Job 33:1-33

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The words that may be rendered “and now” appear to have served to focus Job’s attention on Elihu’s request that he “hear” or listen to what he had to say and “give ear” or attention to “all” his “words.” (33:1)

The introductory word “look” and a particle of entreaty seemingly function as a plea for Job’s attention to what Elihu would be expressing. “I open my mouth,” said Elihu; “my tongue speaks on my palate.” In the Septuagint, there is no corresponding phrase for “on my palate,” with the focus being only on the tongue as the organ of speech. (33:2)

Elihu linked his “words” to the “uprightness of [his] heart,” suggesting that his speaking would be rightly motivated by his inmost self to state the truth. According to the Septuagint, his “heart” was “clean” or “pure in words,” which could mean that the words his inner self prompted him to speak would be “pure.” The “knowledge” of Elihu’s “lips,” or the knowledge his lips would be used to impart, would be expressed in a pure or sincere manner. (33:3)

Elihu acknowledged God as the source of his existence and, by implication, also the source of the insightful words he would speak. He referred to the “spirit of God” as having made him and the “breath of the Almighty” as giving him life. According to the Septuagint, the “breath of the Almighty” is what taught him. This rendering is more specific in indicating that Elihu purposed to express divinely taught words. (33:4)

If Job could do so, Elihu asked him to give him an answer to what he would be saying. The words “set in order before me” could mean for Job to prepare what he would say in response to Elihu’s comments. For Job to take his stand may refer to his taking a position in relation to Elihu. The Septuagint rendering suggests that this would be a confrontation between Elihu and Job. “Take a stand against me, and I against you.” (33:5; see the Notes section for additional comments regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Elihu stressed that he did not consider himself in any way superior to Job. He is quoted as saying, “Look, I [am] as you are to God” or exactly what you are. “From clay I was formed, even I.” Like Job, Elihu was but an earthling made from the elements of the earth and he recognized himself as such. The Septuagint conveys the same basic thought. “From clay you were formed as I also [was]. From the same [substance] we were formed.” (33:6)

Elihu assured Job that he did not need to be terrified or overwhelmed by fear from him and that pressure on his part would not be heavy on him. As to what effect Elihu would not have on Job, the Septuagint says, “no fear of me will distract” or distress “you, nor will my hand be heavy upon you.” These words suggest that Elihu had determined not to add to Job’s burden of affliction. (33:7)

Elihu had been present when Job expressed himself. Therefore, he said to him, “Indeed, you have spoken in my ears [or hearing], and I have heard the sound of [your] words.” (33:8; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Elihu summarized Job’s view of his situation. Job regarded himself as “clean without transgression,” as “pure” (“blameless” [LXX]) and as not having “iniquity” in himself. According to the Septuagint, Job had spoken of himself as “blameless” because of his not having acted lawlessly. (33:9; compare 10:7; 16:17; 23:11, and 29:14 for the way in which Job expressed himself.)

Elihu spoke of Job as contending that God had found occasions (“blame” or a basis for censure [LXX]) against him and accounted him as his enemy. (33:10; compare 13:24; 16:9, and 19:11, where Job expressed himself to this effect.)

Elihu quoted words Job had said about God. (13:27) Job had referred to God as having confined his “feet in stocks” and watched all his ways. The language suggests that Job felt confined like a prisoner under constant surveillance. (33:11)

The initial interjection “look” appears to focus attention on the expressions Job had made about God. Elihu pointed out that Job had not been “just” or right. This, as Elihu continued, was because “God is greater than man,” the mortal. The implication is that God and his activity are not to be judged by human standards. In the Septuagint, the thought is expressed with a rhetorical question directed to Job. “For how can you say, I am righteous [just or right], and he [God] has not listened to me? For eternal is he who is above mortals.” Being above mortals and timeless or eternal, God is not limited by time in any way with reference to what he may do or allow. As the Sovereign above mortals, he is free to choose the best time to act and for the right reasons. (33:12)

Elihu asked Job rhetorically, “Why do you contend against [God] that he will not answer [for] all his matters [plural form of davár]?” The implication of the question appears to be that God does not have to account to anyone, and that Job erred in insisting that God should provide him with an answer as to why he had brought calamity and suffering upon him. According to the Septuagint, Elihu quoted Job as raising the question about God. “But you say, Why has he not listened to a word of my case?” The question implied that God had completely ignored Job and not concerned himself in any way about him. (33:13; see the Notes section regarding davár and the renderings of various translations.)

Whereas Job had concluded that God did not respond to him, Elihu maintained that God does speak “once, even twice.” Seemingly with reference to man, Elihu said, “He does not perceive it” or recognize the communication as applying to him. The Septuagint expresses the thought someone differently. “For may the Lord speak once, but the second time in a dream.” (33:14)

According to Elihu, one of the ways in which God speaks or conveys a message is “in a dream, in a vision of the night.” This is at a time “when deep sleep falls upon mortals” while they are in bed slumbering. The Septuagint indicates the time to be when people meditate or think at night after having gone to bed. It is then as when “fearful dread falls upon men” while they slumber. (33:15)

Elihu believed that God “uncovers” or opens the “ear” (“mind” [LXX]) of men or mortals, providing revelations to them by means of dreams or night visions. His “sealing their discipline” or “instruction” could signify that God authenticates the message thus conveyed as originating from him. The Septuagint indicates that God frightens people with “fearful sights,” dreams, or visions. (33:16)

According to Elihu, God’s purpose in conveying a message to a man, an “earthling,” is to turn him aside from his deed (“from injustice” or wrongdoing [LXX]), apparently to stop him from undertaking a wrong course, and to “cover” the pride of a mighty man or to make him realize his helplessness. According to the Septuagint, God’s objective was to save the individual’s “body from a fall.” (33:17)

Elihu believed that there were times when God keeps back an individual’s “soul” or life from the “pit” or from a place of burial. According to the Septuagint, “he spares his soul” or life “from death.” The parallel expression in the Hebrew text is that God keeps back the person’s life “from perishing by a weapon.” In the Septuagint, the reference is to the individual’s being spared “from falling in war.” (33:18)

Elihu considered sickness to be a means by which God disciplines. A person may be “reproved” or chastened with “pain” (“softness” or infirmity [LXX]) while bedridden. The “strife of his bones” may be “continual.” A man’s entire organism may feel as though a fierce battle is raging without letup within him. In the Greek text, the reference to the bones is marked as having been added from the Greek version of Theodotion. This rendering differs somewhat from the Hebrew text. “And a multitude of his bones becomes numb.” (33:19)

For a man who is seriously ill, food can become loathsome. According to Elihu, the man’s “life” or his very existence makes “bread” repugnant, and “his soul” or he himself abhors delicacies (“food of desire” or what would usually be highly desirable food). The Septuagint rendering indicates that he would “by no means” be able to partake of any edible portion of food. (33:20; see the Notes section.)

The ravages of disease can emaciate a man, wasting away “his flesh from sight” or so that seemingly no flesh remains. “His bones,” which were not seen, become visible beneath the skin. With the flesh having been wasted away, the bones would have been reduced to a state of “bareness.” This meaning regarding the bones has the support of the Septuagint rendering (“and he [the afflicted man] shows his bones bare”) and appears to be the sense of the Hebrew wording (“bareness of his bones [that formerly] were not seen”). The measure of uncertainty about the significance of the Hebrew text, however, has given rise to various interpretive renderings. “And his bones are rubbed away till they are invisible.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “His bones are loosened and out of joint.” (REB) “And his bones, once invisible, appear.” (NAB) (33:21)

Regarding the afflicted man, Elihu said, “His soul [or he himself] draws [drew (LXX)] near to the pit” (the place of burial or “death” [LXX]) “and his life to those causing death,” possibly meaning whatever might end his life. The Septuagint refers to “Hades,” or the realm of the dead, as the destination for “his life.” (33:22)

