Eliphaz’s Speech & Dream Oracles in the Ancient World

Finger Pointing UpThe devil must have really messed Job up pretty bad for him to wish he had never been born. 

Are you going to fix this for him?

“Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said,

If we assay to commune with thee, wilt thou be grieved? but who can withhold himself from speaking?

1. Land of Uz
The Land of Uz
Determining the location of the land of Uz is no easy task:

Jeremiah makes a connection with Uz to Edom, the land of Esau (Lam. 4:21), while at the same time maintaining a distinction from it (Jer. 25:20-21).

Various people named “Uz” could suggest an Aramean location for the land of Uz (Gen. 10:22-23; 22:21; 1 Chron. 1:17).

Keil and Delitzsch offer a solution to its location:
The conflict may only be apparent since Gen. 10 (1 Chron. 1) is a table of nations, and Gen. 22:21 deals with Uz before the birth of Esau, the progenitor of the Edomites. Since, as Delitzsch notes, the Arabic name of Esau is is, Uz may be the place in what is now North Arabia where the two cultures (Aramean and Edomite) met or divided from a common origin. . . . This determination of the position of Uz is the most to be relied on. (Commentary on the Old Testament).

The geographical references seem to place the land of Uz somewhere in northern Arabia, with its close proximity to the wilderness as well as to land that could sustain livestock and agriculture (Job 1:3, 14, 19; 42:12).

Behold, thou hast instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the weak hands.

Thy words have upholden him that was falling, and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees.

But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled.

Is not this thy fear, thy confidence, thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways?

Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?

Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.

By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed.

The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the fierce lion, and the teeth of the young lions, are broken.

The old lion perisheth for lack of prey, and the stout lion’s whelps are scattered abroad” (Job 4:1-11).

Just like the strongest lions eventually die, so the wicked are eventually destroyed.

 “Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ear received a little thereof.

In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men,

Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake.

Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up:

It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image was before mine eyes, there was silence, and I heard a voice, saying,

Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker?” (Job 4:12-17).

The voice was undoubtedly God and He wasn’t asking a question, He was making a statement, as Jesus told His disciples:

“The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord” (Matt 10:24).

“Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly:

How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth?

They are destroyed from morning to evening: they perish for ever without any regarding it.

Doth not their excellency which is in them go away? they die, even without wisdom” (Job 4:18-21).

“Call now, if there be any that will answer thee; and to which of the saints wilt thou turn?

For wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly one.

I have seen the foolish taking root: but suddenly I cursed his habitation.

His children are far from safety, and they are crushed in the gate, neither is there any to deliver them.

Whose harvest the hungry eateth up, and taketh it even out of the thorns, and the robber swalloweth up their substance” (Job 5:1-5).

God will bring about different types of calamity upon the wicked and evil.

“Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground;

Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.

I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause:

Which doeth great things and unsearchable; marvellous things without number:

Who giveth rain upon the earth, and sendeth waters upon the fields:

To set up on high those that be low; that those which mourn may be exalted to safety.

He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise.

He taketh the wise in their own craftiness: and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong.

They meet with darkness in the day time, and grope in the noonday as in the nigh”t” (Job 5:6-14).

This here is in part quoted in 1 Cor 3:19, and is the only clear quotation of Job in the New Testament.

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.  For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness” (1 Cor 3:19).

But he saveth the poor from the sword, from their mouth, and from the hand of the mighty.

“So the poor hath hope, and iniquity stoppeth her mouth” (Job 5:15-16).

3. Statue of Gudea Prince of Lagash
Statue of Gudea, Prince of Lagash (c. 2150 B.C.).
Gudea was a ruler (ensi) of the state of Lagash in Southern Mesopotamia who ruled ca. 2144 – 2124 B.C.

He probably did not come from the city, but had married Ninalla, daughter of the ruler Urbaba (2164 – 2144 B.C.) of Lagash, thus gaining entrance to the royal house of Lagash.

He was succeeded by his son Ur-Ningirsu.

Twenty-six statues of Gudea have been found so far during excavations of Telloh (ancient Girsu) with most of the rest coming from the art trade (these having unknown provenances and sometimes doubtful authenticity).

The early statues were made of limestone, steatite and alabaster; later, when wide-ranging trade-connections had been established, the more costly exotic diorite was used.

Diorite had already been used by old Sumerian rulers (Statue of Entemena).

These statues include inscriptions describing trade, rulership and religion.

“Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty:

For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole” (Job 5:17-18).

If God chooses you He will chastise you and you should be excited and pleased with it.  Realize that this is The Maker requesting that you do something for Him.  There is no greater honor.

