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against GOD. And here let us observe a difference in the conduct of Elihu and the three friends, a difference which well distinguishes their characters: They accuse Job of preceding faults; Elihu accuses him of the present, namely, his impatience and impiety: which evidently shews that his charge was true, and that theirs was unjust.*
Again, Elihu uses the very same reasonings against Job and his three friends, which are afterwards put into the mouth of GoD himself, resolving all into his OMNIPOTENCY. Elihu's speech is indeed in every respect the same with God's, except in the severity of his reproof to Job. And, in that, the Writer hath shewn much address in conducting his subject. The end and purpose of this Work was to encourage the Jews to a perseverance in their duty from the assured care and protection of Providence. At the same time, as they were growing impatient, it was necessary this temper should be rebuked. But as the ordonance of the Poem is disposed, the putting the reproof into the mouth of the Almighty would have greatly weakened the end and purpose of the Work. This part therefore is given to his servant Elihu and GOD's sentence is all grace and favour on the side of Job, and indignation and resentment against his false Friends. For this event, the Writer had finely prepared us, in making Job, in the heat of the disputation, say to these friends, Wilt thou speak wickedly for God? and talk deceitfully for him? Will ye accept his person? will ye contend for God? Is it good that he should search you out? or as one man mocketh another do ye so mock him? He will surelY REPROVE YOU, if ye do secretly accept Persons.§ The judicious reader will observe another artful circumstance in the cast of Elihu's oration. The three friends, in the grand question concerning an equal Providence, went directly over to one side, and Job to another: Elihu inclines to neither, but resolves all into submission to the Almighty power of God. For it was yet inconvenient to acquaint the Jews, (who were just going to fall under a common Providence) with the truth of their case. Hence, to observe it by the way, another circumstance arises to determine the date of the poem. We have shewn that the Subject suited only this time: We now see that the manner of treating the Subject could agree to no other. On the whole, this intermediate speech of Elihu's was the finest prepara→ tive for the decisive one which was to follow.
Farther, The true character of Elihu is seen from hence, that Job replies nothing to these words, as conscious of the truth of his reproofs; and that they were the reproofs of a Friend. And, indeed, his submission, on this occasion, was to represent the repentance
See note BB, at the end of this book. From chap. xxxviii. to xlii.
From chap. xxxii. to xxxvii.
§ Job xii. 7, 8, et seq.
the Jews on the preaching of their Prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
But lastly, Elihu's not being involved in the condemnation of the three friends is the most convincing argument of his very different Character. This, as we have said, exceedingly perplexed the Commentators. But where was the wonder, he should be acquitted, when he had said nothing but what GOD himself repeated and confirmed? What is rather to be admired is the severe sentence passed upon the three friends; and that, for the crime of impiety. A thing utterly inexplicable on the common interpretation. For let them be as, guilty as you please, to Job, they are all the way advocates for GOD; and hold nothing concerning his Government that did not become his Nature and Character. But let us once suppose, these three friends to represent the Adversaries of the Jews, and the difficulty ceases. All their pretences are then hypocritical: and they impiously assume the Patronage of God only to carry on their malice to more advantage against Job. Why the Writer of this book did not openly expose the wickedness of their hearts, as is done in the book of Ezra and Nehemiah, was because the nature of the work would not suffer it; the question in debate, and the managers of the question, necessarily requiring that the part they took should have a specious outside of piety and veneration toward God. In a word, Job is made to say something wrong, because he represents the impatient Jews of that time: His three false friends, to say something right, because the nature of the drama so required: And Elihu to moderate with a perfect rectitude, because he represented the person of a Prophet.