Although from a human standpoint it may appear that a man is on the verge of death, this may not necessarily prove to be the case. “If for him” according to Elihu, there were to be a “messenger,” a representative, or an “angel,” a “mediator” or an advocate, “one among a thousand, to declare to a man his uprightness,” his life (as the next verse indicates) would not end. The reference to “uprightness” could apply either to what is right or upright for the man or to the man’s being upright or innocent. Both meanings are found in modern translations, but the renderings are more specific than is the Hebrew text. “If then there be for him an angel, one out of a thousand, a mediator, to show him what is right for him and bring the man back to justice …” (NAB) “Yet if an angel, one of a thousand, stands by him, a mediator between him and God, to expound God’s righteousness to man and to secure mortal man his due; …” (REB) “Then, if there is an Angel near him, a Mediator, one in a thousand, to remind him where his duty lies, … (NJB) “If he has a representative, one advocate against a thousand to declare the man’s uprightness, …” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “One of a thousand angels then comes to our rescue by saying we are innocent.” (CEV) The Septuagint rendering does not support making the application to the man’s uprightness or innocence, but its wording departs significantly from the extant Hebrew text. “If there are a thousand death-bearing angels [or messengers], by no means will one of them wound him if he determine in his heart [or in his inmost self] to turn to the Lord and declare to a man his own complaint [the complaint against him or his own fault] and reveal his folly.” This rendering suggests that the man would need to turn to the Lord and to confess his wrongdoing to another man. (33:23; see the Notes section.)

The “messenger,” angel, mediator, or advocate would be gracious to or take pity on the afflicted man, saying, “Deliver him from going down to the pit” (the burial place). “I have found [or obtained] a ransom,” a basis for rescuing him from death. Based on Elihu’s comments in verses 27 and 28, the “ransom” or basis for deliverance from death could be the repentance of the individual. If the advocate is correctly identified as the one making the plea for the afflicted man, this plea could be understood as being directed to God. A number of translations are explicit in identifying the one requesting the deliverance but differ in the application and interpretation of the Hebrew text. “The angel will beg for mercy and say: ‘Save him from death. I have found a way to pay for his life.’ (NCV) “He’ll be gracious to him. He’ll say to God, ‘Spare him from going down into the grave. I know a way that can set him free.’” (NIRV) “The angel shows kindness, commanding death to release us, because the price was paid.” (CEV) “God will be gracious and say, ‘Set him free. Do not make him die, for I have found a ransom for his life.’” (NLT) (33:24; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Instead of remaining in an emaciated condition, the afflicted man would be restored to good health. Elihu continued the wording of the request for the restoration of the man when saying, “Let his flesh be fresher [rutapásh] than from youth. Let him return to the days of his youthful vigor.” The Septuagint refers to “his flesh” as being made tender like that of an infant and his being restored to manhood among men. Both the Hebrew text and the Septuagint suggest that the man’s skin would come to have a youthful or healthy appearance, and he would once again come to have the strength of an adult male. (33:25; see the Notes section regarding the verb rutapásh.)

The man who is spared from death will pray to God, and God will grant him acceptance. “He will see” God’s face, or will come into his presence, with a joyous “shout.” This suggests that he would make his approach in a confident manner as a man sure of being looked upon as approved. God “will return” (shuv) to the man, the “mortal,” “his righteousness.” This is often thought to mean that God will repay a man for his righteousness or uprightness. The Hebrew verb shuv, however, basically means “return.” So it may be that God “returns” to the man the righteous or right standing that he had formerly enjoyed. In the Septuagint, the corresponding verb for the Hebrew word shuv is a form of apodídomi, meaning “give back,” “return,” or “restore,” and the word for man is plural (not singular as in the Hebrew text). (33:26; see the Notes section.)

