Job 32:4
Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken, because they were elder than he.
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(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.

32:1-5 Job's friends were silenced, but not convinced. Others had been present. Elihu was justly displeased with Job, as more anxious to clear his own character than the justice and goodness of God. Elihu was displeased with Job's friends because they had not been candid to Job. Seldom is a quarrel begun, more seldom is a quarrel carried on, in which there are not faults on both sides. Those that seek for truth, must not reject what is true and good on either side, nor approve or defend what is wrong.Now Elihu had waited - Margin, as in Hebrew, expected Job in words. The meaning is plain, that he had waited until all who were older than himself had spoken.

Because they were elder than he - Margin, as in Hebrew, older for days. It appears that they were all older than he was. We have no means of determining their respective ages, though it would seem probable that Eliphaz was the oldest of the three friends, as he uniformly spoke first.

4. had spoken—Hebrew, "in words," referring rather to his own "words" of reply, which he had long ago ready, but kept back in deference to the seniority of the friends who spoke. Elihu had waited with patience, as the word notes.

Till Job; add, and his three friends, as appears from the following words. It is a synecdoche, whereof instances have been given before.

They were elder than he; and therefore he expected more satisfaction from them, and gave them the precedency in the discourse; wherein he showed his prudence and modesty. Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken,.... Made an end of speaking, until he had thus expressed himself, "the words of Job are ended", Job 31:40, and waited likewise until his three friends had said all they had to say, and which is here supposed and implied, as appears by what follows:

because they were elder than he; it may be added, from the original text, "in", or "as two days" (l); they had lived longer in the world than he, and therefore did not take upon him to speak till they had done; he, as became a young man, was swift to hear, and slow to speak; that they were old men, appears from what Eliphaz says, Job 15:10.

(l) "diebus", Beza, Montanus, Mercerus; "quod ad dies", Schultens.

Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken, because {d} they were elder than he.

(d) That is, the three mentioned before.

4. waited till Job had spoken] Rather, waited to speak unto Job, lit. waited for Job with words. Elihu had waited (till the friends spoke) prepared to address Job, as he now does.Verse 4. - Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken; rather, to speak to Job (see the Revised Version) He had waited impatiently until the three special "friends" had said their say, and be might come forward without manifest presumption. Because they were elder than he. (On the respect paid to age at this time in the land wherein Job lived, see the comment on Job 29:8.) 38 If my field cry out against me,

And all together its furrows weep;

39 If I have devoured its strength without payment,

And caused the soul of its possessor to expire:

40 May thistles spring up instead of wheat,

And darnel instead of barley.

The field which he tills has no reason to cry out on account of violent treatment, nor its furrows to weep over wrong done to them by their lord.

(Note: In a similar figure a Rabbinic proverb says (with reference to Malachi 2:13), that the altar of God weeps over him who separates himself from the wife of his youth.)

אדמה, according to its radical signification, is the covering of earth which fits close upon the body of the earth as its skin, and is drawn flat over it, and therefore especially the arable land; תּלם (Arab. telem, not however directly referable to an Arab. root, but as also other words used in agriculture, probably borrowed from the North Semitic, first of all the Aramaic or Nabataic), according to the explanation of the Turkish Kamus, the "ditch-like crack which the iron of the ploughman tears in the field," not the ridge thrown up between every two furrows (vid., on Psalm 65:11). He has not unlawfully used (which would be the reason of the crying and weeping) the usufruct of the field (כּח meton., as Genesis 4:12, of the produce, proportioned to its capability of production) without having paid its value, by causing the life to expire from the rightful owner, whether slowly or all at once (Jeremiah 15:9). The wish in Job 31:40 is still stronger than in Job 31:8, Job 31:12 : there the loss and rooting out of the produce of the field is desired, here the change of the nature of the land itself; the curse shall and must come upon it, if its present possessor has been guilty of the sin of unmerciful covetousness, which Eliphaz lays to his charge in Job 22:6-9.

