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Deeper Commentary

Job 33:1 However, Job, please hear my speech, and listen to all my words- This recalls the plea of Job (Job 13:17; 21:2). We are given the impression that just as Job was so desperate to speak and would've been better not to, so Elihu likewise. See on :2,31.

Job 33:2 See now, I have opened my mouth. My tongue has spoken in my mouth-
Again we see a similarity with Job, who is silent for a period and then opens his mouth and speaks (Job 3:1). But our natural reflection is that Job would've been better to remain silent. And we are encouraged through this connection to think the same of Elihu. This all contributes towards an intended impression that Elihu is an enigmatic figure. We are not intended to be sure as to whether he is really in line with God or not. He functions also to elicit our response as the audience to the speeches. We are all beginning to form our opinions of the characters, and then Elihu appears and gives his take, and we raise our eyebrows and wonder whether... he is right or wrong, just as we too struggle to come to a correct and just opinion about what we've just heard.

Job 33:3 My words shall utter the uprightness of my heart. That which my lips know they shall speak sincerely-
The very phrase "words of uprightness" is only found when Job complains about the words of the friends in Job 6:25: "How forcible are words of uprightness! But your reproof, what does it reprove?". This experience led Job to long for "words of uprightness", and thereby he came to be ready for the final revelation of God's words at the end of the book. Likewise our disillusion with human words and relationships leads us to be the more eager and ready for God's revelation. 

Job 33:4 The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life-
LXX "The Divine Spirit is that which formed me, and the breath of the Almighty that which teaches me". Elihu has used the same argument in Job 32:8. He seems however to assume that because he like all men has been made by God's Spirit and given life by that Spirit, his opinion is therefore inspired by God's Spirit. That is obviously a false position. Again, we are intentionally left wondering whether Elihu is totally in line with God, and we get the impression from this kind of thing that he isn't. See on Job 32:5.


Job 33:5 If you can, answer me. Set your words in order before me, and stand forth-
Elihu seems to be responding to Job's words in Job 23:6 "Would He contend with me in the greatness of His power? No, but He would listen to me"- AV "Would he plead against me...?". God, and Elihu on His behalf, did plead against Job by recounting God's power. When Elihu was established in Job's mind as God's true representative, he found that he had nothing to say, as he thought he would have. Elihu seems to refer back to this speech when he challenges the dumfounded Job: "If thou hast anything to say, answer me... if thou canst answer me, set thy words in order before me" (Job 33:32,5 AV). Elihu has in mind Job 23:4 "I would set my cause in order before Him". Job several times spoke of how he would fully explain himself to God, if he found Him. Yet in the presence of God and Elihu, he finds that all the words dry up. Words became irrelevant. All he can do is behold the majesty of God's righteousness, and declare his own unrighteousness. That spiritual pinnacle of Job still lies ahead for the majority of us. The desire to speak is a desire to express our own thoughts. Words are a construct which can trap us. Only God's words can liberate. There is a wordless element in being truly humbled before the Almighty.


Job 33:6 Behold, I am toward God even as you are. I am also formed out of the clay-
The degree to which Elihu was Job's exact representative helps us appreciate the precision of our Lord's representation of us. Indeed this appears to be one of the roles of Elihu in Job. The LXX brings this out well: "Stand against me, and I will stand against thee. Thou art formed out of the clay as also I: we have been formed out of the same substance". It seems that Elihu had been through Job's very experiences, of 'death' and rising again: "He has delivered my soul from death, that my life may praise him in the light. Hearken, Job, and hear me" (33:30,31 LXX). And this is exactly what Job did. But again we are left wondering whether Elihu really is the answer to Job's desire for a sympathetic mediator with God. Here at the beginning of his speech, we have hopes he might be. But as we see how tough he is on Job, we wonder. We look for someone else. And that person doesn't arise, at the time. God Himself then appears, without any mediator. But our sympathy with Job's desire for a mediator leads us in essence to an understanding of the Lord Jesus.  

Understanding the real import of the speeches rests largely on a correct understanding of Elihu. Job longed for one like Elihu, who could reconcile God with Job's righteous life , his sufferings, and all his intellectual doubts. Elihu points out that he is the fulfilment of Job's need (Job 33:6 cp. 9:33). With this, Job has no disagreement. Elihu can be seen as a type of Christ. The speeches of Job therefore make us see the desperation of man's need for Elihu/Jesus; especially the need of those who lived under the Old Covenant. Job's weakness, morally, physically and intellectually, becomes representative of the weakness of each of us. We breathe a  sigh of relief when Elihu appears on the scene. But we are not completely relieved as Elihu's speeches continue. For he isn't very sympathetic to Job. So whilst we see him as the requested mediator, his failure and our dissatisfaction with him becomes our longing for a better mediator, the Lord Jesus.

Job 33:7 Behold, my terror shall not make you afraid, neither shall my pressure be heavy on you-
Clearly God's "hand" (s.w. "pressure") had been upon Job, and God had made Job feel His "terrors" (s.w. Job 7:14; 9:34). Elihu is saying that he is not going to be like this; he had no power to hurt Job, he is just making observations.

Job had stated this fear of God's terror making him afraid in Job 9:34; 13:21, and Elihu alludes to it when he uses the same phrase in assuring Job that his terror will not make Job afraid (Job 33:7). The terror is perhaps "the terror of the Lord", the fear of condemnation at the last day (so Paul uses the phrase, 2 Cor. 5:11). That terror should "persuade men" to accept grace, Paul argues. To have that terror unexperienced by men would mean they had no persuasion toward grace. Elihu however argues that he is not going to as it were pressurize Job with such fears.

It might be possible to speculate as to the tone of voice in which Elihu spoke. By contrast to the friends' "hard speeches" , Elihu assures Job at the start of their dialogue: "My fear shall not terrify thee, neither shall my hand be heavy upon thee" (33:7 LXX). A similar contrast is pointed by Elihu's claim to be speaking as a result of God's spirit within him (Job 32:8), whereas Zophar and the friends spoke from their own spirit (20:3). Apart from God's specific confirmation of Elihu's words, Job evidently perceived Elihu to be the answer to his pleas to find God. Job's desire for "a daysman" was answered by Elihu: "I am according to thy wish". Job did not dispute this. If one of the friends had claimed to be such a "daysman" , we can imagine Job's indignant denial of it!

Job 33:8 Surely you have spoken in my hearing, I have heard the voice of your words, saying-
Elihu has been present all along. Although the reader hasn't seen him, the audience watching the drama would have seen him there.

Job 33:9 ‘I am clean, without disobedience. I am innocent, neither is there iniquity in me-
Discerning and feeling ones own sinfulness is an undoubted part of conversion. Elihu on God’s behalf rebukes Job for thinking that “I am clean without transgression” (33:9,12); and Elihu’s exhortation to Job to say “I have sinned” (33:27) is obeyed by Job, as if he accepted the truth of what Elihu was saying. How we see the role of Elihu determines how we understand Job's claims of innocence. But we are left with a nagging doubt about Elihu. I have earlier suggested that he is inserted as a literary device to summarize the arguments so far and to give us a foretaste of God's argument which is yet to come.

Job 33:10 Behold, He finds occasions against me. He counts me for His enemy-
This is a rather uncharitable twist of Job's words in Job 7:17-19; 10:3-6. And even when Job feels God is his enemy (Job 16:9), this surely must be balanced against what Job elsewhere says about maintaining his faith in God, even if God slays him. We are expecting Elihu to be sympathetic, and instead we find him twisting Job's words and seizing upon the words of a man clearly in great pain and anguish whilst ignoring the other things he says about God. God's statement that Job has spoken what is right about Him (Job 42:7) appears to be a rebuke of Elihu's position. But for now, we immediately begin to have our doubts about Elihu.

Job 33:11 He puts my feet in the stocks. He marks all my paths’-
This is indeed a quote of Job's words in Job 13:27, but Elihu rather overlooks the context in which Job spoke of God marking all his paths (Job 7:17-19). We get the impression that Elihu is making Job an offender for a word, and is not giving credit for all the faith he shows in God in his other speeches.

