The Book of Job - Lesson 9

Eliphaz’s First Response (Job 4-5)

Eliphaz begins tactfully in his remarks to Job. He did not intend to do harm. However, he thinks God is causing Job to suffer because of a sin Job committed. He speaks accurately of the justice of God, but in Job’s case he misapplies it. He also gives a message he received from the, “night spirit.”

Duane Garrett
The Book of Job
Lesson 9
Watching Now
Eliphaz’s First Response (Job 4-5)

I. Structure

II. Appeal to Reason and Experience (4:2, 5:27)

III. Tactful Opening (4:2-6)

IV. Doctrine of Retribution (4:7-11)

V. The Night Spirit (4:12-21)

VI. Misery Comes to Fools (5:1-7)

VII. Turn to God Who is Unfailingly Good

VIII. Those Whom God Loves, He Reproves and They Have Happiness

IX. Conclusion

  • When you see what you would describe as evil and injustice in the world, how does that affect your view of God? When someone is suffering, do you assume that it’s because they are getting what they deserve? This lecture gives you an overview of book of Job by describing his situation, how he interacts with his friends and God, and what we can learn about how God is managing the world.

  • Because there is nothing specific in the text that tells you when the book of Job was written, the sections in Job that allude to other passages of scripture give you some helpful clues. The structure of the book of Job focuses your attention on the main subject of the book which is God’s wisdom.

  • Other cultures in the ancient near east created literature with themes that are similar to the book of Job. The book of Job is unique because of his character and the answer that the book provides for the situation he is in.

  • Job is one of the wisdom books of the Old Testament. It covers more “advanced” topics than Proverbs and uses a variety of literary genres and allusions to other Biblical passages to explain and illustrate profound truths about God’s nature and his involvement in the world.

  • There is limited information in the book of Job about its geographical and historical background. However, it can be helpful to understand general information about the geography and history of the area to give you a context for reading and studying the book of Job. The author of the book of Job was a Hebrew poet who had an extensive vocabulary. Being uncertain about history and geography is good because the message is timeless.

  • Job contains literary elements that are similar to what you find in other Biblical books that are Apocalyptic. These elements include depictions of events in heaven and on earth, the emphasis on specific numbers and persevering in your faith in God, the references to mythological animals and God’s supernatural control of all events. 

  • Satan appears before God with an accusation against Job. Even though Job is described as, “upright and blameless,” Satan accuses Job of serving God only because Job is prosperous. God allows Satan to take away Job’s possessions, children and health. The remainder of the book is the dialogue of Job and his friends attempting to determine why this is happening.

  • Job curses the day he was born. When you carefully examine what he is saying, you realize that it is more intense than just saying that he wished he had never lived.

  • Eliphaz begins tactfully in his remarks to Job. He did not intend to do harm. However, he thinks God is causing Job to suffer because of a sin Job committed. He speaks accurately of the justice of God, but in Job’s case he misapplies it. He also gives a message he received from the, “night spirit.”

  • Eliphaz considers the message of the, “night spirit” a revelation from God. However, at it’s core, this message is inconsistent with God’s attitude toward Job, and creation in general.

  • Job’s theological worldview has fallen apart because he knows he doesn’t deserve to suffer. Eliphaz calls Job to repent. Job responds questioning why he is suffering, because according to his worldview, he hasn’t done anything to deserve it.   

  • Bildad is direct is his rebuke and admonition of Job. He uses metaphors to get his point across.

  • When Job’s friends describe God as all powerful in an attempt to comfort Job, he becomes terrified because he sees God as causing his suffering and there is nothing that can stop it.

  • Zophar assumes that Job is being punished because he sinned and accuses him of mocking God. Job's three friends move from tactful suggestions to open hostility. As Job is searching for answers, he becomes disappointed in his friends.

  • Job agrees with his friends that God is causing his suffering, but disagrees with them about why it’s happening. Job believes that God will eventually vindicate him.

  • Eliphaz appeals to the night spirit and the tradition of the elders to tell Job that he is a babbling and blaspheming fool.

  • Job begins by criticizing what his friends are saying to him and then professes his faith in God. Bildad responds harshly to Job.

