1 - 7 Elihu Asks Job to Listen
1 “However now, Job, please hear my speech,
And listen to all my words.
2 “Behold now, I open my mouth,
My tongue in my mouth speaks.
3 “My words are [from] the uprightness of my heart,
And my lips speak knowledge sincerely.
4 “The Spirit of God has made me,
And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
5 “Refute me if you can;
Array yourselves before me, take your stand.
6 “Behold, I belong to God like you;
I too have been formed out of the clay.
7 “Behold, no fear of me should terrify you,
Nor should my pressure weigh heavily on you.
Elihu speaks directly to Job, he explicitly mentions his name, unlike the three friends. He asks Job to listen to his speech and to hear all his words (verse 1). “My speech” is the whole story. “All my words” are the individual words that make up the story. He speaks in this way, to draw attention to the importance of what he is going to say. He opens his mouth to speak words worthy of being heard (verse 2). His words are not meaningless expressions of a man who also wants to have his say on a matter. They are words that he has, as it were, tasted with his palate. He is cautious in his choice of words; he does not speak impetuously.
What he says comes from an upright heart, and the knowledge he utters is sincere (verse 3). He does not speak with hidden intentions. They are not beautiful, pleasant sounding words to win Job for his insights, but words he utters in sincerity before God.
He can speak in this way because he is aware that the Spirit of God has made him and that he has life through the breath of the Almighty (verse 4). With this he indicates once again that he has no wisdom of his own, but owes everything to Him Who gave him life and helps him to live that life to His glory. Therefore he can be used by God for Job. God can also use us to win the hearts of others only when we realize this.
In verse 5 Elihu invites Job to refute him because Job has the right to do so. Job does not have to accept what Elihu says about who he is, because he has his own connection to God. God kindly makes His thoughts known. It is not Elihu’s concern to overload Job with reproaches or imputations, as the friends have done. He offers Job his thoughts on an equal footing with him.
Elihu does not set himself up above Job, but stands beside him (verse 6). He knows that he and Job are both in the same relationship with God. God has formed both him and Job “out of clay” (Gen 2:7; cf. Acts 10:26). Like Job, he is a weak, fragile creature. In his frailty, he is no more to God than Job. This awareness of one’s own weakness is important if we want to win a failing brother (Gal 6:1). If we want to wash someone’s feet, we have to bow before him (Jn 13:1-5).
After so placing himself next to Job, he reassures Job about what he is going to say (verse 7). He will tell Job serious things, but Job does not have to be afraid of them. He will not let his pressure [or hand] be heavy on him. Job feels God’s hand heavy on him (Job 13:21). By positioning himself next to Job, Elihu takes that fear away. The friends have aggravated Job’s suffering by accusing him of sin as the cause of his suffering. Elihu will not do that. He will not increase his suffering, but alleviate it by letting God’s light shine upon it.
8 - 13 God Is Greater than Job
8 “Surely you have spoken in my hearing,
And I have heard the sound of [your] words:
9 ‘I am pure, without transgression;
I am innocent and there is no guilt in me.
10 ‘Behold, He invents pretexts against me;
He counts me as His enemy.
11 ‘He puts my feet in the stocks;
He watches all my paths.’
12 “Behold, let me tell you, you are not right in this,
For God is greater than man.
13 “Why do you complain against Him
That He does not give an account of all His doings?
Elihu said to Job that he will not be hard on him. That does not mean he will not point out to Job his faults and call him to account. Yet he speaks differently from his friends. That is why there is no response from Job. Job is ready to listen to Elihu.
Elihu starts by reminding Job of something he heard from his mouth (verse 8). This is not vague, enigmatic or presumptuous, but concrete. Everyone present at the conversations will confirm the correctness. Elihu does not quote verbatim what Job has said, but he does so entirely according to its content. He summarizes Job’s argument and gives the main lines of it.
Job has repeatedly asserted that he is sincere and innocent (verse 9; Job 9:21; 10:7; 13:18,23; 16:17; 23:10; 27:5). Especially in Job 31 he makes a powerful plea for his innocence. Elihu summarizes this in the four concepts of “pure”, “without transgression”, “innocent” and “no guilt”. This was not arrogance on the part of Job. Elihu does not throw that at Job as an accusation either. Job’s claim of innocence is justified, as we know from Job 1 (Job 1:1). Job does not mean here that he is sinless (cf. Job 7:21; 13:26), but that he has done nothing that deserves the judgment of his heavy suffering.
