Job 4


Eliphaz answers; and accuses Job of impatience, and of

despondence in the time of adversity, 1-6;

asserts that no innocent man ever perished, and that the wicked

are afflicted for their sins, 7-11;

relates a vision that he had, 12-16,

and what was said to him on the occasion, 17-21.


Verse 1. Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered] For seven days this

person and his two friends had observed a profound silence, being

awed and confounded at the sight of Job's unprecedented

affliction. Having now sufficiently contemplated his afflicted

state, and heard his bitter complaint, forgetting that he came as

a comforter, and not as a reprover, he loses the feeling of the

friend in the haughtiness of the censor, endeavouring to strip

him of his only consolation,-the testimony of his conscience, that

in simplicity and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom, but by

the grace of God, he had his conversation among men,-by

insinuating that if his ways had been upright, he would not have

been abandoned to such distress and affliction; and if his heart

possessed that righteousness of which he boasted, he would not

have been so suddenly cast down by adversity.

Verse 2. If we assay to commune with thee] As if he had said,

Should I and my friends endeavour to reason with thee ever so

mildly, because we shall have many things to say by way of

reprehension, thou wilt be grieved and faint; and this we may

reasonably infer from the manner in which thou bearest thy present

afflictions. Yet as thou hast uttered words which are injurious to

thy Maker, who can forbear speaking? It is our duty to rise up on

the part of God, though thereby we shall grieve him who is our

friend. This was a plausible beginning, and certainly was far from

being insincere.

Verse 3. Thou hast instructed many] Thou hast seen many in

affliction and distress, and thou hast given them such advice as

was suitable to their state, and effectual to their relief; and by

this means thou hast strengthened the weak hands, and the feeble

knees-the desponding have been encouraged, and the irresolute

confirmed and excited to prompt and proper actions, by thy counsel

and example.

Verse 5. But now it is come upon thee] Now it is thy turn to

suffer, and give an example of the efficacy of thy own principles;

but instead of this, behold, thou faintest. Either, therefore,

thou didst pretend to what thou hadst not; or thou art not making

a proper use of the principles which thou didst recommend to


Verse 6. Is not this thy fear] I think Coverdale hits the true

meaning: Where is now thy feare of God, thy stedfastnesse, thy

pacience, and the perfectnesse of thy life? If these be genuine,

surely there is no cause for all this complaint, vexation, and

despair. That this is the meaning, the next words show.

Verse 7. Remember, I pray thee] Recollect, if thou canst, a

single instance where God abandoned an innocent man, or suffered

him to perish. Didst thou ever hear of a case in which God

abandoned a righteous man to destruction? Wert thou a righteous

man, and innocent of all hidden crimes, would God abandon thee

thus to the malice of Satan? or let loose the plagues of

affliction and adversity against thee?

Verse 8. They that plough iniquity] A proverbial form of speech

drawn from nature. Whatever seed a man sows in the ground, he

reaps the same kind; for every seed produces its like. Thus

Solomon, Pr 22:8: "He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity."

And St. Paul, Ga 6:7, 8: "Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for

whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that

soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he

who soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life

everlasting." And of the same nature is that other saying of the

apostle, He that soweth sparingly, shall reap sparingly, 2Co 9:6.

The same figure is employed by the Prophet Hosea Ho 8:7:

They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind; and

Ho 10:12, 13:

Sow to yourselves in righteousness; reap in mercy. Ye have

ploughed wickedness; ye have reaped iniquity. The last sentence

contains, not only the same image, but almost the same words as

those used by Eliphaz.

Our Lord expresses the same thing, in the following words:

Mt 7:16-18:

Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Every good

tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree bringeth forth

evil fruit. So the Greeks:-


AESCH. επταεπιθηβαις, ver. 607.

"The field of iniquity produces the fruit of death."



IB. περοσαι, ver. 823.

"For oppression, when it springs,

Puts forth the blade of vengeance; and its fruit

Yields a ripe harvest of repentant wo."-POTTER.

The image is common every where because it is a universal law of


Verse 9. By the blast of God they perish] As the noxious and

parching east wind blasts and destroys vegetation, so the wicked

perish under the indignation of the Almighty.

Verse 10. The roaring of the lion] By the roaring lion, fierce

lion, old lion, stout lion, and lion's whelps, tyrannous rulers of

all kinds are intended. The design of Eliphaz in using these

figures is to show that even those who are possessed of the

greatest authority and power-the kings, rulers, and princes

of the earth-when they become wicked and oppressive to their

subjects are cast down, broken to pieces, and destroyed, by the

incensed justice of the Lord; and their whelps-their children and

intended successors, scattered without possessions over the face

of the earth.

