Job 32

Elihu’s First Speech

There are now four speeches from another friend of Job, Elihu. But Job does not reply to any of these, nor does the Lord. The speeches show a knowledge of the debate that has gone on, but they take a different approach entirely. Elihu’s approach is that suffering is a discipline from God, to teach his people. In other words, Job was suffering to vindicate God’s confidence in him. His speeches are an interesting part of the book, but they too are irrelevant to Job’s actual case. In the first speech, there is a short introduction (32:1–5), and then the speech proper with these sections: Elihu will speak because his youth is wiser (32:6–14), and his friends arguments failed (32:15–22); he calls for Job’s attention (33:1–7), claims Job’s case is wrong (33:8–13), and Job’s argument that God does not answer is false (33:14–28), and then makes an appeal to Job (33:29–33). It becomes evident that Elihu correctly identified Job’s determination to maintain his integrity at God’s expense as the primary problem in at least the latter stages of the dialogues (32:1–3; 34:37; 35:16; cf. 38:2; 40:8; 42:3). Elihu was respectful of his elders (32:4), but remained uninfected by their error (32:14). He sought to maintain impartiality (32:21–22) and to offer true wisdom (33:33), believed like Job that a mediator existed (33:23–24), and desired Job’s vindication (33:32). In addition, Elihu focused on vindicating God’s actions (34:12; 35:10–11; 36:2–3, 22–26) and announced the coming theophany (37:1–5, 22). It appears that he was not included in the divine condemnation of Job’s friends (42:7–9) and was excluded from Job’s prayer of intercession (42:8–10) – both perhaps implying divine approval of his behavior and words.
So these three men refused to answer
The form is the infinitive construct (“answer”) functioning as the object of the preposition; the phrase forms the complement of the verb “they ceased to answer” (= “they refused to answer further”).
Job further, because he was righteous in his
The LXX, Syriac, and Symmachus have “in their eyes.” This is adopted by some commentators, but it does not fit the argument.
own eyes.
Then Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became very angry.
The verse begins with וַיִּחַר אַף (vayyikhar af, “and the anger became hot”), meaning Elihu became very angry.
He was angry
The second comment about Elihu’s anger comes right before the statement of its cause. Now the perfect verb is used: “he was angry.”
with Job for justifying
The explanation is the causal clause עַל־צַדְּקוֹ נַפְשׁוֹ (’al-tsaddeqo nafsho, “because he justified himself”). It is the preposition with the Piel infinitive construct with a suffixed subjective genitive.
himself rather than God.
The LXX and Latin versions soften the expression slightly by saying “before God.”
With Job’s
Heb “his”; the referent (Job) has been specified in the translation to indicate whose friends they were.
three friends he was also angry, because they could not find
The perfect verb should be given the category of potential perfect here.
an answer, and so declared Job guilty.
This is one of the eighteen “corrections of the scribes” (tiqqune sopherim); it originally read, “and they declared God [in the wrong].” The thought was that in abandoning the debate they had conceded Job’s point.
Now Elihu had waited before speaking
This reading requires repointing the word בִּדְבָרִים (bidbarim, “with words”) to בְּדָבְּרָם (bedabberam, “while they spoke [with Job]”). If the MT is retained, it would mean “he waited for Job with words,” which while understandable is awkward.
to Job, because the others
Heb “they”; the referent (the other friends) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
were older than he was.
But when Elihu saw
The first clause beginning with a vav (ו) consecutive and the preterite can be subordinated to the next similar verb as a temporal clause.
that the three men had no further reply,
Heb “that there was no reply in the mouth of the three men.”
he became very angry.

Elihu Claims Wisdom

So Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite spoke up:
Heb “answered and said.”

“I am young,
The text has “small in days.”
but you are elderly;
that is why I was fearful,
The verb זָחַלְתִּי (zakhalti) is found only here in the OT, but it is found in a ninth century Aramaic inscription as well as in Biblical Aramaic. It has the meaning “to be timid” (see H. H. Rowley, Job [NCBC], 208).

and afraid to explain
The Piel infinitive with the preposition (מֵחַוֹּת, mekhavvot) means “from explaining.” The phrase is the complement: “explain” what Elihu feared.
to you what I know.
I said to myself, ‘Age
Heb “days.”
should speak,
The imperfect here is to be classified as an obligatory imperfect.

and length of years
Heb “abundance of years.”
should make wisdom known.’
But it is a spirit in people,
the breath
This is the word נְשָׁמָה (neshamah, “breath”); according to Gen 2:7 it was breathed into Adam to make him a living person (“soul”). With that divine impartation came this spiritual understanding. Some commentators identify the רוּחַ (ruakh) in the first line as the Spirit of God; this “breath” would then be the human spirit. Whether Elihu knew that much, however, is hard to prove.
of the Almighty,
that makes them understand.
It is not the aged
The MT has “the great” or “the many,” meaning great in years according to the parallelism.
who are wise,
nor old men who understand what is right.
10  Therefore I say, ‘Listen
In most Hebrew mss this imperative is singular, and so addressed to Job. But two Hebrew mss and the versions have the plural. Elihu was probably addressing all of them.
to me.
I, even I, will explain what I know.’
11  Look, I waited for you to speak;
Heb “for your words.”

