Matthew Poole's Commentary
Wherefore, Job, I pray thee, hear my speeches, and hearken to all my words.He offereth himself in God’s stead to reason with Job, Job 33:1-7, who had too hard thoughts of God, who by his greatness giveth no account of his ways, Job 33:8-13. God instructeth man by visions, Job 33:14-18; by afflictions, Job 33:19-22; by his ministry, Job 33:23-25. When man prayeth and confesseth, God will be gracious, Job 33:26-28. These are God’s methods of instructing men, Job 33:29,30.
Perceiving the error Job’s friends, and that by their violent and opprobrious speeches they has exasperated Job’s mind, and thereby hindered the success of their discourses, he applies himself to him in milder ways, and treats him kindly, thereby to gain his attention and affection, that his words might have more acceptance with him.
Hearken to all my words; not only to what may please thee, but also to what may convince and reprove thee.
Behold, now I have opened my mouth, my tongue hath spoken in my mouth.Now I have begun to speak, and intend with thy good leave to proceed in my discourse with thee.
In my mouth, Heb. in or with my palate; for both tongue and palate are instruments of speech; and, that a man should speak plainly and distinctly, (which he designed to do,) it is necessary that his tongue should ofttimes touch the palate or roof of the month.
My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart: and my lips shall utter knowledge clearly.I shall not speak passionately or partially, as one resolved to defend what I have once said, whether true or false; but from an honest mind, or what I verily believe to be true, and from a sincere desire to do thee good. I shall not speak my own fancies or devices, but only that which by diligent study and Divine inspiration I know to be true, and this I shall do plainly and clearly.
The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.I am thy fellow creature, made by God’s Spirit, Genesis 1:2, and quickened by that soul which God breathed into man, Genesis 2:7, and therefore fit and ready to discourse with thee upon even and equal terms, according to thy desire.
If thou canst answer me, set thy words in order before me, stand up.I shall allow thee all freedom of discourse; I cannot terrify thee, as God would: I shall not reproach thee, nor cavil at thee, as thy friends have done.
Stand up, to contend with me as thing adversary in this cause.
Behold, I am according to thy wish in God's stead: I also am formed out of the clay.I will plead with thee in God’s name and stead, and on his behalf, which thou hast oft wished that God would do upon equal terms, and laying aside his terrible majesty, &c. Or, I am as thou art with or towards God, i.e. God’s creature like thyself, as the next words explain it.
Behold, my terror shall not make thee afraid, neither shall my hand be heavy upon thee.Which was the condition of that disputation which thou didst offer to undertake with God, Job 9:34 13:21.
Surely thou hast spoken in mine hearing, and I have heard the voice of thy words, saying,I shall not charge thee with hypocrisy, as thy friends do, which God only can discern; but with those words which I have heard from thee.
I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me.Not simply and absolutely none, for he oft confesseth himself to be a sinner, as Job 9:1,2, &c.; Job 14:4; but no such transgression or iniquity as might give God just occasion to punish him so severely, as is implied in the next verse, where he blameth God for finding occasions against him, implying that he had given him none by his sins. And thus far Elihu’s charge was just and true, and herein it differs from the charge of Job’s three friends, who oft accuse him, and that in words much like these, for asserting his own righteousness and innocency; although they did it because they thought him a secret sinner and a hypocrite, whereas Elihu doth it upon other grounds, even because Job’s justification of himself was accompanied with reflections upon God, as hath been said.
Behold, he findeth occasions against me, he counteth me for his enemy,He picketh quarrels with me, and watcheth over and searcheth after all my errors and frailties, as Job said, Job 10:6 14:16,17; severely marking what is amiss in me, that thence he may take occasion to punish me worse than mine iniquities deserve. Though I have endeavoured to be his friend and faithful servant all my days, yet he treats me like an enemy. This Job said Job 13:24 19:11.
He putteth my feet in the stocks, he marketh all my paths.He narrowly pries into all my actions, that he may find matter for further severities against me.
Behold, in this thou art not just: I will answer thee, that God is greater than man.I do not accuse thee of hypocrisy, nor rip up the former errors of thy life; but in this thou art unjust and much to blame, that thou boastest so much of thine own integrity, and chargest God with rigorous dealing, and callest him to an account before thy tribunal, and offerest to dispute the matter with him.
That God is greater than man; not only in power and majesty, which thou acknowledgest, but also in justice, and wisdom, and goodness; and therefore thou dost very foolishly, and presumptuously, and wickedly in contending with him, and censuring his judgments: thou forgettest thy distance from him, and castest off that awe and reverence which thou shouldst constantly maintain towards thy sovereign Lord.
Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters.Why? upon what grounds and for what ends? What advantage dost thou expect from it?
Dost thou strive against him, to wit, in a judicial way? See Job 8:6.
He giveth not account of any of his matters; he neither useth, nor is by any law obliged, to give an account to any of his creatures of the grounds and reasons of his judgments or dispensations, as being the supreme and absolute Governor of all persons and things, in whose will and pleasure it becometh all men to acquiesce. And therefore, O Job, thou exceedest all bounds of modesty, and humility, and reverence, and submission, which thou owest to thy Maker, in that thou presumest to demand a reason for his dealings with thee, and to quarrel with him for not giving it to thee at thy desire. Or, he answereth not all his words, i.e. he doth not say, or hath not said, all that he can to justify his actions, which he can do many more ways than we can imagine; but hath revealed so much of his will and ways to mankind as he hath thought meet, and as their narrow capacity can comprehend; as he declareth in the following verses.
For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.For; or, nevertheless, as this particle is sometimes used. Although God doth not give men an account of his matters, yet he doth that for them which is much better, and which is sufficient for them.
God speaketh, to wit, unto men by way of instruction or admonition, as appears from the following verses.
Once, yea twice, again and again, or ofttimes, this number being sometimes put indefinitely, as below, Job 33:29 2 Kings 6:10 Psalm 62:11. When one speaking doth not awaken men, God is graciously pleased to give them another admonition. So God, though he will not gratify men’s curiosity in inquiring into his hidden judgments, yet he will supply their necessity, and acquaint them with their duty and interest so far as is fit, and they are concerned to know.
Yet man; which is easily and fitly understood here from the former branch of this verse, as being the person to whom God speaketh, as appears from the next verse. And such supplements are not unusual in the Hebrew language, and especially in these poetical books, where the style is very concise and short, and many things to be understood.
Perceiveth it not; through his inadvertency, or negligence, or dulness. Man therefore hath no reason to charge God as if he were deficient in his notices and manifestations of his will, but to accuse himself for not improving revealed things to his own advantage, but desiring rather to pry into God’s secret counsels, which was Job’s error.
In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed;In a dream: this he mentions, as the usual way of God’s revealing his mind and will to men in those days, before God’s word was committed to writing, as Genesis 20:6 41:1,28.
In a vision of the night: this is added by way of explication and limitation, to show that he speaks not of every dream, but of those Divine dreams in which God was pleased to vouchsafe some vision or representation of his will to the mind of a man.
When deep sleep falleth upon men; when men’s senses are bound up, and their minds free from all distracting cares and business of the world, and wholly at leisure to receive Divine impressions.
In slumberings: this is added, because in this case the man is like one that slumbereth, or between sleeping and waking, or uncertain in which state he is, as Paul could not tell whether he was in the body, or out of the body, when he was in his ecstasy, 2 Corinthians 12:1,2.
Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction,i.e. He revealeth his will to the ears and hearts of men, as this phrase is used, Job 36:10 Psalm 40:6 Isaiah 1:4; and he imprinteth those instructions which he hath revealed to their ears upon their minds, that after they have heard and received them they do not let them slip, as men commonly do most things which they hear, whether from God or men, but do retain and hold them fast, and are fully satisfied and assured of the truth and importance of them. Or, he sealeth their chastening, or correction, for so this word signifies as well as instruction, i.e. he gives them assurance of his purpose of correcting them for their sins, if they do not prevent it by a speedy repentance. Or, he sealeth it (i.e. his word conveyed to their ears and minds) with chastening them, i.e. he gives them assurance of the truth and reality of his revelation by striking them with a sacred dread and horror, as was usual in such dreams or night visions, as we see Job 4:13,15; which he did that they might remember it the better, and distinguish this from such vain dreams as are only the productions of man’s fancy.
That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man.That he, i.e. God, who was expressed Job 33:14, and designed by this pronoun he both in the foregoing and following verses.
From his purpose, i.e. from the execution of his purpose. Heb. from his work, i.e. from his evil work as the Chaldee and LXX. understand it; from sin, which is truly and fitly called man’s work, because it hath its rise in and from him, and is his own proper work, and very agreeable to his nature in his present corrupt estate; as, on the contrary, all the good that is in man is God’s proper and peculiar work, and is generally ascribed to him in Scripture. So this is noted as the design of God’s giving man this warning, to keep him from executing that evil work which possibly he had designed to do; of which see examples, Genesis 20:5,6 31:24.
Hide pride, i.e. either,
1. To take it away, as God is said to hide sin, when he quite removes and forgives it, Psalm 32:1; and sorrow is said to be hid, Job 3:10, when it never is nor was; and understanding is said to be hid when it perisheth, Isaiah 29:14. And
pride is here mentioned as the root of those evil purposes or works last mentioned; which for the most part proceed from haughtiness of spirit, whereby men scorn to submit themselves and their wills and actions to God’s authority, and presume to advance themselves above God, and resolve to follow their own wills and lusts in spite of God, and with contempt of him. Or pride may be here put for all matter or occasion of pride. And God by this means is said to
hide pride from man, because by these glorious and terrible representations of his Divine majesty to a man, he takes him off from the contemplation and admiration of his own excellency, which men are generally very prone to reflect upon, and brings him to a sight of his own nothingness and weakness, and to a sense of his dependence upon God, and to a humble and ready submission to his will and pleasure.
He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword.He keepeth back, to wit, by these gracious admonitions, whereby he leads them to repentance,
his soul; either the man, who is oft expressed by this part; or
his life, as the next branch explains it.
From the pit, i.e. from the grave, from death or destruction.
From perishing by the sword, i.e. by some dreadful judgment of God which was ready to fall upon him.
He is chastened also with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones with strong pain:With pain, or grief; with some painful and dangerous diseases, or bodily distempers, which is the second way whereby God instructs men and excites them to repentance; which also was Job’s case.
The multitude of his bones with strong pain; the pain pierceth his very bones, even all of them. Or, even the strong multitude of his bones, i.e. his bones, which are both many and strong. Or, according to another reading, the contention of his bones (i.e. the pain of his bones, whereby God contends with him) is strong. This also was Job’s case, Job 30:17.
So that his life abhorreth bread, and his soul dainty meat.His life, i.e. his soul, as the next clause explains it; or his appetite, which is a sign and an act of life.
Bread, i.e. common and necessary food.
Dainty meat; such as others do, and he formerly did, much desire and prize.
His flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen; and his bones that were not seen stick out.His flesh is consumed away, through pain and pining sickness.
That it cannot be seen; because there is none left to be seen; but he who before was fat and flourishing, is now become a mere skeleton.
That were not seen, formerly, because they were covered with flesh and fat. But this clause, is and may be rendered thus, and his bones are broken, and are not seen; which is to be metaphorically understood.
Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers.He seems to himself and others to be lost, and past all hopes of recovery; which he adds for Job’s comfort in his desperate condition.
To the destroyers; to the instruments of death or destruction, whether it be angels, whom God sometimes useth in those cases; or devils, who have the power of death. Hebrews 2:14; or diseases, which by God’s appointment are ready to give the fatal blow.
If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness: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.
Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom.Then; in that case, or upon the sick man’s knowledge and practice of his duty.
1. The messenger or interpreter last mentioned, who is pitiful unto the sick man, and in companion to him doth all that he can for him, counselling and comforting him, and praying to God for his recovery in the following words,
Deliver him, & c. for the sake of that ransom which thou hast revealed and I have discovered to him. Or rather,
2. God, who is oft in this book designed by this particle he, or him; whose property and prerogative it is to be gracious unto man, and who alone can speak the following words with power and authority.
Is gracious unto him; pardoning his sins, and delivering him from his dangerous disease, and from death and from the hell which attends upon it.
And saith, to the angel or messenger.
Deliver him, to wit, ministerially and declaratively; in which sense the acts of forgiving sins, and reconciling sinners, and saving souls, are ascribed to God’s ministers; as John 20:23 2 Corinthians 5:19,20 1 Timothy 4:16. Declare to him that I have pardoned and will heal him.
