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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 32". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ job-32.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 32". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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A new personage is now introduced upon the scene, who speaks in a new style and almost in a new language. No previous mention has been made of him; no subsequent notice is taken of his arguments; and nothing is said of him in the historical section wherewith the work concludes (Job 42:7-17). It is therefore scarcely surprising that some exception has been taken to the genuineness of the entire passage (Job 32-37), or that it has been regarded by many excellent critics as an interpolation into the Book of Job, made by one who was not the original author, at a date considerably later than the rest of tile composition. A modification of this extreme view is suggested by M. Renan, who thinks that the original author may have added the passage in his old age. This view is entitled to consideration. The subject has been discussed at some length in the Introduction, so that no more need be stated here. We are confronted with the fact that the passage has come down in us as a substantive portion of the Book of Job, in all the Hebrew manuscripts that have reached our time, as well as in all the ancient versions—the Septuagint, the Syriac, the Chaldee, the Arabic, the AEthiopic, the Vulgate, etc. To excise it, therefore, would be too bold a measure, though some moderns have not shrunk from doing so.
The discourse of Elihu is prefaced by a short introduction in plain prose, explaining who he was, and giving the reasons which actuated him in coming forward at this point of the dialogue.
So these three men ceased to answer Job. Zophar had been silenced earlier. Eliphaz and Bildad now felt that they had no more to say. They had exhausted the weapons of their armoury without any effect, and were conscious that nothing would be gained by mere reiteration. All their efforts had aimed at convincing Job of sin; and he was still unconvinced—he remained righteous in his own eyes.
Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu. The name "Elihu" was not uncommon among the Israelites. It is found among the ancestors of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1), among the Korhite Levites of the time of David (1 Chronicles 26:7), and as a variant for Eliab, one of David's brothers (1 Chronicles 27:8) The meaning of the word was, "He is my God" (אליהוא). The son of Barachel. Barachel is also a significant name. It means, "Bless, O God," or "God blesses" (ברך אל). Both names imply that the new interlocutor belonged to a family of monotheists. The Buzite. "Huz" and "Buz" were brothers, the sons of Nahor, Abraham's brother, by Maleah, the daughter of Haran (Genesis 11:29; Genesis 22:20, Genesis 22:21). Of the kindred of Ram. By "Ram" we are probably to understand "Aram," who was the son of Kemuel, a brother of Huz and Buz. (On the connection of Huz and Buz with the Arabian tribes of Khazu and Bazu, see the comment on Job 1:1.) Against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God. Elihu was well-intentional; and it is perhaps not surprising that he had been shocked by some of Job's expressions. Job had himself apologized for them (Job 6:26); and certainly they went perilously near taxing God with injustice (see Job 40:8). But it is to be remembered that finally God justifies Job's sayings, while condemning those of his "comforters." "My wrath is kindled," he says to Eliphaz, "against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath" (Job 42:7).
Also against his three friends was his wrath kindled, because they had found no answer. Elihu thought that Job's reasonings and complaints admitted of being satisfactorily answered, and was vexed that the three "friends" had not made the right replied It is the main object of his speech to supply them. And yet had condemned Job. They had condemned him on wrong grounds and of sins that he had not committed (Job 22:6-9). Elihu condemns him as much (Job 33:9-12; Job 34:7-9, etc.), but for entirely different reasons.
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.)
When Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, then his wrath was kindled (comp. Job 32:3 and the comment).
The speech of Elihu now begins. In the present chapter, after a short apologetic exordium, excusing his youth (Job 32:6-9), he addresses himself exclusively to Job's friends. He has listened attentively to them, and weighed their words (verses 11, 12). but has found nothing in them that confuted Job. They had not "found wisdom"—they had not "vanquished Job"—at the last they had been "amazed, and had not had a word more to say" (verses 13-16). Elihu, therefore, will supply their deficiency; he has kept silence with difficulty, and is full of thoughts, to which he would fain give utterance (verses 17-20). In all that he says he will show no favouritism—he will "accept no man's-person," "give no flattering titles," but express sincerely what he believes (verses 21, 22).
And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I am young, and ye are very old. We can only guess at the exact ages of Job and his friends. From the fact that God at the last "gave Job twice as much as he had before" (Job 42:10), and the further fact that he lived, after he had recovered his prosperity, a hundred and forty years (Job 42:16), it has been conjectured that he was seventy years of age at the time of his conference with his friends, and that he died at the age of two hundred and ten. But this clearly is quite uncertain. He may not have been much more than fifty when his calamities fell upon him. If this were so, the age of his friends need not have exceeded from sixty to seventy. Perhaps Elihu was himself not more than thirty. Wherefore I was afraid, and durst not show you mine opinion; rather, I held back and was afraid to utter what I knew in your presence. Elihu would have been thought unduly pushing and presumptuous if he had ventured to come forward until his seniors had ended their colloquy.
I said; i.e. "I kept saying to myself, when the desire to interrupt came upon me." Days should speak. Age should give wisdom, and the speech of the old should be most worthy of being attended to. Elihu had been brought up in this conviction, and therefore refrained himself. And multitude of years should teach wisdom. "Old experience should attain to something of prophetic strain." "One ought to give attention," says Aristotle, "to the mere unproved assertions of wise and aged men, as much as to the actual demonstrations of others" ('Eth. Nit.,' Job 6:11, ad fin. comp. also Job 10:12; Job 15:10; Proverbs 16:31).
But there is a spirit in man. But, after all, it is not mere age and experience that make men wise and able to teach others. "There is a spirit in man" (see Genesis 2:7); and it is according as this spirit is or is not enlightened from on high that men speak words of wisdom or the contrary. The inspiration of the Almighty—this it is, which—giveth them understanding. And such inspiration it is in the power of God to bestow, as he pleases, on the old or on the young, on the great of the earth, or on those of small reputation. Hence Elihu's conclusion—
Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged (always) understand judgment. Elihu lays down the universal law, before applying it to the particular instance. True wisdom is from God, not from observation and experience. Therefore many aged men are not wise; many experienced men, great in position, versed in affairs, do not possess understanding. It is a trite remark, "With how little wisdom the world is governed!"
Therefore I said, Hearken to me. Elihu evidently claims, not exactly what is ordinarily understood by inspiration, but that his spirit, is divinely enlightened, and that therefore he is more competent to take part in the controversy that has been raised than many of the aged. I also will show mine opinion. "I also," or "even I"—i.e. I, young as I am, "will show my opinion," or "utter what I know on the subject." Elihu does not speak of his convictions as mere "opinions," but claims to be in possession of actual "knowledge."
Behold, I waited for your words; i.e. "I was full of expectation; I waited impatiently to hear what you would say." Then, while you spoke, I gave ear to your reasons—or, your reasonings; I did my best to apprehend your meaning—whilst ye searched out what to say. Professor Lee translates, "whilst ye examined Job's conclusions; but the Authorized Version is probably correct. Elihu means that he listened carefully while the friends hunted out all the arguments they could think of in order to confute Job.
