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Eliphaz: Innocent Do Not Suffer Eliphaz: Job Has Sinned First Discourse of Eliphaz
The First Dialogue
Confidence in God
4:1 4:1 4:1-6

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. This is the first response to Job's lament/dirge in Job 3.


B. Eliphaz highlights Job's help/encouragement to others (cf. Job 29:12-25).

1. you admonished many, Job 4:3a

2. you have strengthened weak hands, Job 4:3b

3. you have helped the tottering to stand, Job 4:4a

4. you have strengthened feeble knees, Job 4:4b


C. Eliphaz makes two assertions about Job.

1. when problems come to Job he becomes impatient (or "weary") and dismayed

2. Job's hope is

a. in God (his fear/reverence)

b. in his integrity (Job 4:6)


D. Eliphaz denies Job's claims of integrity because the truly righteous never suffer (Job 4:7-11; this is based on "the two ways" theology of Leviticus 26; Deut. 30:15,19; Psalm 1).


E. The next strophe (Job 4:12-21) suggests that all creation sins and is disciplined by God (angels and humans). The judgment on humans is their mortality and lack of understanding (i.e., wisdom, Job 4:21).


F. As a Bible teacher, it is important for me to be reminded how little I really know. Yes, I have the Spirit and revelation, but often our theology is molded more by denominational dogma, personal experience, or personal preference. Eliphaz did not speak a false word, he spoke a half-word! We must be careful of "theological correctness." Only God knows the big picture. The three friends love Job, but love their traditional understanding of God more. People are priority! Faith and faithfulness trump "human doctrine."



 1Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered,

4:1-6 The first strophe sets the stage for the assertions in the next two strophes (Job 4:7-11,12-21).

4:1 "Temanite" I assume this refers to "Teman," a city in Edom (i.e., a place known for "wisdom," cf. Jer. 49:7). Neither Job nor his friends are Israelites but they know about YHWH. They reflect the theology of the covenant of Moses.

 2"If one ventures a word with you, will you become impatient?
 But who can refrain from speaking?
 3Behold you have admonished many,
 And you have strengthened weak hands.
 4Your words have helped the tottering to stand,
 And you have strengthened feeble knees.
 5But now it has come to you, and you are impatient;
 It touches you, and you are dismayed.
 6Is not your fear of God your confidence,
 And the integrity of your ways your hope?"

4:2 "ventures" This verb (BDB 650, KB 702, Piel perfect) basically means "to test" or "to try." It is also translated "venture" in Deut. 28:56. Eliphaz's words were meant as a challenge to Job's remarks in Job 3, especially about wanting to die instead of wanting to repent and be restored.

▣ "will you become impatient" This verb (BDB 521, KB 512, Qal imperfect) denotes "a tiredness" (cf. Job 4:5a). It is

1. a polite way of asking permission to confront Job on his strong comments of Job 3 (i.e., "who can refrain from speaking," Job 4:2b)

2. a way of asking if Job is too sick or too tired to dialogue


4:3 "you have admonished many" This verb (BDB 415, KB 418, Piel perfect) has the connotation of

1. "discipline," "instruct," "admonish." Eliphaz is using it in a negative sense. You corrected others with problems but you cannot handle your own admonishments!

2. from an Aramaic root "to strengthen" (i.e., used in a positive sense). Interpreters cannot read Eliphaz's mind and know his motives.

Job will later give a list of who he helped (Job 29).

1. the poor, Job 29:12a

2. orphans, Job 29:12b

3. those near death, Job 29:13a

4. the widow, Job 29:13b

5. the blind, Job 29:15a

6. the lame, Job 29:15b

7. the needy, Job 29:16a

8. the falsely accused, Job 29:16b

These are the types of people Deuteronomy encourages faithful followers to help.

4:5 "it has come to you" The "it" must be hard times, social reversal, physical illness, emotional distress, etc.

▣ "dismayed" This verb (BDB 96, KB 111, Niphal imperfect with waw) denotes a disturbed spirit (cf. Job 21:6; 23:15). In the Piel it denotes "terror" (cf. Job 22:10).

