Eliphaz the Temanite is first mentioned in Job 2:11. He is one of Job’s three friends and would-be comforters. However, Eliphaz, along with Bildad and Zophar, failed in his attempt to comfort his suffering friend. The sympathy shown to Job in Job 2:12–13 was soon swallowed up in accusations, fuzzy theology, and wrangling over Job’s character.
After Job’s complaints in Job 3, Eliphaz is the first of the friends to speak. Chapters 4—5 contain his first speech, which focuses on the theme of the innocent prospering. In other words, Eliphaz thought that Job, who was obviously not prospering, must have done something wrong. No life encountering such suffering can be innocent, according to Eliphaz.
Following the speech by Eliphaz, Job replies with a statement regarding his innocence. Eliphaz provides a second speech, in Job 15, asserting that Job does not fear God. If Job did fear God, Eliphaz reasons, he would not face such suffering. Job responds that his friends are “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2).
Eliphaz offers a third speech, recorded in Job 22. This time, he accuses Job of great wrongdoing: “Is not your wickedness great? / Are not your sins endless?” (Job 22:5). He then proceeds to list all of Job’s supposed sins (verses 6–9). From Eliphaz’s perspective, God would only allow great evil to befall someone who had done something very bad. Job replies by asking for God to intervene on his behalf (Job 23).
God does intervene. God speaks on Job’s behalf and rebukes Job’s friends, saying, “My anger burns against you . . . for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7). Eliphaz and his companions are required to offer burnt offerings, and Job prays on their behalf. In the end, Job’s fortunes are restored (doubled), and he is blessed with new children in place of those who had died.
Eliphaz is an example of someone responding with the world’s wisdom to suffering. It made sense to Eliphaz that suffering was the consequence of sin and that, if a person suffered, he was being punished by God. However, Eliphaz was wrong. Job’s life is a clear example of how sometimes the innocent suffer. God can use suffering as part of His divine plan to strengthen a believer’s life and to change the lives of others for His glory.