A new speaker now appears upon the scene. Elihu, a comparatively
young man, who has been present at all the colloquies, and heard all the
arguments, dissatisfied alike with the discourses of Job and with the replies
made to them by his “comforters” (vs.2-3), interposes with a long
harangue (through ch.37), addressed partly to the “comforters”
(vs.6-22), but mainly to Job himself (chapters 33, 35-37), and having
for its object to shame the “comforters,” to rebuke Job, and to vindicate
God’s ways from the misrepresentations of both parties to the controversy.
The speech is that of a somewhat arrogant and conceited young man. It
exaggerates Job’s faults of temper and language, and consequently
censures him unduly; but it adds one important element to the controversy
by its insistence on the view that calamities are sent by God, for the most
part, as chastisements, not punishment, in love, not in anger, and have for
their main object to warn, and teach, and restrain from evil courses, not to
take vengeance on past sins. There is much that is elevating and instructive
in Elihu’s arguments and reflections (ch.33:14-30; 34:5-11; 36:7 - 16;
37:2-13); but the tone of the speech is harsh, disrespectful, and
presumptuous, so that we feel no surprise at Job not condescending to
answer it, but meeting it by a contemptuous silence.
The discourse of Elihu is prefaced by a short introduction in plain prose (vs. 1-5),
explaining who he was, and giving the reasons which actuated him in coming forward
at this point of the dialogue.
1 “So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous
in his own eyes.” Zophar had been silenced earlier. Eliphaz and Bildad now felt
that they had no more to say. They had exhausted the weapons of their armory
without any effect, and were conscious that nothing would be gained by mere
reiteration. All their efforts had aimed at convincing Job of sin; and he was still
unconvinced — he remained righteous in his own eyes.
2 “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.” Then was kindled
the wrath of Elihu.” The name “Elihu” was not uncommon among the
Israelites. It is found among the ancestors of Samuel (I Samuel 1:1), among the
Korhite Levites of the time of David (I Chronicles 26:7), the meaning of the word was,
“He is my God” (awhyla). The son of Barachel. Barachel is also a significant
name. It means, “Bless, O God,” or “God blesses” (la °rb). Both names
imply that the new interlocutor belonged to a family of monotheists. The Buzite.
“Huz” and “Buz” were brothers, the sons of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, by
Maleah, the daughter of
kindred of Ram. By “Ram” we are
probably to understand “
was the son of Kemuel, a brother of Huz and Buz. (On the connection of
Huz and Buz with the Arabian tribes of Khazu and Bazu, see the comment
on Job 1:1.) Against Job was his wrath kindled, because he
justified himself rather than God. Elihu was well-intentional; and it is
perhaps not surprising that he had been shocked by some of Job’s
expressions. Job had himself apologized for them (ch.6:26); and
certainly they went perilously near taxing God with injustice (see ch.40:8).
But it is to be remembered that finally God justifies Job’s sayings,
while condemning those of his “comforters.” “My wrath is kindled,” he
says to Eliphaz, “against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not
spoken of me the thing that is right’ as my servant Job hath” (ch.42:7).
3 “Also against his three friends was his wrath kindled, because they
had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job.” Also against his
three friends was his wrath kindled, because they had found no answer.
Elihu thought that Job’s reasonings and complaints admitted of being satisfactorily
answered, and was vexed that the three “friends” had not made the right replies.
It is the main object of his speech to supply them. And yet had condemned Job.
They had condemned him on wrong grounds and of sins that he had not committed
(ch.22:6-9). Elihu condemns him as much (ch.33:9-12; 34:7-9), but for entirely
Elihu the Young Man (vs. 2-3)
We now reach another act in the drama. The vexatious controversy
between Job and his three friends is over. Suddenly and quite unexpectedly
a new character appears on the stage. We need not trouble ourselves with
the question as to whether the Elihu episode was an original part of the
poem or whether it was inserted later by the author or even by another
hand. We may be thankful that we have it, and we may make use of its
lessons with confidence; for we do not know who was the author of any
part of the Book of Job, and yet we find the grand work alive with Divine
inspiration and rich in spiritual lessons. Let us consider the character of
Elihu. Most contradictory opinions have been expressed about him.