4:6 "confidence" This noun (BDB 493) is used only twice in the OT (here and in Ps. 85:8). Eliphaz is making a true statement when he says that Job's reverent trust in God (implied) is his confidence. Eliphaz adds to this that Job's sense of blamelessness before God (lit. his integrity, BDB 1070, cf. Gen. 20:5,6; 1 Kgs. 9:4; Ps. 7:8; 41:12; 78:72; 101:6; Pro. 10:9; 19:1; 20:7; 28:6; integrity denotes the positive inner feeling one has about how he/she has lived out faith/trust in God and His revealed will) is his only hope (BDB 876).

This "confidence" and "hope" are based on

1. his faith in God

2. his actions in helping the poor, needy, and powerless

This verse is Job's first assertion (i.e., through Eliphaz's words; remember, these dialogues are literary productions) that he is an innocent sufferer.

 7"Remember now, who ever perished being innocent?
 Or where were the upright destroyed?
 8According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity
 And those who sow trouble harvest it.
 9By the breath of God they perish,
 And by the blast of His anger they come to an end.
 10The roaring of the lion and the voice of the fierce lion,
 And the teeth of the young lions are broken.
 11The lion perishes for lack of prey,
 And the whelps of the lioness are scattered."

4:7-11 This strophe basically sets the theological stage for the controversy between Job and his three comforters. They truly care for Job (see Job 2:11-13) but they are committed theologically to "the two ways" (i.e., Deut. 30:15,19; Psalm 1) or to put it another way, "we reap what we sow" (i.e., "plow. . .harvest" of Job 4:8; cf. Job 34:11,25; Ps. 28:4; 62:12; Pro. 24:12; Eccl. 12:14; Jer. 17:10; 32:19; Ezek. 33:20; Matt. 16:27; 25:31-46; Rom. 2:6; 14:12; 1 Cor. 3:8; 2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:7-10; 2 Tim. 4:14; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 2:23; 20:12; 22:12). There is certainly truth in this. The theological issue involves the apparent conflict between

1. the merciful, gracious character of God

2. the justice of God

3. the sovereignty of God

4. "the two ways" is always true (i.e., Ps. 37:25,28)

5. the suffering of "innocent" humans

How do these all fit together? They cannot all be true. One or more must be modified, but which one? These questions are why I think the main theological issue of Job is the character of God. Does He deal fairly with humans?

4:7-8 "Remember" This is the only imperative in this chapter. It refers to anecdotal evidence (Job 4:8a) related to "the two ways" (i.e., Job 8:20; 36:6,7; Ps. 37:25).

4:7 "perished. . .destroyed" Since Eliphaz probably would not deny that the righteous suffer, he means that they will not die. Job has expressed his desire to die (Job 3). This is what Eliphaz challenges. If Job would repent he would be restored (i.e., Job 5:17-27).

4:8 The imagery of plowing and harvesting, referring to a life of wickedness, is also seen in Hosea 10:13. This is the essence of "the two ways." Our choices do determine our futures!

The problem is that this general truth cannot explain each and every individual case. The wicked do prosper (cf. Psalm 73) and the innocent do suffer (cf. Gen. 3:15; Psalm 22; Isaiah 53).

4:9 "the breath of God" This phrase (BDB 675 construct BDB 42) picks up on the Hebrew concept of the power of God's spoken word (i.e., Genesis 1; Isa. 55:11; John 1:1). The word of God (or His Messiah) brings guilty humanity its just dues (cf. Job 15:30; Isa. 11:4; 30:28,33; 2 Thess. 2:8; Rev. 2:16; 19:15).

The term "breath" (BDB 675) is not the term ruah (BDB 924), but is a synonym (cf. Job 4:9b). The word used here is used in Gen. 2:7 for God breathing the breath of life into Adam (cf. Job 33:4).

4:10-11 "roaring of the lion" This same word (BDB 980) was used of Job's "groaning" in Job 3:24. Here (Job 4:10-11) the word denotes a powerful animal that has been defeated (i.e., "those who plow iniquity," Job 4:8a, cf. 29:17).

Lions are often used in the OT for enemies. See Special Topic: Lions in the OT.

