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229. Job 22:24-30, The Rest of Eliphaz’s Words

24 And place your gold 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.”

 

Let's begin with a translation of 22:24-25. Eliphaz is holding out hope to Job. If Job returns,

 

            “And place your gold/precious ore upon the dust, the (legendary gold) of 

            Ophir as your stones of the brook; then the Almighty will be your gold/precious ore                             and your gleaming silver.”

 

The two leading approaches to these words center on the reading of verse 24. The question is whether Eliphaz is saying that Job needs to renounce all interest in and quest for material goods, thereby realizing that God is life’s greatest treasure (the predominant interpretation) or whether Eliphaz is promising to Job a restoration of his wealth if he turns to God. If the latter, then Eliphaz would be adumbrating what God actually does in Job 42. The uncertain scope of the two words “place” (a verb) and “dust” (a noun) have led to these divergent interpretations. Since Job currently is without any wealth, wouldn’t the presence of Ophir’s gold be an indication of the full restoration of his fortunes? But, then again, when you lay something in the dust, you seemingly place lesser emphasis on it.  

 

I think what is at stake in verse 24 is simply an extended play on words, nothing else, with the meaning of the passage to be found in verse 25—making the Almighty one’s treasure. Thus, I will conclude that Eliphaz is saying nothing about either renunciation or accumulation in verse 24. As he speaks verse 24 he has to stretch considerably, but he comes up with four different words there that all have to do with stones or gold, and which sound enough like each other that we become mesmerized by the sound. To illustrate:  the sounds of verse 24, after the preliminary “lay/place upon” are aphar; betser; ketsur (though some manuscripts have betsur); ophir.  Literally these words are “dust, gold, as rock, Ophir,” but words 1 and 4 are almost identically pronounced, if the “o” of Ophir is pronounced as a short “o,” and the middle two words share the dominant sound 

ts-r, with k/b, being the only differentiating feature.  

 

Thus, if we just repeat these four words, we have aphar betser ketsur ophir, a kind of winning combination of “rock gold Ophir dust” to be said in any way you want.  We might have, in another context, in English a phrase like “billowing, bottomless, brazen, boundless sea” and though we know that each word has a separate meaning, we also know that it is the sound of the “b’s” that conjure up a certain majesty or momentousness or pounding character of the waters. Yet, it would probably be mistaken to try to determine how the sea might really be “brazen” or whether it truly is “bottomless.” The meaning would be primarily in the sound of the “b’s” to describe the booming sea. Eliphaz also inserts one word (nachal, “brooks”) in his repeated of ts-r’s and a/o-ph-r, but that word is inserted to lend a certain balance between the number of words in each half of the verse.


Thus, I see Eliphaz as putting on a verbal display in verse 24, but the display is subordinate to the thought of verse 25. He wants Job to consider the Almighty as his “precious gold” (betser). The thought is entirely consistent with that of Proverbs, where treasuring up the divine words is just another way of saying to treasure God. Eliphaz closes verse 25 by a reference to some kind of silver. The silver (keseph) is easy enough to translate, but the word toaphah (4x) is elsewhere rendered “peaks” or “horns” or “strength.” Clines renders it as “mounds” of silver.  This is so much like a lot of the Book of Job—just when blinding clarity comes along, so does a rare word or a word used in an unconventional way, with the result being that we face a mini-translation funk.

 

The result of Job’s returning to God in verse 23 and considering God his gold and silver in verse 25 is then, in verse 26, 

 

            “Surely upon the Almighty shall you delight yourself; and you will lift up your face to God.”

 

The verb expressing Job’s delight in the Almighty is anog (10x), a word used most memorably in Psalm 37:4 where the hearers are exhorted to “Delight yourselves (anog) in the Lord, and he will give you the petitions/desires of your heart.” Isaiah also uses the verb in 55:2 and 58:14.  In most of its appearances anoq appears in the reflexive, suggesting that the experience of delight is something that both goes out from and comes back to a person.  

 

We might have expected that Eliphaz would have urged Job to lift up his hands or even his heart to God, since that is normally what one lifts up in the Bible. Closer to the “face” of verse 26 is lifting up the head (rosh) in the phrase, “my glory and the lifter of my head” (Psalm 3:3). But perhaps Eliphaz is just echoing Zophar again when Zophar said that if Job put unrighteousness far from his tent, then “surely you will lift up your face (same phrase as in 22:26) without spot” (11:15).  

