The three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, ceased to answer Job (v.1) – because Job was righteous in his own eyes. However, then comes Elihu (whose God is he (Jehovah)), the son of Barachel (whom God had blessed) the Buzite (from “Buz” – one of the chiefs of the tribe of Gad – 1 Chronicles 5:14, meaning “contempt“). So Eliphaz burned with anger, the man who hails from the tribe who strikes at the heel of his raiders (Genesis 49:19). He identifies himself as one of the young, one of those who would have listened to Job during Job’s days of glory (c.f. chapter 29), yet he recognises that the true teacher is the Breath of the Almighty (v.8; indicative of the Holy Spirit; c.f. Genesis 2:7, 7:22, Job 4:9; see also Job 33:4-5). It is the Holy Spirit Who is the Wisdom that makes man understand, the very Wisdom whom Job spoke of in chapter 28. He will not show partiality due to his youth, for the spirit within him shall speak words of truth unveiled and without flattery (v.21-22; c.f. Psalms 5:9; Romans 16:18; 1 Thessalonians 2:5).
It is interesting that Elihu as a character is only verbal between chapters 32 and 37. He was not introduced at the outset, for is he mentioned by the LORD when the LORD rebukes Job’s three friends. In the coming chapters, Elihu’s words will show that his focus is not on behavioural modifications leading to God’s stamp of approval; quite the contrary, it is in the LORD’s sovereignty and Ransom (chapter 33.v22-24) by the power of His Wisdom, the Holy Spirit, that Job can plead for this very Mediator. In a sense, Elihu is akin to Elijah – both figures of Christ, but also foreshadows of John the Baptist, he who prepares the way for the LORD’s coming. Just as Elihu ceases to speak in chapter 37, so the LORD speaks immediately in chapter 38 as if ushered by this prophetic and mysterious figure.
The Spirit of God has made Elihu, and the breath of the Almighty gives Elihu life – this is how Elihu’s words of truth begin. He does not set a weighty yoke on Job as Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar did (v.7; c.f. Matthew 11:30). Elihu speaks as though he is the author of the book of Proverbs – “For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it” (v.14; e.g. Proverbs 6:16; 30:18, 30:21, 30:29). So also God’s truth is not interpreted merely from one angle of man’s perception, but also from the perspective of a dream, in a vision of the night, in deep sleep (v.14-15), to give man a revelation to turn such man aside from pride and evil deed (v.17), to preserve a man from the bottomless pit (v.18, 24) – this is most predominantly shown in the Ransom (v.24), the Angel of the LORD, the Mediator, one and only (v.22-23). It is through the propitiation, intercession and mediation of Christ Jesus that Job’s flesh can become fresh with youth, returning to the days of his youthful vigor (v.25), allowing Job to pray to God through the intercessor (v.26; c.f. Book of Hebrews), salvation by the gift of righteousness. The fulfillment of the Kinsman Redeemer in Job 19:25 is thus fulfilled in the words of Elihu in Job 33:28 – Christ has redeemed Job from going down into the pit, and his life shall look upon the light. Behold, God does these things, twice, three times with a man – to resurrect his soul from the pit. Such is the act of the glorious and divine resurrection! So Elihu enlightens Job to the true wisdom whom Job had been alluding to in his self-defence.
Adam Clarke comments:
“It is this that gives efficacy to all the preceding means; without which they would be useless, and the salvation of man impossible. I must think that the redemption of a lost world, by Jesus Christ, is not obscurely signified in Job 33:23, 24. While the whole world lay in the wicked one, and were all hastening to the bottomless pit, God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him might not perish, but have everlasting life. Jesus Christ, the great sacrifice, and head of the Church, commissions his messengers-apostles and their successors-to show men the righteousness of God, and his displeasure at sin, and at the same time his infinite love, which commands them to proclaim deliverance to the captives, and that they who believe on him shall not perish, shall not go down to the pit of destruction, for he has found out an atonement; and that whoever comes to him, through Christ, shall have everlasting life, in virtue of that atonement or ransom price.”
Clarke also further provides the following paragraph for v.26-29:
“Ver. 26. He (Jesus Christ, the head and ransom price) shall pray unto God, (shall make intercession for the transgressors, for he is the Mediator between God and man.) And he (God the Father) will be favourable, ( yirtsehu, will manifest his good will towards him.) And he shall see his face ( panaiv, his faces, God the Father, Son, and Spirit) with joy, ( bithruah, with exultation or triumph,) for he will render unto man his righteousness, ( yasheb leenosh tsidkatho, “He will restore to wretched man his righteousness;” i.e., he will create the soul anew, and restore to the fallen spirit that righteousness and true holiness which it has lost, and bring it again to its original state of perfection, through the grand atonement mentioned Job 33:24.) But when is it that wretched miserable man shall be brought to this state of salvation? This is answered in Ver. 27. When God, looking upon men, seeth any of them saying, I have sinned and perverted that which is right, and it hath profited me nothing-has afforded nothing equal to my wishes, and the tribulation which I sustained in seeking happiness in forbidden things. Redeem my soul from going down to destruction, and my life shall see the light, or shall be as the light. This is the prayer of the penitent, which God has promised to hear. This is one of the best, the deepest, the most spiritual, and most important chapters which the reader has yet met with in the Book of Job. It is every way important, and full of useful information. It is a grand exhibition of the WAY of salvation as revealed to patriarchs and prophets.”
So, just as Clarke defines the way of salvation, as specifically revealed to the patriarchs and prophets is no different from the way we see it – Job, Elihu and Paul and Peter all look to Jesus Christ the eternal mediator for the restoration of their souls, so that they too, like Jesus (c.f. Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27), would be resurrected on the Day of the Bridegroom.
Elihu continues his words, in answer not only to Job but also to his other three friends (v.2). Obviously his words are laced with sarcasm – “Hear my words, you wise men” (v.2). In particular, Elihu charges Job very high upon his words. As Matthew Henry comments:
“Did you ever know such a man as Job, or ever hear a man talk at such an extravagant rate?” He represents him, (1.) As sitting in the seat of the scornful: “He drinketh up scorning like water,” that is, “he takes a great deal of liberty to reproach both God and his friends, takes a pleasure in so doing, and is very liberal in his reflections.” Or, “He is very greedy in receiving and hearkening to the scorns and contempts which others cast upon their brethren, is well pleased with them and extols them.” Or, as some explain it, “By these foolish expressions of his he makes himself the object of scorn, lays himself very open to reproach, and gives occasion to others to laugh at him; while his religion suffers by them, and the reputation of that is wounded through his side.” We have need to pray that God will never leave us to ourselves to say or do any thing which may make us a reproach to the foolish, Ps. xxxix. 8. (2.) As walking in the course of the ungodly, and standing in the way of sinners: He goes in company with the workers of iniquity ( 8), not that in his conversation he did associate with them, but in his opinion he did favour and countenance them, and strengthen their hands. If (as it follows, 9, for the proof of this) it profits a man nothing to delight himself in God, why should he not lay the reins on the neck of his lusts and herd with the workers of iniquity? He that says, I have cleansed my hands in vain, does not only offend against the generation of God’s children (Ps. lxxii. 13, 14), but gratifies his enemies, and says as they say.”
It would appear, then, that Job has somewhat lost sight of the joys of being with the LORD, although his description of God is far more accurate than that of Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar. Elihu’s words can be summed up as follows – “Will he then make repayment to suit you, because you reject it?” (v.33). Elihu, rather than speaking words of what appears to be rebuke, is actually trying to reclaim the Christological perspective in Job’s suffering. God will never allow wickedness, and he is neve wrong (v.10); indeed, of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not do wickedly (v.12). However, throughout this, Elihu does not accuse Job as wicked. He is merely reminding Job that, in the midst of Job’s suffering, if indeed Job is righteous, then what Job is experiencing is still just. It is still the sovereign act of God; the God who will not pervert justice (v.12, 17); the God who is righteous and mighty and is impartial to men of all stature (v.18-32). Although Job is declaring in the recent chapters his pain and anguish as one who obeys the LORD, and considers that “It profits a man nothing that he should take delight in God” (v.9), he is indeed better off than if he had sinned (chapter 35:3).
So chapter 35 opens with Elihu comparing the predicament of a sinner and that of a righteous man – what advantage is there, if the guilty flourishes and the innocent perish? Elihu answers, by indicating that those who cry out for help (v.9-11) may not receive an immediate answer (because of the pride of evil men) (v.12). As v. 10 states, such cries are merely cries for deliverance – but they do not cry out to the Deliverer. Yet, that is not the case with Job. However, despite the LORD not yet speaking in the book of Job since Job’s afflictions, Elihu reminds Job that the LORD’s silence should not be taken as an opportunity for Job to doubt the timing of the LORD’s judgment, lest he opens his mouth to proceed in empty talk and multiply words without knowledge (V.15-16). As Adam Clarke comments – “they cry for deliverance from the pride of wicked men; but they are not heard, because they cry not to God… He will not attend to such vain cries; they cry from their oppressions, but they cry not to God.” This indeed is timely advice for a day when Christ’s Second Coming has been approximately 2000 years in the waiting, with people not girding themselves for His return, perhaps even doubting that He would even return at all. He who was once a righteous man, like Job, would be tempted to grow weary of waiting for the Bridegroom. However, as sure as the sun shall rise from the east to pursue his Bride, the Church, to the west – so also Christ’s return is imminent hope for Job and Christian alike.
So Elihu continues to elaborate on the just timing of the LORD’s judgment – as in the days of Noah when the LORD closed the door to the ark at his divine appointment, so also Job should look forward to the appointed climax of Christ’s return. He is described as:
- He is mighty in strength of understanding (v.5);
- He will exalt the afflicted by giving them their right (v.6; 15-16);
- His eyes are on the righteous (v. 7 c.f. Psalm 34:15);
- He sets us as kings upon the throne (v.7 c.f. Revelation 1:5-6, 3:21)
- He will bless those who listen and serve him (v.8-11)
- He will allow those who do not listen to perish (v.9-14)
From v.17 onwards, Elihu warns Job to not fall into the camp of those who scoff by being enticed by wrath (v.18), that Job should not long for the night nor turn to iniquity (v.17-21), and remember that the LORD is a powerful teacher (v.22-33). As Elihu sums – “Behold, God is great, and we know him not; the number of his years is unsearchable” (v.26). This humility before God far exceeds that of Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar who have claimed no knowledge of the vastness of God’s personality and yet they still make definitive charges against Job as if they were God Himself.
Indeed – “let not the greatness of the ransom turn you aside” (v.18). This verse is quite difficult to understand although Matthew Henry sees this as regarding a bribe turning Job away:
“Even a great ransom cannot deliver thee when God enters into judgment with thee. His justice cannot be bribed, nor any of the ministers of his justice. Will he esteem thy riches, and take from them a commutation of the punishment?”
No gold is sufficient to satiate the price – except for the “gold” found in the salvation of Christ Jesus, the true Ransom of all ransoms shadowed by the deaths of the innocent sacrifices under the Levitical law.
Starting with chapter 36:27, after Elihu admits the vastness of God’s unsearchable character, he describes God’s majestic act of creation in intimate detail:
- The spreading of the clouds, the thundering of his pavilion (v.29)
- Lightning is scattered about him, covering the roots of the sea (v.30)
- Lightning strikes its mark, its crashing declares His presence (v.33)
These themes are carried through and brought to a climactic end in chapter 37, acting as a cloud-like shroud to usher in the LORD’s majesty in chapter 38:
- That his words are like a thunder, thundering with his majestic voice (v.2, 4, 5)
- His lightning to the corners of the earth, unrestrained when his voice is heard (v.3, 4)
The Genesis-type language in chapter 37, combined with the LORD’s booming voice and Word, are indicative of Elihu’s understanding of how creation came into being and his focus on God’s intention for man, vs. Job’s three “wise-men”’s views of man’s intention of God. Elihu’s words in this chapter illustrates the powerful and authoritative aspect of the LORD’s words and commands – the imperative nature of His Word causing immediate transformation. And yet – God has not actually “spoken” in the way that Job has stated God to be in silence! Elihu is still able to identify the gospel in the creation, that God has not ceased to speak, and that it is only by his Word and anything can be sustained (c.f. Colossians 1:15). So Elihu displays in this chapter to us, fallen man, that God’s revelation is just as powerful by his spoken word as can be traced in the sky, in the snow and in the very ice of His breath.
So Elihu goes on immediately in this chapter to describe the life that is breathed from God’s Word. From v.6-13, he explains that the LORD’s sovereignty in all events of life and uses the winter imagery; that snow shall fall on earth in his mighty downpour (v.6), whilst the hand of every man is sealed and beasts remain in their dens (v.7-8); that by His breath, ice is given and broad waters frozen (v.10) – ultimately, “whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen”. Even in the nature of this world, God’s love is wildly imprinted. Such are the wondrous works of God which, if Job considered further, would reveal the reasons for his current demise (v.14-18). Job is revealed for his over-presumption of the LORD’s perspective, with Elihu stringing question after question:
- Do you know how God lays his command upon them and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine?
- Do you know the balancings of the clouds…?
- Can you spread out the skies, hard as a cast metal mirror?
After 37 chapters of apparent silence (which Elihu would of course dispute, as he would affirm the LORD’s presence during Job’s friends’ “wise” counsel), the LORD booms into the scene by answering Job out of the whirlwind (very different to the LORD who spoke a whisper in 1 Kings 19 to Elijah), his first words being:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”
It is important that the LORD’s first words are words of justice. The LORD immediately identifies those with false counsel, just as the LORD, upon reacting to the enemy’s work in Genesis 3, immediately adjudicates the situation at hand. Without such justice, there can be no mercy by the power of the Passover Lamb. Yet, the LORD does not begin to provide answers. Instead, as fitting to the precursor by Elihu, He continues with the questions in this chapter with regard to the majesty of his creation (a total of 26 questions including his very first statement!). Several of these questions validate Elihu’s position in chapters 36 and 37.
However, whilst these words appear to be directed to the men who have darkened counsel by words, to the men who have misrepresented God in their attempts to be humble; God’s questions are most fitting if they are posited against the enemy, the Satan. Just as if God is speaking to the prince of Tyre in Ezekiel 28, or the Day Star, son of Dawn, the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14: WHO is this enemy? Did he lay the foundation of the earth? Where was he when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? God’s accusation is that of the enemy’s lack of wisdom and knowledge. “You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!” – fitting words of irony against the prince who so heavily relied on his wisdom and understanding (Ezekiel 28:4). Even the enemy has not seen the gates of death and deep darkness, the very Sheol which is the prison the LORD has prepared for the father of lies and his children (John 8:44; 1 John 2:22). While the LORD is clearly speaking to Job here (c.f. Job 42:7), similarly his words directed at the prince of Tyre and king of Babylon and not merely to those men, but to the evil spirit speaking behind those men.
So the LORD continues his questions, which hones in onto the lives of the creatures He has made (15 questions), covering:
- Mountain goats, from the old giving birth to the young becoming strong (v.4);
- Wild donkey, who has the arid plain for his home, the salt land for his dwelling place, scorning the city (v.5-8);
- Wild ox’s unwillingness to serve man, unwillingness to be bound (v.9-12);
- Ostrich, who appear beautiful but can hardly be called pinions and plumage of love (v.13-17)
- Horses, which are mighty, leaping like locusts, with terrifying snorts and great exultation in strength (v.19-25)
- Hawks, which soar (v.26)
- Eagle, which mounts up high and makes his nest, dwelling at his stronghold and where the slain are, spying out the prey and (v.27-30)
The LORD therefore spent two chapters – 38 and 39 – describing His activity in the nature of creation, and in the life of creation. The vastness of his glory which transcends man’s feeble understanding and role in His large universe.
So Job responds in this chapter humbly – “Behold I am of small account; what shall I answer you?” (v.4)
The LORD’s response in v.7 is a refrain from chapter 38:3 – “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me”. As Adam Clarke interprets:
“Verse 3. Gird up now thy loins: I will not confound thee with my terrors; dismiss all fearful apprehensions from thy mind; now act like a man, kegeber, like a hero: stand and vindicate thyself. For I will demand of thee-I will ask thee a series of questions more easy of solution than those which thou hast affected to discuss already; and then thou shalt have the opportunity of answering for thyself.”
Sometimes we forget the majesty of the Lord. Sometimes we blaspheme, use his name in vain, treat him like a theological topic to be discussed, molded, politicized for our debased desires. Yet have we an arm like God, thunder with a voice like his (v.9)? Can we truly treat our workmanship as though we have adorned ourselves with majesty and dignity, clothe ourselves with glory and splendor, abase those who are proud and bring them low and tread down the wicked where they stand (v.10-12), let alone bind the enemy (v.13)? No – although we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do His works (Ephesians 2:10). We are none of these things outside of Jesus – that is the LORD’s response. Without the Lord, our own right hand cannot save ourselves (v.14). Even a grand creature such as the Behemoth cannot contend with the Lord himself, although he may be the fear of men (v.19-24)!
It is here that we realize the Lord, at this point, is but using the Behemoth as an analogy both for himself (see Job 41:10) and for us. If we cannot even contend against the Behemoth, how can we contend against God? And yet, even if we think ourselves equal to Behemoths, are they not also humbled by the Father above? No matter how much we boast, we are but the clay of the potter. We who mold are but molded daily by His grace. As Matthew Henry commented:
“The behemoth perhaps is here intended (as well as the leviathan afterwards) to represent those proud tyrants and oppressors whom God had just now challenged Job to abase and bring down. They think themselves as well fortified against the judgments of God as the elephant with his bones of brass and iron; but he that made the soul of man knows all the avenues to it, and can make the sword of justice, his wrath, to approach to it, and touch it in the most tender and sensible part. He that framed the engine, and put the parts of it together, knows how to take it in pieces. Woe to him therefore that strives with his Maker, for he that made him has therefore power to make him miserable, and will not make him happy unless he will be ruled by him.”
