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Job Chapter Thirty-two                            


Job 32

Chapter Contents

Elihu is displeased at the dispute between Job and his friends. (1-5) He reproves them. (6-14) He speaks without partiality. (15-22)

Commentary on Job 32:1-5

(Read Job 32:1-5)

Job's friends were silenced, but not convinced. Others had been present. Elihu was justly displeased with Job, as more anxious to clear his own character than the justice and goodness of God. Elihu was displeased with Job's friends because they had not been candid to Job. Seldom is a quarrel begun, more seldom is a quarrel carried on, in which there are not faults on both sides. Those that seek for truth, must not reject what is true and good on either side, nor approve or defend what is wrong.

Commentary on Job 32:6-14

(Read Job 32:6-14)

Elihu professes to speak by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and corrects both parties. He allowed that those who had the longest experience should speak first. But God gives wisdom as he pleases; this encouraged him to state his opinion. By attention to the word of God, and dependence upon the Holy Spirit, young men may become wiser than the aged; but this wisdom will render them swift to hear, slow to speak, and disposed to give others a patient hearing.

Commentary on Job 32:15-22

(Read Job 32:15-22)

If we are sure that the Spirit of God suggested what we are about to say, still we ought to refrain, till it comes to our turn to speak. God is the God of order, not of confusion. It is great refreshment to a good man, to speak for the glory of the Lord, and to edify others. And the more we consider the majesty of God, as our Maker, and the more we dread his wrath and justice, the less shall we sinfully fear or flatter men. Could we set the wrath Lord always before us, in his mercies and his terrors, we should not be moved from doing our duty in whatever we are called to do.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Job


Job 32

Verse 1

[1] So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.

Because — So they said: but they could not answer him.

Verse 2

[2] Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram: against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God.

The Buzite — Of the posterity of Buz, Nahor's son, Genesis 22:21.

Ram — Or, of Aram; for Ram and Aram are used promiscuously; compare 2 Kings 8:28; 2 Chronicles 22:5. His pedigree is thus particularly described, partly for his honour, as being both a wise and good man, and principally to evidence the truth of this history.

He justified — Himself not without reflection upon God, as dealing severely with him, he took more care to maintain his own innocency, than God's glory. The word Elihu signifies, my God is he. They had all tried in vain to convince Job: but my God is he who both can and will do it.

Verse 3

[3] Also against his three friends was his wrath kindled, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job.

No answer — To Job's arguments as to the main cause.

Condemned — As a bad man.

Verse 4

[4] Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken, because they were elder than he.

'Till Job — And his three friends.

Verse 6

[6] And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I am young, and ye are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not shew you mine opinion.

Afraid — Of being thought forward and presumptuous.

Verse 8

[8] But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.

Spirit — The spirit of God.

Giveth — To whom he pleaseth.

Verse 9

[9] Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment.

Judgment — What is just and right.

Verse 12

[12] Yea, I attended unto you, and, behold, there was none of you that convinced Job, or that answered his words:

Convinced — By solid and satisfactory answers.

Verse 13

[13] Lest ye should say, We have found out wisdom: God thrusteth him down, not man.

Left — God thus left you to your own weakness, lest you should ascribe the conquering or silencing of Job to your own wisdom.

God — This is alleged by Elihu, in the person of Job's three friends; the sense is, the judgments which are upon Job, have not been brought upon him by man originally, but by the hand of God, for his gross, though secret sins: but, saith Elihu, this argument doth not satisfy me, and therefore bear with me if I seek for better.

Verse 19

[19] Behold, my belly is as wine which hath no vent; it is ready to burst like new bottles.

Bottles — Bottles of new wine.

Verse 22

[22] For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my maker would soon take me away.

I know not — The more closely we eye the majesty of God as our maker, the more we dread his wrath and justice, the less danger shall we be in of a sinful fearing or flattering of men.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Job


32 Chapter 32


Verses 1-22

Verses 1-7

Job 32:1-7

Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu.

