1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said:
2 “Can a man be profitable to God?
Surely he who is wise is profitable to himself.
3 Is it any pleasure to the Almighty if you are in the right,
or is it gain to him if you make your ways blameless?
4 Is it for your fear of him that he reproves you
and enters into judgment with you?
5 Is not your evil abundant?
There is no end to your iniquities.
6 For you have exacted pledges of your brothers for nothing
and stripped the naked of their clothing.
7 You have given no water to the weary to drink,
and you have withheld bread from the hungry.
8 The man with power possessed the land,
and the favored man lived in it.
9 You have sent widows away empty,
and the arms of the fatherless were crushed.
10 Therefore snares are all around you,
and sudden terror overwhelms you,
11 or darkness, so that you cannot see,
and a flood of water covers you.
12 “Is not God high in the heavens?
See the highest stars, how lofty they are!
13 But you say, ‘What does God know?
Can he judge through the deep darkness?
14 Thick clouds veil him, so that he does not see,
and he walks on the vault of heaven.’
15 Will you keep to the old way
that wicked men have trod?
16 They were snatched away before their time;
their foundation was washed away.
17 They said to God, ‘Depart from us,’
and ‘What can the Almighty do to us?’
18 Yet he filled their houses with good things—
but the counsel of the wicked is far from me.
19 The righteous see it and are glad;
the innocent one mocks at them,
20 saying, ‘Surely our adversaries are cut off,
and what they left the fire has consumed.’
21 “Agree with God, and be at peace;
thereby good will come to you.
22 Receive instruction from his mouth,
and lay up his words in your heart.
23 If you return to the Almighty you will be built up;
if you remove injustice far from your tents,
24 if you lay gold in the dust,
and gold of Ophir among the stones of the torrent-bed,
25 then the Almighty will be your gold
and your precious silver.
26 For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty
and lift up your face to God.
27 You will make your prayer to him, and he will hear you,
and you will pay your vows.
28 You will decide on a matter, and it will be established for you,
and light will shine on your ways.
29 For when they are humbled you say, ‘It is because of pride’;
but he saves the lowly.
30 He delivers even the one who is not innocent,
who will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.” – Job 22:1-30 ESV
It doesn’t take long for Eliphaz to jump back into the mix, responding to Job with his signature blend of sarcasm and sardonic wit. Openly disgusted with Job’s incessant claims of righteousness and innocence, Eliphaz not only maintains his belief in Job’s guilt but now insinuates that his entire life has been an elaborate cover-up. He accuses Job of trying to pull a fast one on God.
“God is so great—higher than the heavens,
higher than the farthest stars.
But you reply, ‘That’s why God can’t see what I am doing!
How can he judge through the thick darkness?
For thick clouds swirl about him, and he cannot see us.
He is way up there, walking on the vault of heaven.’” – Job 22:12-14 NLT
He confidently asserts that Job has spent his entire life pretending to be something other than what he truly was. He had lived the life of a hypocrite, giving off the aura of a godly man while practicing wickedness behind closed doors. This is a serious accusation and one that Eliphaz fails to back up with any evidence. In Eliphaz’s eyes, Job is guilty until proven innocent.
In the opening line of his speech, Eliphaz ridicules the very idea that Job was a righteous man, claiming that even if he was, God would not be beholden to him in any way. According to Eliphaz’s theology, God doesn’t need help from anyone, including the righteous.
“Can a person do anything to help God?
Can even a wise person be helpful to him?
Is it any advantage to the Almighty if you are righteous?
Would it be any gain to him if you were perfect?” – Job 22:2-3 NLT
Of course, the obvious answer to his question is, “No.” God does need man’s help. He does not require our input or assistance. Even the righteous provide no real benefit to God Almighty. But while this may be true, it does not accurately reflect God’s view of the righteous and godly.
David paints a much more optimistic view of God’s relationship with the righteous.
…the Lord is in his holy Temple;
the Lord still rules from heaven.
He watches everyone closely,
examining every person on earth.
The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked.
He hates those who love violence.
He will rain down blazing coals and burning sulfur on the wicked,
punishing them with scorching winds.
For the righteous Lord loves justice.
The virtuous will see his face. – Psalm 11:4-7 NLT
For the Lord loves justice,
and he will never abandon the godly.
