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The book of Job now starts on a second cycle of arguments from Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, with responses in each case from Job (Job 15–21). In many ways the arguments are repeated, but with deepened intensity. Almost as if they are aware of the repetition, the three friends say less this time than in the first round.
Here we briefly follow the line of thought of Eliphaz’s second speech (Job 15):
(1) Eliphaz begins in attack mode (Job 15:2–6). From Eliphaz’s perspective, Job cannot be a wise man, for he answers with “empty notions” and “fill[s] his belly with the hot east wind,” uttering speeches “that have no value” (Job 15:2–3). The result is that he even undermines piety and hinders devotion to God (Job 15:4). Anyone who does not think that God fairly metes out punishment, Eliphaz thinks, is shaking the moral foundations of the universe. The cause of such renegade sentiments can only be sin: “Your sin prompts your mouth; you adopt the tongue of the crafty” (Job 15:5).
(2) Without responding to any of Job’s arguments, Eliphaz then returns to the authority question. Job has insisted that he is as old and experienced and wise as any of his attackers; Eliphaz rather sneeringly replies, “Are you the first man ever born? Were you brought forth before the hills?” (Job 15:7). At most, Job is one old man. But a panoply of old men share the opinions of Eliphaz (Job 15:10). Worse, in wanting to die, in wanting to justify himself before God, Job is declaring that God’s consolations—all the consolations that the three comforters have been gently advancing—are not enough for him (Job 15:11). It is as if Job wants to put God on trial.
(3) But how can this be? God is so holy that even heaven itself is not pure in his eyes (Job 15:14–15): “How much less man, who is vile and corrupt, who drinks up evil like water!” (Job 15:16). So Eliphaz repeats the heart of his argument again (Job 15:17–26): the wicked person suffers torments of various kinds all the days allotted to him, all “because he shakes his fist at God and vaunts himself against the Almighty, defiantly charging against him with a thick, strong shield” (Job 15:25–26).
(4) Eliphaz says that where there are apparent exceptions to this rule, time will destroy them (Job 15:27–35). Such wicked people may be fat and prosperous for years, but eventually God’s justice will hunt them down. The implication is obvious: Job is not only wicked, but his former prosperity was nothing but the calm before the storm which has broken and exposed his wretched evil.
Reflect on what is right and wrong with this argument.
Jesus grew up a thoroughly Jewish boy. Not only was his lineage Jewish, it was Davidic: legally, he belonged to the suppressed royal house (Luke 2:4). Imperial politics were divinely manipulated to ensure that Jesus would be born in the ancient town of David (2:1–4, 11). On the eighth day of his life, he was circumcised (2:21). At the appropriate time, Mary and Joseph offered a sacrifice in keeping with the Law’s prescription of what was required of every firstborn male (2:22–24). “Joseph and Mary,” we are told, did “everything required by the Law of the Lord” (2:39). In the first days of Jesus’s life, Simeon prophetically addressed God in prayer, declaring that the coming of Jesus was “for glory to your people Israel” (2:32); aged Anna “gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (2:38). Every year, Joseph and Mary traveled the long miles from Nazareth to Jerusalem to participate in the Feast of Passover, “according to the custom” (2:41–42), joining tens of thousands of other pilgrims; and of course, Jesus went along, witnessed the slaughter of thousands of Passover lambs, heard the temple choirs, and recited the ancient Scriptures. At the age of twelve, Jesus’s constant exposure to the heritage of his people and the content of their Scriptures led to the extraordinary exchanges he enjoyed with the temple teachers (2:41–52).
We cannot begin to grasp the categories in which Jesus spoke and acted, the categories in which his life and ministry, his death and resurrection, have significance, unless we find them in the ancient Hebrew Bible.
Yet that is not all there is to say. That same Bible does not begin with Abraham and the origins of the Israelites. It begins with God, the origin of the universe, the creation of human beings bearing God’s image, the wretched rebellion of the fall, the first cycles of judgment and forgiveness, the first promises of redemption to come. Certainly Paul understood that the Bible’s long story of the Jews must be set within the still longer story of the human race, and that even the first calling of the man who is the ancestor of all Jews specifies that through him all the nations of the earth will be blessed (Gal. 3; cf. Gen. 12). Here at the beginning of Jesus’s life, the same framework peeps through. Simeon praises the Sovereign Lord for allowing him to live to see this baby: “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (2:31–32).
49:1 Then Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come.
2 “Assemble and listen, O sons of Jacob,
listen to Israel your father.
3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn,
my might, and the firstfruits of my strength,
preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
4 Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence,
because you went up to your father's bed;
then you defiled it—he went up to my couch!
5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers;
weapons of violence are their swords.
6 Let my soul come not into their council;
O my glory, be not joined to their company.
For in their anger they killed men,
and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen.
