Chapter 15:1-16 (ESV) - Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said:
“Should a wise man answer with windy knowledge,
and fill his belly with the east wind?
Should he argue in unprofitable talk,
or in words with which he can do no good?
But you are doing away with the fear of God
and hindering meditation before God.
For your iniquity teaches your mouth,
and you choose the tongue of the crafty.
Your own mouth condemns you, and not I;
your own lips testify against you.
“Are you the first man who was born?
Or were you brought forth before the hills?
Have you listened in the council of God?
And do you limit wisdom to yourself?
What do you know that we do not know?
What do you understand that is not clear to us?
Both the gray-haired and the aged are among us,
older than your father.
Are the comforts of God too small for you,
or the word that deals gently with you?
Why does your heart carry you away,
and why do your eyes flash,
that you turn your spirit against God
and bring such words out of your mouth?
What is man, that he can be pure?
Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous?
Behold, God puts no trust in his holy ones,
and the heavens are not pure in his sight;
how much less one who is abominable and corrupt,
a man who drinks injustice like water!
Question to consider: What makes Job abominable and corrupt according to Eliphaz?
Here’s a piece of unsolicited advice: if it is your intent to come alongside a friend who is going through the worst pain imaginable, it is probably better to wish him well and leave than to stick around and call his expression of grief a bunch of hot air. Job rejected the idea that God only allowed pain and calamity to come upon the wicked and had started to wonder whether God had a reward for the righteous that was beyond this life. If that wasn’t the case, Job wondered why God wouldn’t merely allow people to live out their days in peace.
For this, Eliphaz accused Job of disrespecting God and disturbing their prayers and said that the evidence for his iniquity was pouring out of his mouth. Job had accused his friends of thinking they were the sole arbiters of wisdom to the point where wisdom would die with them. Eliphaz returned the favor by asking whether Job existed before time and thought himself to be the wisdom of God.
It’s interesting that Eliphaz thought their words to Job were the comfort of God. Essentially, he was telling Job that they were right in saying that Job deserved his calamity because of his iniquity, and that by insisting on his innocence, Job was heaping more judgment upon himself. So if he wanted to have peace with God, he should repent.
While it is true that Job did not have the understanding of God, it is a false witness to pronounce someone guilty without being able to point to a crime. As the reader, we have more insight into this situation than that of Job’s companions. We know that Job was indeed more righteous than they, and we know that the calamity which came upon Job was the work of Satan and not God. However, the fact that they did not know these things is irrelevant. Unless they could name something specific for which Job needed to repent, they should have given him the benefit of the doubt. Instead, Eliphaz ignorantly declared Job to be abominable and corrupt.
God’s word regarding our witness of others has both a positive and a negative. The negative is that we are commanded to not bear false witness against our neighbor. The positive is that we should speak the truth regarding our neighbor and protect their reputation from those who would falsely try to destroy it.
Dear heavenly father, help us to protect the reputation of our neighbor and reserve judgment until it can be delivered righteously and with the intent of restoring someone to a right relationship with You. Amen.