He will keep them safe forever,
but the children of the wicked will die. – Psalm 37:28 NLT
Yet Eliphaz won’t even admit that Job is righteous. In his mind, it made no sense to view Job as godly and guiltless.
“Is it because you’re so pious that he accuses you
and brings judgment against you?
No, it’s because of your wickedness!
There’s no limit to your sins.” – Job 22:4-5 NLT
That was the only logical conclusion Eliphaz could come to, and nothing would sway him from that view. No amount of denial on Job’s part would convince Eliphaz to reconsider his position or back down from his relentless attacks. He would not be satisfied until Job confessed or God completed His punishment by taking Job’s life.
His entire argument is based on conjecture. He offers no concrete evidence of Job’s guilt but doesn’t seem to think any is necessary. He just assumes that Job’s suffering is evidence enough.
“For example, you must have lent money to your friend
and demanded clothing as security.
Yes, you stripped him to the bone.
You must have refused water for the thirsty
and food for the hungry.” – Job 22:6-7 NLT
Eliphaz’s entire prosecution strategy is based on an if-then premise. If Job was suffering, then he must have done something to make God angry. His hypothesis that Job was guilty was built on a shaky foundation of conditional statements. The circumstances surrounding Job’s life were proof that he had sinned against God. It didn’t seem to matter to Eliphaz that he had no proof of Job’s suppositional guilt.
“You must have sent widows away empty-handed
and crushed the hopes of orphans.
That is why you are surrounded by traps
and tremble from sudden fears.
That is why you cannot see in the darkness,
and waves of water cover you.” – Job 22:9-11 NLT
It was all so black and white to Eliphaz. His conclusion was the only one that made any sense to him. And the longer Job defended himself, the more Eliphaz wished for his downfall. He was becoming increasingly more volatile in his attacks and anxious to see himself proven to be right. He even infers that Job’s inevitable destruction will bring him great joy.
“The righteous will be happy to see the wicked destroyed,
and the innocent will laugh in contempt.” – Job 22:19 NLT
But then he softens his stance, in an attempt to portray himself as a loving and compassionate friend. He pleads with Job to confess and repent. It’s not too late. If Job will only drop his charade of righteous indignation and admit that he is all Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar have claimed him to be, he can experience forgiveness and healing. In other words, Eliphaz tells Job to simply shut up, give up, and own up to his sins.
“Submit to God, and you will have peace;
then things will go well for you.
Listen to his instructions,
and store them in your heart.
If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored—
so clean up your life.” – Job 22:21-23 NLT
Hidden in the somewhat empathetic-sounding rhetoric of this statement is Eliphaz’s belief that he is speaking on behalf of God. He is the one whom God is using to “instruct” the wayward and stubbornly sinful Job. If Job will only listen to what Eliphaz and his friends have to say, he will be restored to a right relationship with God. They are the key to Job’s restoration.
But there is one more thing that Job will have to do. He will have to clean up his act and give up all his wicked ways. According to Eliphaz, Job was a gluttonous materialist whose love of money had led him to commit all kinds of unjust and ungodly crimes. If he would only repent of his love affair with money and materialism, Job could see an end to his suffering and pain. At least, that was how Eliphaz saw it.
This led Eliphaz to make Job an attractive and difficult-to-resist offer. If Job would only admit his guilt, he could be on the pathway to righteousness and restoration.
“Then you will take delight in the Almighty
and look up to God.
You will pray to him, and he will hear you,
and you will fulfill your vows to him.
You will succeed in whatever you choose to do,
and light will shine on the road ahead of you.” – Job 22:26-28 NLT
Once again, there is an element of truth in what Eliphaz has to say. His words align with those of the apostle John.
…if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. – 1 John 1:9 NLT
The Proverbs of Solomon also support Eliphaz’s conclusion.
People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy. – Proverbs 28:13 NLT
But the problem was that Eliphaz was assuming guilt when he had no right or authority to do so. He and his two companions were playing God. Ever since their arrival in Uz, they had done nothing but condemn their friend for having sinned against God, with nothing to prove their assertion except circumstantial and unsubstantiated evidence of wrongdoing. Yet, they were right, God does forgive sinners. He can and will restore the repentant. But they had no proof that Job was a sinner in need of repentance. They had assumed the worst and pronounced Job as guilty based on nothing more than their opinions and observations. And in time, God will rebuke them for their insensitivity and insufferable arrogance.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.