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Bible Commentaries
Job 32

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

So these three men ceased to answer Job - Each had had three opportunities of replying to him, though in the last series of the controversy Zophar had been silent. Now all were silent; and though they do not appear in the least to have been convinced, or to have changed their opinion, yet they found no arguments with which to sustain their views. It was this, among other things, which induced Elihu to take up the subject.

Because he was righteous in his own eyes - Umbreit expresses the sense of this by adding, “and they could not convince him of his unrighteousness.” It was not merely because he was righteous in his own estimation, that they ceased to answer him; it was because their arguments had no effect in convincing him, and they had nothing new to say. He seemed to be obstinately bent on maintaining his own good opinion of himself in spite of all their reasoning, and they sat down in silence.

Verse 2

Then was kindled the wrath - Wrath or anger is commonly represented as kindled, or as burning.

Of Elihu - The name Elihu (אליהוא 'ĕlı̂yhû') means, “God is he;” or, since the word He (הוא hû') is often used by way of eminence to denote the true God or Yahweh, the name is equivalent to saying, “God is my God,” or “my God is Yahweh.” On what account this name was given to him, is now unknown. The names which were anciently given, however, were commonly significant, and it was not unusual to incorporate the name of God in those given to human beings. See the notes at Isaiah 1:1. This name was probably given as an expression of piety on the part of his parents.

The son of Barachel - The name Barachel ברכאל bârak'êl means “God blesses,” and was also probably given as expressive of the piety of his parents, and as furnishing in the name itself a valuable motto which the child would remember. Nothing more is known of him than the name; and the only propriety of remarking on the philology of the names arises from the fact that they seem to indicate the existence of piety, or of the knowledge of God, on the part of the ancestors of Elihu.

The Buzite - Buz was the second son of Nahor, the brother of Abraham, Genesis 22:20-21. A city of the name Buz is mentioned in Jeremiah 25:23, in connection with Dedan and Tema, cities of Arabia, and it is probable that Barachel, the father of Elihu, was of that city. If this name was given to the place after the son of Nahor, it will follow that Elihu, and consequently Job, must have lived after the time of Abraham.

Of the kindred of Ram - Of Ram nothing is certainly known. The Chaldee renders this גניסת מן אברחם, of the race of Abraham. Some have supposed that the Ram mentioned here is the same as the ancestor of David mentioned in Ruth 4:19, and in the genealogical table in Matthew 1:3-4, under the name of Aram. Others suppose that he was of the family of Nahor, and that the name is the same as ארם 'ărâm mentioned in Genesis 22:21. Thus, by aphaeresis the Syrians are called רמים rammı̂ym, 2 Chronicles 22:5, instead of ארמים 'ărammı̂ym, as they are usually denominated; compare 2 Kings 8:29. But nothing certain is known of him who is mentioned here. It is worthy of observation that the author of the book of Job has given the genealogy of Elihu with much greater particularity than he has that of either Job or his three friends. Indeed, he has not attempted to trace their genealogy at all. Of Job he does not even mention the name of his father; of his three friends he mentions merely the place where they dwelt. Rosenmuller infers, from this circumstance, that Elihu is himself the author of the book, since, says he, it is the custom of the Turks and Persians, in their poems, to weave in, near the end of the poem, the name of the author in an artificial manner. The same view is taken by Lightfoot, Chronica temporum et ord. Text. V. T. A circumstance of this kind, however, is too slight an argument to determine the question of the authorship of the book. It may have been that Elihu was less known than either of the other speakers, and hence, there was a propriety in mentioning more particularly his family. Indeed, this fact is morally certain, for he is not mentioned, as the others are, as the “friend” of Job.

Because he justified himself - Margin, his soul. So the Hebrew; the word נפשׁ nephesh, soul, being often used to denote oneself.

