Job: Part III

Eliphaz’s Argument

Rabbi Israel Chait


Student’s edited notes from taped lectures


Chapter 4

Eliphaz commences his words to Job, urging him to listen to some of his own preaching. Job always comforted people and maintained that others greatly exaggerated their situations. Eliphaz then accuses Job of feeling just. This would mean God is not just because He is hurting an “innocent man” (Job). Eliphaz concludes that Job must truly be guilty:


“Shall man be just before God?” Also, “In his angels he charges with folly.”


Meaning, if in his prophets (angels) sin is present, “how much more so does sin exist with you Job.” Eliphaz maintains that Job has no way to perceive God’s idea of innocence and guilt. Therefore, Job’s entire defense of his innocence is false. He tells Job that he must have sinned. (5:7 Rashi says that it is impossible for man not to sin.)

Eliphaz maintained that there are two kinds of sins: 1) an overt sin, known to the sinner, for which man is culpable, and 2) a sin due to human nature where God will act to help him overcome it, since it is not known by the sinner. Eliphaz maintained that since Job denied having sinned, Job committed the second type of sin, and was fortunate that God was punishing him so he could perfect himself. Eliphaz further maintains that once Job finds his sin, God will heal him and he will enjoy a good life.





Job’s Response to Eliphaz


Chapter 6


Until verse 11, Job states that he has not sinned. What is meant by “is my strength the strength of stones?” Job means that God’s punishments must allow man to overcome his wrong. But Job claims, “My punishment does not allow me to search out my wrong, as you say the punishment was meant to do. There must be limits to the punishment so as to make it possible for me to overcome my wrong.” In other words, Job is saying that if his punishment was meant to do as Eliphaz suggests, it is an unjust punishment. Eliphaz told Job that he must gain his composure, for he felt that Job was letting his punishment overtake him. But Job’s reply was that God’s acute pains were not allowing him to gain his composure. Job meant to say that Eliphaz’s argument was good only up until the point where Job was, that point being where the troubles make it impossible for him to function well enough to think, as Job says, “Am I made out of stone?” 

What is meant by 6:21:


“For now ye are nothing; ye see my casting down, and are afraid”?


Job maintains that Eliphaz was siding with God. Job first told his friends that they are afraid that something was going to happen to them, and that is why they sided with God, afraid to side with Job. Secondly, Job maintained that they were afraid to face the reality, which Job suggested.  Their fear was that by agreeing with Job, they would have to abandon their philosophy.  (Rashi, Ibn Ezra) 

The reason why Job retorted to his friends, first by describing his pain, was to make them see that the pain was too great to do as they told him (to pull himself together). Their philosophy was one in which they desired to remain secure in their own ideas, fearful to look at reality objectively, lest they see that they are wrong.

Job continues, stating that their philosophy will “bury orphans and undermine friends” because they are not being objective.

Chapter 7 verse 12 states,


“Am I a sea, or a whale, that You set a watch over me?” 


With these words, Job commences a new argument. Since Job could not find in himself any sin, and since he never denied God’s Providence, he concluded that God must be out to get him. For why else would God’s Providence relate to him? If not to help, it must be to hurt. So he questions God as to why he in particular was chosen as a target, “Why am I so important that you come against me as an enemy?”  So we learn from these complaints that Job maintained, 1) there is a Creator, 2) He knows what is happening, and 3) He has the power to stop Job’s pain. Job was stuck without a reason as to why these events befell him.