Wherefore, Job, I pray thee, hear my speeches, and hearken to all my words.
Verses 1-33. - In this chapter Elihu, turning away from the "comforters," proceeds to address Job himself, offering to reason out the matter in dispute with him, in God's stead. After a brief exordium (vers. 1-7), he takes exception
(1) to Job's self-assertion (vers. 8, 9); and
(2) to his charges against God (vers. 10-13),
which (he says) are unjust. He next brings forward his theory of God-inflicted sufferings being, in the main, chastisements proceeding from a loving purpose, intended to purify, to strengthen, to purge out faults, to "save from the pit," to improve, and to enlighten (vers. 14-24). He points out in what spirit chastisement should be received (vers. 25-30); and concludes with a recommendation to Job to remain silent, and hear him out, while at the same time he expresses a willingness to listen to what Job has to say, if he has objections to offer (vers. 31-33). Verse 1. - Wherefore, Job, I pray thee, hear my speeches; rather, howbeit, Job, I pray thee, hear my speech (see the Revised Version); i.e. "However you regard me personally, hear what I have to say." And hearken to all my words. Give me your full attention; do not suffer aught that I say to escape you. Elihu has a deep conviction of the importance of what he is about to utter (comp. Job 32:8, 10, 17).
Behold, now I have opened my mouth, my tongue hath spoken in my mouth.
Verse 2. - Behold, now I have opened my mouth. (On the solemnity of the phrase, "opened my mouth," see the comment upon Job 3:1.) My tongue hath spoken in my mouth; literally, in my palate (comp. Job 6:30). Each word has been, as it were, tasted; that is, seriously considered and examined beforehand. My remarks will not be crude, extempore remarks; so may they be the better worth attending to.
My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart: and my lips shall utter knowledge clearly.
Verse 3. - My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart. Moreover, whatever I say will be said with entire sincerity. My heart is upright, and I shall speak "from the uprightness of my heart," without pretence, deception, or concealment of any kind. And my lips shall utter knowledge clearly. I shall say only what I know and shall endeavour to say it simply and clearly, so that no one can mistake my meaning.
The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.
Verse 4. - The Spirit of God hath made me. This is assigned as the main reason why Job should give his best attention to Elihu's words. Elihu claims to be quickened and informed by the Divine Spirit which was once breathed into man (Genesis 2:7), whereby man became a living soul (comp. Job 32:8). And the breath of the Almighty hath given me life; or, quiekened me - originated and preserved my life. Elihu does not, however, claim that his words are actually inspired, or that he has a message to Job from the Almighty.
If thou canst answer me, set thy words in order before me, stand up.
Verse 5. - If thou canst answer me; rather, if thou canst answer thou me (see the Revised Version). Set thy words in order before me, stand up (comp. Job 23:4).
Behold, I am according to thy wish in God's stead: I also am formed out of the clay.
Verse 6. - Behold, I am according to thy wish in God's stead; i.e. I am the antagonist for whom thou hast asked (Job 9:33; Job 13:19), ready to enter into controversy with thee, instead of God. I am thine equal, a creature like thyself. I also am formed out of the clay (comp. Genesis 2:7). Therefore -
Behold, my terror shall not make thee afraid, neither shall my hand be heavy upon thee.
Verse 7. - My terror shall not make thee afraid. Thou canst feel no alarm at me; I cannot terrify thee, as God would (Job 6:4; Job 7:14; Job 9:34. etc.). Neither shall my hand (literally, my pack-saddle) be heavy upon thee. Thou wilt not feel my presence a burden, or be crushed under the weight of my words.
Surely thou hast spoken in mine hearing, and I have heard the voice of thy words, saying,
Verses 8-12. - His exordium over, Elihu proceeds to point out what he blames in Job's discourses, and at present notices two departures from truth and right only. Job, he says, asserts his absolute innocence (ver. 9); he also maintains that God deals with him harshly, as an enemy (vers. 10, 11). Neither assertion is justifiable. Verse 8. - Surely thou hast spoken in mine hearing, and I have heard the voice of thy words, saying. Elihu does not quote exactly what Job had said. He probably intended to be perfectly fair and just, but in reality he greatly overstates the truth. Job had never said the words he ascribes to him in ver. 9; at best they are an inference, or deduction, from what he had said. And he had said a great deal on the other side, which Elihu overlooks (see the comment on ver. 9).
I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me.
Verse 9. - I am clean without transgression, I am innocent. Job had not said that he was "clean," or "without transgression," or "innocent." With respect to "cleanness," he had observed, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one," implying that all men were unclean (see Job 14:4). Concerning ,'transgressions," he had declared, "I have sinned... Why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity?" (Job 7:20, 21); and again, "Thou makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth" (Job 13:26). Further, he had asked to be told the number of his iniquities and sins (Job 13:23), and declared that God kept his transgressions and iniquities sewn up and sealed in a bag (Job 14:17). With regard to "innocence," the only observation that he had made was, "I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent" (Job 9:28). What he had really asserted was his uprightness, his integrity, his "righteousness" (Job 12:4: 16:17; 23. 7; 27:5, 6; 31:5-40). And these are exactly what God bore witness to (Job 1:8; Job 2:3). It is plain, then, that Elihu overstated his ease, and, whatever his intentions were, was practically almost as unfair to Job as the "comforters." Neither is there iniquity in me. Nor had Job said this. He had frequently acknowledged the contrary (see Job 7:21; Job 13:26; Job 14:17).
Behold, he findeth occasions against me, he counteth me for his enemy,
Verse 10. - Behold, he findeth occasions against me. This charge may perhaps be justified by reference to Job's complaints in Job 7:17-19 and Job 10:3-6; but the exact words are not Job's. He counteth me for his enemy. Certainly, Job had said this more than ones (see Job 16:9; Job 19. l 1). But he cannot really have believed it, or his trust in God must have failed. The fact that to the last he clung to God, appealed to him, hoped to receive judgment from him (Job 31:2, 6, 28, 35-37), is proof sufficient that he knew God was not really alienated from him, but would in the end acknowledge him and vindicate his character.
He putteth my feet in the stocks, he marketh all my paths.
Verse 11. - He putteth my feet in the stocks. A reference to Job's words in Job 13:27. He marketh all my paths (comp. Job 31:4, and Job 7:17-19).
Behold, in this thou art not just: I will answer thee, that God is greater than man.
Verse 12. - Behold, in this thou art not just. It would certainly not have been a just charge to make against God, that he counted Job as an enemy; and, so far as Job's statements go, it must be admitted that he had laid himself open to Elihu's rebuke. But it is no logical "answer" to Job's charge to say, in reply to it, I will answer thee, that God is greater than man. Might does not constitute right, and it is a poor way of justifying God to urge that he is all-powerful, and may do what he likes. So Cambyses was justified in his worst acts by the royal judges (Herod., 3:31); and so in an absolute monarchy it is always possible to justify the extremest acts of tyranny. Certainly God cannot act unjustly; but this is not because his doing a thing makes it right, but because his justice, is a law to his will, and he never wills to do anything that he has not previously seen to be just (see Cudworth's 'Immutable Morality,' which deserves the careful study, not alone of moralists, but also of theologians).
Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters.
Verse 13. - Why dost thou strive against him? Why dost thou insist on taking the attitude of one who contends with God, who would fain enter into a controversy with him, and force him to plead in his own defence? It is not alone his omnipotence that makes such conduct folly, but his remoteness, his inaccessibility. He cannot be forced to make answer; it is not his wont to do so; he giveth not account of any of his matters. It is presumptuous to suppose that God will condescend to reveal himself from heaven and make answer to thy overbold challenges.
For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.
Verse 14. - For God speaketh once, yea twice. God has his own ways of speaking to man, which are not those that Job has been expecting. He speaks silently and secretly, not in thunders and lightnings, as at Sinai (Exodus 19:16-20), not by extraordinary theophanies, but nevertheless quite as effectually. Yet man perceiveth it not. Man often does net recognize God's action in this silent teaching of his. Man wants something more startling, more sensational. In our Lord's time, the Jews demanded "a sign" - "a sign from heaven;" but no sign of the kind was given them. Job now did not understand that God, whom he called upon to answer him (Job 10:2; Job 13:22; Job 23:5, etc.), was already speaking to him in various ways - by his judgments, by thoughts suggested inwardly to his heart, by the dreams and visions whereof he complained (Job 7:14).
In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed;
Verse 15. - In a dream, in a vision of the sight. So God spoke to Abimelech (Genesis 20:3-7), to Jacob (Genesis 31:11), to Laban (Genesis 31:24), to Joseph (Genesis 38:5, 9), to the Pharaoh whom Joseph served (Genesis 41:1-7), to Solomon (1 Kings 3:5), to Daniel (Daniel 2:19), to Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:28; Daniel 4:5-18), and to many others. Sometimes men recognized such visions as Divine communications; but sometimes, probably quite as often, they regarded them as mere dreams, fancies, phantasies, unworthy of any attention. Elihu seems to hold that Divine visions came only when deep sleep falleth upon men; and similarly Eliphaz, in Job 4:13. This method of revelation seems to belong especially to the more primitive times, and the earlier stages of God's dealings with men. In the New Testament dreams scarcely form any part of the economy of grace. In slumberings upon the bed. A pleonastic addition, which must not be regarded as diminishing from the force of the precedent clause.
Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction,
Verse 16. - Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction. At such times, Elihu holds, God gives men spiritual wisdom, instructs them, makes them understand his dealings with them and his purposes with respect to them. If Job is perplexed concerning the Almighty's ways with himself, and desires explanations, let him have his ear open to the Divine teaching on such occasions, and seriously lay it to heart. He will thus, it may be, find his perplexity diminished.
That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man.
Verse 17. - That he (i.e. God) may withdraw man from his purpose; literally, from his work, assumed to be a wrongful work. Elihu regards the Divine teaching through visions as intended to elevate and purify men. Sometimes God so works upon them as to make them abandon an evil course on which they had entered. Sometimes his object is to save them from indulgence in an evil temper into which, without his help, they might have fallen. In this latter case he may occasionally hide pride from man. Elihu, perhaps, thinks that Job is unduly proud of his integrity.
He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword.
Verse 18. - He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword. By these interpositions God may even save a man from utter ruin, when, but for them, he would have rushed upon it. He may cause a person -to give up designs or enterprises which would have brought him into danger, and perhaps led to his being slain with the sword.
He is chastened also with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones with strong pain:
Verse 19. - He is chastened also with pain upon his bed. God also speaks to men, secretly and silently, in another way, viz. through chastisements. He afflicts the strong man with a grievous sickness, causes him to take to his bed, racks him with pain there, and wrings the multitude of his bones with strong pain. But here again his purpose is kind and loving.
So that his life abhorreth bread, and his soul dainty meat.
Verse 20 - Be that his life abhorreth bread, and his soul dainty meat. Eating and drinking are detestable to the man who is stretched on a bed of sickness (comp. Psalm 107:18, "Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death"). The chains that bind to earth fall off, and the soul is left open to loftier influences.
His flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen; and his bones that were not seen stick out.
Verse 21. - His flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen; literally, from the sight; but the Authorized Version gives probably the correct meaning. And his bones that were not seen stick out. These are general features of a wasting illness (comp. Psalm 22:17, "I may tell all my bones"). Such illness gives the sufferer time to review thoroughly his life and cow duct, and see to it "if there be any way of wickedness in him," or any particular form of sin to which he is tempted.
Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers.
Verse 22. - Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers. "The destroyers" are probably the angels to whom the task is assigned of ultimately inflicting death, if minor chastisements prove insufficient (comp. 2 Samuel 24:16, 17; Psalm 78:49, etc.).
If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness:
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."
Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom.
Verse 24. - Then he is gracious unto him; and saith. Some interpret, "Then he (i.e. God) is gracious unto him, and he (i.e. the angel) saith. Others make God the subject of both clauses. But the angel is the natural subject. Deliver him from going down to the pit. The mediating angel thus addresses God, and adds, I have found a ransom, leaving the nature of the ransom unexplained. Some notion of ransom, or atonemeat, underlay the whole idea of sacrifice, which appears to have been universally practised from the remotest times, by the Oriental nations.
His flesh shall be fresher than a child's: he shall return to the days of his youth:
Verse 25. - His flesh shall be fresher than a child's. The chastisement having done its work, and the sufferer being delivered from death by the mediating angel, a restoration to health follows. The recovery of "flesh fresher than a child's" stands as the natural antithesis to Job's leprosy. He shall return to the days of his youth. Youthful strength, youthful vigour, youthful feelings, shall come back to him. He shall be once more as he was in the days of his prime.
