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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Job 5

 

 

Introduction

4-5. First Speech of Eliphaz.—Ch. 3 as a whole means, Why is misfortune? We are now to hear from Job's friends, what the theology of the poet's age had to say on the matter. Eliphaz, who speaks first, is no doubt the eldest of Job's friends. He is the calmest and most considerate in his speech. He is a mystic, who claims for his doctrine the authority of a vision (Job 4:12 f.). The great idea of Eliphaz is the "fear of God," i.e. a reverence very much like that attributed to Job in the Volksbuch.


Verses 1-7

Job 5:1-7 contains the application of the principles just laid down.

Job 5:1-2. If the angels are imperfect, it is no use for Job to appeal to them as intercessors with God. Duhm, following Siegfried, rejects this verse connecting Job 4:21 closely with Job 5:2. The foolish man, he says, means in this context, the man without the fear of God. "A man must be an impious fool, Eliphaz would say, in agreement with the Job of the Volksbuch (Job 2:10), if in misfortune, instead of, like a wise man, feeling his worthlessness and submitting to God, he allows himself to be carried away into rebellion against God and therewith invokes upon himself instant destruction, as Job's wife advised him" (Job 2:9). It must be admitted that this is attractive. But Peake defends the text, arguing that the connexion is only superficially good: "Job 4:21 speaks of the common lot of frail man, Job 5:2 of the destruction of the fool through his own irritation." He gives the following meaning to the passage: "Do not appeal to the angels who cannot help you, and thus draw down the penalty of your exasperation, but commit your cause to the all-powerful omniscient God, who can save you out of your distress." Translate Job 5:2 : "Impatience killeth the foolish one, and the simple one his indignation slayeth." A rebellious impatience is with Eliphaz the sin of sins:

"It shows a will most incorrect to Heaven."

Eliphaz wishes to point out to Job whither his impatience must necessarily lead. He enforces his teaching by examples from his own experience (Job 5:3). He has seen the miserable end of the foolish, and of his children (Job 5:4). The habitation of the foolish decays and his children have no one to stand up for them, but are "crushed in the gate," i.e. overpowered at law (contrast Job 31:21, Psalms 127:5*). The gate is the place of justice, where the elders of the city sit to hear causes. For the precepts implied in 4, that the children suffer for the sin of the father, cf. Exodus 20:5.

Job 5:5-7 are all difficult. The usual explanation of Job 5:5 is that the hungry break through the thorn hedge (Job 1:10) to get at the harvest. This is not very probable; why should they trouble to do this in order to get into the field? (Peake). Perhaps the text is corrupt: the last clause of the verse is also questioned by many scholars. The text, however, seems better than mg. Duhm gets a good sense by the emendation "and the thirsty draws out of their well." Davidson explains Job 5:6 f. as follows: "Eliphaz now sums up into an aphorism the great general principle which he seeks to illustrate in this section of his speech (Job 4:12 to Job 5:7). It is that affliction is not accidental, nor a spontaneous growth of the earth, but men acting upon the impulses of their evil nature bring it upon themselves." According to this explanation Job 5:6 repeats in another form the maxim "they that sow trouble reap the same" (Job 4:8); while the words "man is born unto trouble" mean, "it is his nature through his sin to bring trouble upon himself; evil rises up out of his heart as the sparks fly up out of the flame." It is not, however, really certain that the "sons of flame" or "of lightning" (mg.) are to be understood as the sparks; and it has to be admitted that Davidson's explanation in general reads a good deal into the text which is not clearly expressed in it. A possible view is that the "sons of flame" are the demons, who are here regarded as the ultimate cause of human trouble. The meaning of the two verses must, however, be regarded as in the end uncertain.


Verses 8-27

Job 5:8-27. Eliphaz advises Job to accept the Divine discipline so that God may again show Himself gracious. "As for me," instead of being impatient like a fool, "I would seek unto God" (cf. Job 1:21, Job 2:10).

Job 5:9-16 gives the motive for submission, viz. the omnipotence of God, which is also a reason for hope. God's power is manifest in nature (Job 5:10). He also shows it by the restoration of those who abase themselves (Job 5:11), and equally by crashing the impious (Job 5:12-14).—[Job 5:13 is quoted, 1 Corinthians 3:19*—the only quotation from Job in NT apart, perhaps, from Romans 11:35.]

Job 5:15 f. continues the theme of Job 5:11-14. But in Job 5:15 the text is undoubtedly corrupt. "The usual parallelism is wanting, and the words ‘he saveth the poor from the sword, from their mouth' yield no satisfactory sense" (Peake). Duhm accepts Siegfried's emendation: "He saves from the sword the needy, and from the hand of the mighty the poor."

Job 5:17-26 paints an idyllic picture of the happy condition of the man who submissively accepts the Divine discipline and so is restored to prosperity.

Job 5:17 f. takes us back to Job 5:8. The reason of Divine chastisement is not in some obscure mystery of God's nature (Job's why? Job 3:23), but in man's own sinfulness; it is educational (Proverbs 3:11*). Observe that the poet often puts the name Shaddai (the Almighty) into the mouth of Job and his friends, as a name of God suitable to non-israelites (Joel 1:15*). It is the name by which, according to P, God made Himself known to Abraham (Gren. Job 17:1*) long before the revelation of the name Yahweh (Exodus 6:3), The "six" or "seven" troubles from which Eliphaz promises Job that God will deliver him (Job 5:19) is a round number meaning many or all: so three, four (Proverbs 6:16, Amos 1:3). The wild beasts will not devour Job's flocks, the stones will keep out of his field (Job 5:22 f.). Duhm quotes in illustration the couplet: "vom Acker, den sein Pflug berhrte, schwand das Gestein, als obs der Wind entfhrte." The idea of a sympathy between man and nature is often expressed in the OT, e.g. Psalms 104, but especially belongs to the picture of the Messianic age (Isaiah 11:6-9; Isaiah 65:21-25). The climax of blessings promised to Job is that he shall have a large posterity, and die in a ripe old age (Job 5:25 f.) [An interesting theological point in connexion with Job 5:26 is that death is here conceived not as the punishment of sin, but merely as the natural close of life. In general the OT is not governed by Genesis 33, as are the later Judaism and the NT. The true OT idea is rather that a premature death is the punishment of sin (Psalms 55:23).] Eliphaz concludes his speech (Job 5:27) by bidding Job lay to heart the truth which it contains.

The first speech of Eliphaz is a literary masterpiece; yet how out of touch with facts it is! "Eliphaz does not perceive that he is stating a mere doctrine; he has, like the vast majority of both cultured and uncultured men, continually found in life his own opinions confirmed, because he has always presupposed them, and has finally taken them for experiences" (Duhm). Thus he cannot enter into Job's problem. His prejudices prevent him from understanding his friend's perplexity. To Eliphaz it is as plain as the sun in heaven that affliction is due to human sin, and Job's questionings about God seem simply impious. Hence, with the best intentions in the world, he fails in sympathy; and the psalm-like conclusion (Job 5:17-27), in spite of its beauty, can in Job's circumstances only be an irony.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Job 5:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/job-5.html. 1919.

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