Yea, I attended unto you—or, lent you my attention—and, behold, there was none of you that convinced Job; rather, that convicted (or, confuted) Job. Or that answered his words. In Elihu's opinion, the argumentative value of all the long speeches of the three friends was nil; they had entirely failed to answer Job's arguments.
Lest ye should say, We have found out wisdom; or, beware lest ye say, We have found wisdom (see the Revised Version). "Do not suppose, i.e; that you have triumphed in the controversy, that your mode of meeting Job's complaints is the wise and right one. The exact reverse is the case. You have not vanquished Job. On the contrary, he is unvanquished, and remains master of the field. If he is ever to be vanquished, it will not be by you. God thrusteth him down, not man. A true prophecy! (see Job 40:1-14).
Now he hath not directed his words against me. Elihu thinks that he can interfere in the controversy with the better prospect of a good result, since he is untouched by any of Job's words, and can therefore speak without passion or resentment. Neither will I answer him with your speeches. He is also going to bring forward fresh arguments, which, as they avoid the line taken by the three friends, may soothe, instead of exasperating, the patriarch.
They were amazed, they answered no more. A change from the second to the third person, possibly as seeming less disrespectful. Or perhaps Elihu turns from the three friends at this point, as Professor Lee supposes, and addresses himself to Job. Job's "comforters," he says, "were amazed" by his last speech, and could find nothing to say in reply to it. Consequently, they left off speaking.
When I had waited (for they spake not, but stood still, and answered no more); rather, as in the Revised Version, and shall 1 wait' because they speak not, because they stand still' and answer no more? Am I to wait until they shall have recovered themselves, and found something to answer? Surely this is not necessary. Neither courtesy nor etiquette prescribes it. Especially when I have waited so long, and have so much to say, and am so exceedingly anxious to say it (see Job 32:18-20). Elihu shows all the impatience and ardour of a young speaker (see Job 32:6), and feels the confidence that young men so often feel in the wisdom and persuasiveness of their words (comp. Job 33:1-6).
I said, I will answer also my part, I also will show mine opinion. The initial "I said" is superfluous. Elihu, having asked himself the question, "Shall I wait?" in Job 32:16, here gives the answer. He will not wait any longer, he will take the word, he will set forth his conviction.
For I am full of matter; literally, I am full of words; i.e. I have very much to say. The spirit within me constraineth me; literally, the spirit of my belly; i.e. "my inward feelings and emotions." Compare Zophar's statements in Job 20:2, Job 20:3; and Job's own declarations in Job 13:1-28; that he must speak (Job 13:13, Job 13:19). There is a state of internal excitement, when reticence becomes impossible.
Behold, my belly is as wine which hath no vent. The process of fermentation properly takes place in the vat, from which the gas evolved in the operation can freely escape. When wine was put into skins before fermentation was complete, and gas continued to be evolved, the effect was that the skins became distended, as the gas had no vent, and then not unfrequently the skins would burst, especially if they were old ones (see Matthew 9:17). It is ready to burst like new bottles. Even if the skins were new, they would undergo distension, and would appear as if "ready to burst," though the actual catastrophe might be avoided. Elihu's pent-up feelings seem to him, if they do not obtain a vent, to threaten some such a result.
I will speak, that I may be refreshed; rather, that I may obtain relief; or, according to some, "that I may be able to breathe" (Cook, Rosenmuller). Elihu feels almost suffocated by conflicting feelings of rage (Job 32:1-3), disappointment (Job 32:11, Job 32:12), and anxiety to vindicate God's honour (Job 32:2). I will open my lips and answer. In the remainder of Elihu's discourse the attempt is made to "answer" Job (see ch. 33-37), with what success will be considered elsewhere.
Let me not, I pray you, accept any man's person. Elihu hopes that, in what he is about to say, he will not permit himself to be swayed by any personal bias; that he will neither unduly favour the upper classes nor the vulgar, but will treat all fairly and equitably. Neither let me (he says) give flattering titles unto man. Professor Lee observes on this: "The Oriental practice of giving long and fulsome titles is too well known to need anything beyond the mere mention of the fact." Elihu certainly, in the whole of his address, flatters no one.
For I know not to give flattering titles; i.e. it is not my habit to give flattering titles, nor have I any knowledge of the art. I should expect that, if such were my habit, my Maker would soon take me away; would soon, i.e; remove me from the earth, as one whose influence was not for good, but for evil. Flattery is condemned by Job, in Job 17:5 : by David, in the Psalms (Psalm 3:9; Psalms 12:2, Psalms 12:3; Psalms 78:36); and by Solomon, in the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 2:16; Proverbs 7:21; Proverbs 20:19; Proverbs 28:23, etc.).
The intervention of Elihu.
I. THE DISCOMFITURE OF THE FRIENDS. "So these three men"—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—"ceased to answer Job;" i.e. did not respond to the lamentations and protestations which he uttered in his parable.
1. The reason they perhaps assigned for their silence. "Because he," i.e. Job, "was righteous in his own eyes." If this was scarcely accurate in the strict theological sense of the expression, since Job had more than once acknowledged himself a sinner (Job 7:20, 24; Job 9:2, Job 9:3), and even subscribed to the sentiment of Eliphaz and his associates that no mortal man can be just before God (Job 9:20; Job 14:3, Job 14:4), it is yet difficult to exonerate the patriarch entirely from the charge here preferred against him; for, though righteous to the extent of being free from flagrant transgression, which his friends alleged he was not, and sincerely devoted to the ways of holiness, as God himself had testified (Job 1:1), he nevertheless insisted on his blamelessness of life and uprightness of character with such pertinacity as to overstep the bounds of true humility, advancing these as a ground or reason why God should have dealt with him differently from what he had done, and thus, as it were, constructing out of them a claim of merit, or self-righteousness before God.
2. The reason they forgot to assign for their silence. "Because they had found no answer," i.e. to Job. For this explanation of their conduct we are indebted to the observation of Elihu, a new interlocutor who appears upon the scene. Unable to convince Job of immorality and hypocrisy, they were likewise, in Elihu's judgment, incompetent to reply to his arguments and protestations. Doubtless the matter did not so present itself to the contemplation of the friends. According to their theology, Job, being a great sufferer, must have been a great sinner; and any declarations on his part to the contrary only proved that he had not been sufficiently humbled before God, and was indulging in self-deception. This, however, as Job explained, entirely failed in its applicability to him, whose past life of stainless purity, fervent piety, and unwearied philanthropy gave conspicuous demonstration of the falsehood of their allegations, and whose present consciousness reproached him with no dereliction of duty, but rather loudly proclaimed the steadfast character, untarnished beauty, and unmixed sincerity of his integrity to Heaven. But, inasmuch as the above-cited nostrum was the only specific which remained in the pharmacopoeia of the friends, they judiciously abandoned the case as beyond their skill. They had spent every weapon in their quiver without overthrowing their antagonist; and, accordingly, with commendable prudence, observing a discreet reticence as to the secret motive of their behaviour, they retired from the contest.
II. THE INTERPOSITION OF ELIHU. "Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram."
1. The personality of Elihu. Details such as these—concerning the name (Elihu, equivalent to "He is my God"), parentage (son of Barachel, or "God blesseth"), country (the Buzite, probably a descendant of Nahor through his second son (Genesis 22:21), and therefore of Aramsean extraction, though by birth an Arabian, Buz being mentioned with Dedan and Tema as a city of Idumea in the time of Jeremiah, Jeremiah 25:23), kindred (of the family of Ram, otherwise unknown, unless connected with Aram, the son of Shem, Genesis 10:23, the brother of Buz, Genesis 22:21, or the grandfather of Nahshon, cf. Numbers 1:7 with 1 Chronicles 2:9, 1 Chronicles 2:10)—dispose of the patristic conceit that the new interlocutor was Jesus Christ. Equally, however, do they preclude the hypothesis (Cox) that he was simply one of the young men of Job's city (Job 29:8). They rather hint that be "belonged to a family which had retained the knowledge of the God of heaven" (Cook); and, indeed, when it is considered that Elihu distinctly claims to speak under Divine impulse (Job 32:8; Job 33:4), proposes himself as a response to Job's oft-repeated demand for a daysman (Job 33:6), and unfolds views of Divine truth concerning the remedial character of affliction and the doctrine of atonement (Job 33:14-30) that seem like anticipations of gospel discoveries, it is hard to resist the inference that in Elihu we have a young Arabian prophet who had been providentially brought upon the scene, as the friends were, and was moved at the appropriate juncture to deliver certain preliminary judgments on the cause then pending.
2. The time of his appearing. We are inclined to think that, as the result of the strife of tongues between the patriarch and his friends, to which also we can suppose that Elihu had listened, the citadel of Job's integrity, if not in danger of being captured, was at any rate rudely shaken, and that victory, in the grand fundamental debate or controversy of the poem, was inclining to the side of the devil But as God never leaves his people in their hour of need, so neither was Job suffered to be taken captive by the craft of Satan. And accordingly Elihu is at this point introduced upon the stage.
3. The purpose of his introduction.
(1) Doctrinal completeness. Considered as a theological discussion, nothing could have been less satisfactory than the position of matters at the close of Job's monologue. On the one hand, the friends had exhausted themselves in an attempt to demonstrate their particular theory without convincing Job. On the other hand, Job had uttered his last word without converting them to his way of thinking. On the one side, they remained exactly as they were, both as to the truth of their dogma and as to its bearing on the case of Job. On the other side, Job himself was hopelessly entangled in a futile endeavour to reconcile the seemingly insoluble contradiction which existed between his outward lot and his inward condition. So far as the right relation of suffering to sin was concerned, neither of the disputants had discovered it. Occasionally, indeed, Job seemed to get a glimpse of it (Job 23:10), as also did Eliphaz (Job 5:17); but for the most part the remedial, corrective, beneficent, paedagogic uses of adversity were not understood. This view of affliction, therefore, required to be prominently exhibited, if the poem were at all to be redeemed from a charge of incompleteness, of starting a problem it could not answer, of propounding an enigma it could not solve; and this was done by setting forth Elihu to clear away the doctrinal fogs which had gathered around the otherwise acute mind of Job, no less than round the less penetrative intellects of his friends.
(2) Dramatic unity. Recurring to the problem lying at the basis of the poem, the controversy represented as existing between God and Satan, and solemnly put to trial in the person of Job, was not whether man, standing alone and unaided on the platform of nature, could maintain his integrity to Heaven, but whether man could do so on the platform of grace (vide Job 1:9, homiletics). It was needful, therefore, that, just at the moment when Job seemed to be on the eve of giving way, he should receive such assistance as grace could impart; and this, again, was done by Elihu, who, speaking from a Divine impulse, "sets before Job clearer, fuller, and more accurate views of the Divine character and modes of procedure in dealing with the children of men, and thereby seeks to reinforce him in his struggle with his friends, and to prevent him from succumbing beneath the temp-rations of the foe". Thus the interlocution of Elihu is not so much "what Job had repeatedly called for, a confutation of his opinions, not effected by an overwhelming display of Divine power, but by rational an "human argument" (Canon Cook, in 'Speaker's Commentary'), or "the human verdict on the controversy between Job and the friends, which we want to hear almost as much as the Divine verdict, (Cox), as the special illumination which Divine grace had to shed upon the problem agitated between him and them, which illumination was conveyed to him through the instrumentality of Elihu, as it is now more amply and luminously unfolded to us in the gospel.
4. The spirit of his intervention.
(1) His wrath was kindled. That Elihu should have given way to an uncalled-for ebullition of anger, if such be the view adopted of his passionate excitement, was no more a proof that he did not speak under inspiration than was the fact that he made use of Aramaisms, and committed certain inelegancies of style. "It is good to be zealously affected in a good thing," and Elihu's indignation was amply vindicated by the conduct first of Job (verse 2), and secondly of the friends (verse 3). Yet
(2) his modesty was conspicuous. The style of severe animadversion adopted by many commentators, beth ancient and modern, in stigmatizing Elihu as "an emblem of confident arrogance" (Gregory the Great), as an example of the ambitious orator (Strigei), as "arrogant and bold" (Herder), as "a conceited prater" (Umbreit), and his addresses as "the weak and rambling speeches of a boy," is quite unwarranted. Not only had he waited respectfully until his elders had concluded their disputations (vex. 4), but with much humility he attributed any value his contributions might Possess, not to the intrinsic excellence of his own genius, but to the fact of his inspiration (verse 8), which rendered him little more than the mouthpiece of Heaven.
1. It is one mark of true wisdom to know when to be silent.
2. It is specially becoming in young men to be deferential towards their elders.
3. It is quite possible for good men to be righteous in their own eyes.
4. It is commonly the case that of two controversialists both are wrong.
5. It is not unseemly fur even young men to be jealous of the Divine honour.
6. It is no sin for young men who know the truth to instruct old men who know it not.
7. It is right in those who speak for God to be raised above the fear of man.
8. It is certain that God never suffers saints to be tempted without reinforcing them by Divine grace and teaching.
9. It is observable that heavenly succour mostly comes to men when human resources are exhausted.
The apology of Elihu.
I. THE REASONS OF HIS PREVIOUS RETICENCE. Elihu had been an earnest listener to the controversy Job waged with his three friends, "waiting for Job with words" (verse 4), i.e. eager to pour out in speech the arguments that trembled on his lips; and now he declares that two things had restrained him from joining earlier in the discussion.
1. A modest respect for their superior age. He was but a young man (literally, "few of years"), while they were very old. Their venerable aspect had inspired him with such awe that he feared to utter his opinion in their presence. Young men in modern times are not always so deferential towards their elders. But seniores priores is a maxim which should be of universal application. While it is at all times unbecoming and impertinent for a youth to interrupt or precede an elder in conversation, it is a special mark of rudeness in religious discussion for an inexperienced Boy to "show his opinion" before men of mature years have delivered theirs. Jesus, at the age of twelve, among the doctors in the temple, was not delivering his convictions, but "hearing and asking them questions."
2. A lofty esteem for their superior knowledge. He considered that old age, with its rich experience, should have had wise and weighty thoughts immeasurably more worthy of being listened to than any crude sentiments and immature judgments that he could utter. A young man who thus accurately gauges the relative importance of the wisdom of age and the "opinions" of youth is a rare phenomenon. It is characteristic of youth, though born like a wild ass's colt, to fancy itself as wise as Solomon. For the most part, the education of a lifetime is required to enable any one to gather successfully the ripe fruits of wisdom; and even then, the wisdom one gathers is chiefly this, that what one knows is as nothing in comparison to that of which one is ignorant. Occasional examples may be found of amazing talent, immense learning, extraordinary genius, in youth; but ripe wisdom, i.e. carefully verified, well-digested, skilfully arranged knowledge, is preeminently the property of age.
II. THE MOTIVES FOR HIS PRESENT INTERFERENCE. In justification of his behaviour, he offers the following considerations.
1. That true wisdom in its ultimate analysis is an inspiration of Heaven. "Truly it is the spirit in man [literally, 'weak, feeble, mortal man'], and the breath of Shaddai that giveth them [i.e. man collectively] understanding" (verse 8). That is to say, human life in all its departments—physical, intellectual, spiritual—is not an evolution or development from dead matter, but is the creation of God's Spirit (Genesis 2:7). It is the breath of the Almighty that sustains the thinking principle in man no less than the principle of purely animal existence. Hence wild, m, spiritual insight, intellectual penetration, religious understanding, has its origin rather from within than from without. It is dependent not so much (it at all) upon accidental circumstances, such as age, capacity, opportunity, as upon the quickening influence of the vitalizing and enlightening Spirit. Nay, it demonstrates the possibility of a supernatural communication of wisdom to whomsoever Shaddai wills, and upon whatsoever theme he may please. It proves that no man can justly, or without presumption, claim a monopoly of wisdom. The doctrine of Elihu, that all intelligence in man, and much more all spiritual understanding, proceeds from a Divine afflatus which breatheth when, where, and how it wills, was the doctrine of Pharaoh (Genesis 41:38), of Moses (Exodus 31:3), of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 9:20), of Isaiah (Isaiah 11:2), of Christ (John 16:13), of St. Paul (1 Corinthians 2:10), and of St. John (1 John 2:20).
2. That true wisdom is not necessarily the property of age. "Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment" (verse 9). This was an advance upon the previous thought. Not only was wisdom not the property of age alone; the discourses to which he had listened had painfully convinced him it was not necessarily a characteristic of age at all. This witness is true. If juvenile witlings abound among all ranks and classes of society, there is unfortunately no lack of aged dullards. Partly through lack of capacity, partly from defective education, partly from long-continued negligence, many come to old age without acquiring wisdom (Job 4:21), and sometimes without possessing common sense. It is not, therefore, wrong for young men of piety and culture to offer to instruct these persons in Divine truth or secular information; only even to such as these it becomes young men to manifest the courtesy and deference that are always due to age.
3. That in particular the old men before him had not displayed a high degree of wisdom. He had hearkened to their "understandings," i.e. their explanations of the subject-matter in dispute, and had carefully examined the replies with which they had endeavoured to convince and silence Job; but in no single instance had they fairly combated his position. It was not reasonable to say, "Lo! we have found out wisdom," and here it is: "God thrusteth him down, not man," so that from this his punishment we infer his guilt (verse 13); because that was exactly the point at issue throughout the entire course of the discussion. Nor, again, was it reasonable to assert that their dogma was the absolute wisdom, though Job was of so obstinate a temper that only God could convince him, since obviously man could not. That, again, was to beg the question entirely; and, in default of argument, to abuse the plaintiff's attorney. Job's words must be fairly and honestly controverted. But these old preachers did not understand the business. A well-known interpretation of verse 13 makes Elihu say that only God could overthrow Job, while he really means that only such uncommon genius as he (Elihu) possessed could vanquish a disputant so obstinate as Job (Umbreit); but this is putting the worst construction possible on language which may legitimately signify that in Elihu's judgment Job's position could not be turned by merely human wisdom, but demanded the light of inspiration such as he was about to shed upon the theme.
4. That the contribution he proposed to offer was entirely fresh and original. The position he intended to occupy was not one against which Job had already directed his attacks; nor had the arguments he designed to use in confutation of the patriarch occurred to any of the friends. The new thoughts Elihu proposed to introduce into the discussion related chiefly to the disciplinary character of affliction; and it is doubtful if such a view of life's tribulations could have occurred to any one apart from Divine revelation. The interpretation which understands Elihu to say that, inasmuch as he had not been personally interested in the debate which Job and the friends had conducted, he was able both to deliver an impartial verdict on the point at issue, and to preserve a more equal temper than they, the friends, had been able to do, though perhaps admissible, is not so forcible or apt.
5. That the strength of his convictions would no longer admit of his keeping silence. So powerfully had the truth seized upon him, and so long had he endeavoured to restrain it, that now his soul (literally, "his belly," as the seat of spiritual emotions) seemed like a wine-skin on the eve of bursting through the fermentation of the liquor it contained (verses 17-19). So every Heaven-born idea, to whomsoever it is first communicated, irresistibly strives after utterance. For a season the living thought may be kept in abeyance, carefully secluded from the world at large, but ultimately there comes a moment when it asserts its Heaven-granted supremacy over the mind of the man that has received it, and, refusing to be longer concealed, eventually drives that mind to speak forth the God-imparted message. So the Word of the Lord was in Jeremiah's heart as a burning fire shut up in his bones (Jeremiah 20:9). So SS. Peter and John told the Sanhedrin they could not but speak the things which they had seen and heard (Acts 4:20). So St. Paul felt that necessity was laid upon him to preach the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:16). So Mahomet proclaimed to the rude Arab tribes of a later day the sublime discovery of the unity of God; and Luther could not keep back the truth which God's Spirit had flashed into his soul on Pilate's Staircase, that "the just shall live by faith." So when God gives to any man—prophet, poet, preacher, writer, inventor, discoverer, or man of genius generally, a new idea, it renders him uncomfortable until it has been liberated, brought to the birth, as it were, and sent forth to wander through the world on its Heaven-designed mission. If the possessor of such an idea would have ease and comfort in his soul, he must give it voice. As Elihu says, he must speak in order to be refreshed.
