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Bible Commentaries
Job 33

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary

Verse 1


Elihu offereth himself in God's stead to reason with Job, in meekness and sincerity. He excuseth God from giving man an account of his ways, by his greatness; and inciteth Job to attention.

Before Christ 1645.

Job 33:1. Wherefore, Job, I pray thee See the note on the first verse of the preceding chapter.

Verse 3

Job 33:3. My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart My heart is integrity; my words are knowledge; my lips speak that which is pure. Houb. who renders the second verse in the future: I will open my mouth; my tongue shall speak eloquently.

Verse 5

Job 33:5. Set thy words in order before me, &c.— Set thy arguments in array against me; stand thy ground. This is a metaphor taken from the drawing up of an army with the purpose of giving battle.

Verse 6

Job 33:6. I also am formed out of the clay Houbigant renders this passage, I, I say, who am formed out of the same clay: Job 33:7. Therefore my terror shall not, &c. These, and the 4th verse, seem to contain Elihu's apology for assuming the character of a mediator between Job and his friends, of presuming to represent the Deity, and of reasoning with Job in that character.

Verse 10

Job 33:10. Behold he findeth occasions against me The first branch of this passage, Behold he findeth occasions against me; or, as Heath and others render it, He inventeth cruelties against me, is not to be found in Job's speeches; and as for the other branch, which occurs, chap. Job 13:24 we have there observed, that though there may be something faulty in the expostulation; yet it is much alleviated by the expressions of humility which precede and follow it. See the note on that place.

Verse 12

Job 33:12. Behold, in this thou art not just Lo, this I will answer thee, thou art not perfect: therefore, let God be justified, rather than mortal man; Job 33:13. Why dost thou contend against him, since he will not give account of any of his matters? The word צדק tzedek, signifies not only just, but perfect; a signification which it hath also transmitted to the Greek word δικαιος . The argument is, "Notwithstanding all thy pretences to purity and innocence, thou art far from perfection. There is human frailty enough in thee and all mankind, to justify the dealings of God with thee or them, however severe they are. Give him, therefore, the glory, acknowledge the justice of his proceedings." See Jos 7:9 and Heath.

Verses 14-18

Job 33:14-18. For God speaketh once, &c.— When God hath spoken once, verily he will not repeat it. Houb. Elihu, blaming Job for some intemperate expressions that he had used, and for the manner of his offence, which he thought liable to great exception, Job 33:9-11 observes, that while he pleaded his innocence so much, and called so earnestly upon God to bring him to his trial, he did not well consider the infinite distance betwixt God and man; that his own unerring wisdom was the sole guide of his actions, and that he was not obliged to give account of them to any of his creatures: Job 33:12-13. He then proceeds to observe in this verse, that though God be thus high, yet he condescends to instruct men by the secret whispers of his grace, sometimes by extraordinary dreams and visions, and sometimes by afflictions that he may withdraw them from such courses as are mischievous and sinful, and bring them to an humble dependance on himself, Job 33:17. That he may withdraw man, &c. which should rather be rendered, Let man put away his sins, and let pride be hidden from him: Job 33:18. So shall he preserve his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the dart. For Schultens has well observed, that from the 17th verse onwards is that divine instruction mentioned in the 16th verse. See Peters and Heath.

Verse 19

Job 33:19. He is chastened also with pain Or if he is chastened with great pains on his bed, and he crieth out aloud, through great pain in his bones; Job 33:20. And his life abhorreth—ver. 21 his flesh wasteth visibly away—ver. 22 and his life draweth to those that are slain.—ver. 23. If there is nigh him a Messenger, one that is eloquent, one among a thousand, to represent to man the righteousness of God—ver. 24. Then he is gracious unto him, &c. Job 33:27. He shall utter his song before men, and shall say, I sinned, I perverted that which is right; I acted a wrong part: Job 33:28. He hath delivered my soul from going down into the pit; my life also shall behold the light. Heath and Houb. Bp. Warburton says, that this passage, to the end of the 30th verse, "contains the most circumstantial account of God's dealing with Hezekiah, as it is told in the books of Chronicles and Kings." That there is a likeness in circumstances may be allowed; but then we say, that it is a most circumstantial account of the way of curing diseases in those ancient times; and so may be reckoned as a mark, and no inconsiderable one, of the antiquity of the book. For it shews the book to have been written, or at least the history of it to bear date, before physic was studied so as to become a distinct profession, and when distempers, according to the simplicity of the first ages, were looked upon as inflictions from the hand of God for the sins of men; and therefore the messenger of God, the interpreter of his will, or the prophet, was to be applied to for the cure of them. And in this view, it is no wonder if the circumstances fall in very naturally with the history of Hezekiah, who was so remarkably restored by the prophet Isaiah. However, that there can be no allusion here intended to the recovery of Hezekiah, which was a single and extraordinary instance, seems plain; for Elihu tells us in the following verses, that this way of recovering from diseases was then common and usual; Job 33:29-30. Lo! all these things God worketh oftentimes with man, to bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living. Instead of oftentimes, the Hebrew indeed is three times, a certain number for an uncertain; and it is said to be God's usual way of dealing with the same person, to raise him once, twice, and thrice, perhaps, or oftener, from the bed of sickness. But, though we read of many extraordinary cures in the Bible, yet I think there is no one instance of the same person's having received this special favour above once. There is a passage in the 107th Psalm not very unlike to this of Job; and yet I suppose no one will think that it has any respect to the sickness and recovery of Hezekiah, especially if the psalm be David's, as seems not improbable. The whole of it is an admirable composition, not unworthy of the pen of the royal prophet: see Job 33:17-20 where the description, I think, suits Hezekiah's case nearly as well as the other: and yet that the Psalmist, whoever he was, could not have Hezekiah's case in his thoughts, seems plain; because, if he had, he would no doubt, for decency's sake, have avoided the first word in the description: Fools, because, &c. That he had this very passage of Job in his thoughts, seems highly probable; since he has borrowed from this same chapter of Job the 40th verse of the Psalm, word for word, as Bishop Hare observes upon the place.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Elihu opens his discourse with an application to Job by name, whom his friends had never thus addressed. He begs a favourable hearing, and that he would weigh his arguments entire. They were the product of mature deliberation, and flowed from the sincerity of his soul: he hoped to speak clearly to his understanding, and convincingly to his conscience. Endued with a reasonable soul as a man, and renewed in the spirit of his mind as a gracious man, he might expect attention; and was ready to hear, in return, whatever Job could farther say for himself. He had desired one on the behalf of God, that he might plead with him: Lo! he is here; one in his own nature, fashioned from the same clay, whose terror would not scare him as if God himself appeared, nor his hand be heavy on him: he would bring no such railing accusation as his friends had done: he proposes to convince him by the weight of his arguments, not run him down by the violence of his words.

Note; (1.) We are bound to hear a discourse intire, before we form a judgment upon it. (2.) They who speak for God have need of deep and serious deliberation; and should be more solicitous to speak plain, so as to be understood, than fine, that they may be admired.

2nd, Job had boasted, chap. Job 31:36 how easily he would bear on his shoulders every charge that could be brought against him; but Elihu will convince him that the burden is heavier than he is aware.

1. He open his charge against Job for words spoken openly and publicly to the dishonour of God, and reflecting on his adorable perfections; and against such every hearer is ever bound to bear a public testimony.
[1.] He had said, I am clean without transgression, I am innocent, neither is there iniquity in me; this might be collected from chap. Job 10:6-7 Job 13:2-3 Job 27:5-6 or, perhaps, Job might in express words have asserted it, though not recorded in the controversy; not that he pleaded he was not a sinner, but he had too high an opinion of his own integrity, insisted upon it too much, and thereby drew unjust reflections on God, for afflicting a person so righteous as he conceived himself to be.

[2.] He had represented God as severe and cruel, seeking occasion to quarrel with him, and without cause treating him as an enemy—expressions highly irreverent, and deserving just censure. See chap. Job 13:24; Job 13:27 Job 14:16-17 Job 19:11.; for these things, therefore,

2. Elihu proposes to plead with Job. Behold, take notice of it as an important truth, in this thou art not just; however upright in general he allowed his conduct to have been, here it was indefensibly culpable. Therefore, I will answer thee, confute these bold assertions, and this on the clearest principles. (1.) That God is greater than man; and therefore it is both foolish and arrogant to find fault with him; why dost thou strive against him? whose wisdom, power, justice, and truth, are not only above comparison, but above our comprehension? Note; This one consideration should for ever silence every murmur against God's ways and providences. (2.) He is sovereign in his dispensations, for he giveth not account of any of his matters: Who shall question the eternal Majesty, and say to him what dost thou? or, as others interpret the words, he giveth not an account of all his matters; there are secrets of Providence which he reserves to himself, and into which it were presumption to pretend to pry.

3rdly. Though God is not obliged to give any account of his matters, yet he never deals with men so unreasonably as Job suggested; but if we attend to his notices, we may perceive his designs towards us. For God speaketh once, yea, twice repeats his admonitions, and in a variety of ways, by secret remonstrances with our consciences from his word and spirit, by his afflictive providences, and by his ministers; yet man perceiveth it not: negligent or perverse, he regards not the inward admonition, nor adverts to the chastening rod, nor hears the voice of the wise: or the words may be rendered, a second time he doth not revise it, the words yet man being not in the original: his counsels need not a second thought. All is planned with perfection of wisdom and justice, and therefore to be submitted to with implicit resignation.

1. He speaks to men in a dream, which, before there was any written word, was frequently the method that God took to convey the notices of his will. See Genesis 20:3; Gen 31:24 in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed: Then, when the senses are locked up in repose, he openeth the ears of men, not of the body, but of the soul, and sealeth their instruction or chastisement; conveys admonitions to their conscience, and assures them of the certainty of his chastisements, if they take not warning: and when they awake the dream is not forgotten; but the lively traces of it remain, as wax bears the impression of the seal.

2. He hath designs of mercy in these notices that he gives. [1.] That he may withdraw man from his purpose, prevent him from the sin into which he was ready to rush, and work a divine change on his temper and disposition. [2.] And hide pride from man by restraining the proud from their purposes; or that he may humble and subdue the spirit of his believing people, too reluctant in their submission to his providential will. [3.] He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword, when he is on the brink of present and eternal ruin, he is warned, and, if he take the warning, is plucked as a brand from the burning. Note; (1.) Proud resistance against the secret admonitions of God, is wilful rebellion, and will end in reprobacy. (2.) It is an unspeakable mercy to be visited with notices of our danger, and to have a faithful monitor within. (3.) The soul which perishes, will only have itself to blame; for God can say, I would have gathered you, and ye would not.

4thly. Various ways hath God to speak to the souls of men by his word and providences.
1. He inflicts man with disease; pain universal as acute, seizes the body. The appetite is lost. Pining waste consumes him to a skeleton. Death appears in full view, and the grave opens to receive him. Note; (1.) How soon may the softest pillow cease to afford repose to the throbbing head! (2.) If we be able to relish our food, let us acknowledge the mercy, and not abuse it to luxury, lest God, as a just punishment, should bring us to loath even dainty meat. (3.) The strongest constitution is a feeble barrier against the wastes that disease will make. Let not the strong man glory in his strength.

2. When affliction is laid on the body, God sends instruction to the soul, if there be a messenger with him, a godly minister, or rather that divine Messenger sent from heaven, on purpose to teach men the way of salvation; an interpreter, able to expound the design of dark providences, and to open the Scriptures with clearness and conviction to the conscience; one among a thousand, as an able minister may justly be reckoned; or it peculiarly refers to the Great Prophet, the chief of ten thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness; either the uprightness of God in afflicting him, or the path of duty proper for his present condition, in order to the right improvement of the affliction; or the infinite merit of the great Messiah, the antetype of all the sacrifices, whom Job had already acknowledged as his Redeemer, and who, to the believer who lives by faith in him is the most solid support against all the fears of death, and the living fountain of comfort and safety. Note; (1.) Most people in sickness are much readier to send for the physician for their body, than the minister of God for their soul. (2.) The great endeavour of a wise interpreter is, to lead the afflicted to an humbling acknowledgement of the righteousness of God in their sufferings, and to point the troubled soul to the infinite merit of Jesus as its only hope against the condemnation of sin.