7 Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce,
and their wrath, for it is cruel!
I will divide them in Jacob
and scatter them in Israel.
8 “Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
your father's sons shall bow down before you.
9 Judah is a lion's cub;
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;1
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
11 Binding his foal to the vine
and his donkey's colt to the choice vine,
he has washed his garments in wine
and his vesture in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes are darker than wine,
and his teeth whiter than milk.
13 “Zebulun shall dwell at the shore of the sea;
he shall become a haven for ships,
and his border shall be at Sidon.
14 “Issachar is a strong donkey,
crouching between the sheepfolds.2
15 He saw that a resting place was good,
and that the land was pleasant,
so he bowed his shoulder to bear,
and became a servant at forced labor.
16 “Dan shall judge his people
as one of the tribes of Israel.
17 Dan shall be a serpent in the way,
a viper by the path,
that bites the horse's heels
so that his rider falls backward.
18 I wait for your salvation, O LORD.
19 “Raiders shall raid Gad,3
but he shall raid at their heels.
20 “Asher's food shall be rich,
and he shall yield royal delicacies.
21 “Naphtali is a doe let loose
that bears beautiful fawns.4
22 “Joseph is a fruitful bough,
a fruitful bough by a spring;
his branches run over the wall.5
23 The archers bitterly attacked him,
shot at him, and harassed him severely,
24 yet his bow remained unmoved;
his arms6 were made agile
by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
(from there is the Shepherd,7 the Stone of Israel),
25 by the God of your father who will help you,
by the Almighty8 who will bless you
with blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the deep that crouches beneath,
blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
26 The blessings of your father
are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents,
up to the bounties of the everlasting hills.9
May they be on the head of Joseph,
and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.
27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf,
in the morning devouring the prey
and at evening dividing the spoil.”
28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to him. 29 Then he commanded them and said to them, “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 in the cave that is in the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place. 31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife. There they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah—32 the field and the cave that is in it were bought from the Hittites.” 33 When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people.
2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when1 Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,2 who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.3
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”4
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant5 depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.6 She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents7 saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?”8 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature9 and in favor with God and man.
15:1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said:
2 “Should a wise man answer with windy knowledge,
and fill his belly with the east wind?
3 Should he argue in unprofitable talk,
or in words with which he can do no good?
4 But you are doing away with the fear of God1
and hindering meditation before God.
5 For your iniquity teaches your mouth,
and you choose the tongue of the crafty.
6 Your own mouth condemns you, and not I;
your own lips testify against you.
7 “Are you the first man who was born?
Or were you brought forth before the hills?
8 Have you listened in the council of God?
And do you limit wisdom to yourself?
9 What do you know that we do not know?
What do you understand that is not clear to us?
10 Both the gray-haired and the aged are among us,
older than your father.
11 Are the comforts of God too small for you,
or the word that deals gently with you?
12 Why does your heart carry you away,
and why do your eyes flash,
13 that you turn your spirit against God
and bring such words out of your mouth?
14 What is man, that he can be pure?
Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous?
15 Behold, God2 puts no trust in his holy ones,
and the heavens are not pure in his sight;
16 how much less one who is abominable and corrupt,
a man who drinks injustice like water!
17 “I will show you; hear me,
and what I have seen I will declare
18 (what wise men have told,
without hiding it from their fathers,
19 to whom alone the land was given,
and no stranger passed among them).
20 The wicked man writhes in pain all his days,
through all the years that are laid up for the ruthless.
21 Dreadful sounds are in his ears;
in prosperity the destroyer will come upon him.
22 He does not believe that he will return out of darkness,
and he is marked for the sword.
23 He wanders abroad for bread, saying, ‘Where is it?’
He knows that a day of darkness is ready at his hand;
24 distress and anguish terrify him;
they prevail against him, like a king ready for battle.
25 Because he has stretched out his hand against God
and defies the Almighty,
26 running stubbornly against him
with a thickly bossed shield;
27 because he has covered his face with his fat
and gathered fat upon his waist
28 and has lived in desolate cities,
in houses that none should inhabit,
which were ready to become heaps of ruins;
29 he will not be rich, and his wealth will not endure,
nor will his possessions spread over the earth;3
30 he will not depart from darkness;
the flame will dry up his shoots,
and by the breath of his mouth he will depart.
31 Let him not trust in emptiness, deceiving himself,
for emptiness will be his payment.
32 It will be paid in full before his time,
and his branch will not be green.
33 He will shake off his unripe grape like the vine,
and cast off his blossom like the olive tree.
34 For the company of the godless is barren,
and fire consumes the tents of bribery.
35 They conceive trouble and give birth to evil,
and their womb prepares deceit.”
3:1 But I, brothers,1 could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?
5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled2 master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
16 Do you not know that you3 are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.
18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.