III. THE CHARACTER OF HIS FORTHCOMING UTTERANCE. The two closing verses are by some understood to contain an additional reason for Elihu's interposition, viz. that continued silence would evince such a mean and cowardly deference to merely human authority, that he could not hope to escape punishment for it at the hands of God ('Speaker's Commentary;' Cox); but it seems preferable to view them as setting forth first the principles he intended to observe in his proposed interlocution, and, secondly, the reasons or arguments on which those principles were based (Delitzsch, Carey, Fry, etc.).
1. The principles he intended to observe. These were:
(1) The strictest impartiality as between man and man: "Let me not, I pray thee, accept any man's person" (verse 21). The acceptance of persons, or the favouring of the great at the expense of the small, of the rich at the expense of the poor, of the powerful at the expense of the weak, results either from moral cowardice, intellectual vanity, or personal dishonesty. Condemned in the Word of God (Proverbs 18:5), it is specially unbecoming in the followers of Christ (James 2:1). Charged by Job against the friends (Job 13:8), it was a sin which Elihu felt it incumbent upon him to avoid.
(2) The directest honesty as regards the individual himself. "Neither let me give flattering titles to any man." Unlike his Oriental countrymen, Elihu would be guilty of no adulation or compliment to any man; but with simplicity and godly sincerity would deliver the sentiments with which he had been charged. So Elijah preached to Ahab (1 Kings 18:18), and the Baptist to Herod (Matthew 14:4). So did St. Paul preach the gospel at Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:12), Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:4), Athens (Acts 17:22), and elsewhere. So preached Luther to the princes of Germany, Latimer to Henry VIII. of England, and John Knox to Mary Queen of Scots.
2. The reasons he alleged for his intended behaviour. These were extremely creditable to himself.
(1) He had not learnt the art of flattery. He possessed a soul too large, honest, and independent to reside in a courtier's bosom. Adulation was abhorrent to his nature. Such souls are scarce. Yet there is no better mark of true spiritual nobility than an incapacity to either give or receive the honeyed words and fawning courtesies of flattery.
(2) he would certainly be punished if he did commit the wickedness alluded to—punished, according to the interpretation of the last clause (Carey, Fry), with the richly merited contempt of God: "How little would my Maker esteem me!"—according to another rendering (Delitzsch, Cook, Cox), with some signal manifestation of his displeasure, as e.g. by sudden death.
1. There is a time to speak and a time to keep silence, even in regard to the most sacred matters.
2. It is a high proof of wisdom to be able to recognize whence all wisdom comes.
3. It is proper to sift the opinions and doctrines of even the oldest and wisest of men; to prove all things, and hold last that which is good.
4. It would largely contribute to the world's happiness if those who undertook to teach others never spoke until they were impelled by the force of inward conviction.
5. The men who move the world are those whose souls are illumined and inflamed by the light and fire of great ideas.
6. One of the greatest pleasures a human soul can enjoy on earth is that of propounding and diffusing new and lofty thoughts.
7. Sincerity of mind and heart is an indispensable qualification for the teacher whom God employs.
8. Want of fidelity to the truth and to those who hear is one of the greatest crimes a preacher can commit.
9. God despises and will punish those who yield to fear or favour.
10. God can easily remove those who are unfaithful to the trust they have received.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Elihu and his discourse.
In the person of the young Elihu a new speaker comes forward, who mediates between Job and his friends. Calmer and juster in thought than either, he takes up the word when "wit and reason" on both sides are at an end; he shows the weakness of the friends, but at the same time reproaches Job with his past wild speeches, and refutes certain of his errors. Thus he prepares the way for the appearance of Jehovah himself. In Job 32:1-22 and Job 33:1-33; after a long introduction, he advances an argument for the truth that man may not esteem himself pure and just in the presence of God.—J.
Appearance of Elihu: the motives of his address.
I. HIS CHARACTER INDICATED. (Job 33:1-6.) In a few touches the temper and spirit of this new speaker are set before us.
1. His warm piety, which could not tolerate the confidence and the self-justifying spirit of Job. His sense of the greatness of God and his holiness is so profound that he cannot endure what seems to be the bold and haughty attitude of the creature. His feeling seems to be, "Let God be true, and every man a liar!"
2. His spirit of justice, which was indignant at the unfairness of the friends, who held Job for guilty, and condemned him without being able to give an answer to his plea. These are two grand elements in a noble character. Without zeal for God and his righteousness, our sympathy for the suffering may degenerate into a sickly and immoral sentimentalism. But without feeling for the wrongs of the oppressed, without the passion for justice, our zeal for God will become an unholy and pernicious fire. This last has been the cause of many of those terrible persecutions which have defaced the history of the world. Let us beware in our spirit and temper of these extremes-and avoid either dishonouring God through a weak pity for mere suffering, or being cruel to men through a zeal for God. Zeal is a good servant, but a bad master; the spring of heroic deeds or of dreadful crimes.
3. His modesty and respect, shown by his keeping silence in the presence of his elders, so long as they might desire to speak. As the shade to a figure in a picture, so does modesty impart a strength and beauty to the character; it adds to virtue the charm that chastity adds to beauty. But there is a limit to every grace; and modesty becomes a weakness if it leads a man to withhold truth from the world, or to keep his mouth shut whoa flue "word in season" ought to be spoken.
II. THE EXPLANATION OF ELIHU'S INTERFERENCE (Verses 6-10.) His modest sense of his own youth and his respect for their age held him back in the presence of his seniors. But, on the other hand, conscience and the inspiration of God's truth within him impelled him to speak. This little fragment is very instructive, and yields several important lessons. There is a lesson of prudence and tact. The speaker should ever seek to gain the good will of his audience, by laying aside every appearance of assumption or conceit, by testimonies of graceful respect for his audience. Especially should this rule be kept in mind by those who have the most important truths to deliver. Before sowing the seed let the ill weeds be rooted out, and the soil be well broken up. We must try to soften the minds of our hearers as a preparative for impressing them. Augustine says, "He who strives to persuade others to goodness should neglect none of these three things: to please, to teach, to sway their minds; thus he will be heard gladly, intelligently, obediently." But higher than these is the lesson of conscientiousness—attention to the voice within. The Spirit of God finds its truest echo in the conscience. All distinctions of persons and of age fade away in presence of this supreme truth. For wisdom depends not on age, but on the Divine illumination. Well for us if we can forget in whose presence we are speaking, whether younger or elder, richer or poorer, wiser or more unlearned, because absorbed like Elihu in the sense of God's truth and the desire for his glory. "Let no man despise thy youth" (1 Timothy 4:12). If young men have a sound knowledge of Divine things, the elder need not be ashamed to listen and learn from them.
III. THE JUSTIFICATION OF ELIHU'S INTERFERENCE. (Verses 11-22.) In this passage his character and spirit are further unfolded in points that are worthy of admiration and imitation.
