Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chap. 33. Elihu’s First Reply to Job. Job’s complaint that God displays an arbitrary hostility to him, and refuses to hear any appeal of men is unfounded. god speaks to men in many ways
The following may be taken as an outline of the chapter:
First, Job 33:1-7, Elihu in some introductory words bespeaks Job’s attention. He addresses Job by name, and, full of confidence in his ability to answer his complaints, invites him to attend to his words (Job 33:1-2), and assures him of his sincerity (Job 33:3-4). He desires Job to reply to him, for he is a man like himself, and has no imposing authority or presence to overpower Job, who had often complained that God’s power overawed him and prevented him from justifying himself (Job 33:5-7).
Second, Job 33:8-13, Elihu then refers to Job’s complaint against God, reproducing passages from his speeches in which he said that God afflicted him unjustly, though he was innocent; that He displayed an arbitrary hostility to him; and refused to hear any appeal. Elihu refutes these charges by the general consideration (a favourite one with him) that to act in such a way is unworthy of God, who is greater than men, and whose ways are unlike theirs.
Third, Job 33:13-28, taking up more formally Job’s complaint that God refuses to answer man, Elihu replies that God does speak to man in many ways; first (Job 33:14-18) in dreams, to instruct him and turn him away from pride and from sin that might end in death; and second (Job 33:19-28) by angelic messengers in the midst of afflictions, who shew to man what is right. If the sinner thus warned takes his instruction to heart, he is restored to health and prosperity, and in his thankfulness shews publicly to men God’s mercy, who hath not rewarded him according to his work.
Finally, Job 33:29-33, Elihu sums up the general lesson of his teaching regarding God in the preceding verses and invites Job to reply to it, or if he cannot to listen in silence to further instruction.
Wherefore, Job, I pray thee, hear my speeches, and hearken to all my words.1. Elihu, unlike the other speakers, addresses Job by name.
1–7. Introductory appeal to Job to listen to Elihu, who will speak in all honesty, and who being a man like Job himself may be argued with.
Behold, now I have opened my mouth, my tongue hath spoken in my mouth.2. The somewhat formal and circumstantial way in which he intimates that he is going to speak indicates his feeling of the importance of what he is going to say, and bespeaks Job’s attention.
My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart: and my lips shall utter knowledge clearly.3. Reiteration of the speaker’s sincerity; he possesses what Job had desiderated on the part of his three friends, uprightness (ch. Job 6:25).
my lips shall utter knowledge clearly] lit. and the knowledge of my lips they shall utter purely, with no mixture of falsehood; his lips will express truly the sincere convictions of his mind.
The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.4. On the language of this verse see ch. Job 32:8. The verse seems connected with Job 33:3. Elihu will utter his sincere conviction, and it is a conviction flowing from that spirit of God given him in his creation; this is a guarantee of its worth as well as its sincerity. The appeal is to common reason (ch. Job 34:2-3), which is a divine illumination (the lamp of the Lord, Proverbs 20:27), but in his animated zeal for God against the charges of Job Elihu feels that this spirit of God is within him in a powerful degree and gives him a higher wisdom than ordinary.
If thou canst answer me, set thy words in order before me, stand up.5–7. Full of this feeling Elihu invites Job to measure himself with this wisdom (Job 33:4). Let the matter be reasoned out as it may be on equal terms, for in Elihu a man like himself Job will have no reason to complain of being overawed and hindered from pleading his cause.
Behold, I am according to thy wish in God's stead: I also am formed out of the clay.6. according to thy wish in God’s stead] Rather, as already Cover-dale, behold, before God I am even as thou; that is, in relation to God in the same position as Job, a man like himself. The words in God’s stead suggest the false conception that Elihu was in some extraordinary way the representative of God.
Behold, my terror shall not make thee afraid, neither shall my hand be heavy upon thee.7. Job had often complained that the terror and majesty of God overpowered him and made it impossible for him to plead his cause and shew his rectitude; comp. ch. Job 9:34, Job 13:21.
my hand be heavy] The term hand may be an uncommon form of the Heb. word having that sense, or it may perhaps mean burden, pressure; comp. ch. Job 13:21.