Analysis of Elihu’s speech

After the introduction Elihu reproves Job, because he had claimed too much for himself, and had indulged in a spirit of complaining against God. He goes on to say that it is not necessary for God to develop all His counsels and purposes to men; that He often speaks in visions of the night; and that the great purpose of His dealings is to take away pride from man, and to produce true humility. This He does by the dispensations of His providence, and by the calamities with which He visits His people. Yet he says, if, when man is afflicted, he will be truly penitent, God will have mercy and restore his flesh, so that it will be fresher than that of an infant. The true secret, therefore, of the Divine dispensations, according to Elihu, the principle on which he explains all, is, that afflictions are disciplinary, or are designed to produce true humility and penitence. They are not absolute proof of enormous wickedness and hypocrisy, as the friends of Job had maintained, nor could one in affliction lay claim to freedom from sin, or blame God, as he understood Job to have done. He next reproves Job for evincing a proud spirit of scorning, and especially for having maintained that, according to the Divine dealings with him, it would be no advantage to a man to be pious, and to delight himself in God. Such an opinion implied that God was severe and wrong in His dealings. To meet this, Elihu brings forward a variety of considerations to show the impropriety of remarks of this kind, and especially to prove that the Governor of the world can do nothing inconsistent with benevolence and justice. From these considerations he infers that the duty of one in the situation of Job was plain. It was to admit the possibility that he had sinned, and to resolve that he would offend no more. He then proceeds to consider the opinion of Job, that under the arrangements of Divine Providence there could be no advantage in being righteous; that the good were subjected to so many calamities, that nothing was gained by all their efforts to be holy; and that there was no profit though a man were cleansed from sin. To this Elihu replies, by showing that God is supreme; that the character of man cannot profit Him; that He is governed by other considerations in His dealings than that man has a claim on Him; and that there are great and important considerations which lead Him to the course He takes with men, and that to complain of these is proof of rebellion. Elihu then closes his address by stating--

1. The true principles of the Divine administration, as he understood them; and

2. By saying that there is much in the Divine government which is inscrutable, but that there are such evidences of greatness and wisdom in His government, there are so many things in the works of nature, and in the course of events, which we cannot understand, that we should submit to His superior wisdom. (Albert Barnes.)

Post-exilic wisdom

Elihu appears to represent the “new wisdom” which came to Hebrew thinkers in the period of the exile; and there are certain opinions embodied in his address which must have been formed during an exile that brought many Jews to honour. The reading of affliction given is one following the discovery that the general sinfulness of a nation may entail chastisement on men who have not been personally guilty of great sin, yet are sharers in the common neglect of religion and pride of heart, and further, that this chastisement may be the means of great profit to those who suffer. It would be harsh to say the tone is that of a mind which has caught the trick of “voluntary humility,” of pietistic self-abasement. Yet there are traces of such a tendency, the beginning of a religious strain opposed to legal self-righteousness, running, however, very readily to excess and formalism. Elihu, accordingly, appears to stand on the verge of a descent from the robust moral vigour of the original author towards that low ground in which false views of man’s nature hinder the free activity of faith Elihu avoids assailing the conception of the prologue, that Job is a perfect and upright man before God. He takes the state of the sufferer as he finds it, and inquires how and why it is, and what is the remedy. There are pedantries and obscurities in the discourse, yet the author must not be denied the merit of a careful and successful attempt to adapt his character to the place he occupies in the drama. Beyond this, and the admission that something is said on the subject of Divine discipline, it is needless to go in justifying Elihu’s appearance. One can only remark with wonder in passing, that Elihu should ever have been declared the Angel Jehovah, or a personification of the Son of God. (Robert A. Watson, D. D.)

Credulous and incredulous minds

1. Elihu appears to have been a young man of keen perception, vigorous intellect, and possessed of the idea that he had a mission to teach and criticise others. He saw their mistakes as a bystander might, and set himself to correct them. The thing which peculiarly stirs him is, that while Job was clearly wrong, the friends had not hit off the truth, they had erred more than he, and this he considers as overruled for good, that they might not fancy that “they had answered him,” and that they, and not God, “had thrust him down.” With this view of their relative positions he goes to work to answer their objections and to correct Job. The opening of his speech to Job gives the impression of a simple and intentionally humble person, nevertheless deeply persuaded that his mission to advise and teach others is from God. Yet there is an inclination to condemn others, and to an apparent arrogance. He first describes himself as “full of matter.” This looks like vanity, but it need not be. There is an intuitive consciousness of inspiration in the minds of some men, and those often are the young, which seems to point them out as men to do a work for God, or the advancement of souls, in their own day. The power that urges them within is one they cannot resist. It is the teaching and influence of God. Many a youth is conscious of some such energy, and, being conscious of it, can neither resist the consciousness, nor hinder the expression of the power. Society usually condemns such men, though men often have to endorse their work in after days. Such an one Elihu seems to have been. It was not the possession of the power to see truth unseen by others which was his fault; nor was it the consciousness that he possessed it; but the presuming on the power, to offend against the laws of humility and modesty, and the thrusting forward the consciousness of his ability in such a way as to contemn and despise others, or to give to others the impression that they are despised and neglected.

