For the Love of God, Volume 2/February 16

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Genesis 49; Luke 2; Job 15; 1 Corinthians 3

THE BOOK OF JOB NOW STARTS ON a second cycle of arguments from Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, with responses in each case from Job (Job 15—21). In many ways the arguments are repeated, but with deepened intensity. Almost as if they are aware of the repetition, the three friends say less this time than in the first round.

Here we briefly follow the line of thought of Eliphaz’s second speech (Job 15):

(1) Eliphaz begins in attack mode (15:2-6). From Eliphaz’s perspective, Job cannot be a wise man, for he answers with “empty notions” and “fill[s] his belly with the hot east wind,” uttering speeches “that have no value” (15:2-3). The result is that he even undermines piety and hinders devotion to God (15:4). Anyone who does not think that God fairly metes out punishment, Eliphaz thinks, is shaking the moral foundations of the universe. The cause of such renegade sentiments can only be sin: “Your sin prompts your mouth; you adopt the tongue of the crafty” (15:5).

(2) Without responding to any of Job’s arguments, Eliphaz then returns to the authority question. Job has insisted that he is as old and experienced and wise as any of his attackers; Eliphaz rather sneeringly replies, “Are you the first man ever born? Were you brought forth before the hills?” (15:7). At most, Job is one old man. But a panoply of old men share the opinions of Eliphaz (15:10). Worse, in wanting to die, in wanting to justify himself before God, Job is declaring that God’s consolations—all the consolations that the three comforters have been gently advancing—are not enough for him (15:11). It is as if Job wants to put God on trial.

(3) But how can this be? God is so holy that even heaven itself is not pure in his eyes (15:14-15): “How much less man, who is vile and corrupt, who drinks up evil like water!” (15:16). So Eliphaz repeats the heart of his argument again (15:17-26): the wicked person suffers torments of various kinds all the days allotted to him, all “because he shakes his fist at God and vaunts himself against the Almighty, defiantly charging against him with a thick, strong shield” (15:25-26).

(4) Eliphaz says that where there are apparent exceptions to this rule, time will destroy them (15:27-35). Such wicked people may be fat and prosperous for years, but eventually God’s justice will hunt them down. The implication is obvious: Job is not only wicked, but his former prosperity was nothing but the calm before the storm which has broken and exposed his wretched evil.

Reflect on what is right and wrong with this argument.

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