According to the view of the Capuchin Bolducius (1637), this last strophe, Job 31:38, stood originally after Job 31:8, according to Kennicott and Eichhorn after Job 31:25, according to Stuhlmann after Job 31:34. The modern expositors retain it in its present position. Hirzel maintains the counter arguments: (1) that none of the texts preserved to us favour the change of position; (2) that it lay in the plan of the poet not to allow the speeches of Job to be rounded off, as would be the case by Job 31:35 being the concluding strophe, but to break off suddenly without a rhetorical conclusion. If now we imagine the speeches of Elihu as removed, God interrupts Job, and he must cease without having come to an end with what he had to say. But these counter arguments are an insufficient defence: for (1) there is a number of admitted misplacements in the Old Testament which exceed the Masora (e.g., 1 Samuel 13:1; Jeremiah 27:1), and also the lxx (e.g., 1 Samuel 17:12, באנשׁים, lxx ἐν ἀνδράσιν, instead of בשׁנים); (2) Job's speech would gain a rhetorical conclusion by Job 31:38, if, as Hirzel in contradiction of himself supposes, Job 31:35 ought to be considered as a parenthesis, and Job 31:40 as a grammatical conclusion to the hypothetical clauses from Job 31:24 onwards. But if this strange view is abandoned, it must be supposed that with Job 31:38 Job intends to begin the assertion of his innocence anew, and is interrupted in this course of thought now begun, by Jehovah. But it is improbable that one has to imagine this in the mind of such a careful poet. Also the first word of Jehovah, "Who is this that darkeneth counsel with words without knowledge?" Job 38:2, is much more appropriate to follow directly on Job 31:37 than Job 31:40; for a new course of thought, which Jehovah's appearing interrupts, begins with Job 31:35; and the rash utterance, Job 31:37, is really a "darkening of the divine decree." For by declaring he will give an account to God, his judge, concerning each of his steps, and approach Him like a prince, Job does not merely express the injustice of the accusations raised by his human opponents, but he casts a reflection of injustice upon the divine decree itself, inasmuch as it appears to him to be a de facto accusation of God.

Nevertheless, whether Elihu's speeches are not be put aside as not forming an original portion of the book, or not, the impression that Job 31:38 follow as stragglers, and that Job 31:35 would form a more appropriate close, and a more appropriate connection for the remonstrance that follows, whether it be Jehovah's or Elihu's, remains. For the assertion in Job 31:38 cannot in itself be considered to be a justifiable boldness; but in Job 31:35 the whole condition of Job's inner nature is once more mirrored forth: his longing after God, by which Satan's prediction is destroyed; and his overstepping the bounds of humility, on account of which his affliction, so far as it is of a tentative character, cannot end before it is also become a refining fire to him. Therefore we cannot refrain from the supposition that it is with Job 31:38 just as with Isaiah 38:21 The lxx also found these two verses in this position; they belong, however, after Isaiah 38:6, as is clear in itself, and as is evident from 2 Kings 20:7 There they are accidentally omitted, and are now added at the close of the narration as a supplement. If the change of position, which is there an oversight, is considered as too hazardous here, Job 31:35 must be put in the special and close relation to the preceding strophe indicated by us in the exposition, and Job 31:38 must be regarded as a final rounding off (not as the beginning of a fresh course of thought); for instead of the previous aposiopeses, this concluding strophe dies away, and with it the whole confession, in a particularly vigorous, imprecative conclusion.

Let us once more take a review of the contents of the three sharply-defined monologues. After Job, in Job 27:1, has closed the controversy with the friends, in the first part to this trilogy, Job 29:1, he wishes himself back in the months of the past, and describes the prosperity, the activity, for the good of his fellow-men, and the respect in which he at that time rejoiced, when God was with him. It is to be observed here, how, among all the good things of the past which he longs to have back, Job gives the pre-eminence to the fellowship and blessing of God as the highest good, the spring and fountain of every other. Five times at the beginning of Job 29:1 in diversified expressions he described the former days as a time when God was with him. Look still further from the beginning of the monologue to its close, to the likewise very expressive כאשׁר אבלים ינחם. The activity which won every heart to Job, and toward which he now looks back so longingly, consisted of works of that charity which weeps with them that weep, and rejoices not in injustice, Job 29:12-17. The righteousness of life with which Job was enamoured, and which manifested itself in him, was therefore charity arising from faith (Liebe aus Glauben). He knew and felt himself to be in fellowship with God; and from the fulness of this state of being apprehended of God, he practised charity. He, however, is blessed who knows himself to be in favour with God, and in return loves his fellow-men, especially the poor and needy, with the love with which he himself is loved of God. Therefore does Job wish himself back in that past, for now God has withdrawn from him; and the prosperity, the power, and the important position which were to him the means for the exercise of his charity, are taken from him.

