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Bible Commentaries
Job 33

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1

1. That Job asseverates his innocence, and thus implicates God in a charge of indifference towards the upright. For answer see next page.

Verse 2

2. That Job has declared God to be arbitrary and cruel toward men, in making him to be his [Job’s] “jailer and most crafty watcher.” (See note on Job 13:27, which Elihu cites quite literally.) In so doing Job denies the divine rectitude in the sufferings of men in general. For answer see page 209.

Verse 3

3. That “in the proposition of Job, that he suffers and yet is innocent before God, lies the consequence that man without sin is no better than the man with sin, and that the pious have no advantage.” (See Stickel, 234.) If such be the case, Job virtually denies the providence of God. For answer see page 214.

Verse 4

4. The Spirit of God hath made me See note on Job 32:8. In the origination of every man is thus repeated, according to the view of Scripture, a work as divine as that of Adam’s creation. (Compare DELITZSCH. Psych., 249.) This passage is cited by Theodoret as a proof-text of the divinity of the Holy Spirit.

Hath given me life Giveth me life, quickeneth me. The manifestations of divine power in upholding all things, “cannot be better explained than by calling it a continuous creation.” Leibnitz.

Verse 5

5. Before Rather. Against me.

Stand up Literally, take thy stand. “The very ring of the words in Hebrew bears the tone of haughty defiance.” Schlottmann.

Verse 6

6. In God’s stead The first clause may be more correctly rendered, Behold, I, like thee, am of God; that is, his creature.

I also am formed “Nipped” from the clay an allusion to the potter, who nips off a piece of clay for the vessel he is about to make. Compare Job 10:9.

Verse 7

7. My hand heavy Job feared to contend with God lest his majesty should overwhelm him, Job 9:34; Job 13:21; Job 23:6. Elihu now assures Job that he can listen dispassionately, as he has nothing to fear from one, like himself, formed from the clay, though he speak as the representative of God. He cites against Job his own language. For hand, kaph, (Job 13:21,) he now uses ekeph, which may also mean “burden,” “pressure.”

Verse 8

8. In mine hearing With the Hebrew, to “speak in the ear” was to speak openly, not secretly, which might give rise to misconstructions. Elihu was so astonished that he could scarcely believe his ears when he heard Job in the first place declare his innocence, and, secondly, charge God with cruelty.

Verses 8-33

MAIN DISCOURSE, Job 33:8-33.

Elihu’s long-protracted preamble is followed by citations from Job’s impetuous and imprudent words. (Job 33:9.) In his efforts at self-justification Job had exaggerated his own righteousness and impeached the righteousness of God. Divine silence is no sign of divine forgetfulness. God has various ways of addressing men, and, while apparently antagonizing them, of really consulting their highest interests those of the soul. Through dreams, (type of inward monitions,) through sickness, and through the mediation of the angel whose supremacy is marked, God communes with man that he may withdraw him from the pursuit of evil. Affliction has other ends than those of punishment. They are preventive (prophylactic) and remedial. Inward monitions and painful chastisements prepare the way for the angel mediator. Hearkening to him, man shall find favour with God, and a renovation of body and soul that shall well forth with the highest joy.


Verses 9-10

9, 10. He gives not the exact language, but the substance of Job’s expressions, in Job 9:21; Job 10:7; Job 11:4; Job 13:24; Job 16:17; Job 19:11; Job 23:10; Job 27:5.

Verse 10

10. Occasions Rather, enmities, hostilities.

Verse 11

11. Elihu reproduces here Job 13:27, where see note. Says Caryl: “Having ended his sweet, ingenious, insinuating preface, Elihu falls roundly to the business, and begins a very sharp charge.”

Verse 12


a. FIRST MODE OF VISITATION IS BY THE VOICE OF CONSCIENCE IN DREAMS, Job 33:12-18. Postulate: God is greater than mortal man, (enosh,) and must do right because he is great, 12, 13. This infinite superiority of God is displayed in his visitations to men in dreams. These God makes, in order that, coming close to the soul, he may awaken a consciousness of guilt, withdraw man from the commission of sin, and save him from utter destruction, Job 33:14-18.

