Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
1 Call now, - is there any one who will answer thee?
And to whom of the holy ones wilt thou turn?
2 For he is a fool who is destroyed by complaining,
And envy slays the simple one.
3 I, even I, have seen a fool taking root:
Then I had to curse his habitation suddenly.
4 His children were far from help,
And were crushed in the gate, without a rescuer;
5 While the hungry ate his harvest,
And even from among thorns they took it away,
And the intriguer snatched after his wealth.
The chief thought of the oracle was that God is the absolutely just One, and infinitely exalted above men and angels. Resuming his speech from this point, Eliphaz tells Job that no cry for help can avail him unless he submits to the all-just One as being himself unrighteous; nor can any cry addressed to the angels avail. This thought, although it is rejected, certainly shows that the writer of the book, as of the prologue, is impressed with the fundamental intuition, that good, like evil, spirits are implicated in the affairs of men; for the "holy ones," as in Ps 89, are the angels. כּי supports the negation implied in Job 5:1 : If God does not help thee, no creature can help thee; for he who complains and chafes at his lot brings down upon himself the extremest destruction, since he excites the anger of God still more. Such a surly murmurer against God is here called אויל. ל is the Aramaic sign of the object, having the force of quod attinet ad, quoad (Ew. 310, a).
Eliphaz justifies what he has said (Job 5:2) by an example. He had seen such a complainer in increasing prosperity; then he cursed his habitation suddenly, i.e., not: he uttered forthwith a prophetic curse over it, which, though פּתאם might have this meaning (not subito, but illico; cf. Num 12:4), the following futt., equivalent to imperff., do not allow, but: I had then, since his discontent had brought on his destruction, suddenly to mark and abhor his habitation as one overtaken by a curse: the cursing is a recognition of the divine curse, as the echo of which it is intended. This curse of God manifests itself also on his children and his property (Job 5:4.). שׁער is the gate of the city as a court of justice: the phrase, to oppress in the gate, is like Pro 22:22; and the form Hithpa. is according to the rule given in Ges. 54, 2, b. The relative אשׁר, Job 5:5, is here conj. relativa, according to Ges. 155, 1, c. In the connection אל־מצּנּים, אל is equivalent to עד, adeo e spinis, the hungry fall so eagerly upon what the father of those now orphans has reaped, that even the thorny fence does not hold them back. צנּים, as Pro 22:5 : the double praepos. אל־מן is also found elsewhere, but with another meaning. עמּים has only the appearance of being plur.: it is sing. after the form צדּיק, from the verb צמם, nectere, and signifies, Job 18:9, a snare; here, however, not judicii laqueus (Bttch.), but what, besides the form, comes still nearer - the snaremaker, intriguer. The Targ. translates לסטיסין, i.e., λησταί. Most modern critics (Rosenm. to Ebr.) translate: the thirsty (needy), as do all the old translations, except the Targ.; this, however, is not possible without changing the form. The meaning is, that intriguing persons catch up (שׁאף, as Amo 2:7) their wealth.
Eliphaz now tells why it thus befell this fool in his own person and his children.
6 For evil cometh not forth from the dust,
And sorrow sprouteth not from the earth;
7 For man is born to sorrow,
As the sparks fly upward.
8 On the contrary, I would earnestly approach unto God,
And commit my cause to the Godhead;
9 To Him who doeth great things and unsearchable;
Marvellous things till there is no number:
10 Who giveth rain over the earth,
And causeth water to flow over the fields:
11 To set the low in high places;
And those that mourn are exalted to prosperity.
As the oracle above, so Eliphaz says here, that a sorrowful life is allotted to man,
(Note: Fries explains יוּלּד as part., and refers to Geiger's Lehrb. zur Sprache der Mischna, S. 41f., according to which מקטּל signifies killed, and קטּל (= Rabb. מתקטּל) being killed (which, however, rests purely on imagination): not the matter from which mankind originates brings evil with it, but it is man who inclines towards the evil. Bttch. would read יולד: man is the parent of misery, though he may rise high in anger.)
so that his wisdom consequently consists in accommodating himself to his lot: if he does not do that, he is an אויל, and thereby perishes. Misfortune does not grow out of the ground like weeds; it is rather established in the divine order of the world, as it is established in the order of nature that sparks of fire should ascend. The old critics understood by רשׁף בני birds of prey, as being swift as lightning (with which the appellation of beasts of prey may be compared, Job 28:8; Job 41:26); but רשׁף signifies also a flame or blaze (Sol 8:6). Children of the flame is an appropriate name for sparks, and flying upwards is naturally peculiar to sparks as to birds of prey; wherefore among modern expositors, Hirz., Ew., Hahn, von Gerl., Ebr., rightly decide in favour of sparks. Schlottmann understands "angels" by children of flame; but the wings, which are given to angels in Scripture, are only a symbol of their freedom of motion. This remarkable interpretation is altogether opposed to the sententious character of Job 5:7, which symbolizes a moral truth by an ordinary thing. The waw in וּבני, which we have translated "as," is the so-called waw adaequationis proper to the Proverbs, and also to emblems, e.g., Pro 25:25.
Eliphaz now says what he would do in Job's place. Ew. and Ebr. translate incorrectly, or at least unnecessarily: Nevertheless I will. We translate, according to Ges. 127, 5: Nevertheless I would; and indeed with an emphatic I: Nevertheless I for my part. דּרשׁ with אל is constr. praegnans, like Deu 12:5, sedulo adire. דּברה is not speech, like אמרה but cause, causa, in a judicial sense. אל is God as the Mighty One; אלהים is God in the totality of His variously manifested nature. The fecundity of the earth by rain, and of the fields (חוּצות = rura) by water-springs (cf. Psa 104:10), as the works of God, are intentionally made prominent. He who makes the barren places fruitful, can also change suffering into joy. To His power in nature corresponds His power among men (Job 5:11). לשׂוּם is here only as a variation for השּׂם, as Heiligst. rightly observes: it is equivalent to collacaturus, or qui in eo est ut collocet, according to the mode of expression discussed in Ges. 132, rem. 1, and more fully on Hab 1:17. The construction of Hab 1:11 is still bolder. שׂגב signifies to be high and steep, inaccessible. It is here construed with the acc. of motion: those who go in dirty, black clothes because they mourn, shall be high in prosperity, i.e., come to stand on an unapproachable height of prosperity.
12 Who bringeth to nought the devices of the crafty,
So that their hands cannot accomplish anything;
13 Who catcheth the wise in their craftiness;
And the counsel of the cunning is thrown down.
14 By day they run into darkness,
And grope in the noon-day as in the night.
15 He rescueth from the sword, that from their mouth,
And from the hand of the strong, the needy.
16 Hope ariseth for the weak,
And folly shall close its mouth.
All these attributes are chosen designedly: God brings down all haughtiness, and takes compassion on those who need it. The noun תּוּשׁיּה, coined by the Chokma, and out of Job and Proverbs found only in Mic 6:9; Isa 28:29, and even there in gnomical connection, is formed from ישׁ, essentia, and signifies as it were essentialitas, realitas: it denotes, in relation to all visible things, the truly existing, the real, the objective; true wisdom (i.e., knowledge resting on an objective actual basis), true prosperity, real profiting and accomplishing. It is meant that they accomplish nothing that has actual duration and advantage. Job 5:13 cannot be better translated than by Paul, Co1 3:19, who here deviates from the lxx. With נמהרה, God's seizure, which prevents the contemplated achievement, is to be thought of. He pours forth over the worldly wise what the prophets call the spirit of deep sleep (תּרדּמה) and of dizziness (עועים). On the other hand, He helps the poor. In מפיהם מחרב the second מן is local: from the sword which proceeds from their mouth (comp. Psa 64:4; Psa 57:5, and other passages). Bttch. translates: without sword, i.e., instrument of power (comp. Job 9:15; Job 21:9); but מן with חרב leads one to expect that that from which one is rescued is to be described (comp. Job 5:20). Ewald corrects מחרב, which Olsh. thinks acute: it is, however, unhebraic, according to our present knowledge of the usage of the language; for the passives of חרב are used of cities, countries, and peoples, but not of individual men. Olsh., in his hesitancy, arrives at no opinion. But the text is sound and beautiful. עלתה with pathetic unaccented ah (Ges. 80, rem. 2, f), from עולה = עולה, as Ps. 92:16 Chethib.
17 Behold, happy is the man whom Eloah correcteth;
So despise not the chastening of the Almighty!
18 For He woundeth, and He also bindeth up;
He bruiseth, and His hands make whole.
19 In six troubles He will rescue thee,
And in seven no evil shall touch thee.
20 In famine He will redeem thee from death,
And in war from the stroke of the sword.
21 When the tongue scourgeth, thou shalt be hidden;
And thou shalt not fear destruction when it cometh.
