Job 33

Elihu Invites Job’s Attention

1“But now, O Job, listen to my words,
and hear
Heb “give ear,” the Hiphil denominative verb from “ear.”
everything I have to say!
Heb “hear all my words.”

2 See now, I have opened
The perfect verbs in this verse should be classified as perfects of resolve: “I have decided to open…speak.”
my mouth;
my tongue in my mouth has spoken.
H. H. Rowley (Job [NCBC], 210) says, “The self-importance of Elihu is boundless, and he is the master of banality.” He adds that whoever wrote these speeches this way clearly intended to expose the character rather than exalt him.

3 My words come from the uprightness of my heart,
This expression is unusual; R. Gordis (Job, 371) says it can be translated, “the purity of my heart [is reflected] in my words,” but that is far-fetched and awkward. So there have been suggestions for emending יֹשֶׁר (yosher, “uprightness”). Kissane’s makes the most sense if a change is desired: “shall reveal” (an Arabic sense of yasher), although Holscher interpreted “shall affirm” (yasher, with a Syriac sense). Dhorme has “my heart will repeat” (יָשׁוּר, yashur), but this is doubtful. If Kissane’s view is taken, it would say, “my heart will reveal my words.” Some commentators would join “and knowledge” to this colon, and read “words of knowledge” – but that requires even more emendations.

and my lips will utter knowledge sincerely.
More literally, “and the knowledge of my lips they will speak purely.”

4 The Spirit of God has made me,
and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
Some commentators want to put this verse after v. 6, while others omit the verse entirely. Elihu is claiming here that he is inspired by God.
The verb תְּחַיֵּנִי (tekhayyeni) is the Piel imperfect of the verb “to live.” It can mean “gives me life,” but it can also me “quickens me, enlivens me.”

5 Reply to me, if you can;
set your arguments
The Hebrew text does not contain the term “arguments,” but this verb has been used already for preparing or arranging a defense.
in order before me
and take your stand!
6 Look, I am just like you in relation to God;
I too have been molded
The verb means “nipped off,” as a potter breaks off a piece of clay when molding a vessel.
from clay.
7 Therefore no fear of me should terrify you,
nor should my pressure
The noun means “my pressure; my burden” in the light of the verb אָכֲף (’akhaf, “to press on; to grip tightly”). In the parallel passages the text used “hand” and “rod” in the hand to terrify. The LXX has “hand” here for this word. But simply changing it to “hand” is ruled out because the verb is masculine.
be heavy on you.
See Job 9:34 and 13:21.

Elihu Rejects Job’s Plea of Innocence

8 “Indeed, you have said in my hearing
Heb “in my ears.”

(I heard the sound of the words!):
See Job 9:21; 10:7; 23:7; 27:4; ch. 31.
‘I am pure, without transgression;
I am clean
The word is a hapax legomenon; hap is from חָפַף (khafaf). It is used in New Hebrew in expressions like “to wash” the head. Cognates in Syriac and Akkadian support the meaning “to wash; to clean.”
and have no iniquity.
10 Yet God
Heb “he”; the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
finds occasions
The Hebrew means “frustrations” or “oppositions.” The RSV has “displeasure,” NIV “faults,” and NRSV “occasions.” Rashi chose the word found in Judg 14:4 – with metathesis – meaning “pretexts” (תֹּאֲנוֹת, toanot); this is followed by NAB, NASB.
with me;
he regards me as his enemy!
11 He puts my feet in shackles;
he watches closely all my paths.’
12 Now in this, you are not right – I answer you,
The meaning of this verb is “this is my answer to you.”

for God is greater than a human being.
The LXX has “he that is above men is eternal.” Elihu is saying that God is far above Job’s petty problems.

13 Why do you contend against him,
that he does not answer all a person’s
The MT has “all his words.” This must refer to “man” in the previous verse. But many wish to change it to “my words,” since it would be summarizing Job’s complaint to God.