  • Even though Job’s friends have criticized him, he has grown in his faith in God. Job is worn out and begs for compassion. When he gets nothing but contempt and hostility instead, he confesses his faith and hope in God. The messianic theology of Job is different from any other book of the Bible.  

  • Zophar uses metaphors that are found in other passages of scripture as well as Job’s own words to accuse Job of being wicked. However, Zophar made a serious error, which we need to avoid in our lives.

  • Job continues to wrestle with the presence of evil in the world and the apparent injustice of God. 

  • Eliphaz attacks Job as being wicked by twisting the meaning of what Job has said previously. The irony is that Job will be reconciled to God and will pray for Eliphaz.

  • Job wants to lay out his case before God by claiming his innocence. Job says that God is hidden and does as he chooses, but that God neither judges the guilty nor helps the righteous. Bildad responds by contrasting God’s holiness and human lowliness.

  • Job sarcastically thanks the friends for their wise words, which he doesn’t think were wise at all.

  • This is a poem about wisdom that divides the content of the book and points to a deep truth. It is inserted by the author of the book and is not attributed to Job or the friends.

  • The crisis that Job is experiencing is not just the material losses and physical suffering, but also his crisis of faith. He thought he understood what his relationship with God is all about but he feels that God has abandoned him for no apparent reason. Job laments the pain he feels from being disgraced and humiliated.

  • This is the last major statement that Job makes, other than his responses to God that come later. Job is taking a series of oaths that he has not committed any of the sins he mentions. The Bible is distinctive in declaring that all people are created equally, in the image of God. In ancient cultures, some people intrinsically have more value than others because of heritage, wealth, gender, race, etc. God looks on everyone impartially.  

  • Elihu is not mentioned either before or after his speech. He claims to be perfect in knowledge. Elihu thinks that the other three did not convince Job because they did not give a satisfactory answer, but Elihu ends up repeating what they have already said. He thinks that the doctrine of retribution is the answer to Job’s situation. Elihu is a warning to us that we don’t have all the answers.

  • The questions of the book of Job are, “How does God address the problem of evil and why do we serve God? God created a world that is stable and not chaotic. Where there was chaos, God brought in light, shape and beauty. Chaotic forces are necessary for life and God controls them.

  • People in ancient Mesopotamia lived in constant fear of the chaos, danger, ferocity of nature and they valued subduing, controlling and pushing back nature. Wilderness was something to be tamed and pushed back by civilization. In the Gilgamesh epic poem, Enkidu is transformed into a civilized man who protects the domestic animals from the wild animals. In Egypt, there were gods of the Black Land and gods of the Red Land. God sees everything in the world as entirely under his control.

  • God’s care for the animals and how this relates to the problem of Job. All of the things that we see as chaos, and out of control depend on God and thrive because he provides for them and things that he manages and glories in. God describes nature as good, unlike the night spirit that describes it with contempt and loathing. God knows how to manage the chaotic elements of creation.

  • The societies of the Ancient Near East had a high concept of justice. It was the duty of the rulers to uphold justice and protect the powerless. If you are a man who leads, you need to make sure that evil is held in check. Listen to people who come to you with a grievance. God is asking Job if he comprehends what it means to bring justice to the world. It involves both power and wisdom.

  • Behemoth is the plural form of a Hebrew word that refers to animals in general also specifically to wild animals. In Job, it’s also used as a metaphor representing the composite forces of the powers of the earth that are against God.

  • Behemoth is a dangerous power that God must reckon with. Some people think this is an allusion to animals that God created in Genesis 1:24. “Lady Wisdom” is the wisdom that God built into creation. Behemoth is dangerous and a force to be reckoned with, not the embodiment of good behavior. One aspect of principalities and powers is forces outside of the world we can see. In Revelation, God protects people from the fury and wrath of the beast, which is an oppressive power that seeks to take the place of God.  

  • Job 41 describes Leviathan. Leviathan is not a natural animal like a crocodile. Sometimes Leviathan refers to a large sea creature, and sometimes death, chaos and the embodiment of evil. Satan is present at the first of the book but he is never mentioned again. In order for God to deal with evil in the world, he must defeat Leviathan.

