When we closely examine the nature of the being that troubled Job's friend, we learn that this spirit appealed to the carnal desire for a special revelation. If we remember the content of serpent's appeal to Eve, "Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5), we see a similarity.
We notice that the spirit came at nighttime, in the form of a nightmare, an approach that could be characterized as intimidation, not an approach that God chooses to use with believers. We remember from Paul's second letter to Timothy that "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (II Timothy 1:7).
Generally in Scripture, when people express fear at the appearance of angels, the angels comfort them, saying something akin to "Fear not" (see, for example, Daniel 10:12; Luke 1:13, 30; Revelation 1:17). Yet, this elusive being in Job 4 prefers to remain obscure and daunting, something atypical throughout God's Word.
We also observe that this spirit's message begins with an accusation, a technique usually ascribed to Satan (Revelation 12:10). The being insinuates that God does not trust the angels. However, we understand that God often entrusted His Word and weighty responsibilities to angels. If this spirit is so sensitive about God charging some of His angels with folly, it is perhaps that this message came from one of the rebellious angels who followed Satan. It is no wonder this evil spirit had bitterness and animosity against God.
In several places, the Bible contradicts the assertions that this demon makes. In fact, God Almighty has trusted His church—human beings!—with the mandate to carry His priceless gospel throughout the world. As for no one observing when a person perishes, we are assured by Christ Himself that no human being ever dies without God being mindful. As He keeps meticulous records of all the falling sparrows (Matthew 10:29), He also keeps track of the deaths of His saints, which He regards as precious (Psalm 116:15). Our God is not intent on destroying us, as the demon intimates, but as Paul writes in Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
Several Bible commentaries, including Barnes Notes, erroneously suppose that this communication is consistent with God's revelations. We can extrapolate from God's stern rebuke of Job's friends (Job 42:7-9) that He considered the communication not to have been consistent with His character.
Remember, the main principle of interpreting Scripture is that the Bible interprets itself. Contextually, then, Eliphaz probably received his counsel from a familiar spirit totally out of sync with the whole counsel of Scripture.
David F. Maas
The Gift of Discerning Spirits
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Job 4:17:
1 Samuel 28:11-14