Eliphaz and his companions had condemned Job, in general, as a wicked man and a hypocrite; but none of them had descended to particulars, nor drawn up any articles of impeachment against him, until Eliphaz did so here, where he positively and expressly charges him with many high crimes and misdemeanours, which, if he had really been guilty of them, might well have justified them in their harsh censures of him. “Come,” says Eliphaz, “we have been too long beating about the bush, too tender of Job and afraid of grieving him, which has but confirmed him in his self-justification. It is high time to deal plainly with him. We have condemned him by parables, but that does not answer the end; he is not prevailed with to condemn himself. We must therefore plainly tell him, Thou art the man, the tyrant, the oppressor, the atheist, we have been speaking of all this while. Isa. not thy wickedness great? Certainly it is, or else thy troubles would not be so great. I appeal to thyself, and thy own conscience; are not thy iniquities infinite, both in number and heinousness?” Strictly taken, nothing is infinite but God; but he means this, that his sins were more than could be counted and more heinous than could be conceived. Sin, being committed against Infinite Majesty, has in it a kind of infinite malignity. But when Eliphaz charges Job thus highly, and ventures to descend to particulars too, laying to his charge that which he knew not, we may take occasion hence, 1. To be angry at those who unjustly censure and condemn their brethren. For aught I know, Eliphaz, in accusing Job falsely, as he does here, was guilty of as great a sin and as great a wrong to Job as the Sabeans and Chaldeans that robbed him; for a man’s good name is more precious and valuable than his wealth. It is against all the laws of justice, charity, and friendship, either to raise or receive calumnies, jealousies, and evil surmises, concerning others; and it is the more base and disingenuous if we thus vex those that are in distress and add to their affliction. Eliphaz could produce no instances of Job’s guilt in any of the particulars that follow here, but seems resolved to calumniate boldly, and throw all the reproach he could on Job, not doubting but that some would cleave to him. 2. To pity those who are thus censured and condemned. Innocency itself will be no security against a false and foul tongue. Job, whom God himself praised as the best man in the world, is here represented by one of his friends, and he a wise and good man too, as one of the greatest villains in nature. Let us not think it strange if at any time we be thus blackened, but learn how to pass by evil report as well as good, and commit our cause, as Job did his, to him that judgeth righteously.
Let us see the particular articles of this charge.
I. He charged him with oppression and injustice, that, when he was in prosperity, he not only did no good with his wealth and power, but did a great deal of hurt with them. This was utterly false, as appears by the account Job gives of himself (Job 29:12-17) and the character God gave of him, Job 1:1-3 And yet,
1. Eliphaz branches out this charge into divers particulars, with as much assurance as if he could call witnesses to prove upon oath every article of it. He tells him, (1.) That he had been cruel and unmerciful to the poor. As a magistrate he ought to have protected them and seen them provided for; but Eliphaz suspects that he never did them any kindness, but all the mischief his power enabled him to do,—that, for an inconsiderable debt, he demanded, and carried away by violence, a pawn of great value, even from his brother, whose honesty and sufficiency he could not but know (Job 22:6), Thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother for nought, or, as the LXX. reads it, Thou hast taken thy brethren for pledges, and that for nought, imprisoned them, enslaved them, because they had nothing to pay,—that he had taken the very clothes of his insolvent tenants and debtors, so that he had stripped them naked, and left them so (the law of Moses forbade this, Exod. 22:26; Deut. 24:13),—he had not been charitable to the poor, no, not to poor travellers, and poor widows: “Thou hast not given so much as a cup of cold water (which would have cost thee nothing) to the weary to drink, when he begged for it (Job 22:7) and was ready to perish for want of it, nay, thou hast withholden bread from the hungry in their extremity, hast not only not given it, but hast forbidden the giving of it, which is withholding good from those to whom it is really due, Prov. 3:27. Poor widows, who while their husbands were living troubled nobody, but now were forced to seek relief, thou hast sent away empty from thy doors with a sad heart, Job 22:9. Those who came to thee for justice, thou didst send away unheard, unhelped; nay, though they came to thee full, thou didst squeeze them, and send them away empty; and, worst of all, the arms of the fatherless have been broken; those that could help themselves but little thou hast quite disabled to help themselves.” This which is the blackest part of the charge, is but insinuated: The arms of the fatherless have been broken. He does not say, “Thou has broken them,” but he would have it understood so, and if they be broken, and those who have power do not relieve them, they are chargeable with it. “They have been broken by those under thee, and thou hast connived at it, which brings thee under the guilt.” (2.) That he had been partial to the rich and great (Job 22:8): “As for the mighty man, if he was guilty of any crime, he was never questioned for it: he had the earth; he dwelt in it. If he brought an action ever so unjustly, or if an action were ever so justly brought against him, yet he was sure to carry his cause in thy courts. The poor were not fed at thy door, while the rich were feasted at thy table.” Contrary to this is Christ’s rule for hospitality (Luke 14:12-14); and Solomon says, He that gives to the rich shall come to poverty.