Rather than God - Prof. Lee renders this, “justified himself with God;” and so also Umbreit, Good, and some others. And so the Vulgate renders it: - coram Deo. The Septuagint renders it, ἐναντίον κυρίου enantion kuriou - against the Lord; that is, rather than the Lord. The proper translation of the Hebrew (מאלהים mē'ĕlôhı̂ym) is undoubtedly more than God: and this was doubtless the idea which Elihu intended to convey. He understood Job as vindicating himself rather than God; as being more willing that aspersions should be cast on the character and government of God, than to confess his own sin.

Verse 3

Because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job - They held Job to be guilty, and yet they were unable to adduce the proof of it, and to reply to what he had said. They still maintained their opinion, though silenced in the argument. They were in that state of mind, not uncommon, in which they obstinately held on to an opinion which they could not vindicate, and believed another to be guilty, though they could not prove it.

Verse 4

Now Elihu had waited - Margin, as in Hebrew, expected Job in words. The meaning is plain, that he had waited until all who were older than himself had spoken.

Because they were elder than he - Margin, as in Hebrew, older for days. It appears that they were all older than he was. We have no means of determining their respective ages, though it would seem probable that Eliphaz was the oldest of the three friends, as he uniformly spoke first.

Verse 6

And Elihu - “said, I am young” Margin, few of days. The Hebrew is, “I am small (צעיר tsâ‛ı̂yr) of days;” that is, I am inexperienced. We have no means of ascertaining his exact age, though it is evident that there was a considerable disparity between them and him.

And ye are very old - ישׁישׁים yâshı̂yshiym. The word used here is probably derived from the obsolete root שוש, “to be white, hoary”; and hence, to be hoary-headed, or aged; compare 2 Chronicles 36:17. The whole of the discourses of the friends of Job seem to imply that they were aged men. They laid claim to great experience, and professed to have had opportunities of long observation, and it is probable that they were regarded as sages, who, by the long observation of events, had acquired the reputation of great wisdom.

Wherefore I was afraid - He was timid, bashful, diffident.

And durst not show you mine opinion - Margin, feared. He had that diffidence to which modesty prompts in the presence of the aged. He had formed his opinion as the argument proceeded, but he did not deem it proper that one so young should interfere, even when he thought he perceived that others were wrong.

Verse 7

I said, Days should speak - The aged ought to speak. They have had the advantage of long observation of the course of events; they are acquainted with the sentiments of past times; they may have had an opportunity of conversing with distinguished sages, and it is to them that we look up for counsel. This was eminently in accordance with the ancient Oriental views of what is right; and it is a sentiment which accords with what is obviously proper, however little it is regarded in modern times. It is one of the marks of urbanity and true politeness; of the prevalence of good breeding, morals, and piety, and of an advanced state of society, when respect is shown to the sentiments of the aged. They have had the opportunity of long observation. They have conversed much with people. They have seen the results of certain courses of conduct, and they have arrived at a period of life when they can look at the reality of things, and are uninfluenced now by passion. Returning respect for the sentiments of the aged, attention to their counsels, veneration for their persons, and deference for them when they speak, would be an indication of advancement in society in modern times; and there is scarcely anything in which we have deteriorated from the simplicity of the early ages, or in which we fall behind the Oriental world, so much as in the lack of this.

Verse 8

But there is a spirit in man - This evidently refers to a spirit imparted from above; a spirit from the Almighty. The parallelism seems to require this, for it responds to the phrase “the inspiration of the Almighty” in the other hemistich. The Hebrew expression here also seems to require this interpretation. It is, הוא רוח rûach hû', the Spirit itself; meaning the very Spirit that gives wisdom, or the Spirit of inspiration. He had said, in the previous verse, that it was reasonable to expect to find wisdom among the aged and the experienced. But in this he had been disappointed. He now finds that wisdom is not the attribute of rank or station, but that it is the gift of God, and therefore it may be found in a youth. All true wisdom, is the sentiment, is from above; and where the inspiration of the Almighty is, no matter whether with the aged or the young, there is understanding. Elihu undoubtedly means to say, that though he was much younger than they were, and though, according to the common estimate in which the aged and the young were held, he might be supposed to have much less acquaintance with the subjects under consideration, yet, as all true wisdom came from above, he might be qualified to speak. The word “spirit” here, therefore, refers to the spirit which God gives; and the passage is a proof that it was an early opinion that certain men were under the teachings of divine inspiration. The Chaldee renders it נבואתא רוח, a spirit of prophecy.