 

Eliphaz’s words are meant to be a considerable comfort for Job, since Job had thus far characterized God more as a terrorist towards him than someone who would gently lift up his face. As we have seen, God breaks him with a tempest (9:17); God will not even give him space so that he can swallow his spittle (7:19); God has attacked Job, broken him in two and sent the divine arrows into him (16:7-14). But now Eliphaz holds out hope for a different future for Job. 

 

It gets even better. If Job will pray to God/entreat God’s favor (ataq, 20x), God will hear Job, and Job will pay his vows (22:27). Here we are not simply talking about what one might call the temporary relief of the “head lifted” or deliverance from overwhelming pain. Now Eliphaz is pointing Job towards full engagement with covenantal obligations. Many passages speak of the importance of paying one’s vows, but Psalm 116:12-19 captures the process that leads from salvation or deliverance to payment of vows, to grateful prayers, to communal celebration. How, asks the Psalmist, may he repay/give a return (verb is shub, as in Job 22:23) to the Lord for all God’s bountiful dealings with him? The Psalmist will “lift the cup of salvation” and “call on the name of the Lord” and then “pay my vows” (using the identical verb, shalem, and noun, neder, as in Job 22:27) to the Lord. The Psalmist also repeats the thought in 116:18. Thus, a life restored to the people of God is the hope Eliphaz is holding out for Job.

 

The last three verses of Job 22 have numerous unclarities in them, but the overall sense is clear. Job will return to a life of fruitfulness. Let’s do the best we can with verses 28-30. First, verse 28:

 

     “You will declare a thing and it shall be established for you, and light shall shine on your ways.” 

 

The only firm idea in the preceding sentence is the light shining on the path. The verb normally translated “decree” (gazar) appears 12 other times in the Bible and is almost always rendered “cut off” or “divide” but here and in Esther 2:1 it might best be rendered “utter” or “decree.” Even if it something that is decreed or uttered, it then will “arise” (qum). Though “arise” or “stand up” is the best translation of qum, most scholars want to render the qum as if it were a kun, “to establish.” So, we don’t really know what is meant by Job “decreeing something that shall arise.”

 

Verse 29 isn’t much clearer.

 

     “When they cast you low/humble you, you will say, ‘Lift!’, because he saves the humble of eyes.”

 

Again, we can perhaps see Eliphaz’s meaning here—that when Job is again cast down, he can simply call out one word and his situation will be transformed. One might render the word gevah as “Lift” or “Exaltation will come,” but Clines takes it in a different direction by rendering it, “God humbles the one who speaks boastfully.” The word for the “humble” is shach, a hapax, though we easily see the verb shachach, to be brought low, lying behind it. The verb shachach appears several times in what one might best characterize as a liturgical context in Psalm 42-43.  

 

Finally, Elihpaz says, in words that aren’t clear, “He shall deliver the innocent" (v 30). Well, it sounds clear enough, but if you check out older translations you have words like, “He will deliver the island of the innocent” (KJV), and then if you check out some modern translations you have, “He will deliver even one who is not innocent.” In short, the appearance of the mystifying little word iy in the first clause of verse 30 gives problems. The word means “island,” but that doesn’t make much sense, and it is very close to the word for “not.” But most commentators argue that delivering one who is not innocent, when Eliphaz is talking about Job’s new-found piety, is particularly inappropriate.  Thus, if there is a consensus on this issue, most tend to drop the iy, and conclude that the meaning is that God delivers the innocent person.

 

The final clause of the chapter, where the verb malat (“deliver/esape”) is repeated, is usually read to underscore the first half of the sentence. The innocent will be delivered, and Job will be delivered. Job’s deliverance will come “through the cleanness” of his hands, where the word for “cleanness” is bor, a hapax, but it is close enough to the standard word for purity (bar) that scholars have had no problem rendering it as “cleanness” or “purity.” Zak and bar are used by Zophar synonymously in 11:4 to express the concept of purity.  

 

Eliphaz’s final words to Job, then, are full of hope.  Though he has his intemperate moments, like all the rest of the speakers in the book, he is the most upbeat of the friends. Though Job has acted with considerable injustice (22:6-11), he can still make amends. That, in a word, is Eliphaz’s hope.