Job 33:23
If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness:
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(23) To show unto man his uprightness.—Some render, “to show unto man what is right for him,” but it seems rather to mean, to declare concerning that man his uprightness, to plead his cause before God and be his advocate. (Comp. 1Kings 14:13; 2Chronicles 19:3, &c.)

This angel, who is one among a thousand, and discharges the function of an interpreter, is a remarkable anticipation of the existence of that function with God which is discharged by the Advocate with the Father (1John 2:1; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). It is impossible for us who believe that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God not to see in this an indication of what God intended afterwards to teach us concerning the intercession and mediation of the Son and the intercession of the Holy Spirit on behalf of man (Romans 8:26). (Comp. John 14:16.)

Job 33:23-24. If there be a messenger with him — If there be a prophet or teacher with the afflicted man; an interpreter — One whose office and work it is to declare to him the mind and will of God, and his design in this dispensation of his providence, and what is the sick man’s duty under it. One of a thousand — A person rightly qualified for this great and difficult work, such as there are but very few; to show unto man his uprightness — Not man’s, but God’s uprightness; namely, his justice in inflicting these sufferings, and the sufferer’s desert of condemnation and wrath; God’s way of pardoning and justifying the penitent; his sincerity and faithfulness to his promises, and the necessity of acquiescing in his will without murmuring or repining, and of walking in the way of faith and holiness. Then he is gracious unto him — In that case, or upon the sick man’s turning to God in true repentance and faith, God graciously pardons his sins, and saves him, probably from his dangerous disease and from death, but, if not, at least from going down to the pit of hell, and from everlasting destruction. And saith — To the messenger; deliver him — Namely, ministerially and declaratively; assure him that I have pardoned, and will heal him; I have found a ransom — Although I might justly destroy him, yet I will spare him, for I have found out a way of ransoming sinners from death, which is by the death of my Son, the Redeemer of the world, and with respect to which I will pardon them that repent and sue for mercy. Observe how God glories in the invention! I have found, I have found a ransom; a ransom for poor undone sinners! I, even I, am he that hath done it. “Some interpret this Messenger or Angel of Christ himself, the Interpreter of God’s will to man, the chief among ten thousand of his saints and servants. But as, in general, he comes to men by his messengers or ministers, and as their instructions and encouragements are deduced from his mediation, and are made effectual by his gracious presence, it does not much signify whether we interpret the passage of the messengers of God pointing to the Saviour, or the Saviour revealing himself by their ministry. It is equally immaterial whether the words, Deliver him from going down to the pit, be considered as the language of Christ’s intercession, pleading the ransom of his blood in behalf of the sinner, or the words of the Father, accepting of his plea and giving command to save the sinner, satisfied with that appointed ransom: for it cannot reasonably be doubted but that Elihu had reference to it; though he might also intend the sacrifices which prefigured the great atonement.” — Scott. Add to this, that it may serve as no small confirmation of our faith in the doctrines of the gospel, that we find the substance, or great outlines of them thus pointed out to men, by divine revelation, in the earliest ages of the world. Some thousands of years have certainly passed since the book of Job was written, and yet we here find the same great truths declared in relation to man and his salvation through Christ, which are so fully revealed in the New Testament.