Elihu Disagrees With Job’s View of God

14 “For God speaks, the first time in one way,
the second time in another,
though a person does not perceive
The Syriac and the Vulgate have “and he does not repeat it,” a reading of the text as it is, according to E. Dhorme (Job, 403). But his argument is based on another root with this meaning – a root which does not exist (see L. Dennefeld, RB 48 [1939]: 175). The verse is saying that God does speak to man.
15 In a dream, a night vision,
when deep sleep falls on people
as they sleep in their beds.
16 Then he gives a revelation
The idiom is “he uncovers the ear of men.” This expression means “inform” in Ruth 4:4; 1 Sam 20:2, etc. But when God is the subject it means “make a revelation” (see 1 Sam 9:15; 2 Sam 7:27).
to people,
and terrifies them with warnings,
Heb “and seals their bonds.” The form of the present translation, “and terrifies them with warnings,” is derived only by emending the text. Aquila, the Vulgate, Syriac, and Targum Job have “their correction” for “their bond,” which is what the KJV used. But the LXX, Aquila, and the Syriac have “terrifies” for the verb. This involves a change in pointing from יָחְתֹּם (yakhtom) to יְחִתֵּם (yekhittem). The LXX has “appearances of fear” instead of “bonds.” The point of the verse seems to be that by terrifying dreams God makes people aware of their ways.

17 to turn a person from his sin,
The MT simply has מַעֲשֶׂה (maaseh, “deed”). The LXX has “from his iniquity” which would have been מֵעַוְלָה (meavlah). The two letters may have dropped out by haplography. The MT is workable, but would have to mean “[evil] deeds.”

and to cover a person’s pride.
Here too the sense of the MT is difficult to recover. Some translations took it to mean that God hides pride from man. Many commentators changed יְכַסֶּה (yekhasseh, “covers”) to יְכַסֵּחַ (yekhasseakh, “he cuts away”), or יְכַלֶּה (yekhalleh, “he puts an end to”). The various emendations are not all that convincing.

18 He spares a person’s life from corruption,
A number of interpreters and translations take this as “the pit” (see Job 17:14; cf. NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV).

his very life from crossing over
Here is another difficult line. The verb normally means “to pass through; to pass over,” and so this word would normally mean “from passing through [or over].” The word שֶׁלַח (shelakh) does at times refer to a weapon, but most commentators look for a parallel with “the pit [or corruption].” One suggestion is שְׁאוֹלָה (sheolah, “to Sheol”), proposed by Duhm. Dhorme thought it was שַׁלַח (shalakh) and referred to the passageway to the underworld (see M. Tsevat, VT 4 [1954]: 43; and Svi Rin, BZ 7 [1963]: 25). See discussion of options in HALOT 1517-18 s.v. IV שֶׁלַח. The idea of crossing the river of death fits the idea of the passage well, although the reading “to perish by the sword” makes sense and was followed by the NIV.
the river.
19 Or a person is chastened
The MT has the passive form, and so a subject has to be added: “[a man] is chastened.” The LXX has the active form, indicating “[God] chastens,” but the object “a man” has to be added. It is understandable why the LXX thought this was active, within this sequence of verbs; and that is why it is the inferior reading.
by pain on his bed,
and with the continual strife of his bones,
The Kethib “the strife of his bones is continual,” whereas the Qere has “the multitude of his bones are firm.” The former is the better reading in this passage. It indicates that the pain is caused by the ongoing strife.

20 so that his life loathes food,
and his soul rejects appetizing fare.
Heb “food of desire.” The word “rejects” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.

21 His flesh wastes away from sight,
and his bones, which were not seen,
are easily visible.
Heb “are laid bare.” This is the Qere reading; the Kethib means “bare height.” Gordis reverses the word order: “his bones are bare [i.e., crushed] so that they cannot be looked upon.” But the sense of that is not clear.

22 He
Heb “his soul [נֶפֶשׁ, nefesh, “life”] draws near.”
draws near to the place of corruption,
and his life to the messengers of death.
The MT uses the Hiphil participle, “to those who cause death.” This seems to be a reference to the belief in demons that brought about death, an idea not mentioned in the Bible itself. Thus many proposals have been made for this expression. Hoffmann and Budde divide the word into לְמוֹ מֵתִּים (lemo metim) and simply read “to the dead.” Dhorme adds a couple of letters to get לִמְקוֹם מֵתִּים (limqom metim, “to the place [or abode] of the dead”).