“For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth” (Prov 3:12).

“If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:

But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned” (Heb 6:6-8).

“He shall deliver thee in six troubles: yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee.

In famine he shall redeem thee from death: and in war from the power of the sword.

Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue: neither shalt thou be afraid of destruction when it cometh.

At destruction and famine thou shalt laugh: neither shalt thou be afraid of the beasts of the earth” (Job 5:19-22).

God said similar things to Moses, Joshua, and others.  For example:

“There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Josh 1:5 & 8).

“For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field: and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee.

And thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace; and thou shalt visit thy habitation, and shalt not sin.

Thou shalt know also that thy seed shall be great, and thine offspring as the grass of the earth.

2. The Oracle of Amun at Siwa
The Oracle of Amun at Siwa
The Oracle of Amun at Siwa Oasis is another ancient oracle.

The oasis has been inhabited since the 10th millennium B.C., while the Temple of Amun is thought to be more than 3,000 years old.

The walls of this temple, built of local stone, still stand.

In ancient times it was famed as the place where Alexander the Great crossed the wide sand sea to be acknowledged as the son of Amun, the Egyptian creator god who was considered the king of the gods and the physical father of all pharaohs.

Thus Alexander became the true ruler of Egypt.

The oracle is located at the Siwa Oasis in the Western Desert of Egypt, not far from the border of Libya, in an area that has its own language and customs.

Siwa was made at a time when the town was reachable by just one road.

The women older than the age of 14 were married and could no longer be seen by men outside their immediate family.

Thus Siwa was a town comprised mostly of men and children, donkeys and camels, and a few tourists.

It requires stamina and perseverance to reach this far outpost.

In the past, one would have had to endure crossing this vast desert by camel caravan.

There is a story about an army being sent to destroy the Oracle around 550 B.C. The entire army disappeared – literally swallowed up by the immense and treacherous desert.

One has to wonder what kinds of questions compelled people to risk their lives and suffer immeasurable discomfort to cross the desert on camelback to consult this oracle?

Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season.

Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good” (Job 5:23-27).

Dream Oracles in the Ancient World

The belief in dream oracles is well attested in the ancient world, including in the Bible.  Job’s friend Eliphaz stated that he had received in a dream a divine message relating to Job’s misery (Job 4:12-21). 

Elihu also expressed his knowledge that dreams are one means by which God communicates with people (33:14-18). 

God used to speak to people through dreams, but because of Jesus He no longer does that.  God speaks to us through Jesus (Heb 1:1-2). 

The Lord visited the patriarch Jacob in a nocturnal vision (Gen 28:11-19).  His son Joseph also received prophetic dreams (Gen 37:5-11), as did Solomon (1 Kgs 3:5-15), prophets in general (Num 12:6), Daniel (Dan 7), and Joseph the carpenter (Matt 1:20-24; 2:13).

Dream oracles weren’t exclusive to Israel, however, Joseph, the son of Jacob, interpreted the dreams of the pharaoh and his servants (Gen 40:5-22; 41:15-32), Daniel interpreted Nebuchadzzar’s dream (Dan 4:4-27), and the Magi were warned in a dream not to return to King Herod (Matt 2:12).

Of course, not all dream oracles can be considered legitimate.  If the omen portended in the dream encouraged the worship of anyone besides the one true God, or if the apparent implication of the dream did not come to pass, that message didn’t issue from the Lord (Deut 18:20-22).

Numerous texts from outside of Israel attest to the importance placed upon dreams throughout the ancient Near East:

Prophetic dreams are attested at Mari (18th century B.C.).  One text describes a dream that was repeated, as was the pharaoh’s in Gen 41.

When seeking instructions on temple building, King Gudea of Lagash invited the deity Nirgirsu to visit him by offering sacrifices and lying down in the temple to sleep.

When venturing forth to battle a great monster, the legendary hero Gilgamesh and his companion Enkidu encouraged the gods to give them dream.

Ugaritic texts provide examples of such dreams.  In the Epic of Kirta the god El speaks to the hero in his sleep.

Handbooks for dream interpretation have been uncovered in the New Kingdom Egypt (16th to 11th centuries B.C.).  For example, if a man saw himself in a dream submerged in the Nile, that was a good omen, signifying that he had been purified of all evil.  But seeing a dwarf in a dream portended tragedy:  The dream’s life would be shortened by half.

Dreams were one of the many ways people of the ancient world believed that humans received divine messages.  It’s important to observe, however, that the Bible contains no guidebook for interpreting dreams.

There is no magical code we can follow.  If God communicates by a dream, only God can give the interpretation (Gen 40:8).


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