12. God… greater than man Infinite in knowledge, God fathoms the depths of the heart, and takes cognizance of evil and of transgressions that man dreams not of. “Suffering serves to bring sin to the surface, to drive it forth, that we may know it, repent, and conquer.” Ebrard. Sin developes a moral phenomenon even this, that it is the ground and occasion of divine and affectionate visitation.

Verse 13

13. For he giveth not account, etc. God is not accountable for his doings, least of all to man; yet he condescends to communicate with man, as is seen in the following verses.

Verse 14

14. God speaketh The reproof is a delicate one. Job’s complaints of the divine indifference are groundless: for God admonishes men, speaketh once, twice, and renews his admonitions when man is inattentive. Let the reader recount the number and various modes of the divine appeals to himself. Each day, like the changes in a kaleidoscope, presents a new combination of goodness, mercy, and love. On the other hand, “Sorrow dogging sin, afflictions sorted, anguish of all sizes,” are no less tender voices of God to the children of men.

Verse 15

15. In a vision of the night See note only, Job 33:13-15. The vision supposed to have been seen by Colonel Gardiner, and ending in his conversion, is a case in point; also, the cases of Schubert, Newton, etc. The taking up and adopting of the dream of Eliphaz not only compliments “the old gentleman,” as Scott calls him, but shrewdly reproves Job for not having given it more attention.

Verse 16

16. Sealeth their instruction “Seals it (the ear) with warning for them.” Hitzig. God opens the ear that man may comprehend the instruction ( chastisement) which he seals upon the soul represented by the ear. Every human being thus assumes new interest if, with Elihu, we look upon him as the end of divine thoughts, purposes, and discipline; God stamping his seal on the soul even, that the impressions may be deepened and perpetuated. Matters of moment are sealed against loss or harm. See note Job 14:17; Deuteronomy 32:34; Isaiah 8:16.

Verse 17

17. Purpose מעשׂה , deed; used, like the Latin facinus, in the sense of evil deed. Of the two words employed for man, the second, geber, expresses might, and thus forms an antithesis. For “weak man,” ( adham,) God interposes obstacles to the commission of sin, and from “the man of might” covers up (hides) the dazzling object of temptation. No one can estimate the restraint God thus exercises over the soul. Were there no protecting grace there would be but little, if any, human virtue. Pride is specially mentioned, because it is a sin to which human beings are most easily subjected, a kind of leader among temptations, and a vice, too, when once in possession, which cleaveth with a tenaciousness greater than that of all other sins.

Verse 18

18. Pit Shuhhath. In some countries, as in Athens, criminals were cast down into a deep pit. They were left in the darkness, hopelessly to die of starvation. The pit is evidently used here in the sense of destruction, and as the penalty of evildoing. The oldest of the sacred Books of the Brahmans (Rig-Veda, 9:73-78) speaks of a pit into which the lawless are hurled down, and into which Indra casts those who offer no sacrifices. (See MULLER’S Chips, 1:47.)

Verse 19

b. THE SECOND MODE OF DIVINE VISITATION IS BY GRIEVOUS, DANGEROUS DISEASE. Affliction is in itself the voice of God to the soul: its design being to accomplish purposes in respect to which the first mode of visitation is insufficient. Elihu thus meets the murmurs of Job over affliction in the abstract, and his own in particular; and assures him that his longing for God to answer is already met by the chastenings of disease, Job 33:19-22.

19. He is chastened For the enlightened views of Eliphaz on the subject of afflictions, see Job 5:17-18. The difference between the two is, that Eliphaz fails to recognize their purifying and sanctifying influence on the heart. “He sees in them a fire that scorches and burns, not one that refines and clarifies, as the furnace refines silver.” WORDSWORTH. Comp. 1Pe 1:6 ; 1 Peter 4:19. The multitude of his bones Rather as in the Kethib, and with a conflict in his bones continually. Justin (xxiii, 2) says of the last sickness of Agathocles, that “a pestilential humour spreading through all his nerves and joints, he was tormented, as it were, by an intestine war among all his members.” With the ancient Hebrew, health meant “soundness,” “peace;” and the same word, shalom, was used for all three. On the contrary, disease entailed a disharmony, conflict, and strife in the whole being, here represented by the bones, the framework of man.