Verse 11. The old lion perisheth] In this and the preceding

verse the word lion occurs five times; and in the original the

words are all different:-

1. aryeh, from arah, to tear off. 2.

shachal, which as it appears to signify black or dark, may mean

the black lion, which is said to be found in Ethiopia and India.

3. kephir, a young lion, from caphar, to cover,

because he is said to hide himself in order to surprise his prey,

which the old one does not. 4. lavish, from lash,

to knead, trample upon; because of his method of seizing his prey.

5. labi, from laba, to suckle with the first milk;

a lioness giving suck; at which time they are peculiarly fierce.

All these words may point out some quality of the lion; and this

was probably the cause why they were originally given: but it is

likely that, in process of time, they served only to designate the

beast, without any particular reference to any of his properties.

We have one and the same idea when we say the lion, the king of

beasts, the monarch of the forest, the most noble of quadrupeds,


Verse 12. Now a thing was secretly brought to me] To give

himself the more authority, he professes to have received a vision

from God, by which he was taught the secret of the Divine

dispensations in providence; and a confirmation of the doctrine

which he was now stating to Job; and which he applied in a

different way to what was designed in the Divine communication.

Mine ear received a little thereof.] Mr. Good translates, "And

mine ear received a whisper along with it." The apparition was the

general subject; and the words related Job 4:17, &c., were the

whispers which he heard when the apparition stood still.

Verse 13. From the visions of the night] "It is in vain," says

Mr. Good, "to search through ancient or modern poetry for a

description that has any pretensions to rival that upon which we

are now entering. Midnight-solitude-the deep sleep of all

around-the dreadful chill and horripilation or erection of the

hair over the whole body-the shivering, not of the muscles only,

but of the bones themselves-the gliding approach of the

spectre-the abruptness of his pause-his undefined and

indescribable form-are all powerful and original characters, which

have never been given with equal effect by any other writer."

Mr. Hervey's illustration is also striking and natural. "'Twas

in the dead of night; all nature lay shrouded in darkness; every

creature was buried in sleep. The most profound silence reigned

through the universe. In these solemn moments Eliphaz, alone, all

wakeful and solitary, was musing on sublime subjects. When, lo! an

awful being burst into his apartment. A spirit passed before his

face. Astonishment seized the beholder. His bones shivered within

him; his flesh trembled all over him; and the hair of his head

stood erect with horror. Sudden and unexpected was its appearance;

not such its departure. It stood still, to present itself more

fully to his view. It made a solemn pause, to prepare his mind for

some momentous message. After which a voice was heard. A voice,

for the importance of its meaning, worthy to be had in everlasting

remembrance. It spoke, and these were its words:"

Verse 17. Shall mortal man] enosh; Greek βροτος.

poor, weak, dying man.

Be more just than God?] Or, haenosh meeloah

yitsdak; shall poor, weak, sinful man be justified before God?

Shall a man] gaber, shall even the strong and mighty

man, be pure before his Maker? Is any man, considered merely in

and of himself, either holy in his conduct, or pure in his heart?

No. He must be justified by the mercy of God, through an atoning

sacrifice; he must be sanctified by the Holy Spirit of God, and

thus made a partaker of the Divine nature. Then he is justified

before God, and pure in the sight of his Maker: and this is a work

which God himself alone can do; so the work is not man's work, but

God's. It is false to infer, from the words of this spectre,

(whether it came from heaven or hell, we know not, for its

communication shows and rankles a wound, without providing a

cure,) that no man can be justified, and that no man can be

purified, when God both justifies the ungodly, and sanctifies the

unholy. The meaning can be no more than this: no man can make an

atonement for his own sins, nor purify his own heart. Hence all

boasting is for ever excluded. Of this Eliphaz believed Job to

be guilty, as he appeared to talk of his righteousness and purity,

as if they had been his own acquisition.

Verse 18. Behold, he put no trust in his servants] This verse is

generally understood to refer to the fall of angels; for there

were some of those heavenly beings who kept not their first

estate: they did not persevere to the end of their probation,

and therefore fell into condemnation, and are reserved in chains

of darkness unto the judgment of the great day; Jude 1:6. It is

said he put no trust in them-he knew that nothing could be

absolutely immutable but himself; and that no intelligent beings

could subsist in a state of purity, unless continually dependent

on himself, and deriving constant supplies of grace, power, and

light, from him who gave them their being.

