Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
JOB CHAPTER 33
Having completed his prologue (Chapter 32) explaining why he had not intervened earlier in the discussion, Eli-hu ben Barach-el now begins to set forth his arguments against Job, quoting point by point things that the latter had said and answering them one by one. From the fact that Job does not answer Eli-hu or dispute what he says, we may infer that he accepted his arguments.
Verses 6-7: "Behold I am just like you before God, I too am formed out of clay. Behold my terror shall not make you afraid, nor shall my pressure be heavy upon you." Job had earlier complained that God is not like a man on his own level whom he could challenge to come with him to an independent arbitrator to determine who was right - one who would not throw Job into fear, terror and confusion so as to prevent him putting his case (see Job 9:32-5). Eli-hu is now reassuring Job by saying that although he will, as it were, speak on behalf of God, he is still only a man, just like Job, and he will not cast him into fear and prevent him from answering back if he has any question that is not fully resolved.
Vv 8ff: Before King Solomon would pass judgment, he would first repeat the claims of the parties to the case to show that he understood them correctly (see I Kings 3:23). Likewise Eli-hu first restates succinctly each of the various points Job had made in his arguments with his three companions before going on to answer them one by one. Job had said that he was innocent of any sin yet God had treated him like an ENEMY - EEYOV (=Job) had become like an OIYEIV (="enemy") - and was seeking pretexts against him.
V 12: "Behold in this you are not right. I will answer you - for God is greater than man." Metzudas David explains Eli-hu to be saying that God's level is far higher than that of man. If a mature man would not seek out pretexts to needlessly persecute someone, all the more so that God would not do such a thing. "I will not answer you as your companions did - that you are not innocent but are full of sin - because it could well be that you are righteous, yet you are still not justified in fulminating, because God is certainly just - this will be explained in ch 35 v 2 ff (see Metzudas David on v 12).
V 13: "Why do you strive against Him [saying] that He will not answer all a man's words?" Metzudas explains: "Why do you claim that He does not inform a person in what respect he has sinned or transgressed in order that he may cease from his sins and repent quickly?" (cf. Job 13:23, "make known to me my transgressions and my sins").
Vv 14ff: Eli-hu now explains to Job that God has his own unique ways of communicating with man. God speaks once to a person, and if the person does not understand, He speaks to him again.
Vv 15-16: The first way God communicates with man is through dreams, showing him through dream images what has been decreed against him, measure for measure, because of his deeds (Metzudas David).
V 17: ".that He may withdraw man from his purpose and hide pride from man": The purpose of God's communications to man is PREVENTIVE. He sends people messages to deter them from committing acts they have been intending to do. This is in order to save man's soul from destruction. Eli-hu here introduces a new dimension in the understanding of pain and suffering that was not present in the discourses of Job's first three companions.
Vv 19ff: If the person ignores the message sent in his dreams, the "preventive medicine" becomes steadily stronger, and he is afflicted with the pains of illness and disease in order to stir him to repent.
Vv 22-24: Man veers ever closer to death and the grave. But "If there is an angel over him, a defender, one among a thousand, to declare to man his righteousness, then He is gracious to him and says, Deliver him from going down the pit; I have found a ransom." In the words of Metzudas David: "When the person will be judged then in the heavenly court, if even a single angel will be found arguing in his merit and telling the righteousness of some deed that he performed, even if this angel is the only one arguing in his favor against 999 accusing angels, God will be gracious to him and tell the defending angel that he has redeemed him from destruction, because his righteous deed outweighs everything else."
V 27: Even after having been saved, the true penitent continues publicly admitting his earlier sins.
V 29: "Behold, God does all these things twice or three times with a man." Even if a person reverts to sin, God will again send him dreams or "communicate" with him through the "language" of the illness He sends him in order to stir him to repent. "Rabbi Yose bar Yehudah says: When a person sins for the first time, he is forgiven, and likewise when he sins a second time, he is forgiven, and likewise when he sins a third time, he is forgiven. But if he sins a fourth time, he is not forgiven, as it is written, Behold, God does all these things twice and three times with a man" (Yoma 86b).
V 32: "If you have anything to say, answer me; speak - for I desire to justify you" - "It is best for you to speak out everything that is in your heart, and I will answer you about everything in order to guide you on the true path. For if you stop speaking and keep your words stored up in your belly you will remain with a false view and you will not be innocent any more" (Metzudas David). It is better to speak things out than to keep everything bottled up inside one.
Vv 5-6: "For Job has said, I am righteous and God has taken away my proper reward. Despite my right I am counted a liar; my wound is incurable though I am without transgression." Prior to answering Job, Eli-hu again repeats his claims, which were that: (1) God had not given him his reward for his righteousness, and (2) even worse, He had sent him terrible suffering instead.
V 7: "What man is like Job, who drinks up scorning like water?" Eli-hu is particularly angry with Job for these claims, because, as he explains in verse 8, this way of thinking is likely to encourage sinners.
V 9: "For he has said that man does not profit even if he is willing to be with God [and follow His ways]." The perverse view that man gains nothing from serving God is the logical corollary of Job's attitude that he is suffering terribly despite being innocent of any sin, and that everything happens purely by chance without any divine providence.
Vv 10ff: "Far be it from God that He should do wickedness." Not only does Eli-hu emphasize that God deals with men measure for measure (v 11). He also argues that it is inconceivable that God would needlessly cause His creatures suffering since if He wanted to he could sweep away the entire creation in a moment, so why should we imagine he comes against His creatures with pretexts? (see Metzudas David on v 14).
Vv 16ff: Eli-hu now adds a further argument. Job had complained that the government of the world had been handed over to the implacable heavenly order of stars and planets and that one and the same fate strikes the righteous and the wicked indiscriminately and without justice. But Eli-hu asks how it is possible that the righteous God would have entrusted the government of the world to an unjust system (v 17, see Metzudas David).
Vv 19ff: The Almighty has no need to show partiality to any of His creatures whether in the higher realms or the lower - for He created them all. He knows everything and deals with each individual strictly according to his ways.
V 23: "For He will not lay upon man anything more that he should enter into judgment with God" - "It is not His way to give a person a punishment greater than befits him such that he should say he will take Him to court for giving him a greater punishment than he deserves" (Metzudas David). In the following verses (24-30) Eli-hu describes the punishment of the wicked, measure for measure.
V 31: "For surely it is fitting to say to God, I suffer, I will no more offend" - "That is to say, since it is evident that He does what He does with justice, it is proper to say to God that I will bear my pain and not behave wrongly from now on" (Metzudas David).
V 32: It is fitting for the person enduring suffering to pray to God asking Him to show him what he does not see himself in order that if he has sinned in the past he will not do so any more.
V 33: "Eli-hu asks Job: Was the Holy One blessed be He required to consult you as to how to exact payment from you, such that you say you are sick of living. Do you imagine that He must exact retribution according to the way you choose?" (Rashi).
V 36: Eli-hu would prefer Job to be tested continuously with suffering to see if he will regret what he has said and then discover that the suffering will leave him only after he repents - this in order to teach other sinners to repent when they see that nothing helps except repentance (Metzudas David).
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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