Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.XXXII.
(1) So these three men ceased.—The next six chapters are taken up with the reply of a fourth person not before mentioned, but who appears to have been present during the discussion, and who is described as Elihu, the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram. The name appears to mean, He is my God. The person from whom he was descended seems to have been the son of Nahor, Abraham’s brother (Genesis 22:21); and a city of the like name is mentioned in Jeremiah 25:23. There is a Ram mentioned in Ruth 4:19, who was the great grandson of Judah; but we can hardly suppose this was the Ram of whose kindred Elihu was. On the other hand, we have no clue to the identification; for even if, with some, we suppose him to have been the same as Aram, the son of Kemuel, and great nephew of Abraham, it is not easy to see how a descendant of Buz, his uncle, should have been described as of the kindred of Ram. One tradition identifies Ram with Abraham, but this is mere conjecture, and in this case highly improbable; the only inference we can draw is that this specification of Elihu serves to show that he was a real, and not an imaginary, personage. The Targum speaks of Elihu as a relative of Abraham. If we are right in putting the life of Elihu so far back, the whole position and surroundings of Job’s history become the more probable, because what is told us of Abraham and the patriarchs corresponds with the description and character of Job; and then, also, the traditional Mosaic origin of the Book of Job becomes the more probable.
Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram: against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God.(2) Because he justified himself rather than God.—See Job 19:6. Job maintained his innocence, and could not understand how his affliction could be reconciled with the justice of God. Yet, at the same time, he declared that God was his salvation (Job 13:16), and that it was impossible for man to be absolutely just with God (Job 9:2; Job 9:28), though at the same time he might hope in His righteousness (Job 23:3 seqq.).
Also against his three friends was his wrath kindled, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job.(3) They had found no answer.—They could not reply unto Job, nor deny that he had been in conduct such as he said he had been, and yet they concluded that he must be wicked because God had smitten him.
Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken, because they were elder than he.(4) Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken.—Literally, Had waited in words for or regarding Job; that is, as some understand it, had waited to speak unto Job, or, more probably, had waited till the argument was closed to declare his opinion with reference to Job. The line taken by Elihu is an intermediate one, and is neither that of Job nor his friends. He admits the integrity of Job—or, at least, he does not deny it—although he uses very strong expressions as to the course which Job has adopted (Job 34:7-9; Job 34:35-37); but he considers that the Divine afflictions have a disciplinary object, and that they may be sent because God has discerned the seeds of unfaithfulness and defection in the sufferer; and this may serve to explain their purpose in the case of Job. He has very lofty ideas of the righteousness of God (Job 34:10, &c.), and of His power and majesty (Job 37:22). He holds that with regard to the Almighty we cannot find Him out, but that we may safely trust His mercy and His justice. This is the position to which he leads Job when the Lord answers him out of the whirlwind.
And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I am young, and ye are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not shew you mine opinion.(6) I am young.—The way in which Elihu comes forward is very interesting, and full of character. It gives us also a picture of the times and habits.
But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.(8) But there is a spirit in man.—Rather, But it is the spirit in man.
And the inspiration of the Almighty.—Rather, And the breath of the Almighty that giveth them understanding. It is the expression used in the Mosaic narrative of the origin of man, and may perhaps show acquaintance on the part of the writer with that narrative (Genesis 2:7). Elihu means to say that it is not years so much as the spirit and illumination of the Almighty that maketh a man pre-eminent in wisdom.
Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment.(9) Great men are not always wise.—That is, old men. He had just before said that he was “little in days” (Job 32:6); or it may be used in the sense of number, many, or multitudes. (Comp. what Job himself said, Job 12:2 : “No doubt because ye are a people wisdom will die with you.”)
Therefore I said, Hearken to me; I also will shew mine opinion.(10) Therefore I said.—Equivalent to, Therefore I say. It is what he says now, as the result of former convictions.
Yea, I attended unto you, and, behold, there was none of you that convinced Job, or that answered his words:(12) There was none of you.—In Elihu’s judgment there was no one who touched the main point of the argument with Job.
Lest ye should say, We have found out wisdom: God thrusteth him down, not man.(13) Lest ye should say.—That is, “I resolved to speak, lest ye should think yourselves wise, and that God was afflicting him on account of his sins.” God is declaring his guilt in such a way that man’s opinion matters little.
They were amazed, they answered no more: they left off speaking.(15) They were amazed.—The force is given better by substituting the present tense, “They are amazed, they answer no more: they have not a word to say.”
When I had waited, (for they spake not, but stood still, and answered no more;)(16) When I had waited.—Or, as some render it, “And shall I wait because they speak not?” But they stand still and make no further reply.
Behold, my belly is as wine which hath no vent; it is ready to burst like new bottles.(19) New bottles.—Or wine-skins. (Comp. Matthew 9:17.)
For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my maker would soon take me away.(22) In so doing my maker would soon take me away.—Or perhaps the meaning may be, “My Maker will almost have to forgive me:” that is, for being too candid, frank, and straightforward; for speaking too plainly. Some commentators regard Elihu’s character with great disfavour, and consider him to be an empty and arrogant talker, mainly, perhaps, from Job 32:18-19; others accept him as a wise and pious friend of Job, who not only gave him good advice, but perhaps more nearly than any other of the disputants hit the truth about Job’s afflictions. We are probably more right in this latter view, because at the climax of the poem we do not read that Elihu had any share in the condemnation which was passed by God on the three friends of Job. He is not noticed for either praise or blame.
It is to be observed that the last eight verses of this chapter are a kind of soliloquy, unlike the former part of it, which was addressed to the friends, or the next chapter, which is addressed to Job.