Job 32



In the person of the young Elihu a new speaker comes forward from v.1 to ch. 37:24,

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 chapters  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.  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.





                                    Silence after the Storm (v. 1)


The three friends first comforted Job with seven days of silence (ch. 2:13).

They relapse into silence after their painful controversy with the

suffering man. We feel a sense of relief, and breathe freely now that their

dogmatic delusions are done with, and we have silence after the storm.


·         IT IS WISE TO KNOW WHEN TO BE SILENT. We cannot attribute

much of this wisdom to the three friends. They would have been more

commendable if they had practiced it throughout. Still, they were not

wholly senseless and heartless. They were able to perceive at length that no

more words of theirs would help their case. Part of the art of speaking is to

perceive the time for ceasing to speak. It is difficult for many people to

come to an end of their words. Let us note some of the times for silencing

our speech.


Ø      When we have no more to say. A man should only speak because he has

something to say, never because he has to say something.


Ø      When our words are not heard. If we speak to heedless ears we waste

our breath. It is vain to pour out words that our audience cannot or

will not drink in.


Ø      When our words are not accepted. If we cannot persuade men by what

we say, we shall not do so by mere reiteration. We may find that no

words will move our hearers; then further words are wasted on them.

If we are altogether out of sympathy with our audience we cannot

benefit them by adding words to words.


Ø      When the time for action has arrived. It will not be wise for the general

to be haranguing his men when the enemy are already in the field.

Words have their place; but this is not to usurp the place of deeds.


Ø      When another should be heard. Elihu has been waiting patiently while

the old men have been talking. Now his time has come. Talkative people

are tempted to be selfish. St. Paul ordered that when many wished to

speak in the Church at Corinth each should have his turn, one giving

place to another (1 Corinthians 14:30).



This second silence has not the beauty of the first silence of sympathy. But

it has a deeper significance in some respects.


Ø      It is a relief from distressful controversy. It is painful to be perpetually

arguing with our friends. When the controversy rises to angry words the

best thing is to break it off and relapse into silence.


Ø      It affords time for reflection. If anything worth remembering has been

said, it is well that people should have time to think over it. Probably our

religious services would be more fruitful if people would only have

patience to allow of pauses for quiet meditation.


Ø      It is a means of establishing peace. When words only irritate, peace will

be best secured by silence. If the three friends wished to be reconciled to

Job, their wisest course was to wait for the heat of discussion to cool



Ø      It is itself a blessing. Other voices speak in the silence. Then the unseen

world draws near to us. After the storm is hushed the heavens open. We

                        all need more silence, especially after times of strain and difficulty.


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” (אליהוא). The son of Barachel.  Barachel is also a significant

name. It means, “Bless, O God,” or “God blesses” (בר אל)). 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 Haran (Genesis 11:29; 22:20-21). Of the

kindred of Ram. By “Ram” we are probably to understand “Aram,” who

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 rightas 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

different reasons.



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.


  • A YOUNG MAN. The elders have spoken; now is the time for youth.

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.


  • A CONFIDENT MAN. Elihu waited in modesty while the old men

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



  • A KEEN-SIGHTED MAN. Elihu had some ground for his

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.


  • AN INSPIRED MAN. Elihu claimed a direct inspiration — not one

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).




                                    The Intervention of Elihu (vs. 1-5)


·         THE DISCOMFITURE OF THE FRIENDS. “So these three men”

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar“ceased to answer Job;” i.e. did not

respond to the lamentations and protestations which he uttered in his



Ø      The reason they perhaps assigned for their silence. “Because he,” i.e.

Job, “was righteous in his own eyes.” If this was scarcely accurate in the

strict theological sense of the expression, since Job had more than once

acknowledged himself a sinner (ch. 7:20-21; 9:2-3), and even

subscribed to the sentiment of Eliphaz and his associates that no mortal

man can be just before God (ibid. ch. 9:20; 14:3-4), it is yet difficult to

exonerate the patriarch entirely from the charge here preferred against

him; for, though righteous to the extent of being free from flagrant

transgression, which his friends alleged he was not, and sincerely devoted

to the ways of holiness, as God Himself had testified (ch. 1:1), he

nevertheless insisted on his blamelessness of life and uprightness of

character with such pertinacity as to overstep the bounds of true humility,

advancing these as a ground or reason why God should have dealt with

him differently from what He had done, and thus, as it were, constructing

out of them a claim of merit, or self-righteousness before God.


Ø      The reason they forgot to assign for their silence. “Because they had

found no answer,” i.e. to Job. For this explanation of their conduct we are

indebted to the observation of Elihu, a new interlocutor (a person who

takes part in a dialogue or conversation) who appears upon the scene.

