Job 15

Eliphaz’s Second Speech

In the first round of speeches, Eliphaz had emphasized the moral perfection of God, Bildad his unwavering justice, and Zophar his omniscience. Since this did not bring the expected response from Job, the friends see him as a menace to true religion, and so they intensify their approach. Eliphaz, as dignified as ever, rebukes Job for his arrogance and warns about the judgment the wicked bring on themselves. The speech of Eliphaz falls into three parts: the rebuke of Job for his irreverence (2–6); the analysis of Job’s presumption about wisdom (7–16), and his warning about the fate of the wicked (17–35).
Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered:

“Does a wise man answer with blustery knowledge,
The Hebrew is דַעַת־רוּחַ (daat-ruakh). This means knowledge without any content, vain knowledge.

or fill his belly
The image is rather graphic. It is saying that he puffs himself up with the wind and then brings out of his mouth blasts of this wind.
with the east wind?
The word for “east wind,” קָדִים (qadim), is parallel to “spirit/wind” also in Hos 12:2. The east wind is maleficent, but here in the parallelism it is so much hot air.

Does he argue
The infinitive absolute in this place is functioning either as an explanatory adverb or as a finite verb.
Eliphaz draws on Job’s claim with this word (cf. Job 13:3), but will declare it hollow.
with useless
The verb סָכַן (sakhan) means “to be useful, profitable.” It is found 5 times in the book with this meaning. The Hiphil of יָעַל (yaal) has the same connotation. E. Lipiński offers a new meaning on a second root, “incur danger” or “run risks” with words, but this does not fit the parallelism (FO 21 [1980]: 65-82).
with words that have no value in them?
But you even break off
The word פָּרַר (parar) in the Hiphil means “to annul; to frustrate; to destroy; to break,” and this fits the line quite well. The NEB reflects G. R. Driver’s suggestion of an Arabic cognate meaning “to expel; to banish” (“Problems in the Hebrew text of Job,” VTSup 3 [1955]: 77).
Heb “fear,” “reverence.”

and hinder
The word גָּרַע (gara’) means “to diminish,” regard as insignificant, occasionally with the sense of “pull down” (Deut 4:2; 13:1). It is here that Eliphaz is portraying Job as a menace to the religion of society because they dissuade people from seeking God.
The word שִׂיחָה (sikhah) is “complaint; cry; meditation.” Job would be influencing people to challenge God and not to meditate before or pray to him.
before God.
Your sin inspires
The verb אַלֵּף (’allef) has the meaning of “to teach; to instruct,” but it is unlikely that the idea of revealing is intended. If the verb is understood metonymically, then “to inspire; to prompt” will be sufficient. Dahood and others find another root, and render the verb “to increase,” reversing subject and object: “your mouth increases your iniquity.”
your mouth;
you choose the language
Heb “tongue.”
of the crafty.
The word means “shrewd; crafty; cunning” (see Gen 3:1). Job uses clever speech that is misleading and destructive.

Your own mouth condemns
The Hiphil of this root means “declare wicked, guilty” (a declarative Hiphil), and so “condemns.”
you, not I;
your own lips testify against
The verb עָנָה (’anah) with the ל (lamed) preposition following it means “to testify against.” For Eliphaz, it is enough to listen to Job to condemn him.
“Were you the first man ever born?
Were you brought forth before the hills?
Do you listen in on God’s secret council?
The meaning of סוֹד (sod) is “confidence.” In the context the implication is “secret counsel” of the Lord God (see Jer 23:18). It is a question of confidence on the part of God, that only wisdom can know (see Prov 8:30, 31). Job seemed to them to claim to have access to the mind of God.

Do you limit
In v. 4 the word meant “limit”; here it has a slightly different sense, namely, “to reserve for oneself.”
wisdom to yourself?
What do you know that we don’t know?
What do you understand that we don’t understand?
The last clause simply has “and it is not with us.” It means that one possesses something through knowledge. Note the parallelism of “know” and “with me” in Ps 50:11.

10  The gray-haired
The participle שָׂב (sav), from שִׂיב (siv, “to have white hair”; 1 Sam 12:2), only occurs elsewhere in the Bible in the Aramaic sections of Ezra. The word יָשִׁישׁ (yashish, “aged”) occurred in 12:12.
and the aged are on our side,
Heb “with us.”

men far older than your father.
The line reads: “[men] greater than your father [in] days.” The expression “in days” underscores their age – they were older than Job’s father, and therefore wiser.

11  Are God’s consolations
The word תַּנְחֻמוֹת (tankhumot) occurs here and only in Job 21:34. The words of comfort and consolation that they have been offering to Job are here said to be “of God.” But Job will call them miserable comforters (16:2).
too trivial for you;
The formula “is it too little for you” or “is it too slight a matter for you” is also found in Isa 7:13 (see GKC 430 #133.c).

or a word spoken
The word “spoken” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation.
in gentleness to you?
12  Why
The interrogative מָה (mah) here has the sense of “why?” (see Job 7:21).
has your heart carried you away,
The verb simply means “to take.” The RSV has “carry you away.” E. Dhorme (Job, 212–13) goes further, saying that it implies being unhinged by passion, to be carried away by the passions beyond good sense (pp. 212-13). Pope and Tur-Sinai suggest that the suffix on the verb is datival, and translate it, “What has taken from you your mind?” But the parallelism shows that “your heart” and “your eyes” are subjects.

and why do your eyes flash,
Here is another word that occurs only here, and in the absence of a completely convincing suggestion, probably should be left as it is. The verb is רָזַם (razam, “wink, flash”). Targum Job and the Syriac equate it with a verb found in Aramaic and postbiblical Hebrew with the same letters but metathesized – רָמַז (ramaz). It would mean “to make a sign” or “to wink.” Budde, following the LXX probably, has “Why are your eyes lofty?” Others follow an Arabic root meaning “become weak.”

13  when you turn your rage
The Hebrew is רוּחֶךָ (rukhekha, “your spirit” or “your breath”). But the fact that this is turned “against God,” means that it must be given a derived meaning, or a meaning that is metonymical. It is used in the Bible in the sense of anger – what the spirit vents (see Judg 8:3; Prov 16:32; and Job 4:9 with “blast”).
against God
and allow such words to escape
The verb is a Hiphil perfect of yasa, “to go out, proceed, issue forth.”
from your mouth?
14  What is man that he should be pure,
or one born of woman, that he should be righteous?
15  If God places no trust in his holy ones,
Eliphaz here reiterates the point made in Job 4:18.

if even the heavens
The question here is whether the reference is to material “heavens” (as in Exod 24:10 and Job 25:5), or to heavenly beings. The latter seems preferable in this context.
are not pure in his eyes,
16  how much less man, who is abominable and corrupt,
The two descriptions here used are “abominable,” meaning “disgusting” (a Niphal participle with the value of a Latin participle [see GKC 356-57 #116.e]), and “corrupt” (a Niphal participle which occurs only in Pss 14:3 and 53:4), always in a moral sense. On the significance of the first description, see P. Humbert, “Le substantif toʾēbā et le verbe tʾb dans l’Ancien Testament,” ZAW 72 [1960]: 217ff.). On the second word, G. R. Driver suggests from Arabic, “debauched with luxury, corrupt” (“Some Hebrew Words,” JTS 29 [1927/28]: 390-96).

who drinks in evil like water!
Man commits evil with the same ease and facility as he drinks in water – freely and in large quantities.

17  “I will explain to you;
listen to me,
and what
The demonstrative pronoun is used here as a nominative, to introduce an independent relative clause (see GKC 447 #138.h).
I have seen, I will declare,
Here the vav (ו) apodosis follows with the cohortative (see GKC 458 #143.d).

18  what wise men declare,
hiding nothing,
from the tradition of
The word “tradition” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation.
their ancestors,
Heb “their fathers.” Some commentators change one letter and follow the reading of the LXX: “and their fathers have not hidden.” Pope tries to get the same reading by classifying the מ (mem) as an enclitic mem. The MT on first glance would read “and did not hide from their fathers.” Some take the clause “and they did not hide” as adverbial and belonging to the first part of the verse: “what wise men declare, hiding nothing, according to the tradition of their fathers.”

