Job 4
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
However misapplied to his particular case may have been the speeches of Job's friends, there can be no dispute concerning the purity and the sublimity of the great truths for which they here appear as spokesmen. If not well directed to Job, they may be well directed to us. Each of the friends represents a certain aspect of the truths which relate man to God. In the speech of Eliphaz the main position taken is that man, in his ignorance and sinfulness, must be silent in presence of the all-just and all-holy God.

I. COMPARISON OF PAST WITH PRESENT EXPERIENCE. (Vers. 1-6.) Job is reminded of what he was, and asked to account for what he is.

1. The appeal to memory. A bright, a radiant memory it was. He had been the director of many - "guide, philosopher, and friend" to young and old in the perplexities of life. Again, he had been the comforter of the sorrowful and the weak; had strengthened the hands that hung down and the feeble knees: had led in straight paths the feet of those who erred. It is a beautiful picture of an amiable, benevolent, God-like career. He had not, like many, to look back upon a barren waste, a selfish and misspent life, but upon one filled with "deeds of light." Thanks to God if any man can turn in the hour of despondency to memories so fair and green!

2. Expostulation with his present mood. How is it, then, now that pain and grief have touched his own person, that he is so utterly cast down? Why not apply the medicine and the balm for your own disease and hurt which were found so healing in the case of others? If the remedy was ever good for them, 'twas because it was first good for you. If the counsel and the comfort you were wont to offer to the sick and sad had not been proved by you, it was of no avail to press them upon others. But if they accepted it and were blessed, why can you not now prescribe for your own malady'? "Physician, heal thyself. Sink in thyself, then ask what ails thee at that shrine!"

3. Appeal to the power of religion and to the consciousness of innocence. The sixth verse would be better rendered, "Is thy religion [fear of God] not thy confidence? thy hope the innocence of thy ways?" Religion is a great mainstay in all the storms of the soul. So long as a man can say, "It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good," he has a support which nothing can move. But so also is conscious integrity a grand spring of comfort, because of hope "hops that reaps not shame." To sow the seeds of virtue in health and activity is to reap the harvest of hope in illness, enforced idleness, in weakness, and in death. Hope is the kind nurse of the ailing and the old; and why is Job without the angelic ministry of her presence now? Let us put these questions of Eliphaz to ourselves.

II. INFERENCES FROM SUFFERING. (Vers. 7-11.) These Eliphaz proceeds to draw, Job still remaining silent at his first appeal. The inference is that there has been guilt to account for these great troubles. And the inference is justified by an appeal to the great teacher, experience.

1. General experience proves that calamity points to guilt. As a rule, it is not good men who sink, nor upright hearts that are utterly overwhelmed. There are, or seem to be, exceptions of which the philosophy of Eliphaz takes no account. But, indeed, how slight are upon the whole these seeming exceptions to the grand moral rule! As in grammar, so in life, the exceptions may be found, on closer examination, only to enlarge and illustrate our conception of the rule.

2. The teaching of experience is supported by that of nature. (Ver. 8.) The laws of nature are constant. Every reaping implies a previous sowing, every harvest is the offspring of the early labour of the year. Therefore - this is the rigid reasoning of Eliphaz - this trouble of his friend implies a previous sowing in the fields of sin. It is the rough, broad statement of a sublime principle in the government of God. It is given without exceptions, but it will be time enough to look at the exceptions when we have first mastered the rule.

3. Pictures from nature, which illustrate this moral law. (Vers. 9, 10, 11.) Nature flashes back her light upon those truths which we have first learned from experience and conscience. Two such pictures are here sketched. One is that of the violent blast from heaven, which breaks the rotten tree, hurls the dry leaves into the stream, scatters the worthless chaff. Such is the fate of the worthless man, the mind devoid of principle and therefore of vitality and worth. The other picture - and it is less familiar, and perhaps still more powerful - is that of the fierce lion, toothless, vainly roaring, perishing at last for lack of prey, its young ones all dispersed l Such, again, is the fate of the bold, bed man. To this end his devouring lusts have brought him. The appetite for sin continuing to the last - the food of appetite, nay, the very power to enjoy, at last withdrawn. Where, in the compass of so few lines, can we find so powerful an illustration of the wages and the end of sin? Side by side with this powerful image we may place some other pictures in which Scripture represents the doom of the unprincipled and godless man. He is like the chaff before the breeze, like the juniper in the desert, unwetted by the refreshing dew of heaven, like the tree all flourishing to-day, to-morrow feeling the stroke of the woodman's axe, or like the dross which is consumed in the furnace where the true gold brightens, like the rapidly burning tow, or like a dream when one awakes - an image, the unreality of which is destined to be discovered and scorned. - J.