The analogy at the end of chapter 40 continues here, from Behemoth to Leviathan. Can we play with Leviathan, a type of the Lord? Can we draw the Lord out with a fishhook, press down His tongue with a cord, put a rope in His nose, pierce His jaw with a hook (v.1-2)? Will He make many pleas to us, speak to us with soft words, make a covenant with us and make Himself a servant forever? (v.3-4) Will we play with Him as with a bird, or will we put him on a leash for our girls? Will traders bargain over Him, divide Him up among the merchants? Can we fill His skin with harpoons or His head with fishing spears? Lay our hands on Him? (v.5-8) Can we strip off His outer garment, come near Him with a bridle, open the doors of His face? (v.13-14)
Yet, all these things we have attempted to do and have done against our Lord Jesus Christ! Is he not the lamb led to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7)? Was he not whipped and his flesh torn (Psalm 22:6)? Did we not divide his garments (Psalm 22:18)? Did we not spit and laugh at him (Mark 14:65)? Such is the grace of God – that the Lord had the power, majesty and authority to be like the Leviathan, and yet condescended himself incarnate as though a lamb. Here is Jesus, whose very sneeze could have flashed forth light, with eyes like eyelids of the dawn, flaming torches coming out of his mouth, smoke from his nostrils – this is the power imbued in the creature from the Creator. Is our Christ the same one who can make the deep boil like a point, make the sea like a pot of ointment – indeed, is he your king over all the sons of pride (v.18-34)?
So Job understands – the grace of God found in the Kinsman Redeemer who would humble himself (Job 19:25); the God who is like Behemoth or Leviathan; the Christ who, from Job’s sight, would be flogged just like an innocent lamb slain. Job repents in dust and ashes, recognizing the grandeur of the Father’s glory and grace, and the Lord turns to Job’s “friends” in judgment – a judgment and righteous anger which Job is shielded from (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17).
The Lord is angry with Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar – they have simply spoken lies of Him. He is not a Lord who is a glory-monger; or requires us to work in order to receive glory. Quite the opposite. Look now on the seven bulls and seven rams which Job is honoured to sacrifice as their mediator (v.8). The Lord institutes Job as their mediator and intercessor, as their model of Jesus; it is on Job’s basis and merciful prayer that the Father chooses not to deal with the three according to their folly, for they have not spoken of Him what is right, as Job had (v.7-8). In accepting Job’s prayer, and witnessing what appears to be a mindless slaughter of bulls and lambs (symbolically numbered at seven, the Lord’s rest), the friends should now see that Behemoth and Leviathan are what the Lord is entitled to. Yet, it is the form of the lamb which the Lord took on, in order that even the likes of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar would be saved, so that they too can be like Job and be the mediators and intercessors of other “friends”.
Therefore, from Job 42:10, we see that Job is prosperous again and is restored beyond what he initially had. He had twice more than before – in Job 1:3 it stated he had 7000 sheep, now he has 14,000; 3,000 camels, and now 6,000, and so forth. Although Psalm 90:10 states that a normal man should only have a lifespan of 70 to 80 years, Job 42:16 states he lived 140 years and saw up to four generations. He also had beautiful daughters, named Jemimah (“sunshine”, to answer the dark night of his suffering), Keziah (“beautiful smell”, like Kaziah, cinnamon, compared against the offensive breath to Job’s wife in Job 19), Keren-happuch (“little make-up box” as his youngest, beautiful taughter, compared against Job 16 where Job’s face was red with weeping, this beautiful daughter covering Job’s sorrow).
More radically, in v.15, Job grants them an inheritance among their brothers, which is not introduced until Moses’ time hundreds of years later (Numbers 27; Deuteronomy 25)! Yet, it is also because only by allowing the inheritance to pass through the women can Jesus Christ be the rightful king! Through Job’s obedient act, we are on step closer to the birth of the offspring who would stamp on the enemy’s head.
We look to Isaiah 61, which Jesus said spoke of himself – in v.7, the Word shows that because of Christ, we too (like Job) would be brought through our suffering to a new body, a new family – a double portion. We are therefore looking forward to a future far outstretching the paradise of Eden, so that we might have a blessing in Christ which we would never have had with Adam. There would be no enemy causing death and destruction, for our hope (which is not in our hope or found independent of God, c.f. Job 41:9) is in the Son.