Verse 20

20. His life abhorreth bread A marked feature of the elephantiasis, to which Elihu alludes the life, hhayyah, and the soul, nephesh, loathe that which is palatable in a condition of health. Elihu, in this discussion of the sick man, has sufficiently touched salient features of Job’s disease to unmistakably indicate whom he meant. (See note Job 2:7.)

Verse 21

21. Bones that were not seen “Wasted are his bones, they no more are seen” thus the Kethib.

Verse 22

22. The destroyers Many commentators understand them to be angelic powers, to whom is intrusted the work of death. Aben Ezra and Ewald call them “angels of death.” The Septuagint renders the clause, “his life [is] in hades.” Compare Psalms 78:49; 2 Samuel 24:16. Others (Rosenmuller, Schlottman, etc.) understand simply mortal pains; but this explanation, as Delitzsch well says, “does not commend itself, because the Elihu section has a strong angelogical colouring in common with the book of Job.” True penitence may stay the execution of the decree of death. Comp. 1 Chronicles 21:15 and Luke 13:9.

Verse 23

c. THE THIRD MODE OF DIVINE VISITATION IS, THAT OF THE ANGEL INTERCESSOR AND MEDIATOR, WHO HAS FOUND A RANSOM. The objective point of the book a theophany the ulterior central orb toward which all gravitates, now comes more distinctly into view, though still under a haze: a theophany, and this alone, can fully solve the mystery of sorrowing existence. Job 33:23-28.

23. If there be What follows is “an hypothesis hanging on an if but it is an if; the answer to which is the amen of the Gospel.” Evans.

With him עליו , better, “ for him.”

A messenger… an interpreter See Excursus VII, page 207. Uprightness Or, duty. Tyndale and Cranmer render it “right way.”

Verse 24

24. I have found The finding alluded to in מצאתי is, primarily, that which comes from search or effort. The use of the word is similar to that of ευραμενος in Hebrews 9:12: “Having obtained (found) eternal redemption.” Compare “find grace,” Hebrews 4:16. A ransom Margin, an atonement, כפר , kopher, that which covers, is generally used with respect to sin in the sense of making expiation. It is the substitutive consideration, whether of money, (Exodus 30:12,) blood, or life, by which guilt is regarded as covered up, and in a certain sense concealed from the eye of God. In the ancient economy of grace God was pleased to accept the propitiatory offering, ( ransom,) or, more properly, the motive implied in its presentation, and to look propitiously upon weak and erring man. The great angel here intervenes with his ransom, the nature of which Elihu does not disclose, and saves man from going down to the pit. Elihu again alludes to this ransom under the same term, kopher. when the danger is in like manner indescribably great. Comp. Job 36:18, on which see note. The fact that the great ransom ( kopher) there (Job 36:18) cannot be repentance, is quite decisive against the view of Hengstenberg, that the ransom spoken of here is repentance.

Verse 25

25. Fresher than a child’s His flesh swells with the vigour of youth, (Delitzsch,) or, more than in his youth, (Hitzig,) according as מן is regarded as causal or comparative. The word ratphash appears in the Arabic with letters transposed, tarphasha, and signifies to “become fresh or convalescent,” or to “grow green.” The figure is taken from plants long withered, but restored to more than pristine vigour under the life-giving power of copious showers of rain. The change Elihu speaks of is like that which took place in Naaman when delivered from leprosy, the type of sin. In the view of Elihu the perfect health of the body sets forth in emblem the work wrought in the soul. Thus Christ spoke the outward healing, and at the same time healed the soul. “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature.” In the old economy temporal blessings were brought into greater prominence than in the new.