Wisdom does not wholly reside with age. In the present day an American
freedom is doing away with old-fashioned restraints upon youth, and
young people are enjoying a prominence which was once regarded as not
becoming. Whether the change is wholly profitable may be gravely
questioned. But most assuredly it is not without some advantages. There is
an elan, a freshness, and a vivacity which only the young can contribute to
life; all the world should be thankful for the breezy vigor that
accompanies youthful activity, for all the world is the better for it.
were speaking; yet there is a touch of satire in his tone of humility. For, in
fact, he has a supreme contempt for the droning commonplaces of the elder
advisers. Even Job comes under his lash. He hits out all round. It is
exceedingly difficult for young people to believe that they are not infallible.
The confidence that is natural to youth tends to develop into
confidence. He could see that the three friends had blundered most
outrageously. Job, too, was in error. Elihu comes forward with a new
truth. The friends should not accuse Job; Job should not accuse God.
The sufferings of Job were not penal at all; they were medicinal. Thus this
young man lifts the question on to a new stage. He it is who introduces the
great thought of the disciplinary character of suffering.
that is peculiar to seers like Eliphaz, and that comes in startling vision, but
one that is vouchsafed to man as man. He claims to have a share in this
inspiration himself. Thus he too would speak for God; and to a certain
extent he is right. Hence the truth and value of his words. We can only
reach truth when we touch God. We must be free from worldly maxims
and selfish prejudices, and open to the voice of Heaven, if we would
possess Divine truth.
4 “Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken,” - rather, to speak to
Job (see the Revised Version) He had waited impatiently until the three
special “friends” had said their say, and be might come forward without
manifest presumption – “because they were elder than he.”(On the respect
paid to age at this time in the land wherein Job lived, see the comment on ch.29:8.)
5 “When Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men,
then his wrath was kindled.” (compare v. 3 and the comment).
The speech of Elihu now begins. In the present chapter, after a short apologetic
exordium, excusing his youth (vs. 6-9), he addresses himself exclusively to Job’s
friends. He has listened attentively to them, and weighed their words (vs. 11, 12)
but has found nothing in them that confuted Job. They had not “found wisdom” —
they had not “vanquished Job” — at the last they had been “amazed, and had
not had a word more to say” (vs. 13-16). Elihu, therefore, will supply their
deficiency; he has kept silence with difficulty, and is full of thoughts, to
which he would fain give utterance (vs. 17-20). In all that he says he will
show no favoritism — he will “accept no man’s-person,” “give no
flattering titles,” but express sincerely what he believes (vs. 21-22).
6 “And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I am
young, and ye are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not
shew you mine opinion.” And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite
answered and said, I am young, and ye are very old. We can only guess at
the exact ages of Job and his friends. From the fact that God at the last “gave
Job twice as much as he had before” (ch.42:10), and the further fact that
he lived, after he had recovered his prosperity, a hundred and forty years
(Ibid. v.16), it has been conjectured that he was seventy years of age at
the time of his conference with his friends, and that he died at the age of
two hundred and ten. But this clearly is quite uncertain. He may not have
been much more than fifty when his calamities fell upon him. If this were
so, the age of his friends need not have exceeded from sixty to seventy.
Perhaps Elihu was himself not more than thirty. Wherefore I was afraid,
and durst not show you mine opinion; rather, I held back and was
afraid to utter what I knew in your presence. Elihu would have been
thought unduly pushing and presumptuous if he had ventured to come
forward until his seniors had ended their colloquy.
Youth and Age (v. 6)
Elihu speaks with becoming modesty in these words, although most of his
discourse shows that he is perfectly self-confident, and full of contempt for
the old censors of Job. He cannot but admit at least the conventional
distinctions between the claims and dues of youth and age. Let us look at
even though age does not always appear in a light that fully justifies its
claims. On what grounds does this deference rest?
Ø The experience of age. Certainly age has had opportunities of
gaining wisdom that are not afforded to youth. Whether a good
use has been made of those opportunities is another matter. Still,
it is scarcely possible to pass through the world without learning
something, if only from one’s own blunders.
Ø The maturity of age. There is a certain rawness about youth.
Apart from its acquisitions from without, the growth of the inner life
of a man should ripen, and time should mellow his temperament.
Ø The dignity of age. Age is not always dignified; still, the fatherly
relation implies a certain rank that is only found with added years.
We must respect the orderly arrangement that gives places of
honor to years.
Ø The achievements of age. The old hero may have become a feeble
invalid. Yet he still wears the scars of the battles of bygone days,
and we must respect him for what he has done.
Ø The infirmities of age. These claim considerate and sympathetic
treatment, not slighting and scornful disregard.