  • Leviathan is a ferocious creature that no human can subdue. God is saying that he is willing to oppose Leviathan and  is not frightened of Leviathan or intimidated by his boasting. God is the one who will defeat this enemy who seems unbeatable to humans. God tells Job that he will deal with Leviathan but God doesn’t tell him how he will do it. Job embraced God’s answer even though Job didn’t know how God would deal with evil.

  • Job announces that he has changed his outlook on evil, God’s governance of the world and his own suffering. Job knew that God is all-powerful. Now Job knows something more about how God uses his power. Should God be merciful to people who will still be evil? Eschatological is an event that can only happen by a work of God. Emergence of divine power within the historical context. Job admits that he didn’t understand the complexity that is involved in God conquering evil. God forgives Job’s three friends because Job interceded for them. God is showing his approval with job by publicly restoring him.

  • Job’s suffering brought him to a new understanding of who God is and what God is doing in the world. Job’s hope, and our hope, is in a heavenly redeemer that rose from the dead. Legalism comes about often when people hold to essential teachings but they don’t know God. They substitute the rules for relationship.

  • Job mentions composite animals similar to those described in other apocalyptic passages. Job had faith that God would do a work of salvation but didn’t understand everything that Jesus would do. There is a hidden plan of God to redeem people and conquer evil that is a major theme in apocryphal books and also in Job.

  • Job tells us about the heavenly mediator. Prior to his afflictions, Job’s life was almost god-like because he was relatively free of suffering. Job through his affliction, faces the problem of evil and the enormity of suffering in the human race. Even though some people commit evil and violent acts, Job describes them in pitiful terms.

  • Should virtue, or piety, be disinterested? If it’s not done for it’s own sake, is it real? Job’s love for God is not disinterested, but it is real.

If God is good and powerful, why do you see suffering in the world? Why do you serve God even when you experience suffering? How do you respond to others when they ask these questions? How have you answered them for yourself? These are such important questions that the entire book of Job is devoted discussing only these issues in the context of the perspective of the experiences of one person. 

The theme of the book of Job is timeless and singular. There are clues about its geographical and historical setting but nothing in the book itself that identifies the place or time of its writing. However, the setting is irrelevant because the questions that are addressed in the Book of Job are ones that people have asked in all cultures, throughout time. It would be distracting and even limiting to frame the dialogue in a specific time or culture. There are enough clues in the text to give you a general idea of the culture and time it was written in to help you understand the logic and metaphors used by the main characters in their dialogue. 

The complete book of Job is composed of the dialogue of Job, his friends and God regarding the issues of God's goodness, his power, and evil in the world. No historical events. No other personal, corporate or theological issues. Since these questions are central to your understanding of God's character and how he works in the world around us throughout history, the book of Job compels you to consider this question deeply and exhaustively. The point is that by the end of the book, you can understand and articulate who God is and how he works in your life and in the world. 

The value of this class is that Dr. Garrett helps you understand what the text means, the historical and theological implications, and how you apply it to your life. Dr. Garrett's knowledge of the Bible, understanding of the Hebrew language and background in Ancient Near Eastern history and culture inform his insights into the message of the book and what it means to you. He is skilled at explaining technical linguistic and theological issues in a way that helps you comprehend them and see how they apply to your life. Whether you are just beginning in your study of the Bible or you have had training at an advanced academic level, studying the Book of Job with Dr. Garrett has the potential change the way you understand God and also how you live each day. 

Recommended Books

The Book of Job: A Biblical Answer to Pain - Student Guide

The Book of Job: A Biblical Answer to Pain - Student Guide

This Student's Guide is for the class on The Book of Job in BiblicalTraining.org. It contains the outlines to the lectures, a summary of each point, and reflection...

The Book of Job: A Biblical Answer to Pain - Student Guide


In this lecture, we want to look at the first response of Eliphaz because in a very meaningful way, it sets the tone for everything else.

I. Structure

First of all, the structure of Eliphaz’ speech. It is a fairly long speech, you can see it is two chapters, chapters 4 and 5.

II. Appeal to Reason and Experience (4:2, 5:27)

We begin with an appeal to reason and experience. Eliphaz is appealing to Job on the basis of what he knows and what he has experienced, to change his mind.

III. Tactful Opening (4:2-6)

There is this tactful opening where Eliphaz will in a very respectful way suggest that Job is wrong.