And his angels he charged with folly] Not chargeth, as many

quote the passage. He charged those with folly who kept not their

first estate. It does not appear that he is charging the others in

the same way, who continue steadfast.

The several translations of this verse, both ancient and modern,

are different from each other. Here are the chief:-

In angelis suis reperit pravitatem, "In his angels he found

perverseness," VULGATE. The SEPTUAGINT is nearly the same. II met

la lumiere dans ses anges, "He puts light into his angels," FRENCH

BIBLE. Even those pure intelligences have continual need of being

irradiated by the Almighty; [Syriac] wa-bemalakui neshim tempo,

"And he hath put amazement in his angels," SYRIAC. The ARABIC is

the same. In angelis suis ponet gloriationem, "In his angels he

will put exultation," MONTANUS. The Hebrew is toholah,

irradiation, from halah, to irradiate, glister, or shine.

In this place we may consider angels ( malachim) as heavenly

or earthly messengers or angels of the Lord; and the glory,

influence, and honour of their office as being put in them by the

Most High. They are as planets which shine with a borrowed light.

They have nothing but what they have received. Coverdale

translates the whole verse thus: Beholde he hath founde

unfaythfulnesse amonge his owne servaunts and proude disobedience

amonge his angels. The sense is among all these interpreters; and

if the fallen angels are meant, the passage is plain enough.

Verse 19. How much less] Rather, with the VULGATE, How much

more? If angels may be unstable, how can man arrogate stability

to himself who dwells in an earthly tabernacle, and who must

shortly return to dust?

Crushed before the moth? The slightest accident oftentimes

destroys. "A fly, a grape-stone, or a hair can kill." Great men

have fallen by all these. This is the general idea in the text,

and it is useless to sift for meanings.

Verse 20. They are destroyed from morning to evening] In almost

every moment of time some human being comes into the world, and

some one departs from it. Thus are they "destroyed from morning to


They perish for ever] yobedu; peribunt, they pass by;

they go out of sight; they moulder with the dust, and are soon

forgotten. Who regards the past generation now among the dead?

Isaiah has a similar thought, Isa 57:1: "The righteous

perisheth, and No MAN LAYETH IT TO HEART: and merciful men are

taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from

the evil to come." Some think that Isaiah borrowed from Job; this

will appear possible when it has been proved, which has never yet

been done, that the writer of this book flourished before Isaiah.

If, however, he borrowed the above thought, it must be allowed

that it has been wondrously improved by coming through his hands.

Verse 21. Doth not their excellency-go away!] Personal beauty,

corporeal strength, powerful eloquence, and various mental

endowments, pass away, or are plucked up by the roots; they are no

more seen or heard among men, and their memory soon perisheth.

They die, even without wisdom.] If wisdom means the pursuit of

the best end, by the most legitimate and appropriate means, the

great mass of mankind appear to perish without it. But, if we

consider the subject more closely, we shall find that all men die

in a state of comparative ignorance. With all our boasted science

and arts, how little do we know! Do we know any thing to

perfection that belongs either to the material or spiritual

world? Do we understand even what matter is? What is its essence?

Do we understand what spirit is? Then, what is its essence? Almost

all the phenomena of nature, its grandest operations, and the laws

of the heavenly bodies, have been explained on the principle of

gravitation or attraction; but in what does this consist? Who

can answer? We can traverse every part of the huge and trackless

ocean by means of the compass; but who understands the nature of

magnetism on which all this depends? We eat and drink in order

to maintain life; but what is nutrition, and how is it effected?

This has never been explained. Life depends on respiration for its

continuance; but by what kind of action is it, that in a moment

the lungs separate the oxygen, which is friendly to life, from the

nitrogen, which would destroy it; suddenly absorbing the one, and

expelling the other? Who, among the generation of

hypothesis-framers, has guessed this out? Life is continued by

the circulation of the blood; but by what power and law does it

circulate? Have the systole and diastole of the heart, on which

this circulation depends, ever been satisfactorily explained? Most

certainly not. Alas, we die without wisdom; and must die, to know

these, and ten thousand other matters equally unknown, and equally

important. To be safe, in reference to eternity, we must know the

only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent; whom to know is

life eternal. This knowledge, obtained and retained, will entitle

us to all the rest in the eternal world.

Copyright information for Clarke