Job 4:1-21

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According to an epilogue in the Septuagint that is not found in the extant Hebrew text, Eliphaz was a descendant of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob and, therefore, also a descendant of Abraham. (42:17e [LXX]) In Genesis 36, verses 10 and 11, Teman is listed among the descendants of Esau. Eliphaz was the first one to respond to Job’s painful lament, suggesting that he may have been the oldest of the three men that had arrived to comfort Job or that he may have been the most prominent among them. The region of Teman came to be known for its wise men (Jeremiah 49:7), and (as evident from verses 9 and 10 of Job chapter 15) Eliphaz considered himself to be wise. His expression about the aged as possessors of wisdom (15:10) could indicate that he was older than Job, Bildad, and Zophar. (4:1)

When responding to what Job had said, Eliphaz spoke with restraint, asking him whether he might become “weary,” dispirited, or impatient (or take offense) if someone tried to speak a “word” to him. Eliphaz perceived what Job had said to be an unjustifiable complaint against God, and this impelled him to speak. This is implied in the wording of the next question. “And to restrain words, who can [that is, who can do so after hearing what Job had said]?” The Septuagint phrases the question somewhat differently. “But who can endure the strength [or the force] of your words?” Eliphaz is thus portrayed as expressing himself to the effect that his only option was to speak up in defense of God. In the Septuagint, the initial question also differs from the Masoretic Text. “Have you often been spoken to [while] in distress?” (4:2)

Eliphaz reminded Job that, in the past, he had instructed many and strengthened weak hands, providing encouragement and comfort to those who were dispirited. (4:3)

With comforting and reassuring words, Job had raised up those who were stumbling. His words must have strengthened them so that they were able to bear the adversity that had befallen them. According to the Septuagint, Job, with his words, raised up those who were weak, powerless, or helpless. The kind of encouragement and comfort Job provided “made firm” the knees that were about to give way, strengthening those who were downcast during the time of their distress or, as expressed in the Septuagint, encompassing weak knees with courage. (4:4)

In the estimation of Eliphaz, Job had not responded in a way that should have been expected from a man who had strengthened others. “Affliction” (LXX) or “distress” had come upon him, and he had become “weary,” dispirited, or impatient. It had “touched” him, and he had become “dismayed,” disturbed, or disquieted. The Hebrew word that may be rendered “dismayed” can also mean “hasten” or “make haste,” and this is the rendering in the Septuagint. This could mean that, instead of patiently enduring, he was quick to become irritated by what had befallen him. (4:5; see the Notes section.)

Eliphaz apparently believed that Job’s reaction to what had befallen him could not be that of a reverential man or of a man who was “complete” in his ways (one who conducted himself as a man of integrity). Therefore, he directed the rhetorical question to Job, “[Is] not your fear [of God] your confidence [kisláh], also the completeness [or integrity] of your ways your hope?” The implication of the question appears to be that, if Job had been a God-fearing man of integrity, he should have been confident that everything would turn out well in the end and that this would have been his sure hope or expectation. (4:6)

In the context of verse 6, the Hebrew word kisláh is commonly regarded as denoting “confidence.” It can, however, also mean mean “folly.” (Psalm 85:8[9]) This explains the rendering of the Septuagint. “[Is] then not your fear in folly, also your hope and the innocence of your way?” The wording of the Septuagint suggests that the basis of Job’s fear was folly, as also was the hope he had on the basis of believing that his way or conduct had been innocent or free from evil. (4:6)

Eliphaz called upon Job to “remember” or to bring to mind the truth that he was about to express with another rhetorical question. Who of the “innocent” (the “clean” or “pure” [LXX]) had ever “perished” and when had the “upright” (“true ones,” genuine ones, or honest ones [LXX]) ever been “effaced” (been “destroyed with the whole root” [LXX])? (4:7)

Based on what he had seen, Eliphaz said that those “plowing iniquity” (“things out of place,” inappropriate things, or wrongs [LXX]) and “sowing trouble” are the ones who reap the consequences for their actions. According to the Septuagint, the ones to whom Eliphaz referred “reap pains for themselves.” (4:8)

The “breath of God [ordinance of the Lord (LXX])],” like a destructive tempest, causes those “plowing iniquity” and “sowing trouble” to perish. They come to their finish (“will be exterminated” [LXX]) through the “spirit of his anger” or from the full force of his wrath. (4:9)

Eliphaz seemingly likened what happens to those who injure others to what takes place in the case of lions. These animals may roar and frighten prey, but even the teeth of young lions get broken. With broken teeth, they cannot consume prey. The text may be literally rendered, “A lion’s [aryéh] roar [strength (LXX)], a lion’s [sháchal (lioness’s [LXX])] sound, and the teeth of young lions [kephír] get broken.” In the Septuagint, the concluding phrase reads, “but the arrogance of dragons was extinguished.” (4:10; see the Notes section.)