This contrast of the past and present is described in Job 30:1, which begins with ועתה. Men who have become completely animalized, rough hordes driven into the mountains, with whom he sympathized, but without being able to help them as he had wished, on account of their degeneracy, - these mock at him by their words and acts. Now scorn and persecution for the sake of God is the greatest honour of which a man can be accounted worthy; but, apart from the consideration that this idea could not yet attain its rightful expression in connection with the present, temporal character of the Old Testament, it was not further from any one than from him who in the midst of his sufferings for God's sake regards himself, as Job does now, as rejected of God. That scorn and his painful and loathesome disease are to him a decree of divine wrath; God has, according to his idea, changed to a tyrant; He will not hear his cry for help. Accordingly, Job can say that his welfare as a cloud is passed away. He is conscious of having had pity on those who needed help, and yet he himself finds no pity now, when he implores pity like one who, seated upon a heap of rubbish, involuntarily stretches forth his hand for deliverance. In this gloomy picture of the present there is not even a single gleam of light; for the mysterious darkness of his affliction has not been in the slightest degree lighted up for Job by the treatment the friends have adopted. Also he is as little able as the friends to think of suffering and sin as unconnected, for which very reason his affliction appears to him as the effect of divine wrath; and the sting of his affliction is, that he cannot consider this wrath just. From the demand made by his faith, which here and there breaks through his conflict, that God cannot allow him to die the death of a sinner without testifying to his innocence, Job nowhere attains the conscious conclusion that the motive of his affliction is love, and not wrath.

In the third part of the speech (Job 31:1), which begins with the words, "I had made a covenant," etc., without everywhere going into the detail of the visible conjunction of the thought, Job asserts his earnest struggle after sanctification, by delivering himself up to just divine punishment in case his conduct had been the opposite. The poet allows us to gain a clear insight into that state of his hero's heart, and also of his house, which was well-pleasing to God. Not merely outward adultery, even the adulterous look; not merely the unjust acquisition of property and goods, but even the confidence of the heart in such things; not merely the share in an open adoration of idols, but even the side-glance of the heart after them, is accounted by him as condemnatory. He has not merely guarded himself from using sinful curses against his enemies, but he has also not rejoiced when misfortune overtook them. As to his servants, even when he has had a dispute with any of them, he has not forgotten that master and servant, without distinction of birth, are creatures of one God. Towards orphans, from early youth onwards, he has practised such tender love as if he were their father; towards widows, as if he were their son. With the hungry he has shared his bread, with the naked his clothes; his subordinates had no reason to complain of niggardly sustenance; his house always stood open hospitably to the stranger; and, as the two final strophes affirm: he has not hedged in any secret sin, anxious only not to appear as a sinner openly, and has not drawn forth wailings and tears from the ground which he cultivated by avarice and oppressive injustice. Who does not here recognise a righteousness of life and endeavour, the final aim of which is purity of heart, and which, in its relation to man, flows forth in that love which is the fulfilling of the law? The righteousness of which Job (Job 29:14) says, he has put it on like a garment, and it has put him on, is essentially the same as that which the New Testament Preacher on the mount enjoins. As the work of an Israelitish poet, Job 31:1 is a most important evidence in favour of the assertion, that a life well-pleasing to God is not, even in the Old Testament, absolutely limited to the Israelitish nation, and that it enjoins a love which includes man as man within itself, and knows of no distinction.


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