Unable to convince Job of immorality and hypocrisy, they were

likewise, in Elihu’s judgment, incompetent to reply to his arguments

and protestations. Doubtless the matter did not so present itself to the

contemplation of the friends. According to their theology, Job, being a

great sufferer, must have been a great sinner; and any declarations on his

part to the contrary only proved that he had not been sufficiently humbled

before God, and was indulging in self-deception. This, however, as Job

explained, entirely failed in its applicability to him, whose past life of

stainless purity, fervent piety, and unwearied philanthropy gave

conspicuous demonstration of the falsehood of their allegations, and

whose present consciousness reproached him with no dereliction of duty,

but rather loudly proclaimed the steadfast character, untarnished beauty,

and unmixed sincerity of his integrity to Heaven. But, inasmuch as the

above cited nostrum (a medicine, especially one that is not considered

effective, prepared by an unqualified person) was the only specific

which remained in the pharmacopoeia (a stock of medicinal drugs)

 of the friends, they judiciously abandoned the case as beyond their skill.

They had spent every weapon in their quiver without overthrowing their

antagonist; and, accordingly, with commendable prudence, observing a

discreet reticence as to the secret motive of their behavior, they retired

from the contest.


·         THE INTERPOSITION OF ELIHU. “Then was kindled the wrath of

Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram.”


Ø      The personality of Elihu. Details such as these — concerning the name

(Elihu, equivalent to “He is my God”), parentage (son of Barachel, or

“God blesseth”), country (the Buzite, probably a descendant of Nahor

through his second son (Genesis 22:21), and therefore of Aramaean

extraction, though by birth an Arabian, Buz being mentioned with Dedan

and Tema as a city of Idumea in the time of Jeremiah, 25:23), kindred (of

the family of Ram, otherwise unknown, unless connected with Aram, the

son of Shem, Genesis 10:23, the brother of Buz, ibid. ch. 22:21, or

the grandfather of Nahshon, compare Numbers 1:7 with 1 Chronicles

2:9-10) — dispose of the patristic conceit that the new interlocutor was

Jesus Christ. Equally, however, do they preclude the hypothesis (Cox)

that he was simply one of the young men of Job’s city (ch. 29:8). They

rather hint that be “belonged to a family which had retained the

knowledge of the God of heaven” (Cook); and, indeed, when it is

considered that Elihu distinctly claims to speak under Divine impulse

(ch. v.8; 33:4), proposes himself as a response to Job’s oft-repeated

demand for a daysman (ch. 33:6), and unfolds views of Divine truth

concerning the remedial character of affliction and the doctrine of

atonement (ibid. vs. 14-30) that seem like anticipations of gospel

discoveries, it is hard to resist the inference that in Elihu we have a

young Arabian prophet who had been providentially brought upon the

scene, as the friends were, and was moved at the appropriate juncture to

deliver certain preliminary judgments on the cause then pending.


Ø      The time of his appearing. We are inclined to think that, as the result of

the strife of tongues between the patriarch and his friends, to which also

we can suppose that Elihu had listened, the citadel of Job’s integrity, if

not in danger of being captured, was at any rate rudely shaken, and that

victory, in the grand fundamental debate or controversy of the poem, was

inclining to the side of the devil But as God never leaves His people in

their hour of need, so neither was Job suffered to be taken captive by

the craft of Satan. And accordingly Elihu is at this point introduced

upon the stage.


Ø      The purpose of his introduction.


o        Doctrinal completeness. Considered as a theological discussion,

nothing could have been less satisfactory than the position of matters

at the close of Job’s monologue. On the one hand, the friends had

exhausted themselves in an attempt to demonstrate their particular

theory without convincing Job. On the other hand, Job had uttered his

last word without converting them to his way of thinking. On the one

side, they remained exactly as they were, both as to the truth of their

dogma and as to its bearing on the case of Job. On the other side, Job

himself was hopelessly entangled in a futile endeavor to reconcile the

seemingly insoluble contradiction which existed between his outward

lot and his inward condition. So far as the right relation of suffering

to sin was concerned, neither of the disputants had discovered it.

Occasionally, indeed, Job seemed to get a glimpse of it (ch. 23:10),

as also did Eliphaz (ch. 5:17); but for the most part the remedial,

corrective, beneficent, paedagogic (related to teaching) uses of

adversity were not understood. This view of affliction, therefore,

required to be prominently exhibited, if the poem were at all to

be redeemed from a charge of incompleteness, of starting a problem it

could not answer, of propounding an enigma it could not solve; and this

was done by setting forth Elihu to clear away the doctrinal fogs which

had gathered around the otherwise acute mind of Job, no less than round

the less penetrative intellects of his friends.


o        Dramatic unity. Recurring to the problem lying at the basis of the

poem, the controversy represented as existing between God and Satan,

and solemnly put to trial in the person of Job, was not whether man,

standing alone and unaided on the platform of nature, could maintain

his integrity to Heaven, but whether man could do so on the platform

of grace (ch. 1:9, homiletics). It was needful, therefore, that, just at

the moment when Job seemed to be on the eve of giving way he

should receive such assistance as grace could impart; and this, again,

was done by Elihu, who, speaking from a Divine impulse, “sets before

Job clearer, fuller, and more accurate views of the Divine character and

modes of procedure in dealing with the children of men, and thereby

seeks to reinforce him in his struggle with his friends, and to prevent

him from succumbing beneath the temprations of the foe” (vide

‘British and Foreign Evangelical Review’ October, 1872, art.

“The Problem of Job,” by the Reverend T. Whitelaw,M.A.).

Thus the interlocution of Elihu is not so much “what Job had

repeatedly called for, a confutation of his opinions, not effected by an

overwhelming display of Divine power, but by rational “human

argument” (Canon Cook, in ‘Speaker’s Commentary’), or “the human

verdict on the controversy between Job and the friends, which we want

to hear almost as much as the Divine verdict’ (Cox), as the special

illumination which Divine grace had to shed upon the problem

agitated between him and them, which illumination was conveyed

to him through the instrumentality of Elihu, as it is now more amply

and luminously unfolded to us in the gospel.


Ø      The spirit of his intervention.


o        His wrath was kindled. That Elihu should have given way to an

uncalled-for ebullition (outburst) of anger, if such be the view adopted

of his passionate excitement, was no more a proof that he did not speak

under inspiration than was the fact that he made use of Aramaisms, and

committed certain inelegancies of style. “It is good to be zealously

affected in a good thing” (Galatians 4:18) and Elihu’s indignation

was amply vindicated by the conduct first of Job (v. 2), and secondly

of the friends (v. 3). Yet


o        His modesty was conspicuous. The style of severe animadversion

(defamation) adopted by many commentators, both ancient and

modern, in stigmatizing Elihu as “an emblem of confident arrogance”

(Gregory the Great), as an example of the ambitious orator (Strigei),

as “arrogant and bold” (Herder), as “a conceited prater” (Umbreit),

and his addresses as “the weak and rambling speeches of a boy,”

is quite unwarranted. Not only had he waited respectfully until his

elders had concluded their disputations (v. 4), but with much humility

he attributed any value his contributions might possess, not to the

intrinsic excellence of his own genius, but to the fact of his inspiration

(v. 8), which rendered him little more than the mouthpiece of Heaven.


  • LEARN:


1. It is one mark of true wisdom to know when to be silent.

2. It is specially becoming in young men to be deferential towards their


3. It is quite possible for good men to be righteous in their own eyes.

4. It is commonly the case that of two controversialists both are wrong.

5. It is not unseemly for even young men to be jealous of the Divine honor.

6. 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).

7.      It is right in those who speak for God TO BE RAISED ABOVE THE FEAR

     OF MAN! 

8.      It is certain that God never suffers saints to be tempted WITHOUT


9.      It is observable that HEAVENLY SUCCOR  mostly comes to men



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 conversation.



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

these distinctions.


  • DEFERENCE IS DUE TO AGE. We all feel that this is appropriate,

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.


  • MODESTY IS BECOMING IN YOUTH. This is especially fit on two



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)




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 in v. 9.





                                    The Common Inspiration of Man (v. 8)


Elihu here utters a great and daring thought. He turns from the dogmas of

the ancients to the present Divine inspiration; from the teaching of

authority to the voice of truth in the heart of man.


·         THERE IS A DIVINE INSPIRATION OF MAN. Elihu affirms its

existence. The old men had grown stiff in thought, worldly, and dim-sighted.

If ever they had quivered beneath the touch of inspiration this was

in bygone days, and they had forgotten the experience. But the young,

enthusiastic Elihu is alive to spiritual influence. Here we are at the root of

religion, which does not spring from man’s worship of God, but from



·         THIS INSPIRATION IS FOR ALL MEN. Elihu is not thinking of the

special and rare vision of the seer which Eliphaz had described as so awe-

inspiring (ch. 4:12-16). He is thinking of something more simple, more

natural, and more common. God does not only teach us indirectly by means

of prophets and intermediate messengers. He has not left Himself without

witness in the heart of man. Conscience is the voice of God in the soul.

Reason in man is a spark from the Logos, the great Word and Reason of

God. Whenever men read truth they are in contact with the ever-present

Spirit of truth. We do not live in a God-deserted world, nor in one that is

only visited at rare intervals by Divine influences. God is nearer to us than

we suspect. Job has been crying out for God; Elihu shows that God is not

far off’



FORMS. It does not make every man a prophet, much less does it always

confer the gift of infallibility. In Bezaleel it was a faculty for artistic

workmanship (Exodus 35:30-35). Samson found it a source of physical

strength (Judges 13:25). God gives His Spirit:


Ø      in science, leading men to truth;

Ø      in art, teaching what is beautiful,  and helping men to discriminate

            between meretricious (attractive but having in reality no value or

 integrity -  like the vulgar modern art sponsored by the National

Endowment of the Arts - CY - 2021) hurtful art and true, fruitful art;

Ø      in daily life, affording guidance in perplexity and strength in difficulty;

Ø      in religion, not only under the Jewish and Christian dispensations,

where indeed it is most gloriously developed, but in every truly

religious life.


