Job 32:1


In the person of the young Elihu a new speaker comes forward, who mediates between Job and his friends. Calmer and juster in thought than either, he takes up the word when "wit and reason" on both sides are at an end; he shows the weakness of the friends, but at the same time reproaches Job with his past wild speeches, and refutes certain of his errors. Thus he prepares the way for the appearance of Jehovah himself. In ch. 32 and 33., after a long introduction, he advances an argument for the truth that man may not esteem himself pure and just in the presence of God. - J.







Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu.
After the introduction Elihu reproves Job, because he had claimed too much for himself, and had indulged in a spirit of complaining against God. He goes on to say that it is not necessary for God to develop all His counsels and purposes to men; that He often speaks in visions of the night; and that the great purpose of His dealings is to take away pride from man, and to produce true humility. This He does by the dispensations of His providence, and by the calamities with which He visits His people. Yet he says, if, when man is afflicted, he will be truly penitent, God will have mercy and restore his flesh, so that it will be fresher than that of an infant. The true secret, therefore, of the Divine dispensations, according to Elihu, the principle on which he explains all, is, that afflictions are disciplinary, or are designed to produce true humility and penitence. They are not absolute proof of enormous wickedness and hypocrisy, as the friends of Job had maintained, nor could one in affliction lay claim to freedom from sin, or blame God, as he understood Job to have done. He next reproves Job for evincing a proud spirit of scorning, and especially for having maintained that, according to the Divine dealings with him, it would be no advantage to a man to be pious, and to delight himself in God. Such an opinion implied that God was severe and wrong in His dealings. To meet this, Elihu brings forward a variety of considerations to show the impropriety of remarks of this kind, and especially to prove that the Governor of the world can do nothing inconsistent with benevolence and justice. From these considerations he infers that the duty of one in the situation of Job was plain. It was to admit the possibility that he had sinned, and to resolve that he would offend no more. He then proceeds to consider the opinion of Job, that under the arrangements of Divine Providence there could be no advantage in being righteous; that the good were subjected to so many calamities, that nothing was gained by all their efforts to be holy; and that there was no profit though a man were cleansed from sin. To this Elihu replies, by showing that God is supreme; that the character of man cannot profit Him; that He is governed by other considerations in His dealings than that man has a claim on Him; and that there are great and important considerations which lead Him to the course He takes with men, and that to complain of these is proof of rebellion. Elihu then closes his address by stating —

1. The true principles of the Divine administration, as he understood them; and

2. By saying that there is much in the Divine government which is inscrutable, but that there are such evidences of greatness and wisdom in His government, there are so many things in the works of nature, and in the course of events, which we cannot understand, that we should submit to His superior wisdom.

(Albert Barnes.)

Elihu appears to represent the "new wisdom" which came to Hebrew thinkers in the period of the exile; and there are certain opinions embodied in his address which must have been formed during an exile that brought many Jews to honour. The reading of affliction given is one following the discovery that the general sinfulness of a nation may entail chastisement on men who have not been personally guilty of great sin, yet are sharers in the common neglect of religion and pride of heart, and further, that this chastisement may be the means of great profit to those who suffer. It would be harsh to say the tone is that of a mind which has caught the trick of "voluntary humility," of pietistic self-abasement. Yet there are traces of such a tendency, the beginning of a religious strain opposed to legal self-righteousness, running, however, very readily to excess and formalism. Elihu, accordingly, appears to stand on the verge of a descent from the robust moral vigour of the original author towards that low ground in which false views of man's nature hinder the free activity of faith Elihu avoids assailing the conception of the prologue, that Job is a perfect and upright man before God. He takes the state of the sufferer as he finds it, and inquires how and why it is, and what is the remedy. There are pedantries and obscurities in the discourse, yet the author must not be denied the merit of a careful and successful attempt to adapt his character to the place he occupies in the drama. Beyond this, and the admission that something is said on the subject of Divine discipline, it is needless to go in justifying Elihu's appearance. One can only remark with wonder in passing, that Elihu should ever have been declared the Angel Jehovah, or a personification of the Son of God.

(Robert A. Watson, D. D.)

1. Elihu appears to have been a young man of keen perception, vigorous intellect, and possessed of the idea that he had a mission to teach and criticise others. He saw their mistakes as a bystander might, and set himself to correct them. The thing which peculiarly stirs him is, that while Job was clearly wrong, the friends had not hit off the truth, they had erred more than he, and this he considers as overruled for good, that they might not fancy that "they had answered him," and that they, and not God, "had thrust him down." With this view of their relative positions he goes to work to answer their objections and to correct Job. The opening of his speech to Job gives the impression of a simple and intentionally humble person, nevertheless deeply persuaded that his mission to advise and teach others is from God. Yet there is an inclination to condemn others, and to an apparent arrogance. He first describes himself as "full of matter." This looks like vanity, but it need not be. There is an intuitive consciousness of inspiration in the minds of some men, and those often are the young, which seems to point them out as men to do a work for God, or the advancement of souls, in their own day. The power that urges them within is one they cannot resist. It is the teaching and influence of God. Many a youth is conscious of some such energy, and, being conscious of it, can neither resist the consciousness, nor hinder the expression of the power. Society usually condemns such men, though men often have to endorse their work in after days. Such an one Elihu seems to have been. It was not the possession of the power to see truth unseen by others which was his fault; nor was it the consciousness that he possessed it; but the presuming on the power, to offend against the laws of humility and modesty, and the thrusting forward the consciousness of his ability in such a way as to contemn and despise others, or to give to others the impression that they are despised and neglected.

