Support the Café

Search our Site

“The Bible says…”

“The Bible says…”

Monday, August 27, 2012 — Week of Proper 16

Thomas Gallaudet with Henry Winter Syle, 1902, 1890

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 981)

Psalms 1, 2, 3 (morning) 4, 7 (evening)

Job 4:1; 5:1-11, 17-21, 26-27

Acts 9:19b-31

John 6:60-71

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

It seems so important when reading Job to remember how it comes out in the end. As I listened to the words of Eliphaz today, I had to remind myself of the final verdict at the end of the book — God rejected the argument of Eliphaz.

But so many of the verses sound so similar to passages in the Psalms or in Proverbs. Some of the pithy nuggets of Job’s friends are quoted as examples of Biblical wisdom. I can hear it in the back of my mind — someone preaching, “The Bible says, ‘Human beings are born to trouble just as sparks fly upward.'” Amen brother. But wait. Eliphaz said that, and he was one of the losers in the debate. God said his argument was essentially false. It may not be a great idea to say, “the Bible says…” and quote Eliphaz.

Yet, Eliphaz sounds so much like the Psalms we have today for our morning office. Psalm 1 insists that the righteous are happy, “like trees planted by streams of water, …everything they do shall prosper… It is not so with the wicked; they are like chaff which the wind blows away.” Job’s fortunes have been blown away like chaff. His misery must be a sign of his sin, Eliphaz reasons, “therefore do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.”

Eliphaz advises Job, “As for me, I would seek God, and to God I would commit my cause.” So does the Psalmist, who in the face of many adversaries declares, “I call aloud to you, O God, and you answer me from your holy hill…. Surely, you will strike all my enemies across the face.” (Ps. 3) Eliphaz offers similar confidence to Job. “You shall come to your grave in ripe old age, as a shock of grain comes up to the threshing floor in its season. See, we have searched this out; it is true. Hear, and know it for yourself.” Eliphaz sounds a lot like Psalm 2. “Let me announce the decree of God, who has said to me, ‘You are my Son; this day have I begotten you. Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance and the ends of the earth for you possession. You shall crush them with an iron rod and shatter them like a piece of pottery.'”

Eliphaz declares with confidence a conventional wisdom grounded in the theology of the Scriptures, especially the Psalms, Proverbs, and in the theology of the Deuteronomic history. Yet his words feel like an attack to poor Job. They seem shallow and unsatisfactory, not wise and comforting. Eliphaz throws the Book at Job and only adds to Job’s suffering.

In the end, God will declare Job’s fierce honesty in the darkness to be more faithful, true and authentic than his friends’ mastery of the Book.


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Lowell Grisham

Thanks for the question, Erik.

I read and ponder the psalms nearly every day — they are indeed central to our common prayer practice. But I often find myself, like Job, in an argument with them. I value the wisdom and depth and passion even as I find myself taking issue with what the psalmist may say. (I will say, I find more of value in the Psalms than I usually do in Proverbs, which so often feels like thin gruel in a pretentious package.)


Erik Campano

Thank you Rev. Grisham so much for drawing these parallels.

How does this affect the way, then, that you pray the psalms?

Does it somehow, sometimes make them lose legitimacy? I’m guessing not — how could that be, for they are so central to our common prayer practice — but, at least under some conditions when you might find yourself in a spiritual position similar to Job, do you feel like the psalms, proverbs, etc. lack a certain depth or inspiration?

Erik Campano

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café