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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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JOB 33

A CONTINUATION OF THE SPEECH OF ELIHU

This chapter does nothing to improve our low estimate of the quality of Elihu's long tirade. He is patronizing, referring to Job by name, as though addressing an intimate or an inferior, something that Job's three friends had refrained from doing throughout the whole book. His talk is loaded with repetitions; and "He protests too much about his sincerity (Job 33:2f)."F1 Furthermore, he is not perfectly fair with Job. Job had never claimed absolute perfection, admitting minor transgressions and mistakes; but he insisted that he had committed no violent crimes or immoralities that could have been the basis of divine punishment. Also, Job had not accused God of malice or injustice. Of course, he had complained bitterly that things that happened to him were undeserved and unjust; but his mention of such things as coming from God should always be understood as meaning, merely, that God had allowed them to happen. Job might not always have made that distinction clear in his words to his friends. As Andersen noted, "Job had never accused God of dishonesty or injustice; although his words might have seemed to Job's friends that he had indeed done so."F2 The Bible, however, makes it clear that Job had never spoken anything about God that was not right (Job 42:7).

ELIHU DEMANDS THAT JOB HEARKEN TO HIM

Job 33:1-7

Howbeit, Job, I pray thee, hear my speech,

And hearken to all my words.

Behold now, I have opened my mouth;

My tongue hath spoken in my mouth.

My words shall utter the uprightness of my heart;

And that which my lips know they shall speak sincerely.

The Spirit of God hath made me,

And the breath of the Almighty giveth me life.

If thou canst, answer thou me;

Set thy words in order before me, stand forth.

Behold, I am toward God even as thou art:

I also am formed out of the clay.

Behold, my terror shall not make thee afraid,

Neither shall my pressure be heavy upon thee."


 
Verses 1-7
Howbeit, Job, I pray thee, hear my speech, And hearken to all my words. Behold now, I have opened my mouth; My tongue hath spoken in my mouth. My words [shall utter] the uprightness of my heart; And that which my lips know they shall speak sincerely. The Spirit of God hath made me, And the breath of the Almighty giveth me life. If thou canst, answer thou me; Set [thy words] in order before me, stand forth. Behold, I am toward God even as thou art: I also am formed out of the clay. Behold, my terror shall not make thee afraid, Neither shall my pressure be heavy upon thee.
(Job 33:1-3). What a pompous and bombastic line this is! What does it mean? Watch him! This bloke is going to say something!

The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty giveth me life
(Job 33:4). Elihu apparently means to suggest that he has the charismatic gift of divine wisdom which was deficient in his elders who were not able to confute Job successfully.F3

Answer thou me. stand forth
(Job 33:5). The weakness of such demands appears in the fact that, to this point in Elihu's speech, he had not said anything that demanded an answer.

My terror shall not make thee afraid
(Job 33:7). Elihu here alludes to Job's charges that God intimidates him (Job 9:34; 13:21); and he here assures Job that this charge cannot be made in the present situation, since Job's opponent here is a mere mortal.F4

ELIHU'S FALSE INTERPRETATION OF JOB'S COMPLAINT Surely thou hast spoken in my hearing,

And I have heard the voice of thy words, saying,

I am clean, without transgression;

I am innocent, neither is there iniquity in me.

Behold, he findeth occasions against me,

He counteth me for his enemy;

He putteth my feet in the stocks,

He marketh all my paths.

Behold, I will answer thee, in this thou art not just;

For God is greater than man."

"In this, Elihu had not grasped the essential point, as Job had expressed it; therefore it was easy for him to give his answer, `Job, you are wrong' (Job 33:12)."F5


 
Verses 8-12
Surely thou hast spoken in my hearing, And I have heard the voice of [thy] words, [saying], I am clean, without transgression; I am innocent, neither is there iniquity in me: Behold, he findeth occasions against me, He counteth me for his enemy: He putteth my feet in the stocks, He marketh all my paths. Behold, I will answer thee, in this thou art not just; For God is greater than man.
(Job 33:12). Several versions (the New English Bible, the Easy-to-Read Version, the Good News Bible, etc.) render Elihu's words here as, Job, you are wrong. It should be noted that the mere fact of God's being greater than man does not necessarily prove that any man is either right or wrong. This reminds us of many other things Elihu said.

ELIHU THINKS GOD IS CHASTENING JOB

Why dost thou strive against him,

For that he giveth not account of any of his matters?

For God speaketh once,

Yea twice, though man regardeth it not.

In a dream, in a vision of the night,

When deep sleep falleth upon men,

In slumberings upon the bed;

Then he openeth the ears of men.

And sealeth their instruction,

That he may withdraw man from his purpose,

And hide pride from men;

He keepeth back his soul from the pit,

And his life from perishing by the sword.

He is chastened also with pain upon his bed,

And with continual strife in his bones;

So that his life abhorreth bread,

And his soul dainty food.

His flesh is consumed away that it cannot be seen;

And his bones that were not seen stick out.

Yea, his soul draweth near unto the pit,

And his life to the destroyers."

The only original thing we have been able to find in Elihu's words is the viewpoint expressed in this paragraph that God's purpose in punishing Job was designed for Job's benefit, a divine chastening, to prevent his utter ruin. The New Testament doctrine of chastening (Hebrews 12:5-13) is indeed the explanation of some sufferings of God's people; but in the light of the prologue, Elihu was not correct in this explanation of Job's sorrows.

