29 January 2015

Job 5:6-27

“How happy is the one whom God reproves…” (v. 17)

Psalm: Psalm 90


In this passage, Job is addressed by his 'friend' Eliphaz the Temanite. We know relatively little about Eliphaz - Teman was in Edom, in the area we now know as Jordan, a region renowned in the Bible for its wise men. We can assume, as he speaks first, that he is the oldest and best respected of the three friends. However, in his well-meaning kindliness towards Job, Eliphaz falls back on stock phrases and comforting traditions that, in fact, do nothing to help Job in his predicament.

In the previous chapter, Eliphaz rebuked Job for his lack of patience, following his recent outburst (Job 4:2, 5), which must have been fairly galling after a solid week of silence. In chapter 5, he falls into the tradition of several of the Psalmists, who held fast to the belief that disaster would befall those who carried out evil deeds. He maintains that everything is under God's control, from the rain falling on the farmers' fields (verse 10) to the rescue of the needy from their oppressors (verse 15). Therefore, Job's suffering must be a form of discipline from God for an (unnamed) transgression, and if Job would simply put his trust in God, he would be delivered from his suffering and protected from any future evils.

Job, who is vehement in maintaining his innocence, unsurprisingly does not find Eliphaz's words to be a source of comfort (instead, complaining that "my companions are treacherous like a torrent-bed" in Job 6:15). Passages such as this can lead us to despair if we believe that justice will be done during our time on earth. Clearly, God does not always "[frustrate] the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success" (v. 12) - it is a truth universally acknowledged that the crafty often prosper. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus offers reassurance that the justice and restoration described by Eliphaz will be brought about in the kingdom of God - but not, perhaps, on this side of heaven.

To Ponder

  • In a sense, Eliphaz's predictions are proved correct, as Job ultimately places his trust in God, and his fortunes are restored (and even increased). To what extent does this mean Eliphaz is correct in his reasoning?
  • Christians are often asked "why do bad things happen to good people?" Have you ever been asked "why dogoodthings happen tobadpeople?" How did you respond? Or how would you respond?

Bible notes author

Naomi Oates

Naomi Oates has worked for the Connexional Team in a variety of guises since 2012, currently as the Executive Officer to the Secretary of the Conference. She is also training part-time for presbyteral ministry.