Avraham ben Yaakov
JOB CHAPTER 15
Job's lengthy speech in Chapters 12-14 brought to an end the first cycle of arguments and counter-arguments by Job and his three companions. Eliphaz' answer to Job in our present chapter begins the second of the three cycles of speeches, in which each of the companions successively addresses and is answered by Job.
Metzudas David in his comment on Job 15:35, explains that in his present speech Eliphaz is challenging Job for having said he had not sinned when in fact these very words cause others to sin even more because they plant in people's hearts the idea that no-one watches over men or judges them for their actions. As to Job's complaints about his suffering after all the good he had done, Eliphaz answers that he had already received his reward for his good deeds whereas he still had sins and transgressions in hand for which he was now paying the penalty. Eliphaz brings proof of God's providence over man from the way that the wicked eventually fall without being able to rise up, and even when times are good for them, they are filled with anxiety and apprehension about the evil that is destined to come upon them, which is not so in the case of the righteous.
Ramban in his comment on Job 15:2 points out that in his previous speech (in chapter 4), Eliphaz had not explicitly condemned Job but had simply urged him to bear God's reproof without chafing. However, now that Job had sought to justify himself and debate with God, Eliphaz argues that Job's very words show that he was wicked and lacked the proper fear of God.
V 1: "Should a wise man utter windy knowledge.." In Job's answer to Tzophar he had chastised his companions, telling them that they had no monopoly of wisdom (Job 12:2ff). Now Eliphaz retorts that Job's words do not befit a wise man.
V 4: "Indeed, you cast off fear and you slight the prayer that is made before God." Eliphaz is saying that despite his great wisdom, Job is undermining people's fear of God (which ought to make them afraid to sin) in saying that everything that befalls people is determined mechanistically by the heavenly order of stars and planets, implying that there is no such thing as any reward for righteousness or punishment for sin. In addition, Eliphaz accuses Job of discouraging people from praying to God, because if everything is determined mechanistically there is no place for prayer since it has no power to change anything, and doing such a thing is in itself a great sin (Metzudas David).
V 5: "For your mouth utters your iniquity." - "The very words of your mouth teach others to sin, because by saying it is futile to serve God you encourage other people to hold by the same opinion and to sin just like you" (Metzudas David).
V 6: "Your own mouth condemns you." Job's companions do not need to condemn him because his sin is glaringly obvious from his own words.
Vv 7-10: Job had accused his companions of speaking as if they had a monopoly of wisdom, but Eliphaz retorts that Job was the one who spoken as if he had a monopoly of wisdom, and this is manifestly untrue.
V 12: "Are the consolations of God too small for you when a matter is hidden within you?" Metzudas David explains this verse as follows: "Why should you complain over your suffering just because you practiced goodness and righteousness to some extent. Is it a small thing to you that God has already given you consolation over the pain of your suffering through the goodness and success that you enjoyed previously, whereby you received sufficient reward for the good you did. But you still have sin hidden and concealed within you and now you must receive the punishment for your evil just as you previously received a reward for your goodness. Indeed that previous reward should itself be your consolation for the suffering that has now come upon you."
V 14: ".and how can one born of a woman be righteous?" - "How can any man claim that he is so righteous that God has perverted justice so as to punish him for nothing?" (Metzudas David).
V 17: "I will tell you: hear me." The lesson that Eliphaz wants to teach Job is contained in v 20ff: "All the days of the wicked man, he is in travail." The apparent success of the wicked is illusory, because even during their time of good fortune they are filled with fear and anxiety, and eventually calamity is bound to strike.
V 27: "Because he has covered his face with his fat and has put collops of fat on his flanks." It is noteworthy that obesity is the leading health problem in all of today's advanced societies.
Vv 29ff: Eliphaz concludes his speech by emphasizing that the wicked cannot succeed forever and that calamity always comes in the end.
Ramban on Job 16:2 states that Job's answer to Eliphaz in Chapters 16-17 does not contain any new ideas. Job only says to his companions that their words are vain and empty and that in order to offer him comfort they are resorting to falsehood in arguing that the destruction of the wicked is intentional in order to carry out justice. Job complains over his pains and sickness, which he considers to have come upon him for nothing, and this is his proof that there is no providence. He complains against his companions for denying his innocence, for in his own eyes he is righteous.
V 4: If you were in my place, would I speak to you in the same way?
V 6: "Though I speak, my pain is not assuaged, and even if I forebear, will any of my suffering go away?" Job is saying that it is not true that his words of complaint are undermining people's fear of God and are themselves responsible for bringing suffering upon him. For just as if he speaks, his pain is not assuaged, so if he will refrain from speaking it will not reduce his suffering. This is because, being innocent, his suffering has come upon him for no reason and it cannot be expected to disappear merely through not complaining about it (see Metzudas David).
Vv 7ff: Job complains that not only is he suffering because of the afflictions that were sent to him, but also because his enemy (=the Satan, Rashi on v 9) is persecuting him by sending his companions to abuse and denigrate him.
Vv 12ff: Job further depicts his terrible suffering, all of which in his opinion has come upon him for no reason (v 17).
V 19: Job's companions may think he is a sinner, but Job himself is confident that God in heaven will testify to his innocence.
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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