But Job has gone too far by suspecting that God is looking for something with him and that He is therefore acting with him in this way (verse 10). Job believes that God is seeking something with him in order to sue him and that He is acting with him as His enemy (Job 13:24; 19:11; 30:21). Elihu has heard Job say that God puts his feet in the block and that He observes all his paths (Job 13:27). Elihu answers to this (verse 11).
Elihu’s answer to this is that Job is “not right in this” (verse 12). In this he has not done justice to Who God is and who he himself is. He has forgotten Who God is and who he himself is, for “God is greater than man” as Job is. How did Job dare to call God, who is so much greater than man, to account (verse 13)? That God is greater than man does not only apply to God as Creator, but here above all to the greatness and exaltation of His actions with man.
Furthermore, Job has accused God of when he called to Him, that God did not answer Him (Job 19:7; 30:20). Surely God can’t do that! Surely He can say why He makes him suffer so much, can’t He? Surely he has a right to that, hasn’t he? But God is God. He is in no way obliged to account for His actions to man, not even to His own.
What Job says, we see time and again in the history of mankind up to the present day, to a much greater extent and also in a rebellious form. With Job there is no rebellion, but a wrestle. He does not put up a big mouth against God. With rebellious man this is so. In man there is resistance, opposition and rebellion against God’s actions, which is inspired by unbelief and self-exaltation. Man puts God in the dock and challenges Him to tell us why He allows or works things (Rom 9:20).
14 - 22 God Speaks Once or Twice
14 “Indeed God speaks once,
Or twice, [yet] no one notices it.
15 “In a dream, a vision of the night,
When sound sleep falls on men,
While they slumber in their beds,
16 Then He opens the ears of men,
And seals their instruction,
17 That He may turn man aside [from his] conduct,
And keep man from pride;
18 He keeps back his soul from the pit,
And his life from passing over into Sheol.
19 “Man is also chastened with pain on his bed,
And with unceasing complaint in his bones;
20 So that his life loathes bread,
And his soul favorite food.
21 “His flesh wastes away from sight,
And his bones which were not seen stick out.
22 “Then his soul draws near to the pit,
And his life to those who bring death.
The word “indeed” Elihu uses in verse 14 indicates that he is going to explain what he said in the previous verses. Job’s accusation that he called and God did not answer is not justified. However, God has spoken. What Job considers to be God’s unjust dealings with him, is in reality God’s speaking to him. Only Job did not recognize God’s voice. That is why God sends in His grace a man like Elihu to explain this to Job.
Although God is infinitely superior to man, He is not indifferent to His weak creature or acts arbitrarily with him. He speaks to him. He does this “once or twice”. It is not God’s fault that man does not heed it, but man’s fault. God speaks and He does so several times. One time He uses “a dream, a vision of the night” (verse 15), the other time He uses sickness and suffering (verse 19). Sometimes He uses His reason, His Word, another time His rod, His punishment.
“When sound sleep falls on men, while they slumber in their beds”, there are no outside influences that can distract him. Someone who sleeps does not feel whether he is poor or rich, whether he is healthy or sick, whether he is hungry or not. God can use this condition of rest in His grace to speak to him in a dream or a vision and make His will known. In the time of the patriarchs, and also later, God spoke in dreams or visions, as with Abraham, Joseph and Daniel, but also with someone like Abimelech, Laban, Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar. This is typical of the time when the Bible was not yet complete. Then God spoke “in many portions and in many ways” (Heb 1:1).
Now that the Bible is complete, God makes His will known through His Word, the Bible. Certainly He still speaks through a dream in certain cases. This usually concerns people who do not have a Bible. But certainly in the western, post-Christian, part of the world, where the light of the Bible has shone for so long, the written Word of God suffices for the Christian.
When God speaks to a man in a dream, He reveals His will to “the ears of men” (verse 16). Here the ear is mentioned and not the eye, which is what we would expect in dreams and visions. However, it is not about seeing, but about hearing. It is about God speaking and that is always directed at the ear. It is about listening to what God has to say.
The dreams or visions do not appear to contain any sweet or pleasant scenes. They are not ‘sweet dreams’, but cautionary dreams or visions that literally and spiritually awaken a person (Gen 41:7). God thus “seals their instruction”. He puts His seal on it that it will be as He has shown in the dream or the vision. The word “instruction” includes admonition, warning, and education. The seal implies God’s assurance that the message is reliable and will be carried out.