33:19-28 Job complained of his diseases, and judged by them that God was angry with him; his friends did so too: but Elihu shows that God often afflicts the body for good to the soul. This thought will be of great use for our getting good from sickness, in and by which God speaks to men. Pain is the fruit of sin; yet, by the grace of God, the pain of the body is often made a means of good to the soul. When afflictions have done their work, they shall be removed. A ransom or propitiation is found. Jesus Christ is the Messenger and the Ransom, so Elihu calls him, as Job had called him his Redeemer, for he is both the Purchaser and the Price, the Priest and the sacrifice. So high was the value of souls, that nothing less would redeem them; and so great the hurt done by sin, that nothing less would atone for it, than the blood of the Son of God, who gave his life a ransom for many. A blessed change follows. Recovery from sickness is a mercy indeed, when it proceeds from the remission of sin. All that truly repent of their sins, shall find mercy with God. The works of darkness are unfruitful works; all the gains of sin will come far short of the damage. We must, with a broken and contrite heart, confess our sins to God, 1Jo 1:9. We must confess the fact of sin; and not try to justify or excuse ourselves. We must confess the fault of sin; I have perverted that which was right. We must confess the folly of sin; So foolish have I been and ignorant. Is there not good reason why we should make such a confession?If there be a messenger with him - This part of the speech of Elihu has given rise to scarcely less diversity of opinion, and to scarcely less discussion, than the celebrated passage in Job 19:25-27. Almost every interpreter has had a special view of its meaning, and of course it is very difficult, if not impossible, to determine its true sense. Before the opinions which have been entertained are specified, and an attempt made to determine the true sense of the passage, it may be of interest to see how it is presented in the ancient versions, and what light they throw on it. The Vulgate renders it, "If there is for him an angel speaking, one of thousands, that he may announce the righteousness of the man; he will pity him, and say, Deliver him that he descends not into corruption: I have found him in whom I will be propitious to him" - inveni in quo ei propitier. The Septuagint translators render it, "If there be a thousand angels of death (ἄγγελοι θανατηφόροι angeloi thanatēforoi), not one of them can mortally wound him (τρώσῃ ἀυτόν trōsē auton). If he determine in his heart to turn to the Lord, when he shall have shown man his charge against him, and shown his folly, he will support him that he may not fall to death, and renew his body, like plastering on a wall (ὥσπερ ἀλοιφην ἐπὶ τοίχου hōsper aloifēn epi toichou), and will fill his bones with marrow, and make his flesh soft like an infant." The Chaldee renders it, "If there is merit זכותא z-k-w-t-' in him, an angel is prepared, a comforter (פרקליטא, Paraclete, Gr. παρύκλητος paraklētos), one among a thousand accusers (קטיגוריא, Gr. κατήγορός katēgoros), that he may announce to man his rectitude. And he spares him, and says, Redeem him, that he may not descend to corruption; I have found a ransom." Schultens has divided the opinions which have been entertained of the passage into three classes. They are,

I. The opinions of those who suppose that by the messenger, or angel, here, there is reference to a man. Of those who hold this opinion, he enumerates no less than seven classes. They are such as these:

(1) those who hold that the man referred to is some distinguished instructor sent to the sick to teach them the will of God, an opinion held by Munster and Isidorus;

(2) those who refer it to a prophet, as Junius et Tremillius:

(3) Codurcus supposes that there is reference to the case of Abimelech, who was made sick on account of Sarah, and that the man referred to was a prophet, who announced to him that God was righteous; Genesis 20.

The 4th and 5th cases slightly vary from these specified.

(6) Those who hold that Elihu referred to himself as being the angel, or messenger, that God had sent to make known to Job the truth in regard to the divine government, and the reason why he afflicts people. Of this opinion was Gusset, and we may add that this is the opinion of Umbreit.

(7) Those who suppose that some faithful servant of God is intended, without specifying who, who comes to the sick and afflicted, and announces to them the reason of the divine dispensations.

II. The second class of opinions is, that an angel is referred to here, and that the meaning is, that God employs angelic beings to communicate His will to people, and especially to the afflicted - to make known to them the reason why they are afflicted, and the assurance that he is willing to show mercy to them if they will repent. Of those who hold this, Schultens mentions

(1) the Septuagint which renders it, "the angels of death;"

(2) the Chaldee paraphrasist, who understands it of the comforting angel" - the Paraclete;

(3) the opinion of Mercer, who supposes it to refer to a good angel, who, though there be a thousand of a contrary description, if he announces the will of God, and shows the true reason why He afflicts people, may be the means of reclaiming them;

(4) the opinion of Clerc, who regards it as a mere hypothesis of Elihu, saying that on the supposition that an angel would thus visit people, they might be reclaimed;

(5) the opinion of Grotius, who supposes it refers to angels regarded as mediators, who perform their office of mediation in two ways - by admonishing people, and by praying for them. This was also the opinion of Maimonides.