Surely thou hast spoken in mine hearing, and I have heard the voice of thy words, saying,8–12. To Job’s complaint that God shewed a hostility to him which was arbitrary and without cause Elihu replies that such a thing was unbecoming God and not to be thought of, for God is greater than man.
I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me.9. For the expressions cited in this verse comp. ch. Job 9:21, Job 10:7, Job 16:17, Job 23:10, Job 27:5.
Behold, he findeth occasions against me, he counteth me for his enemy,10. See ch. Job 10:13 seq., Job 13:24, Job 19:11, Job 30:21.
he findeth occasions] lit. enmities, i. e. grounds of enmity or hostility; he “findeth” is almost equivalent to He “invents.” Coverdale quaintly, “he hath pyked a quarell agaynst me.”
He putteth my feet in the stocks, he marketh all my paths.11. See ch. Job 13:27.
Behold, in this thou art not just: I will answer thee, that God is greater than man.12. The verse probably reads,
Behold in this thou art not in the right, I will answer thee,
For God is greater than man.
The words I will answer thee are equivalent to, “Behold, my answer is, in this thou art not right,” &c. The answer to Job’s charges which Elihu contents himself with giving meantime is simply: “in this thou art not in the right, for God is greater than man.” Elihu, as he does often, e.g. ch. Job 24:10, Job 36:3-5; Job 36:24-25, falls back on man’s necessary thoughts of God. Job’s charges are incompatible with just conceptions of God. The three friends had argued in the same way, though they hardly gave the idea the same important place that Elihu does; comp. ch. Job 8:3.
Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters.13–28. When Elihu gives the general answer to Job’s charges against God that “God is greater than man” he means that the moral loftiness of God’s nature made it impossible that He should act in the arbitrary, hostile manner charged against Him by Job (comp. ch. Job 36:5). It was but another form of the same charge of arbitrary hostility to man when Job affirmed that God was deaf to all appeal and refused to speak to man; comp. ch. Job 19:7, Job 30:20, and often. To this general form of the charge Elihu directs his attention and replies that God speaks to man in many ways, though He may not answer when challenged as Job had challenged Him; comp. ch. Job 35:14. He speaks to man in ways becoming His greatness, ways that shew that His goodness is over all His works. Job 33:13 probably reads
Why dost thou contend against him
That he giveth not account of any of his matters?
that is, Job’s contention or plea against God is that He deals arbitrarily and refuses all account of His dealing.
For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.14. yet man perceiveth it not] Or, when man regardeth it not.
14–18. To Job’s charge Elihu replies that God speaks to man in many ways, as in dreams and visions of the night, by which He instructs men and seeks to turn them away from doing evil that would destroy them.
In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed;15. The language recalls the vision of Eliphaz, ch. Job 4:13 seq.
Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction,16. sealeth their instruction] The instruction is that communicated when the ear is opened, and a revelation given (comp. ch. Job 36:10; Job 36:15; 1 Samuel 9:15; Psalm 40:6); and “to seal’ it is to confirm it and give it abiding efficacy. This is done partly by the impressive circumstances and manner of the dream; compare the impression produced on Eliphaz, after the model of whose vision the passage seems moulded. Perhaps the figure of “sealing” the instruction arises from the idea of closing up again the opened ear over the divine communication.
Others understand by “instruction” here the chastisement of affliction, assuming that the person to whom the vision was sent was one under trouble. “Instruction” is possibly used in this sense by Elihu, ch. Job 36:10; but in this chap. the case of affliction seems introduced first in Job 33:19.
That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man.17, 18. The object of this intervention of God is the gracious one of anticipating the sinner in the evil which he meditates and hindering it, and withdrawing him from his sinful purpose, Job 33:17; and the effect of it is that man is preserved from committing deadly sin, which would have brought destruction upon him, Job 33:18.
The “sword” or javelin, Job 33:18, is a figure for God’s destructive judgments; comp. ch. Job 36:12.
He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword.
He is chastened also with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones with strong pain:19. multitude of his Bones with strong pain] Rather, and with a continual strife In his bones—the word “strife” meaning “conflict of pain.” This is the reading of the Heb. text. The A. V. has adopted the Heb. margin; but if this be taken the sense must be: while the multitude of his bones is strong, in his freshness and youth. Besides putting a doubtful meaning on some of the words, this sense is less to the purpose here.
