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Job 4:1-5 – Easy Answers Fade When Reality Contradicts Them

Summary

Eliphaz, the first friend to speak, reminds Job that he used to counsel others in their times of trouble. Now that he, himself, needs comfort, he should remember the words that he spoke to others.

Analysis

Here and elsewhere in the book, we are given a picture of Job as a man of wisdom who was often called to help others get through difficult times. Eliphaz is trying to be helpful by reminding Job to pay attention to words of comfort that he had shared with others. The comforter may know all the "right" words and have what seems to be a clear theology about what God is doing when disaster occurs, but when calamity hits close to home, many of the intellectual theories about suffering do not seem to work any more. It is one thing to theorize from the safety of private reflection and a feeling of well-being. It is quite another matter when one is wrestling with the actual experience of grief and pain. One's theories need to be revised, or even discarded, in the light of realities that do not fit the preconceived assumptions. The basic idea behind the thinking of both Job and his friends is the belief that, even in this life, God rewards the good people and punishes the wrongdoers. Job's experience challenges that simplistic view of the world.

Though Eliphaz probably meant to help Job by reminding him of his own words of comfort, there is also a subtle rebuke in what he says. Does Job really believe those words that he so freely offered to others? Is he a hypocrite? Maybe his faith is not strong enough to get him through this present ordeal.

Job 4:1-5

Eliphaz Speaks: Job Has Sinned

4Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered:
2 ‘If one ventures a word with you, will you be offended?
   But who can keep from speaking?
3 See, you have instructed many;
   you have strengthened the weak hands.
4 Your words have supported those who were stumbling,
   and you have made firm the feeble knees.
5 But now it has come to you, and you are impatient;
   it touches you, and you are dismayed.

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10 February 2011

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