And the inspiration of the Almighty - The breathing” of the Almighty - שׁדי נשׁמה neshâmâh Shadday. The idea was, that God breathed this into man, and that this wisdom was the breath of God; compare Genesis 2:7; John 20:22. Septuagint, πνοή pnoē, breath, breathing.

Verse 9

Great men are not always wise - Though wisdom may in general be looked for in them, yet it is not universally true. Great men here denote those who are distinguished for rank, age, authority.

Neither do the aged understand judgment - That is, they do not always understand it. The word judgment here means right, truth. They do not always understand what is the exact truth in regard to the divine administration. This is an apology for what he was about to say, and for the fact that one so young should speak. Of the truth of what he here said there could be no doubt, and hence, there was a propriety that one who was young should also be allowed to express his opinion on important subjects.

Verse 11

I gave ear to your reasons - Margin, “understandings.” The meaning is, that he had given the most respectful attention to the views which they had expressed, implying that he had been all along present, and had listened to the debate.

Whilst ye searched out what to say - Margin, as in Hebrew, words. It is implied here that they had bestowed much attention on what they had said. They had carefully sought out all the arguments at their command to confute Job, and still had been unsuccessful.

Verse 12

There was none of you that convinced Job - There was no one to produce conviction on his mind, or rather, there was no one to reprove him by answering him - ענה מוכיח môkiyach ‛ânâh. They were completely silenced: and had nothing to reply to the arguments which he had advanced, and to his reflections on the divine government.

Verse 13

Lest ye should say, We have found out wisdom - That is, this has been permitted and ordered in such a manner that it might be manifest that the truths which are to convince him come from God and not from man. You were not permitted to refute or convince him, for if you had been you would have been lifted up with pride, and would have attributed to yourselves what belongs to God. This is in accordance with the entire drift of the book, which is to introduce the Almighty himself to settle the controversy when human wisdom failed. They could not arrogate to themselves the claim that they had found out wisdom. They had been completely silenced by Job; they had no power to drive him from his positions; they could not explain the divine dealings so as to settle the great inquiry in which they had been engaged. Elihu proposes to do it, and to do it in such a way as to show that it could be accomplished only by that wisdom which is from above.

God thrusteth him down, not man - These are the words of Elihu. The meaning is, “God only can drive Job from his position, and show him the truth, and humble him. The wisdom of man fails. The aged, the experienced, and the wise have been unable to meet his arguments and bring him down from the positions which he has taken. That work can be done only by God himself, or by the wisdom which he only can give.” Accordingly Elihu, who proposes to meet the arguments of Job, makes no appeal to experience or observation; he does not ground what he says on the maxims of sages or the results of reflection, but proposes to adduce the precepts of wisdom which God had imparted to him; Job 33:4, Job 33:6. Other interpretations have, however, been given of this verse, but the above seems to me the most simple, and most in accordance with the scope of the passage.

Verse 14

Now, he hath not directed his words against me - Margin, “ordered.” The meaning of this expression is, “I can approach this subject in a wholly dispassionate and unprejudiced manner. I have had none of the provocations which you have felt; his harsh and severe remarks have not fallen on me as they have on you, and I can come to the subject with the utmost coolness.” The object is to show that he was not irritated, and that he would be under no temptation to use words from the influence of passion or any other than those which conveyed the simple truth. He seems disposed to admit that Job had given some occasion for severe remarks, by the manner in which be had treated his friends.

Neither will I answer him with your speeches - They also had been wrong. They had given way to passion, and had indulged in severity of language, rather than pursued a simple and calm course of argument. From all this, Eliha says he was free, and could approach the subject in the most calm and dispassionate manner. He had had no temptation to indulge in severity of language like theirs, and he would not do it.

Verse 15

They were amazed - There also are the words of Elihu, and are designed to express his astonishment that the three friends of Job did not answer him. He says that they were completely silenced, and he repeats this to call attention to the remarkable fact that men who began so confidently, and who still held on to their opinion, had not one word more to say. There is some reason to suppose, from the change of person here from the second to the third, that Elihu turned from them to those who were present, and called their attention to the fact that the friends of Job were completely silenced. This supposition, however, is not absolutely necessary, for it is not uncommon in Hebrew poetry to change from the second person to the third, especially where there is any censure or rebuke implied; compare Job 18:4.

They left off speaking - Margin, “removed speeches from themselves.” The marginal reading accords with the Hebrew. The sense is the same as in the common version, though the Hebrew is more poetic. It is not merely that they ceased to speak, but that they put words at a great distance from them. They could say absolutely nothing. This fact, that they were wholly silent, furnished an ample apology for Elihu to take up the subject.

Verse 17

I also will show mine opinion - In this language, as in Job 32:6, there is a delicate expression of modesty in the Hebrew which does not appear in our translation. It is אף־אני 'aph 'ănı̂y - even I. “Even one so young, and so humble as I, may be permitted to express my sentiments, when the aged and the great have nothing more to say. It will be no improper intrusion for even me to speak when no other one more aged and honorable desires to.” In all this we may discern a degree of courtesy, and a delicate sense of propriety, which may be commended to the imitation of all, and especially to the young. In the manners of the pious men whose biography is recorded in the Bible, there is a degree of refinement, delicacy, and courtesy, in their treatment of others, such as will seldom be found even in the most elevated walks of life, and such as religion only can produce. The outward form may be obtained by the world; the living principle is found only in the heart which is imbued with love to God and man.

Verse 18

For I am full of matter - Margin, as in Hebrew words.” The three friends of Job had been silenced. They had not one word more to say. Elihu says that the reverse was true of him. He was full of words, and felt constrained to speak. It was not because he forced himself to do it, nor because he did it as a mere matter of duty, but he was so impressed with the subject that it would be a relief for him to give utterance to his views.

The spirit within me - Referring, probably, to the conviction that it was the divine Spirit which urged him to speak; see the notes at Job 32:8; compare Job 33:4. A similar constraint in regard to the necessity of speaking, when under the influence of the Holy Spirit, is expressed in Jeremiah 20:9, “His word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay;” compare Introduction to Isaiah, Section 7. The phrase “within me” is in the margin, as in Hebrew my belly - where the belly is spoken of as the seat of the mind; see Job 15:2. We speak of the head as the seat of the intellect, and the heart as the seat of the affections. The Hebrews were much in the habit of representing the region of the heart as the seat of all mental operations.

Verse 19

Behold, my belly is as wine which hath no vent - Margin, as in Hebrew, “is not opened” - לאיפתח lo' yipâthach. The repherence is to a bottle, in which there is no opening, or no vent phor the phermenting wine to work itselph ophph. It is usual to leave a small hole in barrels and casks when wine, cider, or beer is phermenting. This is necessary in order to prevent the cask phrom bursting. Elihu compares himselph to a bottle in which new wine bad been put, and where there was no vent phor it, and when in consequence it was ready to burst. That new wine is here intended is apparent phrom the connection, and has been so understood by the ancient versions. So Jerome renders it, Mustum, must, or new wine. The Septuagint, ἀσκὸς γλεύκους ζέων δεδέυενος askos gleukous zeōn dedemenos - “a bottle filled with sweet wine, fermenting, bound;” that is, which has no vent.

It is ready to burst like new bottles - The Septuagint renders this, “As the torn (ἐῤῥηγώς errēgōs) bellows of a smith.” Why this version was adopted. it is not easy to say. The comparison would be pertinent, but the version could not be made from the present Hebrew text. It is possible that the copy of the Hebrew text which the Septuagint had may have read: הרשים - “artificers,” instead of: הדשים - new, and then the meaning would be, “as the bottles, or skins of artificers;” that is, as their bellows, which were doubtless at first merely the skins of animals. The reference of Elihu, however, is undoubtedly to skins that were used as bottles, and new skins are mentioned here as ready to burst, not because they were more likely to burst than old ones - for that was by no means the case - but because new and unfermented wine would naturally be placed in them, thus endangering them. Bottles in the east, it is well known, are usually made of the skins of goats; see the notes at Matthew 9:17.

