Behold, this we have searched out; it is true.
Hear, and know it for your good.” —Job 5:27 ESV
The problem is not so much with Eliphaz’s theology, but his ineptness as a counselor. A sufferer not need to be told to take his suffering like a man, any more than someone who has lost an unbelieving relative needs to hear a lecture on reprobation. “Pull yourself together” does not comfort someone in the midst of a trial, grief or despair. Such advice is actually cruel. While Eliphaz’s logic is impeccable, he has limited God’s purposes in suffering to the principle that everything you reap comes from what you have sown. But this is manifestly untrue of Job. Job has not sown evil. Job has already confessed that God can send both evil and good. Job knows that God can do whatever he wishes. Job may very well agree with Eliphaz’s speech and its focus on God’s power and justice. The problem is that this is not the issue. Given Eliphaz’s limited perspective and his Pentecostal claim to divine revelation (“God told me this was true”) he misses the mark widely. Eliphaz’s words reflect an astounding self-righteousness.
Since the situation Eliphaz describes does not apply to Job, the last thing Job needs from Eliphaz is a lecture to the effect that if Job would only do what Eliphaz tells him to do and repent of his sin, everything will be OK. The reader already knows what Eliphaz does not and what Job is starting to grasp. Job’s tragic state is not the result of divine judgment for past sin. God may indeed have a purpose for Job’s ordeal–a purpose which completely transcends Eliphaz’s preconceived notions about what God can or cannot do. No trite speech about sowing and reaping can comfort Job after what he’s endured. Job is still be groping for an answer, but he knows Eliphaz does not have one!