2. Elihu opens his speech with a warm protest in favour of the fairness of God’s dealings, and against the complaints set up by Job assailing the inequality of providence. He shows that there is an end and object in God’s dealings with man through sorrow and chastisement. He dwells on the perfection of His character. He then proceeds to show the power and omniscience of God. His complaint against Job is, not only that he has actually done wrong, but that his arguments are of a kind to fortify the wicked, and to strengthen the position of God’s enemies. He concludes his remonstrance in the magnificent language of chapter 37, in which he sets forth the greatness of the works of creation. He is offended at Job’s deviation from the recognised paths of simple religion into the more devious and intricate ones of a somewhat metaphysical search into the causes of apparent contradictions.

3. The two conditions of mind are best seen in contrast. We often do see them so in life. The following classes of men are frequent and familiar to our mind. There is a man who sincerely serves and loves God. He has no hesitation as to his faith in His love, his choice and his intense desire; nevertheless, his mind is one which surveys and weighs everything. It sees the inequality of the law of God, if only the superficial view be taken; he goes down lower, and strives to find some firm basis founded on the moral sense, and the deeper condition of the progress of society. This man accepts and defends the discoveries of science; he is not startled at seeming contradictions. Such was Job. Elihu did not understand the man of keenly inquiring mind, agitated, as Job was, about the causes of things. There are two classes of men among us; those who reach the end of faith through the gallery of inquiry, and those who rest in it from the beginning, and would shudder at having to ask the question which they consider already finally rocked to sleep in the cradle of unsuspecting and Unhesitating trust.

4. Elihu suggests to Job the various modes of God’s visitations and dealings with men. Elihu expresses some surprise that Job should not more easily and heartily acquiesce in the justice of God’s dealings, without inquiring and searching so deeply into God’s actions and motives. So many men of Elihu’s kind are surprised at the difficulty which deeper minds feel. He first objects to Job finding fault with God for giving him trouble, as if he had any right to object to the ways and laws of Him who made him. He tries to convince Job of the close connection between cause and effect in God’s dealing with His people, of the reality of His intentions in every act of trial or humiliation to draw the soul of man out of some snare of Satan, some pit of destruction, and to bring him near Himself. Elihu’s complaint against Job is, that he does not feel all this. He hesitates about this manifest connection between cause and effect; he searches more anxiously, decides more hesitatingly, and takes courage more cautiously. He searches into grounds and causes. Another man under a strong impression that some line of action is a duty, expects everything will guide him with regard to it; sees everything through that atmosphere, possessed in soul of one time, imagines everything he hears is a note which tends to recall it. See how each of these classes would deal with--

The two classes of mind are very distinct; but both may be religious, and that in the very highest sense; but they will have a tendency to mistake and misunderstand each other. There is a painful tendency in religious men to be narrow towards each other. We can help being severe in our judgment on each other. (E. Monro.)

The speech of Elihu

I. Religious controversy issuing in utter failure. Long was the controversy of Job and his three friends; hot was their spirit, and varied the arguments employed on both sides. But what was the result? Neither party was convinced. Polemics have proved the greatest hindrance and the greatest curse to the cause of truth. “Disagreement,” says F.W. Robertson, “is refreshing when two men lovingly desire to compare their views, to find out truth. Controversy is wretched when it is an attempt to prove one another wrong. Therefore Christ would not argue with Pilate. Religious controversy does only harm. It destroys the humble inquiry after truth; it throws all the energies into an attempt to prove ourselves right. In that disparaging spirit no man gets at truth. ‘The meek will He grade in judgment.’ The only effective way to clear the atmosphere of religious errors, is to stir it with the breath and brighten it with the beams of Divine truth. Bring out the truth, regardless of men’s opinions.”

II. Indignation towards men springing from zeal to God. “Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram: against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God. Also against his three friends was his wrath kindled.” Men hating their fellow creatures because their opinions concerning God tally not with their own. How arrogant is this! It is the regarding our own views as the infallible truth; and what is this but the spirit of Popery?

2. How impious is this! A zeal for God which kindles indignation to men, is a false zeal--a zeal abhorrent to the Divine nature.

3. How inhuman is this! Can anything be more inhuman than to be indignant with a man simply because his opinions are not in agreement with our own?

III. Reverence for age restraining the speech of youth. “I am young, and ye are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not show you mine opinion. I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.” Here this young man appears in an aspect most becoming and commendable. He shows--

1. A sense of his theological inferiority arising from his youthhood.

2. A deference for the judgment of his seniors. “I said, Days should speak.” Age gives a man great advantage in judging things. “The aged,” says a modern writer, “have had an opportunity of long observation. They have conversed much with men. They have seen the results of certain courses of conduct, and they have arrived at a period of life when they can look at the reality of things, and are uninfluenced now by passion. Returning respect for the sentiments of the aged, attention to their counsels, veneration for their persons, and deference for them when they speak, would be an indication of advancement in society in modern times; and there is scarcely anything in which we have deteriorated from the simplicity of early ages, or in which we fall behind the Oriental world, so much as in the want of this.” (Homilist.)