Throughout the words of Job's friends many truths are to be found both accurately stated and beautifully illustrated; but in many cases - almost generally - a wrong application of them is made. The friends designing to be comforters do, through imperfect views of the mystery of human suffering, indeed become accusers, and make the burden heavier which they proposed to lighten. But the words now under consideration are perfectly true. He who had formerly been the instructor of many, and the strengthener of them of feeble knees, is now himself smitten, and he faints; he is touched and troubled. The lesson is therefore to the teacher who can pour out words of instruction to others, and to the comforter who aims at consoling the sorrowful. His principles will one day be tested in his own experience, and he will in his own life prove their truthfulness or their falsity. Eliphaz insinuates, if he does not actually affirm, Job's failure. "To be forewarned is to be forearmed;" and the wise teacher will become a learner in presence of these words. We may, then, say -

I. TRUTH MAKES ITS GREATEST DEMANDS ON ITS EXPOSITORS. They ally themselves with it. They proclaim it. They declare their faith in it. They vouch for it. The more really a man is a teacher the more is he a disciple. It is the perfect alliance of the teacher with the truth he teaches that gives him power over others in its exposition. Upon him, then, the greatest demand is made that the truth he has affirmed should find its highest illustration in his own life - that his life should not give the lie to his lips. It is thus that -

II. THE TEACHER OF TRUTH HAS THE BEST OPPORTUNITY OF BECOMING ITS MOST EFFECTUAL EXPOSITOR. Eliphaz could not yet see how Job, holding fast his integrity, would present a brilliant example of the truthfulness of his doctrine. To expound truth with the lips is possible to the simulator and hypocrite. He may say, and do not. He may declare the authority of a truth, and contradict that authority and his own saying by disobedience. Such were the Pharisees of our Lord's time. From them truth received the highest homage by verbal acknowledgment, but they proved themselves untrue and unfaithful disciples of truth by the discredit they threw upon it by their disobedience to its requirements. The teacher of truth, making the truth his own by a thorough embrace of it, and a real and unfeigned sympathy with it, teaches more by his life than by his lips; for the one men discredit, but the other is undeniable. Fidelity in the teacher is the highest proof of his faith in his doctrine, and by it he pays the utmost tribute to the doctrine that he is able to pay.

III. THE SUPREME DUTY OF THE TEACHER IS FIDELITY TO HIS DOCTRINE. By his faithfulness his scholars are confirmed in their belief and steadfastness. It is a black crime for a man to proclaim a truth or a teaching that affects the life and hope of his fellow-men, and yet prove a traitor to it by unfaithfulness. The foundations of the hope of many have been shaken and even uprooted by such conduct. By how much the truth a man proclaims is important, by so much is the responsibility of his own treatment of that truth great. Job was a bright example of fidelity, though severely tried.

IV. THE HONOURABLENESS OF A FAITHFUL ADHESION TO A GREAT TRUTH. He who links himself with great truths is exalted by them. They honour him who houours them. They bring him to glory and true renown. - R.G.

After Job has broken the seven days' silence, each of his friends assays to comfort him, with that most irritating form of consolation - unsolicited advice. Although, perhaps, some of the critics have thought they detected greater differences Between the three friends than are really apparent from the narrative, we cannot but notice certain distinctive features. What they have in common is more pronounced than their points of difference. Thus they all three are friends of Job, who really desire to show their sympathy and help the sufferer. They all tender unasked counsel. They all assume an irritating position of superiority. They all adhere to the prevalent dogma that great calamity is to be accounted for as the punishment of great sin. They all believe in the justice of God and his readiness to forgive and restore if Job will but confess his sins and humble himself. But they manifest certain interesting differences. The first friend to speak is Eliphaz, who appears as a seer of visions.

I. THERE ARE MEN WHO SEEM TO BE NATURALLY IN AFFINITY WITH THE SPIRITUAL WORLD. All men are not able to see the sights with which these men are familiar. They are the seers of visions. Too often such men are visionaries and nothing else. They are so wrapt up in the excitement of their experiences of another world that they have no interest or capacity left for the discharge of present earthly duties. It would go ill with us if there were many such unpractical people among us. But even these men have their sphere, and there are higher visionaries to whom we should be pro-roundly grateful. It is a great descent from Paul the apostle in the third heavens to "Sludge the medium" at a seance. The follies of spiritualism should not blind us to the revelations of true seers. Even the half-mad visions of a Blake have given the world some wonderful fruits of imagination, that would never have grown on the stock of conventional worldly experience.

II. TRUTH IS NOT ALWAYS FOUND WITH THE SEER OF VISIONS. God's seer will see God's truth. If the veil is lifted from before the unseen world, some genuine revelations must appear. God has given us truths of the Bible in some cases through the visions of his prophets. But the mere affirmation of a vision is no voucher for the truth of what is said. The seer may be a deceiver, he may be a deluded fanatic, or he may see a vision of "lying spirits." Therefore what he says must be tested, and should not be accepted on the mere authority of his vision. Here was the mistake of Eliphaz, who thought to overawe and silence Job by the recital of his vision. It is safer to turn from all such pretensions to the clear "word of prophecy' and the historical revelation of Christ. Our religion is based, not on visions, but on historical facts.

III. IT IS MOST IMPORTANT TO CULTIVATE SYMPATHY WITH THE UNSEEN WORLD. If we are not visionaries, we need not be materialists. Though we do not look for spiritualistic manifestations, we need not be Sadducees who believe in no spirits. There is a vision of God for the pure in heart, which can deceive none, and which is the inspiration of this world's highest service. - W.F.A.

Eliphaz says," Who can withhold himself from speaking?" He utters his own sentiment, but it is a very common one - far more common than the honest admission of it with which Eliphaz justifies his address to Job.

I. IRREPRESSIBLE SPEECH SPRINGS FROM VARIOUS INFLUENCES, Sometimes it is difficult to find words. What, then, are the things that break open the fountains of speech?

1. Natural temperament. Some are naturally loquacious, others as naturally taciturn. No man is responsible for his original constitution; his responsibility begins with his use of it.

2. Wealth of ideas. It is not only verbal fluency that runs into a volume of speech. One who thinks much will have the materials for talking much. Coleridge meditated deeply; Macaulay read enormously, and remembered all he read; and both were great talkers.

3. Depth of feeling. Passion elves eloquence to the least gifted person. Sympathy will seek for words. So the long contemplation of Job's sufferings urged Eliphaz to speak.

4. Provocation. Eliphaz was shocked at Job's cursing the day of his birth. Unable to enter into the tragic depths of the sufferer's grief, he could easily perceive the highly improper tone of the language used. Controversy rouses the least beautiful, but often the most vigorous, kind of eloquence.

5. Vanity. To many people there is a strange charm in the sound of their own voices.

II. IRREPRESSIBLE SPEECH MAY BE A SOURCE OF GREAT EVIL, The talker rarely seems to consider how keen a weapon he is wielding. He does not appear to remember that his words are like arrows, and that the bow drawn at a venture may inflict a mortal wound; that they are as seeds which may spring up and bear bitter fruit long after the sower has forgotten when and where he threw them broadcast over the earth. Certain points in particular need to be noticed.

1. Irrepressible speech lacks due reflection. It is hasty and ill-judged. Thus it may say far more than the speaker intended, and it may even convey a very false impression. Spoken without due thought, the hurried word may make a suggestion which mature consideration would utterly repudiate. Words lead to deeds, and thus irrepressible speech becomes an unalterable act. "Volatility of words," says Lavater, "is carelessness in actions; words are the wings of actions."

2. Irrepressible speech is likely to be inconsiderate of the feelings of others. Surely Job's three comforters could not have known what cruel barbs their words were, or they would scarcely have tormented the sufferer as they did. It is so easy to wound with the tongue, that if we talk hastily and without thought, it is most likely that we shall do so even without intending it.

3. Irrepressible speech is a slight on the mission of silence. Those seven days of silence served as a healing ministry, or at least they were days of unadulterated sympathy on the part of the three friends. Why, then, should the good men change their tactics? Evidently they had not enough faith in silence.

4. Irrepressible speech needs the preservation of Divine grace. Great talkers should especially look for help from above, that their speech may be "seasoned with salt." He who spake as never man spake is a model of wise, laconic utterance. To be safe in the use of the tongue we need to be much in company with Christ, often in converse with Heaven. - W.F.A.

After one brief word of apology for breaking the seemly silence of mourning, Eliphaz plunges in medias res, and at once commences to reproach Job by reminding him of his former conduct, and contrasting his present state with it as an evidence of glaring inconsistency. Job could teach others how to conduct themselves, but no sooner is the test brought home to himself than he fails. The teacher cannot pass the examination for which he has been preparing his pupils.

I. THE MISSION OF INSTRUCTING OTHERS IS ONE OF HONOUR AND USEFULNESS. No greater work can be conceived than that of forming character. Thomas Carlyle pointed out the absurdity of heaping honours on the soldier which we deny to the schoolmaster. He thought the cane was a token of greater dignity than the sword. There is no happier result of a life's work than to see those one has influenced growing in wisdom and goodness and strength of character. It was well, indeed, that Job was one who strengthened the weak. This was wholly good, whatever might be his subsequent character.

II. HE WHO INSTRUCTS OTHERS IS EXPECTED TO FOLLOW HIS OWN PRECEPTS. The eyes of the world are upon him; his own scholars watch him narrowly. Teaching which is not backed up by example soon becomes quite ineffective. The Christian minister can often do more good by his exemplary life than by his most excellent sermons. If his walk and conversation among men do not adorn the gospel he proclaims, they will mar and mutilate it. The world refuses to separate the preacher from the man. It declines to believe that clerical vestments transform a slovenly, shifty, self-indulgent person, whom no one can respect, into a herald from heaven. The Sunday school teacher whose business reputation is low has no right to expect that his lofty words will train up a noble life in the young people whom he instructs.

III. IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE AN INSTRUCTOR OF OTHERS AND YET FAIL ONE'S SELF, The charge of Eliphaz was unfair, for it took no account of the unparalleled troubles of Job - none had been tried like this man - or rather it assumed that he must have been an exceptionally bad man or he would not have suffered such a tremendous reverse of fortune. Thus it suggested that the venerated leader and teacher had been a hypocrite all along. This was doubly unfair. It is possible to have been in earnest while teaching, and yet afterwards to fall before unexpected temptations without having been a hypocrite; for good men are fallible, and no one knows how weak he is till he has been tried. Moreover, in the present case the teacher had not fallen as his censor supposed. Still, there is great force in his warning. Unfortunately, the world is not wanting in men to whom it is only too applicable. There is a great danger of delusion in the faculty of teaching. All of us who instruct others are tempted to confuse our knowledge with our attainments, and our language with our experience. Thus intellectual and professional familiarity with holy things may be mistaken for that vital communion with them which perhaps is not to be found accompanying it. There has only been one perfect Teacher whose conduct was as lofty as his instructions. All others may well learn to walk humbly while teaching the most exalted lessons. - W.F.A.

The New Testament teaching is, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." It is precisely as the present verses. "They that plough iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same." So does the testimony of the ages warn evil-doers. This rule is inevitable; it is just; it is natural; it is admonitory.

I. THIS ORDER IS INEVITABLE. He who has ordained the laws of nature, fixed, calm, indestructible, has also ordained that the doer of evil shall reap the fruit of his ill-doing. An inevitable Nemesis follows the steps of every offender against Divine laws. Sooner or later judgment is passed. No skilfulness can evade the omnipotent rule. "Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished." Minutely did our Lord lay down the same teaching: "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." One may as well try to throw off the law of gravitation. It holds us all fast in its firm grip. So does this Divine law framed by the same hand.

II. THIS LAW IS JUST. The wise and holy Ruler of all - "the Creator of all worlds, the Judge of all men" - will do right, does do right in the administrations of his holy laws. He is not vindictive. His anger is holy anger; his wrath is as truly just as his love is tender. He has laid the foundations of human life in righteousness. He is just; for he rendereth to every man according to his deeds. Without doubt he takes note of all the circumstances in which every one is placed, and neither accuses the guiltless nor excuses the guilty. Men find in their own acts the cause of their sufferings, and the justification of the righteous judgment of God. In every breast the most painful conviction will be the assurance of the perfect righteousness of the Divine ways, and the justice of every Divine infliction. The inward reflection of the Divine judgment of condemnation is the most painful of all judgments.

III. THE OPERATION OF THIS LAW IS PERFECTLY NATURAL. Consequences follow causes with the same regularity of law in the moral as in the material world. A wrong thought gives a wrong bias to the mind, and leaves it so much the more liable to be influenced in a wrong direction; so of every word or deed of evil. Each wrong act is a seed cast into the ground, and it bears its fruit after its own kind to him Who sows it, Of evil, good cannot spring up. So every man by his wrong-doing treasures up for himself wrath against the day of wrath. He receives his reward in his character, in the condition of mind and life to which he is reduced by evil or elevated by goodness.