19–28. These verses may describe another instance of God’s dealing with man, or a further discipline of the same person (Job 33:15-18), the result stated Job 33:18 not having been attained. The passage has four steps:
(1) The affliction, graphically presented, Job 33:19-22.
(2) The intervention of the Divine messenger, who interprets to the sufferer what it becomes him to do; and God’s gracious pardon of him, Job 33:23-24.
(3) The restoration to prosperity and righteousness of him who was afflicted, Job 33:25-26.
(4) His thankfulness, publicly shewn among men, Job 33:27-28.
So that his life abhorreth bread, and his soul dainty meat.20. his life] Or, desire (appetite, ch. Job 38:39). The words mean lit. his desire maketh him abhor.
His flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen; and his bones that were not seen stick out.
Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers.22. the destroyers] that is, perhaps, the angels that bring death; 2 Samuel 24:16; 1 Chronicles 21:15; Psalm 78:49.
If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness:23. a messenger] Or, angel. Such an angel is called an interpreter, that is, as the last clause of the verse explains, one who interprets to man God’s providential treatment of him, and shews him what is right for him to do—his uprightness, that is, wherein uprightness will consist, and what his duty is.
one among a thousand] lit. one of a thousand. The words do not ascribe any superlative position to this angel; he is one of the thousand (cf. Revelation 5:11) ministering spirits sent forth to do service on behalf of the heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1:14).
23, 24. The intervention of the heavenly messenger.
Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom.24. then he is gracious] God is gracious; God, not the angel, is the speaker in the rest of the verse. It is assumed that when the sufferer is shewn what is right (Job 33:23) he follows it; then God is gracious unto him, and commands that he be delivered from his affliction and saved from death. It is hardly of consequence to enquire what the ransom is which God has found. It may be the sinner’s repentance and return to rectitude; or it may be that the affliction is held sufficient (Isaiah 40:2; Job 36:18); or possibly the words may mean nothing more than that God is pleased of His goodness to hold the sinner as ransomed and delivered from the consequences of his sin.
His flesh shall be fresher than a child's: he shall return to the days of his youth:25. His restoration out of his affliction to health is like the freshness of a new childhood and the strength of a new youth.
25, 26. The sufferer’s restoration. For the future tenses of A. V. present tenses would be better in these two verses.
He shall pray unto God, and he will be favourable unto him: and he shall see his face with joy: for he will render unto man his righteousness.26. His restoration to the fellowship of God with its joy.
for he will render] Rather, and he restoreth unto man his righteousness. God restores to him his righteous standing before Him with its joys, regards him again as righteous, and admits him to all the blessings of righteousness. The clause generalizes the ideas of the rest of the verse.
He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not;27, 28. The restored sinner’s thankfulness:
27. He singeth before men and saith,
I sinned and perverted that which was right,
And it was not requited unto me;
28. He hath redeemed my soul from going into the pit,
And my life shall see the light.
On account of the construction the sense “singeth” is more probable than looketh upon of A. V., though the form of the word is unusual.
He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light.28. The light which the sinner sees is the light of life (Job 33:30), for he is redeemed from the darkness of the pit. The A. V. has followed the Heb. margin and read his soul, his life. If this reading were adopted the words would be a general statement by Elihu, but this unnaturally anticipates Job 33:29-30.
Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man,29, 30. Elihu sums up his doctrine regarding the gracious purpose and effect of God’s methods of speaking unto man.
To bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living.
Mark well, O Job, hearken unto me: hold thy peace, and I will speak.31. mark well] These words do not mean, weigh and apply, but listen, namely, to that which Elihu will further say.
31–33. The speaker requests Job to hear his further arguments (Job 33:31); or if he can reply to what has been said, by all means let him do so, for Elihu desires that he should be in the right (Job 33:32); but if not let him listen and learn wisdom (Job 33:33).
If thou hast any thing to say, answer me: speak, for I desire to justify thee.32. to justify thee] Elihu could not say that he desired to justify Job in his plea against God; the words must refer to the cause between Job and himself. Elihu would be glad if Job could give such a reply to his arguments that he could say he thought him in the right. The words seem to imply little more than the speaker’s desire to be fair, and to conduct the argument on equal terms with Job; comp. Job 33:6-7.
If not, hearken unto me: hold thy peace, and I shall teach thee wisdom.