Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
JOB CHAPTER 5
Job Chapter 5 is the continuation of the speech of Eliphaz which began in the previous chapter. In the Massoretic Hebrew text there is no break of any kind between the two chapters.
The previous chapter had ended with the prophetic message that Eliphaz had received for Job - that man is not more righteous than God and that His order of government must be just. Rashi (on Job 5:1) explains that Eliphaz' prophecy ended at the end of the previous chapter and now he returns to his rebuke.
Ch 5 V 1: "Call now - is there anyone that will answer you?" - Metzudas David explains that Eliphaz is rebuking Job, saying that he has become a disgrace in God's eyes for kicking in protest against his suffering, so that now neither God nor any interceding angel ("the holy ones") will answer him.
V 2: "For anger kills the foolish man." - "For the anger of a fool like you kills him, because if you had kept silent God's attribute of compassion might have restored to you" (Rashi). When we become angry in the face of suffering, we make it impossible for ourselves to come to terms with it, and our life is simply consumed through our own folly.
Vv 3-5: Eliphaz returns to his theme that Job must have sinned, because wickedness may succeed temporarily but cannot endure forever. Eventually someone who oppressed and exploited others is punished by having his children become helpless orphans while his illicitly acquired wealth is returned to the poor from whom it was taken.
V 6: "For affliction does not come out of the dust." - "A blow that comes to a man does not come for nothing and does not simply spring out of the dust" (Rashi).
V 7: "For man is born to trouble" - "for it is not possible that he will not sin and as a result receive trouble in order to receive his punishment. Man is not like the 'sparks that fly upwards' - these are the angels and spirits, who fly upwards and are not from the lower realms such that the Satan and the evil inclination could rule over them" (Rashi).
Ramban (on vv 7-8) writes that the two verses are connected together: Man is born to a life of exertion and anger and he cannot be saved from this, because God Himself brings this upon him just as He has made it the nature of the 'sparks' to fly upwards. "But I would seek to God." (v 8): It is impossible to ascribe this governmental system to any planet or constellation but only to HaShem alone, for He deals with men's sins justly.
In vv 9ff Eliphaz begins recounting the praises of God, who governs even the rains with Providence . V 10 is cited in Taanis 10a as proof that God Himself sends the rains in the Land, i.e. of Israel , while the HOUTZOS, the outside lands, are sent rains through His agents. These are aspects of His Providence. God lowers and raises up, frustrating the thoughts of the crafty (v 12) who wrongly believe that they can succeed in their devices. But God knows that the frustration of their plans and the suffering He sends them is for their own ultimate good (Ramban).
V 16: "So the poor person has hope and iniquity stops up her mouth" - everything works out justly in the end.
V 17: The moral of Eliphaz' entire speech is that if a person suffers, it is for his own good, and he must not reject God's rebuke. It is God alone who sends suffering (v 18) and He too has the power to heal, saving the person from many evils. The seven evils from which He saves are: hunger, war, slander, robbers, famine causing unaffordable prices, wild animals and stumbling blocks (Metzudas).
Vv 24ff: If only Job will accept his suffering with patience and humility, Eliphaz promises him that all will be well, his offspring will multiply and flourish and he will die satisfied.
Metzudas David summarizes Eliphaz' answer to Job as follows: "Eliphaz asserts definitively that everything comes through Providence , bringing proof from the way the wicked fall and cannot rise up, whereas the righteous are not destroyed in this way. Eliphaz refutes Job's view that everything is entrusted to the mechanistic order of the stars and planets and that the righteous and wicked both suffer one and the same fate. If a human were to devise such a system it would be considered to be abominable even though man is imperfect and cannot even be compared to the angels let alone to the Holy One. It is inconceivable that there could be any injustice in God's way of governing the world. If there are things that seem to come in an arbitrary way as a result of the mechanistic order of the heavens, the truth is that everything comes about through Providence and it is only because of the limitations of human understanding that we are unable to know their real meaning.
As we follow the successive arguments and counter-arguments of Job and his companions, it will be wise to bear in mind that we are not expected to determine which side is right and which is wrong. The purpose of the complex weave of arguments and counter-arguments in this sacred text is to explore and help us understand the many different and often contradictory aspects of the profoundly difficult question of why people suffer.
Job's reply to Eliphaz begins in chapter 6 and continues to the end of chapter 7. Eliphaz had criticized Job's fool's anger (5:2). Now Job answers that his pain and anger simply cannot be measured and this is why he has been driven to distraction (ch 6 vv 2-3) because of God's terrible chastisement.
V 5: "Does the wild ass bray when he has grass.? - "Am I crying out for nothing? Even a foolish animal doesn't bray when it has food" (Rashi).
V 6: "Can that which is unsavory be eaten without salt." - "Do you really believe that Eliphaz' arguments can be accepted when they contain no substance?" (Rashi).
V 7: According to the commentators (Rashi, Metzudas), Job expresses now the disgust of his soul at his repulsive affliction of boils.
Vv 8f: This is why he begs and hopes for death, and he is not afraid of this because he knows that he has not denied the words of the Holy One - he has not committed any sin.
V 11ff: "What is my strength that I should hope?" Eliphaz had advised Job that if he would only accept his suffering stoically all would be well in the end, but Job (who was actually going through the suffering rather than merely observing it from the outside like his companions) explains that he has no strength to wait for the end because the suffering is so intolerable.
Vv 15-21: Job feels betrayed by his friends, comparing them to a river that flows abundantly when the snows melt but which disappears in the heat of summer precisely when people need it, causing them only disappointment.
Vv 22-23: Job tells his companions that he has not asked them for any gift of money, or to do anything themselves to save him from his adversary.
V 24: All he is asking them is to teach and show him the meaning of his suffering.
Vv 25f: What are all their words of reproof worth if they cannot show him this?
Vv 28: Job pleads with his companions to hear him out carefully and see his innocence.
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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