Job 4, Exegetical Notes from Abner Chou

Let the Discourse Begin

There are three friends—Eliphaz (E), Bildad (B), and Zophar (Z). Everything revolves around the why question which deals with epistemology, the most foundational study of philosophy which determines if and how we can know things. Around this are three debates, each one counters the previous argument.

Structurally we have three sets of conversation:

  1. EBZ1
  2. EBZ2
  3. EB3

(Elihu closes the argumentation in Job 32-37, then God wraps it up Himself in Job 38-41.)

Each round of argumentation extends their epistemology, but in reality, in each round they limit their claims. So they start big—the first one extends all the way to heaven; They claim to know everything from earth all the way into the heavenly court. And then they narrow in the second, retreating to earth and their reason about it and the patterns they see and know there. Job refutes their knowledge even there. So in the third, they retreat even further to themselves and merely their opinions. That’s all the epistemological certainty they have. They can only be sure of what they can be sure of.

The first round is pre-modern, the second is modern, the third is post-modern. This gives us the categorization of all the kinds of epistemology (which gives us the framework for all kinds of worldviews). E, B, and Z all represent traditional forms of wisdom.

Walton comments that there is more precision to their reasoning than just a deterioration. For example, Eliphaz reasons primarily from history (though they all do, which is important to note). Bildad reasons from “science,” how the natural world operates.4 Zophar reasons from philosophy and theology.

So we have all kinds of epistemologies, combined with all the disciplines, given by the greatest minds available…and the question remains: can they figure out what’s going on—the way things are—why this is happening?

As we study Job, we will learn this: they can’t figure it out. Unless God reveals it to us, we can never understand. Because of epistemological restraints, it is impossible, and E, B, and Z prove it to us in high style. This is why Job is a good prequel to God’s Bible. We need Him to help us figure His world and this life out.

Eliphaz: pre-modern worldview

Eliphaz’s argument has a lot of irony which serve as hints to us to why his arguments are faulty.

Job 4

Eliphaz gives his thesis (Job 4:7, 17), explains it, and gives two proofs.

Job 4:1-4: Introduction

“Answered” he is responding—everything is a response. Eliphaz doesn’t really answer Job’s question. But it is an intended response, even though his answer doesn’t work. They aren’t just talking past each other; they talk at/toward each other. The dialogue continues to build (it’s not just circular) because the arguments have clash—a necessary ingredient for debate.

Job 4:2

Eliphaz begins snarky right out the gate. Already there is an accusation, but it’s coupled with a back-handed compliment.

Job 4:3-4

He compliments Job on his strength and courage.

Job 4:5

He tells Job, You can dish it but you can’t take it—You are a hypocrite.

Job 4:6

“Integrity” and “fear of the Lord” sounds like Job 1:1-2. Both are related to wisdom, which is now becoming the primary focus. Job’s wife says Job must let go of his integrity because God can’t be right and Job also be right, so he should just give it up. But here comes the main thesis in light of that:

Job 4:7

Thesis: this suffering doesn’t happen to good people. The logic he is using is the DR Principle: “you reap what you sow” (which is verbatim Job 4:8).

Job 4:9

His logic extends into heaven, and extends across the earth (Job 4:10-11).

Job 4:12-16

This is an elaborate explanation that Eliphaz claims supernatural revelation of wisdom. He includes the details: nighttime, hair standing up, etc., all is evidence—albeit unverifiable evidence. Whatever he is about to say must be spectacular though since he is claiming such outrageous insight.

Job 4:17

This is the thesis question. DR and rightness go hand-in-hand. According to the DR Principle, no man can be right before God. That’s how the world and history works. (He has been referencing history via his arguments of patterns he has seen.)

Job 4:18

His question: How can we think man could be right when angels aren’t even right? Two levels of irony: one, if God doesn’t trust the angels why should you? According to your logic, they are trustworthy. Two, God did in fact trust an angel who wasn’t even trustworthy (Lucipher). So Eliphaz posits this possibility without even realizing it already happened. So he is right AND wrong. He has certain pieces correct but he can’t see the whole picture. That’s the problem of human wisdom.

Job 4:20-21

Shows human frailty. People are weak and they die. His argument is that men can’t be right before God. Death is his evidence. He is correct, however, again, he isn’t seeing the whole picture.5

The DR Principle applies to some models in life but not all of them. And that means it is an epistemology that isn’t holistic.

  1. Eliphaz (Job 4-5) [Job (Job 6-7)] Bildad (Job 8) [Job (Job 9-10)] Zophar (Job 11) [Job (Job 12-14)].
  2. Eliphaz (Job 15) [Job (Job 16-17)] Bildad (Job 18) [Job (Job 19)] Zophar (Job 20) [Job (Job 21)].
  3. Eliphaz (Job 22) [Job (Job 23-24)] Bildad (Job 25) [Job (Job 26-31)].
  4. Science in the ancient world was regarded as part of history. History is not only the observational but the extrapolation of patterns which we can’t know and understand. There is a connection between science and history that goes both ways.
  5. Application of this concept is in our interpretation of Scripture. If we get any part wrong in the illocution, location, and perlocution process, we fail. We need the whole picture to make the proper meaning and connections.