Deception vs True Discernment in Job 4-5

by | Jun 13, 2021 | Bible Study | 0 comments

In Job chapters 4-5, we hear a new voice in Job’s story. Job 1 sets the stage for what is going on behind the scenes and we learn of how tragedy befalls Job. In chapter 2, Job’s misfortunes continue, not only does he lose everything that he has, but he is now stricken personally.

In chapter 4, Job expresses his feelings. We learn that he is at his lowest point:  emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. He has cried out to God … and there is no answer. Job is in the dark night of the soul.

Beginning in chapter 4, we hear the first input of Job’s friends. Eliphaz the Temanite gives both advice and an opinion on why Job is in the situation that he is. The name Eliphaz means “my God is strength” or “my God is fine gold” and this image is God is reflected in Eliphaz’s advice.[1] As we will see with almost all of the commentary of Job’s friends, Eliphaz’s advice is somewhat of a mixed bag. In this first address, we will see that it is mostly good.

Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied to Job:

2 “Will you be patient and let me say a word?
For who could keep from speaking out?

Here Eliphaz almost seems as if he is interrupting Job. Job is pouring out his heart, and Eliphaz essentially tells him to hush up and let him talk. The book of Job is not only about the problem of evil, but also about relationships. As I mentioned in the bible study on Job 3 and the dark night of the soul, we have to give credit to Job’s friends for being there. Job had been the wealthiest and most influential man around and I’m sure that wealth and influence attracted many friends. But we see that only three of those friends came to Job in his time of need.

The friends did well in coming to Job and comforting him in his grief, but even so, we see the very humanness in their responses. When Job breaks his silence, Eliphaz can hardly wait to put his two cents in. Very likely, he had been working out the “why’s” during those seven days when he sat there and said nothing. As soon as Job broke his silence, Eliphaz was ready to expound.

As we will see in the following passage, he doesn’t begin with questions. He doesn’t ask Job the circumstances that led up to this. Sometimes we are the same way, we don’t listen so much as we simply wait for an opportunity for us to say what we want to say.

3 “In the past you have encouraged many people;
you have strengthened those who were weak.
4 Your words have supported those who were falling;
you encouraged those with shaky knees.
5 But now when trouble strikes, you lose heart.
You are terrified when it touches you.
6 Doesn’t your reverence for God give you confidence?
Doesn’t your life of integrity give you hope?

Eliphaz begins by reminding Job how many times he had comforted others who were going through similar situations and turns his words back on him. Job had told others to keep the faith, but when he himself was in the same situation, he was ready to go to the grave and thought the dead were better off than he was.

The commentary of the NET study Bible characterize Eliphaz’s advice in this way:

The speech of Eliphaz can be broken down into three main sections. In 4:1-11, he wonders that Job who had comforted so many people in trouble, and who was so pious, should fall into such despair, forgetting he great truth that the righteous never perish under affliction—calamity only destroys the wicked. Then in 4:12-5-7 Eliphaz tries to warn Job about complaining against God because only the ungodly resent the dealings of God and by their impatience bring down his wrath upon them. Finally in 5:8-27 Eliphaz appeals to Job to follow a different course, to seek after God, for only God smites to heal or to correct, to draw people to himself and away from evil. (Job Chapter 4, Note R)

Eliphaz’s words are bracing and he doesn’t pull any punches. In this, I think he was speaking true words to Job. He was essentially telling Job, “It’s time for your faith to proof.

The NET Study Bible notes:

Job had been successful at helping others not be crushed by the weight of trouble and misfortune. It is easier to help others than to preserve a proper perspective when one’s self is afflicted. (Job Chapter 4, Note E)

7 “Stop and think! Do the innocent die?
When have the upright been destroyed?
8 My experience shows that those who plant trouble
and cultivate evil will harvest the same.
9 A breath from God destroys them.
They vanish in a blast of his anger.
10 The lion roars and the wildcat snarls,
but the teeth of strong lions will be broken.
11 The fierce lion will starve for lack of prey,
and the cubs of the lioness will be scattered.

Here is where Eliphaz begins to go off track. He insinuates that Job in some way brought on his troubles. This stanza seems to imply that Eliphaz’s reference to Job’s integrity might have been sarcastic.

Believe Not Every Spirit

12 “This truth was given to me in secret,
as though whispered in my ear.
13 It came to me in a disturbing vision at night,
when people are in a deep sleep.
14 Fear gripped me,
and my bones trembled.
15 A spirit swept past my face,
and my hair stood on end.
16 The spirit stopped, but I couldn’t see its shape.
There was a form before my eyes.
In the silence I heard a voice say,
17 ‘Can a mortal be innocent before God?
Can anyone be pure before the Creator?’

18 “If God does not trust his own angels
and has charged his messengers with foolishness,
19 how much less will he trust people made of clay!
They are made of dust, crushed as easily as a moth.
20 They are alive in the morning but dead by evening,
gone forever without a trace.
21 Their tent-cords are pulled and the tent collapses,
and they die in ignorance.

Eliphaz credits his insight into the situation as one that came to him through revelation by a supernatural message in a nightmare, “a disturbing vision at night.”