The speech of Eliphaz now becomes persuasive as it turns towards the conclusion. Since God humbles him who exalts himself, and since He humbles in order to exalt, it is a happy thing when He corrects (הוכיח) us by afflictive dispensations; and His chastisement (מוּסר) is to be received not with a turbulent spirit, but resignedly, yea joyously: the same thought as Pro 3:11-13; Psa 94:12, in both passages borrowed from this; whereas Job 5:18 here, like Hos 6:1; Lam 3:31., refers to Deu 32:39. רפא, to heal, is here conjugated like a הל verb (Ges. 75, rem. 21). Job 5:19 is formed after the manner of the so-called number-proverbs (Pro 6:16; Pro 30:15, Pro 30:18), as also the roll of the judgment of the nations in Amos 1-2: in six troubles, yea in still more than six. רע is the extremity that is perhaps to be feared. In Job 5:20, the praet. is a kind of prophetic praet. The scourge of the tongue recalls the similar promise, Psa 31:21, where, instead of scourge, it is: the disputes of the tongue. שׁוד, from שׁדד violence, disaster, is allied in sound with שׁוט. Isaiah has this passage of the book of Job in his memory when he writes Job 28:15. The promises of Eliphaz now continue to rise higher, and sound more delightful and more glorious.
22 At destruction and famine thou shalt laugh,
And from the beasts of the earth thou hast nothing to fear.
23 For thou art in league with the stones of the field,
And the beasts of the field are at peace with thee.
24 And thou knowest that peace is thy pavilion;
And thou searchest thy household, and findest nothing wanting.
25 Thou knowest also that thy seed shall be numerous,
And thy offspring as the herb of the ground.
26 Thou shalt come to thy grave in a ripe age,
As shocks of corn are brought in in their season.
27 Lo! this we have searched out, so it is:
Hear it, and give thou heed to it.
The verb שׂחק is construed (Job 5:22) with ל of that which is despised, as Job 39:7, Job 39:18; Job 41:21 [Hebr.]. על־תּירא is the form of subjective negation [vid. Ges. 152, 1: Tr.]: only fear thou not = thou hast no occasion. In Job 5:23, בּריתך is the shortest substantive form for לך בּרית. The whole of nature will be at peace with thee: the stones of the field, that they do not injure the fertility of thy fields; the wild beasts of the field, that they do not hurt thee and thy herds. The same promise that Hosea (Hos 2:20) utters in reference to the last days is here used individually. From this we see how deeply the Chokma had searched into the history of Paradise and the Fall. Since man, the appointed lord of the earth, has been tempted by a reptile, and has fallen by a tree, his relation to nature, and its relation to him, has been reversed: it is an incongruity, which is again as a whole put right (שׁלום), as the false relation of man to God is put right. In Job 5:24, שׁלום (which might also be adj.) is predicate: thou wilt learn (וידעתּ, praet. consec. with accented ultima, as e.g., Deu 4:39, here with Tiphcha initiale s. anterius, which does not indicate the grammatical tone-syllable) that thy tent is peace, i.e., in a condition of contentment and peace on all sides. Job 5:24 is to be arranged: And when thou examinest thy household, then thou lackest nothing, goest not astray, i.e., thou findest everything, without missing anything, in the place where thou seekest it.
Job 5:25 reminds one of the Salomonic Psa 72:16. צאצאים in the Old Testament is found only in Isaiah and the book of Job. The meaning of the noun כּלח, which occurs only here and Job 30:2, is clear. Referring to the verb כּלח, Arabic qahila (qalhama), to be shrivelled up, very aged, it signifies the maturity of old age, - an idea which may be gained more easily if we connect כּלח with כּלה (to be completed), like קשׁח with קשׁה (to be hard).
(Note: We may also compare the Arabic khl (from which comes cuhulije, mature manhood, opp. tufulije, tender childhood).)
In the parallel there is the time of the sheaves, when they are brought up to the high threshing-floor, the latest period of harvest. עלה, of the raising of the sheaves to the threshing-floor, as elsewhere of the raising, i.e., the bringing up of the animals to the altar. גּדישׁ is here a heap of sheaves, Arab. kuds, as Job 21:32 a sepulchral heap, Arab. jadat, distinct from אלמּה, a bundle, a single sheaf.
The speech of Eliphaz, which we have broken up into nine strophes, is now ended. Eliphaz concludes it by an epimythionic distich, Job 5:27, with an emphatic nota bene. He speaks at the same time in the name of his companions. These are principles well proved by experience with which he confronts Job. Job needs to lay them to heart: tu scito tibi.
