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Bible Commentaries
Job 32

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament CommentaryKeil & Delitzsch


Fourth Part - The Unravelment - Job 32-42

The Speeches of Elihu which Prepare the Way for the Unravelment - Job 32-37

Historical Introduction to the Section - Job 32:1-6

A short introduction in historical prose, which introduces the speaker and justifies his appearance, opens the section. It is not, like the prologue and epilogue, accented as prose; but, like the introductions to the speeches and the clause, Job 31:40 extra, is taken up in the network of the poetical mode of accentuation, because a change of the mode of accentuation in the middle of the book, and especially in a piece of such small compass, appeared awkward. The opposition of the three has exhausted itself, so that in that respect Job seems to have come forth out the controversy as conqueror.

Verses 1-3

1-3 So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. And the wrath of Elihu, the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, was kindled: against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself at the expense of God. And against his three friends was his wrath kindled, because they found no answer, and condemned Job.

The name of the speaker is אליהוּא (with Mahpach), son of בּרכאל (with Munach) the buwziy (with Zarka). The name Elihu signifies “my God is He,” and occurs also as an Israelitish name, although it is not specifically Israelitish, like Elijah (my God is Jehovah). Bârach'el (for which the mode of writing בּרכאל with Dag. implic. is also found) signifies “may God bless!” (Olsh. §277, S. 618); for proper names, as the Arabian grammarians observe, can be formed both into the form of assertory clauses ( ichbâr ), and also into the form of modal ( inshâ ); the name ברכאל is in this respect distinguished from the specifically Israelitish name בּרכיה (Jehovah blesseth). The accompanying national name defines the scene; for on the one side בּוּז and עוּץ , according to Genesis 22:21, are the sons of Nahor, Abraham's brother, who removed with him (though not at the same time) from Ur Casdim to Haran, therefore by family Aramaeans; on the other side, בּוּז , Jeremiah 25:23, appears as an Arab race, belonging to the קצוּצי פאה (comp. Jeremiah 9:25; Jeremiah 49:32), i.e., to the Arabs proper, who cut the hair of their heads short all round ( περιτρόχαλα , Herodotus iii. 8), because wearing it long was accounted as disgraceful (vid., Tebrâzi in the Hamâsa, p. 459, l. 10ff.). Within the Buzite race, Elihu sprang from the family of רם . Since רם is the name of the family, not the race, it cannot be equivalent to ארם (like רמּים , 2 Chronicles 22:5, = ארמים ), and it is therefore useless to derive the Aramaic colouring of Elihu's speeches from design on the part of the poet. But by making him a Buzite, he certainly appears to make him an Aramaean Arab, as Aristeas in Euseb. praep. ix. 25 calls him Ἐλιοῦν τὸν Βαραξηιὴλ τὸν Ζωβίτην (from ארם צובה ). It is remarkable that Elihu's origin is given so exactly, while the three are described only according to their country, without any statement of father or family. It would indeed be possible, as Lightfoot and Rosenm. suppose, for the poet to conceal his own name in that of Elihu, or to make allusion to it; but an instance of this later custom of Oriental poets is found nowhere else in Old Testament literature.

The three friends are silenced, because all their attempts to move Job to a penitent confession that his affliction is the punishment of his sins, have rebounded against this fact, that he was righteous in his own eyes, i.e., that he imagined himself righteous; and because they now ( שׁבת of persons, in distinction from חדל , has the secondary notion of involuntariness) know of nothing more to say. Then Elihu's indignation breaks forth in two directions. First, concerning Job, that he justified himself מאלהים , i.e., not a Deo (so that He would be obliged to account him righteous, as Job 4:17), but prae Deo . Elihu rightly does not find it censurable in Job, that as a more commonly self-righteous man he in general does not consider himself a sinner, which the three insinuate of him (Job 15:14; Job 25:4), but that, declaring himself to be righteous, he brings upon God the appearance of injustice, or, as Jehovah also says further on, Job 40:8, that he condemns God in order that he may be able to maintain his own righteousness. Secondly, concerning the three, that they have found no answer by which they might have been able to disarm Job in his maintenance of his own righteousness at the expense of the divine justice, and that in consequence of this they have condemned Job. Hahn translates: so that they should have represented Job as guilty; but that they have not succeeded in stamping the servant of God as a רשׁע , would wrongly excite Elihu's displeasure. And Ewald translates: and that they had nevertheless condemned him (§345, a); but even this was not the real main defect of their opposition. The fut. consec. describes the condemnation as the result of their inability to hit upon the right answer; it was a miserable expedient to which they had recourse. According to the Jewish view, ויּרשׁיעוּ את־איּוב is one of the eighteen תקוני סופרים ( correctiones scribarum ), since it should be וירשׁיעו את־האלהים . But it is not the friends who have been guilty of this sin of הרשׁיע against God, but Job, Job 40:8, to whom Elihu opposes the sentence אל לא־ירשׁיע , Job 34:12. Our judgment of another such tiqqûn , Job 7:20, was more favourable. That Elihu, notwithstanding the inward conviction to the contrary by which he is followed during the course of the controversial dialogue, now speaks for the first time, is explained by what follows.

Verses 4-5

4-6 And Elihu had waited for Job with words, for they were older than he in days. And Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of the three men, then his wrath was kindled. And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite began, and said.

He had waited ( perf. in the sense of the plusquamperf., Ew. §135, a) for Job with words ( בּדברים as elsewhere בּמלּים , בּמלּין ), i.e., until Job should have spoken his last word in the controversial dialogue. Thus he considered it becoming on his part, for they ( המּה , illi , whereas אלּה according to the usage of the language is hi) were older ( seniores ) than he in days ( לימים as Job 32:6, less harsh here, instead of the acc. of closer definition, Job 15:10, comp. Job 11:9). As it now became manifest that the friends made no reply to Job's last speeches for want of the right solution of problem, and therefore also Job had nothing further to say, he believes that he may venture, without any seeming want of courtesy, to give utterance to his long-restrained indignation; and Elihu (with Mahpach) the son of Barach'el ( Mercha) the Buzite (with Rebia parvum) began and spoke ( ויּאמר not with Silluk, but Mercha mahpach., and in fact with Mercha on the accented penult., as Job 3:2, and further).

Verses 6-7

6 b I am young in days, and ye are hoary,

Therefore I stood back and was afraid

To show you my knowledge.

7 I thought: Let age speak,

And the multitude of years teach wisdom.

It becomes manifest even here that the Elihu section has in part a peculiar usage of the language. זחל in the signification of Arab. zḥl , cogn. with Arab. dḥl , דּחל , to frighten back;

(Note: The lexicographers explain the Arab. zḥl by zâla ( זול ), to stand away from, back, to retreat, or tanahha , to step aside; Piel, Hiph., to push any one aside, place anything back; Hithpa., to keep one's self on one side; adj. זחל , זחיל , זחוּל , etc., standing back. Thus the town of Zahla in the plain of the Lebanon takes its name from the fact that it does not stand out in the plain, but is built close at the foot of the mountain in a corner, and consequently retreats. And zuhale (according to the Kamus) is an animal that creeps backwards into its hole, e.g., the scorpion; and hence, improperly, a man who, as we say with a similar figure, never comes out of his hole, always keeps in his hole, i.e., never leaves his dwelling, as zuhal in general signifies a man who retires or keeps far from active life; in connection with which also the planet Saturn is called Zuhal, the retreating one, on account of its great distance from the rest. Slippery (of ground) is זחלוּל , because it draws the foot backwards ( muzhil ) by its smoothness, and thus causes the walker to fall. A further formation is זחלק , to be slippery, and to slip in a slippery place; beside which, זלק , a word of similar meaning, is no longer used in Syria. According to this Arabic primary notion of zḥl , it appears זחלי ארץ , Micah 7:17, is intended to describe the serpents not as creeping upon the earth, but as creeping into the earth (comp. the name of the serpent, achbi' at el - ard , those that hide themselves in the earth); but in Talmud. and Aram. זחל used of animals has the general signification to creep, and of water, to glide (flow gently down). The primary notion, to glide (to slip, creep, flow gently, labi ), is combined both in the derivatives of the root זח and in those of the root זל with the notion of a departing and retreating motion. - Wetzst. and Fl.)

and דּע for דּעת (here and Job 32:10, Job 32:17; Job 36:3; Job 37:16) occurs nowhere else in the Old Testament; על־כּן (comp. לכן , Job 42:3) is used only by Elihu within the book of Job. ימים , days = fulness of days, is equivalent to advanced age, old age with its rich experience. רב with its plural genitive is followed (as כל sa( d usually is) by the predicate in the plur.; it is the attraction already described by מספר , Job 15:10; Job 21:21, Ges. §148, 1.

Verses 8-10

8 Still the spirit, it is in mortal man,

And the breath of the Almighty, that giveth them understanding.

9 Not the great in years are wise,

And the aged do not understand what is right.

10 Therefore I say: O hearken to me,

I will declare my knowledge, even I.

