things work together for their harm. The wicked are not blessed. They find themselves on slippery places. God’s curse is in their house. His terror fills their soul, so that they have no true peace. What He gives them in the form of temporal good, He bestows in His wrath.
Such is the temporal punishment of the wicked. But this punishment belongs to the things unseen, the same as the blessedness of God’s people. It is only by faith that it can be understood that the believers, subject as they are to all the sufferings of this present time, have all things working together for good to them, and that thus the mercy and goodness of God followeth them all the days of their life. And so, too, it is only by faith that it can be understood that God punishes also temporally the (reprobated) wicked for their sins. Judging according to things seen—the frequent outward prosperity and well-being of the wicked—the wicked, instead of being recompensed for their sins, walk in the light of God’s countenance and enjoy His favor.
The truth that God is solely against the wicked, that His wrath is continually being revealed from heaven in them and over their ungodliness is set forth in Scripture by word and in the Old Testament Dispensation also by special sign or symbol. The destruction of the antediluvial humanity by the flood was such a special sign. Likewise the overturning of the cities of the plain where Lot dwelt, as also the outward calamity—famine and sword and disease—by which the Israelitish people would be overtaken whenever it departed from the Lord to serve the false gods of the neighboring heathen nations. The substance of Moses’ addresses, which he delivered in the audience of the people of Israel encamped in the plain of Moab, is to the following effect. But it shall come to pass, if Israel will not hearken unto the voice of the Lord his God, to observe to do all His commandments which He the Lord commands him this day; that all the following curses shall come upon him, and overtake him: Cursed shall he be in the city and in the field. Cursed shall be his basket and his store. Cursed shall be the fruit of his body, and the fruit of his land, the increase of his kine, and the flocks of his sheep. Cursed shall he be when he comes in and when he goes out. The Lord shall send upon him cursing, vexation and rebuke in all that he sets his hand unto for to do, until he be destroyed, and until he perish quickly; because of the wickedness of his doings, whereby he has forsaken the Lord. The Lord shall make the pestilence to cleave unto him, until He has consumed him from off the land. The Lord shall smite him with consumption, and with fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew, and they shall pursue him until he perish. And the heaven that is over him shall be brass, and the earth that is under him shall be iron. And the Lord shall make the rain of his land powder and dust; from heaven it shall come down upon him until he be destroyed. The Lord shall cause him to be smitten before his enemies. And his carcass shall be meat unto the fowls of the air, and unto the beasts of the earth, and no man shall fray them away. The Lord will smite him with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof he cannot be healed. The Lord shall smite him with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart: and he shall grope at noonday as the blind gropeth in the darkness, and he shall not prosper in his ways; and he shall be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save him. He shall betroth a wife and another man shall lie with her. He shall build a house but another shall dwell therein, (Deut. 28). These are only some of the curses that were to overtake the people of Israel, if as a nation it should forsake the Lord to serve the devil.
But if Israel will hearken unto the voice of the Lord, blessing shall come upon him and overtake him. Blessed shall he be in the city and in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of his body and the fruit of the ground, of his cattle, the increase of his kine and the flocks of his sheep. Blessed shall be his basket and his store. The Lord shall cause his enemies that rise up against him to be smitten before his face. The Lord shall command the blessing upon him in his storehouses and in all that he sets his hand unto. The Lord shall establish him an holy people unto Himself, as He has sworn unto him, if he shall keep the commandments of the Lord his God, and walk in His ways, (Deut. 28).
As to the punishment with which the law threatened, it was measured out over and over through the ages of Israel’s national existence. For the people of Israel rose up and went a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land and broke Jehovah’s covenant. And the curse went forth, and overtook the nation until it was destroyed. Israel was made to serve his enemies in hunger and in thirst, in nakedness and in want of all things. And the Lord made their plagues wonderful and the plagues of their seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sickness. He brought them all the diseases of the Egyptians, also every sickness and every plague, which was not written in the book of the law.
It is to be observed that the predicted and realized punishment consisted in outward, physical and thus observable calamity such as war, pestilence, sword, famine, physical disease, divers plagues, violent death and deportation. It is to be considered, however, that this punishment was but symbol and type of the wrath of God as it perpetually, in unbroken continuity, now and ever, on this and the other side of the grave, operates in the reprobated ungodly. The real punishment of sin consists not in being exiled from the land of an earthly Canaan, not in physical hunger and thirst and disease, not in sword and pestilence, but in the spiritual and everlasting death of the soul, in disquieted conscience, in the terror of God filling the soul, in intolerable spiritual cravings unsatisfied, in nameless remorse and despair. This is the true punishment of sin, which the reprobated ungodly are made to undergo on this earth in principle and in hell to the full. Of this punishment the outward and physical distress by which the Israelitish people were visited when they forsook God was but the symbol and type.
