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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Job 33

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Elihu Teaches Job

A. Elihu challenges Job's defense.

1. (Job 33:1-7) Elihu to Job: "I am your spokesman before God."

"But please, Job, hear my speech,
And listen to all my words.
Now, I open my mouth;
My tongue speaks in my mouth.
My words come from my upright heart;
My lips utter pure knowledge.
The Spirit of God has made me,
And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
If you can answer me,
Set your words in order before me;
Take your stand.
Truly I am as your spokesman before God;
I also have been formed out of clay.
Surely no fear of me will terrify you,
Nor will my hand be heavy on you."

a. But please, Job, hear my speech, and listen to all my words: Elihu again demonstrated his gift for speaking without saying much. These first seven verses of the chapter are mainly a wordy, windy introduction.

i. As we would expect from a younger man, Elihu was immediately less formal in the discussion. "Elihu spoke directly to Job, appealing to him by name. . . . The counselors studiously avoided even mentioning Job's name, which indicates how formal their relationship was." (Smick)

b. The Spirit of God has made me … Truly I am as your spokesman before God: We see here also the touches of pride that marked Elihu and many young men since him. He was anxious to demonstrate to Job and to the three friends of Job that he was just as good, just as spiritual, and just as wise as they were.

i. Indeed, we can say that Elihu thought of himself as just a little more good, spiritual, and wise as Job and his three friends. He believed that he could be an affective spokesman for Job before God, even as Job had cried out for before (Job 9:32-33).

ii. "It is obvious that Elihu does have some glaring faults: he talks too much; he repeats himself; he is enormously conceited. Worst of all, like the other friends, he seriously misreads Job's problem as being one of unrepented sin, and as a result he condemns a righteous man." (Mason)

iii. In all this, Elihu is an interesting specimen. He has good points and bad points; he obviously is proud and wordy; yet he sometimes speaks with prophetic power and clarity. "Now he joins in with a combination of deference and cocksureness that captures the pose of youth that sees a little, but sees it clearly." (Andersen)

c. Surely no fear of me will terrify you, nor will my hand be heavy on you: Elihu wanted to assure Job that he had nothing to fear from his offer to be Job's spokesman before God.

i. "Despite all the good that might be said of Elihu, the fact remains that he really is an astonishingly pompous little windbag. He takes the entire first chapter, for example, plus portions of the second, simply to clear his throat and announce that he has something to say." (Mason)

2. (Job 33:8-11) Elihu says of Job: "You think you are without sin."

"Surely you have spoken in my hearing,
And I have heard the sound of your words, saying,
'I am pure, without transgression;
I am innocent, and there is no iniquity in me.
Yet He finds occasions against me,
He counts me as His enemy;
He puts my feet in the stocks,
He watches all my paths.'"

a. Surely you have spoken in my hearing … "I am pure, without transgression; I am innocent, and there is no iniquity in me": Elihu claimed to have listened to Job carefully, and now reported what he says he heard. He said that Job claimed to be pure, to be without transgression, to be innocent, and sinless (there is no iniquity in me).

i. This means that young Elihu had not heard Job carefully. Though Job did strongly (and rightly) argue that he was a generally godly man who was blameless and upright, he did not claim to be sinless or without transgression. Job certainly knew that he was a sinner in a general sense and could not be considered righteous compared to God.

- Therefore my words have been rash (Job 6:3)
- Why then do You not pardon my transgression, and take away my iniquity? (Job 7:21)
- How can a man be righteous before God? (Job 9:2)
- I know that You will not hold me innocent (Job 9:28)
- For You write bitter things against me, and make me inherit the iniquities of my youth (Job 13:26)
- Though I were righteous, my own mouth would condemn me; though I were blameless, it would prove me perverse (Job 19:20)

ii. "We need to ask, therefore, whether Elihu is fair. To some extent, he is. Job has repeated claimed to be clean and pure, whatever the words he used … But, side by side with this, Job has often admitted to being a sinner." (Andersen)

iii. Therefore, despite Elihu's claims to the contrary, he did not accurately hear Job. He perhaps heard the sound of his words, but he did not listen carefully to the meaning and context of Job.

iv. "But had Elihu ever heard Job saying thus? Or did he not rather misinterpret his words? … But good Job had no such conceit of himself, as may appear by many passages of his." (Trapp)

v. He also did not understand why Job protested his general innocence. "In reality Job's defense of his righteousness is a defense of God. It is a defense of God's faithfulness, and in the end this is the only leg a believer has to stand on." (Mason)

b. Yet He finds occasions against me, He counts me as His enemy: Here Elihu was more faithful in explaining the mind of Job. Job did sometimes feel that God regarded him as an enemy, and had in a sense imprisoned Job.

i. Yet, Elihu misunderstood this feeling of Job's because he put it in the context of Job's claim to sinless perfection. When Elihu put the true claim of Job's sense that God was his enemy next to the false claim that Job said he was sinless, it made the claim that God was his enemy seem much more wrong and even ridiculous.

