Who was Eliphaz the Temanite?

Eliphaz the Temanite was one of Job's three friends who showed up to comfort Job but ended up adding to his misery by asserting that Job's suffering was a punishment for secret sin.

Eliphaz the Temanite is first mentioned in Job 2:11 along with Bildad and Zophar, Job's other friends. Eliphaz is identified as "the Temanite" because he was from the city of Teman in Idumea (Edom), a city known as a home of sages and wise men (see Jeremiah 49:7). As Eliphaz speaks to Job, he does so as a "Temanite,"that is, as a representative of the wisdom of the world.

Esau's son Eliphaz had a son named Teman (Genesis 36:11), and we assume that either Eliphaz or Teman founded the city of Teman. Given the ancient setting of the book of Job, it is entirely possible that Job's friend and Esau's son are one and the same person.

Eliphaz the Temanite is the first to speak to Job and thus seems to be the leader of Job's three friends. Eliphaz claims to have had a terrifying dream of a spirit who reminded him of the righteousness of God (Job 4:12–21). Eliphaz says he has carefully studied the theology he presents (Job 5:27) and appeals to the ancient wisdom passed down through generations (Job 15:17–18).

Eliphaz the Temanite was right in his teaching that God is holy and pure and all-seeing. The theme of the righteousness of God accords well with the meaning of Eliphaz's name: "God is fine gold." Where Eliphaz went wrong was in his assumption that Job's suffering was the result of sin on Job's part. Eliphaz rebukes Job: "Is it for your fear of him that he reproves you / and enters into judgment with you? / Is not your evil abundant? / There is no end to your iniquities" (Job 22:4–5). It was this false notion that eventually brought God's rebuke of Eliphaz in Job 42:7. God forgave Eliphaz and his friends after they offered burnt offerings and Job prayed on their behalf (Job 42:8–9).

Related Truth:

Why does God let innocent people suffer?

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Is sickness ever part of God's will for believers?

Should the Bible be interpreted literally?

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