Day 3

Eliphaz’s First Speech

from the Job reading plan


Job 4:1-21, Job 5:1-27, Romans 5:1, 1 Corinthians 3:18-23

BY Lisa Harper

Soon after my parents divorced, Dad remarried. Then, he moved out of the city to forty-two acres of flat, cactus-dotted pastureland in Central Florida to pursue his dream of becoming a cattleman-rancher. I loved helping Dad take care of our small herd, especially a solid black calf we named “Inky,” whose mama died while giving birth to him. I nursed Inky with a bottle until he got strong enough to fend for himself. But it wasn’t long before that baby Hereford bonded to me and no longer wanted to stay in the pasture with the rest of the cows. Instead, he followed me around like an oversized puppy, curled up and sleeping outside the house with the our pack of snoring dogs, who completely accepted him despite the fact that he mooed rather than barked.

When my sweet baby bull was about a year old, Dad told me it was time to assimilate him back into the pasture with the herd. I cried, insisting that he didn’t know how to be a cow anymore because he’d become part of our family. But Dad gently encouraged me to think of what was best for Inky, and so I relented. Sadly, not long after we transitioned him from pet back to farm animal, a pack of rabid dogs attacked and killed several cows in the herd, including Inky. And while Inky was a yearling big enough to defend himself, he probably didn’t because he saw dogs as friends, not as potentially dangerous foes. I was inconsolable, devastated by the realization that had I not turned Inky into a pet, he might not have been savagely attacked and killed. My less-than-tender stepmother, however, was annoyed at my grief over a “stupid cow.”

I was just an 11-year-old girl at the time of that mini-tragedy, but that’s when I learned that grief is not an inclusive emotion. Deep ache tends to be an isolating event, and despair tends to put uncomfortable distance between the heartbroken and observers—especially if those observers haven’t processed their own grief and loss. It reminds me of American poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s most observed and enduring line: “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone.”

Job certainly walked “the narrow aisles of pain” in solitude. Before the prologue of his story was even finished, he’d lost almost everyone who really mattered to him, except for his wife—who was more salt-in-his-wounds than a comfort at this point—and three so-called friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar), a trio who quickly revealed their distaste for Job’s honest despair, distancing themselves from the awkward messiness of his grief with condescending admonitions. The low-blow gist of his loquacious buddy Eliphaz in chapters 4 and 5 is this: Job, you obviously have hidden sin in your life. That’s why you’re in this pit of destruction. So you may as well quit whining, because no one’s even listening to your prayers!

When my stepmother callously referred to Inky as a “stupid cow,” she was technically correct; bovine creatures don’t have nearly as high of an intellectual capacity as humans. However, she was oblivious to the fact that I had a real bond with that baby bull, which is why she could so easily dismiss my grief as adolescent drama. And that’s essentially the chasm that becomes apparent between Job and his three miserable comforters. Not all of what they say to Job is technically wrong. In fact, most of what they say about God’s inscrutability is accurate in principle. But the spirit of their preaching is crooked because they ignore the fact that Job has a real relationship with God. And the messy, wildly honest grievances he airs actually prove the very real existence of that bond.

 

Post Comments (91)

91 thoughts on "Eliphaz’s First Speech"

  1. Rachel Nixon says:

    I so appreciate the commentary when it talks about their advice “technically not being wrong.” We are going through a very rough season and have been given some well-meaning but very unhelpful advice and counsel. None of it is technically false but all of it choosing to leave out a HUGE piece of the puzzle. I think in my mind, when advice is technically biblically accurate, I struggle to sort out what I hear from God myself and what is shared with me by friends.

  2. Madalyn Campbell says:

    When I lost my mom a year ago I turned to others to help process my grief and to make me feel better about what I had experienced. I found myself unfulfilled and ultimately angry because it wasn’t getting better and I wasn’t being healed. It wasn’t until I turned to God for comfort and grew stronger in my faith that I truly began to heal and process my grief. I can’t imagine where I would be now if I hadn’t made that change and leaned into God.

  3. April Bowen says:

    ❤️

  4. Tiffany Denice says:

    I’m not a hypocrite, at least I don’t want to be anymore, so I’m going to be honest. I’m guilty of dwelling in my own misery. Waiting and wanting someone to care or console me. It was so bad i embellished my own woes until I forgot the entire truth. I was missing something that Job had and that’s a relationship with god. That’s crazy he has a relationship with god and still struggled which made me realize how truly lost I was or am. So I’m new to this relationship but I’m feeling better already and realizing how truly blessed I am. I don’t feel weak right now, I feel proud and supported in this new found relationship with God.

  5. Diane Thomas says:

    Something that made me think was Job 4:3-6.
    I’m constantly encouraging and uplifting others, but if I want my words to be effective, I also have to be the example of my own words. I have to walk in my faith so others see that I truly believe what I’m speaking to them.

  6. Leah Atkins says:

    Currently in our Sunday School class we have two members who are experiencing great pain and suffering. One member’s wife was in the hospital had complications from a surgery, was in ICU for 2 weeks. She passed away yesterday. Another member has been dealing with serious health issues for a year and a half- amputation that just doesn’t want to heal. In all this I have learned these friends didn’t need me to give them answers about what was and is happening- they just need the presence of friends. Sometimes to sit and talk, sometimes to do nothing but listen, and other times just sit. Each family are believers, they know our God is in full control, but when overwhelmed by circumstances of the road they are traveling – all I need to do is be still and sit. Prayers for all who are in a season of Job right now. May you remain steadfast in your faith.

  7. Leslie Landiss says:

    Sarah D., I had the same thing happen to me at the end of my freshman year of college. It is hard, giving up your childhood home. This may seem silly, but you may find some comfort in walking through your home, Rubin king of the fond and happy memories, and then telling each room goodbye and thanking God for the times you had there. It will likely be sad, you will probably cry, and that is okay. Tears are good for us, they are cleansing.
    May you find peace and happiness in your next home, and may God bless you in this transition.

  8. Nads says:

    Sorry **Thanks LISA (not “Laura”)

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