IV. Doctrine of Retribution (4:7-11)

There is the doctrine of retribution laid out in simple terms that we have been discussing.

V. The Night Spirit (4:12-21)

He describes the night spirit. This is something we are going to have to look at in detail. This is perhaps the most important element of any of the speeches of the three friends because the message of the night spirit is at the core of much of what they believe and it is the source of much of what is wrong with what they believe. So we will have to look at that.

VI. Misery Comes to Fools (5:1-7)

He says simply that misery comes to fools and he has a very specific fool in mind, namely Job, in 5:1-7.

VII. Turn to God Who is Unfailingly Good

He appeals to Job to turn to God who is unfailingly good, (5:8-16.)

VIII. Those Whom God Loves, He Reproves and They Have Happiness

He says that those whom God loves he reproves, that they may in turn have perfect happiness, (chapter 5, verses 17-26).

IX. Conclusion

Finally, there is another appeal to reason and this is again an inclusion structure. This is like the bookends where he begins with this appeal to reason and
experience. He ends with the same thing and that sort of brackets the whole speech.

Let’s begin. Taking a look at chapter 4, verse 2: “If someone ventures a word with you, would you be patient? But who can keep from speaking? Think how you have instructed many, how you have strengthened feeble hands.”

Notice here, he appeals to Job saying, “You know, you yourself have instructed people. Can’t someone give you a word? Is it okay if someone else talks?” So it is kind of an appeal for him to be reasonable, to be open to discussion and to remember that there are lessons he himself has learned. He repeats the same kind of thing towards the very end, chapter 5, verse 27: “We have examined this and it is true, so hear it and apply it to yourself.” He says, “We have experienced all of this. We have tested it, we have tried it. Our experience tells us it is true. So Job, go ahead and just believe that we know what we are talking about.”

He then gets into his tactful opening, verse 4: “Your words have supported those who stumbled. You have strengthened faltering knees. But now trouble comes to you and you are discouraged. It strikes you and you are dismayed. Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope?”

A couple of things to notice here about this little part of the passage. First of all, again it is very tactful. It is very respectful. Eliphaz did not come looking for a fight. When we see Eliphaz become more and more bitter, it is evidence of how his misunderstanding of doctrine and even how his adherence to true doctrine, but misapplied, has simply made him more and more angry and he can’t handle it anymore. It is very important to see. He does not come as Job’s enemy. Notice also, he acknowledges that Job has been a righteous person. “Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope?” He knows Job has lived a life that is absolutely above reproach, that Job has been a good man. He does not deny it. So he says, “You know, Job, you have encouraged people, you have instructed people. When necessary you have rebuked people. Now something has happened to you and maybe you need a little correction, you need a little rebuke. So let me as a friend give it to you.” We should see that he comes on with a very, very positive attitude.

Then he gives a pretty basic statement of the doctrine of retribution, verse 7: “Consider now, who being innocent has ever perished? Where were the upright every destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble, reap it. At the breath of God they perish; at the blast of his anger they are no more. The lions roar and growl, yet the teeth of the great lions are broken. The lion perishes for lack of prey, and the cubs of the lioness are scattered.”

Here we have the basic idea of the doctrine of retribution. First, the innocent never perish, first thing he says in verse 7. So if someone has had terrible things happen to him, if he is beset by tragedy, if he suffered terrible loss, it is certainly not that he was innocent. Of course we know from the prologue, in Job’s case that is wrong. But that is the doctrine of retribution. Against that, he says that everyone who does evil, everyone who is vicious like a lion, gets crushed by God, has his fangs pulled out, his teeth broken.

What is Eliphaz saying here? He is saying the doctrine of retribution holds true. The reason people suffer is because they did something wrong. The reason
people prosper is because they are righteous, or maybe God is setting them up for a fall, they only prosper for a very short season. This is the basic doctrine that is at the heart of everything Job and the three friends have believed. I’ll say it one more time: This is how they explain the world. This is how they explain the injustice in the world. This is how they make sense of it all and this is the thing that for Job has collapsed. Eliphaz is saying, “No, it is in good shape, it is great, no problem here.”