Job had challenged God to "show me" (Job 10:2) or "Give me an answer." Elihu is here saying that, "God has been speaking to you all the time, and you are not listening: He has been speaking in dreams (Job 33:15) (Job had mentioned such things as nightmares) and in severe judgments against you" (Job 33:19-22). God's purpose in this, according to Elihu, was stated in Job 33:17.


 
Verses 13-22
Why dost thou strive against him, For that he giveth not account of any of his matters? For God speaketh once, Yea twice, [though man] regardeth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, When deep sleep falleth upon men, In slumberings upon the bed; Then he openeth the ears of men, And sealeth their instruction, That he may withdraw man [from his] purpose, And hide pride from man; He keepeth back his soul from the pit, And his life from perishing by the sword. He is chastened also with pain upon his bed, And with continual strife in his bones; So that his life abhorreth bread, And his soul dainty food. His flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen; And his bones that were not seen stick out. Yea, his soul draweth near unto the pit, And his life to the destroyers.
(Job 33:17). The impact of these words upon Job was this: All of the terrible things that have happened unto you are merely God's way of trying to get you to withdraw from those evil purposes you have in your heart. And hide pride from man (Job 33:17). Elihu perhaps thinks that Job is unduly proud of his integrity.F6 It would be difficult to imagine any words that could have been spoken which might have been any more distasteful or repulsive to Job than these things that Elihu was saying here.

He is chastened also with pain upon his bed
(Job 33:19). From here to the end of the chapter, Elihu describes how God speaks to men in the judgments sent upon them; and, of course, he vividly describes the very things that have happened to Job! God's message for Job in all this suffering, according to Elihu, is Repent! --- exactly the same message the three friends had been pounding into Job's ears.

ELIHU'S PROMISE OF RESTORATION TO JOB IF HE REPENTS

If there be with him an angel,

An interpreter, one among a thousand,

To show unto man what is right for him;

Then God is gracious unto him, and saith,

Deliver him from going down to the pit,

I have found a ransom.

His flesh shall be fresher than a child's;

He returneth to the days of his youth.

He prayeth unto God, and he is favorable unto him,

So that he seeth his face with joy:

And he restoreth unto man his righteousness.

He singeth before men, and saith,

I have sinned, and perverted that which was right,

And it profited me not:

He hath redeemed my soul from going into the pit,

And my life shall behold the light."

All the wonderful things which Elihu here promised to Job were, of course, contingent upon Job's confession of his wickedness (Job 33:27).


 
Verses 23-28
If there be with him an angel, An interpreter, one among a thousand, To show unto man what is right for him; Then [God] is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom. His flesh shall be fresher than a child's; He returneth to the days of his youth. He prayeth unto God, and he is favorable unto him, So that he seeth his face with joy: And he restoreth unto man his righteousness. He singeth before men, and saith, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, And it profited me not: He hath redeemed my soul from going into the pit, And my life shall behold the light.
(Job 33:23). Van Selms' paraphrase of what Elihu is saying here catches the unqualified egotism in it. Happy is the man to whom a messenger from God appears, as I have come to you, to make God's intentions for you clear and intelligible. There are not many who can do that, at best one in a thousand.F7

I have found a ransom
(Job 33:24). Elihu appears in this affirmation to mean that his prayers on Job's behalf, along with Job's confession of sins, will constitute an acceptable ransom in God's sight. When all this happens, namely, Job's confession and Elihu's prayers on his behalf, then humility and submissiveness on Job's part shall have been achieved. This submissiveness is the ransom to be paid, and the ransom has been found; Job can then return to health and be strong again.F8 In the extent that Job might have been tempted to believe this, we may find the high-water mark of Satan's campaign to force Job to renounce his integrity.

So that he seeth his face with joy
(Job 33:26). The metaphor here was that of `ministers of the face,' who were privileged to look the king in the face, the same being the highest ranking members of the king's court. Jesus used this same metaphor when he said of little children that, Their angels do always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven (Matthew 18:10). Elihu is here promising Job the most extravagant blessings if he repents and submits.

IF THOU HAST ANYTHING TO SAY, ANSWER ME!

Lo, all these things doth God work,

Twice, yea thrice, with a man,

To bring back his soul from the pit,

That he may be enlightened with the light of the living.

Mark well, O Job, hearken unto me:

Hold thy peace, and I will speak.

If thou hast anything to say, answer me:

Speak, for I desire to justify thee.

If not, hearken thou unto me:

Hold thy peace, and I will teach thee wisdom."

Job responded to Elihu's challenge in exactly the proper manner, ignoring it completely. Job was fully conscious of his absolute integrity before God; and nothing that Elihu had said or would say later moved Job in even the slightest degree from that confidence.


Footnotes for Job 33
1: Tyndale Old Testament Commentary, Vol. 13, p. 248.
2: Ibid.
3: The Anchor Bible, Job, p. 216.
4: Ibid.
5: Tyndale Old Testament Commentary, op. cit., p. 249.
6: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 7d, p. 536.
7: Van Selms, p. 125.
8: Ibid.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Job 33". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=job&chapter=033>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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