|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:12-21 Eliphaz relates a vision. When we are communing with our own hearts, and are still, Ps 4:4, then is a time for the Holy Spirit to commune with us. This vision put him into very great fear. Ever since man sinned, it has been terrible to him to receive communications from Heaven, conscious that he can expect no good tidings thence. Sinful man! shall he pretend to be more just, more pure, than God, who being his Maker, is his Lord and Owner? How dreadful, then, the pride and presumption of man! How great the patience of God! Look upon man in his life. The very foundation of that cottage of clay in which man dwells, is in the dust, and it will sink with its own weight. We stand but upon the dust. Some have a higher heap of dust to stand upon than others but still it is the earth that stays us up, and will shortly swallow us up. Man is soon crushed; or if some lingering distemper, which consumes like a moth, be sent to destroy him, he cannot resist it. Shall such a creature pretend to blame the appointments of God? Look upon man in his death. Life is short, and in a little time men are cut off. Beauty, strength, learning, not only cannot secure them from death, but these things die with them; nor shall their pomp, their wealth, or power, continue after them. Shall a weak, sinful, dying creature, pretend to be more just than God, and more pure than his Maker? No: instead of quarrelling with his afflictions, let him wonder that he is out of hell. Can a man be cleansed without his Maker? Will God justify sinful mortals, and clear them from guilt? or will he do so without their having an interest in the righteousness and gracious help of their promised Redeemer, when angels, once ministering spirits before his throne, receive the just recompence of their sins? Notwithstanding the seeming impunity of men for a short time, though living without God in the world, their doom is as certain as that of the fallen angels, and is continually overtaking them. Yet careless sinners note it so little, that they expect not the change, nor are wise to consider their latter end.
Verses 12-21. - Eliphaz proceeds to narrate a spiritual experience of a very strange and striking character. It was night, and he had fallen asleep, when suddenly he was, or seemed to himself to be, awake. A horrible fear came over him, and all his limbs trembled and quaked. Then a spirit seemed to pass before his face, while every hair on his body rose up and stiffened with horror. It did not simply pass across him, but stood still, in a formless form, which he could see but not clearly distinguish. There was a deep hush. Then out of the silence there seemed to come a voice, a whisper, which articulated solemn words. "Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man," etc.? Supernatural visitations were vouchsafed by God to many besides the chosen people - to Laban, when he pursued Jacob (Genesis 31:24), to Abimelech (Genesis 20:6), to the Pharaoh of the time of Joseph (Genesis 41:1-7), to his chief butler (Genesis 40:9-11), and his chief baker (Genesis 40:16, 17), to Balaam the son of Beer (Numbers 22:12, 20; Numbers 23:5-10, 16-24; Numbers 24:3-9, 15-24), to Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:28-35; Daniel 4:1-32), and others. The method and manner of these visitations raise a multitude of questions which it is impossible to answer, but are convincing evidence to all who believe Scripture to be true, that communications can pass between the spiritual and material worlds of a strange and mysterious character. The communication to Eliphaz may have been a mere vision, impressed upon his mind in sleep, or it may have been actually brought to him by a spiritual messenger, whom he could dimly see, and whose voice he was privileged to hear. Modern pseudo-science pronounces such seeing and hearing to be impossible. But poets are often clearer-sighted than scientists, and Shakespeare utters a pregnant truth when he says -
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Verse 12. - Now a thing was secretly brought to me; rather, a word (or, a message) was brought to me stealthily. And mine ear received a little thereof; rather, a whisper thereof (see the Revised Version, and comp. Job 26:14, and the Vulgate, which gives susurrus). As the form of the vision was not distinct to Eliphaz's eyes (ver. 16), so neither were the words which were uttered distinct to his ears. He thinks himself able, however, to give the sense of them (see vers. 17-21).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Now a thing was secretly brought to me,.... From reason and experience, Eliphaz proceeds to a vision and revelation he had from God, showing the purity and holiness of God, and the frailty, weakness, folly, and sinfulness of men, by which it appears that men cannot be just in the sight of God, and therefore it must be wrong in Job to insist upon his innocence and integrity. Some indeed have thought that this was a mere fiction of Eliphaz, and not a real vision; yea, some have gone so far as to pronounce it a diabolical one, but without any just foundation; for there is nothing in the manner or matter of it but what is agreeable to a divine vision or to a revelation from God; besides, though Eliphaz was a mistaken man in the case of Job, yet was a good man, as may be concluded from the acceptance of a sacrifice for him by the Lord, which was offered for him by Job, according to the order of God, and therefore could never be guilty of such an imposture; nor does Job ever charge him with any falsehood in this matter, who doubtless would have been able to have traversed and exposed him; add to all this, that in his discourse annexed to and continued along with this account, stands a passage, which the apostle has quoted as of divine inspiration, 1 Corinthians 3:19; from Job 5:13. When Eliphaz had this vision, whether within the seven days of his visit to Job, or before, some time ago, which he might call to mind on this occasion, and judging it appropiate to the present case, thought fit to relate it, is not certain, nor very material to know: it is introduced after this manner, "a thing" or "word", a word of prophecy, a word from the Lord, a revelation of his mind and will, which was hidden and secret, and what before he was not so well acquainted with; this was "brought" unto him by the Spirit of God, or by a messenger from the Lord, sent on this occasion, and for this purpose; and the manner in which it was brought was "secretly" or "by stealth", as Mr. Broughton and others (l) render it; it was "stolen" unto him, or "secretly" brought, as the Targum, and we, and others (m); it was in a private way or manner; or "suddenly", as some others (n), at unawares, when it was not expected by him: it may have respect to the still and silent manner in which it was revealed to him, "there was silence, and he heard a voice"; a still one, a secret whisper; or to the almost invisible person that revealed it, whose image he saw, but could not discern his form and likeness; or it may be to the distinguishing favour he enjoyed, in having this revelation particularly made to him, and not to others; he heard this word, as it were, behind the curtain, or vail, as the Jews (o) say, explaining this passage:
mine ear received a little of it; this revelation was made, not by an impulse upon his spirits, but vocally, a voice was heard, as after declared, and Eliphaz was attentive to it; he listened to what was said, and heard, and took it in with much delight and pleasure, though but a small part of it, as his capacity was able to retain it; or it was but a small part of the will of God, an hint of his only, as some interpret it (p). Schultens has shown, from the use of a word near this in the Arabic language, that it signifies "a string of pearls"; and so may design a set of evangelic truths, comparable to gold, silver, and precious stones, and which are indeed more desirable than them, and preferable to them; what they are will be observed hereafter.
(l) "furtive", V. L. Montanus, Cocceius, Drusius; "furtivum verbum venit", Schultens. (m) "Clanculum", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "clam", Beza. (n) "Subito", Schmidt, Michaelis. (o) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 89. 2.((p) In David de Pomis, Lexic. fol. 217. 3.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
12. a thing—Hebrew, a "word." Eliphaz confirms his view by a divine declaration which was secretly and unexpectedly imparted to him.
a little—literally, "a whisper"; implying the still silence around, and that more was conveyed than articulate words could utter (Job 26:14; 2Co 12:4).
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