I have found a ransom: although I might justly destroy him, and should do it, if I were severe to mark what is amiss in him; yet I will spare him, for I have found out an expedient and a way of ransoming and redeeming sinners from death, both temporal and eternal, which they by their sins have deserved, which is by the death of my Son, the Redeemer of the world, which shall be in the fulness of time, and with respect to which I will pardon this sick man, and others that shall repent and sue to me for mercy, as he hath done.
His flesh shall be fresher than a child's: he shall return to the days of his youth:Fresher than a child’s, i.e. more sound and tender. These joyful tidings delivered to him by God’s messenger shall revive his spirit, and by degrees restore his former health and vigour.
To the days of his youth, i. e. to the same healthful and strong constitution of body which he had in his youth.
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.He; either,
1. The messenger; or rather,
2. The sick man.
Shall pray unto God; being engaged and encouraged to do so, either by the aforesaid gracious message, or by his miraculous recovery through God’s goodness.
He will be favourable unto him, in hearing and answering his prayers, which before he seemed to neglect.
He shall see his face with joy; either,
1. God will look upon the man with a smiling or well-pleased countenance; whereas before he either hid his face from him, or frowned upon him. Or,
2. The man shall then be imboldened and encouraged to look God in the face with comfort and joy; which before he was, not without cause, afraid to do; but now he shall find that God is reconciled to him by the blessed effects of it, both in his body and in his conscience.
His righteousness, i.e. according to his righteousness, or the fruit of his righteousness; as on the contrary, iniquity is oft put for the punishment of iniquity. The sense is, he will deal with him as with one reconciled to him through the Mediator, and sincerely repenting of and turning from his former sins unto the serious practice of righteousness and true holiness, and therefore must needs be favourable to him, as he hath declared and engaged himself to be in such cases.
He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not;He looketh upon men; either,
1. The sick man shall look upon and converse with mankind, his friends, or others, as he did before, and shall say, (as the following word is and may be rendered,)
I have sinned, & c., i.e. he shall confess to them that God was not to be blamed, but that he, by his own sin and folly, did bring that evil upon himself. And then he shall acknowledge God’s great goodness to him, and shall add what follows in the next verse, He hath delivered my soul, &c., and my life, &c., as they render it. Or rather,
2. God diligently observes all mankind, and their several carriages, especially in sickness and distress.
If any say, I have sinned; if there be any man that sincerely saith thus, God hears it, and will pardon and heal him, as it follows.
Perverted that which was right; either,
1. I have judged perversely of the just and right ways of God, censuring his proceedings against me as too severe and rigorous, whereas in truth I only was to be blamed. Or,
2. I have perverted God’s righteous law by bending it, and making it comply with my crooked ways; or, I have swerved from the right and good way of God’s commands; or, I have made crooked paths. So he repeats in other words what he said in the former branch of the verse, I have sinned. It profited me not; I got no good by so doing, as I vainly promised myself; but I got much hurt by it, even diseases, and griefs, and extreme dangers. This was the just fruit of my sins. It is a meiosis, whereby less is said, and more is understood, of which we have seen many examples before.
He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light.He, i.e. God, whose work alone this is.
His soul; himself; or, as it follows,
his life. His life: See Poole "Job 33:18".
Shall see the light, i.e. shall enjoy, either,
1. Prosperity, which is oft called light, as darkness is put for affliction; or,
2. The light of the living, as it follows, Job 33:30; the light of this world, i.e. his life, which was endangered, shall be restored and continued. This is opposed to his going down into the pit, in the former branch.
Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man,All these ways and methods doth God use to awaken, and convince, and save sinners.
Oftentimes with man; either severally, one way with one, and another way with another; or with the same man, trying several means one after another to bring him to repentance, and prepare him for deliverance.
To bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living.i.e. That he may enjoy the light of life, and continue in the land of the living, out of which he was going.
Mark well, O Job, hearken unto me: hold thy peace, and I will speak.Hold thy peace; attend to what I have further to say to thee with patience and silence.
If thou hast any thing to say, answer me: speak, for I desire to justify thee.If thou hast any thing to say for thy own justification, or in answer to the charge that I have already brought against thee.
I desire to justify thee, to wit, as far as may consist with truth and justice. I do not speak with evil design, or a bitter mind, or as one resolved to condemn thee whatsoever thou sayest, and I shall be glad to hear any thing from thee which may make for thy just vindication.
If not, hearken unto me: hold thy peace, and I shall teach thee wisdom.i.e. What thy wisdom and duty is in thy circumstances.