19  to whom alone the land was given
when no foreigner passed among them.
Eliphaz probably thinks that Edom was the proverbial home of wisdom, and so the reference here would be to his own people. If, as many interpret, the biblical writer is using these accounts to put Yahwistic ideas into the discussion, then the reference would be to Canaan at the time of the fathers. At any rate, the tradition of wisdom to Eliphaz has not been polluted by foreigners, but has retained its pure and moral nature from antiquity.

20  All his days
Heb “all the days of the wicked, he suffers.” The word “all” is an adverbial accusative of time, stating along with its genitives (“of the days of a wicked man”) how long the individual suffers. When the subject is composed of a noun in construct followed by a genitive, the predicate sometimes agrees with the genitive (see GKC 467 #146.a).
the wicked man suffers torment,
The Hebrew term מִתְחוֹלֵל (mitkholel) is a Hitpolel participle from חִיל (khil, “to tremble”). It carries the idea of “torment oneself,” or “be tormented.” Some have changed the letter ח (khet) for a letter ה (he), and obtained the meaning “shows himself mad.” Theodotion has “is mad.” Syriac (“behave arrogantly,” apparently confusing Hebrew חול with חלל; Heidi M. Szpek, Translation Technique in the Peshitta to Job [SBLDS], 277), Symmachus, and Vulgate have “boasts himself.” But the reading of the MT is preferable.

throughout the number of the years
It is necessary, with Rashi, to understand the relative pronoun before the verb “they are stored up/reserved.”
are stored up for the tyrant.
This has been translated with the idea of “oppressor” in Job 6:23; 27:13.

21  Terrifying sounds fill
The word “fill” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation.
his ears;
in a time of peace marauders
The word שׁוֹדֵד (shoded) means “a robber; a plunderer” (see Job 12:6). With the verb bo’ the sentence means that the robber pounces on or comes against him (see GKC 373 #118.f). H. H. Rowley observes that the text does not say that he is under attack, but that the sound of fears is in his ears, i.e., that he is terrified by thoughts of this.
attack him.
22  He does not expect
This is the meaning of the Hiphil imperfect negated: “he does not believe” or “he has no confidence.” It is followed by the infinitive construct functioning as the direct object – he does not expect to return (to escape) from darkness.
The meaning of this line is somewhat in question. H. H. Rowley (Job [NCBC], 111) thinks it could mean that he is afraid he will not wake up from the night, or he dreads misfortune, thinking it will be final for him.
to escape from darkness;
In the context of these arguments, “darkness” probably refers to calamity, and so the wicked can expect a calamity that is final.

he is marked for the sword;
Heb “he is watched [or waited for] by the sword.” G. R. Driver reads it, “he is marked down for the sword” (“Problems in the Hebrew text of Job,” VTSup 3 [1955]: 78). Ewald suggested “laid up for the sword.” Ball has “looks for the sword.” The MT has a passive participle from צָפָה (tsafah, “to observe, watch”) which can be retained in the text; the meaning of the form can then be understood as the result of the inspection (E. Dhorme, Job, 217).

23  he wanders about – food for vultures;
The MT has “he wanders about for food – where is it?” The LXX has “he has been appointed for food for vultures,” reading אַיָּה (’ayyah, “vulture”) for אַיֵּה (’ayyeh, “where is it?”). This would carry on the thought of the passage – he sees himself destined for the sword and food for vultures. Many commentators follow this reading while making a number of smaller changes in נֹדֵד (noded, “wandering”) such as נִתַּן (nittan, “is given”), נוֹעַד (noad, “is appointed”), נוֹדַע (noda’, “is known”), or something similar. The latter involves no major change in consonants. While the MT “wandering” may not be as elegant as some of the other suggestions, it is not impossible. But there is no reading of this verse that does not involve some change. The LXX has “and he has been appointed for food for vultures.”

he knows that the day of darkness is at hand.
This line is fraught with difficulties (perceived or real), which prompt numerous suggestions. The reading of the MT is “he knows that a day of darkness is fixed in his hand,” i.e., is certain. Many commentators move “day of darkness” to the next verse, following the LXX. Then, suggestions have been offered for נָכוֹן (nakhon, “ready”), such as נֵכֶר (nekher, “disaster”); and for בְּיָדוֹ (beyado, “in his hand”) a number of ideas – לְאֵיד (leed, “calamity”) or פִּידוֹ (pido, “his disaster”). Wright takes this last view and renders it “he knows that misfortune is imminent,” leaving the “day of darkness” to the next verse.

24  Distress and anguish
If “day and darkness” are added to this line, then this verse is made into a tri-colon – the main reason for transferring it away from the last verse. But the newly proposed reading follows the LXX structure precisely, as if that were the approved construction. The Hebrew of MT has “distress and anguish terrify him.”
terrify him;
they prevail against him
like a king ready to launch an attack,
This last colon is deleted by some, moved to v. 26 by others, and the NEB puts it in brackets. The last word (translated here as “launch an attack”) occurs only here. HALOT 472 s.v. כִּידוֹר links it to an Arabic root kadara, “to rush down,” as with a bird of prey. J. Reider defines it as “perturbation” from the same root (“Etymological Studies in Biblical Hebrew,” VT 2 [1952]: 127).

25  for he stretches out his hand against God,
The symbol of the outstretched hand is the picture of attempting to strike someone, or shaking a fist at someone; it is a symbol of a challenge or threat (see Isa 5:25; 9:21; 10:4).

and vaunts himself
The Hitpael of גָּבַר (gavar) means “to act with might” or “to behave like a hero.” The idea is that the wicked boldly vaunts himself before the Lord.
against the Almighty,
26  defiantly charging against him
Heb “he runs against [or upon] him with the neck.” The RSV takes this to mean “with a stiff neck.” Several commentators, influenced by the LXX’s “insolently,” have attempted to harmonize with some idiom for neck (“outstretched neck,” for example). Others have made more extensive changes. Pope and Anderson follow Tur-Sinai in accepting “with full battle armor.” But the main idea seems to be that of a headlong assault on God.

with a thick, strong shield!
Heb “with the thickness of the bosses of his shield.” The bosses are the convex sides of the bucklers, turned against the foe. This is a defiant attack on God.

27  Because he covered his face with fat,
This verse tells us that he is not in any condition to fight, because he is bloated and fat from luxurious living.

and made
D. W. Thomas defends a meaning “cover” for the verb עָשָׂה (’asah). See “Translating Hebrew `asah,” BT 17 [1966]: 190-93.
his hips bulge with fat,
The term פִּימָה (pimah), a hapax legomenon, is explained by the Arabic faima, “to be fat.” Pope renders this “blubber.” Cf. KJV “and maketh collops of fat on his flanks.”

28  he lived in ruined towns
K&D 11:266 rightly explains that these are not cities that he, the wicked, has destroyed, but that were destroyed by a judgment on wickedness. Accordingly, Eliphaz is saying that the wicked man is willing to risk such a curse in his confidence in his prosperity (see further H. H. Rowley, Job [NCBC], 113).

and in houses where
The verbal idea serves here to modify “houses” as a relative clause; so a relative pronoun is added.
no one lives,
where they are ready to crumble into heaps.
The Hebrew has simply “they are made ready for heaps.” The LXX translates it, “what they have prepared, let others carry away.” This would involve a complete change of the last word.

29  He will not grow rich,
and his wealth will not endure,
nor will his possessions
This word מִנְלָם (minlam) also is a hapax legomenon, although almost always interpreted to mean “possession” (with Arabic manal) and repointed as מְנֹלָם (menolam). M. Dahood further changes “earth” to the netherworld, and interprets it to mean “his possessions will not go down to the netherworld (“Value of Ugaritic for Textual Criticism,” Bib40 [1959]: 164-66). Others suggest it means “ear of grain,” either from the common word for “ears of grain” or a hapax legomenon in Deuteronomy 23:26 [25].
spread over the land.
30  He will not escape the darkness;
Some editions and commentators delete the first line of this verse, arguing that it is simply a paraphrase of v. 22a, and that it interrupts the comparison with a tree that falls (although that comparison only starts next).

