Verse 1. "Call out, is their anyone who answers you; to which of the holy angels
can you turn?"
Verse 2. "Because the foolish man is slain by anger, and envy and
anger causes the death of one driven by sensuality."
Verse 3. "I have seen the
foolish taking root: and suddenly I cursed his dwelling, saying, 4. Let his
children be far from safety, and let them be crushed in the gate, with none
to rescue them."
Verse5. "Let the hungry eat up his harvest, and take it to the
thorn hedges, and let the thirsty swallow up their substance."
Verse 6. "For
affliction does not come out of the dust, nor does trouble spring out of
Verse 7. "but man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward."
Verse 8. "But
I would seek to G-d, and to G-d I would commit my cause:"
Verse 9. who does great
things and unsearchable; marvellous things without number:"
Verse 10. "who gives
rain upon the earth, and sends water upon the fields:"
Verse 11. "to set up on high
those who are low; that those who mourn may be exalted to safety."
After concluding his prophetic admonition, Elifaz continues his words of
rebuke. At this point one might ask; if G-d desired to inform Iyov of his
sins and errors in theology, would it not make more sense for G-d to
address these remarks directly to Iyov? This is why, according to the
interpretation of the Malbim, that Iyov held some reservations about the
authenticity of Elifaz's prohecy. We will come back to the answer to this
The outstanding commentary of Rav Yosef Karo offers an intersting answer to
this question. Elifaz tells Iyov that G-d does not ordinarily respond to
the complaints and accusations of every 'wannabe' theologian, especially
those who direct their accusing finger at G-d. This is eloquently expressed
by King David in Psalm 50:18-21 "If you see a thief and join him, and with
adulterers you place yourself etc., I [G-d] kept quiet=[no prohetic
response]... I will rebuke=[discipline] you directly". Iyov, on the other
hand, thinks that if G-d is genuinely concerned with Iyov's conduct He
should address him directly. Elifaz argues that it is not the way of G-d to
respond those who offer critique to his methods of justice. The response of
G-d comes in the form of disciplinary action.
G-d's communication takes the form of suffering and hardship to those who
violate His will and remain obstinate. Elifaz taunts Iyov to evoke a Divine
response. Of course, G-d will not answer. The answer has already been
delivered. Suffering and pain are the answer to disobedience.
"Because the foolish man is slain by anger, and envy and anger causes the
death of one driven by sensuality."
Elifaz continues; you [Iyov] know that G-d will not respond to your
blasphemous quarrel with Him. Your behaviour is typical of the wicked. When
they are on the receiving-end of G-d's discipline they lash out with angry
abuse. You are like the foolish man who's death is the result of his own
contempt and anger. Instead of anger, if you would have practiced the art
of silence in the face of calamity, perhaps G-d would have had mercy upon
This amazing interpretation by Rav Yosef Karo sheds new light on our
subject. Severity of the sin is not the only criterion that G-d uses to
determine the harshness of punishment. He also considers the response of
the accused. G-d is more likely to mitigate, rather than to exact
punishment, when the defendant has the integrity to bear the responsibility
for his or her actions. However, if the sentence is met with anger and
denial the judgement will be delivered with intensified force.
The anger of the wicked is inflamed because they feel persecuted. They
accept no responsibility for their foolish actions. When they fall victims
to their own wicked deeds they lash out at G-d in wrathful denial. Besides
perpetuating their wickedness, this type of mind-set inevitably produces
more pain and sorrow for everyone concerned.
The Malbim takes a different approach to this verse. Accordingly, Elifaz
challenges Iyov's deterministic view of human fate. His arguement reflects
earthy simplicity. How often have we witnessed how the self destructive
force of anger kills its host, and how jealousy gnaws away at internal
serenity. Wrath and jealousy are conscious choices. One can chose not to
be angry or jealous. Often it is not an ill-fated destiny that causes
death, but man's own self destructive choices.
The Malbim also points out that the death of the fool in verse #2 is
described as being 'slain', whereas the one driven by materialism and
sensuality 'dies'. The fool refers to a person who has serious doubts about
Divine providence and justice. When the vicissitudes of life bring
undesirable results these type of people become angry at G-d. Anger, when
directed towards G-d, may evoke punitive action, even a conviction of
death. Hence the fool is 'slain' because of his anger.
People who are driven by sensuality and materialism are filled with
jealousy. When life does not supply them with the pleasures that they
desire they are consumed with anger and jealousy. There is no need to
punish them, they simply self destruct. Envy and anger cause their death.
Death is the natural consequence of their state of being; not a punishment.
Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi Y. Schwartz and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Rosh Hayeshiva (Dean) of
Orchos Chaim Yeshiva in Jerusalem.