1. His love of reason: He waited expectantly to hear some satisfactory reply from the friends to Job's clear arguments and statements in self-vindication. He expected either that they would confute him, or that they would candidly admit they were worsted in the strife. "We found wisdom (in Job); God can strike him, not man." His wisdom is so superior to ours that God only can drive him from the field (verse 13). This is a lesson on the morals of controversy. Meet your antagonist with resin for reason; and, when you can do so no longer, be willing to own yourself beaten. Reasonableness and candour, the desire to persuade others or to be persuaded one's self of the truth,—this is the chivalry of controversy; these are the jewels that shine amidst the cloud of words; the precious balsam-drops that these woeful wars distil. A sullen conspiracy of silence is the retreat and fortress of the dishonourable and the coward.
2. His depth of heart. Elihu is not convinced by Job; his mind teems with matter of deep and living truth. His is no shallow logic of the schools, which falls powerless upon the true heart armed with the justice of its cause. His is no fool's bolt, soon shot, and leaving him in helplessness. His bosom is like a skin of new wine; he is bursting to tell forth all that experience and reflection have taught him concerning the truths of life. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." Let us harvest the instruction of time, lay up a good store of heart-memories, that we may ever have a good and useful word to speak in season. Let us take care of those strong impulses that they are true and pure before we speak; but never hesitate to speak when we are conscious that God is inspiring us. To be led by the Spirit, we must walk in the Spirit.
3. His fearless sincerity. He has no respect of persons when truth is concerned, reverential as he otherwise is in the presence of his elders. He will not flatter; he does not understand the base art. The fear of God is before his eyes. "Flatterers are the worst kind of traitors," says Sir Walter Raleigh. He who is true to God and to himself will never distil this poison from his tongue. In Elihu, then, we have the picture of what a man should be, of what we all should desire in a friend—fairness, honour, candour; sympathy and affection based upon the only sure foundation, love of truth, piety toward God.
IV. ELIHU'S SPECIAL APPEAL TO JOB FOR A PATIENT HEARING. (Job 33:1-7.) Here we see the following traits:
1. Intense earnestness. (Verses 1, 2.) For these opening words, which might seem to our Western ears like a "beating about the bush," are in fact Oriental phrases by which the speaker calls the most solemn attention to, and lays the greatest weight upon, what he is about to speak. Such opening formulae may be found in Matthew 5:2; Acts 10:34; 2 Corinthians 6:11. Let it be clear in one way or another to those who listen that we mean what we say, that we are not talking to fill up time, or using words to conceal the void of thought.
2. Perfect sincerity. (2 Corinthians 6:3.) His sayings am the straightforward utterances of his heart, very different from the stale and secondhand commonplaces of the three friends. True eloquence, like the substance of every virtue and every art, is in the heart. The bullet finds its way to the mark, according to the old legend, that has been first dipped in the marksman's blood. Words that come from the heart will reach to the heart.
3. The sense of dependence upon God (2 Corinthians 6:4), for all light and wisdom, which, while it makes a man humble, makes him truly confident and strong. God's Spirit has made him. He appeals to no special inspiration, however, bat simply to that genuine human wisdom, that common sense which he recognizes to be a Divine endowment. It is a mark of true piety to own the presence of the Divine Spirit in all the ordinary as well as the extraordinary gifts of intelligence. It is this that chastens, sweetens, and sanctifies the use of every bright talent of the mind and heart.
4. Fellow-feeling. (2Co 6:6, 2 Corinthians 6:7.) He does not pretend to stand nearer to God than the fellow-man he has arisen to comfort and instruct. He is made of the same clay, moulded by the hand of the Divine Potter. Therefore Job has not to fear an unequal struggle with Elihu as he has with God. Would that all teachers would remember this! The artificial distinctions of life, as prince or peasant, lettered or unlettered, mean but little; those of talent, character, and attainment have a certain value; but the common constitution God has given us is the great ground of appeal, the great source of authority. Those are the best teachers who most deeply read and interpret this common nature; and every truth must at last be certified, not by the ipse dixit of a dogmatizing teacher, but by the utterance of the universal heart and conscience.—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
The voice of juvenile self-confidence.
We now approach the solution of the mystery, the untying of the knot, the end of the controversy. Job's three friends have failed to convince Job that he is suffering the wellmented consequences of evil-doing; and he has failed to convince them of his integrity. Now a younger friend speaks with kindled wrath because the three friends "had found no answer." He speaks with the undue confidence of youth; but he weaves many words of truth and wisdom into his speech, from which we may gather some for our guidance. With some hesitation, and a complimentary reference to the claims of age, Elihu nevertheless reveals the impatient self-confidence of youth. Even though truth may be on its side, youthful self-confidence is an error. The error manifests itself here as so often elsewhere—
I. IN AN UNDUE ASSUMPTION OF EQUALITY WITH AGE, The "spirit" that is "in man" and "the inspiration of the Almighty," is assumed to give them "understanding" equally. At least Elihu puts himself on their level, though he afterwards affirms their inferiority.
II. IN A DESPISAL OF THE TEACHINGS OF AGE. So the young lips are ready to affirm, "Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment."
III. IN AN UNWARRANTED SELF-CONFIDENCE. How ready is youth to give its judgment! "I also will show mine opinion."
IV. IN AN EAGERNESS TO GIVE EXPRESSION TO OPINIONS. "I am full of matter, the spirit within me constraineth me," etc.
V. IN A PRESUMPTION OF FREEDOM FROM PREJUDICE. "I know not to give flattering titles." Thus speaks youth in a confidence which is so often the effect of ignorance and inexperience. The true attitude for youth is
(1) lowliness and humility;
(4) reverent regard for age and for the counsels of experience.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
Silence after the storm.
The three friends first comforted Job with seven days of silence (Job 2:13). They relapse into silence after their painful controversy with the suffering man. We feel a sense of relief, and breathe freely now that their dogmatic delusions are done with, and we have silence after the storm.
I. IT IS WISE TO KNOW WHEN TO BE SILENT. We cannot attribute much of this wisdom to the three friends. They would have been more commendable if they had practised it throughout. Still, they were not wholly senseless and heartless. They were able to perceive at length that no more words of theirs would help their case. Part of the art of speaking is to perceive the time for ceasing to speak. It is difficult for many people to come to an end of their words. Let us note some of the times for silencing our speech.
1. When we have no more to say. A man should only speak because he has something to say, never because he has to say something.
2. When our words are not heard. If we speak to heedless ears we waste our breath. It is vain to pour out words that our auditors cannot or will not drink in.
3. When our words are not accepted. If we cannot persuade men by what we say, we shall not do so by mere reiteration. We may find that no words will move our hearers; then further words are wasted on them. If we are altogether out of sympathy with our audience we cannot benefit them by adding words to words.
4. When the time for action has arrived. It will not be wise for the general to be haranguing his men when the enemy are already in the field. Words have their place; but this is not to usurp the place of deeds.
5. When another should be heard. Elihu has been waiting patiently while the old men have been talking. Now his time has come. Talkative people are tempted to be selfish. St. Paul ordered that when many wished to speak in the Church at Corinth each should have his turn, one giving place to another (1 Corinthians 14:30).