The originally affirmative and then (like אוּלם ) adversative אכן also does not occur elsewhere in the book of Job. In contradiction to biblical psychology, Rosenm. and others take Job 32:8 as antithetical: Certainly there is spirit in man, but ... . The two halves of the verse are, on the contrary, a synonymous (“the spirit, it is in man, viz., that is and acts”) or progressive parallelism) thus according to the accents: ”the spirit, even that which is in man, and ... ”). It is the Spirit of God to which man owes his life as a living being, according to Job 33:4; the spirit of man is the principle of life creatively wrought, and indeed breathed into him, by the Spirit of God; so that with regard to the author it can be just as much God's רוּח or נשׁמה , Job 34:14, as in respect of the possessor: man's רוח or נשׁמה . All man's life, his thinking as well as his bodily life, is effected by this inwrought principle of life which he bears within him, and all true understanding, without being confined to any special age of life, comes solely from this divinely originated and divinely living spirit, so far as he acts according to his divine origin and basis of life. רבּים are here (as the opposite of צעירים , Genesis 25:23) grandes = grandaevi (lxx πολυχρόνιοι ). לא governs both members of the verse, as Job 3:10; Job 28:17; Job 30:24. Understanding or ability to form a judgment is not limited to old age, but only by our allowing the πνεῦμα to rule in us in its connection with the divine. Elihu begs a favourable hearing for that of which he is conscious. דּע , and the Hebr.-Aramaic הוּה , which likewise belong to his favourite words, recur here.

Verses 11-14

11 Behold, I waited upon your words,

Hearkened to your perceptions,

While ye searched out replies.

12 And I attended closely to you,

Yet behold: there was no one who refuted Job,

Who answered his sentences, from you.

13 Lest ye should say: “We found wisdom,

God is able to smite him, not man!”

14 Now he hath not arranged his words against me,

And with your sentences I will not reply to him.

He has waited for their words, viz., that they might give utterance to such words as should tend to refute and silence Job. In what follows, עד still more emphatically than ל refers this aim to that to which Elihu had paid great attention: I hearkened to your understandings, i.e., explanations of the matter, that, or whether, they came forth, (I hearkened) to see if you searched or found out words, i.e., appropriate words. Such abbreviated forms as אזין = אאזין (comp. מזין = מיזין for מעזין , Proverbs 17:4, Ges. §68, rem. 1, if it does not signify nutriens , from זוּן ) we shall frequently meet with in this Elihu section. In Job 32:12, Job 32:12 evidently is related as an antecedent to what follows: and I paid attention to you ( עדיכם contrary to the analogy of the cognate praep. instead of עדיכם , moreover for עליכם , with the accompanying notion: intently, or, according to Aben-Duran: thoroughly, without allowing a word to escape me), and behold, intently as I paid attention: no one came forward to refute Job; there was no one from or among you who answered (met successfully) his assertions. Every unbiassed reader will have an impression of the remarkable expressions and constructions here, similar to that which one has in passing from the book of the Kings to the characteristic sections of the Chronicles. The three, Elihu goes on to say, shall not indeed think that in Job a wisdom has opposed them - a false wisdom, indeed - which only God and not any man can drive out of the field ( נדף , Arab. ndf , discutere , dispellere , as the wind drives away chaff or dry leaves); while he has not, however ( ולא followed directly by a v. fin. forming a subordinate clause, as Job 42:3; Psalms 44:18, and freq., Ew. §341, a), arrayed ( ערך in a military sense, Job 33:5; or forensic, Job 23:4; or even as Job 37:19, in the general sense of proponere ) words against him (Elihu), i.e., utterances before which he would be compelled to confess himself affected and overcome. He will not then also answer him with such opinions as those so frequently repeated by them, i.e., he will take a totally different course from theirs in order to refute him.

Verses 15-17

15 They are amazed, they answer no more,

Words have fled from them.

16 And I waited, for they spake not,

For they stand still, they answer no more.

17 Therefore I also will answer for my part,

I will declare my knowledge, even I.