The process of manufacturing them at present is this: The skins of the goats are striped off whole except at the neck. The holes at the feet and tail are sewed up. They are first stuffed out full, and strained by driving in small billets and chips of oak wood; and then are filled with a strong infusion of oak bark for a certain time, until the hair becomes fixed, and the skin sufficiently tanned. They are sold at different prices, from fifteen up to fifty piastres. Robinson’s Bibli. Research. ii. 440. Elihu, perhaps, could not have found a more striking illustration of his meaning. lie could no longer restrain himself, and he gave utterance, therefore, to the views which he deemed so important. The word “belly” in this verse (בטן beṭen) is rendered by Umbreit and Noyes, bosom. It not improbably has this meaning and the reference is to the fact that in the East the words are uttered forth much more ab imo pectore, or are much more guttural than with us. The voice seems to come from the lower part of the throat, or from the bosom, in a manner which the people of Western nations find it difficult to imitate.

Verse 20

I will speak, that I may be refreshed - Margin, “breathe.” The meaning is, that he would then have room to breathe again; he would feel relieved.

Verse 21

Let me not, I pray you - This is not to be regarded as an address to them, or a prayer to God, but as an expression of his determination. It is similar to the phrase which we use when we say, “may I never do this;” implying the strongest possible purpose not to do it. Elihu means to say that on no account would he use partiality or flattery in what he said.

Accept any man’s person - Treat any with partiality. That is, “I will not be influenced by rank, age, wealth, or personal friendship, in what I say. I will state the truth impartially, and will deliver my sentiments with entire freedom;” see the phrase explained in the notes at Job 13:8.

Neither let me give flattering titles unto man - The word used here (כנה kânâh - not used in the Qal, but found only in the Piel), means to address in a friendly and soothing manner; to speak kindly to anyone, Isaiah 44:5; Isaiah 45:4; and then to flatter. That is, undoubtedly, its meaning here. Elihu says he did not know how to flatter anyone. He meant to state the exact truth; to treat each one impartially; and not to be influenced by the rank or wealth of those whom he addressed. He meant to deal in plain and simple truth.

Verse 22

For I know not to give flattering titles - I do not know how to flatter. It is not in my character; it has not been my habit. “In so doing.” These words are not in the Hebrew, and they greatly mar the sense, and give a different idea from that which was intended by the speaker.

My Maker would soon take me away - Or, rather, “My Maker will soon take me away.” That is, “I know that I must soon be removed, and must stand before my Maker. I must give an account for all that I say. Knowing that I am to go to the realities of another state of being, I cannot flatter people. I must tell them the exact and simple truth.” There could be no better preventive of flattery than this. The conviction that we are soon to appear before God, where all are on a level, and where every mask will be stripped off, and everything appear as it is, would prevent us from ascribing to others qualities which we know they do not possess, and from giving them titles which will only exalt them in their own estimation, and hide the truth from their minds. Titles which properly belong to men, and which pertain to office, religion does not forbid us to confer - for the welfare of the community is promoted by a proper respect for the names and offices of those who rule. But no good end is answered in ascribing to men titles as mere matters of distinction, which serve to keep before them the idea of their own talents or importance; or which lead them to forget that they like others are soon to be “taken away,” and called to give up their account in another world. The deep conviction that we are all soon to try the realities of a bed of death and of the grave, and that we are to go to a world where there is no delusion, and where the ascription of qualities to us here which do not belong to us will be of no avail, would prompt to a wish to state always the simple truth. Under that conviction, we should never so ascribe to another any quality of beauty, strength, or talent, any name or title, as to leave him for one moment under a deception about himself. If this rule were followed, what a change would it produce in the social, the political, the literary, and even the religious world!

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Job 32". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/job-32.html. 1870.
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