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In Case You Missed It -- Job 4-5, Psalm 103

In the first of many responses from Job’s friends, Eliphaz demonstrates what will become an unfortunate habit of Job’s friends. Eliphaz says true things about God which miss the point, for Job doesn’t deny their truth. For example, Eliphaz speaking of evil people’s claims, “At the breath of God they perish.” Job never suggested anyone died except by God’s choice. Eliphaz asks the rhetorical question, “Can a mortal be more righteous than God?” (Job 4:17) Has Job ever suggested a mortal is so righteous? One last instance makes my point: when Eliphaz declares, “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted” (Job 2:9). Job would, if we were listening to a preacher give a sermon, intellectually agree with all of Eliphaz’s points. That does not help Job make sense of the peculiar suffering he is facing, especially given Job’s prior obedience before God.

There are many problems in Eliphaz’s approach, but one of them is that his arguments depend heavily on assuming Job has forgotten the truth. However, as we read in chapter 2, Job has not credited evil to God and so has shown no evidence of abandoning faith. Job’s friends will be unhelpful for many reasons. One of them is that they don’t really understand their friend.

Jeremiah Vaught