The Cycles begin and Job dances with the theodicies of his friends.
Chapter 4 begins cycle 1—many commentators will argue that the 1st cycle begins with Job’s speech in chapter 3, but that doesn’t fit the pattern of the rest of the cycles. Beginning with chapter 4 balances the cycles— and the meat of the book of Job. Job’s friends entered the story in chapter two, yet up to this point none have spoken; they sat and mourned with Job at their entrance. Job’s speech of chapter 4 then sets the stage for the first cycle to begin.
The first person to address Job and offer reasons as t why all this trouble had come upon Job is Eliphaz. Not much is known about Eliphaz, but we do know he is a Temanite. This most likely means he was an Edomite. And, Eliphaz is most likely the oldest of Job’s friends that are gathered at the beginning of the cycles. The custom would have been for the oldest to speak first and then follow the same pattern through the rest of the speakers.
It should also be noted that the poetry of Eliphaz’s speech is true to the form of Hebrew poetry. Where we may look for rhyming words—Roses are red, violets are BLUE, sugar is sweet and so are YOU—the Hebrew poetry has rhyming thought patterns:
Your words have upheld him who was
and you have made firm the feeble knees.
Job’s speech is replete with this type of rhyming.
After asking permission to speak, Eliphaz uses what we pastoral counselors, and people in conflict management, would call the sandwich method to address Job. As Bullock asserts, “He commenced courteously and ended gently.” Eliphaz begins with words of encouragement and praise for Job 4:3-4. And, as well, He ends as well on a peaceful note, Job 5:24-27. Yet, it is the middle ground where Eliphaz gives his thoughts on Job’s problems.
In verses 5-11, Eliphaz puts forth the theory of cause and effect. This comes out well in verse 8: As I have seen those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. While this is a plausible theory, we know from chapter 1 this is not the case with Job. Yet, for Eliphaz things do not happen without a reason. Thus—according to Eliphaz, when something bad happens to us it is because we have done something bad to warrant its happening: retribution. And while Job 1 tells us that Job was blameless, for Eliphaz, mortal man cannot be right before God (v.17). This was revealed to him in a dream that he relates.
Eliphaz puts forth another reason for Job’s suffering. In chapter 5: 17-18, Eliphaz suggests that suffering may be viewed as the chastisement of God with the purpose of correction and healing. Now, while he puts this forth as a slightly different idea, it could be seen to go along with his first cause and effect theory.
- We do something bad.
- God enacts some form of punishment on us.
- The reason God does this is to bring us back in line.
Job 5:17-18—Blessed is the one whom God
therefore despise not the discipline of
For he wounds, but he binds up;
He shatters, but his hands heal.
Cycle one begins with a great speech by Eliphaz. He delivers to Job his ideas for the calamities that have happened to Job. His theory is either ‘cause and effect’ or God’s chastisement in order to bring the person, in this case Job, back into right living. Yet, we know from the first chapter of Job that Job does live right—[Job] was blameless and upright, one who feared God (1:1). So, while cycle one begins with a nice speech and good idea of what might have caused Job’s problems, as readers we have information that Eliphaz does not have and we know that his theories are wrong.
Until Next time may the Good Lord Bless and Keep You!
 Some years back a friend of mine, and a preacher, had a son that was run over and killed. He told me that he had many visitors come to the house and per usual they had the wrong things to say—“God needed him;” “There is another angel in Heaven now” … But the one person he told me that helped him the most said nothing. One person from his church came and sat in a chair behind him. He put his hand on the grieving father’s shoulder and said, “I am here if you need anything.” Then there was silence—silence never broken. But, ever so often he would lean forward and put his hand on the grieving dad’s shoulder reassuring him that he was still there with him. This silence, no wrong or right theories on death, just the reassurance that a friend was there if needed; the friend sat quietly and mourned with the mourning father (Job 2:11-13).
 C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament Poetic Books (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1988), Kindle Location 1996.