3. The gracious effects are set forth, which thereupon ensue. [1.] To the soul, pardon and redemption; Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit, the pit of death, and hell the wages of sin, for I have found a ransom, have accepted the offering of the Redeemer in the sinner's stead. [2.] To the body, the restoration of health and ease; his flesh shall be fresher than a child's, as if his life were again renewed; he shall return to the day of his youth; become healthy, vigorous, and strong. Note; (1.) There is a ransom paid and accepted for all who will be saved by grace, with which God declares himself well pleased and satisfied. (2.) When God's chastisements have answered their end, he is pleased often in mercy to remove them, and give health of body, as well as health of soul, to the believer.

4. The grateful returns that such a person makes for the mercies he has received are, [1.] Prayer and thanksgiving. He shall pray unto God for the continuance of his mercy and grace, and praise him for what he has experienced, and he will be favourable unto him; will hear and answer him; and he shall see his face with joy, God will lift up the light of his countenance, and fill the soul with divine consolations, for he will render unto man his righteousness, will deal with the person recovered according to the tenor of the covenant of grace, and accept of his person and of his works through the merit of the Redeemer. [2.] He will give glory to God, by humble confession of his sins. He looketh upon men, and will justify God's afflicting hand upon him, and will say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, have justly offended the eternal majesty, and it profited me not, I found no advantage or comfort in the way of evil; therefore I will return to him from whom I have so greatly departed. Note; (1.) Sin is not only rebellion against God, but an offence against sound reason, as tending to our eternal ruin. (2.) Every sinner will find the ways of iniquity utterly unprofitable; they neither bring him present peace, nor can secure for him the least support against a day of evil. [3.] He encourages others, by his own experience, to make their application to God, and expect the like mercy: He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, or, He hath delivered my soul from going down to the pit, hath saved from death and hell, and his life, or my life, shall see the light; present prosperity and comfort, and eternal blessedness and glory, await the faithful. (1.) We are bound, for other's good, as well as in gratitude to God, to speak of the things that he hath done for our souls. (2.) They who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, cannot but become advocates for him with others, to come and experience, with them, how good the Lord is, and how blessed the man who putteth his trust in him.

The 27th and 28th verses may also be interpreted of God's regard to other sinners in a like state of affliction, who on their humble confession are restored, and made to partake of his favour and regard.
5thly, Elihu, having shewn how God speaks to man, here sums up the great purpose of all these dispensations.
1. They are designed for man's good, to bring back his soul from the paths of sin and ignorance, and thereby to rescue him from the pit of eternal misery; to be enlightened with the light of the living, to partake of the present blessings of divine teaching and grace, in order to the better and more valuable possessions of the eternal inheritance among the saints in light. Note; (1.) Departure from God necessarily ends in eternal ruin, if we be not recovered. (2.) God leaves no man without admonition; if men perish, their ruin lies at their own door. (3.) If any sinner's soul be recovered from the paths of the destroyer, he will wholly ascribe it to the free and saving grace of God.

2. He concludes with a desire that job would mark well what he had said. He is ready to hear, if Job has aught to reply, and would take more pleasure in justifying than condemning him; but if he acknowledged the truth of what he had urged, he would proceed with his discourse, and doubted not but Job's attention to it would be repaid with wisdom and instruction. Note; (1.) A faithful friend never loves to find fault, and is happy to be undeceived, if he has been mistaken or misinformed. (2.) The wisest men are always the most willing to learn. Superficial attainments puff up, but solid wisdom humbles.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Job 33". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/job-33.html. 1801-1803.
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