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228. Job 22:21-30, One Last Chance to Repent

 

21 “Yield now and be at peace with Him;

Thereby good will come to you.

22 Please receive instruction from His mouth

And establish His words in your heart.

23 If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored;

If you remove unrighteousness far from your tent,

24 And place yourgold in the dust,

And the gold of Ophir among the stones of the brooks,

25 Then the Almighty will be your gold

And choice silver to you.

26 For then you will delight in the Almighty

And lift up your face to God.

27 You will pray to Him, and He will hear you;

And you will pay your vows.

28 You will also decree a thing, and it will be established for you;

And light will shine on your ways.

29 When you are cast down, you will speak with confidence,

And the humble person He will save.

30 He will deliver one who is not innocent,

And he will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.”

 

Now that we have left Eliphaz’s verbal torture chamber of 22:12-20, we actually enter on a much smoother road for the rest of the chapter, though the road still has many potholes. Eliphaz’s final words will be words of hope. They will be measured, optimistic, clear. The language is gentle; Job is urged to “be of use” to God (v 21, sakan, 12x), where Eliphaz subtly uses the same rare verb he had twice used in 22:2 to question humanity’s “use” to God. That is, in using sakan in verse 21 Eliphaz may even be moderating the apparent harshness of his earlier words. Humans can be “of use” to God after all—by turning to God and treasuring God like one would treasure gold and silver. 

 

Most modern translations of verse 21 miss the subtlety of Eliphaz’ appeal. Some translations have “submit yourself to God” or “yield yourself” or in the quaint language of the KJV, “acquaint now thyself with him” or “come to terms with him.” Yet the most obvious meaning of the verb sakan is to connect it with the two sakan’s  earlier in the chapter. Almost uniquely among translators, then, I render verse 21 as: 

 

        “Be of use (or make yourself of use), I pray you, with him, and thereby be at peace, and good           will come to you.”

 

The form of the verb “to come” at the end of this verse is what some older scholars called a “grammatical monstrum”because of the unusual spelling of the verb, though it is clear that it comes from bo, “come.” The way that Job can truly be a benefit to God is not yet specified, but hope is held out here in this striking verse. The last word of Job’s life need not be one of hopelessness or of sharing the fate of the wicked. He can “be at peace” and then good will come to him. That is the start of Eliphaz’s hopeful statement for Job.  


The words now flow from Eliphaz’s mouth like water from a mountain spring. In thoughts that have more than an echo of Proverbs 1-2, Eliphaz urges Job to

 

     “take, I pray you, instruction (the word is torah rather than musar) from his mouth, and place his        words in your heart.”

 

The twofold appearance of the little particle na (“I pray you) in verses 21-22, gives these first two verses a tone of gentle and inviting appeal. Don’t we hear Proverbs 2:1-2 here, where the child is urged to “incline your heart to understanding” and “treasure up my commandments within you”? Eliphaz no doubt knows the sentiment or the actual words of that passage, and he knows that the end result is that he will “understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God (Proverbs 2:5). Thus, Eliphaz begins his final appeal to Job with gentle, biblical, optimist language. He is saying, ‘All is not lost, Job. God still is holding out the divine hands to you.’ That is the tone.

 

Though verse 23 can be rendered a few different ways, the meaning is the same, 

 

            “If you return (shub) to the Almighty, you will be built up; you then will put

            unrighteousness far from your tent.”

 

In the “return” language of verse 23 we hear echoes of Hosea’s alluring words (6:1):

 

            “Come, let us return (shub) to the Lord;

            for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us up;

            he has struck down, and he will bind us up.”

 

The same thought is expressed in other wisdom literature— Proverbs 1:23 has,

 

            “Turn (shub) to my instruction/reproof; I will pour out my spirit to you, I will

            make known my words to you.”

 

In Job’s case, if he were to “return” to God, he would be “built up” (using the common banah). Eliphaz's use of banah here reminds us of Job’s first speech, where he talked about the illustrious princes in Sheol, princes who had “built up” (banah) the waste places (3:14).  The verb usually has the connotation of physical building, such as in the story of the Tower of Babel, where the people excitedly said to one another, “Come, let us build (banah) a city and a tower” (Genesis 11:4), yet when God created Eve in Genesis 2:22, God was said to have “built” (banah) her. Thus, its use in Job 22:23 can be read as an indication that Job’s life in its totality would be restored. Both BIldad (8:5) and Zophar (11:13) had urged Job also to recommit himself to God, though Bildad used language of earnest search for God (shachar) and Zophar stressed that Job should “establish his heart aright” (kun, leb are the important words).  

 

The final phrase of 22:23, to “put unrighteousness far from your tent,” is an echo of Zophar’s words in 11:15. There Job was urged to put iniquity far from (rachaq, same verb as in 22:23) him; he was also told not to let unrighteousness (evel, same word as in 22:23) dwell in his tent (ohel, same word as in 22:23). Though Eliphaz is just speaking for himself here, we feel that we almost have a joint statement from the three friends in these words of hope.  

 

Most scholars see verses 23-26 as one long sentence, with verse 23 being two conditional clauses, “If you return/if you put far from your tent. . .,” followed by the extended comparison of verses 24-25, and then concluding with verse 26—Job will have delight in the Almighty. The extended comparison in verses 24-25 has to do with gold and silver and their comparative lesser value than the Almighty. Yet, verse 24 has been read in two contrary ways. My exposition below will try to show how both readings are irrelevant.