God has not abandoned India, nor did he abandon Greece or Egypt. Even

amidst the monstrous delusions and the gross corruptions of heathenism the

still small voice of God may be detected. Whatever is good and true in the

world is an inspiration of God.



INSPIRATION OF MAN. Joel predicted the time when God’s Spirit

should be poured out on all flesh (Joel 2:28), and St. Peter claimed that

that time had come on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16-18). St. Paul

tells us that all Christians together constitute a temple of the Holy Ghost

(1 Corinthians 6:19). If the Spirit of God is felt in the world, much

more must the gracious Divine presence be enjoyed in the Church. Every

Christian is, indeed, an inspired man. He is not infallible. But he has a

Guide to truth, a Comforter in distress, a Strength for service, and a

Grace for holiness.  


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

Job’s arguments.


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.




                                    The Refreshment of Speech (v. 20)


Elihu will speak that he may be refreshed. Let us consider some of the

ways in which this refreshment may be experienced.




Ø      In utterance of what is strongly felt. It is difficult to restrain powerful

emotions. Passion inspires speech. We long to tell out what burns in our

hearts. Difficulty of utterance often arises from deadness of soul — often,

but not always, for many of the best men have no facility of speech. Still,

the surest road to eloquence is through emotion.


Ø      In confession of what is deeply distressing. It is hard to hide a dark

secret. Criminals have been known to confess their evil deeds simply

because they could not endure to keep silence about them. Great sorrows

find relief in utterance. While the sufferer suppresses himself in stony

grief his reason is in danger; let him weep and speak, and the worst

anguish or his soul will find some relief. Prayer in great distress is

not only appealing to God for help; it is also relieving the over-

burdened soul by utterance. It is much to be able to unbosom one’s

self to God, to open and let out sad secrets to Heaven.


·         THE EXERCISE OF POWER. No doubt the lower motive of desiring

to feel his power was influencing Elihu, though he would have been too

vain to have admitted it. Some people delight to hear the sound of their

own voices. The importance and publicity of speaking before others is

found to be attractive. When the speaker discovers that he can move an

audience by his eloquence, a new fascination lays hold of him, and if he can

influence by means of speech, he will find a pleasure in wielding so

powerful an instrument. But there is great danger in all this, lest the

speaker should idolize his own eloquence, and try to influence others

merely for the sake of making them feel the weight of his utterance. It must

be remembered that there is great. responsibility in speech. A hasty

utterance may be followed by a long repentance, when the speaker will

give worlds to recover his mischievous words.


·         THE ACHIEVEMENT OF GOOD. A good man will desire to speak

for the profit of others. He who knows God’s truth will long to declare it

to others. So great a treasure is not to be hidden. For Christ’s sake and for

the world’s sake it must be made known far and wide. The Christian

should feel that a serious obligation is upon him to lead others to share in

those privileges of the gospel which all need, and which are designed for

all!  St. Paul felt an awful necessity laid on him, and exclaimed, “Woe is

unto me if I preach not the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). The lepers of

Samaria felt that they would be guilty of a great sin if they feasted in the

camp of the Syrians, and did not let the starving city know that there was

abundance of good outside the gates (II Kings 7:9). But nor only is it a

duty to preach CHRIST -  it is a great joy! The body may be wearied by the

effort, but the soul will be refreshed. There is a cheering and invigorating

influence in making truth known; this is greatest when the work is to bring


and women.


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).





                        The Voice of Juvenile Self-Confidence (vs. 1-22)


We now approach the solution of the mystery, the untying of the knot, the

end of the controversy. Job’s three friends have failed to convince Job that

he is suffering the well-merited consequences of evil-doing; and he has failed

to convince them of his integrity. Now a younger friend speaks with

kindled wrath because the three friends “had found no answer.” He speaks

with the undue confidence of youth; but he weaves many words of truth

and wisdom into his speech, from which we may gather some for our

guidance. With some hesitation, and a complimentary reference to the

claims of age, Elihu nevertheless reveals the impatient self-confidence of

youth. Even though truth may be on its side, youthful self-confidence is an

error. The error manifests itself here as so often elsewhere:



spirit that is “in man” and “the inspiration of the Almighty,” is assumed

to give them “understanding” equally. At least Elihu puts himself on their

level, though he afterwards affirms their inferiority.


