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223. Job 22, Eliphaz’s Third Speech; Introduction

 

Eliphaz seems to try a different approach to Job in this chapter. Rather than being gentle towards him (which is how most scholars characterize his first speech—Job 4-5), or somewhat critical of him (Job 15), Eliphaz here assumes a confrontative air, accusing Job of taking garments in pledge, of oppressing widows, and of withholding bread from the hungry (vv 6-13). Clines cites a bevy of commentators who note the contrast, and he agrees with them. One comment is representative:  “A complete turnaround has taken place in Eliphaz’s attitude toward Job.”  

 

That may indeed be true, and a sufficient reason for the change might be the tone of Job’s speeches between the time Eliphaz began speaking in Job 4 and Job 22. That is, rather than accusing the friends, especially Eliphaz, of somehow inconsistently changing styles, we might chalk it up to Job’s increasing theological independence and his cutting or critical statements against the friends. Job will not only chart a new course theologically as the book unfolds, but he will repeatedly criticize the friends for their small-mindedness and worthless arguments. One can well sympathize with Eliphaz if he demonstrates a different approach to Job in Job 22.


Yet, though the contrast between Job 4-5 and Job 22 is clear to see, I don’t see Eliphaz’s first speech in Job 4-5 quite as conciliatory as most scholars. As mentioned, the first word that Eliphaz utters, rather than being “If one attempts” (to talk with you), might better be rendered, “If one tests you (verb is the common nasah, though the object, you, is understood) with a word. . .”  All of Eliphaz’s words to Job are a sort of a test; those in Chapter 22 are a much more severe test.