Third Cycle of Arguments
Third Cycle of Arguments (Job 22:1 – 28:28)
Eliphaz speaks. 22:1—30
Things to notice about Eliphaz
- Eliphaz and his friends have known Job for many years and have witnessed his upright life, favored by God. But now Job has crossed a line: He has rejected their orthodox legal theology.
- Eliphaz now concludes that Job is wicked. Eliphaz interprets it within his own legalistic view. Job is suffering the fate of the wicked; therefore Job is wicked. He pronounces Job guilty.
- The words of Eliphaz, especially in verses 5-9, are the most specific, harsh and untrue words spoken against Job in the whole book. It is strange to find them on the lips of Eliphaz, who to this point has shown the most compassion to Job.
- Eliphaz accuses Job of saying, “What does God know?” He tells Job that God can see even his secret sins.
- But Eliphaz suddenly returns to hope, telling Job that if he will return to God and confess his sins, God will answer him and restore him completely. Eliphaz’s theology may be legalistic, but he still cares for Job. Among the three friends, he is the only who maintains his mercy and compassion for Job. Of course Eliphaz does not realize that very soon he himself will be rebuked by God and then restored through Job’s prayers.
Job answers Eliphaz. 23:1—24:25
Job speaks in much the same way as he did in the first discourse: He ignores most of what Eliphaz says.
Job’s only hope is to find God, and he cries out with his deep longing to know where to find God, expressed most beautifully by Felix Mendelssohn in his oratorio Elijah: “Oh, that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come to His seat (into His presence) . . . if with all your hearts ye truly seek Me, Ye shall ever surely find Me, Thus saith our God.”
This is another example of the deep things of God that God is revealing to Job in the midst of his suffering. Of course Job does not fully understand these deep mysteries; he speaks truth even when he cannot fully understand it.
Job does not know how to find God, but he cries out to God. Although he cannot see God, he knows that God is present. His only hope is to find God and plead his case before Him. In one sense, Job’s friends’ false accusations have actually had the benefit of driving Job to desperation in his attempt to find God. Job is not doubting the justice or mercy of God; he just does not know how to find Him!
23:10 Job cannot find God, but God knows where Job is, and He sees him. Job makes a very important discovery: He begins to understand that all the trouble he has undergone is not God’s punishing him; it is God’s testing him. So he expresses hope. “When He has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”
Job is aware that God has placed him in the midst of a fiery trial, and that he will come out refined.
Job gives us the secret of his strength to endure and to continue confessing his trust in God. 23:12 “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my portion of food” . . .23:14 “For He will complete what He appoints for me.” This reminds us of the psalmist’s confession that he has hidden God’s Word in his heart so that he might not sin. (Psalm 119:11) Job is terrified of God; but he says, “I am not dead yet. I will continue to argue my case!”
Chapter 24 deals with the actions of the wicked and with the suffering of the poor. Job also speaks of the final punishment of the wicked. By speaking of these two things, Job is longing to see God’s justice. God sees all this evil, “. . . yet God charges no one with wrong.” (24:12) Job is questioning God’s compassion on the suffering poor. He even says, in verse 22, that “yet God prolongs the life of the mighty by His power.”
Job concludes his answer to Eliphaz by asking where is God’s judgment on the wicked and His deliverance for the suffering righteous people? He can find none.
Bildad is impatient to respond to Job. 25-1-6
He has little to say at this point, only that God is exalted on high and man, who is a maggot, or a worm, is lowly and sinful. From this point on, none of the three speak again. Zophar does not even get his third chance to rebuke Job. It only takes 6 verses for Bildad to give his closing argument. The three friends’ well has run dry.
Job begins to sum up his argument. 26:1—28:28
These 6 chapters are the climax of all of Job’s speeches. He sums up his argument against his friends.
- Job responds first to Bildad. He says, sarcastically, “How you have helped him who has no power!” (26:2) He continues to ask Bildad questions, such as “have you helped other people who were in such pain?” Job continues to talk of God as being sovereign over all things. He basically is saying that he knows everything Bildad knows, and that Bildad has said nothing that would help him in his distress.
- Beginning in chapter 27, Job speaks to all three of his friends.
- 27:2-6 He complains to God who has made his soul bitter, but then confesses that God continues to give him life. He knows that he is alive because of God’s grace; nevertheless he continues to complain to God.
- Job remains confident in his own integrity. v. 6 “I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go.”
- Job knows the truth about himself. He knows that his friends are wrong. He is immovable in his confidence that he has lived a righteous life before God, even when he is complaining about his suffering.
- Chapter 28. A surprising thing happens. In the midst of his argument with his three friends, Job suddenly begins to speak of wisdom! Some people speak of this as “Job’s Hymn to Wisdom.”
- It would be helpful to refer to the Book of James, where James contrasts the “wisdom that comes from below” with the “wisdom that comes from above.” Job is speaking about the wisdom that comes from above, which is “peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:17-18)
- Job does not yet understand the fullness of wisdom, but his remarkable praise of God’s wisdom is further proof of his righteousness before God. He complains to God in his suffering, but he maintains his righteousness as he does so.
- Job begins by saying that the search for wisdom is very elusive. Man searches for wisdom but cannot find it.
- v. 12 – He asks, “where is wisdom to be found?” Man does not know; the “deep” says, “it is not in me.” It cannot be bought by silver or gold, or by any precious jewels. v. 21 – “It is hidden from the eyes of all living.”
- v. 23 – But “God understands the way to it, and He knows its place.”
- v. 28 – God’s revelation to Job: The fear of the Lord is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.” This definition confirms Job as a righteous man who fears God and turns away from evil. Job actually summarizes the Old Testament definition of wisdom!
- Job maintained his fear of the Lord throughout his long trials of suffering. In the end, this became for Job the “fountain of life,” as the fear of the Lord is defined in Proverbs. Isaiah’s words became truth for Job: “The fear of the Lord is God’s treasure, and the stability of your times.” (Isaiah 33:6)
- After Job is restored by God, as recorded in Job chapter 42, Job will begin to fully enjoy the promises that God gives to those who fear Him. The prophet Malachi predicts these promises in Malachi 3:18—4:6.
- God allowed Job to have his “high moments” during his suffering. But Job’s suffering is so great that he cannot continue to enjoy them.
Some things to consider
1. We have said that Job is on the way to discovering the hidden treasure in his suffering. What have you learned in this study that helps us believe that Job is beginning to regain his hope?
2. Consider Job’s three friends – Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. Can you detect signs of Eliphaz’s compassion in his last speech. Why do you think Bildad’s last speech was so short? Why do you think Zophar did not have the chance to give his last speech?
3. What did you learn from Job’s speech on wisdom (28:1—28)?