·         IN A DESPISAL OF THE TEACHINGS OF AGE. So the young lips

are ready to affirm, “Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged

understand judgment.”



youth to give its judgment! “I also will show mine opinion.”



“I am full of matter, the spirit within me constraineth me,” etc.



not to give flattering titles.” Thus speaks youth in a confidence which is so

often the effect of ignorance and inexperience. The true attitude for youth



Ø      lowliness and humility;

Ø      teachableness;

Ø      patience;

Ø      reverent regard for age and for the counsels of experience.




                                                The Apology of Elihu (vs. 6-22)


·         THE REASONS OF HIS PREVIOUS RESERVE.   Elihu had been an

earnest listener to the controversy Job waged with his three friends,

waiting for Job with words” (v. 4), i.e. eager to pour out in speech the

arguments that trembled on his lips; and now he declares that two things

had restrained him from joining earlier in the discussion.


Ø      A modest respect for their superior age. He was but a young man

(literally, “few of years”), while they were very old. Their venerable

aspect had inspired him with such awe that he feared to utter his

opinion in their presence. Young men in modern times are not always

so deferential towards their elders. But seniores priores (elder ones first)

is a maxim which should be of universal application. While it is at all

times unbecoming and impertinent for a youth to interrupt or precede

an elder in conversation, it is a special mark of rudeness in religious

discussion for an inexperienced boy to “show his opinion” before men

of mature years have delivered theirs. Jesus, at the age of twelve,

among the doctors in the temple, was not delivering his convictions,

but “hearing and asking them questions.”  (Luke 2:46)


Ø      A lofty esteem for their superior knowledge. He considered that old age,

with its rich experience, should have had wise and weighty thoughts

immeasurably more worthy of being listened to than any crude sentiments

and immature judgments that he could utter. A young man who thus

accurately gauges the relative importance of the wisdom of age and the

opinions” of youth is a rare phenomenon. It is characteristic of youth,

though born like a wild ass’s colt, to fancy itself as wise as Solomon. For

the most part, the education of a lifetime is required to enable any one to

gather successfully the ripe fruits of wisdom; and even then, the wisdom

one gathers is chiefly this, that what one knows is as nothing in

comparison to that of which one is ignorant. Occasional examples may

be found of amazing talent, immense learning, extraordinary genius, in

youth; but ripe wisdom, i.e. carefully verified, well-digested, skillfully

arranged knowledge, is preeminently the property of age.



justification of his behavior, he offers the following considerations.


Ø      That true wisdom in its ultimate analysis is an inspiration of Heaven.

“Truly it is the spirit in man [literally, ‘weak, feeble, mortal man’], and

the breath of Shaddai that giveth them [i.e. man collectively] under-

standing (v. 8). That is to say, human life in all its departments —

physical, intellectual, spiritual — is not an evolution or development

from dead matter, but is the creation of God’s Spirit (Genesis 2:7).

It is the breath of the Almighty that sustains the thinking principle

in man no less than the principle of purely animal existence. Hence

wisdom, spiritual insight, intellectual penetration, religious understanding,

has its origin rather from within than from without. It is dependent not

so much (it at all) upon accidental circumstances, such as age, capacity,

opportunity, as upon the quickening influence of the vitalizing and

enlightening Spirit. Nay, it demonstrates the possibility of a supernatural

communication of wisdom to whomsoever Shaddai wills, and upon

whatsoever theme He may please. It proves that no man can justly, or

without presumption, claim a monopoly of wisdom. The doctrine of

Elihu, that all intelligence in man, and much more all spiritual

understanding, proceeds from a Divine influence which breatheth

when, where, and how it wills, was the doctrine of Pharaoh

(Genesis 41:38), of Moses (Exodus 31:3), of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 9:20),

of Isaiah (Isaiah 11:2), of Christ (John 16:13), of Paul (1 Corinthians

2:10), and of John (1 John 2:20).


Ø      That true wisdom is not necessarily the property of age. “Great men

are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment” (v. 9).

This was an advance upon the previous thought. Not only was wisdom

not the property of age alone; the discourses to which he had listened

had painfully convinced him it was not necessarily a characteristic of age

at all. This witness is true. If juvenile witlings abound among all ranks

and classes of society, there is unfortunately no lack of aged dullards.

Partly through lack of capacity, partly from defective education, partly

from long-continued negligence, many come to old age without

acquiring wisdom (ch. 4:21), and sometimes without possessing

common sense. It is not, therefore, wrong for young men of piety

and culture to offer to instruct these persons in Divine truth or

secular information; only even to such as these it becomes young

men to manifest the courtesy and deference that are always due to age.