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.
Verse 26. - He shall pray unto God, and he (i.e. God) will be favourable unto him, Being restored to God's favour, he will once more be able to address him in "effectual fervent prayer," and obtain whatever he desires of him. And he shall see his face with joy. God's face shall no longer be a terror to him, but he shall look upon it with joy and gladness. For he (i.e. God, will render unto man his righteousness. That is, will both account and make him righteous - both justify and sanctify him.
He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not;
Verse 27. - He looketh upon men; rather, he (i.e. the restored penitent) singeth before men. He is jubilant, and confesses his former offences with a light heart, feeling that now he is pardoned and restored to God's favour. And if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right. This is altogether a mistranslation. The construction of the Hebrew is simple enough, and runs thus: And he (the penitent) saith, I have sinned and perverted that which was right. And it profited me not; i.e. "I gained nothing by my transgressions - they brought me us advantage." Compare St. Paul's inquiry (Romans 6:21), "What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?" Some, however, translate, "And it was not requited to me," which also gives a good meaning°
He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light.
Verse 28. - He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light; rather, as in the margin, he hath delivered my soul from going into the pit (comp. ver. 24), and my life shall see the light. The restored penitent is still speaking.
Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man,
Verse 29. - Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes (literally, twice and thrice) with man. Elihu, from this point to the end of the chapter, speaks in his own person. God, he says, thus works with man, through visions or through chastisements oftentimes - not in the latter case, taking vengeance on them for their sins, but graciously leading them on to a better mind and a higher spiritual condition. This is part of God's ordinary moral government, and Job has no need to suppose himself exceptionally dealt with. Elihu has reason on his side in all this, and his words may have given Job some comfort. But they did not exactly fit Job's ease. Elihu, unless supernaturally enlightened, could not possibly penetrate into the special circumstances of Job's trial. He could only try to bring his case under general laws, of which it was not an illustration; and so, though well-meant and probably of some service, his argument was no complete answer to Job's difficulties.
To bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living.
Verse 30. - To bring back his soul from the pit. For discipline and correction, not for vengeance - in love and not in anger (comp. Hebrews 12:5-11, where the doctrine is set forth fully). To be enlightened with the light of the living; or, that he may be enlightened. This is God's purpose, ordinarily, in afflicting men; or, at any rate, a part of his purpose He aims at enlightening their understandings, and so enabling them to comprehend his ways, and clearly see the path which it is their true wisdom to walk in.
Mark well, O Job, hearken unto me: hold thy peace, and I will speak.
Verse 31. - Mark well, O Job, hearken unto me; i.e. "Mark well what I say. Note it, and lay it up in thy heart." Hold thy peace, and I will speak. It may be conjectured that Job at this point showed some inclination to break silence and answer Elihu. But Elihu thought that he had a great deal more to say, which was of importance, and wished not to be interrupted. He therefore checked Job's utterance. Then, fearing lest he had gone too far, he made the concession of the next verse.
If thou hast any thing to say, answer me: speak, for I desire to justify thee.
Verse 32. - If thou hast anything to say, answer me. Nevertheless, i.e., if there is really anything that thou wouldst fain urge on thine own behalf at this point, speak - I am ready to hear - for I dare to justify thee; i.e. "I am anxious, if possible, or so far as possible, to defend and justify thy conduct." Then, probably, Elihu made a pause, to allow of Job's speaking; but, as the patriarch kept silence, he continued.
If not, hearken unto me: hold thy peace, and I shall teach thee wisdom.
Verse 33. - If not, hearken unto me: hold thy peace, and I shall teach thee wisdom. Elihu is certainly quite sufficiently impressed with the sense of his intellectual capacity. Job's silence may have been meant as a sort of tacit rebuke to him. Considering his youth (Job 32:6), there is something of arrogance in the whole tone of his address, and especially in his notion that he could "teach Job wisdom." It is significant that neither now, when expressly invited to reply, nor at any subsequent point of the discourse, nor even at its close, does Job condescend to make any answer at all to Elihu's speech.