Eliphaz, having touched Job in a very tender part, in mentioning both the loss of his estate and the death of his children as the just punishment of his sin, that he might not drive him to despair, here begins to encourage him, and puts him in a way to make himself easy. Now he very much changes his voice (Gal. 4:20), and speaks in the accents of kindness, as if he would atone for the hard words he had given him.
I. He reminds him that no affliction comes by chance, nor is to be attributed to second causes: It doth not come forth of the dust, nor spring out of the ground, as the grass doth, Job 5:6. It doth not come of course, at certain seasons of the year, as natural productions do, by a chain of second causes. The proportion between prosperity and adversity is not so exactly observed by Providence as that between day and night, summer and winter, but according to the will and counsel of God, when and as he thinks fit. Some read it, Sin comes not forth out of the dust, nor iniquity of the ground. If men be bad, they must not lay the blame upon the soil, the climate, or the stars, but on themselves. If thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it. We must not attribute our afflictions to fortune, for they are from God, nor our sins to fate, for they are from ourselves; so that, whatever trouble we are in, we must own that God sends it upon us and we procure it to ourselves: the former is a reason why we should be very patient, the latter why we should be very penitent, when we are afflicted.
II. He reminds him that trouble and affliction are what we have all reason to expect in this world: Man is brought to trouble (Job 5:7), not as man (had he kept his innocency he would have been born to pleasure), but as sinful man, as born of a woman (Job 14:1), who was in the transgression. Man is born in sin, and therefore born to trouble. Even those that are born to honour and estate are yet born to trouble in the flesh. In our fallen state it has become natural to us to sin, and the natural consequence of that is affliction, Rom. 5:12. There is nothing in this world we are born to, and can truly call our own, but sin and trouble; both are as the sparks that fly upwards. Actual transgressions are the sparks that fly out of the furnace of original corruption; and, being called transgressors from the womb, no wonder that we deal very treacherously, Isa. 48:8. Such too is the frailty of our bodies, and the vanity of all our enjoyments, that our troubles also thence arise as naturally as the sparks fly upwards—so many are they, so thick and so fast does one follow another. Why then should we be surprised at our afflictions as strange, or quarrel with them as hard, when they are but what we are born to? Man is born to labour (so it is in the margin), is sentenced to eat his bread in the sweat of his face, which should inure him to hardness, and make him bear his afflictions the better.
III. He directs him how to behave himself under his affliction (Job 5:8): I would seek unto God; surely I would: so it is in the original. Here is, 1. A tacit reproof to Job for not seeking to God, but quarrelling with him: “Job, if I had been in thy case, I would not have been so peevish and passionate as thou art. I would have acquiesced in the will of God.” It is easy to say what we would do if we were in such a one’s case; but when it comes to the trial, perhaps it will be found not so easy to do as we say. 2. Very good and seasonable advice to him, which Eliphaz transfers to himself in a figure: “For my part, the best way I should think I could take, if I were in thy condition, would be to apply to God.” Note, We should give our friends no other counsel than what we would take ourselves if we were in their case, that we may be easy under our afflictions, may get good by them, and may see a good issue of them. (1.) We must by prayer fetch in mercy and grace from God, seek to him as a Father and friend, though he contend with us, as one who is alone able to support and succour us. His favour we must seek when we have lost all we have in the world; to him we must address ourselves as the fountain and Father of all good, all consolation. Isa. any afflicted? let him pray. It is heart’s-ease, a salve for every sore. (2.) We must by patience refer ourselves and our cause to him: To God would I commit my cause; having spread it before him, I would leave it with him; having laid it at his feet, I would lodge it in his hand. “Here I am, let the Lord do with me as seemeth him good.” If our cause be indeed a good cause, we need not fear committing it to God, for he is both just and kind. Those that would seek so as to speed must refer themselves to God.
IV. He encourages him thus to seek to God, and commit his cause to him. It will not be in vain to do so, for he is one in whom we shall find effectual help.
1. He recommends to his consideration God’s almighty power and sovereign dominion. In general, he doeth great things (Job 5:9), great indeed, for he can do any thing, he doth do every thing, and all according to the counsel of his own will—great indeed, for the operations of his power are, (1.) Unsearchable, and such as can never be fathomed, can never be found out from the beginning to the end, Eccl. 3:11. The works of nature are mysterious; the most curious searches come far short of full discoveries and the wisest philosophers have owned themselves at a loss. The designs of Providence ar much more deep and unaccountable, Rom. 11:33. (2.) Numerous, and such as can never be reckoned up. He doeth great things without number; his power is never exhausted, nor will all his purposes ever be fulfilled till the end of time. (3.) They are marvellous, and such as never can be sufficiently admired; eternity itself will be short enough to be spent in the admiration of them. Now, by the consideration of this, Eliphaz intends, [1.] To convince Job of his fault and folly in quarrelling with God. We must not pretend to pass a judgment upon his works, for they are unsearchable and above our enquiries; nor must we strive with our Maker, for he will certainly be too hard for us, and is able to crush us in a moment. [2.] To encourage Job to seek unto God, and to refer his cause to him. What more encouraging than to see that he is one to whom power belongs? He can do great things and marvellous for our relief, when we are brought ever so low.