Ø      That in particular the old men before him had not displayed a high

degree of wisdom. He had hearkened to their “understandings,” i.e. their

explanations of the subject-matter in dispute, and had carefully examined

the replies with which they had endeavored to convince and silence Job;

but in no single instance had they fairly combated his position. It was not

reasonable to say, “Lo! we have found out wisdom,” and here it is: “God

thrusteth him down, not man,” so that from this his punishment we infer

his guilt (v. 13); because that was exactly the point at issue throughout the

entire course of the discussion. Nor, again, was it reasonable to assert that

their dogma was the absolute wisdom, though Job was of so obstinate a

temper that only God could convince him, since obviously man could not.

That, again, was to beg the question entirely; and, in default of argument,

to abuse the plaintiff’s attorney. Job’s words must be fairly and honestly

controverted. But these old preachers did not understand the business. A

well-known interpretation of v. 13 makes Elihu say that only God could

overthrow Job, while he really means that only such uncommon genius as

he (Elihu) possessed could vanquish a disputant so obstinate as Job

(Umbreit); but this is putting the worst construction possible on language

which may legitimately signify that in Elihu’s judgment Job’s position

could not be turned by merely human wisdom, but demanded the light of

inspiration such as he was about to shed upon the theme.


Ø      That the contribution he proposed to offer was entirely fresh and

original. The position he intended to occupy was not one against which

Job had already directed his attacks; nor had the arguments he designed to

use in confutation of the patriarch occurred to any of the friends. The new

thoughts Elihu proposed to introduce into the discussion related chiefly to

the disciplinary character of affliction; and it is doubtful if such a view of

life’s tribulations could have occurred to any one apart from Divine

revelation. The interpretation which understands Elihu to say that,

inasmuch as he had not been personally interested in the debate which Job

and the friends had conducted, he was able both to deliver an impartial

verdict on the point at issue, and to preserve a more equal temper than

they, the friends, had been able to do, though perhaps admissible, is not so

forcible or apt.


Ø      That the strength of his convictions would no longer admit of his

keeping silence. So powerfully had the truth seized upon him, and so long

had he endeavored to restrain it, that now his soul (literally, “his belly,”

as the seat of spiritual emotions) seemed like a wine-skin on the eve of

bursting through the fermentation of the liquor it contained (vs. 17-19).

So every Heaven-born idea, to whomsoever it is first communicated,

irresistibly strives after utterance. For a season the living thought may be

kept in abeyance, carefully secluded from the world at large, but

ultimately there comes a moment when it asserts its Heaven-granted

supremacy over the mind of the man that has received it, and, refusing

to be longer concealed, eventually drives that mind to speak forth the

God-imparted message. So the Word of the Lord was in Jeremiah’s

heart as a burning fire shut up in his bones (Jeremiah 20:9). So Peter

and John told the Sanhedrin they could not but speak the things which

they had seen and heard (Acts 4:20). So Paul felt that necessity was

laid upon him to preach the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:16). So Mahomet

proclaimed to the rude Arab tribes of a later day the sublime discovery

of the unity of God; and Luther could not keep back the truth which

God’s Spirit had flashed into his soul on Pilate’s Staircase, that

the just shall live by faith.” So when God gives to any man —

prophet, poet, preacher, writer, inventor, discoverer, or man of genius

generally, a new idea, it renders him uncomfortable until it has been

liberated, brought to the birth, as it were, and sent forth to wander

through the world on its Heaven-designed mission. If the possessor of

such an idea would have ease and comfort in his soul, he must give it

voice. As Elihu says, he must speak in order to be refreshed.



two closing verses are by some understood to contain an additional reason

for Elihu’s interposition, viz. that continued silence would evince such a

mean and cowardly deference to merely human authority, that he could not

hope to escape punishment for it at the hands of God (‘Speaker’s

Commentary;’ Cox); but it seems preferable to view them as setting forth

first the principles he intended to observe in his proposed interlocution,

and, secondly, the reasons or arguments on which those principles were

based (Delitzsch, Carey, Fry, etc.).


Ø      The principles he intended to observe. These were:


o        The strictest impartiality as between man and man: “Let me not,

I pray thee, accept any man’s person” (v. 21). The acceptance of

persons, or the favoring of the great at the expense of the small, of

the rich at the expense of the poor, of the powerful at the expense

of the weak, results either from:


§         moral cowardice,

§         intellectual vanity, or

§         personal dishonesty.


Condemned in the Word of God (Proverbs 18:5), it is specially

unbecoming in the followers of Christ (James 2:1). Charged by Job

against the friends (ch. 13:8), it was a sin which Elihu felt it incumbent

upon him to avoid.


o        The directest honesty as regards the individual himself. “Neither

      let me give flattering titles to any man.” Unlike his Oriental country-

men,  Elihu would be guilty of no adulation or compliment to any man;

but with simplicity and godly sincerity would deliver the sentiments

with which he had been charged. So Elijah preached to Ahab (1 Kings

18:18), and John the Baptist to Herod (Matthew 14:4). So did  Paul

preach the gospel at Corinth (II Corinthians 1:12), Thessalonica

(1 Thessalonians 2:4), Athens (Acts 17:22), and elsewhere. So

preached Luther to the princes of Germany, Latimer to Henry VIII.

of England, and John Knox to Mary Queen of Scots.


Ø      The reasons he alleged for his intended behavior. These were

extremely creditable to himself.


o        He had not learned the art of flattery. He possessed a soul too large,

honest, and independent to reside in a courtier’s bosom. Adulation was

abhorrent to his nature. Such souls are scarce. Yet there is no better

mark of true spiritual nobility than an incapacity to either give or

receive the honeyed words and fawning courtesies of flattery.


o        he would certainly be punished if he did commit the wickedness alluded

to — punished, according to the interpretation of the last clause (Carey,

Fry), with the richly merited contempt of God: “How little would my

Maker esteem me!” — according to another rendering (Delitzsch, Cook,

Cox), with some signal manifestation of his displeasure, as e.g. by

sudden death.


·         LEARN:


1. There is a time to speak and a time to keep silence, even in regard to the

    most sacred matters.

2. It is a high proof of wisdom to be able to recognize whence all wisdom


3. 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). .

4. It would largely contribute to the world’s happiness if those who

    undertook to teach others never spoke until they were impelled by the

    force of inward conviction.

5. The men who move the world are those whose souls are illumined and

    inflamed by the light and fire of great ideas.

6. One of the greatest pleasures a human soul can enjoy on earth is that of

    propounding and diffusing new and lofty thoughts.

7. Sincerity of mind and heart is an indispensable qualification for

    the teacher whom God employs. 

8. The lack of fidelity to the truth and to those who hear is one of

    the greatest crimes a preacher can commit.

9. God despises and will punish those who yield to fear or favor.

10. God can easily remove those who are unfaithful to the trust they have





            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.


  • THE SIN OF FLATTERY. Elihu justly repudiates the idea of flattering

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



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


even while he enjoys the favour of his earthly patron.




                        The Appearance of Elihu and the Motives of His Address

                                                            (ch. 32:1-33:7)


·         HIS CHARACTER INDICATED. (vs. 1-6.) In a few touches the temper and

spirit of this new speaker are set before us.


Ø      His warm piety, which could not tolerate the confidence and the self-

justifying spirit of Job. His sense of the greatness of God and His

holiness is so profound that he cannot endure what seems to be the

bold and haughty attitude of the creature. His feeling seems to be,

“Let God be true, and every man a liar!”  (Romans 3:4)


Ø      His spirit of justice, which was indignant at the unfairness of the friends,

who held Job guilty, and condemned him without being able to give an

answer to his plea. These are two grand elements in a noble character.

Without zeal for God and His righteousness, our sympathy for the

suffering may degenerate into a sickly and immoral sentimentalism.

But without feeling for the wrongs of the oppressed, without the passion

for justice, our zeal for God will become an unholy and pernicious fire.

This last has been the cause of many of those terrible persecutions which

have defaced the history of the world. Let us beware in our spirit and

temper of these extremes-and avoid either dishonoring God through a

weak pity for mere suffering, or being cruel to men through a zeal for God.

Zeal is a good servant, but a bad master; the spring of heroic deeds or of

dreadful crimes.


Ø      His modesty and respect, shown by his keeping silence in the presence

of his elders, so long as they might desire to speak. As the shade to a

figure in a picture, so does modesty impart a strength and beauty to the

character; it adds to virtue the charm that chastity adds to beauty. But

there is a limit to every grace; and modesty becomes a weakness if it

leads a man to withhold truth from the world, or to keep his mouth

shut when the “word in season” ought to be spoken.           



His modest sense of his own youth and his respect for their age held him

back in the presence of his seniors. But, on the other hand, conscience and

the inspiration of God’s truth within him impelled him to speak. This little

fragment is very instructive, and yields several important lessons. There is a

lesson of prudence and tact. The speaker should ever seek to gain the good

will of his audience, by laying aside every appearance of assumption or

conceit, by testimonies of graceful respect for his audience. Especially

should this rule be kept in mind by those who have the most important

truths to deliver. Before sowing the seed let the ill weeds be rooted out,

and the soil be well broken up. We must try to soften the minds of our

hearers as a preparative for impressing them. Augustine says, “He who

strives to persuade others to goodness should neglect none of these three

things: to please, to teach, to sway their minds; thus he will be heard

gladly, intelligently, obediently.” But higher than these is the lesson of

conscientiousness — attention to the voice within. The Spirit of God finds

its truest echo in the conscience. All distinctions of persons and of age fade

away in presence of this supreme truth. For wisdom depends not on age,

but on THE DIVINE ILLUMINATION!   Well for us if we can forget in

whose presence we are speaking, whether younger or elder, richer or poorer,

wiser or more unlearned, because absorbed like Elihu in the sense of God’s

truth and the desire for His glory. “Let no man despise thy youth”

(1 Timothy 4:12). If young men have a sound knowledge of Divine things,

the elder need not be ashamed to listen and learn from them.