Verse 26

26. Pray unto God Referring to habitual prayer after pardon. “In this description of the renovation which the man experiences, it is everywhere assumed that he has taken the right way announced to him by the mediating angel.” Delitzsch.

Joy Shouts of joy. (Furst.) The experience of the redeemed man is of the most joyous description. He beholds God’s face reconciled.

His righteousness St. Gregory’s comment is exceedingly happy: “It is called our righteousness, not because it is ours from ourselves, but because it is made ours from the divine bounty, as we say in the Lord’s prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ See; we both call it ours and yet pray for it to be given us. For it becomes ours when we receive it; but yet it is God’s, who gives it.”

Verse 27

27. And say And sing. The verb is of the same meaning as in the inscription of Psalms 7:0; Proverbs 25:20, etc.

It profited me not It was not requited to me. The Vulgate had the correct idea: “I did not receive according to my deserts.” Grace, instead of justice, is meted out to him. The reader may mark the resemblance between the confession of the penitent here and that of Job 42:6.

Verses 27-28

27, 28. THE SONG OF THE REDEEMED ONE He singeth unto men and saith,

“I have sinned and perverted that which was right,

And it was not requited unto me:

He hath redeemed my soul from going into the pit,

And my life rejoiceth in the light.”

“Openly, before all the people,” (Hirtzel,) he sings his short and comprehensive psalm of gratitude. Its minor note is the miserere of sin, its major note the triumphant view of the light of God’s countenance. Its closing thought is one of beauty; literally. “my [very] life sees in the light.” To see the light was, in the classics also, equivalent to live; while “leaving the light of the sun” was equivalent to death. Comp. the Iliad, Job 18:11. From going into the pit. See note, Job 33:18. His life shall see the light (See above.) The beautiful sentiment of Elihu is among the many of the “Elihu section,” which unexpectedly interweave themselves with the main body of the work; as, for instance, this with Job 10:21-22. See Excursus VI, page 197. Instead of forebodings of darkness, such as tormented Job, (Job 10:21,) the redeemed penitent shall walk in the light. On Job 33:27-28 see a sermon by Tillotson, “The Unprofitableness of Sin in this Life an Argument for Repentance.”

Verse 29

The Conclusion ELIHU REASSERTS THE END OF ALL DIVINE VISITATION TO BE THAT DECLARED IN THE SECOND OF THE THREE MODES HE HAS UNFOLDED. This section serves not only as an epilogue, but as a transition to the second discourse, Job 33:29-33.

29. Oftentimes Literally, twice, thrice. The Septuagint renders it “three ways,” meaning the three modes given above.

Verse 30

30. The pit For the fifth time the word shahhath pit has been used in this description, as if to intensify its terrible significance. (See on Job 33:18.) The purpose of God’s spiritual dealings with man is declared to be, to save him from destruction. John 3:16. Light of the living Rather, Light of life; in contrast to the darkness of the pit.

Verse 32

32. If not, hearken unto me Job maintains silence, and thus tacitly admits his own dereliction and the reasonableness of Elihu’s views. The kind appeals of Elihu are sunlight to the heart, and melt while they enlighten. Here we may fix the beginning of Job’s repentance.