Verse 7

Job 32:7

Days should speak.

The voice of days

Days should speak. They do. Each has a message.

I. Yesterday speaks. It says, “Learn of me.” To learn from the experience of the past is one of our prime duties. What is learned by experience is best understood: is best remembered; and is most practical in its influence.

II. Today speaks. It says, “Use me. Turn me and my gifts to good account.” Make prompt use of opportunity.

III. Tomorrow speaks. It says, “Let me alone. Leave me. Trust me with God. Do not anticipate me.” Wise and kindly message! Four considerations show this. Today has quite enough cares. Anxiety will not help us to bear tomorrow’s cares. Christ is Lord of tomorrow. And tomorrow may be quite different from what we expect. (W. R. Stevenson, B. A.)

Time yields maturity

The distance between the infancy of a great man and the climax of his greatness is immense, so that could we have heard Fox or Pitt deliver one of their greatest orations, it would seem impossible that the day ever was when those lips could not speak even the name of her whose arms were their whole world, their horizon, their parliament, their only earth and only heaven. Man is thus an accumulation. He grows as the tree grows. The little oak shrub stands only a foot high in the first summer, but around it the winds and rains and sunshine play, and cast their offerings upon their favourite, and joyfully it receives them, and heaps them up, and when a hundred years have passed, there stands the great monument of the forest, laden with all the vital forces that came near it in the whole hundred years. Its great trunk represents the sunshine and the rain that fell a hundred years before. It is probable that our earth in its early days presented only a surface of volcanic rock, as desolate as Gibraltar; and then came the influence of rain, and atmosphere, and sun, dissolving the surface and making that soil in which the trees and grass live, and which the plough can move so easily. Be this as it may, the philosophy of this world is action, and the conservation of this action in some new form. Into such a theatre of forces God saw fit to place man, and if the favourite creature of God is true to his world, each year comes and adds to his mind and heart far more willingly than the summer days add to the unconscious oak. The chief mission of earth must be to help the mind onward toward a higher condition of every faculty. In harmony with the whole theory of earth, Elihu opens his speech to Job, and drops one of the finest of truths: “Days should teach, and years should teach wisdom.”

Homily for the New Year

Time should be educatory. Every day has its lessons divinely arranged which we are expected to learn. The “days” by their educational processes should throw brighter light on the great problems of life, and make the pathway to the hidden world less ghostly and shadowed. There may be age without wisdom, and there may be wisdom without a “multitude of years.” There is a wisdom which is only born of experience; and experience can only come with the silent growth of years. What is wisdom? The right application of means to ends. Wisdom is knowledge reduced to practice. But there may be worldly wisdom and advanced age without “understanding.” Men may be intellectually cultured and wise, yet morally fools in their attempts at interpretation of questions and problems in the higher realm of the spiritual and divine. The mental can never of itself interpret the spiritual, the metaphysical, the Divine. Moral revelations come to none but such as are in heart prepared and waiting to receive them. This is the secret of the errors which our clever scientists are making today in their interpretations of the hieroglyphs of the spiritual universe,--they read them, spell them out, in the light of the intellectual, and guess at their meaning through the medium of secular knowledge, mere cultured reason. There must be the child spirit of humility, receptivity, submissiveness, and love, or God will remain a hidden, impalpable, unrealised mystery, and the spiritual universe a sealed volume, a dumb oracle, a dread uncertainty. The mysteries of life are plain only in the light which is born of Divine “inspiration.” Elihu, spirit taught, saw beneath the apparent, the real design of Job’s sufferings. They were “moral discipline,” not “judicial visitation.” Both parties looked at the same object, but the three philosophers saw it through the medium of their philosophy, and Elihu through the medium of sonship--filially; hence the difference! The heart sees farther than the head, and its Christian love interprets with accuracy what the dictionary confounds and philosophy contradicts. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (J. O. Keen, D. D.)

The lessons of time

I. Time unfolds the plan of our life. Our curiosity often prompts us to desire a present knowledge of future events. Would we understand them if revealed? You put an arithmetic book in the hand of a child, and say, In this book you will find Practice, Proportion, Fractions, Interest, etc. The child turns the leaves over from beginning to end, but as yet he has not learnt numeration. The book is of no use, although it contains the arithmetician’s wisdom. So, did we see the end from the beginning, we should be no wiser. God has kept the other pages of the Book till we have learnt the first; the others are not soiled.

1. Human life is ordered of God. He orders our steps. He girded Cyrus for his work, although he knew it not. It is impossible to realise and value life if this view is not taken of it. Its sacred origin and its Divine organisation constitute the basis of belief.