II. SILENCE IS MOST VALUABLE WHEN IT FOLLOWS A STORM. This second silence has not the beauty of the first silence of sympathy. But it has a deeper significance in some respects.
1. It is a relief from distressful controversy. It is painful to be perpetually arguing with our friends. When the controversy rises to angry words the best thing is to break it off and relapse into silence.
2. It affords time for reflection. If anything worth remembering has been said, it is well that people should have time to think over it. Probably our religious services would be more fruitful if people would only have patience to allow of pauses for quiet meditation.
3. It is a means of establishing peace. When words only irritate, peace will be best secured by silence. If the three friends wished to be reconciled to Job, their wisest course was to wait for the heat of discussion to cool down.
4. It is itself a blessing. Other voices speak in the silence. Then the unseen world draws near to us. After the storm is hushed the heavens open. We all need more silence, especially after times of strain and difficulty.—W.F.A.
Job 32:2, Job 32:3
Elihu the young man.
We now reach another act in the drama. The vexatious controversy between Job and his three friends is over. Suddenly and quite unexpectedly a new character appears on the stage. We need not trouble ourselves with the question as to whether the Elihu episode was an original part of the poem or whether it was inserted later by the author or even by another hand. We may be thankful that we have it, and we may make use of its lessons with confidence; for we do not know who was the author of any part of the Book of Job, and yet we find the grand work alive with Divine inspiration and rich in spiritual lessons. Let us consider the character of Elihu. Most contradictory opinions have been expressed about him.
I. A YOUNG MAN. The elders have spoken; now is the time for youth. Wisdom does not wholly reside with age. In the present day an American freedom is doing away with old-fashioned restraints upon youth, and young people are enjoying a prominence which was once regarded as not becoming. Whether the change is wholly profitable may be gravely questioned. But most assuredly it is not without some advantages. There is an elan, a freshness, and a vivacity which only the young can contribute to life; all the world should be thankful for the breezy vigour that accompanies youthful activity, for all the world is the better for it.
II. A CONFIDENT MAN. Elihu waited in modesty while the old men were speaking; yet there is a touch of satire in his tone of humility. For, in fact, he has a supreme contempt for the droning commonplaces of the elder advisers. Even Job comes under his lash. He hits out all round. It is exceedingly difficult for young people to believe that they are not infallible. The confidence that is natural to youth tends to develop into censoriousness.
III. A KEEN-SIGHTED MAN. Elihu had some ground for his confidence. He could see that the three friends had blundered most outrageously. Job, too, was in error. Elihu comes forward with a new truth. The friends should not accuse Job; Job should not accuse God. The sufferings of Job were not penal at all; they were medicinal. Thus this young man lifts the question on to a new stage. He it is who introduces the great thought of the disciplinary character of suffering.
IV. AN INSPIRED MAN. Elihu claimed a direct inspiration—not one that is peculiar to seers like Eliphaz, and that comes in startling vision, but one that is vouchsafed to man as man. He claims to have a share in this inspiration himself. Thus he too would speak for God; and to a certain extent he is right. Hence the truth and value of his words. We can only reach truth when we touch God. We must be free from worldly maxims and selfish prejudices, and open to the voice of Heaven, if we would possess Divine truth.—W.F.A.
Youth and age.
Elihu speaks with becoming modesty in these words, although most of his discourse shows that he is perfectly self-confident, and full of contempt for the old censors of Job. He cannot but admit at least the conventional distinctions between the claims and dues of youth and age. Let us look at these distinctions.
I. DEFERENCE IS DUE TO AGE. We all feel that this is appropriate, even though age does not always appear in a light that fully justifies its claims. On what grounds does this deference rest?
1. The experience of age. Certainly age has had opportunities of gaining wisdom that are not afforded to youth. Whether a good use has been made of those opportunities is another matter. Still, it is scarcely possible to pass through the world without learning something, if only from one's own blunders.
2. The maturity of age. There is a certain rawness about youth. Apart from its acquisitions from without, the growth of the inner life of a man should ripen, and time should mellow his temperament.
3. The dignity of age. Age is not always dignified; still, the fatherly relation implies a certain rank that is only found with added years. We must respect the orderly arrangement that gives places of honour to years.
4. The achievements of age. The old hero may have become a feeble invalid. Yet he still wears the scars of the battles of bygone days, and we must respect him for what he has done.
5. The infirmities of age. These claim considerate and sympathetic treatment, not slighting and scornful disregard.
II. MODESTY IS BECOMING IN YOUTH. This is especially fit on two grounds.
1. The claims of age. If these are to be respected, youth must stand back for a time. However it might desire to assert itself, youth here finds itself confronted by an obstacle that must not be rudely thrust aside. It may chafe against the restraints, and think them most unreasonable. Perhaps it would be well for the young to consider that they will be aged some day, and will need the consideration shown to age. Meanwhile their advantages are greater than those of the aged in many respects, so that the attempt to surround a naturally melancholy lot of increasing infirmities with honours is really a pathetic confession of the loss of many of the solid boons of life. The young need not envy the honours of age, seeing that they have the powers and opportunities and delights of the sunny spring-time of life.
2. The imperfection of youth. New and untried powers promise great things, hut they need regulating and guiding. It is possible to do immense harm by rushing forward ignorantly and without circumspection. It is wiser to begin quietly, and feel our way by degrees.
III. NEITHER THE DEFERENCE DUE TO AGE NOR THE MODESTY BECOMING IN YOUTH SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO INTERFERE WITH DUTY. Old men should be careful not to suppress the generous enthusiasm of youth. They should rather mourn that they have lost it, if it is no longer with them. No venerable position can justify the obstruction of good works. The young have to learn to combine a suitable modesty with fidelity to truth and right. There will be no progress if the constitutional timidity of age is permitted to stand in the way of every proposed improvement. Deference does not mean absolute submission. After all, the consequences of actions are much more important to the young, who will live to reap them, than to the old, who will soon leave the world. The future is for the young; the young must be allowed to shape it.—W.F.A.
The common inspiration of man.
Elihu here utters a great and daring thought. He turns from the dogmas of the ancients to the present Divine inspiration; from the teaching of authority to the voice of truth in the heart of man.
I. THERE IS A DIVINE INSPIRATION OF MAN. Elihu affirms its existence. The old men had grown stiff in thought, worldly, and dim-sighted. If ever they had quivered beneath the touch of inspiration this was in bygone days, and they had forgotten the experience. But the young, enthusiastic Elihu is alive to spiritual influence. Here we are at the root of religion, which does not spring from man's worship of God, but from God's touching man.