Now the true prophets of God must have had some understanding of this. They must have realized that though the language they were made to employ when the Spirit in them predicted and described the punishment and doom of the wicked was descriptive of outward and physical calamity, it was nevertheless the real and eternal doom of the ungodly that they in a language that is typical, were in the final instance foretelling and depicting. Now of this, Job’s critics had no understanding at all. The real penal retribution of sin was regarded by them as consisting in this outward calamity. This being their conception they could not avoid arriving at a point in their thinking at which they concluded that this outward calamity must be made to overtake each and every ungodly individual and be made to overtake him on this side of the grave so that the wicked in this life receive their full due. Physical hunger, thirst and starvation, loss of earthy possessions, war as we now know it, cannot be the portion of the damned in hell, as they have no possessions to lose and no body of flesh and blood in which to suffer our pain. If therefore real punishment consists in sufferings of this present time, it shall have to be affirmed that the reprobated wicked receive in this life their full measure of punishment and that therefore death must spell their annihilation. This is not saying that Job’s critics believed not in the immortality of the soul. Though they erred in their thinking, they feared God and therefore must have recoiled from this implication of their conception.
So, though the language to which Eliphaz and his two friends give utterance in their contending with Job is as to the form of the words thoroughly scriptural, as employed by Eliphaz it sets forth a view horribly wrong. When Eliphaz says to Job, “The wicked man is writhing and twisting with pain all his days,” he was giving expression to the view, “Every wicked man without exception receives in this life his full measure of real punishment—a punishment that consists in just the kind of calamity that has befallen thee, O Job, and the kind of pain thou art suffering.” Now to this view none of the true prophets of God were addicted. How could they have been, if the view is thoroughly wrong. It is a view not true to life. The outward calamity of which Moses in his final discourses prophesied overtook in after years not scattered ungodly individuals but whole tribes in Israel and finally the entire nation including the elect remnant. It was the apostate nation and not the apostate individual that was threatened. When the people of Israel kept covenant fidelity, which it did when God-fearing kings occupied the throne, also the carnal seed prospered materially and died a natural death.
The question must now be raised whether Eliphaz regards Job’s suffering as penal retribution or chastisement. All suffering is penal retribution when undergone by the reprobated ungodly for whose sins Christ died not. Suffering is chastisement if undergone by a child of God. How now does Eliphaz regard Job’s pain, as penal retribution or as chastisement. It is held by many that the case in question is not clear. But it is clear. In his first reply, Eliphaz by implication calls Job’s pain chastisement. Says he to Job:
“I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause; Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: He woundeth, and His hands make whole. He shall deliver thee in six troubles: yea: in seven there shall no evil touch thee,’’ chap 5.
Many a commentator, having failed to gain an adequate understanding of Eliphaz’s fundamental position, have voiced the opinion that the speaker here gives utterance to a language of true loveliness (which indeed it is, if viewed by itself) and that at least at this juncture of the debate he affords Job the kindliest treatment. Were this true we would have reason to be struck with amazement at Job’s response to this hortatory language of Eliphaz. This response, meant chiefly for Eliphaz’s ears, reads, “My brethren have been false as a torrent, and as the stream of brooks that have passed by, which are blackish by reason of the ice, and wherein the snow is hid: . . . For now ye are nothing; . . . How forcible are right words! But now what does your arguing reprove? Yea, ye overwhelm the fatherless and dig a pit for your friend,” Chapter 6:14-30.
How is this bitter reply of Job to Eliphaz’s admonition that Job seek unto God and deem himself happy on account of his being chastised by the Almighty to be explained? Could anyone have come to Job with a more comforting and soothing word? So it will seem to one who fails to grasp the implication of the root idea of Eliphaz’s reasoning, the idea or conception that the reprobated wicked receive in this present time their full measure of real punishment. In his first discourse, Eliphaz sets forth this conception in the following language,
“Remember I pray thee, whoever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?
Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness reap the same.
By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed.
The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the fierce lion, and the teeth of the young lion are broken,” Chap. 4:7-10.
Who now are these lions of iniquity, consumed by the breath of God’s nostrils? Who else but the reprobated ungodly. If it be considered that this language was occasioned by the spectacle of Job’s pain and by the knowledge of the sudden loss of his possessions and children, if it be borne in mind, further, that the speaker is addressing Job as one to whom his utterances apply, then it will readily be seen that what the speaker either wittingly or unwittingly, it makes little difference as far as the effect of this language upon Job is concerned, says to Job is, “O Job, thy plight is an undoubted indication that thou art a lion of iniquity and that thus thou art perishing by the blast of the Almighty. So art thou now reaping thy full measure of punishment.” In a word, here at the very outset, Eliphaz, in all likelihood without realizing what he does, classifies Job with the reprobated lions of iniquity. Thus the two propositions upon which all the discourses of Eliphaz and of Bildad and Zophar turn are: (1) All the reprobated wicked are consumed by the breath of God; (2) Such is Job’s plight. He is being consumed, cut off suddenly in the midst of his days. Behold the man! Mark his pain! See how he is about to perish. Truly he reaps the reward of the wicked.
Now these two propositions taken together, contain a conclusion, namely, the one stated above, “Job is a reprobated lion of iniquity.” This is the terrible implication of all the discourses of Job’s three comforters. It forms the dagger with which Satan through the agency of these three friends over and over pierces Job’s soul. It will not do to say that these friends are not aware of the terrible implications of their utterances. That they know is proven by the circumstance that Eliphaz in his last reply openly reproaches Job with atrocious crimes. Yet, despite the fact that these friends become the instruments of the most poignant suffering, the severest temptations, that Job must endure, they are true-hearted, devout, religious men. That they wound Job as they do, is to be ascribed to their theory. Truly loving, Eliphaz, as has just been pointed out, refers in his first discourse to Job’s sufferings as chastisement, though his theory drives him to conclude that Job’s pain is penal retribution, that thus Job is being cut off on account of his iniquity and so suffers the common lot of the wicked. Though his personal conviction may be and undoubtedly is that Job is a truly religious man, yet, as often as he opens his mouth to speak, it is to voice his theory in one form or another and thus to tell Job that he is a thoroughly godless personage. Hence, his exhorting Job to seek God and his reminder that the man whom God correcteth is happy and that God maketh sore and bindeth up and will deliver him in six troubles, has no meaning. For, according to Eliphaz’s theory, Job is not a child of God that has fallen into some gross sin but a reprobated lion of iniquity. It can be understood that Job, having listened to Eliphaz’s first rebuke, and having apprehended its implication, is desperate and in his desperate mood refers to the speech of his friend as wind, and accuses him of digging a pit for him. The accusation is true. Eliphaz’s speech is as wind. As the agent of Satan he does actually dig for Job a pit.
The question must now be put what Satan’s purpose is in coming to Job with this theory. What is Satan hoping to achieve. In explaining this, we must set out with the fact of Job’s integrity. According to God’s own testimony, Job is a man of singular piety. The heart of Job is not a heart with an evil but with a good conscience. That is to say, Job himself (and how could it be otherwise) is aware of his essential righteousness. For walking in the way of God’s precepts, he walks with God and thus as Abel, who has preceded him, obtains witness by his sacrifices that he is righteous, God testifying also with his gifts. How keenly aware Job is of his essential integrity, of his being one of God’s sons, is evident from his replies to his critics. Statements occur such as these: “But He (God) knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandments of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food,” Chap. 23:10-12. This is no idle, pharisaic boasting on the part of Job. He means not that he is altogether without sin, that the moral infirmities common to all believers are not his. But he means that, despite his moral imperfections, he has been walking as a child of the light and is thus innocent of the atrocious crimes with which His friends reproach him.
But Satan says that Job does not serve for naught, that thus Job has his affections set not upon God but upon the cattle that God gave him. To silence the accuser God gives him power first over all that Job has and lastly over Job’s person. After Job is stripped from all his wealth, after all his children have been hurled into eternity by a mighty wind, Satan smites Job with a terrible disease. Job is stricken with boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. He takes him a potsherd to scrape himself therewith. And he sits among the ashes. But Satan is not done with Job. He has merely laid another foundation for a new attack. This foundation having been laid, Job now being in great pain, the friends come, and eventually Job hears them say that the wicked man, and he only, is twisting and writhing in pain all his days. Satan pins all his hopes of succeeding in showing up Job as a man who lacks genuine piety on the ability of these friends to convince Job that they give him the true solution of his sufferings. For, as convinced of this, Job will be driven to conclude, so Satan reasons, not that he is devoid of essential righteousness (Satan well understands that Job must be too keenly aware of his relative virtue to be driven to this conclusion) but that despite his uprightness, despite his having kept God’s way, God accounts him a lion of wickedness, and is therefore against him, so that as a result He, Job, in common with all wicked men, is now perishing by the blast of the Almighty. Satan feels assured that, once this thought has taken root in Job’s soul, Job will finally conclude that it is utterly futile for a man to serve God, “to hold his foot to God’s steps,” to lean upon God, to trust in Him, to enjoy God’s favor through a walk that takes a man on the way of God’s commandments. And Satan feels assured that Job, so concluding, will in his nameless despair and great anger (Satan believes Job to be devoid of true piety) will turn upon God and curse Him to His face.