a flame will wither his shoots
and he will depart
by the breath of God’s mouth.
This last line in the verse is the difficult one. The MT has “he shall depart by the breath of his mouth.” If this reading stands, then it must be understood that it is the breath of God’s mouth that is intended. In place of “his mouth” the LXX has “flower” (reading פִּרהוֹ [pirho, properly, “his fruit”] instead of פִּיו piv), and “fall” instead of “depart.” Modern commentators and a number of English versions (e.g., RSV, NRSV, TEV) alter יָסוּר (yasur, “depart”) to something like יְסֹעַר (yesoar, from סָעַר [saar, “to drive away”]), or the like, to get “will be swept away.” The result is a reading: “and his blossom will be swept away by the wind.” The LXX may have read the Hebrew exactly, but harmonized it with v. 33 (see H. Heater, A Septuagint Translation Technique in the Book of Job [CBQMS]: 61-62).

31  Let him not trust in what is worthless,
The word, although difficult in its form, is “vanity,” i.e., that which is worthless. E. Dhorme (Job, 224) thinks that the form שָׁוְא (shav’) conceals the word שִׁיאוֹ (shio, “his stature”). But Dhorme reworks most of the verse. He changes נִתְעָה (nitah, “deceived”) to נֵדַע (neda’, “we know”) to arrive at “we know that it is vanity.” The last two words of the verse are then moved to the next. The LXX has “let him not think that he shall endure, for his end shall be vanity.”

deceiving himself;
for worthlessness will be his reward.
This word is found in Job 20:18 with the sense of “trading.” It can mean the exchange of goods or the profit from them. Some commentators change תְמוּרָתוֹ (temurato, “his reward”) because they wish to put it with the next verse as the LXX seems to have done (although the LXX does not represent this). Suggestions include תִּמֹרָתוֹ (timorato, “his palm tree”) and זְמֹרָתוֹ (zemorato, “his vine shoot”). A number of writers simply delete all of v. 31. H. H. Rowley (Job [NCBC], 115) suggests the best reading (assuming one were going to make changes) would be, “Let him not trust in his stature, deceiving himself, for it is vanity.” And then put “his palm tree” with the next verse, he thinks that achieves the proper balance.

32  Before his time
Heb “before his day.”
he will be paid in full,
Those who put the last colon of v. 31 with v. 32 also have to change the verb תִּמָּלֵא (timmale’, “will be fulfilled”). E. Dhorme (Job, 225) says, “a mere glance at the use of yimmal…abundantly proves that the original text had timmal (G, Syr., Vulg), which became timmale’ through the accidental transposition of the ‘alep of bÿsio…in verse 31….” This, of course, is possible, if all the other changes up to now are granted. But the meaning of a word elsewhere in no way assures it should be the word here. The LXX has “his harvest shall perish before the time,” which could translate any number of words that might have been in the underlying Hebrew text. A commercial metaphor is not out of place here, since parallelism does not demand that the same metaphor appear in both lines.

and his branches will not flourish.
Now, in the second half of the verse, the metaphor of a tree with branches begins.

33  Like a vine he will let his sour grapes fall,
The verb means “to treat violently” or “to wrong.” It indicates that the vine did not nourish the grapes well enough for them to grow, and so they dry up and drop off.

and like an olive tree
he will shed his blossoms.
The point is that like the tree the wicked man shows signs of life but produces nothing valuable. The olive tree will have blossoms in the years that it produces no olives, and so eventually drops the blossoms.

34  For the company of the godless is barren,
The LXX renders this line: “for death is the witness of an ungodly man. “Death” represents “barren/sterile,” and “witness” represents “assembly.”

and fire
This may refer to the fire that struck Job (cf. 1:16).
consumes the tents of those who accept bribes.
Heb “the tents of bribery.” The word “bribery” can mean a “gift,” but most often in the sense of a bribe in court. It indicates that the wealth and the possessions that the wicked man has gained may have been gained unjustly.

35  They conceive
Infinitives absolute are used in this verse in the place of finite verbs. They lend a greater vividness to the description, stressing the basic meaning of the words.
trouble and bring forth evil;
their belly
At the start of the speech Eliphaz said Job’s belly was filled with the wind; now it is there that he prepares deception. This inclusio frames the speech.
prepares deception.”
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