23. Elihu refers to himself as the divinely-sent (Job 32:8; 33:6) "messenger," the "interpreter" to explain to Job and vindicate God's righteousness; such a one Eliphaz had denied that Job could look for (Job 5:1), and Job (Job 9:33) had wished for such a "daysman" or umpire between him and God. The "messenger" of good is antithetical to the "destroyers" (Job 33:23).

with him—if there be vouchsafed to the sufferer. The office of the interpreter is stated "to show unto man God's uprightness" in His dealings; or, as Umbreit, "man's upright course towards God" (Pr 14:2). The former is better; Job maintained his own "uprightness" (Job 16:17; 27:5, 6); Elihu on the contrary maintains God's, and that man's true uprightness lies in submission to God. "One among a thousand" is a man rarely to be found. So Jesus Christ (So 5:10). Elihu, the God-sent mediator of a temporal deliverance, is a type of the God-man Jesus Christ the Mediator of eternal deliverance: "the messenger of the covenant" (Mal 3:1). This is the wonderful work of the Holy Ghost, that persons and events move in their own sphere in such a way as unconsciously to shadow forth Him, whose "testimony is the Spirit of prophecy"; as the same point may be center of a small and of a vastly larger concentric circle.

A messenger; either,

1. An angel sent to him from heaven upon this errand; for the angels are ministering spirits, Psalm 103:20 Hebrews 1:14, and are, and especially in that time and state of the church were, frequently employed by God upon messages to men. But why then should he say one of a thousand angels, seeing any the meanest angel was very competent for this work? Or rather,

2. A prophet or teacher, for such are oft called by this name; as Judges 2:1 Malachi 2:7 3:1 Revelation 1:20, and such persons are appointed by God for, and are most commonly employed in, this work. With him; either,

1. With God to plead man’s cause, and to pray to God for man. Or rather,

2. With man, who is expressed in the last clause of this verse, and of whom this same pronoun him is twice used in the next verse. Nor is it strange that the pronoun relative is put before the noun to which it belongs, but usual in the Hebrew language, as Exodus 2:6 Proverbs 5:22 Proverbs 14:33, and elsewhere. An interpreter; one whose office and work it is to declare the mind of God unto the sick man, and wherefore God contends with him, and what God would have him to do.

One among a thousand; a person rightly qualified for this great and hard work, such as there are but very few, scarce one of a thousand; which expression is used to denote the rarity and fewness of persons, Ecclesiastes 7:28. By which words he doth covertly reflect upon Job’s three friends, and imply that they were not such persons, though they had undertaken to perform this office or work to Job; and withal, modestly intimates, that although he was in himself mean and inferior to all of them, (as he acknowledgeth,) yet he was selected by God for this work; which he saith not out of a desire of vain boasting of himself, but to dispose Job to a more diligent attention unto, and a more ready entertainment of his present discourses. His uprightness, or rectitude, or righteousness. His, i.e. either,

1. God’s; to convince a man that God is just and right in all his dealings with him, though never so severe; of which Job was not yet convinced. Or rather,

2. Man’s; to teach man his duty, or to direct him to the right way and method how he may please God, and procure that mercy and deliverance which he thirsts after; which is not by quarrelling with God, as Job did, but by a humble confession and hearty detestation and forsaking of his sins, and supplication to God for mercy in and through Christ the Redeemer, of whom Job spoke before. Or thus, to discover to man, that although he be afflicted, yet he is an upright and righteous person, and consequently in God’s favour; about which good men oft doubt, and need the help of a skilful minister to satisfy them therein. But this seems not so well to suit Job’s case, who was sufficiently and more than enough persuaded of his own integrity, and needed no minister to preach that doctrine to him.