·         THE JUSTIFICATION OF ELIHU’S INTERFERENCE. (Vers. 11- 22.) In this

passage his character and spirit are further unfolded in points that are worthy

of admiration and imitation.


Ø      His love of reason: He waited expectantly to hear some satisfactory

reply from the friends to Job’s clear arguments and statements in self-

vindication.  He expected either that they would confute him, or that they

would candidly admit they were worsted in the strife. “We found wisdom

(in Job); God can strike him, not man.” His wisdom is so superior to ours

that God only can drive him from the field (v. 13). This is a lesson on the

morals of controversy. Meet your antagonist with reason for reason; and,

when you can do so no longer, be willing to own yourself beaten.

Reasonableness and candor, the desire to persuade others or to be

persuaded one’s self of the truth, — this is the chivalry of controversy;

these are the jewels that shine amidst the cloud of words; the precious

balsam-drops that these woeful wars distil. A sullen conspiracy of silence

is the retreat and fortress of the dishonorable and the coward.


Ø      His depth of heart. Elihu is not convinced by Job; his mind teems with

matter of deep and living truth. His is no shallow logic of the schools,

which falls powerless upon the true heart armed with the justice of its

cause. His is no fool’s bolt, soon shot, and leaving him in helplessness.

His bosom is like a skin of new wine; he is bursting to tell forth all that

experience and reflection have taught him concerning the truths of life.

“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

Let us harvest the instruction of time, lay up a good store of heart-

memories, that we may ever have a good and useful word to speak

in season. Let us take care of those strong impulses that they are true

and pure before we speak; but never hesitate to speak when we are

conscious that God is inspiring us. To be led by the Spirit, we must

walk in the Spirit.


Ø      His fearless sincerity. He has no respect of persons when truth is

concerned, reverential as he otherwise is in the presence of his elders. He

will not flatter; he does not understand the base art. The fear of God is

before his eyes. “Flatterers are the worst kind of traitors,” says Sir Walter

Raleigh. He who is true to God and to himself will never distil this

poison from his tongue. In Elihu, then, we have the picture of what a

man should be, of what we all should desire in a friend — fairness,

honor, candor; sympathy and affection based upon the only sure

foundation, love of truth, piety toward God.



(ch. 33:1-7.)   Here we see the following traits:


Ø      Intense earnestness. (vs. 1-2.) For these opening words, which might

seem to our Western ears like a “beating about the bush,” are in fact

Oriental phrases by which the speaker calls the most solemn attention to,

and lays the greatest weight upon, what he is about to speak. Such

opening formulae may be found in Matthew 5:2; Acts 10:34;

II Corinthians 6:11. Let it be clear in one way or another to those who

listen that we mean what we say, that we are not talking to fill up time,

or using words to conceal the void of thought.


Ø      Perfect sincerity. (v. 3.) His sayings are the straightforward utterances

of his heart, very different from the stale and secondhand commonplaces

of the three friends. True eloquence, like the substance of every virtue

and every art, is in the heart. The bullet finds its way to the mark,

according to the old legend, that has been first dipped in the marksman’s

blood. Words that come from the heart will reach to the heart.


Ø      The sense of dependence upon God (v. 4), for all light and wisdom,

which, while it makes a man humble, makes him truly confident and

strong. God’s Spirit has made him. He appeals to no special inspiration,

however, but simply to that genuine human wisdom, that common sense

which he recognizes to be A DIVINE ENDOWMENT!   It is a mark of

true piety to own the presence of the Divine Spirit in all the ordinary

as well as the extraordinary gifts of intelligence. It is this that chastens,

sweetens, and sanctifies the use of every bright talent of the mind and



Ø      Fellow-feeling. (vs. 6=7.) He does not pretend to stand nearer to God

than the fellow-man he has arisen to comfort and instruct. He is made of

the same clay, molded by the hand of the Divine Potter. Therefore Job

has not to fear an unequal struggle with Elihu as he has with God.

Would that all teachers would remember this! The artificial distinctions

of life, as prince or peasant, lettered or unlettered, mean but little; those

of talent, character, and attainment have a certain value; but the common

constitution God has given us is the great ground of appeal, the great

source of authority. Those are the best teachers who most deeply read

and interpret this common nature; and every truth must at last be certified,

not by the ipse dixit (a dogmatic and unproven statement. of a

dogmatizing teache, but by the utterance of the universal heart

and conscience.


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