IV. THIS LAW IS ADMONITORY TO ALL. There is no escape by mere law from the ill consequences of any bad act. The inevitable consequences which follow all wrongdoing should warn men off from forbidden paths. "By the blast of God they perish" is the warning threat against the sowers of wickedness and them that "plough iniquity." Though men rage as the fierce lions, their roaring is broken; they perish, and their seed is scattered abroad. - R.G.

We have now reached the kernel of the controversy with which Job and his friends are to be engaged. While - as the prologue shows - the primary purpose of the Book of Job is to refute Satan's low, sneering insinuation implied in the words, "Doth Job serve God for nought?" and to prove that God can and does inspire disinterested devotion, the long discussion among the friends is concerned with the problem of suffering, and the old orthodox notion that it was just the punishment of sin, showing the inadequacy of that notion, and the deep mystery of the whole subject. Now we are introduced to this perplexing question. It comes before us in the form of a principle that is undoubtedly true, although the application of it by Job's friends turned out to be egregiously false.


1. This is communicated in the New Testament by St. Paul, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7).

2. This is in accordance with experience. Eliphaz had seen it. We need not suppose that he had been deceived by some strange hallucination. We must all have observed how men make or mar their own fortunes. We know what will be the end of the career of the idle and dissipated. We are constantly watching the triumph of diligence and prudence.

3. This is after the analogy of nature. Then the harvest is according to the sowing, and it is determined by absolute laws. But there is no chaos in the human sphere. Moral causation works there as strictly as physical causation in the outer world. There is no escaping from the natural consequences of our deeds. He who sows the wind will most assuredly reap the whirlwind.

4. This is just. Job's friends were right in feeling that the wicked ought to suffer and that the good ought to be blessed. The attempt to evade the great law of causation in the spiritual sphere is as immoral as it is futile. Why should any one expect to be saved firm the harvest which he has himself sown?

II. THE FALSE APPLICATION OF THE PRINCIPLE. The whole Book of Job demonstrates that Job's friends were wrong in applying this principle to the case of the patriarch. But why was it not applicable?

1. They anticipated the harvest. The harvest is the end of the world. Some firstfruits may be gathered earlier; often we see the evil consequences of misdeeds ripening rapidly. But this is not always the case. Meanwhile we can judge of no life until we have seen the whole of it. In the end Job reaped an abundant harvest of blessings (Job 42:10-17).

2. They ignored the variety of causes. It is a recognized rule of logic that while you can always argue from the cause to the effect, you cannot safely reverse the process and reason back from the effect to the cause, because the same effect may come from any one of a number of causes. Job might bring calamity on himself, and if he did wrong he would bring it - in the long run. But other causes might produce it. In this case it was not Job, but Satan, who brought it. It was not the husbandman, but an enemy, who sowed tares in the field.

3. They mistook the nature of the harvest. The man who sows iniquity will not necessarily reap temporal calamity. He will get his natural harvest, which is corruption, but he may have wealth and temporal, external prosperity on earth. And the man who sows goodness may not reap money, immunity from trouble, etc.; for these things are not the natural products of what he sows. They are not "after its kind." But he will reap "eternal life." Nothing that had happened to Job indicated that he would not gather that best of all harvests. - W.F.A.

Here we have the narration of one of those revelations in visions of the night, through which man so frequently learned in the elder time to know the will of the Eternal. Every line of the description is significant and impressive.


1. It is the season of solitude. In the daytime we have many to keep us company, to encourage us, it may be, in false or idle thoughts, or divert us from those that are serious. Now at last we are alone, and must stand face to face with self, with truth, with God.

2. It is the season of silence. There is no noise, no confusion, drowning the still, small voices which otherwise might be heard.

3. It is the time of darkness. The eye is no longer filled with sights that divert the fancy and unbend the fixity of the mind's direction. Pascal says that the reason why men pursue field sports and other amusements with so much eagerness is that they may fly from themselves, which is a night that none can bear. But the darkness, throwing a veil above the bright outer world, flings the man back upon himself, forces him into the inner chamber of conscience. Happy those who have learned to employ the wakeful hours in self-communion and in communion with God, and who find that "night visions do befriend, while waking dreams are fatal."