1. the wicked – Ps. 7:2; 10:9; 17:12; 22:13,21; 35:17; 57:4; 58:6

2. Assyria – Isa. 5:28; Nah. 2:11-13

3. Babylonia – Jer. 4:7; 5:6

4. both #2 and 3 – Jer. 50:17

Notice the number of Hebrew words used to describe a pride of lions.

1. lion – BDB 71

2. a fierce lion – BDB 1006

3. young lions – BDB 498

4. mature lion – BDB 539 I

5. lion whelps – BDB 119

6. lioness – BDB 522


 12"Now a word was brought to me stealthily,
 And my ear received a whisper of it.
 13Amid disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night,
 When deep sleep falls on men,
 14Dread came upon me, and trembling,
 And made all my bones shake.
 15Then a spirit passed by my face;
 The hair of my flesh bristled up.
 16It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance;
 A form was before my eyes;
 There was silence, then I heard a voice:
 17‘Can mankind be just before God?
 Can a man be pure before his Maker?
 18He puts no trust even in His servants;
 And against His angels He charges error.
 19How much more those who dwell in houses of clay,
 Whose foundation is in the dust,
 Who are crushed before the moth!
 20Between morning and evening they are broken in pieces;
 Unobserved, they perish forever.
 21Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them?
 They die, yet without wisdom.'"

4:12-21 This final strophe of Eliphaz's first speech relates to a vision/dream that terrified him.

1. a word was brought to me stealthily

2. my ear received a whisper of it (cf. Job 26:14)

3. amid disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night

4. dread came upon me

5. trembling made all my bones shake

6. a spirit ("ruah," BDB 924, see SPECIAL TOPIC: BREATH, WIND, SPIRIT) passed by my face

7. the hair of my flesh bristled up

The "voice" of Job 4:16 comes from a heavenly source but the speaker is not identified. Eliphaz is claiming a "heavenly" revelation. He is claiming superior knowledge, as does Elihu in Job 32:8.

4:12 "whisper" This noun appears only here and in Job 26:14. It denotes that which is inadequate or partial. NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 182, mentions that based on later Hebrew (i.e., Ecclesiasticus 18:32) it might be translated "fragment."

So, the interpretive question, was the "word" (BDB 182)

1. spoken softly?

2. only partially understood?

Because of 1 Kgs. 19:12, possibly #1, if the revelation is from God (which I think Eliphaz is asserting). Remember, Job's historical setting is

1. patriarchal period

2. non-Israelite

How much knowledge Job and his friends had of the Torah (i.e., Genesis – Deuteronomy) is uncertain. For sure, the later author did know the Torah and puts covenant thought and vocabulary in his poems. The dialogues are literary productions, not verbatim transcripts.

4:17-21 This is a courtroom setting. God is the Judge. The message from "a spirit" deals with the sinfulness of all conscious creatures, humans (i.e., it is uncertain how many verses this message covers, just Job 4:17 or all the way through 4:21). This sinfulness brings death, separation, and destruction.

It is this very issue that causes "the two ways" to be difficult to understand. In one sense, "all" are sinful and deserve judgment (see my notes on Romans 3:19-20,23 online). However, God deals with humans according to their choices! But this is not always the case, as in Psalm 73, the book of Job, and Jesus' words in John 9 (see notes online).

The rabbis, for the most part, do not follow Paul's theology of the significance of Genesis 3 (some do use Genesis 6), but assert the two "yetzers" (i.e., intents or human choices). Is Job suffering because of

1. the sin of Eve and Adam (cf. Rom. 5:12-21)

2. his personal choices to sin

Eliphaz assumes it must be #2.

4:17 There are two ways to view this verse (i.e., how to translate the preposition, see note at Job 32:2).

1. "more than" – NKJV, NIV

2. "before" – NRSV, TEV, NJB, JPSOA, REB, NET

At this point in the speeches, Eliphaz does not yet know that Job claims to be innocent, that he is just, but will asset that God is not just (this is the main theological issue of the book).