Although a strong predator, a lion (láyish) will perish when sufficient prey for survival is no longer available. The “cubs of a lioness (laví’) are scattered.” When the cubs are abandoned, they cannot survive. They will either starve to death or become victims of other predators. The implied message Eliphaz appeared to have intended for Job was that the wicked, like beasts of prey and their offspring, eventually come to their end. (4:11; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Eliphaz claimed that a “word” or message had been conveyed to him as by stealth. He perceived this message as having been whispered in his ear. (4:12; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

The “word” or message came to Eliphaz in a dream. It was at a time when “visions of the night” give rise to disquieting thoughts and when “men” or people experience “deep sleep.” The Septuagint refers to the time as one of “fear” and a “nightly ringing sound,” of “fear falling upon men.” (4:13)

“Dread” (“shuddering” [LXX]) and “trembling” came upon Eliphaz while he was dreaming. All his “bones” or his entire physical frame came to be filled with dread (“shook” [LXX]). (4:14)

A “spirit” passed by, and Eliphaz appears to have sensed its movement upon his face. This caused the hair of his skin (literally, “flesh”) to “bristle.” According to the Septuagint, his “hair and flesh quivered.” (4:15)

Eliphaz seemingly perceived the “spirit” as standing still, but he could not “recognize its appearance” or make out what it looked like. He saw a “form before his eyes,” an indistinguishable form. Initially, there appears to have been “silence” or calm, and then Eliphaz heard a voice. (4:16)

The Septuagint rendering departs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. Eliphaz (not the “spirit”) is the one who “stood up,” and he did not recognize the spirit. Although he looked, he saw “no form before [his] eyes.” He did hear “a breeze and a voice.” (4:16)

The words that Eliphaz heard were phrased as rhetorical questions. “Can a mortal man [’enóhsh] be righteous before God? Can a man [géver] be pure before his Maker?” The implied answer is that no mortal can be considered righteous or upright before God, and no man can be regarded as pure or clean by the One who made him. (4:17; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Eliphaz heard that God does not trust his servants and that he finds fault with his “messengers” or “angels.” The Septuagint rendering could be understood to say that God does not believe his servants. With reference to his “messengers” or “angels,” he notes something “crooked.” Whereas the prologue made it undeniably clear that God trusted Job (1:8; 2:3), the message that Eliphaz heard reflected Satan’s view regarding Job. Eliphaz thus spoke as one who had been duped by a lying spirit that misrepresented God as trusting no one, not even angels. (4:18)

Eliphaz reasoned that, since God did not trust angels, he trusted humans to an even lesser extent. Humans are earthlings who consist of the elements of the ground. As Eliphaz poetically described them, their physical bodies are “houses of clay” with a foundation that is “in the dust” of the earth. Being mortals, humans are crushed more quickly than a moth, an insect with no hard protective covering. (4:19; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Between morning and evening or throughout the day, humans are crushed, dying from disease or in old age and as victims of war or random violence. In a general sense, no one really takes note of the many who thus perish forever. The Septuagint refers to them as being no more and perishing because they could not help themselves. Nothing they could do would have enabled them to escape from dying. (4:20)

In their mortal bodies, humans are dwelling as if in a temporary tent. Once the life force within them ceases to operate, they do not continue living, collapsing like a tent when the tent cord is pulled up from the place to which it was tied to the ground. The rhetorical question that Eliphaz raised was, “If the tent cord within them is pulled out, do they not die and [that] not with wisdom?” This could mean that they die without having attained wisdom during their short life. A number of translations are specific in rendering the text according to this significance. “[They] die without ever finding wisdom.” (REB) “They die devoid of wisdom.” (NJB) “You leave this life, having gained no wisdom.” (CEV) The Septuagint, however, indicates that they perish because they did not have wisdom. They simply did not have the wisdom to prevent or avoid dying. (4:21; see the Notes section for the Septuagint rendering of the beginning of this verse.)


In verse 5, the extant Hebrew text does not include a word for “affliction” as the object of what had come upon Job, but it is included in the rendering of the Septuagint (“but now affliction has come upon you and touched you”).

In verses 10 and 11, five different Hebrew words refer to a lion, but the context does not indicate just what the distinguishing features may be.

The Septuagint, in verse 11, refers to the “ant lion” (myrmekoléon) as perishing. There is no way to determine just what animal is thus designated. Regarding the lion cubs, the Septuagint says that they “abandoned one another.”

Verse 12 in the Septuagint contains a rendering that departs significantly from the extant Hebrew text. “But if there had come to be any truthful saying among your words, nothing of such kinds of bad would have met you.” The meaning appears to be that, if Job had been truthful and honest, he would not have experienced the calamities that had befallen him. Then with reference to Eliphaz, the verse continues, “Will not my ear receive extraordinary things from him?” The question indicated that Eliphaz expected to receive extraordinary revelations from God.

In verse 17, the Septuagint rendering differs somewhat from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. “What then? Can a mortal be pure before the Lord, or a man be blameless by reason of his works?” The implied answer is that no mortal could be considered pure or clean before the Lord. The works or deeds of a man are not without flaw, and so his works would not reveal him to be blameless.

Verse 19 of the Septuagint starts with the phrase, “But those dwelling in houses of clay.” Then, with apparent reference to himself and his companions, Eliphaz spoke of their being from the dwellers in houses of clay and of the “same clay.” He is quoted as concluding with the words, “He [God] struck them like a moth.”

In verse 21, the Septuagint starts with the words, “For he [God] blew upon them, and they withered.”