It can be expected therefore that Satan through the agency of Job’s friends, will insist that his solution of Job’s sufferings is the true and only one and that in his desperate attempt to convince Job, he will repeat it over and over. And so he does. Eliphaz even brings himself forward as God’s prophet, who speaks God’s wisdom, and a wisdom to which he came by divine revelation. He relates his experience in this language, “Now a thing was secretly come to me, and mine ear received a little thereof. In thoughts from a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men, . . . .Then a spirit passed before my face; . . . .there was silence, and I heard a voice saying. . . .” The verses that follow, set forth what Eliphaz heard. Now there is no reason to doubt Eliphaz’s word. The man is no pretender. He is a devout soul. He is to be counted as belonging to God’s people. All that he hears the voice say to him is by itself absolutely true. “Shall mortal man,” so he hears the voice saying, “be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his Maker?’’ To this every true prophet of God answers, “Assuredly, no!” The voice continued, “Behold, he puts no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly: how much less them that dwell in houses of clay. . . .” Now there are words of true wisdom. The truth dwells in this man Eliphaz (and also in Bildad and Zophar). But they are men with grave misconceptions. Therefore Satan can use them to tempt Job. Bildad in distinction from Eliphaz bases his authority upon tradition. Says he to Job, “For inquire, I pray thee, from the former age, and prepare thyself to the search of the fathers: for we are but of yesterday and know nothing, because our days upon earth are but a shadow: shall not they teach thee and tell thee, and utter words out of their heart?” Chapter 8:8-10. If Job will not believe him, Bildad, and his two colleagues, (Eliphaz and Zophar) let him then hearken unto the voice of the fathers.
Zophar, in distinction from both Eliphaz and Bildad, founds his authority upon consensus of opinion. Says he to Job, “Knowest thou this not of old, since man was placed upon the earth?” Chapter 20:4, 5. “Knowest thou this not of old?” That is, ‘Dost thou not realize that what we tell thee is a doctrine that has always been universally accepted?’ No one, in a proper frame of mind, would gainsay our word?
Now what would the fathers tell Job, should he be willing to be instructed? What should he know from of old? What is that wisdom by which Eliphaz claims to have come by divine revelation? Precisely what these friends have been telling Job, to wit, “that the wicked are writhing and twisting in pain all their days” and that the hypocrite “shall perish forever like his own dung”. Is this now a doctrine of which Eliphaz might say that he came by it by divine revelation? Is it actually a doctrine taught by the fathers? Is it being ascribed to by every man of true understanding, as Zophar contends? As has already been shown, the friends in rebuking Job, avail themselves of a thoroughly Scriptural language, thus a language that can be used to set forth truth—the truth that the face of God is solely against the wicked, that He is angry with them every day and that therefore the wicked (reprobated) are being punished now and ever. This is the doctrine taught by the fathers and ascribed to by every man of understanding who then lived. But of this doctrine Job’s friends have no correct understanding. They pervert it, impose upon it their own philosophy. It is thus with a misconceived truth that they assail Job.
Mark then the vile cunning of Satan. In assailing Job, he avails himself of Job’s very friends and thus of men who must also have been renowned on account of their godliness. Godly men they indeed were, despite their misconceptions and despite the fact that, unbeknown to themselves, they were being employed by Satan. Were they not Job’s friends? Did not God finally request of Job that he make atonement for them in respect to their sins? Thus in his frantic attempt to provoke Job to renounce God, Satan avails himself of the godly, yea, of the very truth itself as misconceived and misapplied. And what tremendous pressure these friends bring to bear upon Job—the pressure of the authority of divine revelation, of tradition and of the consensus of opinion. Certainly, under the weight of all this authority, so Satan reasons, Job’s resistance to his friends’ philosophy must needs crumble and the conviction form in his soul that their doctrine is true; and that thus the wicked do indeed receive in this life their full measure of punishment and perish by the blast of the Almighty as does now Job. Now should this conviction become his, and Satan hopes that it will, Job’s terrible dilemma will actually be that, if he maintain his own integrity, he will be compelled to doubt God; but if he affirms God to be righteous in His dealing with him, he will be driven to conclude that he is wicked and thus now reaps the reward of the wicked. Either, Satan is convinced, will be fatal to what he holds to be Job’s sham religion. Satan then, as was just said, is pinning all his hopes on the ability of the three friends to convince Job of the correctness of their philosophy.
To Job’s reactions, to his descent into the pit of despair, and to the triumph of his faith, we shall have regard in a following article.