II. THE STILNESS OF GOD'S VOICE. This is a thought made very prominent in the description, as in the revelation to Elijah on Horeb - the calmness and gentleness of the voice of the Unseen and the Divine. Eliphaz says the word "stole" upon him, and it was a "gentle sound" his ear received (ver. 12). It was a "whispering voice" (ver. 16), like the susurrus, or rustling of the leaves of a tree in the quiet air of night. For all who willingly listen, the voice of the great Father of spirits is calm, quiet, gentle, though strong and awful. Only upon the stubborn ear and obdurate heart does it peal in the end with thunder and menace.

III. THE EFFECT UPON THE HUMAN HEART OF GOD'S VOICE. (Ver. 14.) It cannot be heard without awe and without terror. One tone of that voice vibrating through the whole consciousness awakens instantly all the sense of our weakness, our ignorance, and our sin. And here we have all the physical symptoms faithfully described which testify to the agitation of the soul in presence of the Unseen. There is a trembling and quivering of the whole frame in every limb. The hair stands on end. A materialistic philosophy, which either denies or ignores man's relation to the Unseen, can never explain away these phenomena. They are involuntary witnesses to the reality of that power which besets us behind and before, which is "closer to us than our breathing, nearer than hands and feet," from which we cannot flee.

IV. THE APPARITION. (Vers. 15, 16.) It is well to note in what vague and awful touches the presence of the Divine is hinted. A spirit passes before the sleeper - it stands still - but its form, its features, cannot be exactly discerned. There is the like vagueness in Moses' vision, and in that of Isaiah in the temple. For no man can look upon the face of God, no man can receive aught but the dimmest and faintest impression of that inexpressible form. These descriptions yield us lessons as public teachers. They remind us that a tone of reserve, a simplicity of description, not overpassing the reverential bounds of Scripture, the suggestion of a vast background of mystery, should accompany all that we venture to speak to men concerning God.

V. THE ORACLE. (Vers. 17-21.) It is a solemn rebuke to that spirit which Eliphaz thought he discerned in his friend - the assumption of innocence and righteousness in the presence of God. "For there is not a just man upon earth, which doeth good and sinneth not" (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Its contents may be summed up m the words of the psalm (Psalm 143:2), "In thy sight shall no man living be justified." Its meaning is echoed in such words as these: "Righteous, O God, art thou in thy judgments" (Jeremiah 12:1); "Let God be true, and every man a liar, as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged" (Romans 3:4) There is no privilege of question, of criticism, of reproach, or complaint' when man approaches the works of God. His part is to understand and to submit. The right of criticism implies some equality of knowledge; but how can this subsist between the creature and the Creator? "Who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?" (Romans 9:20). Criticism is silenced in the presence of overwhelming superiority. There are a few great works even of human art before which the tongue of cavil and fault-finding is hushed. Who dares to sit in judgment on the sculptures of a Phidias, or the paintings of a Raphael, or the poems of a Shakespeare? Admiration, study, have here alone place. At least, in these mere human works, the presumption ever is that the master is right and the critic is a fool. How much more must this be so in the relation between the ignorant creature and the omniscient Creator? But in the oracle, this great truth is supported, not by a comparison of ignorant man with great geniuses, but by a comparison of men with angels. They are the immediate servants of the Most High; they stand nearer to him than man. Yet they are imperfect, unworthy of the full confidence of their Divine Lord, liable to error and mistake. How much more so man, who is conscious of sin as they are not - sin that disturbs his judgment, that clouds his perceptions! Again, the angels enjoy a life ever vigorous and young, that knows not decay nor death! But man inhabits a house of clay, an earthly tabernacle; he wears a "muddy vesture of decay," and lives on "this dim spot of earth." He is an ephemeral creature, living from dawn to sunset; easily crushed like a moth; living in dense ignorance, amid which death suddenly surprises him. This, it is true, is not the only aspect of human life. All is comparison. If man's spiritual nature be contrasted with the shortness of his life and the feebleness of his powers, it rises into grandeur by the comparison. But if his mere intellect be brought into contrast with the Infinite Intelligence, then he must needs sink into insignificance. A true comparison will either teach us faith and hope, or humility; and both lessons are derived from the nearer view of the pro-founder knowledge of the greatness of God.


1. The idleness of complaints against God.. (Job 5:1.) For the very angels, should Job apply to one of them, would in the consciousness of their relation to the Supreme, adopt no complaint of the kind.