In order to give a more rapid movement and an emotional force to the speech, the figure asyndeton is introduced in Job 32:15, as perhaps in Jeremiah 15:7, Ew. §349, a. Most expositors render העתּיקוּ passively, according to the sense: they have removed from them, i.e., are removed from them; but why may העתיק not signify, like Genesis 12:8; Genesis 26:22, to move away, viz., the tent = to wander on (Schlottm.)? The figure: words are moved away (as it were according to an encampment broken up) from them, i.e., as we say: they have left them, is quite in accordance with the figurative style of this section. It is unnecessary to take והוחלתּי , Job 32:16, with Ew. (§342, c) 2 and Hirz. as perf. consec. and interrogative: and should I wait, because they speak no more? Certainly the interrog. part. sometimes disappears after the Waw of consequence, e.g., Ezekiel 18:13, Ezekiel 18:24 (and will he live?); but by what would והוחלתי be distinguished as perf. consec. here? Hahn's interpretation: I have waited, until they do not speak, for they stand ... , also does not commend itself; the poet would have expressed this by עד לא ידברו , while the two כי , especially with the poet's predilection for repetition, appear to be co-ordinate. Elihu means to say that he has waited a long time, surprised that the three did not speak further, and that they stand still without speaking again. Therefore he thinks the time is come for him also to answer Job. אענה cannot be fut. Kal, since where the 1 fut. Kal and Hiph. cannot be distinguished by the vowel within the word (as in the Ayin Awa and double Ayin verbs), the former has an inalienable Segol; it is therefore 1 fut. Hiph., but not as in Ecclesiastes 5:19 in the signification to employ labour upon anything (lxx περισπᾶν ), but in an intensive Kal signification (as הזעיק for זעק , Job 35:9, comp. on Job 31:18): to answer, to give any one an answer when called upon. Ewald's supposedly proverbial: I also plough my field! (§192, c, Anm. 2) does unnecessary violence to the usage of the language, which is unacquainted with this הענה , to plough. It is perfectly consistent with Elihu's diction, that חלקי beside אני as permutative signifies, “I, my part,” although it might also be an acc. of closer definition (as pro parte mea , for my part), or even - which is, however, less probable - acc. of the obj. (my part). Elihu speaks more in the scholastic tone of controversy than the three.

Verses 18-22

18 For I am full of words,

The spirit of my inner nature constraineth me.

19 Behold, my interior is like wine which is not opened,

Like new bottles it is ready to burst.

20 I will speak, that I may gain air,

I will open my lips and reply.

21 No, indeed, I will accept no man's person,

And I will flatter no man.

22 For I understand not how to flatter;

My Maker would easily snatch me away.

The young speaker continues still further his declaration, promising so much. He has a rich store of מלּים , words, i.e., for replying. מלתי defective for מלאתי , like יצתי for יצאתי , Job 1:21; whereas מלוּ , Ezekiel 28:6, is not only written defectively, but is also conjugated after the manner of a Lamed He verb, Ges. §§23, 3, 74, rem. 4, 75, 21, c. The spirit of his inner nature constrains him, since, on account of its intensity and the fulness of this interior, it struggles to break through as through a space that is too narrow for it. בּטן , as Job 15:2, Job 15:35, not from the curved appearance of the belly, but from the interior of the body with its organs, which serve the spirit life as the strings of a harp; comp. Arab. batn , the middle or interior; bâtin , inwardly (opposite of zâhir , outwardly). His interior is like wine לא יפּתח , which, or (as an adverbial dependent clause) when it is not opened, i.e., is kept closed, so that the accumulated gas has no vent, lxx δεδεμένος (bound up), Jer. absque spiraculo ; it will burst like new bottles. יבּקע is not a relative clause referring distributively to each single one of these bottles (Hirz. and others), and not an adverbial subordinate clause (Hahn: when it will explode), but predicate to בטני : his interior is near bursting like new bottles ( אבות masc. like נאדות , Joshua 9:13), i.e., not such as are themselves new ( ἀσκοὶ καινοὶ , Matthew 9:17, for these do not burst so easily), but like bottles of new wine, which has to undergo the action of fermentation, lxx ὥσπερ φυσητὴρ ( Cod. Sinait. 1 φυσητής ) χαλκέως , i.e., חרשׁים whence it is evident that a bottle and also a pair of bellows were called אוב ). Since he will now yield to his irresistible impulse, in order that he may obtain air or free space, i.e., disburdening and ease ( וירוח לּי ), he intends to accept no man's person, i.e., to show partiality to no one (vid., on Job 13:8), and he will flatter no one. כּנּה signifies in all three dialects to call any one by an honourable name, to give a surname, here with אל , to speak fine words to any one, to flatter him. This Elihu is determined he will not do; for לא ידעתּי אכנּה , I know not how to flatter (French, je ne sais point flatter ), for כנּות or לכנּות ; comp. the similar constructions, Job 23:3 (as Esther 8:6), Job 10:16, 1 Samuel 2:3; Isaiah 42:21; Isaiah 51:1, Ges. 142, 3, c; also in Arabic similar verbs, as “to be able” and “to prepare one's self,” are thus connected with the fut. without a particle between (e.g., anshaa jef‛alu , he began to act). Without partiality he will speak, flattery is not his force. If by flattery he should deny the truth, his Maker would quickly carry him off. כּמעט followed by subjunct. fut.: for a little (with disjunctive accent, because equivalent to haud multum abest quin ), i.e., very soon indeed, or easily would or might ... ; ישּׂני (as Job 27:21) seems designedly to harmonize with עשׂני .

Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Job 32". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/job-32.html. 1854-1889.
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