I listened closely to your wise thoughts,
The word means “understanding.” It refers to the faculty of perception and comprehension; but it also can refer to what that produces, especially when it is in the plural (see Ps 49:4). See R. Gordis, Job, 368. Others translate it “reasonings,” “arguments,” etc.
while you were searching for words.
12  Now I was paying you close attention,
The verb again is from בִּין (bin, “to perceive; to understand”); in this stem it means to “to pay close attention.”

The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, “behold”) has a deictic force here, calling attention to the thought that is now presented.
there was no one proving Job wrong,
The participle מוֹכִיחַ (mokhiakh) is from the verb יָכַח (yakhakh) that has been used frequently in the book of Job. It means “to argue; to contend; to debate; to prove; to dispute.” The usage of the verb shows that it can focus on the beginning of an argument, the debating itself, or the resolution of the conflict. Here the latter is obviously meant, for they did argue and contend and criticize – but could not prove Job wrong.

not one of you was answering his statements!
13  So do not say,
Heb “lest you say.” R. Gordis (Job, 368) calls this a breviloquence: “beware lest [you say].” He then suggests the best reading for their quote to be, “We have attained wisdom, but only God can refute him, not man.” H. H. Rowley (Job [NCBC], 209) suggests the meaning is a little different, namely, that they are saying they have found wisdom in Job, and only God can deal with it. Elihu is in effect saying that they do not need God, for he is quite capable for this.
‘We have found wisdom!
God will refute
The root is נָדַף (nadaf, “to drive away; to drive off”). Here it is in the abstract sense of “succeed in doing something; confound,” and so “refute; rebut.” Dhorme wants to change the meaning of the word with a slight emendation in the text, deriving it from אָלַף (’alaf, “instruct”) the form becoming יַלְּפֶנוּ (yallefenu) instead of יִדְּפֶנּוּ (yiddefenu), obtaining the translation “God will instruct us.” This makes a smoother reading, but does not have much support for it.
him, not man!’
14  Job
Heb “he”; the referent (Job) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
has not directed
The verb עַרַךְ (’arakh) means “to arrange in order; to set forth; to direct; to marshal.” It is used in military contexts for setting the battle array; it is used in legal settings for preparing the briefs.
his words to me,
and so I will not reply to him with your arguments.
Heb “your words.”

Job’s Friends Failed to Answer

Elihu now will give another reason why he will speak – the arguments of these friends failed miserably. But before he gets to his argument, he will first qualify his authority.
15  “They are dismayed
The verb חַתּוּ (khattu) is from חָתַת (khatat) which means “to be terrified.” But here it stresses the resulting dilemma. R. Gordis (Job, 369) renders it, “they are shattered, beaten in an argument.”
and cannot answer any more;
they have nothing left to say.
Heb “words have moved away from them,” meaning words are gone from them, they have nothing left to say.

16  And I have waited.
Some commentators take this as a question: “And shall [or must] I wait because they do not speak?” (A. B. Davidson, R. Gordis). But this is not convincing because the silence of the friends is the reason for him to speak, not to wait.
But because they do not speak,
because they stand there and answer no more,
17  I too will answer my part,
I too will explain what I know.
18  For I am full of words,
and the spirit within me
Heb “the spirit of my belly.”
constrains me.
The verb צוּק (tsuq) means “to constrain; to urge; to press.” It is used in Judg 14:17; 16:16 with the sense of wearing someone down with repeated entreaties. Elihu cannot withhold himself any longer.

19  Inside I am like wine which has no outlet,
Heb “in my belly I am like wine that is not opened” (a Niphal imperfect), meaning sealed up with no place to escape.

like new wineskins
The Hebrew text has כְּאֹבוֹת חֲדָשִׁים (keovot khadashim), traditionally rendered “like new wineskins.” But only here does the phrase have this meaning. The LXX has “smiths” for “new,” thus “like smith’s bellows.” A. Guillaume connects the word with an Arabic word for a wide vessel for wine shaped like a cup (“Archaeological and philological note on Job 32:19, ” PEQ 93 [1961]: 147-50). Some have been found in archaeological sites. The poor would use skins, the rich would use jars. The key to putting this together is the verb at the end of the line, יִבָּקֵעַ (yibbaqea’, “that are ready to burst”). The point of the statement is that Elihu is bursting to speak, and until now has not had the opening.
ready to burst!
20  I will speak,
The cohortative expresses Elihu’s resolve to speak.
so that I may find relief;
I will open my lips, so that I may answer.
21  I will not show partiality to anyone,
The idiom is “I will not lift up the face of a man.” Elihu is going to show no favoritism, but speak his mind.

nor will I confer a title
The verb means “to confer an honorary title; to give a mark of distinction,” but it is often translated with the verb “flatter.” Elihu will not take sides, he will not use pompous titles.
on any man.
22  for I do not know how to give honorary titles,
The construction uses a perfect verb followed by the imperfect. This is a form of subordination equivalent to a complementary infinitive (see GKC 385-86 #120.c).

if I did,
The words “if I did” are supplied in the translation to make sense out of the two clauses.
my Creator would quickly do away with me.
Heb “quickly carry me away.”

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