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. Nads says:

    AMAZING devotion today!!
    Such a heart-rending story but, completely hit the nail on the head!! I have read the book of Job several times but, had a hard time benefitting from most of it so THANKS SRT!!!
    Thanks Laura (and sorry for what you went through) :)

  2. Meagan Hurd says:

    I realized how emotionally isolating grief is, especially when it seems to consume our thoughts. I find myself often having a two way conversation with God and struggling to include others in it because there’s a heart aspect that seems unexplainable. I’m so grateful for the way that was worded in this, it has been difficult for me to process the lack of communication with others. God doesn’t make mistakes and the trials grow us!!

  3. Helena Rose says:

    This is so so so good. And just so accurate. Such a great perspective!!

  4. Kate Wells says:

    I have tried to study this book myself to end up still confused and am so glad that it was chosen for this devotional. We have such a hard time holding space for others pain. It’s so much easier to intellectualize and assess than to empathize and get down in the pit of despair to just sit and be company to someone in pain. It’s painful for us to watch someone hurt. So we minimize their pain and hand out reason and solutions. All the while alienating that person who is the one actually hurting.

    1. Alisha Brandt says:

      Kate, I have experienced this over the past four years, as my life turned into the pits of pain in many ways like Jobs’, and I have struggled with the absence of people’s empathy or comfort. I ended up abandoned by most I thought were friends and even by many family members. What you say is true: I believe now they didn’t know how to sit and be with me; they couldn’t fix it or offer solutions . It was tough stuff I was living. I hope through this study, I can learn how to “sit” with people in the despair and pain and to not react as people did to me and as Job’s friends did to him.

    2. Alisha Brandt says:

      Kate, I experienced just what you have articulated. Over the past four years, my life has been filled with tragedy , and the people I believed were friends and even some family abandoned me in the pain. I have wrestled with this , as it added so much to my despair. It’s amazing to see it happen to Job here so many years ago. The patterns of our humanity remain the same. I hope this study will spur myself and others on to “sit” with people in their pain even when we can’t offer those solutions . This is what is most needed to survive the depths of despair . Otherwise , Isolation becomes the greatest tragedy of all.

  5. Kim Hull says:

    Beth – your words spoke giant truth to me today! Thank you for sharing them. I find myself often wanting to help or comfort or console, and I need to ALWAYS remember to take a step back to know that it is at HIS leading, and not my own needs!

  6. Christina N says:

    Struggling with all of this as I read. Not because I do not or have not read it before but I find myself many times the outcast of a family who’s roots are deep with the Lord but also covered in legalism and a lack of sympathy or empathy in dealing with me.

    1. Marcha Rushing says:

      So many families are like that. YOU MUST HOLD FAST TO YOUR FAITH. ITS YOUR FAITH NOT THEIRS

  7. Steph C says:

    A lot of what Eliphaz says about God’s character is true. But the context and assumptions he makes about Job are not. Eliphaz’s main point is that Job would not be suffering if he had not sinned. That clearly Job has a secret sin that is causing God to punish him. Oh the truth of Romans 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God”. God doesn’t punish His children! Job’s sin had been forgiven. It was no more. God walks through trials with His children. He never abandons us.

  8. Patti says:

    Ah, man, I feel so bad about Inky.

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