All that Eliphaz says, considered in itself, is blameless. He censures Job's vehemence, which was certainly not to be approved. He says that the destroying judgment of God never touches the innocent, but certainly the wicked; and at the same time expresses the same truth as that placed as a motto to the Psalter in Psa 1:1-6, and which is even brilliantly confirmed in the issue of the history of Job. When we find Isa 57:1, comp. Psa 12:2, in apparent opposition to this, אבד הצּדּיק, it is not meant that the judgment of destruction comes upon the righteous, but that his generation experiences the judgment of his loss (aetati suae perit). And these are eternal truths, that between the Creator and creature, even an angel, there remains an infinite distance, and that no creature possesses a righteousness which it can maintain before God. Not less true is it, that with God murmuring is death, and that it is appointed to sinful man to pass through sorrow. Moreover, the counsel of Eliphaz is the right counsel: I would turn to God, etc. His beautiful concluding exhortation, so rich in promises, crowns his speech.
It has been observed (e.g., by Lwenthal), that if it is allowed that Eliphaz (Job 5:17.) expresses a salutary spiritual design of affliction, all coherence in the book is from the first destroyed. But in reality it is an effect producing not only outward happiness, but also an inward holiness, which Eliphaz ascribes to sorrow. It is therefore to be asked, how it consists with the plan of the book. There is no doctrinal error to be discovered in the speech of Eliphaz, and yet he cannot be considered as a representative of the complete truth of Scripture. Job ought to humble himself under this; but since he does not, we must side with Eliphaz.
He does not represent the complete truth of Scripture: for there are, according to Scripture, three kinds of sufferings, which must be carefully distinguished.
(Note: Our old dogmatists (vid., e.g., Baier, Compendium Theologiae positivae, ii. 1, 15) and pastoral theologians (e.g., Danhauer) consider them as separate. Among the oldest expositors of the book of Job with which I am acquainted, Olympiodorus is comparatively the best.)
The godless one, who has fallen away from God, is visited with suffering from God; for sin and the punishment of sin (comprehended even in the language in עון and חטּאת) are necessarily connected as cause and effect. This suffering of the godless is the effect of the divine justice in punishment; it is chastisement (מוּסר) under the disposition of wrath (Psa 6:2; Psa 38:2; Jer 10:24.), though not yet final wrath; it is punitive suffering (נקם, נגע, τιμωρία, poena). On the other hand, the sufferings of the righteous flow from the divine love, to which even all that has the appearance of wrath in this suffering must be subservient, as the means only by which it operates: for although the righteous man is not excepted from the weakness and sinfulness of the human race, he can never become an object of the divine wrath, so long as his inner life is directed towards God, and his outward life is governed by the most earnest striving after sanctification. According to the Old and New Testaments, he stands towards God in the relation of a child to his father (only the New Testament idea includes the mystery of the new birth not revealed in the Old Testament); and consequently all sufferings are fatherly chastisements, Deu 8:5; Pro 3:12; Heb 12:6, Rev 3:19, comp. Tob. 12:13 (Vulg.). But this general distinction between the sufferings of the righteous and of the ungodly is not sufficient for the book of Job. The sufferings of the righteous even are themselves manifold. God sends affliction to them more and more to purge away the sin which still has power over them, and rouse them up from the danger of carnal security; to maintain in them the consciousness of sin as well as of grace, and with it the lowliness of penitence; to render the world and its pleasures bitter as gall to them; to draw them from the creature, and bind them to himself by prayer and devotion. This suffering, which has the sin of the godly as its cause, has, however, not God's wrath, but God's love directed towards the preservation and advancement of the godly, as its motive: it is the proper disciplinary suffering (מוּסר or תּוכחת, Pro 3:11; παιδεία, Heb 12). It is this of which Paul speaks, Co1 11:32. This disciplinary suffering may attain such a high degree as entirely to overwhelm the consciousness of the relation to God by grace; and the sufferer, as frequently in the Psalms, considers himself as one rejected of God, over whom the wrath of God is passing. The deeper the sufferer's consciousness of sin, the more dejected is his mood of sorrow; and still God's thoughts concerning him are thoughts of peace, and not of evil (Jer 29:11). He chastens, not however in wrath, but בּמשׁפּט, with moderation (Jer 10:24).
