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150. Job 15, Eliphaz II, An Introduction
We may profitably divide Job 15 as follows:
Job 15:1-6, You Convict Yourself By Your Words, Job
Job 15:7-16, You Aren’t So Special, Job
Job 15:17-35, Let me Teach You A Thing or Two, Mostly About Divine Judgment
Introducing Job 15
Eliphaz’s tone towards Job changes considerably in this, his second, speech. Though his first speech began with a word of testing, or trying Job (nasah, 4:2), the overall tone of that speech was conciliatory and even encouraging. The first speech ended with a long but sympathetic description of the positive effects of the discipline (musar) of God (5:17-27). In contrast, Eliphaz’ second speech ends with a long and pitiless description of the fate of the wicked (vv 17-35). We can’t help but wonder if this is his way of trying to discredit or attack Job. In addition, the second speech begins by suggesting that Job is a clueless and even dangerous person (vv 1-6). Job's brazen approach to God hinders faith and does away with fear of God (v 4). Job is no longer treated as an erring friend but as a dangerous foe.
Eliphaz has good reason to change his tone here, since a lot has happened since he last spoke in Chapter 5. First, Job has increasingly attacked his friends as unhelpful and treacherous. They are as traitorous as summer wadis (6:15); they smear him with lies (13:4); they are worthless physicians (13:4). As he ramps up his attacks against them, Job mingles mockery with these allegations, assuring his friends, for example, that wisdom is uniquely possessed by them and surely will die with them (12:2).
Second, there is a new kind of confidence in Job, a confidence which the friends no doubt perceived as arrogance. This attitude is evident in Job’s making his case or judgment (13:18) against God with the expectation that he will be vindicated. When Job turns from the angry complainer to the well-armed litigator, he also turns away from the friends. They might have sympathized a bit with him in his sense of hurt or loss; but attacking God and believing that one is right in this attack is tantamount to putting God in the wrong, to accusing God of making a colossal blunder. It even can be understood as making oneself superior to God.
Third, Job explores deep realms of sadness and grief. He believes that what he most needs in this situation is not the communion of the saints but further distance from God and others (end of Job 7 and Job 10). He really has very little emotional space left for his friends to join him in his unique journey. To make things worse, as Eliphaz will argue in Job 15, the friends (or Eliphaz, at least) don’t see Job’s situation in life as that special. By setting himself up as a unique, lonely, defiant sufferer, Job has isolated himself from all kinds of human comfort and rejected the wisdom of those who have come before him.
As the Book of Job moves along, the words of the friends echo less and less in our ears, while Job’s words become more powerful and assertive. Very few people can cite a verse of Bildad from Job 18 or of Eliphaz from Job 22, but almost everyone knows Job’s words “I know that my Redeemer lives”(19:25) or “My witness is in heaven” (16:19). It is a bit too much to say that the friends are simply a foil for Job as he becomes more and more eloquent, but they do seem to run out of new things to say. For example, by the time one gets to Bildad’s third speech (Job 25), it is only six verses in length, and its content, and even some of the words, mirror Eliphaz’s second speech. Beneath the fulminations of the friends, the text really seems to scream, ‘We really have nothing useful to add to the discussion.’