II. THIS INSPIRATION IS FOR ALL MEN. Elihu is not thinking of the special and rare vision of the seer which Eliphaz had described as so awe-inspiring (Job 4:12-16). He is thinking of something more simple, more natural, and more common. God does not only teach us indirectly by means of prophets and intermediate messengers. He has not left himself without witness in the heart of man. Conscience is the voice of God in the soul. Reason in man is a spark from the Logos, the great Word and Reason of God. Whenever men read truth they are in contact with the ever-present Spirit of truth. We do not live in a God-deserted world, nor in one that is only visited at rare intervals by Divine influences. God is nearer to us than we suspect. Job has been crying out for God; Elihu shows that God is not far off'
III. THE COMMON INSPIRATION OF MAN IS SEEN IN VARIOUS FORMS. It does not make every man a prophet, much less does it always confer the gift of infallibility. In Bezaleel it was a faculty for artistic workmanship (Exodus 35:30-35). Samson found it a source of physical strength (Judges 13:25). God gives his Spirit in science, leading men to truth; in art, teaching what is beautiful, and helping men to discriminate between meretricious, hurtful art and true, fruitful art; in daily life, affording guidance in perplexity and strength in difficulty; in religion, not only under the Jewish and Christian dispensations, where indeed it is most gloriously developed, but in every truly religious life. God has not abandoned India, nor did he abandon Greece or Egypt. Even amidst the monstrous delusions and the gross corruptions of heathenism the still small voice of God may be detected. Whatever is good and true in the world is an inspiration of God.
IV. CHRISTIANITY DEEPENS AND QUICKENS THE INSPIRATION OF MAN. Joel predicted the time when God's Spirit should be poured out on all flesh (Joel 2:28), and St. Peter claimed that that time had come on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16-18). St. Paul tells us that all Christians together constitute a temple of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 6:19). If the Spirit of God is felt in the world, much more must the gracious Divine presence be enjoyed in the Church. Every Christian is, indeed, an inspired man. He is not infallible. But he has a Guide to truth, a Comforter in distress, a Strength for service, and a Grace for holiness.—W.F.A.
The refreshment of speech.
Elihu will speak that he may be refreshed. Let us consider some of the ways in which this refreshment may be experienced.
I. THE SENSE OF RELIEF.
1. In utterance of what is strongly felt. It is difficult to restrain powerful emotions. Passion inspires speech. We long to tell out what burns in our hearts. Difficulty of utterance often arises from deadness of soul—often, but not always, for many of the best men have no facility of speech. Still, the surest road to eloquence is through emotion.
2. In confession of what is deeply distressing. It is hard to hide a dark secret. Criminals have been known to confess their evil deeds simply because they could not endure to keep silence about them. Great sorrows find relief in utterance. While the sufferer suppresses himself in stony grief his reason is in danger; let him weep and speak, and the worst anguish or his soul will find some relief. Prayer in great distress is not only appealing to God for help; it is also relieving the overburdened soul by utterance. It is much to be able to unbosom one's self to God, to open out sad secrets to Heaven.
II. THE EXERCISE OF POWER. No doubt the lower motive of desiring to feel his power was influencing Elihu, though he would have been too vain to have admitted it. Some people delight to hear the sound of their own voices. The importance and publicity of speaking before others is found to be attractive. When the speaker discovers that he can move an audience by his eloquence, a new fascination lays hold of him, and if he can influence by means of speech, he will find a pleasure in wielding so powerful an instrument. But there is great danger in all this, lest the speaker should idolize his own eloquence, and try to influence others merely for the sake of making them feel the weight of his utterance. It must be remembered that there is great. responsibility in speech. A hasty utterance may be followed by a long repentance, when the speaker will give worlds to recover his mischievous words.
III. THE ACHIEVEMENT OF GOOD. A good man will desire to speak for the profit of others. He who knows God's truth will long to declare it to others. So great a treasure is not to be hidden. For Christ's sake and for the world's sake it must be made known far and wide. The Christian should feel that a serious obligation is upon him to lead others to share in those privileges of the gospel which all need, and which are designed for all. St. Paul felt an awful necessity laid on him, and exclaimed, "Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9:16). The lepers of Samaria felt that they would be guilty of a great sin if they feasted in the camp of the Syrians, and did not let the starving city know that there was abundance of good outside the gates (2 Kings 7:9). But nor only is it a duty to preach Christ; it is a great joy. The body may be wearied by the effort, but the soul will be refreshed. There is a cheering and invigorating influence in making truth known; this is greatest when the work is to bring the knowledge of God's love in Christ to sorrowing men and women.—W.F.A.
Job 32:21, Job 32:22
Elihu promises to be frank and outspoken, not "accepting any man's person" in perversion of truth, and giving "flattering titles" to no man. This resolve would be very significant in the East, where personal rank counts for much even in courts of justice, and where a "flattering title" is given as a matter of course, especially when some favour is sought, even though it belies the true opinion held by the flatterer; e.g. Acts 24:2.
I. TEMPTATIONS TO FLATTERY.
1. To win favour. This is the lowest motive with which to flatter; it is without any valid I excuse; its character is wholly selfish.
2. To avoid harm. This is also a selfish motive; but it may be urged by fear and encouraged by weakness. The flattery of a tyrant is not creditable to anybody concerned; but it is one of the certain effects of tyranny on weak natures.
3. To give pleasure. Without any deep design of gain, agreeable people wish to please those with whom they are associated. A certain foolish kindness may help the flattery.
4. To express humility. Very humble people are tempted to ascribe good qualities to others in contrast with their own unworthiness.
II. THE SIN OF FLATTERY. Elihu justly repudiates the idea of flattering any one, though he does so with a needless ostentation of independence. Flattery is bad in many ways, and involves many evil things.
1. Falsehood. This is the very first element of flattery. You praise a man to his face beyond your true thoughts of him.
2. Cowardice. If the flattery is indulged in in order to propitiate a powerful tyrant, the flatterer humiliates himself, and appears in the miserable character of a cringing coward
3. Godlessness. Flattery of man tends to a disregard of the law and will of God. If the dignity and rank of a person is made too much of, he is really becoming to us almost a god; we are in danger of giving to him the deference which should only be offered to our Maker.
III. THE EVIL CONSEQUENCES OF FLATTERY.
1. The overthrow of justice. If a man "accepts persons" he will neglect justice. Instead of considering what is right and fair, the flatterer considers what is pleasant. Thus right and equity are set aside.
2. The destruction of confidence. Flattery is sure to be discovered, and the habit of flattering will be soon recognized. Then words of admiration cease to have any meaning. It becomes impossible to give true honour to a person, because this cannot be distinguished from the false honours which the sycophant heaps on his patron. It is no longer possible to know whether approval, support, and loyalty are maintained or not. Traitors hide under the cloak of flattery.
3. The anger of God. Elihu talks somewhat brusquely about his Maker taking him away. It is a trait of his self-confidence to be quite at home in speaking of God. Yet there is a truth in his words. God cannot endure falsehood and injustice. His favour is not won by flattery; the flattery of men is sure to be detected by God, and therefore the flatterer must lie under the disfavour of Heaven, even while he enjoys the favour of his earthly patron.—W.F.A.