When Good Friends Give Bad Advice

1 “Call now; is there anyone who will answer you?
    To which of the holy ones will you turn?
Surely vexation kills the fool,
    and jealousy slays the simple.
I have seen the fool taking root,
    but suddenly I cursed his dwelling.
His children are far from safety;
    they are crushed in the gate,
    and there is no one to deliver them.
The hungry eat his harvest,
    and he takes it even out of thorns,
    and the thirsty pant after his wealth.
For affliction does not come from the dust,
    nor does trouble sprout from the ground,
but man is born to trouble
    as the sparks fly upward.

“As for me, I would seek God,
    and to God would I commit my cause,
who does great things and unsearchable,
    marvelous things without number:
10 he gives rain on the earth
    and sends waters on the fields;
11 he sets on high those who are lowly,
    and those who mourn are lifted to safety.
12 He frustrates the devices of the crafty,
    so that their hands achieve no success.
13 He catches the wise in their own craftiness,
    and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end.
14 They meet with darkness in the daytime
    and grope at noonday as in the night.
15 But he saves the needy from the sword of their mouth
    and from the hand of the mighty.
16 So the poor have hope,
    and injustice shuts her mouth.– Job 5:1-16 ESV

Assumptions can be dangerous things, especially when it comes to spiritual matters. And while Eliphaz thought he was doing his beleaguered friend a service, his lengthy and unsolicited counseling session was based solely on his own opinion about Job’s plight. From his theological vantage point, it appeared as if Job had done something to anger God. There could be no other explanation. After all, Job had been blessed beyond belief, a sure sign of God’s favor. He had a large family and his adult children had done well with their lives. Job had also built a prosperous agricultural operation that made him “the richest person in that entire area” (Job 1:3 NLT). And then suddenly, as if out of nowhere, Job had lost it all, including his health.

Like a forensic investigator, Eliphaz examined the evidence and came to the conclusion that his friend had committed some highly egregious sin that resulted in God’s judgment. In his attempt to explain Job’s horrific downfall, Eliphaz concluded that there must have been some heinous transgression hidden in his past. Job’s sins had caught up with him.

Eliphaz is so convinced that his assumptions are correct that he challenges Job to call on the “holy ones” to come to his defense. In a casebook display of insensitivity, Eliphaz questions his friend’s innocence and callously claims that even the angels would fail to listen to his cries or come to his aid. They would refuse to act as witnesses on his behalf or plead his case to God.

In one of the most blatant displays of over-confident self-righteousness, Eliphaz boldly asserts that Job is a fool.

“Surely resentment destroys the fool,
    and jealousy kills the simple.
I have seen that fools may be successful for the moment,
    but then comes sudden disaster. – Job 5:2-3 NLT

Eliphaz has the audacity to claim that the fate of Job’s children was his own fault.

“Their children are abandoned far from help;
    they are crushed in court with no one to defend them.” – Job 5:4 NLT

Eliphaz’s assertions are far from subtle and anything but encouraging. He lobs his so-called truth bombs like hand grenades, showing no regard for Job’s feelings and demonstrating no awareness that his assumptions might be wrong. He had reached his conclusions and there was no turning back. But Eliphaz’s rush to judgment was both unwise and unwarranted. There were things he didn’t know. There were details about Job’s story of which he was ignorant and uninformed. Yet, he felt confident enough to declare his friend guilty and to label him a fool.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed the issue of murder as it relates to the Mosaic Law.

“You have heard that it was said to an older generation, ‘Do not murder,’ and ‘whoever murders will be subjected to judgment.’ But I say to you that anyone who is angry with a brother will be subjected to judgment. And whoever insults a brother will be brought before the council, and whoever says ‘Fool’ will be sent to fiery hell.” – Matthew 5:21-22 NET

He rightly declared that the Law prescribed judgment for the act of murder. But then He added an interesting addendum, declaring that anger itself was tantamount to committing murder. Hatred was the breeding ground from which murder sprang forth.

Then He took His interpretation of the Law one step further by stating that to insult someone was also an act worthy of judgment. Jesus uses the word “raca,” a term that was derived from the Aramaic word reqa. It was an insult that is best translated as “empty-headed” and was used to refer to someone’s stupidity or mental inferiority. It was a highly derogatory expression and Jesus warns that its use to devalue another human being was deserving of the severest punishment of the Law. And then He adds one more eye-opening insight into the true meaning behind the command, “You shall not kill.”

“…whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. – Matthew 5:22b ESV

According to Jesus, Eliphaz was walking on thin ice. He had taken it upon himself to act as Job’s judge and render a guilty verdict – all without input or approval from God.

Eliphaz’s arrogance is truly mind-boggling. He’s so confident in his assertions that he talks to his friend like he’s a child, reminding him that evil doesn’t just happen; it has a source.

“…evil does not spring from the soil,
    and trouble does not sprout from the earth.
People are born for trouble
    as readily as sparks fly up from a fire.” – Job 5:6-7 NLT

Eliphaz not only has an explanation for Job’s sorry state but he also has a solution.

“If I were you, I would go to God
    and present my case to him.
He does great things too marvelous to understand.
    He performs countless miracles. – Job 5:8-9 NLT

But this advice reeks of sarcasm. It is almost as if Eliphaz knows that Job is going to deny his guilt and declare his innocence. So, he challenges Job to present his case to Yahweh. What appears to be a sincere recommendation that Job turn to God for help is really a thinly veiled and sarcasm-laced statement of Job’s guilt. Eliphaz isn’t hiding his belief that Job has brought all of this on himself. He even warns Job that God ”frustrates the plans of schemers so the work of their hands will not succeed. He traps the wise in their own cleverness so their cunning schemes are thwarted” (Job 5:12-13 NLT).

Eliphaz told Job that he was more than welcome to take bring his case before God, but he would find Yahweh to be anything but accommodating or forgiving. In Eliphaz’s mind, Job was nothing more than a clever schemer who had fooled everyone but God with his convincing holier-than-thou lifestyle.

Eliphaz seems to have reached the conclusion that Job had somehow used his wealth and power to take advantage of the poor, so he warned his friend that God “rescues the poor from the cutting words of the strong, and rescues them from the clutches of the powerful” (Job 5:15 NLT). This was a bold and highly condemning assertion on Eliphaz’s part; one that was based solely on conjecture and had no basis in reality.

When reading the words of Eliphaz, it’s important to consider how they stand in stark contrast to God’s assessment of Job.

“Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? – Job 2:3 ESV

Eliphaz had already assumed Job’s guilt, solely based on circumstantial evidence. But there was so much he didn’t know and couldn’t see. He was blind to the spiritual battle taking place behind the scenes. He was incapable of seeing into the inner recesses of Job’s heart but had been more than willing to declare his friend a fool and a scheming con man who had enriched himself on the backs of the poor and needy. But he was wrong. Yet, he was far from finished. Eliphaz was neither lacking in confidence nor words, and he had a lot more to say to his involuntary counselee.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

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.

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