Nearly allied to this suffering, but yet, as to its cause and purpose, distinct, is another kind of the suffering of the godly. God ordains suffering for them, in order to prove their fidelity to himself, and their earnestness after sanctification, especially their trust in God, and their patience. He also permits Satan, who impeaches them, to tempt them, to sift them as wheat, in order that he may be confounded, and the divine choice justified, - in order that it may be manifest that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, are able to separate them from the love of God, and to tear away their faith (אמונה) from God, which has remained stedfast on Him, notwithstanding every apparent manifestation of wrath. The godly will recognise his affliction as such suffering when it comes upon him in the very midst of his fellowship with God, his prayer and watching, and his struggling after sanctification. For this kind of suffering - trial - Scripture employs the expressions נסּה (Deu 8:2, Deu 8:16) and בּחן (Pro 17:3), πειρασμός (Jam 1:12; Pe1 1:6., Job 4:19; comp. Sir. 2:1ff.). Such suffering, according to a common figure, is for the godly what the smelting-furnace or the fining-pot is to precious metals. A rich reward awaits him who is found proof against the trial, temptation, and conflict, and comes forth from it as pure, refined gold. Suffering for trial is nearly allied to that for chastisement, in so far as the chastisement is at the same time trial; but distinct from it, in so far as every trial is not also chastisement (i.e., having as its purpose the purging away of still existing sin).
A third kind of the suffering of the righteous is testimony borne by suffering, - reproach, persecution, and perhaps even martyrdom, which are endured for the sake of fidelity to God and His word. While he is blessed who is found proof against trial, he is blessed in himself who endures this suffering (Mat 5:11., and other passages); for every other suffering comes upon man for his own sake, this for God's. In this case there is not even the remotest connection between the suffering and the sinfulness of the sufferer. Ps 44 is a prayer of Israel in the midst of this form of suffering. Σταυρός is the name expressly used for it in the New Testament - suffering for the kingdom of heaven's sake.
Without a knowledge of these different kinds of human suffering, the book of Job cannot be understood. "Whoever sees with spiritual eyes," says Brentius, "does not judge the moral character of a man by his suffering, but his suffering by his moral character." Just the want of this spiritual discernment and inability to distinguish the different kinds of suffering is the mistake of the friends, and likewise, from the very first, the mistake of Eliphaz. Convinced of the sincere piety of his friend, he came to Job believing that his suffering was a salutary chastisement of God, which would at last turn out for his good. Proceeding upon this assumption, he blames Job for his murmuring, and bids him receive his affliction with a recognition of human sinfulness and the divine purpose for good. Thus the controversy begins. The causal connection with sin, in which Eliphaz places Job's suffering, is after all the mildest. He does not go further than to remind Job that he is a sinner, because he is a man.
But even this causal connection, in which Eliphaz connects Job's sufferings, though in the most moderate way, with previous sin deserving of punishment, is his πρώτον ψεῦδος. In the next place, Job's suffering is indeed not chastisement, but trial. Jehovah has decreed it for His servant, not to chasten him, but to prove him. This it is that Eliphaz mistakes; and we also should not know it but for the prologue and the corresponding epilogue. Accordingly, the prologue and epilogue are organic parts of the form of the book. If these are removed, its spirit is destroyed.
But the speech of Eliphaz, moreover, beautiful and true as it is, when considered in itself, is nevertheless heartless, haughty, stiff, and cold. For (1.) it does not contain a word of sympathy, and yet the suffering which he beholds is so terribly great: his first word to his friend after the seven days of painful silence is not one of comfort, but of moralizing. (2.) He must know that Job's disease is not the first and only suffering which has come upon him, and that he has endured his previous afflictions with heroic submission; but he ignores this, and acts as though sorrow were now first come upon Job. (3.) Instead of recognising therein the reason of Job's despondency, that he thinks that he has fallen from the love of God, and become an object of wrath, he treats him as self-righteous;
(Note: Oetinger: "Eliphaz mentioned the oracle to affect seriously the hidden hypocrisy of Job's heart.")
and to excite his feelings, presents an oracle to him, which contains nothing but what Job might sincerely admit as true. (4.) Instead of considering that Job's despair and murmuring against God is really of a different kind from that of the godless, he classes them together, and instead of gently correcting him, present to Job the accursed end of the fool, who also murmurs against God, as he has himself seen it. Thus, in consequence of the false application which Eliphaz makes of it, the truth contained in his speech is totally reversed. Thus delicately and profoundly commences the dramatical entanglement. The skill of the poet is proved by the difficulty which the expositor has in detecting that which is false in the speech of Eliphaz. The idea of the book does not float on the surface. It is clothed with flesh and blood. It is submerged in the very action and history.