If there be a messenger with him,.... Or angel, either with God, as some think; or rather with the sick man; by which messenger is meant not an angel by nature, a created angel, though sometimes such are God's messengers, sent by him on errands to men, are interpreters of things to them, as Gabriel was to Daniel; of whom there are thousands, and who may be of service to sick men for their comfort and instruction, since it is certain they attend saints in their dying moments; yet this proves not that they are to be invoked as mediators between God and men: but rather a minister of the word is designed, who is by office an angel, a "messenger" of Christ, and of the churches; an "interpreter" of the Scriptures, and of the mind of God in them; and a spiritual, evangelical, faithful minister, is scarce and rare, one among a thousand; and his business is to visit sick persons, and to observe the "uprightness" and faithfulness of God in afflicting them, that they may quietly submit to and patiently bear the affliction; and to direct them for their peace and comfort to the uprightness or righteousness of Christ, for their justification before God; and to show them what is right for them to do in their present circumstances; whether the sick man be stupid and insensible of his case, and his need of righteousness, or whether he be a truly gracious man, yet labouring under doubts and fears about the truth of grace in him, the uprightness of his heart, and his interest in the righteousness of Christ: but it seems best to understand this of Christ himself, the angel of God's presence, the messenger of the covenant, who is with the sick man, and favours him with his spiritual presence; or is "for him" (q) as it may be rendered, is on his side, an advocate and intercessor for him with God;

an interpreter of his Father's mind, and with which he is long acquainted, he lying in his bosom; and of the sacred Scriptures, as he was to his disciples concerning himself; or an "orator" (r), an eloquent one, never man spake like him, having the tongue of the learned given him as man; and who as a divine Person is the eternal and essential Word of God; who spake for his people in the council of peace and covenant of grace; and also as Mediator is the antitypical Aaron, can speak well for them on all occasions:

one among a thousand: the chiefest among ten thousand, angels or men; see Sol 5:10;

to show unto man his uprightness; which to do is his office as Mediator, and especially as a prophet, even to show the uprightness of God, the rectitude of his nature, the righteousness required in his holy law; and this Christ has shown forth and declared in his being the propitiation for the sins of his people, Romans 3:25; by his Spirit he shows to man, and so to a sick man, his want of uprightness in himself, his need of righteousness from another; and brings it near him, and shows it to be perfect, complete, and suitable; as well as teaches to live soberly, righteously, and godly.

(q) "pro eo", V. L. Pagninus, Mercerus. (r) "eloquens", Pagninus, Montanus; "orator", Tigurine version, Bolducius.

If there be a {m} messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, {n} to shew unto man his uprightness:

(m) A man sent from God to declare his will.

(n) A singular man, and as one chosen out of a thousand, who is able to declare the great mercies of God to sinners: and in which man's righteousness stands, which is through the justice of Jesus Christ.

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.

Verse 23. - If there be a messenger with him; rather, an angel (see the Revised Version). It is generally supposed that "the angel of the covenant" is meant, and that the whole passage is Messianic; but much obscurity hangs over it. The Jews certainly understand it Messianically, since they read it on the great Day of Atonement, and use in their liturgies the prayer, "Raise up for us the righteous Interpreter; say, I have found a ransom." Elihu's knowledge of an Interpreter, or Mediator, one among a thousand, who should deliver the afflicted man from going down to the pit, and find a ransom for him (ver. 24), is certainly very surprising; and we can scarcely imagine that he understood the full force of his words; but it cannot be right to denude them of their natural signification Elihu certainly did not mean to speak of himself as an "angel-interpreter, one among a thousand;" and it is not probable that he intends a reference to any merely human helper. To show unto man. his uprightness; either "to show to a man what it is right for him to do," or "to indicate to a man in what true righteousness consists." Job 33:2323 If there is an angel as mediator for him,

One of a thousand,

To declare to man what is for his profit:

24 He is gracious to him, and saith:

Deliver him, that he go not down to the pit -

I have found a ransom.