▣ "just" This is the term "righteous" (BDB 842, KB 1003, Qal imperfect), which denotes a straightness (see SPECIAL TOPIC: RIGHTEOUSNESS). All the words for "sin" in Hebrew (and Greek) show a deviation from God's holiness.

How can a human (affected by the Fall) be right with God (cf. Job 9:2; 25:4)? If God judges angels (Job 4:18; 15:15), how can a just God forgive a sinful human (cf. Job 15:14,16)? He judges them (cf. Job 4:19-21)!

▣ "pure" This verb (BDB 372, KB 369, Qal imperfect) denotes "not guilty of moral error" or "the removal of guilt" (cf. Lev. 16:30; the Day of Atonement).

▣ "his Maker" This is a Qal active participle (BDB 793, KB 889). In one sense, His creation continues. Initial creation (Genesis 1-2) fashioned the earth, plants, and animals to reproduce and develop.

This verb is used in several senses.

1. God as maker of this planet – Gen. 1:7,16,25; 3:1; Neh. 9:6

a. the sea – Ps. 95:5

b. the stars – Job 9:9

2. of mankind – Gen. 1:26; Job 31:15; Ps. 100:3; 119:73; Pro. 22:2

3. of Israel (i.e., special covenant people) – Deut. 32:6,15

4. all nations – Deut. 26:19

5. a title for Deity – Job 4:17; 32:22; 35:10; 36:3; Ps. 149:2; Pro. 14:31; 17:5; Isa. 17:7

Theologically this affirms "monotheism." See SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM.

4:18b "error" This word (BDB 1012, KB 1691) occurs only here in the OT. There have been two suggestions from cognate languages.

1. Arabic – commit error

2. Ethiopian – wander about aimlessly (KB, "craziness")

It is unclear what the angels are being accused of.

1. error (i.e., Daniel 10)

2. purposelessness

3. rebellion (cf. 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude vv. 6,9)

4. some scholars make an emendation to refer to "folly" (KB 249 III, see UBS Handbook, p. 102, RSV).


4:19 "houses of clay" This phrase goes back to Gen. 2:7, where God forms "Adam" from the red clay (cf. Job 33:6) and breathes life into him. Because of Eve and Adam's rebellion they will die and return to "dust" (cf. Gen. 3:19; Ps. 104:29; Eccl. 3:20; 12:7). Job mentions several times (cf. Job 8:19; 10:9; 34:15; also note Ps. 103:14) that mankind is made from "dust" (BDB 779).

▣ "Who are crushed before the moth" This highly figurative statement seems to relate to the frailty of moths and humans (also note the imagery in Job 8:14).

The frailness of humans is obvious but we must remember, they are a special creation by God, in His image/likeness for fellowship (cf. Gen. 1:26-27). We are broken and weak but we are important to God. See Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.

4:20a "Between morning and evening" A person's life is described as a 24 hour period, one day. This, like Job 4:19, focuses on the frailty of human life (cf. Job 14:1-6) and its limited duration (cf. Job 8:9; Ps. 90:5-6).

4:20b "Unobserved" Michael Dahood suggests an emendation based on Ugaritic grammar that makes this unusual Hebrew phrase in the MT become "nameless, they perish" (cf. AB, pp. 35,38).

4:21 "tent-cord" See Isa. 33:20; 38:12; 2 Cor. 5:1,4 for the same metaphor (anachronism).

▣ "without wisdom" This hints at the summary truth that life is a mystery. How the sovereign, righteous God deals with humans has no definitive answer in revelation. Humans, even "blameless" ones, are

1. without wisdom ([1] knowledge of God, Pro. 1:1-6,7; [2] how to live successfully in light of God's revelation).

2. without knowledge, Job 36:12

Job never understands! His peace comes in trusting God, not in wisdom!


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. How is the Job of chapters 1-2 different from the Job of the poetic section?

2. Does Eliphaz truly care for Job?

3. Does Eliphaz support Job's godly life?

4. What is Job 4:6 asserting about Job?

5. Explain "the two ways."

6. Is Eliphaz claiming a divine revelation for his source of authority?

7. Why is Job 4:17 a crucial text?

8. How do angels commit "error"?

9. Define "wisdom" in Job 4:21.


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