B. Elihu insists that God has indeed answered Job.

1. (Job 33:12-18) Elihu to Job: "Perhaps God spoke to you in a dream."

"Look, in this you are not righteous.
I will answer you,
For God is greater than man.
Why do you contend with Him?
For He does not give an accounting of any of His words.
For God may speak in one way, or in another,
Yet man does not perceive it.
In a dream, in a vision of the night,
When deep sleep falls upon men,
While slumbering on their beds,
Then He opens the ears of men,
And seals their instruction.
In order to turn man from his deed,
And conceal pride from man,
He keeps back his soul from the Pit,
And his life from perishing by the sword."

a. I will answer you, for God is greater than man: Young Elihu again spoke in his wordy, imprecise way. It certainly was true that God is greater than man, but that did not mean that Elihu could or should answer Job (especially in the way that he did). Yet Elihu made a strong connection between the two in his own mind.

i. "His reason for this conclusion is the first big disappointment in his speech. The truth that God is greater than man (Job 33:12b) is so obvious as to be banal. No-one denies this." (Andersen)

b. Why do you contend with Him? For He does not give an accounting of any of His words: Here Elihu spoke the truth. Like many young men he was somewhat proud and too confident in his own wisdom and analysis; yet at the same time he was certainly correct on some points. He was correcting in telling Job that God did not owe him (or anyone else) an explanation for what He does, and that Job was wrong to demand such.

c. For God may speak in one way, or in another: Elihu's thought is here is that perhaps God had spoken to Job already but Job did not perceive it. It could have been through a dream or through a vision of the night that God warned Job to repent (He keeps back his soul from the Pit), but Job wasn't paying attention.

i. God may still speak in a dream today: "To decry all such, because there are many vain dreams, would be nearly as much wisdom as to deny the Bible, because there are many foolish books." (Clarke)

ii. Adam Clarke saw a distinction between a dream and a vision of the night: "Visions or images presented in the imagination during slumber, when men are betwixt sleeping and waking, or when, awake and in bed, they are wrapt up in deep contemplation, the darkness of the night having shut out all objects from their sight, so that the mind is not diverted by images of earthly things impressed on the senses."

2. (Job 33:19-28) Elihu to Job: "God spoke to you in your sufferings, to save your soul from death."

"Man is also chastened with pain on his bed,
And with strong pain in many of his bones,
So that his life abhors bread,
And his soul succulent food.
His flesh wastes away from sight,
And his bones stick out which once were not seen.
Yes, his soul draws near the Pit,
And his life to the executioners."
"If there is a messenger for him,
A mediator, one among a thousand,
To show man His uprightness,
Then He is gracious to him, and says,
'Deliver him from going down to the Pit;
I have found a ransom';
His flesh shall be young like a child's,
He shall return to the days of his youth.
He shall pray to God, and He will delight in him,
He shall see His face with joy,
For He restores to man His righteousness.
Then he looks at men and says,
'I have sinned, and perverted what was right,
And it did not profit me.'
He will redeem his soul from going down to the Pit,
And his life shall see the light."

a. Man is also chastened with pain on his bed: Elihu had just suggested that God spoke to Job in a dream; now he suggests that perhaps God spoke to him through his physical suffering.

i. "The chastisement of sickness and the flagellation of pain whip the sinner back to him who alone can save him. These are the black dogs of the Great Shepherd wherewith he brings back wandering sheep till they come again under his crook, and he leads them into green pastures." (Spurgeon)

ii. "Here the main contention of his argument took shape. It is that through suffering God is dealing with men to some higher issue. According to this argument, suffering is educational." (Morgan)

iii. "More than any of the other friends, Elihu develops the idea of suffering as a form of spiritual discipline or chastening. While the other friends do touch on this theme, there is a subtle difference in the way Elihu approaches it. Where the others view suffering as punishment for sinners, Elihu sees it as the Lord's way of correcting and healing the lives of those He is already committed to saving." (Mason)

b. If there is a messenger for him: Again, Elihu (in is overly wordy way) told Job that God did send a messenger of some sort; Job's problem was that he did not receive it.

i. On mediator in Job 33:23: "Or interpreter: i.e., one who can interpret and reveal the truth concerning God and His ways." (Bullinger)

ii. "Jesus Christ is indeed a blessed interpreter. An interpreter mast understand two languages. Our Lord Jesus understands the language of God. Whatever are the great truths of divine intelligence and infinite wisdom, too high and mysterious for us to comprehend or even to discern, Christ fully understands them all. . . . Moreover, Jesus understands our language, for he is a man like ourselves, touched with a feeling of our infirmities, and smarting under our sicknesses. He can read whatever is in the heart of man, and so he can tell to God the language of man, and speak to man in the language of man what God would say to him." (Spurgeon)

c. Then He is gracious to him: In the view of Elihu, if Job would only receive and respond to God's messenger, if he would only admit to God's uprightness, then he would be restored to God's favor.

