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. Amber Herrick says:

    Thank you for these words and reminders

  2. Maria says:

    Kerri, yes, I noticed that too!
    I think it goes back to what has been said that they’re not completely wrong in what they say.
    They have judgement on Job wrong because what he needs is not discipline because he has been approved by God, he is not suffering as a consequence of sins.
    These studies in general have made me think a lot about friendship, and this passage has made me pray to be a friend who encourages others to press towards God before I give them a word of admonition. I think there are moments for correction, but I need to be sure it’s the right moment to say so, for it is the Spirit that does the work, not my words.

  3. Kerri Darby says:

    I am a bit perplexed by today’s reading! I read ch4 & first 1/2 of ch5 as explained…however, ch5:8-22 have a very different ring to me. Anybody else see Eliphaz as the friend who reminds Job of God’s discipline AND restoration? It seems he even encourages Job with God’s full redemption and restoration….anybody else??

    1. Carly Bell says:

      I totally read it like that myself. But I’m happy to read different views everyone has on it.

  4. Leigh Garrison says:

    As I get ready to have my first child any day now, I have realized that I cannot protect him/her from the world. I have had fears of being a good mom, protecting my child from suffering and pain. Instead of trying to protect my child from the inevitable, I need to focus on building my child up in the Lord so that when pain and suffering does occur, he/she will not waiver, but be open with our Lord rely on Him alone. I have a constant need to control life to avoid pain and I believe that I decided on this devotional because God led me to it. To remind me that I need to face any pain that may occur with the Grace he was bestowed on me and to transparent with our God.

  5. KC Derond says:

    It’s so easy to see Eliphaz’s speech as truth. But his theory was dead wrong. Job was not being punished or disciplined. God had already upheld Job as a model of goodness. He was being tested, and I think if we saw our trials and sufferings as tests rather than discipline (even though Lord knows we deserve it), we can act with more clarity and less instinct. I believe it would change how most of us react to certain situations.

  6. Katie Sytsma says:

    I started this study the same day I started listening to Jordan Peterson’s podcast. To be is to know suffering. We strive to live a life that is so meaningful that suffering is bearable. Relationship with God provides meaning. I’m trying to dig into my relationship with God, take it from surface to depth.

  7. Stephanie says:

    One thing that really changed my thoughts on Job was the teaching from Tim Mackie, who says (paraphrased) “Nothing in the Bible says that Job’s friends were RIGHT. This is what happened, but what they said was a mix of wrong and right.” I used to think these self righteous friends were to be listened to, making the painful story of Job even more painful. This helped, as does Lisa’s narrative!

  8. Beth Hinson says:

    The story of Job is such a good reminder for me not to make assumptions about people’s lives. It is so easy to look at his sufferings and jump to the conclusion like Eliphaz did, that it could be solved if he just turned to God for whatever he did to bring this upon himself. I am always searching for the right words to bring comfort and answers to people who are suffering, without usually knowing the whole story. Many times I believe the words I speak to them are more for my own benefit than theirs, so that I know I tried to help and I can live with an unguilty conscious. These passages of Job though have focused me more on searching for humility, patience, and understanding in these situations. I do not have all of the answers because I do not know a fraction of what God is doing in our lives. I pray that I allow Him to use me to bring His comfort to people, rather than speaking empty words for my own benefit.

    1. Caitlin Wagner says:

      Amen to this! Yes!

    2. Leah Atkins says:

      So true! I think as Christians, friends, we sometimes feel that surely we have special words of wisdom to impart, when really all that’s needed is our presence. At least that’s what I am learning. It’s difficult at times to leave myself at the door.

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