In 1 John 4-1, the apostle warned believers, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” John may have been warning against the Gnostic heresy that sprang up early in the church, but his warning is applicable regardless of the time: beware of deceiving spirits.

This nighttime messenger of Eliphaz seems to be of the demonic or fallen angel variety. How can we tell this?

  1. Eliphaz’s response to the presence. While we are given accounts of people being awed by encounters with holy angelic messengers, the angel’s first words are to reassure and allay fears. That is not the case with Eliphaz’s visitor.
  2. A true message of God always ends in hope and the promise of restoration if one repents, even and especially when a dire prophecy is given. This messenger claims that there is no hope for redemption saying, “Can a mortal be innocent before God?” Can anyone be pure before the Creator? No, not on their own … but God promises to make a way.
  3. The biggest tip-off that Eliphaz’s messenger is not of God is that this being is that the messenger is condemning and dismissive of mankind as a whole. Yes, David does write in his Psalm, “who is man that thou are mindful of him, and the Son of man that you consider him;” however, that Psalm is one of wonder that God does have such great love and consideration for his human [1] Also, Psalm 8 also declares that God has made man, “a little lower than the angels” and “crowned him with glory and honor.”

The one true part of the being’s message is that life is short and fragile.

Regardless, Eliphaz believes he has this inside scoop thanks to this visitor and frames his opinion and advice to Job based on that.

Cry Out to God

“Cry for help, but will anyone answer you?
Which of the angels will help you?
2 Surely resentment destroys the fool,
and jealousy kills the simple.
3 I have seen that fools may be successful for the moment,
but then comes sudden disaster.
4 Their children are abandoned far from help;
they are crushed in court with no one to defend them.
5 The hungry devour their harvest,
even when it is guarded by brambles.
The thirsty pant after their wealth.
6 But evil does not spring from the soil,
and trouble does not sprout from the earth.
7 People are born for trouble
as readily as sparks fly up from a fire.

Here we see that Eliphaz really does have a good understanding of the goodness and righteousness of God; however, he is assuming that he sees the whole picture and that there is something in Job’s actions that brought it about.

8 “If I were you, I would go to God
and present my case to him.
9 He does great things too marvelous to understand.
He performs countless miracles.
10 He gives rain for the earth
and water for the fields.
11 He gives prosperity to the poor
and protects those who suffer.
12 He frustrates the plans of schemers
so the work of their hands will not succeed.
13 He traps the wise in their own cleverness
so their cunning schemes are thwarted.
14 They find it is dark in the daytime,
and they grope at noon as if it were night.
15 He rescues the poor from the cutting words of the strong,
and rescues them from the clutches of the powerful.
16 And so at last the poor have hope,
and the snapping jaws of the wicked are shut.

However, mixed in with this basic false assumption, Eliphaz does give Job some good advice. He tells Job not to be bitter or resentful and to cry out to God because only God alone can help him.

17 “But consider the joy of those corrected by God!
Do not despise the discipline of the Almighty when you sin.
18 For though he wounds, he also bandages.
He strikes, but his hands also heal.
19 From six disasters he will rescue you;
even in the seventh, he will keep you from evil.
20 He will save you from death in time of famine,
from the power of the sword in time of war.
21 You will be safe from slander
and have no fear when destruction comes.
22 You will laugh at destruction and famine;
wild animals will not terrify you.
23 You will be at peace with the stones of the field,
and its wild animals will be at peace with you.
24 You will know that your home is safe.
When you survey your possessions, nothing will be missing.
25 You will have many children;
your descendants will be as plentiful as grass!
26 You will go to the grave at a ripe old age,
like a sheaf of grain harvested at the proper time!
27 “We have studied life and found all this to be true.
Listen to my counsel, and apply it to yourself.”

Everything that Eliphaz says in this stanza is absolutely true and confirmed in other passages of scripture. God does discipline those that he loves. (Psalm 94:12, Psalm 118:18, Proverbs 3:11-12, Jeremiah 30:11, Jeremiah 46:28, Hebrews 12:3-11) He does save from disasters and keep people safe. A long life is a blessing and reward from God. But again, Eliphaz is not seeing the whole picture.

There is much that Eliphaz says in these two chapters that is true; but it isn’t all true. It is a reminder that no matter how authoritative the source, we must always test it for truth. And not only for bits of truth, but that is wholly true.

That is what true discernment is, being able to tell what is true from what is false, even when the good is mixed in with the bad. Truth doesn’t stop being true, even when falsehood slips in alongside of it, which is why so often Satan mixes some of God’s truth in with his lies. If a thing was wholly untrue, it would be easily recognized and disregarded. But if there are some things that are true, then it is harder to discredit the rest.

We have to practice “testing the spirit.” We have to become so familiar with what God’s truth looks, feels, and acts like, that anything other than his truth is rejected by our spirit immediately.

Read God’s word. Spend time in prayer and praise him for his goodness.

[1] Psalm 8:4-8.


This Bible study is part of A Study of Job (2021)


Endnotes

[1] “Eliphaz – Holman Bible Dictionary -,” StudyLight.Org, accessed June 10, 2021, //www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/e/eliphaz.html.