corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Job 32



Verse 1

1. Righteous in his own eyes — The friends had failed to convince him of unrighteousness. On the contrary, in arraigning the rightness of the divine government, they conceived his object to be the establishment of his own righteousness. Seemingly about to retire from the field and leave Job to his vanity and obduracy, the friends console themselves, and excuse their pitiable defeat, by the solace that Job is “righteous in his own eyes.” The author apparently makes the remark in the interest of “the friends,” notwithstanding Hengstenberg’s view that he speaks in his own person.

The words are significant in their bearing upon the solution of the problem of the book.

Verses 1-6

Introduction in Prose accounting for the intervention of Elihu, Job 32:1-6 a.

The sacred writer proceeds to apologize for the intervention of Elihu, and more especially for the imperfections of his first address; not only for the impetuosity and conceit which it betokened, but for its painful embarrassment and the obvious inadequacy of its exordium — the former of which were unbecoming a young man, and the latter of which should seemingly have led him to keep his silence. (See note on Job 32:6.) The introduction, however, quietly assures us in advance of the noble character of the speaker and of the fitness of his speech, notwithstanding adverse appearances; and prepares us to coincide with the estimate of Lowth: “The lenity and moderation of Elihu serve as a beautiful contrast to the intemperance and asperity of the other three. He is pious, mild, and equitable; equally free from adulation and severity; and endued with singular wisdom, which he attributes entirely to the inspiration of God; and his modesty, moderation, and wisdom are the more entitled to commendation when we consider his unripe youth. As the characters of his detractors were in all respects calculated to inflame the mind of Job, that of this arbitrator is admirably adapted to soothe and compose it. To this point the whole drift of the argument tends, and on this the very purport of it seems to depend.” — Hebrew Poetry, sec. 34.

Verse 2

2. Elihu My God is he, (Gesenius.) This name, together with that of his father, Barachel, “May God bless,” points to a religious line of descent, perhaps through Nahor, the brother of Abraham. Genesis 22:21. The Buzite — Huz and Buz, the names of two sons of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, thus reappear, the one in the name of Job’s country, and the other in that of the tribe to which Elihu belonged. “The circumstance of his belonging to the family of Buz was thus pointedly mentioned by the sacred writer to draw respectful attention to him, notwithstanding his youth, on account of his relationship to Abraham.” (Kitto, D.B.I.) Genealogical wastes like that of Genesis 22:21 are made to blossom, as one part of the Scripture thus interweaves itself with another.

Kindred of Ram — Ewald and others think the word Ram may be interchangeable with the Aram mentioned in Genesis in connexion with Huz and Buz. Genesis 22:21. This may sufficiently account for the Aramaic forms of speech with which the language of Elihu is marked, and nullify all objections urged against Elihu on the ground of his Aramaisms.

Rather than God — The same comparison as in Job 4:17, on which see note.

Verse 3

3. Condemned Job — The only way they could justify God’s ways was to condemn Job.

Verse 4

4. Waited till Job had spoken — Elihu had modestly stood in the background and “awaited Job with words.” Kitto (Pictorial Bible) tells us, that “at the present time, in Arabia, every one that pleases attends whenever a discussion is in progress. It is not courteous for any one to interpose until the original parties in the dispute have exhausted themselves: then any have a right to declare their views of the subject.” This custom may account for the fact that no other notice is taken of Elihu either before or after his speeches.

Verse 6

ELIHU’S FIRST ADDRESS. Job 32:6 b Job 33:33.


First section. — Elihu makes an apologetic and conciliatory address to all the disputants, in which he recognises the fact that superior knowledge is to be expected from those of advanced years; but he is not unmindful that the highest wisdom is the direct gift of the divine Spirit rather than the necessary endowment of old age. Job 32:6-10.

6. I am young — That a young man should speak before such an assemblage would, with an Arabian, be an unpardonable presumption, or, as Scott calls it, “an astonishing phenomenon.” The prejudice of the Arab against youth resembled that of our own Indians. The repetitions of Elihu in his introductory remarks are due to his extreme embarrassment.

I was afraid — The prime idea of the Hebrew is to creep, thence “creep along fearfully.” (Furst;) or, “He drew near with a fearful step,” (Gesenius.)

Mine opinion דעי, My knowledge. The frequent use of this ex-cathedra word is in harmony with the superhuman plane from which Elihu proposes to speak. Job 32:10 ; Job 32:17; Job 33:3; Job 36:3-4.

Verse 7

7. Days should speak — See Sermon by Paley, in loc., on “The Advantages of Old Age.”

Verse 8

8. But there is a spirit in man — Literally, But the Spirit, it is in mortal man; or, רוח היא, the Spirit itself is, etc. The parallel, “inspiration of the Almighty,” requires us to understand by the “spirit in man,” the divine Spirit. The Hebrew regarded all physical and spiritual power as a divine inspiration. The word rendered man is enosh, mortal or decaying man. See note Job 4:17. Frail and perishable man has a capacity for God: the vessel may be fragile, (earthen, 2 Corinthians 4:7,) yet it may be not only the residence of the divine Spirit, but the medium through which it may act. Through faith in God Elihu is emboldened to speak upon a subject that has overtasked his superiors. The divine Spirit honoured his confidence by making him (St. Augustine says) “as superior in wisdom as he was in modesty.”

The inspiration of the Almighty נשׁמת שׁדי, same as in Job 33:4, where it is rendered “the breath of the Almighty,” which in both cases agrees with the Vulgate; while the Septuagint, in like manner, gives for each, πνοη, breath. The same Hebrew is used in Genesis 2:7 for breath of life, which leads Mercerus unhesitatingly to say that Elihu alludes to the first creation of man, when God breathed into man the breath of life. See note Job 33:4; also a sermon by Dr. Bushnell, in loc., on “The Spirit in Man,” and Eaton’s Bampton Lecture, (1872.)

Verse 9

9. Great men are not… wise — Literally, not the great are wise, that is, (according to the Septuagint,) “the great in years.” Old age does not necessarily imply wisdom.

Verse 10

10. Show mine opinion — The original will bear a more modest rendering, I will declare my knowledge, even I.

Verse 13

Second section. — Directly and exclusively addressing the three friends, for the first and last time, (save in the incidental allusion of Job 35:4,) Elihu declares his surprise and indignation at their failure to answer Job, and shows that this was due to their dealing in personal invective as the ground of his refutation rather than in the impartial and inoffensive principles of right and reason, Job 32:11-14.

13. We have found out wisdom — Lest, in case the friends had succeeded they should triumph over their victory, God reserves to himself the glory of refuting Job: He alone (through Elihu) “can thrust him down.” The secret of their failure was their inordinate vanity, (Job 12:2.) On this account God would not employ them as his instruments. According to Hengstenberg, Elihu “gives the reason for freely reminding the friends of their insufficiency. He would free them from their illusion.” “Their want of success bears witness against themselves, and proves nothing against the possibility that a fresh disputant may conquer Job.” — Hitzig. Zockler and Dillmann err in their interpretation: “We have come upon such superior wisdom in Job that only God can drive him out of the field;” thus attributing to the friends not only a concession of defeat, but an acknowledgment of Job’s superior wisdom. On the contrary, they seemingly ascribe their failure to a moral perversion in Job which none but God can subdue. Elihu quietly intimates that the agent for the accomplishment of this result is he himself.

Thrusteth him down — More correctly, putteth him to flight. נד is used also of the chasing away of smoke, chaff, etc. Psalms 1:4; Psalms 68:2.

Verse 14

14. He — Job.

Directed — Better, arrayed. ערךְ is a military word used in a forensic sense, Job 13:18. With your speeches — Elihu will not argue in their offensive and passionate manner, as he has no hard blows dealt by Job to resent. He proposes to “limit his censure to Job’s answer in this dispute.” Elihu can enter the debate free from prejudice and animosity.

Verse 15

Third section — He now turns and addresses another auditory, (probably the silent one from which he has so recently come, whom it is important also to conciliate, see note on Job 32:4,) and gives in detail his reasons for speaking: 1) The complete discomfiture of the friends. 2) The divine and irresistible afflatus within him. 3) The spirit of impartiality by which he is animated. 4) An abiding sense of God’s fear, Job 32:15-22.

15. They were amazed — The three friends are confounded.

Verse 16

16. When I had waited — This may be regarded as a question. Should I wait because they speak not, because they stand still? etc.

Verse 17

17. Mine opinion — Rather. My knowledge. “Elihu speaks more in the scholastic tone of controversy than the three.” — Delitzsch.

Verse 18

18. The spirit within me — Literally, The spirit of my inward part, בשׂני . The experience of the prophets was similar to that of Elihu. Jeremiah 4:19; Amos 3:8.

Verse 19

19. Belly — See note Job 15:2. “My inward part,” — bitni, same as in Job 32:18. New bottles — These bottles (see Matthew 9:17) were commonly made of goat’s skin; sometimes, also, of ass or camel’s skin. New bottles were used for new wine, and yet they too sometimes burst under the fermentation. Burning with religions zeal, and, as he believes, divinely inspired, Elihu can no longer restrain his pent-up emotions — a thought most happily illustrated in the rush of words (“matter,” Job 32:18) which marks his introduction. The mocking Jews applied the figure of the text to the apostles on the day of Pentecost: “These men are full of new wine:” in other words, like wine-skins, the apostles were bursting from excessive fermentation. Hardy remarks of a Buddhistic sectary, that such was the extent of his learning that he feared his body would burst from its expansion; and to prevent this misfortune he bound himself with an iron girdle. “This conceit arose,” says Hardy, “from the idea that the heart is the seat of the thoughts as well as of the affections.” — Manual of Buddhism, p. 256.

Verse 20

20. I will speak — He carries on the metaphor in this verse; the bottle must be opened to save it from bursting.

Be refreshed — The margin is more literal. In like manner, Young: —

“Good sense will stagnate: Thoughts shut up want air.”

The spirit within constraineth him. The precursor of the apostle Paul in enthusiasm, sincerity, and tenaciousness of the truth, he cannot resist the divine constraint. His inner nature burns with the truths he waits to deliver; one, for instance — the sinner’s justification through the mercy of God; “the quintessence of all his words,” thereby anticipating the apostle in the doctrine of justification by faith, even as the morn anticipates the day.

Verse 21

21. Accept any man’s person. — See note Job 13:8. Young as he is, Elihu will regard no one, but strive to be impartial. Job charged the friends with perverting the truth that they might please God, and thus “accept His person.”

Verse 22

22. Give flattering titles — This expression means to give proud titles to persons who are worthless. (Dr. Clarke.) The practice was common among the Orientals of addressing superiors with long and fulsome, and even divine, titles. The ancient Egyptian and Assyrian inscriptions abound in illustrations. In thus paying greater homage to the creature than the Creator, “his Maker would soon take him away.”


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 32:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology