|This article does not cite any sources. (January 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)|
Eliphaz appears mild and modest. In his first reply to Job's complaints, he argues that those who are truly good are never entirely forsaken by Providence, but that punishment may justly be inflicted for secret sins. He denies that any man is innocent and censures Job for asserting his freedom from guilt. Eliphaz exhorts Job to confess any concealed iniquities to alleviate his punishment. His arguments are well supported but God declares at the end of the book that Eliphaz had an erroneous view of divine dispensations. Job offers a sacrifice to God for Eliphaz's error.
Eliphaz, the first of the three visitors of Job (Job ii. 11), surnamed "the Temanite"; supposed to have come from Teman, an important city of Edom (Amos i. 12; Obad. 9; Jer. xlix. 20). Thus Eliphaz appears as the representative of the wisdom of the Edomites, which, according to Obad. 8, Jer. xlix. 7, and Baruch iii. 22, was famous in antiquity.
The name Eliphaz "for the spokesman of Edomite wisdom may have been suggested to the author of Job by the tradition which gave this name to Esau's son, the father of Theman (Gen. xxxvi. 11; I Chron. i. 35, 36). In the arguments that pass between Job and his friends, it is Eliphaz that opens each of the three series of discussions.
His primary belief was that the righteous do not perish; the wicked alone suffer, and in measure as they have sinned (Job iv. 7-9). This argument is, in part, rooted in what he believes to have been a personal revelation he received through a dream (Job iv. 12-16): Can mankind be just before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker? He puts no trust even in His servants; And against His angels He charges error. How much more those who dwell in houses of clay (Job iv. 17-19a).
After mulling it over, Job responds to this "revelation" of Eliphaz in chapter 9 verse 2, "“In truth I know that this is so; but how can a man be in the right before God? If one wished to dispute with Him, he could not answer Him once in a thousand times." Eliphaz refers to his revelation again for emphasis in Job 15:14-16.
Bildad also refers to Eliphaz's revelation in chapter 25, although he presents the concept as his own. Job rebukes him for it in chapter 26, "What a help you are to the weak! How you have saved the arm without strength! What counsel you have given to one without wisdom! What helpful insight you have abundantly provided! To whom have you uttered words? And whose spirit was expressed through you?" Job pokes fun at Bildad asking him what spirit revealed it to him because he recognizes the argument as Eliphaz's spiritual revelation.
Although quick-witted, and quick to respond, Eliphaz loses his composure in chapter 22, accusing Job of oppressing widows and orphans, a far cry from how he had originally described Job in chapter 4, "Behold you have admonished many, and you have strengthened weak hands. Your words have helped the tottering to stand, and you have strengthened feeble knees. But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed. Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?"
Eliphaz also misconstrues Job's message in chapter 22:12-14 as he scrambles to summarize Job's thoughts from chapter 21. "You say, ‘What does God know? Can He judge through the thick darkness? Clouds are a hiding place for Him, so that He cannot see; And He walks on the vault of heaven.'"
Job wasn't arguing that God could not prevent evil. Job was observing that in this life God often chooses not prevent evil. Conventional wisdom told Eliphaz that God should immediately punish the wicked as that would be the just thing to do. Job, however, saw it differently, and in chapter 24 verse 1, Job laments. "Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment? Why must those who know him look in vain for such days?"
Job yearns for the justice Eliphaz claims exists – an immediate punishment of the wicked. However, that simply didn't hold true according to Job's observations. Nevertheless, Job doesn't question God's ultimate justice. He knows justice will eventually be served. In chapter 27, Job asks, "For what hope have the godless when they are cut off, when God takes away their life? Does God listen to their cry when distress comes upon them?" Here, Job suspects there will be a final judgement.