But to see the truth of this interpretation in its best light, one should have before one's eyes all those difficulties with which the Commentators of the book of Job are entangled at almost every step. A view of this would draw us into an unreasonable length. I shall only take notice of one of the most judicious of them, (who has collected from all the rest) in the very case of this Elihu. CALMET characterises the fourth friend in this manner: There was now none but Elihu the youngest and least judicious that held out against Job's arguments-Elihu here by a vain parade and overflow of words gives a reason, &c.* Again: Elihu was given to represent one who knew not how to be silent, a great talker.† And again: It cannot be denied but that there is a mixture of ignorance and presumption in what Elihu says: and, above all, a strange prejudice and visible injustice in
• "Il n'y eut qu'Eliu, qui étoit le plus jeune et le moins judicieux, qui ne se rendit pas-par un vain etalage des paroles Eliu rend ici raison," &c.--Sur chap. xxxii. 1. “Pour designer un homme qui ne se peut taire, un grand causeur."-Sur chap. xxxii.
most of the accusations he brings against Job.* This he says indeed. But when he comes to find Elihu escape God's condemnation, in which the other three are involved, he alters his note, and unsays all the hard things he had thrown out against him. Although Elihu (says he) had mistaken the sense of his friend's words, yet, for all that, God seems, at least, to have approved his intention, because when he declares to Job's friends that they had spoken amiss, and commands them to offer up burnt-offerings for themselves, he only speaks of Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar, without mentioning Elihu. Besides, Job answers not a word to this last, and by his silence seems to approve of his discourse.† GROTIUS, who strove to be more consistent in his character of Elihu, which yet his acquittal in God's sentence will not suffer any Commentator to be, upon the received idea of this Book, has run into a very strange imagination. He supposes Elihu might be a domestic, or retainer to one of the three friends, and so be involved in the condemnation of his principal.‡-But, now mark the force of prejudice to inveterate notions! It is visible to every one who regards the two speeches of Elihu and GOD with the least attention, that the doctrine and the reasoning are the same. Yet Calmet's general character of Eliliu is, that there is a vain parade and overflow of words; that there is a mixture of ignorance and presumption, and a visible injustice, in most of the accusations he brings against Job. And yet of GOD's speech he says, Here we have A CLEAR SOLUTION of the difficulties which had perplexed and embarrassed these five friends.§-Pity that this clear solution should turn out to be no solution at all.
III. Haying thus fixed the date of the book, our next enquiry will be concerning its AUTHOR. That it was composed by an inspired writer is beyond all question. Not only its uncontroverted reception and constant place in the Canon, and its internal marks of divinity, which this Exposition has much illustrated and enlarged, but its being quoted as inspired scripture by St. Paul, will suffer no reason. able man to doubt of it. By this time therefore, I suppose, the Reader will be beforehand with me in judging it could scarce be any other than EZRA himself: who was a ready scribe in the Law of
• "On ne peut nier qu'il n'y ait et de l'ignorance et de la presumption dans ce que dit Eliu, et, sur tout, une etrange prevention et une injustice visible dans la plupart des accusations qu'il forma contre Job."-Sur chap. xxviii. 2. "Quoiqu'Eliu eût mal pris le sens des paroles de son ami, toutefois Dieu semble approuver au moins son intention; puisque lorsqu'il declare aux amis de Job qu'ils ont mal parlé, et qu'il ordonne qu'on offre pour eux des holocaustes, il ne fait mention que de Bildad, d'Eliphaz, et de Sophar, sans parler d'Eliv. De plus, Job ne repond point à ce dernier, et par son silence il semble approuver son discours." "Elihu hic non nominatur, ut nec supra ii. 11, fortè quod assecla esset alicujus trium."-In cap. xlii. 7. § "C'est ici le denouement de la piece, et la solution des difficultez qui avoient été agitées entre ces cinque amis." 1 Cor. iii. 19. He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. (Job v. 13.)
