The companionable silence of the three friends is broken after Job's monologue. The three men are scandalized by what they have heard. Job (they think) is delirious; he has spoken out of the bitterness caused by his suffering and without repentance for his sin. Yet, that he is himself responsible for his plight is evident to these friendly theologians who now begin to argue along this line. The doctrinal context in which they think is that of temporal retribution. Job has the same theoretical point of reference, but his experience and his faith in God have finally shattered this theology for him. His consciousness of his own integrity is incompatible with it. He begins to glimpse a way, a method, for speaking of God.
When all is said and done, if Job is not guilty, how is it possible to explain what has befallen him? His friends want to help him, but they cannot do so except on the basis of their own vision of things, their own theology. Eliphaz, leader of the group, speaks to counsel his unfortunate friend. He knows his words will seem harsh to Job, but he also knows that he must offer correct teaching:
If we say something to you, will you bear with us? Who in any case could refrain from speaking now? [4:2].
The core of this teaching, which Eliphaz and his companions expound with unshakable conviction, is that God punishes the wicked and rewards the upright. The principle of cause and effect applies inexorably in the moral world. Eliphaz challenges Job: