Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Wherefore, Job, I pray thee - In the next chapter he addresses the three friends of Job. This is addressed particularly to him.
My speeches - Hebrew, "my words" - מלה millâh. This is the usual word in the Aramaen languages to express a saying or discourse, though in Hebrew it is only a poetic form. The meaning is, not that he would address separate speeches, or distinct discourses, to Job, but that he called on him to attend to what he had to say.
My tongue hath spoken in my mouth - Margin, "palate." The meaning is, that since he had ventured to speak, and had actually commenced, he would utter only that which was worthy to be heard. This is properly the commencement of his argument, for all that he had before said was merely an introduction. The word palate - "in my palate" (בחכי bechêkiy) is used here because of the importance of that organ in the act of speaking. Perhaps also, there may be reference to the fact that the Hebrews made much more use of the lower organs of enunciation - the palate, and the throat, than we do, and much less use of the teeth and lips. Hence, their language was strongly guttural.
My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart - I will speak in sincerity. I will utter nothing that shall be hollow and hypocritical. What I speak shall be the real suggestion of my heart - what I feel and know to be true. Perhaps Elihu was the more anxious to make this point entirely clear, because the three friends of Job might be supposed to have laid themselves open to the suspicion that they were influenced by passion or prejudice; that they had maintained their opinions from mere obstinacy and not from conviction; and that they had been sometimes disposed to cavil. Elihu claims that all that he was about to say would be entirely sincere.
Shall utter knowledge clearly - Shall state things just as they are, and give the true solution of the difficulties which have been felt in regard to the divine dealings. His object is to guard himself wholly from the suspicion of partiality.
The Spirit of God hath made me; - see the notes at Job 32:8. There is an evident allusion in this verse to the mode in which man was created, when God breathed into him the breath of life and he became a living being; Gen 2:7. But it is not quite clear why Elihu adverts here to the fact that God had made him, or what is the bearing of this fact on what he proposed to say. The most probable supposition is, that he means to state that he is, like Job, a man; that both were formed in the same way - from the same breathing of the Almighty, and from the same clay Job 33:6; and that although he bad undertaken to speak to Job in God's stead Job 33:6, yet Job had no occasion to fear that he would be overawed and confounded by the Divine Majesty. He had dreaded that, if he should be permitted to bring his case before him (Notes, Job 33:7), but Elihu says that now he would have no such thing to apprehend. Though it would be in fact the same thing as carrying the matter before God - since he came in his name, and meant to state the true principles of his government, yet Job would be also really conducting the cause with a man like himself, and might, unawed, enter with the utmost freedom into the statement of his views.
If thou canst answer me - The meaning of this verse is this: "The controversy between you and me, if you choose to reply, shall be conducted in the most equitable manner, and on the most equal terms. I will not attempt, as your three friends have done, to overwhelm you with reproaches; nor will I attempt to overawe you as God would do, so that you could not reply. I am a man like yourself, and desire that if anything can be said against what I have to advance, it should be offered with the utmost fairness and freedom."
Stand up - That is, "maintain your position, unless you are convinced by my arguments. I wish to carry nothing by mere authority or power."
Behold, I am according to thy wish in Gods stead - Margin, as in Hebrew "mouth." The mouth is that by which we express our desires, and the word here is equivalent to wish. Some have, however, rendered this differently. Umbreit translates it, ich bin, wie du, von Gott - I am, as thou art, from God. So Noyes, "I, like thee, am a creature of God." Wemyss, "I am thine equal in the sight of God." Coverdale, "Behold, before God am I even as thou, for I am fashioned and made even of the same mould." The Vulgate renders it, "Behold God made me as he made thee; and of the same clay am I formed." So the Septuagint, "From clay am I formed as well as thou, and we are formed from the same." This interpretation seems to be demanded also by the parallelism, where he says that he was made of the same clay with Job; that is, that he was a man like him. Still, it seems to me, that the fair and obvious meaning of the Hebrew is that which is expressed in our common version. The Hebrew is, לאל כפיך הן־אני כפי hēn'ănı̂y kepiykā lā'ĕl - "lo, I am, according to thy mouth (word, or wish) for God;" that is, I am in his place; I speak in his name; I am so commissioned by him that you may regard yourself as in fact speaking to him when you address his ambassador. This will also accord with what is said in Job 33:7, and with what Job had so earnestly desired, that he might be allowed to bring his cause directly before God; see the notes at Job 13:3.
I also am formed out of the clay - Margin, "cut." The figure is taken from the act of the potter, who cuts off a portion of clay which he moulds into a vessel, and there is manifest allusion here to the statement in Genesis, that God made man of the dust of the ground. The meaning in this connection is, "Though I am in the place of God, and speak in his name, yet I am also a man, made of the same frail material as yourself. In me, therefore, there is nothing to overawe or confound you as there would be if God spake himself."
Behold my terror shall not make thee afraid - Job had earnestly desired to carry his cause directly before God, but he had expressed the apprehension that he would overawe him by his majesty, so that he would not be able to manage his plea with the calmness and self-possession which were desirable. He had, therefore, expressed it as his earnest wish, that if he were so permitted, God would not take advantage of his majesty and power to confound him; see the notes at Job 13:21. Elihu now says, that the wish of Job in this could be amply gratified. Though he spake in the name of God, and it might be considered that the case was fairly carried before him, yet he was also a man. He was the fellow, the equal with Job. He was made of the same clay, and he could not overawe him as the Almighty himself might do. There would be, therefore, in his case all the advantage of carrying the cause directly up to God, and yet none of the disadvantage which Job apprehended, and which must ensue when a mere man undertook to manage his own cause with the Almighty.
Neither shall my hand be heavy upon, thee - Alluding, evidently, to what Job had said, Job 13:21, that the hand of God was heavy upon him, so that he could not conduct his cause in such a manner as to do justice to himself. He had asked, therefore (see the notes at that place), as a special favor, if he was permitted to carry his cause before God, that his hand would be so far lightened that he could be able to state his arguments with the force which they required. Elihu says now that that wish could be gratified. Though he was in the place of God, yet he was a man, and his hand would not be upon him to crush him down so that he could not do justice to himself. The noun rendered "hand" (אכף 'ekeph) does not elsewhere occur. The verb אכף 'âkaph occurs once in Pro 16:26, where it is rendered "craveth" - "He that laboreth, laboreth for himself; for his mouth craveth it of him" - where the margin is boweth unto.
The word in Arabic means to lead a beast of burden; to bend, to make to bow under a lead; and then to impel, to urge on; and hence, it means, "his mouth, that is, hunger, impels, or urges him on to labor." In like manner the meaning of the word here (אכף 'ekeph) may be a lead or burden, meaning "my lead, i. e., my weight, dignity, authority, shall not be burdensome or oppressive to you." But the parallel place in Job 13:21, is "hand," and that meaning seems to be required here. Kimchi supposes it is the same as כף kaph - hand, and the Septuagint has so rendered it, ἡ χείρ μου hē cheir mou. In the view of the speech of Elihu thus far, we cannot but remark that there is much that is unique, and especially that he lays decided claim to inspiration. Though speaking for God, yet he was in human nature, and Job might speak to him as a friend, unawed and unterrifled by any dread of overwhelming majesty and power.
On what grounds Elihu based these high pretensions does not appear, and his claim to them is the more remarkable from his youth. It does not require the aid of a very lively imagination to fancy a resemblance between him and the Lord Jesus - the great mediator between God and man - and were that mode of interpretation which delights to find types and figures every where a mode that could be vindicated, there is no character in the Old Testament that would more obviously suggest that of the Redeemer than the character of Elihu. His comparative youth, his modesty, his humility, would suggest it. The fact that he comes in to utter his sentiments where age and wisdom had failed to suggest the truth, and when pretending sages were confounded and silenced, would suggest it. The fact that he claims to be in the place of God, and that a cause might be managed before him as if it were before God and yet that he was a man like others, and that no advantage would be taken to overawe by mere majesty and power, are all circumstances that would constitute a strong and vivid resemblance. But I see no evidence that this was the design of the introduction of the character of Elihu, and interesting as the comparison might be, and desirable as it may seem that the book of Job should be found to contain some reference to the great work of mediation, yet the just and stern laws of interpretation exclude such a reference in the absence of proof, and do not allow us to luxuriate in the conceptions of fancy, however pious the reflections might be, or to search for typical characters where the Spirit of inspiration has not revealed them as such, however interesting or edifying might be the contemplation.
Surely thou hast spoken in mine hearing - Margin, as in Hebrew "ears." This shows that Elihu had been present during the debate, and had attentively listened to what had been said. He now takes up the main point on which he supposed that Job had erred - the attempt to justify himself. He professes to adduce the very words which he had used, and disclaims all design of judging from mere hearsay.
I am clean - I am pure and holy.
Without transgression - Job had not used these very expressions, nor had he intended to maintain that he was absolutely free from sin; see Job 9:20. He had maintained that he was not chargeable with the transgressions of which his three friends maintained that he was guilty, and in doing that he had used strong language, and language which even seemed to imply that he was without transgression; see Job 9:30; Job 10:7; Job 13:23; Job 16:17.
I am innocent - The word used here (חף chaph) is from the verb חפף chophaph - to cover, to protect; and also, as a secondary meaning, from the Arabic, to rub, to wipe off; to wash away; to lave. Hence, it denotes that which is rubbed clean, washed, pure - and then innocent. The word occurs only in this place. It is not the exact language which Job had used, and there seems to be some injustice done him in saying that he had employed such language. Elihu means, doubtless, that he had used language which implied this, or which was equivalent to it.
Behold, he findeth occasions against me - That is, God. This is not exactly the language of Job, though much that he had said had seemed to imply this. The idea is, that God sought opportunity to oppose him; that he was desirous to find in him some ground or reason for punishing him; that he wished to be hostile to him, and was narrowly on the watch to find an opportunity which would justify his bringing calamity upon him. The word rendered "occasions" - תנואה tenû'âh, is from נוא nû', in the Hiphil, הניא hāniy' - to refuse, decline; to hinder, restrain, Num 30:6, Num 30:9,Num 30:12; and hence, the noun means, a holding back, a withdrawal, an alienation; and hence, the idea is, that God sought to be alienated from Job. The Vulgate renders it, "He seeks complaints (querales) against me." The Septuagint, μέμψιν mempsin - accusation. Umbreit, Feindshaft, enmity. So Gesenius and Noyes. "He counteth me for his enemy." This is language which Job had used; see Job 19:11.
He putteth my feet in the stocks - This also is language which Job had used; see Job 13:27. "He marketh all my paths;" in Job 13:27, "Thou lookest narrowly unto all my paths;" see the notes at that verse.
Behold, in this thou art not just - In this view of God, and in these reflections on his character and government. Such language in regard to the Deity cannot be vindicated; such views cannot be right. It cannot be that he wishes to be the foe of man; that he watches with a jealous eye every movement with a view to find something that will justify him in bringing heavy calamities upon his creatures, or that he sets himself as a spy upon the way in which man goes, in order to find out something that shall make it proper for him to treat him as an enemy. It cannot be denied that Job had indulged in language making substantially such representations of God, and that he had thus given occasion for the reproof of Elihu. It can as little be denied that such thoughts frequently pass through the minds of the afflicted, though they do not express them in words, nor is it less doubtful that they should be at once banished from the soul. They cannot be true. It cannot be that God thus regards and treats his crea tures; that he wishes to find "occasion" in them to make it proper for him to bring calamity upon them, or that he desires to regard them as his foes.
I will answer thee - That is, I will show that this view is unjust." This he does in the subsequent verses by stating what he supposes to be the real design of afflictions, and by showing that God in these trials had a good and benevolent object.
That - - כי kı̂y. Rather, "because," or "for." The object is not to show that God was greater than man - for that could not be a matter of information, but to show that because he was far above man he had great and elevated objects in his dealings with him, and man should submit to him without a complaint.
God is greater than man - The meaning of this is, that man should suppose that God has good reasons for all that he does, and that he might not be qualified to understand the reason of his doings. He should therefore acquiesce in his arrangements, and not call in question the equity of the divine dealings. In all our trials it is well to remember that God is greater than we are. He knows what is best; and though we may not be able to see the reason of his doings, yet it becomes us to acquiesce in his superior wisdom.
Why dost thou strive against him? - By refusing to submit to him, and by calling in question his wisdom and goodness.
For he giveth not account of any of his matters - Margin, as in Hebrew "answereth not." The idea is, that it is as useless as it is improper to contend with God. He does his own pleasure, and deals with man as he deems best and right. The reason of his doings he does not state, nor has man any power to extort from him a statement of the causes why he afflicts us. This is still true. The reason of his doings he does not often make known to the afflicted, and it is impossible to know now the causes why he has brought on us the calamity with which we are visited. The general reasons why men are afflicted may be better known now than they were in the time of Elihu, for successive revelations have thrown much light on that subject. But when he comes and afflicts us as individuals; when he takes away a beloved child; when he cuts down the young, the vigorous, the useful, and the pious, it is often impossible to understand why he has done it.
All that we can do then is to submit to his sovereign will, and to believe that though we cannot see the reasons why he has done it, yet that does not prove that there are no reasons, or that we may never be permitted to understand them. We are required to submit to his will, not to our own reason; to acquiesce because he does it, not because we see it to be right. If we always understood the reasons why he afflicts us, our resignation would be not to the will of God, but to our own knowledge of what is right; and God, therefore, often passes before us in clouds and thick darkness to see whether we have sufficient confidence in him to believe that he does right, even when we cannot see or understand the reason of his doings. So a child reposes the highest confidence in a parent, when he believes that the parent will do right, though he cannot understand why he does it, and the parent does not choose to let him know. May not a father see reasons for what he does which a child could not understand, or which it might be proper for him to withhold from him?
For God speaketh once - The object of what is here said is, to show the reason why God brings affliction upon people, or to explain the principles of his government which Elihu supposed had been sadly misunder stood by Job and his friends. The reason why he brings affliction, Elihu says, is because all other means of reclaiming and restraining people fail. He communicates his will to them; he speaks to them again and again in dreams and visions; he warns them of the error of their course Job 33:14-17, and when this is all ineffectual he brings upon them affliction. He lays them upon their bed where they must reflect, and where there is hope that they may be reclaimed and reformed, Job 33:18-28.
Yea, twice - He does not merely admonish him once. He repeats the admonition when man refuses to hear him the first time, and takes all the methods which he can by admonition and warning to withdraw him from his wicked purpose, and to keep him from ruin.
Yet man perceiveth it not - Or, rather, "Although he does not perceive it or attend to it." Though the sinner is regardless of the admonition, yet still God repeats it, and endeavors to save him from the commission of the crimes which would lead him to ruin. This is designed to show the patience and forbearance of God, and how many means he takes to save the sinner from ruin. Of the truth of what Elihu here says, there can be no difference of opinion. It is one of the great principles of the divine administration that the sinner is often warned, though he heeds it not; and that God sends repeated admonitions even when people will not regard them, but are bent on their own ruin.
In a dream - This was one of the methods by which the will of God was made known in the early periods of the world; see the notes at Job 4:12-17. And for a fuller account of this method of communicating the divine will, see the introduction to Isaiah, Section 7 (2).
In a vision of the night - Notes, Job 4:13; compare the introduction to Isaiah, Section 7 (4).
When deep sleep falleth upon men - This may be designed to intimate more distinctly that it was from God. It was not the effect of disturbed and broken rest; not such fancies as come into the mind between sleeping and waking, but the visitations of the divine Spirit in the profoundest repose of the night. The word rendered "deep sleep" (תרדמה tardêmâh) is one that denotes the most profound repose. It is not merely sleep, but it is sleep of the soundest kind - that kind when we do not usually dream; see the notes at Job 4:13. The Chaldee has here rendered it correctly, עמקתא שינתא - sleep that is deep. The Septuagint renders it, δεινὸς φόβος deinos phobos - dread horror. The Syriac renders this verse, "Not by the lips does he teach; by dreams and visions of the night," etc.
In slumberings upon the bed - The word rendered "slumberings" (בתנומה bitenûmâh) means a light sleep, as contradistinguished from very profound repose. Our word slumber conveys the exact idea. The meaning of the whole is, that God speaks to people when their senses are locked in repose - alike in the profound sleep when they do not ordinarily dream, and in the gentle and light slumbers when the sleep is easily broken. In what way, however, they were to distinguish such communications from ordinary dreams, we have no information. It is scarcely necessary to remark that what is here and elsewhere said in the Scriptures about dreams, is no warrant for putting any confidence in them now as if they were revelations from heaven.
Then he openeth the ears of men - Margin, as in Hebrew "revealeth," or "uncovereth." The idea is, that he then reveals to the ear of man important admonitions or counsels. He communicates valuable truth. We are not to understand this as saying that the sleeper actually hears God speak, but as the ear is the organ of hearing, it is employed here to denote that God then communicates His will to human beinigs. In what way he had access to the souls of people by dreams, it is impossible to explain.
And sealeth their instruction - literally, "In their admonition he seals;" or he affixes a seal. The idea is, that he makes the admonition or instruction as secure as if a seal were affixed to it. A seal ratified or confirmed a contract, a will, or a deed, and the sense here is, that the communications of God to the soul were as firm as if they had been ratified in like manner. Or possibly it may mean, that the warnings of God were communicated to the soul like a sealed letter or message unknown to any other; that is, were made privately to the individual himself in the slumbers of the night. Others have understood the word rendered instruction, as denoting castigation, or punishment, and according to that explanation the meaning would be, that he announces to them certain punishment if they continued in sin; he made it as certain to them as if it were ratified by a seal. So Rosenmuller and Mercer. Schultens supposes it to be equivalent to inspires them, or communicates instruction by inspiration as if it were confirmed and ratified by a seal. He observes that the Arabic word hhatham is often used in the Koran, meaning to inspire. The Septuagint renders it, ἀυτοὺς ἐξεφόβησεν autous exephobēsen - "he terrifies them" - where they evidently read יחתם yechathēm instead of יחתם yachthom. The sense is, that God communicates warnings to people on their beds, in a manner as solemn and impressive as if it were ratified with a seal, and made as secure as possible.
That he may withdraw man from his purpose - Margin, "work." The sense is plain. God designs to warn him of the consequences of executing a plan of iniquity. He alarms him by showing him that his course will lead to punishment, and by representing to him in the night visions, the dreadful woes of the future world into which he is about to plunge. The object is to deter him from committing the deed of guilt which he had contemplated, and to turn him to the paths of righteousness. Is it unreasonable to suppose that the same thing may occur now, and that God may have a purpose in the dreams which often visit the man who has formed a plan of iniquity, or who is living a life of sin? It cannot be doubted that such people often have alarming dreams; that these dreams are such as are fitted to deter them from the commission of their contemplated wickedness; and that in fact they not unfrequently do it.
What shall hinder us from supposing that God intends that the workings of the mind when the senses are locked in repose, shall be the means of alarming the guilty, and of leading them to reflection? Why should not mind thus be its own admonisher, and be made the instrument of restraining the guilty then, as really as by its sober reasonings and reflections when awake? Many a wicked man has been checked in a career of wickedness by a frightful dream; and not a few have been brought to a degree of reflection which has resulted in sound conversion by the alarm caused on the mind by having the consequences of a career of wickedness traced out in the visions of the night. The case of Colonel Gardiner cannot be forgotten - though in that instance it was rather "a vision of the night" than a dream. He was meditating an act of wickedness. and was alone in his room awaiting the appointed hour. In the silence of the night, and in the solitude of his room, he seemed to see the Savior on the cross. This view, however, it may be accounted for, restrained him from the contemplated act of wickedness, and he became an eminently pious man; see Doddridge's Life of Col. Gardiner. The mind, with all its faculties, is under the control of God, and no one can demonstrate that he does not make its actings, even in the wanderings of a dream, the designed means of checking the sinner, and of saving the soul.
And hide pride from man - Probably the particular thing which Elihu here referred to, was pride and arrogance toward God; or an insolent bearing toward him, and a reliance on one's own merits. This was the particular thing in Job which Elihu seems to have thought required animadversion, and probably he meant to intimate that all people had such communications from God by dreams as to save them from such arrogance.
He keepeth back his soul from the pit - The word soul in the Hebrew is often equivalent to self, and the idea is, that he keeps the man from the pit in this manner. The object of these warnings is to keep him from rushing on to his own destruction. The word rendered "pit" - שׁחת shachath, properly means a pit, or pitfall, in which traps are laid for wild animals; Psa 7:15; Psa 9:15; then a cistern that is miry; Job 9:31; a prison, Isa 51:14; then the grave, or sepulchre, as being often a cavern; Job 17:13; Psa 30:9; see Job 33:28, Job 33:30. It evidently means here the grave, and the sense is, that God thus warns people against pursuing a course of conduct which would lead them to destruction, or would speedily terminate their lives.
And his life from perishing by the sword - Margin, "passing by." The meaning of the Hebrew may be, "to keep his life from passing away by the sword;" as if the sword were the means by which the life or soul passed from the body. The word rendered sword here - שׁלח shelach is from שׁלח shâlach - to send, cast, hurl, and the reference is rather to something sent, as of an arrow, dart, javelin, than to a sword. The sense is not materially varied, and the idea referred to is that of a violent death. The meaning is, that God by these warnings would keep a man from such a course of life as would lead to a death by violence - either by punishment for his crime, or by being cut off in war.
He is chastened also with pain - As another means of checking and restraining him from the commission of sin. When the warnings of the night fail, and when he is bent on a life of sin, then God lays him on a bed of pain, and he is brought to reflection there. There he has an opportunity to think of his life, and of all the consequences which must follow from a career of iniquity. This involves the main inquiry before the disputants. It was, why people were afflicted. The three friends of Job had said that it was a full proof of wickedness, and that when the professedly pious were afflicted it was demonstrative of insincerity and hypocrisy. Job had called this position in question, and proved that it could not be so, but still was at a loss why it was. Elihu now says, that affliction is a part of a disciplinary government; that it is one of the means which God adopts, when warnings are ineffectual, to restrain people and to bring them to reflection and repentance. This appears to have been a view which was almost entirely new to them.
And the multitude of his bones with strong pain - The bones, as has before been remarked, it was supposed might be the seat of the acutest pain; see the notes at Job 30:17; compare Job 20:11; Job 7:15; Job 30:30. The meaning here is, that the frame was racked with intense suffering in order to admonish men of sin, to save them from plunging into deeper transgression, and to bring them to repentance.
So that his life abhorreth bread - It is a common effect of sickness to take away the appetite. Elihu here regards it as a part of the wholesome discipline of the sufferer. He has no relish for the comforts of life.
And his soul dainty meat - Margin, "meat of desire." The Hebrew is, "food of desire." The word rendered "meat" (מאכל ma'ăkâl) does not denote animal food only, but any kind of food. So the Old English word meat was used. The idea is, that the sick man loathes the most delicate food. It is a part of his discipline that the pleasure which he had in the days of his health is now taken away.
His flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen - He wastes away. His flesh, once vigorous, beautiful, and fair, now disappears. This is not a mere description of the nature of his sickness, but it is a description of the disciplinary arrangements of God. It is an important part of his affliction, as a part of the discipline, that his flesh vanishes, and that his appearance is so changed that he becomes repulsive to the view.
And his bones that were not seen, stick out - His bones were before invisible. They were carefully concealed by the rounded muscle, and by the fat which filled up the interstices, so that they were not offensive to the view. But now the protuberances of his bones can be seen, for God has reduced him to the condition of a skeleton. This is one of the common effects of disease, and this shows the strength of the discipline which God contemplates. The parts of the human frame which in health are carefully hid from the view, as being unsightly, become now prominent, and can be hidden no longer. One design is to humble us; to take away the pride which delighted in the round and polished limb, the rose on the cheek, the ruby lip, and the smooth forehead; and to show us what we shall soon be in the grave.
Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave - That is, he himself does, for the word soul is often used to denote self.
And his life to the destroyers - - לממתים lammitiym. literally, "to those causing death." The interpretation commonly given of this is, "the angels of death" who were supposed to come to close human life; compare Sa2 24:16-17. But it probably refers to diseases and pangs as having power to terminate life, and being the cause of the close of life. The meaning is, that the afflicted man comes very near to those acute sufferings which terminate life, and which by personification are here represented as the authors of death.
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; Gen. 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.
(6) The opinion of Jerome, who supposes that it refers to the angel standing in the presence of God, and who is employed by him in admonishing and correcting mankind.
III. The third class of opinions consists of those who refer it to the Messiah. Of those who have held this opinion, the following may be mentioned: Cocceius - of course; Calovins, Sehmidius, and Augustine. Amidst this diversity of sentiment, it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine the real meaning of the passage. The general sentiment is indeed plain. It is, that God visits people with affliction in order to restrain them from sin, and to correct them when they have erred. It is not from hostility to them; not from mere justice; not because he delights in their sufferings; and not because he wishes to cut them off. They may suffer much and long, as Job had done. without knowing the true reason why it was done. They may form erroneous views of the design of the divine administration, and suppose that God is severe and harsh. But if there shall come a messenger, in such circumstances, who shall explain the reason of the divine dealings, and show to the sufferer on what principles God inflicts pain; and if the sufferer shall hear the message, and acquiesce in the divine dealings, then God would be willing to be merciful. He would say that he was satisfied; the object of the affliction was accomplished, and he would restore the afflicted to health, and bestow upon him the most satisfactory evidences of his own favor. An examination of the particular words and phrases occurring in the passage, may elucidate more clearly this general idea, and lead us to its true interpretation. The word translated "messenger" מלאך mal'âk, is that which is usually employed to denote an angel. It means, properly, one who is sent, from לאך, to send; and is applied
(1) to one sent, or a messenger, see Job 1:14; compare Sa1 16:19;
(2) to a messenger sent from God, as e. g.,
(a) to angels, since angels were employed on messages of mercy or judgment to mankind, Exo 23:20; Sa2 24:16,
(b) to a prophet as sent from God, Hag 1:13; Mal 3:1;
(c) to a priest; Ecc 5:6; Mal 2:7. It is rendered here by Jerome, angel, and by the Septuagint, angels bringing death.
So far as the word is concerned, it may apply to any messenger sent from God - whether an angel, a prophet, or the Messiah; anyone who should be commissioned to explain to man the reason why afflictions were sent, and to communicate the assurance that God was ready to pardon.
An interpreter - That is, an angel-interpreter, or a messenger who should be an interpreter. The word מליץ mēliyts, is from לוץ lûts, "to stammer"; to speak in a barbarous tongue; and then in the Hiphil, to cause to understand a foreign language, or to explain; to interpret. Hence, it means one who explains or interprets that which was obscure; and may mean here one who explains to the sufferer the true principles of the divine administration, or who interprets the design of the divine dealings. In Ch2 32:31, it is rendered "ambassadors" - referring to the ambassadors that came from Babylon to Hezekiah - rendered in the margin, interpreters; in Isa 43:27, it is rendered teachers, in the margin interpreters, referring to the religions teachers of the Jews, or those who were appointed to explain the law of God. Gesenius supposes that it means here the same as intercessor, or internuncius, and that the phrase denotes an interceding angel, or one interceding with God for people. But there is no instance in which the word מליץ mēliyts is so employed, and such an interpretation is not demanded by the connection here. The idea involved in the word here is immediately explained by Elihu himself. The word denotes one who would "show unto man his uprightness;" that is, who would be able to vindicate the righteousness of God, and explain his dealings. This word, also, may therefore be applicable to a prophet, a sage, an angel, or the Messiah - to anyone who would be able to explain and interpret the divine dealings. So far as the language is concerned, there is no reason why it should not be applied to Elihu himself.
One among a thousand - Such an one as you would scarcely hope to find among a thousand; that is, one who was endowed with a knowledge of the ways of God, and who was qualified for this work in a much more eminent manner than the mass of people. We have now a similar phrase to denote a man eminent for wisdom, learning, skill, or moral worth. This language is such as would most properly be applicable to a human messenger. One would hardly think of making such distinctions among angelic beings, or of implying that any one of them might not be qualified to bear a message to man, or that it was necessary to make such a selection as is implied by the phrase here to explain the dealings of God.
To show unto man his uprightness - This is the office which the interpreting-messenger was to perform. The "uprightness" referred to here, I suppose, is that of God, and means the rectitude of his doings; or, in a more general sense, the justness of his character, the equity of his administration. So explained, it would mean that the messenger would come to show that God is worthy of confidence; that he is not harsh, stern, severe, and cruel. The afflicted person is supposed to have no clear views on this point, but to regard God as severe and unmerciful. Elihu in this undoubtedly had Job in his eye, as entertaining views of God which were far from correct. What was necessary, he said, was, that someone would come who could show to the sufferer that God is worthy of confidence, and that his character is wholly upright. Prof. Lee interprets this as referring wholly to the Messiah, and as denoting the "righteousness which this Mediator is empowered to give or impute to those who duly seek it; and thus, as a Mediator, between God and man, to make it out as their due, by means of the ransom so found, offered, and accepted."
Noyes explains it as meaning "his duty;" that is, "what reason and religion require of a man in his situation; repentance, submission, and prayer to God for pardon." But it seems to me more natural to refer it to the great principles of the divine government, as being worthy of confidence. Those principles it was desirable should be so explained as to inspire such confidence, and particularly this was what Elihu supposed was needed by Job. On the whole, then, it seems probable that Elihu, in this passage, by the messenger which he mentions, referred to someone who should perform the office which he himself purposed to perform - some man well acquainted with the principles of the divine administration; who could explain the reasons why people suffer; who could present such considerations as should lead the sufferer to true repentance; and who could assure him of the divine mercy. The reasons for this interpretation may be summed up in few words. They are:
(1) That this is all that is fairly and necessarily implied in the language, or such an interpretation meets the obvious import of all the expressions, and leaves nothing unexplained.
(2) It accords with what Elihu supposed to be the views of Job. He regarded him as having improper apprehensions of the government of God, and of the reasons why afflictions were sent upon him. He had patiently listened to all that he had to say; had heard him give utterance to much that seemed to be in the spirit of complaint and murmuring; and it was manifest to Elihu that he had not had right apprehensions of the design of trials, and that they had not produced the proper effect on his mind. He still needed someone - an interpreter sent from God - to explain all this, and to present such views as should lead him to put confidence in God as a God of mercy and equity.
(3) It accords with the character which Elihu had assumed, and which he all along maintained. He professed to come from God, Job 32:8. He was in the place of God, Job 33:6. He came to explain the whole matter which had excited so long and so warm a debate - a debate to which he had attentively listened, and where neither Job nor his friends had stated the true principles of the divine administration. To represent himself now us having a clew to the reason why God afflicts people in this manner, and as being qualified to explain, the perplexing subject, was in accordance with the character which he maintained.
(4) It accords with the effect which he wished to produce on the mind of Job. He wished to bring him to confide in God; to show him that all these mysterious dealings were designed to bring him back to his Creator, and to restore peace and confidence to his agitated and troubled bosom.
While Elihu, therefore, advances a general proposition, I doubt not that he meant to represent himself as such a messenger sent from God; and though in the whole of his speech he manifested almost the extreme of modesty, yet he regarded himself as qualified to unravel the mystery. That it refers to the Messiah cannot be demonstrated, and is improbable because
(1) It is nowhere applied to him in the New Testament - a consideration not indeed decisive, but of some force, since it is not very safe to apply passages to him from the Old Testament without such authority. At least, the general rule is to be repudiated and rejected, that every passage is to be supposed to have such a reference which can be possibly made to apply to him, or where the language can be made to describe his person and offices.
(2) The work of the "interpreter," the "angel," or "messenger," referred to here, is not that of the Messiah. The effect which Elihu says would be produced would be, that the life of the sufferer would be spared, his disease removed, and his flesh restored with infantile freshness. But this is not the work which the Redeemer came to perform, and is not that which he actually does.
(3) The subject here discussed is not such as is applicable to the work of the Messiah. It is here a question solely about the design of affliction. That was the point to be explained; and explanation was what was needed, and what was proposed to be done. But this is not the special work of the Messiah. His was a much larger, wider office; and even if this had been his whole work, how would the reference to that have met the point under discussion? I am inclined, therefore, to the opinion, that Elihu had himself particularly in his view, and that he meant to represent himself as at that time sustaining the character of a messenger sent from God to explain important principles of his administration.
Then he is gracious unto him - That is, on the supposition that he hears and regards what the messenger of God communicates. If he rightly understands the reasons of the divine administration, and acquiesces in it, and if he calls upon God in a proper manner Job 33:26, he will show him mercy, and spare him. Or it may mean, that God is in fact gracious to him by sending him a messenger who can come and say to him that it is the divine purpose to spare him; that he is satisfied, and will preserve him from death. If such a messenger should come, and so announce the mercy of God, then he would return to the rigoar of his former days, and be fully restored to his former prosperity. Elihu refers probably to some method of communication, by which the will of God was made known to the sufferer, and by which it was told him that it was God's design not to destroy, but to discipline and save him.
Deliver him - Hebrew, פדעהו pâda‛hû, "redeem him". The word used here (פדע pâda‛) properly means "to let loose, to cut loose"; and then "to buy loose"; that is, "to redeem, to ransom for a price." Sometimes it is used in the general sense of freeing or delivering, without reference to a price, compare Deu 7:8; Jer 15:21; Psa 34:22; Job 6:23; but usually there is a reference to a price, or to some valuable consideration, either expressed or implied; compare the notes at Isa 43:3. Here the appropriate idea is expressed, for it is said, as a reason for redeeming or rescuing him, "I have found a ransom." That is, the "ransom" is the valuable consideration on account of which he was to be rescued from death.
From going down to the pit - The grave, the world of darkness. Notes, Job 33:18. That is, he would keep him alive, and restore him again to health. It is possible that by the word pit here, there may be a reference to a place of punishment, or to the abodes of the dead as places of gloom and horror especially in the case of the wicked but the more probable interpretation is, that it refers to death alone.
I have found - That is, there is a ransom; or, I have seen a reason why he should not die. The idea is, that God was looking for some reason on account of which it would be proper to release the sufferer, and restore him to the accustomed tokens of his favor and that such a ransom had now appeared. There was now no necessity why those sufferings should be prolonged, and he could consistently restore him to health.
A ransom - Margin, or, "an atonement." Hebrew, כפר kôpher. On the meaning of this word, see the notes at Isa 43:3. The expression here means that there was something which could be regarded as a valuable consideration, or a reason why the sufferer should not be further afflicted, and why he should be preserved from going down to the grave. What that price, or valuable consideration was, is not specified; and what was the actual idea which Elihu attached to it, it is now impossible with certainty to determine. The connection would rather lead us to suppose that it was something seen in the sufferer himself; some change done in his mind by his trials; some evidence of acquiescence in the government of God, and some manifestation of true repentance, which was the reason why the stroke of punishment should be removed, and why the sufferer should be saved from death. This might be called by Elihu "a ransom" - using the word in a very large sense.
There can be no doubt that such "a fact" often occurs. God lays his hand on his erring and wandering children. He brings upon them afflictions which would consign them to the grave, if they were not checked. Those afflictions are effectual in the case. They are the means of true repentance; they call back the wanderer; they lead him to put his trust in God, and to seek his happiness again in him; and this result of his trials is a reason why they should extend no further. The object of the affliction has been accomplished, and the penitence of the sufferer is a sufficient reason for lightening the hand of affliction, and restoring him again to health and prosperity. This is not properly an atonement, or a ransom, in the sense in which the word is now technically used, but the Hebrew word used here would not be inappropriately employed to convey such an idea. Thus, in Exo 32:30, the intercession of Moses is said to be that by which an atonement would be made for the sin of the people.
"Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin; and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement (אכפרה 'ekâpharâh, from כפר kâphar), for your sin." Here, it is manifest that the act of Moses in making intercession was to be the public reason, or the "ransom," why they were not to be punished. So the boldness, zeal, and fidelity of Phinehas in resisting idolatry, and punishing those who had been guilty of it, are spoken of as the atonement or ransom on account of which the plague was stayed, and the anger of God removed from his people; Num 25:12-13, "Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace - because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement (ויכפר vaykâphar) for the children of Israel." Septuagint, ἐξιλάσατο exilasato. In this large sense, the sick man's repentance might be regarded as the covering, ransom, or public reason why he should be restored.
That word literally means that which covers, or overlays any thing; and then an atonement or expiation, as being such a covering. See Gen. 20, 16; Exo 21:30. Cocceius, Calovius, and others suppose that the reference here is to the Messiah, and to the atonement made by him. Schultens supposes that it has the same reference by anticipation - that is, that God had purposed such a ransom, and that in virtue of the promised and pre-figured expiation, he could now show mercy. But it cannot be demonstrated that Elihu had such a reference; and though it was undoubtedly true that God designed to show mercy to people only through that atonement, and that it was, and is, only by this that release is ever given to a sufferer, still, it does not follow that Elihu fully understood this. The general truth that God was merciful, and that the repentance of the sick man would be followed by a release from suffering, was all that can reasonably be supposed to have been understood at that. period of the world. Now, we know the reason, the mode, and the extent of the ransom; and taking the words in their broadest sense, we may go to all sufferers, and say, that they may be redeemed from going down to the dark chambers of the eternal pit, for God has found a ransom. A valuable consideration has been offered, in the blood of the Redeemer, which is an ample reason why they should not be consigned to hell, if they are truly penitent.
His flesh shall be fresher than a child's - Margin, "childhood." The meaning is obvious. He would be restored again to health. The calamity which had been brought upon him for purposes of discipline, would be removed. This was the theory of Elihu in regard to afflictions, and he undoubtedly meant that it should be applied to Job. If he would now, understanding the nature and design of affliction, turn to God, he would be recovered again, and enjoy the health and rigor of his youth. We are not to suppose that this is universally true, though it is undoubtedly often a fact now, that if those who are afflicted become truly penitent, and call upon God, the affliction will be removed. It will have accomplished its object, and may be withdrawn. Hence, they who pray that their afflictions may be withdrawn, should first pray that they may accomplish on their own hearts the effect which God designs, producing in them penitence, deadness to the world, and humiliation, and then that his hand may be withdrawn.
He shall return to the days of his youth - That is, to health and rigor.
He shall pray unto God ... - That is, when he fully understands the design of affliction; and when his mind is brought to a proper state of penitence for his past conduct, then he will find God merciful and ready to show him kindness.
And he shall see his face with joy - The face of God. That is, he shall be able to look up to him with peace and comfort. This language is similar to that which is so frequently employed in the Scriptures, in which God is said to lift upon us the light of his countenance. The meaning here is, that the afflicted man would be again permitted to look by faith on God, being reconciled to him, and would see in his face no indication of displeasure.
For he will render unto man his righteousness - He will deal with him in justice and equity. When he sees evidence of penitence, he will treat him accordingly; and if in the afflicted man he discerns true piety, he will regard and treat him as his friend. The meaning is, that if there is in the sufferer any sincere love to God, he will not be indifferent to it, but will treat him as possessing it. This is still true, and universally true. If there is in the heart of one who is afflicted any real piety, God will not treat him as an impenitent sinner, but will manifest his mercy to him, and show to him the favors which he confers only on his friends.
He looketh upon men - Margin, "or, he shall look upon men, and say, I have sinned." Umbreit renders this, Nun singt er jubelnd zu den Menschen - "now he sings joyfully among men." So Noyes, "He shall sing among men, and say." Prof. Lee "He shall fully consider or pronounce right to men, so that one shall say, I have sinned." Coverdale, "Such a respect hath he unto men. Therefore let a man confess and say, I have offended." The Septuagint renders it, Εἷτα τὸτε άπιμέμψεται ἄνθρωπος άυτος ἑαυτῳ Eita tote apomempsetai anthrōpos autos heautō, "then shall a man blame himself," etc. These various renderings arise from the difference of signification attached to the Hebrew word ישׁר yāshor. According to our interpretation, it is derived from שׁיר shı̂yr, "to sing," and then the meaning would be, "he sings before men," and thus the reference would be to the sufferer, meaning that he would have occasion to rejoice among men. See Gesenius on the word. According to the other view, the word is derived from שׁור shûr, "to look round"; "to care for, or regard"; and according to this, the reference is to God, meaning that he carefully and attentively observes people in such circumstances, and, if he sees evidence that there is true penitence, he has compassion and saves. This idea certainly accords better with the scope of the passage than the former, and it seems to me is to be regarded as correct.
And if any say, I have sinned - Hebrew "And says," that is, if the sufferer, under the pressure of his afflictions, is willing to confess his faults, then God is ready to show him mercy. This accords with what Elihu purposed to state of the design of afflictions, that they were intended to bring people to reflection, and to be a means of wholesome discipline. There is no doubt that he meant that all this should be understood by Job as applicable to himself, for he manifestly means to be understood as saying that he had not seen in him the evidence of a penitent mind, such as he supposed afflictions were designed to produce.
And perverted that which was right - That is, in regard to operations and views of the divine government. He had held error, or had cherished wrong apprehensions of the divine character. Or it may mean, that he had dealt unjustly with people in his contact with them.
And it profited me not - The word used here (שׁוה shâvâh) means properly to be even or level; then to be equal, or of like value; and here may mean, that he now saw that it was no advantage to him to have done wickedly, since it brought upon him such a punishment, or the benefit which he received from his life of wickedness was no equivalent for the pain which he had been called to suffer in consequence of it. This is the common interpretation. Rosenmuller, however, suggests another, which is, that he designs by this language to express his sense of the divine mercy, and that it means "my afflictions are in no sense equal to my deserts. I have not been punished as I might justly have been, for God has interposed to spare me." It seems to me, however, that the former interpretation accords best with the meaning of the words and the scope of the passage. It would then be the reflection of a man on the bed of suffering, that the course of life which brought him there had been attended with no advantage, but had been the means of plunging him into deserved sorrows. from which he could be rescued only by the grace of God.
He will deliver his soul - Margin, "He hath delivered my soul." There are various readings here in the text, which give rise to this diversity of interpretation. The present reading in the text is נפשׁי nepheshay - "my soul"; and according to this, it is to be regarded as the language of the sufferer celebrating the mercy of God, and is language which is connected with the confession in the previous verse, "I have sinned; I found it no advantage; and he hath rescued me from death." Many manuscripts, however, read נפשׁו nepheshô - "his soul"; and according to this, the language would be that of Elihu, saying, that in those circumstances God would deliver him when he made suitable confession of his sin. The sense is essentially the same. The Vulgate has, "He will deliver his soul;" the Septuagint, "Save my soul."
From going into the pit - Notes Job 33:18.
And his life shall see the light - Here there is the same variety of reading which occurs in regard to the word soul. The present Hebrew text is (חיתי chayātay) "my life"; many manuscripts read (חיתו chayātô), "his life." The phrase "to see the light" is equivalent to live. Death was represented as going down into regions where there was no ray of light. See Job 3:5; Job 10:21-22.
Lo, all these things worketh God - That is, he takes all these methods to warn people, and to reclaim them from their evil ways.
Oftentimes - Hebrew as in the margin, twice, thrice. This may be taken either as it is by our translators, to denote an indefinite number, meaning that God takes frequent occasion to warn people, and repeats the admonition when they disregard it, or more probably Elihu refers here to the particular methods which he had specified, and which were three in number. First, warnings in the visions of the night, Job 33:14-17. Second, afflictions, Job 33:19-22. Third, the messenger which God sent to make the sufferer acquainted with the design of the affliction, and to assure him that he might return to God, Job 33:23-26. So the Septuagint understands it, which rendered it, ὁδοὺς τρεῖς hodous treis - three ways, referring to the three methods which Elihu had specified.
To bring back his soul from the pit - To keep him from descending to the grave, and to the dark world beneath. He takes these methods of warning people, in order that they may not bring destruction on themselves. See Job 33:18.
To be enlightened with the light of the living - That he may still enjoy life, and not descend to the world of shades.
Mark well, O Job, hearken unto me ... - Elihu designs to intimate that he had much more to say which demanded close attention. He begged, therefore, that Job would hear him patiently through.
If thou hast anything to say, answer me - In the previous verse, Elihu had asked that Job would hear all that he had to say. Yet here, in view of what he had said, he asks of him that if there were any thing from which he dissented, he would now express his dissent. We may suppose that he paused at this part of his speech, and as what he had said related particularly to Job, he felt that it was proper that he should have an opportunity to reply.
For I desire to justify thee - I would do you justice. I would not pervert what you have said, or attribute to you any wrong opinions or any improper motives Perhaps there may be included also a wish to vindicate him, if he possibly could. He did not desire to dispute for the sake of disputing, or to blame him if he could avoid it, but his aim was the truth; and if he could, he wished to vindicate the character of Job from the aspersions which had been cast upon it.
If not, hearken unto me ... - If nothing has been said from which you dissent, then listen to me, and I will explain further the perplexing subject which has excited so much discussion. These remarks of Elihu imply great confidence in the truth of what he had to say, but they are not arrogant and disrespectful. He treats Job with the utmost deference; is willing to hear all that could be said in opposition to his own views, and is desirous of not wounding his feelings or doing injustice to his cause. It may be supposed that he paused here, to give Job an opportunity to reply, but as he made no remarks, he resumed his discourse in the following chapter. The views which he had expressed were evidently new to Job, and were entirely at variance with those of his three friends, and they appear to have been received by all with profound and respectful silence.