2. He attributes all his present troubles to these supposed sins (Job 22:10, 11): “Those that are guilty of such practices as these commonly bring themselves into just such a condition as thou art now in; and therefore we conclude thou hast been thus guilty.” (1.) “The providence of God usually crosses and embarrasses such; and snares are, accordingly, round about thee, so that, which way soever thou steppest or lookest, thou findest thyself in distress; and others are as hard upon thee as thou hast been upon the poor.” (2.) “Their consciences may be expected to terrify and accuse them. No sin makes a louder cry there than unmercifulness; and, accordingly, sudden fear troubles thee; and, though thou wilt not own it, it is guilt of this kind that creates thee all this terror.” Zophar had insinuated this, Job 20:19, 20. (3.) “They are brought to their wits’ end, so amazed and bewildered that they know not what to do, and that also is thy case; for thou art in darkness that thou canst not see wherefore God contends with thee nor what is the best course for thee to take, for abundance of waters cover thee,” that is, “thou art in a mist, in the midst of dark waters, in the thick clouds of the sky.” Note, Those that have not shown mercy may justly be denied the comfortable hope that they shall find mercy; and then what can they expect but snares, and darkness, and continual fear?
II. He charged him with atheism, infidelity, and gross impiety, and thought this was at the bottom of his injustice and oppressiveness: he that did not fear God did not regard man. He would have it thought that Job was an Epicurean, who did indeed own the being of God, but denied his providence, and fancied that he confined himself to the entertainments of the upper world and never concerned himself in the inhabitants and affairs of this.
1. Eliphaz referred to an important truth, which he thought, if Job had duly considered it, would have prevented him from being so passionate in his complaints and bold in justifying himself (Job 22:12): Isa. not God in the height of heaven? Yes, no doubt he is. No heaven so high but God is there; and in the highest heavens, the heavens of the blessed, the residence of his glory, he is present in a special manner. There he is pleased to manifest himself in a way peculiar to the upper world, and thence he is pleased to manifest himself in a way suited to this lower world. There is his throne; there is his court: he is called the Heavens, Dan. 4:26. Thus Eliphaz proves that a man cannot be profitable to God (Job 22:2), that he ought not to contend with God (it is his folly if he does), and that we ought always to address ourselves to God with very great reverence; for when we behold the height of the stars, how high they are, we should, at the same time, also consider the transcendent majesty of God, who is above the stars, and how high he is.
2. He charged it upon Job that he made a bad use of this doctrine, which he might have made so good a use of, Job 22:13. “This is holding the truth in unrighteousness, fighting against religion with its own weapons, and turning its own artillery upon itself: thou art willing to own that God is in the height of heaven but thence thou inferrest, How doth God know?” Bad men expel the fear of God out of their hearts by banishing the eye of God out of the world (Ezek. 8:12), and care not what they do if they can but persuade themselves that God does not know. Eliphaz suspected that Job had such a notion of God as this, that, because he is in the height of heaven, (1.) It is therefore impossible for him to see and hear what is done at so great a distance as this earth, especially since there is a dark cloud (Job 22:13), many thick clouds (Job 22:14), that come between him and us, and are a covering to him, so that he cannot see, much less can he judge of, the affairs of this lower world; as if God had eyes of flesh, Job 10:4. The interposing firmament is to him as transparent crystal, Ezek. 1:22. Distance of place creates no difficulty to him who fills immensity, any more than distance of time to him who is eternal. Or, (2.) That it is therefore below him, and a diminution to his glory, to take cognizance of this inferior part of the creation: He walks in the circuit of heaven, and has enough to do to enjoy himself and his own perfections and glory in that bright and quiet world; why should he trouble himself about us? This is gross absurdity, as well as gross impiety, which Eliphaz here fathers upon Job; for it supposes that the administration of government is a burden and disparagement to the supreme governor and that the acts of justice and mercy are a toil to a mind infinitely wise, holy, and good. If the sun, a creature, and inanimate, can with his light and influence reach this earth, and every part of it (Ps. 19:6), even from that vast height of the visible heavens in which he is, and in the circuit of which he walks, and that through many a thick and dark cloud, shall we question it concerning the Creator?