2. Such complaining spirit is the sign of a fatal folly. (Vers. 2, 3.) 'Tis a sin which, if indulged, will slay the sinner. And here follows another powerful picture of the dread fatality attending upon the fool - upon him who would in thought and life nourish a quarrel with Heaven. He may for a time appear prosperous and firmly rooted, but the doom will fall upon him and his house. "I knew such a case," says Eliphaz, with emphasis. "Not blinded by the outward dazzle of his future, I, in abhorrence of his character, predicted his downfall; and it has come to pass. His sons, feeling all the weight of a father's guilt, are thrust aside, and can obtain no justice at the hands of their fellows (ver. 4). Those whom the father had oppressed seize, as in the hunger and thirst of the 'wild justice' of revenge, upon the property of the sons; they ravage and despoil, and snatch the vainly guarded harvest even from among the thorns" (ver. 5). CONCLUDING LESSON. There is a cause of every human suffering, and that cause is not external, but internal (vers. 6, 7). Not external. Not accidental. Not like the weed that springs from the earth, and which can be rooted out at will. But internal. The cause of man's sufferings is deeply seated in his nature. He is born to suffer. He is a native of the territory of woe. As certain this as any physical law - as that sparks should fly upward, and that stones should fall. Vain, then, these murmurs against the course and constitution of things. Whatever is, is best. If sorrow be a great part of our destiny, resignation is our wisdom and our duty. And he who has learned calmly to bow before the inevitable, and to submit to law, is prepared to listen to those sweet consolations which Eliphaz proceeds to unfold from the nature of him whose will is to bless, not curse; who follows out, by the very means of pain and sorrow, the eternal counsels of love. - J.

With a figure of great boldness and grandeur Eliphaz urges his words upon Job. He is trying to illustrate the great principle of the righteous retributions of the Divine government. In the visions of the night there appeared a spirit to pass before his face, and in the dead silence he heard a voice saying, "Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his Maker?" It cannot be. And the vision of Eliphaz finds its fulfilment in Job himself, who in the end is bowed down to the earth in self-abasing shame and condemnation.

I. ALL MEN MUST OF NECESSITY BE SELF-CONDEMNED IN PRESENCE OF THE DIVINE HOLINESS. Alas! we are all sinful; our best deeds are faulty, and the element of sinfulness mingles with all our acts as truly as the element of imperfectness. We cannot stand in the presence of the absolutely Perfect One. Even the rudest vanity must be appalled and humbled in his sight.

II. THE CONTEMPLATION OF THE DIVINE HOLINESS A SALUTARY CHECK TO SELF-CONFIDENT BOASTING. In the absence of a true and lofty standard of right, men boast themselves of their goodness. Measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, they are led to the proud assumption of fancied righteousness. The standards are faulty; even the faulty ones, therefore, reach them. He is wise who can say, "But now mine eye seeth thee, wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."

III. THE CONTEMPLATION OF THE DIVINE HOLINESS A STIMULUS TO LOWLY, HUMBLE, RELIGIOUS FEAR. This fear is the beginning of wisdom; and the highest attainments of wisdom do not depart from this fear. It is the beginning and the consummation of holy wisdom.

IV. THE PUREST AND MOST EXALTED BEINGS ARE ABASED IN THE DIVINE PRESENCE. "His angels he charged with folly." How much more, therefore, the children of the dust, - "them that dwell in houses of clay"! - R.G.

The visionary now tells the thrilling tale of his vision. He thinks that he will overawe Job with a message from one who was no mortal man. All the details and circumstances of the vision are graphically narrated, that the horror of it may add to the weight of its authority.

I. THE REALITY OF THE APPARITION. There is every reason to believe that Eliphaz spoke in good faith. He does not appear before us as a deceiver, though he is certainly capable of making a great mistake. Therefore it cannot be doubted that he narrated his genuine experience. But then we may naturally ask - What did really happen?

1. Possibly a subjective illusion. The apparition may have been only a creature of the visionary's excited imagination. "Seeing" should not be always "believing." We are not justified in invariably trusting our senses. A diseased or a merely disordered brain will evolve visions. Perhaps without derangement the brain's very exaltation may help it to create phantasms.

2. Possibly a real spiritual manifestation. It is not scientific to deny the possibility of any such thing. Science is growing conscious of the endless varieties of existence and of the boundless potentialities of nature. We cannot say that there are no spirits but our own, nor can we say that no other spirits ever do make themselves manifest to men. There may be no external, material presence; the spiritual contact may be internal, and the vision thrown out from it through the brain of the seer; and yet there may be a something in contact with the soul - a real spiritual presence.


1. In solitude. The thing was "secretly brought to" Eliphaz. Some may say, as there were no spectators to check the accuracy of his vision, the whole scene was a delusion. But on the other hand, solitude would be most suitable for a revelation of the other world. The pressure cf earthly things shuts out the very thought of the unseen.

2. In the night. Here, again, the darkness of the material surroundings might give an opportunity for the appearance of the immaterial.

3. In meditation. "In thoughts from the visions of the night." This shows that Eliphaz was in a condition to receive spiritual impressions. The extraordinary writings of Lawrance Oliphant indicate that some kind of peculiar experience is attained by those who think themselves into the preparation necessary for it. This may only lead to the quagmire of "Spiritualism." But it is too much for a "Philistine" scepticism to say that no good influences have ever come in this way.


1. A shock of terror. Eliphaz describes most graphically the horror of his experience. The figure was vague, shapeless, nameless, impersonal, and described by the visionary as "It." He felt something pass him, his limbs trembled beneath him, his hair stood up on end! Men dread the supernatural. Some attribute this dread to the guilt of conscience; but the strange, the unknown, the unnatural, suggest fearful possibilities of danger. It is happier to live in the sunshine with children and flowers than in gloom with ghosts. The pursuit of "Spiritualism," even if it is not following a delusion, entails an unhealthy and melancholy fascination.

2. A voice of truth. "It" gave Eliphaz a message. God has revealed truth in dream and vision. The message of the apparition was great and important. Yet that message was not new; and it was liable to misapplication by Eliphaz. We shall be very foolish if we forsake Christ and the Scriptures for spirit-voices - which now generally appear to talk nonsense in bad grammar. It is foolish to make conscience and reason subject to any unauthenticated vision. - W.F.A.

The apparition spoke and this is what "It" said. No one can gainsay the truth of the words uttered. The only question is how they applied to Job. Eliphaz assumed that Job's position was thereby condemned Leaving this out of account, however, we may see how lofty, true, and important the words that came in the Temanite's vision were.

I. THE OBVIOUS FACTS. One would have thought that no ghost was wanted to make such self-evident facts as are here narrated clear to everybody. As we look at the vision of Eliphaz we are tempted to suspect a pompous pretentiousness in it. And yet, though the facts referred to are obvious and unquestionable, they cannot be too impressively insisted on or too profoundly felt. Therefore it may be well that they are brought before us shrouded in the awe of an apparition. These facts concern the littleness of man compared with the greatness of God. At the end of the poem God himself appears and brings them home to Job with a force that is not found in the vision of Eliphaz, partly because God's dealings with Job himself are wise and fair, while the conduct of Eliphaz is unreasonable and unjust. Note three regions in which man's littleness is contrasted with God's greatness.

1. Moral. One man may be more pure or more just than another man. But who can surpass God? Before him the best men shrink and own their utter unworthiness.

2. Intellectual. Some men are more discerning and wise than others, but the height of human capacity is but folly before God.

3. Vital. Man's life is frail and brief. His ephemeral existence is as nothing compared to the eternity of God. All these truths are trite; their importance lies in the application of them.

II. THEIR JUST EFFECTS. The tremendous mistake people make is to admit the obvious facts, and then to live exactly as if they did not exist. But if they are they should have great effects upon conduct. Note some of the results they should work in us.

1. Humility. We may not understand God, but we should not venture to judge One so infinitely greater than ourselves. Reverence is our right attitude before the mysteries of Providence.

2. Contrition. We may defend ourselves among men, but we cannot do so in the presence of God. Not only can we conceal nothing from God - we should not wish to do that - but further, we see a higher standard in God than that which prevails among men, and judged by that standard the saint is a sinner.

3. Patience. God is infinitely just; he knows all; he cannot fail. We do not know what he is doing, nor why he acts. But we can wait.

4. Trust. This goes beyond patience. We have a right to confide in so just, wise, and strong a God. His greatness strikes terror in the rebellious soul; but when one is reconciled to God, that very greatness becomes a mighty, invincible rock of refuge.

5. Obedience. Our duty is to do more than submit without a murmur, and wait patiently for God. He is our Master, our King, and our business is to follow his great authority. Sin is self-will, pride, distrust, disobedience. The Christian life is one of active service; it is treading humbly in the way which our infinite God assigns to us. His greatness justly commands implicit obedience. - W.F.A.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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