God speaks in this way because He wants to bring man to contemplation and to a standstill, so that he renounces the wrong act he wanted to commit (verse 17). It is not about that single act, but about his whole life consisting only of evil deeds. He is guided in it by his pride. The end of it is destruction (verse 18). But God intervenes in grace and warns him. By doing so, He keeps back “his soul from the pit”, for God has no joy in the death of a man, but that he turns from his way and lives (Eze 33:11).
If a man does not listen to God’s speaking in dreams and visions, He speaks in a different way, by punishment in the sense of chastisement, which is represented here by Elihu in the form of a serious illness (verse 19). That is what happened to Job. But Elihu is not making accusations against Job which the friends have so often made that his suffering is proof of a secret sinful life.
Elihu describes in verses 19-22 the process of a debilitating sickness, with the intention that Job should get an eye for God’s interference in it, that he should be able to hear the speaking of God through all this. It begins “with pain on his bed”, which indicates that the place of rest (cf. verse 15) becomes a place of torment. The fever rages unceasingly in his bones. His appetite not only disappears, but he abhors the bread, he must not think of eating anything (verse 20). He even abhors his favorite food.
Because of this he emaciates so much that there is nothing left of his flesh and his bones, which at first were not visible, now stick out and can be seen (verse 21). In this way his powers flow away and with them his life. What comes closer and closer is the grave (verse 22). His life is about to fall into the grip of death. And it is precisely with this in mind that God brings suffering upon man. He wants to chastise him for his own good, because he stands face to face with death, that he may turn to Him.
23 - 30 God’s Angel and His work
23 “If there is an angel [as] mediator for him,
One out of a thousand,
To remind a man what is right for him,
24 Then let him be gracious to him, and say,
‘Deliver him from going down to the pit,
I have found a ransom’;
25 Let his flesh become fresher than in youth,
Let him return to the days of his youthful vigor;
26 Then he will pray to God, and He will accept him,
That he may see His face with joy,
And He may restore His righteousness to man.
27 “He will sing to men and say,
‘I have sinned and perverted what is right,
And it is not proper for me.
28 ‘He has redeemed my soul from going to the pit,
And my life shall see the light.’
29 “Behold, God does all these oftentimes with men,
30 To bring back his soul from the pit,
That he may be enlightened with the light of life.
In order to benefit from the chastening, a person has to understand the meaning of the chastening and for this he needs again someone who explains the meaning (verse 23). Eliphaz has claimed that no mediator in heaven would ever listen to Job (Job 5:1). But Elihu testifies that there is such a person. With “an angel” it is best to think of “the Angel of the LORD”, the Old Testament appearance of the Lord Jesus. This is also apparent from the following name Elihu uses, “mediator”. We know the Lord Jesus as the “one mediator … between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1Tim 2:5).
And of whom else can it be said with truth that He is “one out of a thousand”, an expression that indicates that He is truly unique (cf. Ecc 7:28b)? There is no one like Him Who is familiar with the ways of God and is more qualified than anyone else to make them known.
Christ has come into the world “to remind a man what is right for him”. That is, Christ has made man known with what is the right way for him. That right path is Him Himself. This is explained in verse 24. Whoever listens to the Angel, the Mediator, and accepts His explanation of the right path, may count on God to be merciful to him. That grace is manifested in the command He gives to deliver the sufferer from his sickness, from not “going down to the pit”. God does not do that just like that. He has a righteous foundation for that redemption, and that is the ransom, or atonement. He cannot give deliverance without atonement.
It sounds like an exclamation of joy from the mouth of God: “I have found a ransom. It means that He has found a covering for sins, the ransom of the blood of Christ, through which He can redeem. Here we see the work of the Angel. He has come to work reconciliation. He has done so by giving His life, His blood. He shed His blood, which means He died. For “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb 9:22b). Through this and through nothing else can God show grace to guilty, sinful people and deliver them from death. We are “reconciled to God … through the death of His Son” (Rom 5:10).
So very special are the verses 23-24 that they are quoted every year during the Great Day of Atonement in Jewish prayers.