Ø The claims of age. If these are to be respected, youth must stand back
for a time. However it might desire to assert itself, youth here finds itself
confronted by an obstacle that must not be rudely thrust aside. It may chafe
against the restraints, and think them most unreasonable. Perhaps it
would be well for the young to consider that they will be aged some
day, and will need the consideration shown to age. Meanwhile their
advantages are greater than those of the aged in many respects, so that the
attempt to surround a naturally melancholy lot of increasing infirmities with
honors is really a pathetic confession of the loss of many of the solid boons
of life. The young need not envy the honors of age, seeing that they have
the powers and opportunities and delights of the sunny spring-time of life.
Ø The imperfection of youth. New and untried powers promise great
things, but they need regulating and guiding. It is possible to do immense
harm by rushing forward ignorantly and without circumspection. It is
wiser to begin quietly, and feel our way by degrees. Consider the
words of Christ “When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding,
sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honorable man than
thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and
say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to
take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down
in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may
say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship
in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever
exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself
shall be exalted.” (Luke 14:8-11)
MODESTY BECOMING IN YOUTH SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO
INTERFERE WITH DUTY. Old men should be careful not to suppress
the generous enthusiasm of youth. They should rather mourn that they
have lost it, if it is no longer with them. No venerable position can justify
the obstruction of good works. The young have to learn to combine a
suitable modesty with fidelity to truth and right. There will be no progress
if the constitutional timidity of age is permitted to stand in the way of every
proposed improvement. Deference does not mean absolute submission.
After all, the consequences of actions are much more important to the
young, who will live to reap them, than to the old, who will soon leave
the world. The future is for the young; the young must be allowed to shape it.
7 “I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach
wisdom.” I said; i.e. “I kept saying to myself, when the desire to interrupt
came upon me.” Days should speak. Age should give wisdom, and the
speech of the old should be most worthy of being attended to. Elihu had
been brought up in this conviction, and therefore refrained himself. And
multitude of years should teach wisdom. “Old experience should attain
to something of prophetic strain.” “One ought to give attention,” says
Aristotle, “to the mere unproved assertions of wise and aged men, as much
as to the actual demonstrations of others” (‘Eth. Nit.,’ 6:11, ad fin. compare
also 10:12; 15:10; Proverbs 16:31).
8 “But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty
giveth them understanding.” But there is a spirit in man. But, after all,
it is not mere age and experience that make men wise and able to teach
others. “There is a spirit in man” (see Genesis 2:7); and it is according as
this spirit is or is not enlightened from on high that men speak words of
wisdom or the contrary. The inspiration of the Almighty — this it is, which —
giveth them understanding. And such inspiration it is in the power of God to
bestow, as He pleases, on the old or on the young, on the great of the earth,
or on those of small reputation. Hence Elihu’s conclusion:
9 “Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged (always)
understand judgment.” Elihu lays down the universal law, before applying
it to the particular instance. True wisdom is from God, not necessarily from
observation and experience. Therefore many aged men are not wise; many
experienced men, great in position, versed in affairs, do not possess
understanding. It is a trite remark, “With how little wisdom the world is
10 “Therefore I said, Hearken to me; I also will shew mine opinion.”
Therefore I said, Hearken to me. Elihu evidently claims, not
exactly what is ordinarily understood by inspiration, but that his spirit, is
divinely enlightened, and that therefore he is more competent to take part
in the controversy that has been raised than many of the aged. I also will
show mine opinion. “I also,” or “even I” — i.e. I, young as I am, “will
show my opinion,” or “utter what I know on the subject.” Elihu does not
speak of his convictions as mere “opinions,” but claims to be in possession
of actual “knowledge.” (Compare Paul’s statement “Now concerning
virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment” –
I Corinthians 7:25)
11 “Behold, I waited for your words; I gave ear to your reasons, whilst
ye searched out what to say.” Behold, I waited for your words; i.e.
“I was full of expectation; I waited impatiently to hear what you would say.”
Then, while you spoke, I gave ear to your reasons — or, your reasonings;
I did my best to apprehend your meaning — whilst ye searched out what to
say. Elihu means that he listened carefully while the friends hunted out all the
arguments they could think of in order to confute Job.