We then come to the night spirit, but I want to come back to him at the end because the night spirit is such a critical passage. I want us to give a lot of
attention to that, so let’s move past the night spirit in chapter 4, verses 12-21 and move ahead to what he says in chapter 5, verses 1-7.

Misery comes to fools. He says: “Call if you will, but who will answer you? To which of the holy ones will you turn? Resentment kills a fool and envy slays the
simple. I myself have seen a fool taking root, but suddenly his house was crushed. His children are far from safety, crushed in court without a defender. The hungry consume his harvest, taking it even from among the thorns and the thirsty pant after his wealth. For hardship does not spring from the soil, nor does trouble sprout from the ground. Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.”

Here he says basically, if you are a fool, you will experience misery. Verse 2 especially, “Resentment kills a fool, envy slays the simple.” So if you do not follow the precepts that we are teaching, your life will be a wreck. Everything that you possess will fall away from you.

There is something in all of these speeches and the friends we need to be very careful about because they tend to make everything abstract and general when in fact, they have a very specific point in mind. They will describe the fate of the wicked and the fool, but in doing so they will always use as examples things that happened to Job. What they are doing is, in a veiled way, they are saying, “Job, you are the fool. Job, you are wicked. Job, everything that we have learned and taught about how evil people can prosper for a little time and then total disaster comes down upon them, that is true of you.”

So you have to be careful when you’re reading passages like Eliphaz’ speech and the speeches of Bildad and Zophar. When they seem to be talking in generalities, in fact they are really talking about Job. Notice, for example, chapter 5, verse 4: “His children are far from safety, crushed in court without a defender.” Children far from safety. What happened to Job’s children? They were all slaughtered, they all got killed. “Crushed in court without a defender.” Literally, that seems to imply they will be taken into court, they will be sued, they will have to go before a court and they will lose. More metaphorically, it is the fact that God is not there to defend them; that when trials come upon them, God won’t help them. What Eliphaz really is saying is, “Job, look, this happened to you. Therefore, you are a fool. You are a wicked man and all of this stuff came upon you.”

Verses 6 and 7 are quite difficult. It says, once again in the NIV, “For hardship does not spring from the soil, nor does trouble sprout from the ground. Yet man is born to trouble as surely as the sparks fly upward.” The Hebrew of this text is quite obscure and there is a specific difficulty in it. Let me give you an alternative translation. Let me read this to you: “For misery does not come from the ground, nor does trouble sprout from the ground. For humanity is born to trouble and the sons of Resheph mount up in arrogance.” In those translations in verse 7 that is translated “the sparks fly upward” the word is Resheph in Hebrew, or the full expression, sons of Resheph, [speaking Hebrew]. Resheph was actually a Canaanite god and he was the god of pestilence. The term could possibly be used for sparks in such things as that; but many interpreters believe that is not the point here. It could be that the sons of Resheph, the sons of this god of pestilence, are to be understood as wicked people. We have in Hebrew the expression, “sons of Belial.” If you have ever read the Old Testament in the King James Version, you have seen that expression, “sons of Belial.” In modern translations it isusually rendered something like, “wicked people” or something along that line. But it literally is “sons of Belial;” and I think “sons of Resheph” are probably the same thing. The sons of Resheph who come up are wicked people. They are vile people. They are evil people. In the revised translation that I have given you, misery does not come from the earth, nor does trouble sprout up from the ground. It means, trouble does not just happen by accident, it doesn’t just spring up out of nowhere. Rather, humanity is born to trouble. The word “trouble” there can mean not only trouble in the sense of bad things happening to you, but bad behavior. People are kind of born to be bad and born to have bad things happen to them. Then he says – and again, the translation of the Hebrew is difficult, but I would suggest it means – the sons of Resheph (that is to say, wicked people) mount up in arrogance.

So what I think Eliphaz is saying is, “Wicked people are coming up all the time, people who are arrogant, people who defy God, people who assume nothing
wrong will ever happen to them.” What he is saying is, “Bad things don’t just happen by accident. They happen because people are so evil, people are so
twisted.” Then he says, chapter 5, verses 8-16: “Turn to God, who is unfailingly good. If I were you, I would appeal to God. I would lay my cause before Him. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted. He provides rain for the earth. He sends water on the countryside. The lonely he sets on high and those who mourn are mounted up to safety. He thwarts the plans of the crafty, so their hands have no success. He catches the wise in their craftiness and the schemes of their ways will be swept away. Darkness comes upon them in daytime, at noon they grope as in the night. He saves the needy from the sword of their mouth; he saves them from the clutches of the powerful; so the poor have hope and injustice shuts its mouth.”

What Eliphaz says here, is it true? Yes, it is true. God is powerful. He is the One who sends the rain. God does see all that is done in the earth. God does care about the poor. God does punish the evil. All of that is true and nothing Eliphaz says here is problematic of itself. What is wrong? What is wrong is, it doesn’t fit this case. Job is not a wicked man who is being punished.

What I am wanting you to see thus far: There are things Eliphaz says that are completely true, but misapplied. There are other things he says that are a little bit off; and in a moment we are going to see where he says something that is completely wrong. He calls for Job to repent and I want you to notice, in a strange way, what he predicts will happen, but not as he predicts it. He predicts that if Job turns to God, that everything will go well, God will heal him and his life will be good again. Well, God will meet Job. Job will have a confrontation with God; and at the end of it all, Job will be healed. Job’s suffering will come to an end. He will have his property restored. He will have children again. His life will be good again. All that Eliphaz predicts in that sense is correct. But it is ironic because it doesn’t happen the way he expects. He expects Job to repent of some sin. What Job instead does is come to a new understanding and the person who is in trouble at the end of all of this is Eliphaz.

Thus, he concludes with something that I think we could all agree with. Those whom God loves he reproves and they in turn have happiness. So we read,
“Blessed is the one whom God corrects, and so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.” Just like Hebrews says: “Those whom God loves he chastises.” That is true, that is correct. Again, Eliphaz is saying things that are correct, but he is misapplying the situation. Verse 18: “He wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal. From six calamities he will rescue you; in seven no harm will touch you.” He speaks again of how Job will have complete freedom from suffering. “You will be protected,” verse 21, “from the lash of the tongue and need not fear when destruction comes. You will laugh at destruction and famine and need not fear the wild animals, for you will have a covenant with the stones of the field, the wild animals will be at peace with you. You will know your tent is secure and will take stock of your property, find nothing missing. You will know that your children will be many, your descendants will be like the grass of the earth. You will come to the grave in full vigor, like the sheaves gathered in season.”

Once again, amazingly everything he predicts here in a sense will come true, but not as he predicts it. There is something else, though. What Eliphaz says is in a sense true, but in a sense goes a bit too far. Is it really correct that those who fear God have no anxiety at all about something going wrong with their lives? That every time disaster strikes, that they can just laugh at it and think nothing of it. It is true that God cares for his people, that God watches over them. It is true, as the psalmist says: “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen those who fear God begging bread.” That is all correct, that is all true. But he makes it sound like, if you just believe in God and obey what he says, your life will be absolutely blissful. You will have no problems at all. That is a distortion of what God promises.

God promises to walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death. He does not promise we will never have to walk through the valley. He does not promise that we will never have times when we are suffering greatly. If nothing else, we can look to Jesus, who suffered enormously, though he was perfectly righteous. And the life of Paul, who as God’s servant, who as the apostle to the Gentiles, gave his total life over to the service of God and yet gives us in the New Testament a whole list of all of the terrible things he suffered and his misery and his anxiety and his concerns and his worries. So it is simply not true that those who are righteous have no troubles, that disaster never strikes them, that they are never afraid, that they are never worried or distressed.

So Eliphaz has taken, again, something which is essentially right and good, and has gone too far with it. What we have seen thus far then in the speech of Eliphaz is that he began very tactfully. He intended to do good. He didn’t come to afflict Job. He does see Job as genuinely one of the fools, one of the wicked. He believes Job has been afflicted by God for some sin. He rightly speaks of the justice of God, though in this case he misapplies it; and he exaggerates how the righteous live, saying that they never have trouble, they never have fear and anxiety.

We have seen thus far in all of these elements of Eliphaz’ speech, things that are true, things that are partly true, things that are misapplied, things that are a little troubling in his accusation of Job. But the most important thing in this speech, the thing that really will carry through the entire book of Job is what Eliphaz says about the night spirit. That is what we will look at in our next lecture.