2. He gives some instances of God’s dominion and power.
(1.) God doeth great things in the kingdom of nature: He gives rain upon the earth (Job 5:10), put here for all the gifts of common providence, all the fruitful seasons by which he filleth our hearts with food and gladness, Acts 14:17. Observe, When he would show what great things God does he speaks of his giving rain, which, because it is a common thing, we are apt to look upon as a little thing, but, if we duly consider both how it is produced and what is produced by it, we shall see it to be a great work both of power and goodness.
(2.) He doeth great things in the affairs of the children of men, not only enriches the poor and comforts the needy, by the rain he sends (Job 5:10), but, in order to the advancing of those that are low, he disappoints the devices of the crafty; for Job 5:11 is to be joined to Job 5:12. Compare with Luke 1:51-53. He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, and so hath exalted those of low degree, and filled the heart with good things. See,
[1.] How he frustrates the counsels of the proud and politic, Job 5:12-14. There is a supreme power that manages and overrules men who think themselves free and absolute, and fulfils its own purposes in spite of their projects. Observe, First, The froward, that walk contrary to God and the interests of his kingdom, are often very crafty; for they are the seed of the old serpent that was noted for his subtlety. They think themselves wise, but, at the end, will be fools. Secondly, The Froward enemies of God’s kingdom have their devices, their enterprises, and their counsels, against it, and against the loyal faithful subjects of it. They are restless and unwearied in their designs, close in their consultations, high in their hopes, deep in their politics, and fast-linked in their confederacies, Ps. 2:1, 2. Thirdly, God easily can, and (as far as is for his glory) certainly will, blast and defeat all the designs of his and his people’s enemies. How were the plots of Ahithophel, Sanballat, and Haman baffled! How were the confederacies of Syria and Ephraim against Judah, of Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek, against God’s Israel, the kings of the earth and the princes against the Lord and against his anointed, broken! The hands that have been stretched out against God and his church have not performed their enterprise, nor have the weapons formed against Sion prospered. Fourthly, That which enemies have designed for the ruin of the church has often turned to their own ruin (Job 5:13): He takes the wise in their own craftiness, and snares them in the work of their own hands, Ps. 7:15, 16; 9:15, 16. This is quoted by the apostle (1 Cor. 3:19) to show how the learned men of the heathen were befooled by their own vain philosophy. Fifthly, When God infatuates men they are perplexed, and at a loss, even in those things that seem most plain and easy (Job 5:14): They meet with darkness even in the day-time: nay (as in the margin), They run themselves into darkness by the violence and precipitation of their own counsels. See Job 12:20, 24, 25.
[2.] How he favours the cause of the poor and humble, and espouses that. First, He exalts the humble, Job 5:11. Those whom proud men contrive to crush he raises from under their feet, and sets them in safety, Ps. 12:5. The lowly in heart, and those that mourn, he advances, comforts, and makes to dwell on high, in the munitions of rocks, Isa. 33:16. Sion’s mourners are the sealed ones, marked for safety, Ezek. 9:4. Secondly, He delivers the oppressed, Job 5:15. The designs of the crafty are to ruin the poor. Tongue, and hand, and sword, and all, are at work in order to this; but God takes under his special protection those who, being poor and unable to help themselves, being his poor and devoted to his praise, have committed themselves to him. He saves them from the mouth that speaks hard things against them and the hand that does hard things against them; for he can, when he pleases, tie the tongue and wither the hand. The effect of this is (Job 5:16), 1. That weak and timorous saints are comforted: So the poor, who began to despair, has hope. The experiences of some are encouragement to others to hope the best in the worst of times; for it is the glory of God to send help to the helpless and hope to the hopeless. 2. That daring threatening sinners are confounded: Iniquity stops her mouth, being surprised at the strangeness of the deliverance, ashamed of its enmity against those who appear to be the favourites of Heaven, mortified at the disappointment, and compelled to acknowledge the justice of God’s proceedings, having nothing to object against them. Those that domineered over God’s poor, that frightened them, menaced them, and falsely accused them, will not have a word to say against them when God appears for them. See Ps. 76:8, 9; Isa. 26:11; Mic. 7:16.