2. Human life is gradually unfolded. Because it is Divine it is mysterious. All God’s works have passed through time. Matter and events must ever turn in cycles. God alone is immovable. “I, the Lord, change not.”

II. Time unfolds our capacities for life. Growth is a characteristic of life; change, that of inanimate nature.

1. Man becomes an intelligent being by the exercise of time. There are activities which tend both to reveal that which we ought to know, and enlarge our capacity for knowing it. It is a two-fold process. Unexercised brains are dwarfs. Minds which are exercised about that which pleases them, and are made their hobby, grow like the willow--very long, but very weak.

2. Man becomes a moral being by considering time. Life moves on gradually, like a panorama, that we may observe its motions, and know the purposes of God in them. We learn the nature of actions by the exercise of the intuitive faculty, as actions reveal themselves. Morality and accountability are unfolded by degrees.

3. Man becomes a social being by the enjoyment of time. We have a capacity for enjoyment, and life has blessings to exercise that capacity. Every period of life has its charms.

III. Time unfolds the great purposes of life.

1. The development of true manhood. Man is God’s ideal creature. All others am steps up to man. Evolution is the gradual unfolding in creation of the final embodiment of matter and life.

2. The unity of the various parts. There is a period when we shall not look upon life as atoms separated from their kindred, or contradictions, but a whole, with all its parts fitly put together, and all things working for our good. (T. Davies, M. A.)

The past

I. The past should speak of us.

1. It speaks of sins committed. Spectres seem to come up from the dark arches of the past, and confront us at every turn. They tell of sins of omission and sins of commission; they speak of failures here and errors there. The past is dark, and few can look it in the face without a blush.

2. It speaks of privileges abused. The means of grace neglected--prayer restrained--the Gospel declined.

3. It speaks of opportunities neglected.

II. The past should speak to us.

1. It should speak to us of the frailty of human life.

2. It should speak to us of the shortness of time.

3. It should speak to us of the future recompense of the saints, and punishment of the ungodly. The voice of the past says: “He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption,” etc.

III. The past should speak in us and impress our moral consciousness in regard to our personal obligations.

1. It should teach us to develop a spirit of gratitude. “O praise the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endureth forever,” is the language as well of the thoughtful intelligent Christian as the emphatic utterance of revelation.

2. It should preach to us the part of our personal responsibility to ourselves; to our families; to the Church; to the world.

3. It should teach us greater fidelity to God.

4. It should inspire us with a Divine earnestness. Conclusion--Meditate on the past. Mourn over its sins and its failures. Seek to improve upon it. Ask Divine aid in order that you may succeed. (The Study.)

Ancestral experience a Divine schoolmaster

I. A distinguishing faculty in human nature. Of all the creatures on this earth man alone has the power of deriving instruction from the experience of others. We have no reason to believe that the birds of heaven or the beasts of the field derive one particle of information from any of their ancestors through the ages that are gone.

1. The faculty connects all generations together in a mental unity.

2. This faculty explains the gradual advancement of the world in intelligence. Every age builds up a fresh layer Of general intelligence, on which the next steps up and works, and thus the generations are ever climbing the hill of knowledge.

3. This faculty increases the moral responsibility of the world. On us the ends of ages are come.

II. A sad perversity in human nature. In secular matters we are constantly learning from the experience of our ancestors, We avail ourselves of their discoveries. But in moral and spiritual matters we are slow to learn. Ancestral experience teaches us lessons on spiritual subjects not only in the general historical works of the world, but especially in the Bible. The Bible for the most part is a record of man’s experience in relation to the higher and more solemn relations of being. (Homilist.)

Verse 8

Job 32:8

But there is a spirit in man.

The spirit in man

We can define “spirit” only by negations, but the negations are positive, inasmuch as it is the limitations and imperfections of matter that they deny. Spirit, though it uses material organs and implements, is distinct from them, their owner and master. Modern science derives man’s parentage from what we have been accustomed to call the lower order of beings. I confess a strong preference for the genealogy whose two connecting links are, “which was the Son of Adam, which was the Son of God.” Man has the same material conditions, surroundings, and necessities with his humbler fellow beings. But is there in man an immaterial, supra-material consciousness, in which he differs from the brutes, not in degree alone, but in kind, something into which: instinct could never grow, occupying a range of thought, knowledge, and aspiration which to the brute is and ever will be an unexplored region? This question we attempt to answer.

