🔼The name Eliphaz: Summary
- God Is Fine Gold, God Is Agile
- From (1) the word אל ('el), God, and (2) the verb פזז (pazaz), to be agile.
🔼The name Eliphaz in the Bible
There are probably two different men named Eliphaz mentioned in the Bible:
- A son of Esau with Adah, daughter of Elon the Hittite (Genesis 36:4, 36:10-12, 1 Chronicles 1:35-36). The first-born son of Eliphaz was called Teman, who was also the first chief of Edom (Genesis 36:15-16), and who probably gave his name to the city of Teman, where probably the chiefs of Edom resided (Jeremiah 49:20).
- One of the four locutionary friends of Job, who was a Temanite (Job 2:11, 4:1, 15:1, 22:1 and 42:7-9).
Note the tantalizing possibility that the two Eliphazes are the same one; that Eliphaz-of-Esau lived in the city named after his own son Teman, and was therefore called a Temanite. The story of Job certainly plays in the patriarchal era and the two Eliphazes were thus roughly contemporaries.
Many have marveled over the difficult and both highly advanced and most fundamental themes of the Book of Job, which are obviously projected on a fictional stage. But the story of Job may be far less fictional than is generally assumed. It may in fact be a kind of transcript of a greater discussion between five dominant strands of theology that existed in the Levant during the patriarchal era.
In that discussion, Job would obviously represent an early form of Hebraic Yahwism. Eliphaz would represent whatever Edom believed in — note that Job lived in Uz in Edom, so the conflict of Job versus Eliphaz may in fact represent Jacob versus Esau; or rather: both may represent a fundamental development in theology, possibly a rift between proto-Yahwism and Edomism (which appears to be more natural and personal strength-oriented; also note that this archaic conflict is revisited in the story of Jesus versus the Idumean Herod).
Friend Bildad would probably have something to do with Bel and Baal worship. What Zophar is all about isn't immediately clear, but Elihu, son of Barachel might represent the El-theology of the native Canaanites from which Hebraism borrowed quite a bit of names and imagery.
🔼Etymology of the name Eliphaz
The name Eliphaz consists of two elements, the first one being אל (El), the prominent Canaanite deity whose name became applied to the God of Israel, or the common abbreviation of Elohim, the genus God:
In names אל ('el) usually refers to אלהים ('elohim), that is Elohim, or God, also known as אלה ('eloah). In English, the words 'God' and 'god' exclusively refer to the deity but in Hebrew the words אל ('l) and אלה ('lh) are far more common and may express approach and negation, acts of wailing and pointing, and may even mean oak or terebinth.
The second part of our name comes from the verb פזז (pazaz):
The verb פזז (pazaz) means to be agile or versatile, and also specifically serves to describe finely crafted gold or gold masterly formed to fit a base shape. The noun פז (paz) describes such finely crafted gold.
For a meaning of the name Eliphaz, NOBSE Study Bible Name List, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names and even BDB Theological Dictionary read God Is Fine Gold in rare uniquity, but that may not be correct.
First of all, the word פז (paz) probably doesn't denote fine gold but "agile" gold or rather gold leaf. Then, this name may not so much point towards gold but rather to agility or ability. The name Eliphaz may in fact denote an over-appreciation of one's skills and abilities and convey the meaning of My God Is Skill or My God Is Agility. This Eliphaz-theology is obviously at fundamental conflict with Job's view, as Job's strength obviously comes from his weakness and surrender to the Powers that Be.