Job 33:12 Behold, I will answer you. In this you are not just, for God is greater than man-
Job has often said that God is greater than man. And yet indeed Job is "not just" for no man can be just with God of himself, as Job has recognized (Job 9:2). We sense Elihu is definitely framing Job in as negative a light as possible, and is not free from the false accusations against Job which have been seen throughout the speeches of the friends. I suggested on Job 32:5 that Elihu serves in the narrative to summarize the arguments of the friends.

Job 33:13 Why do you strive against Him, because He doesn’t give account of any of His matters?-
Again this seems a twist of Job's words; he has complained that God is striving against him (s.w. Job 9:3; 10:2; 13:8,19), and in his maturer moments Job recognized God was not in fact striving against him (Job 23:6).  

Job 33:14 For God speaks once, yes twice, though man pays no attention-
Job has wanted God to speak to him (Job 13:22; 23:5), and Elihu is saying that God has spoken to Job through his sufferings, which Elihu now proceeds to allude to in the next verses. But God will finally speak, plainly and directly. We are left to wonder whether in fact Elihu is right or not; for it was not that Job was paying no attention.  

Job 33:15 In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, in slumbering on the bed-
This and the following verses allude to Job's situation. God had given him nightmare visions and bad dreams (Job 7:14). Whether these were the Divine revelations which Elihu imagines or merely part of the overall illness of Job... again remains unclear to us. Exactly because Elihu is purposefully enigmatic as to whether he is really in line with God; see on Job 32:5.

Job 33:16 then He opens the ears of men, and seals their instruction-
This rather sounds like the claim of Eliphaz to have had revelation from God in a night vision, which claim I suggested was false (see on Job 4:15). See on :15.

Job 33:17 that He may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man-
This suggests Job had an evil purpose which God had sought to deflect him from by giving him night visions. But this argument of Elihu's is at variance with the explanations provided in the prologue- that Job is not a sinner who needs correction, but a man being tested for the sake of revealing truths to the friends / satan / "sons of God".

Job 33:18 He keeps back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword-
The impression is that Job was headed for death "by the sword" of his attackers, but God was trying to save him from this by giving him visions at night. But that is at variance with the parameters set in the prologue. God was not going  to allow Job's abusers to slay him. His life was to be preserved. So recalling that, we further wonder about Elihu. He states some truths, which God later confirms, but there is much which leaves us doubting whether his approach is totally in line with God's. This is intentional. See on Job 32:5.

Job 33:19 He is chastened also with pain on his bed, with continual strife in his bones-
This clearly alludes to Job's writhing with pain on his couch with continual pain on his bones. But was this for his 'chastening'? As discussed on :18, the parameters defined in the prologue suggest that the sufferings were for the education of others, and not for Job's personal chastening.

Job 33:20 so that his life hates bread, and his soul dainty food-
Clearly Elihu has Job in view. But there is no evidence he lost appetite; instead he complains that he has to beg for bread and has to eat whatever he can get (Job 3:24; 6:7; 15:23). Again we fail to find in Elihu a totally truthful and sympathetic mediator; and we look for another, finally fulfilled in the Lord Jesus.

Job 33:21 His flesh is so consumed away, that it can’t be seen. His bones that were not seen stick out-
The reference to consumed flesh seems somewhat exaggerated. The same phrase is used in Prov. 5:11 for judgment for sin. But the prologue has made it clear that Job's sufferings were not a punishment for his sin. The righteous was to suffer in order to demonstrate something to others. And Elihu again appears out of full step with the Divine basis of things concerning Job.

Job 33:22 Yes, his soul draws near to the pit, and his life to the destroyers-
Elihu appears to hold some pagan ideas that there were "those who bring death" (ESV) who meet and greet those who die. This isn't the Biblical picture of death and the grave, and yet again, we get the feeling that Elihu is not completely in line with God, although some of his views are repeated by God later.

Job 33:23 If there is beside him an angel, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to show to man what is right for him-
Elihu seems to be suggesting that unless Job makes use of Elihu's offer of being a mediator / "interpreter" (Job 33:6), then he is going to die the death of the condemned (:24). But this again misses the point of the parameters set in the prologue. Job is not going to die as a result of his sufferings. Elihu is not going to prove Job's saviour.

Job 33:24 then God is gracious to him, and says, ‘Deliver him from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom’-
Again, this isn't what happened. God's grace was not mediated to Job through Elihu being a mediator who made a ransom payment for Job; although Elihu clearly liked to image himself like that (Job 33:6). This primitive idea of ransom payment through a mediator is completely debunked by God's final appearance to justify and save Job. His grace to Job was not predicated upon Elihu, nor in fact any mediator nor ransom payment.

Job 33:25 His flesh shall be fresher than a child’s. He returns to the days of his youth-
Indeed Job's fortunes were revived, but not thanks to Elihu's mediation (see on :23,24). Job indeed longed to return "to the days of my youth" (Job 29:4); and Elihu is offering Job the power to return, thanks to his mediation (see on :23).

Job 33:26 He prays to God, and He is gracious to him, so that he sees His face with joy. He restores to man his righteousness-
This is indeed what happened to Job. He was 'restored', he prayed to God for the friends (Job 42:10), and felt as if he had seen God's face (Job 42:5). The point is that this revival of Job happened exactly as Elihu said- but not thanks to his mediation (see on :23,24). It was predicated purely upon God's direct grace.

Job 33:27 He sings before men, and says, ‘I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it didn’t profit me-
The return of the prodigal son foreshadowed the final repentance of the Jews (note how that parable is based on Gen. 43:16;45:14,15). But Job's decision to say "I have sinned... and it didn't profit me" also connects with the prodigal son (Lk. 15:21), thus again associating him with the Jews in their suffering and repentance. LXX "Even then a man shall blame himself, saying, What kind of things have I done? and he has not punished me according to the full amount of my sins". This has special reference to the exiles, who admitted that they had not been punished according to their sins (Ezra 9:13).  

Job 33:28 He has redeemed my soul from going into the pit. My life shall see the light’-
The 'redemption' of the exiles was to be predicated likewise upon their repentance (Jer. 31:11 s.w.). But this was to be possible without any mediator figure; Elihu failed to be that figure, just as the various possible Messiah figures didn't come to anything. But salvation was still possible through repentance eliciting God's direct restorative grace.

Job 33:29 Behold, God works all these things, twice, yes three times, with a man-
Perhaps the idea is that God has offered Job a way out two or three times, and he has rejected it. However this would reflect Elihu again missing the point of the prologue's explanation of why the sufferings were coming upon Job. They were not condemnation for his personal sins, from which he could only be saved by repentance and response to visions given by God. This is Elihu's position, and it is simply at variance with the parameters given in the prologue.

Job 33:30 to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be enlightened with the light of the living-
It seems that Elihu had been through Job's very experiences, of 'death' and rising again: "He has delivered my soul from death, that my life may praise him in the light. Hearken, Job, and hear me" (33:30,31 LXX). And this is exactly what Job did. As Job was to be the representative saviour of the friends, so perhaps Elihu was to be for Job.

Job 33:31 Mark well, Job, and listen to me. Hold your peace, and I will speak-
See on :30. These are Job's words of Job 13:13. I noted on :1,2 that Elihu often repeats Job's words and style. Perhaps the collective impression is that Elihu's many words are no better than Job's; he is as desirous that his words be taken as 'truth' just as much as Job and the friends.

Job 33:32 If you have anything to say, answer me. Speak, for I desire to justify you-
Elihu's speech so far has been so self-justifying and critical of Job that we as the audience struggle to believe that he really desires to justify Job. And we are to learn that Job can be justified only by God and not man. And his justification is certainly not going to be on account of his speaking any more words. The fact Job doesn't say anything (:33) is because he clearly doesn't believe Elihu can justify him. God's final appearance and justification of Job, with no reference of Elihu nor usage of his offer of being the mediator desired (:6), is proof enough that Elihu is simply not completely God's representative.

Job 33:33 If not, listen to me. Hold your peace, and I will teach you wisdom
- The impression is that in the drama, there is now a period of silence. Job says nothing (see on :32). Although he could have taken issue with much of what Elihu says, he doesn't. He is learning that verbal response is of no value and will not help toward resolution of matters with God.