- He would receive God's grace (He is gracious to him).
- He would be rescued from destruction (Deliver him from going down to the Pit).
- He would be healed (His flesh shall be young like a child's).
- He would see his relationship with God restored (He shall pray to God, and He will delight in him, He shall see His face with joy).
- He will repent before men (He looks at men and says, "I have sinned").

i. In this we see that Elihu's argument is really just the argument of the three friends of Job, merely restated and delivered with new energy. The message is: "Job, the problem is that you are a sinner and are blaming God. If you would give glory to God and repent, everything would get better."

ii. "It must be admitted that the actual substance of Elihu's arguments is very little different from that of Job's other friends. . . . essentially Elihu does not say anything we have not heard before." (Mason)

iii. Young Elihu thought that he knew more or could explain better than Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, but really could not. "Elihu has already joined the friends in his estimate of Job as self-righteous. No-one can yet see a solution in which both Job and God are shown to be in the right." (Andersen)

iv. Adam Clarke saw in this section six ways that God speaks to mankind:

- Dreams (Job 33:15)
- Night Visions (Job 33:15)
- Secret Inspirations (Job 33:16)
- Afflictions (Job 33:19)
- Messengers (Job 33:23)
- Through a Ransom/Atonement (Job 33:24)

d. He shall pray to God: Job 33:26-28 is a wonderful description of a genuine conversion experience. It shows someone who has genuinely turned to God and has a real, joyful fellowship with God. Elihu told Job that all this could be his again, if he would only start listening to God.

i. Though this section could not rightly be applied to Job and his situation, it is still a powerful and beautiful description of how God speaks to man, and what God does in the life of the converted man or woman.

ii. Elihu could see and describe:

- Man condemned and being drawn down to the Pit (Job 33:22)
- Man's need for a messenger (Job 33:23)
- Man's need for a mediator (Job 33:23)
- Man's need to see God's justice and uprightness (Job 33:23)
- God being gracious to man (Job 33:24)
- God calling for man to be delivered from the Pit (Job 33:24)
- God finding a ransom for man (Job 33:24)
- God restoring man to youth, as if born again (Job 33:25)
- Man's heart to pray to God once converted (Job 33:26)
- God's delight in converted man (Job 33:26)
- Man's confession and public repentance (Job 33:27)
- Man once redeemed, now seeing and living in the light (Job 33:28)

ii. "Observe that the text says, 'I have found a ransom.' This ransom is an invention of divine wisdom. I do not think it would ever have occurred to any mind but the mind of God himself to save sinners by the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. The most astonishing novelty under heaven is the old, old story of the cross of Christ." (Spurgeon)

iii. "God, looking on a sinner slipping down to hell, says, 'Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom.' Almighty love seems to sing out with all her might; and rocks, hills, and valleys suffice not to repeat the echo of the strain, 'I have found, I have found, I have found a ransom.' This is God's 'Eureka!'" (Spurgeon)

iv. "Elihu also exhibits an astonishing gift for prophecy, and this is one reason why we cannot dismiss him quite so easily as we can Job's other's friends. Elihu has his ridiculous side, but he also reaches for and touches the sublime." (Mason)

3. (Job 33:29-33) Elihu pleads with Job to listen to him.

"Behold, God works all these things,
Twice, in fact, three times with a man,
To bring back his soul from the Pit,
That he may be enlightened with the light of life."
"Give ear, Job, listen to me;
Hold your peace, and I will speak.
If you have anything to say, answer me;
Speak, for I desire to justify you.
If not, listen to me;
Hold your peace, and I will teach you wisdom."

a. Behold, God works all these things, twice, in fact, three times with a man: Elihu wanted Job to understand that God was in fact being very patient with Job. Job felt that God was being harsh and treating him like an enemy; Elihu wanted Job to appreciate what he understood to be God's longsuffering towards Job.

b. Hold your peace, and I will teach you wisdom: Perhaps Job stirred to respond to young Elihu; perhaps the older suffering Job simply rolled his eyes at the younger man. Whatever Job's reaction, Elihu felt the need to tell Job to "Hold your peace" and felt he had to assure Job that he would teach him wisdom - as if Job couldn't judge for himself whether Elihu's words were wise.

i. "It seems Elihu had repentance in mind as he called on Job 'to speak up' or else listen and learn wisdom." (Smick) Since Job wasn't interested in repenting the way Elihu and his friends thought he should, Elihu would continue.

© 2007 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

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