2. Elihu opens his speech with a warm protest in favour of the fairness of God's dealings, and against the complaints set up by Job assailing the inequality of providence. He shows that there is an end and object in God's dealings with man through sorrow and chastisement. He dwells on the perfection of His character. He then proceeds to show the power and omniscience of God. His complaint against Job is, not only that he has actually done wrong, but that his arguments are of a kind to fortify the wicked, and to strengthen the position of God's enemies. He concludes his remonstrance in the magnificent language of chapter 37, in which he sets forth the greatness of the works of creation. He is offended at Job's deviation from the recognised paths of simple religion into the more devious and intricate ones of a somewhat metaphysical search into the causes of apparent contradictions.

3. The two conditions of mind are best seen in contrast. We often do see them so in life. The following classes of men are frequent and familiar to our mind. There is a man who sincerely serves and loves God. He has no hesitation as to his faith in His love, his choice and his intense desire; nevertheless, his mind is one which surveys and weighs everything. It sees the inequality of the law of God, if only the superficial view be taken; he goes down lower, and strives to find some firm basis founded on the moral sense, and the deeper condition of the progress of society. This man accepts and defends the discoveries of science; he is not startled at seeming contradictions. Such was Job. Elihu did not understand the man of keenly inquiring mind, agitated, as Job was, about the causes of things. There are two classes of men among us; those who reach the end of faith through the gallery of inquiry, and those who rest in it from the beginning, and would shudder at having to ask the question which they consider already finally rocked to sleep in the cradle of unsuspecting and Unhesitating trust.

4. Elihu suggests to Job the various modes of God's visitations and dealings with men. Elihu expresses some surprise that Job should not more easily and heartily acquiesce in the justice of God's dealings, without inquiring and searching so deeply into God's actions and motives. So many men of Elihu's kind are surprised at the difficulty which deeper minds feel. He first objects to Job finding fault with God for giving him trouble, as if he had any right to object to the ways and laws of Him who made him. He tries to convince Job of the close connection between cause and effect in God's dealing with His people, of the reality of His intentions in every act of trial or humiliation to draw the soul of man out of some snare of Satan, some pit of destruction, and to bring him near Himself. Elihu's complaint against Job is, that he does not feel all this. He hesitates about this manifest connection between cause and effect; he searches more anxiously, decides more hesitatingly, and takes courage more cautiously. He searches into grounds and causes. Another man under a strong impression that some line of action is a duty, expects everything will guide him with regard to it; sees everything through that atmosphere, possessed in soul of one time, imagines everything he hears is a note which tends to recall it. See how each of these classes would deal with —

(1)Chastisement.

(2)National calamity.

(3)The discoveries and dicta of science.

(4)Natural phenomena.The two classes of mind are very distinct; but both may be religious, and that in the very highest sense; but they will have a tendency to mistake and misunderstand each other. There is a painful tendency in religious men to be narrow towards each other. We can help being severe in our judgment on each other.

(E. Monro.)

Homilist.
I. RELIGIOUS CONTROVERSY ISSUING IN UTTER FAILURE. Long was the controversy of Job and his three friends; hot was their spirit, and varied the arguments employed on both sides. But what was the result? Neither party was convinced. Polemics have proved the greatest hindrance and the greatest curse to the cause of truth. "Disagreement," says F.W. Robertson, "is refreshing when two men lovingly desire to compare their views, to find out truth. Controversy is wretched when it is an attempt to prove one another wrong. Therefore Christ would not argue with Pilate. Religious controversy does only harm. It destroys the humble inquiry after truth; it throws all the energies into an attempt to prove ourselves right. In that disparaging spirit no man gets at truth. 'The meek will He grade in judgment.' The only effective way to clear the atmosphere of religious errors, is to stir it with the breath and brighten it with the beams of Divine truth. Bring out the truth, regardless of men's opinions."

II. INDIGNATION TOWARDS MEN SPRINGING FROM ZEAL TO GOD. "Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram: against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God. Also against his three friends was his wrath kindled." Men hating their fellow creatures because their opinions concerning God tally not with their own. How arrogant is this! It is the regarding our own views as the infallible truth; and what is this but the spirit of Popery?

2. How impious is this! A zeal for God which kindles indignation to men, is a false zeal — a zeal abhorrent to the Divine nature.

3. How inhuman is this! Can anything be more inhuman than to be indignant with a man simply because his opinions are not in agreement with our own?

III. REVERENCE FOR AGE RESTRAINING THE SPEECH OF YOUTH. "I am young, and ye are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not show you mine opinion. I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom." Here this young man appears in an aspect most becoming and commendable. He shows —

1. A sense of his theological inferiority arising from his youthhood.

2. A deference for the judgment of his seniors. "I said, Days should speak." Age gives a man great advantage in judging things. "The aged," says a modern writer, "have had an opportunity of long observation. They have conversed much with men. They have seen the results of certain courses of conduct, and they have arrived at a period of life when they can look at the reality of things, and are uninfluenced now by passion. Returning respect for the sentiments of the aged, attention to their counsels, veneration for their persons, and deference for them when they speak, would be an indication of advancement in society in modern times; and there is scarcely anything in which we have deteriorated from the simplicity of early ages, or in which we fall behind the Oriental world, so much as in the want of this."

(Homilist.)

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