Moses, and had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.* For he had the welfare of his People exceedingly at heart, as appears from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. And this of Job, we have shewn, was written purposely for their instruction and consolation. He made a correct edition of the Scriptures, settled the Canon, and added in several places throughout the books of his edition, what appeared necessary for the illustrating, connecting, or compleating of them.† He is reasonably supposed to be the author of the two books of Chronicles and the book of Esther. It was a common tradition too amongst the Jews, that he was the same with Malachi. And his great reputation as a ready scribe in the Law of Moses, apparently gave birth to that wretched fable of the destruction of the Scriptures in the Babylonian captivity, and Ezra's re-production of them by divine inspiration.
Thus is our interpretation of the BOOK OF JOB so far from taking away any dignity, or authenticity it was before possessed of, that it establishes and enlarges both. The shewing it principally respected a whole People highly ennobles the subject: and the fixing an anonymous writing on one of the most eminent of GOD's Prophets greatly strengthens its authority. But the chief advantage of my interpretation, I presume, lies in this, That it renders one of the most difficult and obscure books in the whole Canon, the most easy and intelligible; reconciles all the characters to Nature, all the arguments to Logic, and all the doctrines to the course and order of God's Dispensations. And these things shewing it superior, in excellence, to any human Composition, prove, what universal Tradition hath always taught, that it is of divine Original.
Having brought down the date of this book so low, it is of little importance to our subject, whether the famous passage in the nineteenth chapter be understood of a RESURRECTION from the dead, or only of TEMPORAL DELIVERANCE from afflictions. Yet as our interpretation affords new assistance for determining this long debated question, it will not be improper to sift it to the bottom.
I make no scruple then to declare for the opinion of those who say that the words [I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another], § can signify no more than JOB's confidence in a TEMPORAL DELIVERANCE; as all agree they may signify. And therefore I shall the less insist
Ezra vii. 6, 10. † PRIDEAUX'S "Connection," part i. book 5. note CC, at the end of this book. Job xix. 25, et seq.
upon a common observation, "That our Translators, who were in the other opinion, have given a force to their expression which the Original will by no means bear."
My reasons are these, 1. To understand the words, of a Resurrection, is repugnant to the whole tenor of the Argument: and to understand them of a temporal deliverance, is perfectly agreeable thereto. 2. The end and design of the Composition, as explained above, absolutely requires this latter sense, and disclaims the former. 3. The former sense is repugnant to Job's own express declaration in other places.
I. We must observe that the book of Job is strictly argumentative: and though sententious, and abounding with poetic figures, yet they are all subservient to the matter in dispute. In this respect, much unlike the writings of David and Solomon, which treat of divine or moral matters in short and detached sentences. On which account, the ablest of those, who go into the sense of a Resurrection, have found the necessity of reconciling it to the Context. Thus much being granted, we argue against the sense they put upon it, from these considerations. 1. First the Disputants are all equally embarrassed in adjusting the ways of Providence. Job affirms that the Good man is sometimes unhappy yet he appears to regard that Dispensation as a new thing and matter of wonder, upright men shall be astonished at this;* which our interpretation well accounts for. The three friends contend that the Good man can never be unhappy, because such a situation would reflect dishonour on God's attributes. Now the doctrine of a Resurrection, supposed to be here urged by Job, cleared up all this embarras. If therefore his Friends thought it true, it ended the dispute: if false, it lay upon them to confute it. Yet they do neither: they neither call it into question, nor allow it to be decisive. But, without the least notice that any such thing had been urged, they go on, as they began, to inforce their former arguments, and to confute that which, they seem to understand, was the only one Job had urged against them, viz. The consciousness of his own innocence. But to be a little more particular. It fell to Zophar's part to answer the argument contained in the words in question, which I understand to be this-"Take," says Job, "this proof of my innocence I believe, and confidently expect, that God will visit me again in mercy, and restore me to my former condition." To this Zophar, in effect, replies: But why are you so miserable now? For he goes on, in the twentieth chapter, to describe the punishment of the Wicked to be just such a state as Job then laboured under. He does not directly say, The Good are not miserable; but that follows from the other part of the proposition (which he here inforces as being a little more decent) The bad are never happy. Now suppose Job spoke
Job xvii. 8.