The former case, Job 33:15, was the easier; there a strengthening of the testimony of man's conscience by a divine warning, given under remarkable circumstances, suffices. This second case, which the lxx correctly distinguishes from the former (it translates Job 33:19, πάλιν δὲ ἤλεγξεν αὐτὸν ἐν μαλακίᾳ ἐπὶ κοίτης), is the more difficult: it treats not merely of a warning against sin and its wages of death, but of a deliverance from the death itself, to which the man is almost abandoned in consequence of sin. This deliverance, as Elihu says, requires a mediator. This course of thought does not admit of our understanding the מלאך of a human messenger of God, such as Job has before him in Elihu (Schult., Schnurr., Boullier, Eichh., Rosenm., Welte), an "interpreter of the divine will, such as one finds one man among a thousand to be, a God-commissioned speaker, in one word: a prophet" (von Hofmann in Schriftbew. i. 335f.). The מלך appears not merely as a declarer of the conditions of the deliverance, but as a mediator of this deliverance itself. And if the ממתים, Job 33:22, are angels by whom the man is threatened with the execution of death, the מלאך who comes forward here for him who is upon the brink of the abyss cannot be a man. We must therefore understand מלאך not as in Job 1:14, but as in Job 4:18; and the more surely so, since we are within the extra-Israelitish circle of a patriarchal history. In the extra-Israelitish world a far more developed doctrine of angels and demons is everywhere found than in Israel, which is to be understood not only subjectively, but also objectively; and within the patriarchal history after Genesis 16, that (אלהים) מלאך יהוה appears, who is instrumental in effecting the progress of the history of redemption, and has so much the appearance of the God of revelation, that He even calls himself God, and is called God. He it is whom Jacob means, when (Genesis 48:15.), blessing Joseph, he distinguishes God the Invisible, God the Shepherd, i.e., Leader and Ruler, and "the Angel who delivered (הגּאל) me from all evil;" it is the Angel who, according to Psalm 34:8, encampeth round about them that fear God, and delivereth them; "the Angel of the presence" whom Isaiah in the Thephilla, ch. lxiii. 7ff., places beside Jehovah and His Holy Spirit as a third hypostasis. Taking up this perception, Elihu demands for the deliverance of man from the death which he has incurred by his sins, a superhuman angelic mediator. The "Angel of Jehovah" of primeval history is the oldest prefigurement in the history of redemption of the future incarnation, without which the Old Testament history would be a confused quodlibet of premises and radii, without a conclusion and a centre; and the angelic form is accordingly the oldest form which gives the hope of a deliverer, and to which it recurs, in conformity to the law of the circular connection between the beginning and end, in Malachi 3:1.

The strophe begins without any indication of connection with the preceding: one would expect ואם or אז אם, as we felt the absence of אך fo e in Job 33:14, and לכן in Job 32:17. We might take מלאך מליץ together as substantive and epitheton; the accentuation, however, which marks both מלאך and מליץ with Rebia magnum (in which case, according to Br's Psalterium, p. xiv., the second distinctive has somewhat less value than the first), takes מלאך as subj., and מליץ as predicate: If there is then for him (עליו, pro eo, Ew. 217, 9) an angel as מליץ, i.e., mediator; for מליץ signifies elsewhere an interpreter, Genesis 42:23; a negotiator, 2 Chronicles 32:31; a God-commissioned speaker, i.e., prophet, Isaiah 43:27; - everywhere (if it is not used as in Job 16:20, in malam parte) the shades of the notion of this word are summarized under the general notion of internuncius, and therefore of mediator (as the Jewish name of the mediating angel מטטרון, probably equivalent to mediator, not μετάθρονος, which is no usable Greek word). The Targ. translates by פרקליטא, παράκλητος (opp. קטיגור, κατήγορος, κατήγωρ). Therefore: if an angel undertakes the mediatorial office for the man, and indeed one of a thousand, i.e., not any one whatever of the thousands of the angels (Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalm 68:18; Daniel 7:10, comp. Tobit 12:15, εἶς ἐκ τῶν ἑπτὰ), but one who soars above the thousands, and has not his equal among them (as Ecclesiastes 7:28). Hirz. and Hahn altogether falsely combine: one of the thousands, whose business it is to announce ... . The accentuation is correct, and that forced mode of connection is without reason or occasion. It is the function of the מלאך itself as מליץ, which the clause which expresses the purpose affirms: if an angel appears for the good of the man as a mediator, to declare to him ישׁרו, his uprightness, i.e., the right, straight way (comp. Proverbs 14:2), in one word: the way of salvation, which he has to take to get free of sin and death, viz., the way of repentance and of faith (trust in God): God takes pity on the man ... . Here the conclusion begins; Rosenm. and others erroneously continue the antecedent here, so that what follows is the intercession of the angel; the angel, however, is just as a mediator who brings about the favour of God, and therefore not the חנן himself. He renders pardon possible, and brings the man into the state for receiving it.

Therefore: then God pardons, and says to His angel: Deliver him from the descent to the pit, I have found a ransom. Instead of פּדעהוּ, it would be admissible to read פּרעהוּ, let him free (from פרע, Arab. frg), if the angel to whom the command is given were the angel of death. פּדע is a cognate form, perhaps dialectic, with hdfp@f, root פד (as יפע, יפה, Arab. wf‛, wfy, from the common root יף, וף).

(Note: Wetzstein is inclined to regard פדע as a metathesis of דפע, Arab. df‛: thrust (tear, hold) him back from the gave. A proper name, fed‛ân, which often occurs among the Beduins, is of uncertain signification; perhaps it would serve as an explanation of פדעהו.)

The verb מצא (מטא) signifies to come at, Job 11:7, to attain something, and has its first signification here, starting from which it signifies the finding on the part of the seeker, and then when weakened finding without seeking. One is here reminded of Hebrews 9:12, αἰωνίαν λύτρωσιν εὑράμενος. כּפר (on this word, vid., Hebrerbrief, S. 385, 740), according to its primary notion, is not a covering equals making good, more readily a covering equals cancelling (from כּפר, Talmud. to wipe out, away), but, as the usual combination with על shows, a covering of sin and guilt before wrath, punishment, or execution on account of guilt, and in this sense λύτρον, a means of getting free, ransom-money. The connection is satisfied if the repentance of the chastened one (thus e.g., also von Hofm.) is understood by this ransom, or better, his affliction, inasmuch as it has brought him to repentance. But wherefore should the mediatorship of the angel be excluded from the notion of the כּפר. Just this mediatorship is meant, inasmuch as it puts to right him who by his sins had worked death, i.e., places him in a condition in which no further hindrance stands in the way of the divine pardon. If we connect the mediating angel, like the angel of Jehovah of the primeval history, with God Himself, as then the logos of this mediating angel to man can be God's own logos communicated by him, and he therefore as מליץ, God's speaker (if we consider Elihu's disclosure in the light of the New Testament), can be the divine Logos himself, we shall here readily recognise a presage of the mystery which is unveiled in the New Testament: "God was in Christ, and reconciled the world unto Himself." A presage of this mystery, flashing through the darkness, we have already read in Job 17:3 (comp. Job 16:21; and, on the other hand, in order to see how this anticipation is kindled by the thought of the opposite, Job 9:33). The presage which meets us here is like another in Psalm 107 - a psalm which has many points of coincidence with the book of Job - where in Job 33:20 we find, "He sent His word, and healed them."

(Note: In his introduction, p. 76, Schlottmann says: "The conceptions of Wisdom and of the Revealing Angel were already united in that of the Eternal Word in the ante-Christian, Jewish theology. Therein the fact of the divine revelation in Christ found the forms in which it could accommodate itself to the understanding, and stimulate succeeding ages to further thought and penetration." Thus it is: between the Chokma of the canonical books and the post-biblical development of the philosophy of religion (dogmatism) which culminates in Philo, there is an historical connection, and, indeed, one that has to do with the development of redemption. Vid., Luth. Zeitschrift, 1863, S. 219ff.)

At any rate, Elihu expresses it as a postulate, that the deliverance of man can only be effected by a superhuman being, as it is in reality accomplished by the man who is at the same time God, and from all eternity the Lord of the angels of light.

The following strophe (Job 33:25) now describes the results of the favour wrought out for man by the מלאך מליץ.

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