1. Note man’s power of progress, as manifested both individually and collectively. The swallow builds as good a nest the first spring of his life as he will ever build. But man’s antecedents and surroundings do not furnish the first elements for calculating his orbit, which may intersect the outermost circle of the material system to which he belongs, and stretch on unto the unmapped region beyond, as the comet wings its flight into depths of space remoter than the planet’s round. Man, also, alone of all animals, grows collectively, and from generation to generation. Each generation of men mounts on the shoulders of that which preceded it. Facts are epitomised into principles! knowledge is condensed into general truths, and the acquisitions of a thousand years are carried by the child from the primary school. There is no physical peculiarity in man that can account for this power of progress. Is it ascribed to speech? The human hand cannot account for man’s progress. Man’s power of progress is due to causes wholly unconnected with his physical development, and with the possibility of material consciousness. We have no proof that other animals have any knowledge, except that which comes to them immediately through the senses. They evince no apprehension of principles, of multitudinous, comprehensive facts, of general truths. Man’s superiority consists in his capacity for super-sensual ideas, and these cannot be elaborated by any conceivable material apparatus. Man with his mental vision sees a class or a law as distinctly as the eye discerns an individual object; and still further, by higher stages of abstraction and generalisation, he resolves clusters of classes into more comprehensive classes, fascicles of laws into single laws of a broader scope, till in every department he seizes upon some one unifying principle under which all the classes may be grouped, or to which all the laws may be referred. He then, from these principles, deduces inferences which the senses never could have discovered. And man’s entire imaginative apparatus is super-sensual.

2. The phenomena of man’s moral nature cannot be derived from his material organisation. Of all beings on the earth, man alone cognises the distinction between right and wrong. The first question in ethics, whether theoretical or practical, concerns the nature of moral distinctions--the essential difference between right and wrong. Material philosophers see the origin of this distinction in the differing sensations of pleasure and pain; and that conscience results solely from the observation of what is approved and what disapproved. But materialism cannot account for either a man’s moral or a man’s religious nature. We conclude that natural science cannot detach man’s hold upon the ancestral tree which traces his parentage from God. In Jesus Christ Himself we find the strongest of all arguments against the theory of material evolution as applicable to the higher portion of man’s nature. (A. P. Peabody, D. D.)

Human spirit and Divine inspiration

Read text thus, “There is a spirit in man, and the in-spirit-ing of the Almighty giveth them understanding.” The spirit in man is that special apartment of his nature which has been contrived and fitted for personal intercourse between him and God. The spirit in man is to the great inbreathing of God what the lungs are to the circumambient air. It is the element of our being that establishes in us religious possibilities. “There is a spirit in man,” and like every other instinct of our being, it stands to us authoritatively, and lays its mandate upon us imperiously. We are religious by nature. It is just this faculty divinely wrought upon, and this string divinely played upon, that really composes the strength and tenacity of our religious convictions. The inspiration here has to do, in a purely general way, with God’s own personal communication of Himself to us, and, at the spirit point of our being, imparting unto us the energies of His own wisdom, holiness, and power. It is not our concern to understand how this is done. The first office work of inspiration is to create in us fresh personal vigour and new spiritual animation. Character cannot be constructed. It cannot be put together. It needs first of all a principle that is animated, and one, therefore, that is animating. It was an impulse more glowing, determined, and passionate than anything we are possessed of naturally. We need nothing so much as a determining life force at the core of character, an impulse from out the very soul of God, that shall hold us in its warm, steady, and irresistible grip, and impel us with a momentum that has the very pressure of Jehovah in it. And all of this is a draft upon the Divine inspiration. This may seem to be what theologians call “regeneration.” The new man, the new life, is only another name for character wrought out at the determining impulse of a Divine inspiration. What we need first of all is not to act like Christ, but to have exactly the same Divine Spirit working at the core of our lives that worked at the core of His, and then acts will take care of themselves. All true manliness grows around a core of divineness. Virtue is safe only when it is inspired. Another office work of inspiration is to create in us fresh and vivid perceptions of the Divine truth. We need as much inspiration to read the Bible as its authors needed to fit them to write it. No Christian creed is ever constructed. It is the form in which a man shapes his own experiences of the things of God, and of his own soul. As we go on to know the Lord, our creeds will change. Christian thinking will continue growing better, deeper, truer, so long as Christians, along the luminous path of God’s self-revelation to them, continue getting into the deeper things of God and the closer intimacies of God. And further, the inspirations of the Almighty are suited to become to us qualification for all kinds of holy doing. We make toilsome work of being good, because we do not let the inspirations of God work in us: and we make irksome work of doing good because we do not let the inspirations of God work through us . . . Our common and comprehensive need is of the inspiration of the Almighty, the direct breathing into us of the breath of God, with all the wisdom, holiness, and power which such a Divine afflatus involves, that whether we speak, be it by word or act, we may speak as the oracles of God; and whether we minister, we may do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Christ Jesus. (Charles H. Parkhurst, D. D.)

God the source of all wisdom

Professor Morse, the renowned electric telegraph inventor, was once asked, “Professor, when you were making your experiments yonder in your rooms in the university, did you ever come to a stand, not knowing what to do next?” “Oh yes; mere than once.” “And at such times, what did you do next? I may answer you in confidence, sir,” said the professor, “but it is a matter of which the public knows nothing. Whenever I could not see my way clearly, I prayed for more light.” “And the light generally came?” “Yes. And I may tell you that when flattering honours came to me from America and Europe on account of the invention which bears my name, I never felt that I deserved them. I had made a valuable application of electricity, not because I was superior to other men, but solely because God, who meant it for mankind, must reveal it to someone, and was pleased to reveal it to me.” The inventor’s first message--“What hath God wrought”--intimated in no uncertain way the inspiration which gave his work longevity, and made it a light to the world.

On man as a rational and moral being

The inherent excellence of our nature. Consider man--

1. As a rational being. How are we otherwise to account for that superiority which man has acquired over all the other inhabitants of this world? In the lowest conditions of human society there is always a marked preeminence in man over the other animals. In man there are at all times signs of a mind possessing in some degree a creative and inventive energy. The effects of this power in man are by no means small and insignificant. While he is yet remote from what we call civilisation, the native grandeur of the human mind shows itself in bold exertions of genius; and as he proceeds in his career, man constantly discovers new resources. What is this power? Is it not what the text declares it to be, “a spirit in man, the inspiration of the Almighty”? Going on the principles of natural reason,--what, indeed, is it that produces in our minds a belief of the existence of the supreme God, but the perception that the world which we inhabit bears strong indications of design and intelligence having been employed in its formation? Our connection with God is impressed on our minds by the very proofs which bring us a knowledge of His existence, and we could not know that there was such a Being unless we tried His works by the scale of our own reason.

2. The same great truth will appear if we consider man as a moral being. Other animals follow blindly the impulse of appetite. There is impressed on the mind of man a rule by which he judges himself,--a sense of right and wrong in conduct, by which he becomes conscious that he is the object either of love and esteem, or of contempt and hatred. Reflect on the very high dignity and importance of this part of our constitution; how much it elevates us above the other creatures; how close a connection it forms between us and the Almighty. How can we derive, except from God Himself, except from the spirit which He has breathed into man, any feeling of those excellencies, any love for, or any aspiration after that goodness which indisputably constitutes His own greatest attribute? Is not our relationship to the Divine nature apparent in this, that we alone, of all the creatures breathing upon earth, are capable of having any relish of those perfections which alone render God Himself the object of worship and love? (J. Morehead, M. A.)

On man as a religious being

Man has not only received understanding from the inspiration of the Almighty, but he knows that it is so; and he is prompted by nature to lift up his thoughts to the contemplation of that great Being who conferred upon him so high a preeminence. This principle it is which distinguishes us from the lower animals, even more than our reason or our moral perceptions. He alone of all creatures thinks it not presumption to address himself to the unknown God. Wherever man exists, therefore, you will find religion. By collecting together all the follies of superstition, it has been attempted to show that the religion of man is rather a proof of the weakness than of the loftiness of his nature. It must be owned that the vices and follies of man have shown themselves as frequently in the midst of his religious sentiments as in any other part of his character. Yet the perversions of religion ought never to be treated in a light and careless strain; they are rather objects of pity. But even these superstitions prove that man is by nature a religious being. Man is a spirit, clouded and obscured, struggling with darkness, and fettered by sin, yet aiming at lofty things, and striving to regain some glimpses of the Divine form, which was accustomed to walk with man while yet in the garden of primeval innocence.

1. Let students pursue their inquiries with a becoming reverence for the nature to which they belong.

2. Value Christianity which has brought immortality to light. (J. Morehead, M. A.)

The world within

There is a spirit in man--a rational, accountable, undying personality. This spirit has been called “the world within,” and truly of all worlds it is the greatest and most wonderful, Like the outward world of nature, it has its own orbit, and its own revolutions, and its own centre. Souls create their own centres. The Bible everywhere teaches the distinction between the soul and matter. This world is the greatest world.

1. It is a world whose existence is complete in itself.

2. It is a world that has a self-multiplying power.

3. It is a world conscious of its own existence.

4. It is a world that can make use of the outward.

5. It is a world that can devoutly recognise its Maker.

6. It is a world which its Maker has made extraordinary efforts to restore.

7. It is a world that can shut out its Maker.


Verse 17

Job 32:17

I also will show mine opinion.

The spirit and message of Elihu

This is the beginning of Elihu’s declaration. It is quite a new voice. We have heard nothing like this before. So startling indeed is the tone of Elihu’s voice that some have questioned whether iris speech really forms part of the original poem, or has been added by some later hand. We deal with it as we find it here. It is none the less welcome to us that it is a young voice, fresh, charmful, bold, full of vitality, not wanting in the loftier music that is moral, solemn, deeply religious. It appears, too, to be an impartial voice; for Elihu says--I am no party to tiffs controversy: Job has not said anything to me or against me, and therefore I come into the conference wholly unprejudiced: but I any bound to show mine opinion: I do not speak spontaneously; I am forced to this; I cannot allow the occasion to end, though the words have been so many and the arguments so vain, without also showing what I think about the whole matter. Such a speaker is welcome. Earnest men always refresh any controversy into which they enter: and young men must speak out boldly, with characteristic freshness of thought and word; they ought to be listened to; religious questions are of infinite importance to them: sometimes they learn from their blunders; there are occasions upon which self-correction is the very best tutor. It is well for us to know what men are thinking. It is useless to be speaking to thoughts that do not exist, to inquiries that really do not excite the solicitudes of men. Better know, straightly and frankly, what men are thinking about, and what they want to be at, and address oneself to their immediate pain and necessity. Elihu will help us in this direction. There comes a time when the old way of putting things must give way to some new method. But if the old are not always wise, the young are not always complete. We live in a time of doctrinal change. There is now an opportunity for an Elihu, whose wrath is divinely kindled, to make the great progress in attempting the higher education of the soul. Elihu must come; when he does come he will be killed: but another Elihu must take his place, and go forward with the work until the enemy is tired of blood, and lets the last Elihu have a hearing. We may change forms without changing substances. Let us allow that new methods of stating old truths are perfectly legitimate. Nor let us condemn a man who resorts to novel expressions, if he do not injure the substance of the thing which he intends to reveal. Take, for example, the doctrine of prayer. The doctrine of prayer has been mocked, or misunderstood, or imperfectly stated. Every man must state this doctrine for himself. Only the individual man knows what he means by prayer. There is no generic and final definition which can be shut up within the scope of a lexicon. Who can define prayer once for all? Only the Almighty. Every suppliant knows what he means when he prays to his Father in heaven. He must not be overloaded with other men’s definitions; they will only burden his prayer; they will only stifle the music of his supplication. Suppose we say, Prayer is good in cases of sickness, but it stops short at surgery. What a wonderful thing to say--wonderful because of its emptiness and vanity. Yet how inclined we are to smile when we are told that prayer is exceedingly good in the removal of nervous or imaginary diseases, but prayer always stops short at surgery; prayer never prayed a man’s limb hack again to him when he had once lost it. As well say, Nursing is very good, but it always stops short at death. So it does; so it must. As well say, Reaping is very good, but reaping always stops short at winter. That is true, and that is right. “That which is lacking cannot be numbered.” Law must have some reasonableness, or it ceases to be law: when it loses its reasonableness it loses its dignity and the power of getting hold upon the general judgment and the personal trust of man. Even miracles themselves might be played with, turned into commonplaces, debased into familiarities utterly valueless. Prayer may and does stop short at surgery, but love itself has a point at which it stops short; the living air has a point at which it falls back, so to speak, helplessly; all the ministries of nature stop short at assignable points, saying that without assent and consent and cooperation on the other side no miracle can be done. In all these cases consider reasonableness and law, and the necessity of boundary and fixture in the education and culture of mankind. Then again, others would deprive prayer of what many have considered to be an essential feature. In order to maintain what doctrine of prayer they may have, they are only too glad to eviscerate it of the element of petition. They are not unwilling to have aspiration, a species of poetical communion with the invisible, but they would complete a great work of evacuation in the direction of request, petition, solicitation; they would dismiss the beggar from the altar, and admit only the poetic contemplatist, or the spiritual enthusiast, or the mystic communicant. For this I see no reason. I hold to the old doctrine of “Ask, and ye shall receive: ye have not, because ye ask not: if any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God.” That there may be abuses in the direction of solicitation is obvious; but we must never give up the reality; because it can be abused. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

Verse 18

Job 32:18

For I am full of matter.

Ideas and expression

Sainte-Beuve remarks that the great art in speech, as in military service, is to gather, maintain, and bring to bear at once the greatest number of forces. Some generals can manage but few men and some speakers can handle but one or two ideas. “There are writers who resemble Marshal Soubise: when he had all his troops gathered at his disposal he knew not what to do with them, and he dispersed them again that he might fight to better advantage. So I know of writers who, before writing, dismiss half their ideas because they can express them only one by one: it is pitiful. It shows that one is embarrassed by his very resources.”.

──The Biblical Illustrator