Some of the profoundest Biblical scholars, among whom may be mentioned Michaelis and Velthusen, look upon this, together with other passages in the book of Job, as relics of a primeval revelation, primitive oracles which have perished, except the few excerpta or fragments which still remain imbedded in this book and in Genesis. The pre-eminently great commentator upon this book, Schultens, gives it as his judgment that the Angel of the Covenant, the Messiah, is the person here described; and he alleges, (as summed up by J. Pye Smith, Scrip. Test., 1:497,) (1) the correspondence of the titles; (2) the suitableness of the descriptions; (3) the affinity with Job 19:25; (4) the scope and argument of the passage as determining reasons for his opinion. ( Com. in Jobum. 2:918.) Had the word מלאךְ ( malak) been rendered angel, as in the old versions instead of messenger, the sense would have been more clear. To this angel is assigned an office that plainly distinguishes him from other angels. It is that of interpreter, מליצ , melits, (see note on Job 16:20; Job 17:3,) which, according to Gesenius, Furst, etc., might have been translated also Intercessor or Mediator for all these interpretations are justified by the root louts. Jewish prayers show that this Interpreter was always identified in their minds with the expected Redeemer of Israel, as in the following prayer: “Raise up for us the righteous interpreter say I have found a ransom.” The whole passage in Job is quoted (says Canon Cook, in loc., who cites Wunsche) at the sacrifice offered still in many countries of Europe on the eve of the great day of atonement. The master of each house, as he recites these words, strikes his head three times with a cock he has meanwhile been holding in his hands, saying at each stroke, “Let this cock be a commutation for me: let him be substituted in my place: let him be an atonement for me: let this cock be put to death: but let a fortunate life be vouchsafed to me and all Israel.” For further particulars see “Allen’s Modern Judaism,” p. 393. Jewish faith has ever held most tenaciously to the conviction that the Angel Interpreter and the Messiah are one. His pre-eminence is strikingly set forth by the expression, “one out of a thousand,” (Song of Solomon 5:10; Psalms 45:2,) by which Elihu means to convey, not oneness of nature with the angels, but superiority of being. Had Elihu been a Jew, we would naturally suppose he meant the ANGEL OF JEHOVAH, of whose appearances on earth, even in patriarchal times, abundant traces remain, attesting a depth of affection for man that led him often to self-disclosure, thus anticipating his advent as “God manifest in the flesh.” “The angel of Jehovah of primeval history,” says Delitzsch, “is the oldest prefigurement in the history of redemption of the future incarnation, without which the Old Testament history would be a confused quod libet of premises and radii, without a conclusion and a centre; and the angelic form is accordingly the oldest form which the hope of a deliverer assumes, and to which it recurs, in conformity to the law of the circular connexion between the beginning and the end in Malachi 3:1.” (See M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyc., 4:534.)

The probable descent of Elihu from a collateral branch of the family of Abraham renders it not improbable that he possessed the patriarchal knowledge of this strange superhuman being who called himself God, and who was worshipped as God. The extreme exposure that of death and the pit (of which the context speaks,) a juncture where human and angelic help are useless, demands divine interposition. The office of this Angel Mediator is not alone to make known the will of a superior his conditions of deliverance but to be an agent or mediator of that deliverance. With great assurance Zockler (in Lange, p. 564) assumes it to be “ certain that the mediatorial angel of salvation is put essentially on an equality with the angel of disease and death mentioned just before, [but] not exalted above him,” and compares Job 33:22 b, with Matthew 8:9, and parallel passages. Zockler seems to overlook the striking resemblance between the relation this Angel Intercessor bears to “the destroyers,” and that borne by the “Captain of our salvation “to him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. Hebrews 2:14. With Elihu the province of this mighty Angel is twofold to rescue dying man from fearful superhuman beings “the slayers” and to save him from the more darkly adumbrated doom of going down into the pit. With the apostle the mission of the great Mediator is substantially the same, but more fully disclosed. The oneness of the mission though there be the interval of many centuries points to oneness of being, In both cases it means deliverance deliverance in a field and from dangers in the presence of which human prowess and power can accomplish nothing.

Elihu claims to have spoken by special inspiration. Although, as an Aramean, he might be outside of Israel, he was signally honoured (as is plain throughout the whole address) as an organ for the communication of divine truth. On the other hand, overlooking the fact that Job and his book are altogether extra Israel, some rationalizing commentators are disposed, because of its Aramaic origin, to count this wonderful revelation through Elihu with the many sage vaticinia of the heathen world; one of which, from Sophocles, (OEdipus Coloneus,) Zockler cites: One soul, in my opinion, for ten thousand, will suffice to make atonement, if with kindly feelings it draws nigh.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 33". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/job-33.html. 1874-1909.
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