12 “Yea, I attended unto you, and, behold, there was none of you that
convinced Job, or that answered his words:” Yea, I attended unto you —
or, lent you my attention — and, behold, there was none of you that
convinced Job; rather, that convicted (or, confuted) Job. Or that
answered his words. In Elihu’s opinion, the argumentative value of all the
long speeches of the three friends was nil; they had entirely failed to answer
13 “Lest ye should say, We have found out wisdom: God thrusteth him
down, not man.” Lest ye should say, We have found out wisdom; or, beware
lest ye say, We have found wisdom (see the Revised Version). “Do not
suppose, i.e., that you have triumphed in the controversy, that your mode
of meeting Job’s complaints is the wise and right one. The exact reverse is
the case. You have not vanquished Job. On the contrary, he is
unvanquished, and remains master of the field. If he is ever to be
vanquished, it will not be by you. God thrusteth (rather, may thrust) him
down, not man. A true prophecy! (see ch.40:1-14).
14 “Now he hath not directed his words against me: neither will I
answer him with your speeches.” Now he hath not directed his words
against me. Elihu thinks that he can interfere in the controversy with the better
prospect of a good result, since he is untouched by any of Job’s words, and
can therefore speak without passion or resentment. Neither will I answer
him with your speeches. He is also going to bring forward fresh arguments,
which, as they avoid the line taken by the three friends, may soothe, instead of
exasperating, the patriarch.
15 “They were amazed, they answered no more:” A change from
the second to the third person, possibly as seeming less disrespectful. Or
perhaps Elihu turns from the three friends at this point addresses himself to
Job. Job’s “comforters,” he says, “were amazed” by his last speech, and
could find nothing to say in reply to it. Consequently, “they left off speaking.”
16 “When I had waited, (for they spake not, but stood still, and
answered no more;) - rather, as in the Revised Version, and shall 1 wait
because they speak not, because they stand still and answer no more?
Am I to wait until they shall have recovered themselves, and found
something to answer? Surely this is not necessary. Neither courtesy nor
etiquette prescribes it. Especially when I have waited so long, and have
so much to say, and am so exceedingly anxious to say it (see vs.18-20).
Elihu shows all the impatience and ardour of a young speaker (see v.6),
and feels the confidence that young men so often feel in the wisdom and
persuasiveness of their words (compare ch.33:1-6).
17 “I said, I will answer also my part, I also will show mine opinion.”
The initial “I said” is superfluous. Elihu, having asked himself the
question, “Shall I wait?” in v. 16, here gives the answer. He will not wait
any longer, he will take the word, he will set forth his conviction.
18 “For I am full of matter,” - literally, I am full of words; i.e. I
have very much to say – “the spirit within me constraineth me.” –
Literally, the spirit of my belly; i.e. “my inward feelings and emotions.”
Compare Zophar’s statements in ch.20:2-3; and Job’s own declarations
in ch.13:131,19 that he must speak. There is a state of internal excitement,
when reticence becomes impossible.
19 “Behold, my belly is as wine which hath no vent; it is ready to burst
like new bottles.” Behold, my belly is as wine which hath no vent. The
process of fermentation properly takes place in the vat, from which the gas
evolved in the operation can freely escape. When wine was put into skins
before fermentation was complete, and gas continued to be evolved, the
effect was that the skins became distended, as the gas had no vent, and
then not unfrequently the skins would burst, especially if they were old
ones (see Matthew 9:17). It is ready to burst like new bottles. Even
if the skins were new, they would undergo distension, and would appear as
if “ready to burst,” though the actual catastrophe might be avoided. Elihu’s
pent-up feelings seem to him, if they do not obtain a vent, to threaten some
such a result.
20 “I will speak, that I may be refreshed: I will open my lips and
answer.” I will speak, that I may be refreshed; rather, that I may
obtain relief; or, according to some, “that I may be able to breathe.”
Elihu feels almost suffocated by conflicting feelings of rage (vs. 1-3),
disappointment (vs. 11-12), and anxiety to vindicate God’s honor (v. 2).
I will open my lips and answer. In the remainder of Elihu’s discourse
the attempt is made to “answer” Job (see ch. 33-37), with what success
will be considered elsewhere.
21 “Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person, neither let me
give flattering titles unto man.” Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s
person. Elihu hopes that, in what he is about to say, he will not permit himself to
be swayed by any personal bias; that he will neither unduly favor the upper
classes nor the vulgar, but will treat all fairly and equitably. Neither let me (he says)
give flattering titles unto man. The Oriental practice of giving long and fulsome
titles is too well known to need anything beyond the mere mention of the fact.
Elihu certainly, in the whole of his address, flatters no one.
