Job’s friend Eliphaz starts off the conversation…
Notice how at the outset he makes the very mistakes the book teaches against. After buttering up Job a bit, he accuses Job of changing his mind about God because this evil has befallen him (Job 4:5-6), and then points out how all that Job is suffering must be the result of personal sin on his part (Job 4:7-11). However, Eliphaz shows forth a glimmer of the truth when he talks of his vision where he heard a voice ask:
“Can mortal man be in the right before God?
Can a man be pure before his maker?” – Job 4:17 (ESV)
See Romans 3 for the answer to that question! Note in 4:18 we also get a reference, though still obscure, about the fall of angels.
In chapter 5, Eliphaz makes it personal. After expressing his belief that God punishes personal sin with calamity in the here and now, he applies it directly to Job. Compare 5:4 with 1:18-19 and 5:5 with 1:14-15. Then in verse 8 he encourages Job to pray to God and “please his case” if he is truly innocent before God, extols the goodness of God in verses 9-16, and reminds Job that since God brought this calamity upon him, He can restore him (vv. 17-27). All together, what Eliphaz is calling Job to is repentance for his sin.
And Job responds. He acknowledges that this is of God, but not as punishment. Rather, because God is sovereign and God is good, He does as He pleases (see Isa 45:7), and Job recognizes there is a purpose in what God does, and so expresses that he would rather endure more suffering than oppose the will of God (Job 6:10). He then reproves Eliphaz for his harsh words (vv.14-27), and tells Eliphaz that he is wrong about God punishing him (vv. 28-30).
Note that Job’s complaint that his life is at an end is first directed at Eliphaz, but there is a subtle change as he begins to direct his complaint against God in verse 17. Note the similarity between this verse and Psalm 8:4. Notice also Jobs statement that God is always with us, and that trials are inevitable (6:18).
In verse 20, Job gets theological. His statement “if I sin” is not so much a confession as it is a bald fact – he is but a sinful man (the Hebrew literally says, very simply, “I sin”). And when he wonders “what do I do to you” he is stating that there is nothing he can do to make up for that sin. In other words, Job recognizes that he is a sinner and that there is nothing he can do to atone for his sin. And he knows this is common to man – he asks “why have You made me your mark” – “God, all men are sinful, so this isn’t happening because of sin – so why me?” Note that very subtly Job is beginning to question God’s purpose.
And we close with another question in verse 21: why is there no way to atone for his sin? He is going to die, and he will not be with God because of the sin that separates him from God.
In these four chapters, we see a reassertion of God’s sovereignty. But we also see our desperate need for a way to have our sin atoned for – for a way to bridge the gap made by sin and get back to God. There is nothing we can do on our own – oh God, won’t you make a way?
He will, brother Job. And He did!