23 If there is an angel beside him,
one mediator
The verse is describing the way God can preserve someone from dying by sending a messenger (translated here as “angel”), who could be human or angelic. This messenger will interpret/mediate God’s will. By “one … out of a thousand” Elihu could have meant either that one of the thousands of messengers at God’s disposal might be sent or that the messenger would be unique (see Eccl 7:28; and cp. Job 9:3).
out of a thousand,
to tell a person what constitutes his uprightness;
This is a smoother reading. The MT has “to tell to a man his uprightness,” to reveal what is right for him. The LXX translated this word “duty”; the choice is adopted by some commentaries. However, that is too far from the text, which indicates that the angel/messenger is to call the person to uprightness.

24 and if
This verse seems to continue the protasis begun in the last verse, with the apodosis coming in the next verse.
Heb “he”; the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
is gracious to him and says,
The verb is either taken as an anomalous form of פָּדַע (pada’, “to rescue; to redeem,” or “to exempt him”), or it is emended to some similar word, like פָּרַע (para’, “to let loose,” so Wright).
him from going down
to the place of corruption,
I have found a ransom for him,’
This verse and v. 28 should be compared with Ps 49:7–9, 15 (8–10, 16 HT) where the same basic vocabulary and concepts are employed.

25 then his flesh is restored
The word רֻטֲפַשׁ (rutafash) is found nowhere else. One suggestion is that it should be יִרְטַב (yirtav, “to become fresh”), connected to רָטַב (ratav, “to be well watered [or moist]”). It is also possible that it was a combination of רָטַב (ratav, “to be well watered”) and טָפַשׁ (tafash, “to grow fat”). But these are all guesses in the commentaries.
like a youth’s;
he returns to the days of his youthful vigor.
The word describes the period when the man is healthy and vigorous, ripe for what life brings his way.

26 He entreats God, and God
Heb “he”; the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
delights in him,
he sees God’s face
Heb “his face”; the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
This is usually taken to mean that as a worshiper this individual comes into the presence of the Lord in prayer, and in the sanctuary he sees God’s face, i.e., he sees the evidence of God’s presence.
with rejoicing,
and God
Heb “he”; the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
restores to him his righteousness.
Many commentators think this line is superfluous and so delete it. The RSV changed the verb to “he recounts,” making the idea that the man publishes the news of his victory or salvation (taking “righteousness” as a metonymy of cause).

27 That person sings
The verb יָשֹׁר (yashor) is unusual. The typical view is to change it to יָשִׁיר (yashir, “he sings”), but that may seem out of harmony with a confession. Dhorme suggests a root שׁוּר (shur, “to repeat”), but this is a doubtful root. J. Reider reads it יָשֵׁיר (yasher) and links it to an Arabic word “confesses” (ZAW 24 [1953]: 275).
to others,
Heb “to men.”
‘I have sinned and falsified what is right,
but I was not punished according to what I deserved.
The verb שָׁוָה (shavah) has the impersonal meaning here, “it has not been requited to me.” The meaning is that the sinner has not been treated in accordance with his deeds: “I was not punished according to what I deserved.”

28 He redeemed my life
See note on “him” in v. 24.

from going down to the place of corruption,
and my life sees the light!’

Elihu’s Appeal to Job

Elihu will repeat these instructions for Job to listen, over and over in painful repetition. See note on the heading to 32:1.
29 “Indeed, God does all these things,
twice, three times, in his dealings
The phrase “in his dealings” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation for clarification.
with a person,
30 to turn back his life from the place of corruption,
that he may be enlightened with the light of life.
31 Pay attention, Job – listen to me;
be silent, and I will speak.
32 If you have any words,
Heb “if there are words.”
reply to me;
speak, for I want to justify you.
The infinitive construct serves as the complement or object of “I desire.” It could be rendered “to justify you” or “your justification, “namely, “that you be justified.”

33 If not, you listen to me;
be silent, and I will teach you wisdom.”
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