In verses 25-28, Elihu describes the happy consequences of deliverance for those who share in it by God’s grace. After the atonement and the received forgiveness there is also for Job the physical healing, the return of health and prosperity with the vigor of youth (verse 25; Job 42:10-17; cf. 2Kgs 5:14). It is a picture of the situation of the realm of peace, where the severely tested faithful remnant will enjoy the blessing of forgiveness, healing, and redemption from destruction (Psa 103:3-4). God will then have reached His goal with the first creation. We do not yet live in that situation.
In a spiritual sense, we can apply this to the new birth, the new life a person receives when converted. This new life also manifests itself. The first in which it becomes visible is prayer, which is fervent prayer (verse 26). There is a longing for fellowship with God through prayer. Paul’s first activity after his conversion is prayer (Acts 9:11).
Someone who approaches God with fervent prayer “He will accept”. He takes him into His favor with great joy. He rejoices over anyone who intensely desires to have fellowship with Him. He will be of good will and support such a person in his spiritual development.
The restored believer, who is a weak mortal in himself, has been declared righteous by God in His Son. He stands before God clothed in His righteousness and not in the garment of His own righteousness. Any fame of his own is absent. He who stands before God testifies before men that everything is due only to God’s grace (verse 27).
One who is redeemed will confess his sin in an open confession of guilt. It is not a confession made in generalities, but a confession in which sin is mentioned by name. His sin was to bend what is right, to twist what is right. Sin disrupts everything, makes everything crooked and twisted. That is the devastating work of man without God. But through the work of Christ on the cross, what is crooked becomes straight again (Isa 40:4; 42:16; Lk 3:5). This will also be seen in the realm of peace, when the Lord Jesus restores all things to the original intention of God (Acts 3:21).
He who is aware of the grace of God will also praise Him for not paying him according to his sins (Psa 103:10). God has redeemed his soul, saved his life (verse 28). He was able to do so because the price of the atonement was paid, for which He Himself provided by giving His Son in death. Thus the sinner did not come into the pit, into the darkness of death, but sees his life as light. With these words, Elihu let Job here look over death and the grave – which Job had for himself as the only prospect – to life in the light. Job’s present darkness is not the end. Job does not end in darkness, but in light.
Elihu points out to Job that God is patient in His work with a man (verse 29). He does “all these”, He makes all kinds of things happen in life, to give a man like Job the true view of life. For example, God is busy “oftentimes with men”. This means that He shows His interference with someone over and over again. In doing so, He uses various methods, such as Elihu mentioned before.
He does this so that a man does not end up in the darkness of the pit, but “that he may be enlightened with the light of life” (verse 30). This is a strong reminder of the Lord Jesus, who said: “I am the light of life” (Jn 8:12). It is therefore profoundly about Him. The God of whom Elihu speaks is no other God than Jesus Christ, the Son of God Who came in flesh, in Whom the fullness of the Godhead physically dwelt on earth and still dwelleth, now that He is in heaven (Col 1:19; 2:9). With Him is the source of life and in His light we see the light (Psa 36:9). In His light, life is lived in joy.
31 - 33 Elihu Wants to Teach Job Wisdom
31 “Pay attention, O Job, listen to me;
Keep silent, and let me speak.
32 “[Then] if you have anything to say, answer me;
Speak, for I desire to justify you.
33 “If not, listen to me;
Keep silent, and I will teach you wisdom.”
Again Elihu calls for Job to pay heed to what he has just said, and also to what else he has to say (verse 31). Then he will not remain caught up in his despair, and will no longer attribute incongruous things to God. Elihu asks Job what he has to say about this (verse 32). Job may make his objections heard. It is not Elihu’s intention to win a debate, but to show the reality.
He only wants to help Job to “justify” him. By this he means that he wants to put Job in the right relationship with God, that he wants to persuade Job to trust God and not to accuse Him. He says to Job, as it were, ‘The friends are wrong, Job, but so are you. God is more just than you.’ Here in Elihu we see a picture of Christ yearning to justify a man before God.
Job does not answer (verse 33). He has no objections. His silence may be seen as approval of what has been said. Then Elihu continues. He will teach Job wisdom that comes from God, which is to give insight into what God has done and what has caused so much discussion. Job is a wise man, but he can increase in wisdom if he continues to listen to what Elihu has to say (Pro 9:9).
Elihu speaks with great confidence in the truth of what he is about to say, without arrogance. He treats Job with the utmost respect and makes sure that he does not hurt his feelings or blame him for injustice.