22 “For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my Maker
would soon take me away.” For I know not to give flattering titles;
i.e. it is not my habit to give flattering titles, nor have I any knowledge of the
art. I should expect that, if such were my habit, in so doing my Maker
would soon take me away; would soon, i.e., remove me from the earth,
as one whose influence was not for good, but for evil. Flattery is condemned
by Job, in ch.17:5: by David, in the Psalms (Psalm 12:2-3; 36:2: 78:36); and
by Solomon, in Proverbs 2:16; 7:21; 20:19; 28:23).
Flattery (vs. 21-22)
Elihu promises to be frank and outspoken, not “accepting any man’s
person” in perversion of truth, and giving “flattering titles” to no man. This
resolve would be very significant in the East, where personal rank counts
for much even in courts of justice, and where a “flattering title” is given as
a matter of course, especially when some favor is sought, even though it
belies the true opinion held by the flatterer; e.g. Acts 24:2.
Ø To win favor. This is the lowest motive with which to flatter;
it is without any valid excuse; its character is wholly selfish.
Ø To avoid harm. This is also a selfish motive; but it may be urged
by fear and encouraged by weakness. The flattery of a tyrant is not
creditable to anybody concerned; but it is one of the certain effects
of tyranny on weak natures.
Ø To give pleasure. Without any deep design of gain, agreeable people
wish to please those with whom they are associated. A certain foolish
kindness may help the flattery.
Ø To express humility. Very humble people are tempted to ascribe
good qualities to others in contrast with their own unworthiness.
any one, though he does so with a needless ostentation of independence.
Flattery is bad in many ways, and involves many evil things.
Ø Falsehood. This is the very first element of FLATTERY.
You praise a man to his face beyond your true thoughts of him.
Ø Cowardice. If the flattery is indulged in in order to propitiate a
powerful tyrant, the flatterer humiliates himself, and appears in the
miserable character of a cringing coward
Ø Godlessness. Flattery of man tends to a disregard of the law and
will of God. If the dignity and rank of a person is made too much of,
he is really becoming to us almost a god; we are in danger of giving to
him the deference which should only be offered to our Maker.
Ø The overthrow of justice. If a man “accepts persons” he will
neglect justice. Instead of considering what is right and fair, the
flatterer considers what is pleasant. Thus right and equity are set
Ø The destruction of confidence. Flattery is sure to be discovered,
and the habit of flattering will be soon recognized. Then words of
admiration cease to have any meaning. It becomes impossible to
give true honor to a person, because this cannot be distinguished from
the false honors which the sycophant heaps on his patron. It is no longer
possible to know whether approval, support, and loyalty are maintained
or not. Traitors hide under the cloak of flattery. (Translate this
into other areas of society which are undermined leading to the same
end – marital fidelity, daily discourse with fellowmen [veracity],
trade, confidence in government; news reporting, etc. – all leading
to A FALSE MEANING GIVEN TO LIFE. – CY – 2013)
Ø The anger of God. Elihu talks somewhat brusquely about his Maker
taking him away. It is a trait of his self-confidence to be quite at home in
speaking of God. Yet there is a truth in his words. God cannot endure
falsehood and injustice. His favor IS NOT WON BY FLATTERY,
the flattery of men is sure to be detected by God, and therefore the
flatterer must LIE UNDER THE DISFAVOR OF HEAVEN,
even while he enjoys the favour of his earthly patron.
It is specially becoming in young men to be deferential towards their elders.
It is quite possible for good men to be righteous in their own eyes.
It is commonly the case that of two controversialists both are wrong.
It is not unseemly for even young men to be jealous of the Divine honor.
It is no sin for young men who know the truth to instruct old men who
know it not. (“And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make
you free.” – John 8:32). It is right in those who speak for God TO BE
RAISED ABOVE THE FEAR OF MAN! It is certain that God never
suffers saints to be tempted WITHOUT REINFORCING THEM BY
DIVINE GRACE AND TEACHING! It is observable that HEAVENLY
SUCCOR mostly comes to men WHEN HUMAN RESOURCES ARE
There is a time to speak and a time to keep silence, even in regard to the
most sacred matters. It is a high proof of wisdom to be able to recognize
whence all wisdom comes. Like the Bereans in Acts 17:11, it is proper
to sift the opinions and doctrines of even the oldest and wisest of
men; to prove all things, and hold last that which is good (I Thessalonians
5:21). Sincerity of mind and heart is an indispensable qualification for
the teacher whom God employs. The lack of fidelity to the truth and to
those who hear is one of the greatest crimes a preacher can commit.
God can easily remove those who are unfaithful to the trust they have
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