Depending upon which reading of the Hebrew text is followed, the man who was spared from death “will sing before men and say” or “he will behold before men and say.” His expression will be an acknowledgment of wrongdoing. “I sinned and perverted [what was] right, and it was not requited [literally, not equaled] to me.” These words indicate that God’s mercy had been extended to him, delivering him from what appeared to be certain death. According to the Septuagint, the man will “blame” or rebuke himself, “saying, What have I completed” or done? And he [God] has not tried” or afflicted “me” to the extent “I had sinned.” (33:27)

Elihu quoted the man who had been shown mercy as saying, “He [God] has redeemed my soul [my life or me myself] from going down into the pit” or the burial place, “and my life will see light” or the light of life as one who will continue to live. (33:28; see the Notes section.)

Elihu focused attention on what he was about to say with the interjection that may be rendered “look.” Regarding the divine action he previously had described, Elihu said, “All these things God does two times, three [times] with a man.” God does not limit his dealings with a man to just one time but provides him with additional opportunities to change his course. (33:29; see the Notes section.)

Elihu indicated that God’s purpose in dealing with a man is so that his life might be preserved and that the individual would have his approval. He expressed this purpose with the words, “to bring back his soul from the pit to be lighted with the light of life.” The expression “lighted with the light of life” could refer to being able to enjoy the light associated with the realm of the living instead of entering the darkness or gloom associated with the realm of the dead. According to the Septuagint rendering, Elihu quoted the man as saying, “But he [God] rescued my soul [my life] from death so that my life” (I as a living person) “may praise him in the light.” By being delivered from death, the individual would be able to continue enjoying the light of life and to praise God for the deliverance and all the resultant blessings. (33:30)

Elihu asked Job to “pay attention” (“give ear” [LXX]), to “listen” to him, and to “be silent,” for he intended to continue speaking. (33:31; see the Notes section.)

If Job had anything to say, Elihu invited him to respond to him. He then added his reason, “for I desire to justify you.” This could mean that Elihu wanted to clear Job of the unfounded accusations that Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar had made against him. (33:32; see the Notes section.)

If Job had no words to say in response to him, Elihu made the request, “You, listen to me. Be silent, and I will teach you wisdom.” The wisdom Elihu intended to impart related to what he considered to be the right view of Job’s situation. (33:33; see the Notes section.)


In verse 5, the Septuagint says, “If you can, give me an answer to these things,” the thoughts that Elihu would be expressing. There is no corresponding phrase for the Hebrew words “set in order before me.” The word appearing in the Septuagint is a form of hypoméno, which (depending on the context) can mean “endure,” “wait,” “remain,” or “stand firm.” In this case, translators of the Septuagint have chosen either “wait” or “endure.”

The Septuagint contains the concluding words of verse 8 (“I have heard the sound of your words”). Based on the marks of Origen in the third century CE, the initial phrase (“only you said in my ears”) were added from the Greek text of Theodotion.

Depending on the context, the Hebrew word davár may be rendered “word,” “thing,” “matter,” or “affair.” In verse 13, the plural form of davár is followed by the third person singular suffix (“his”) and may be translated “his words.” Translators who have chosen the meaning “words” commonly render the expression either as “my words” (meaning Job’s words) or in other ways avoid using “his words,” which would not fit the context of verse 13. “Why do you contend against him, saying, ‘He will answer none of my words’?” (NRSV) “Why do you complain to him that he answers none of man’s words?” (NIV) “Why then plead your case with him, for no one can answer his arguments?” (REB) “Why then quarrel with him for not replying to you, word for word?” (NJB)

In verse 20, the rendering “by no means” preserves the emphatic sense of the two Greek words for “not.” The concluding phrase of the Greek text is, according to the marks of Origen, an addition from the version of Theodotion. This added text differs from the reading of the concluding phrase in the extant Hebrew text. The added Greek text is, “And his soul [he himself] will desire food.”

The expression “by no means” for the Septuagint rendering of verse 23 preserves the emphatic sense of the two Greek words for “not.”

In verse 24, the Septuagint rendering departs significantly from the extant Hebrew text. It may be understood to indicate that God will see to it that the man “does not fall into death, and he will renew his body like [new] paint on a wall and fill his bones with marrow.” Accordingly, the afflicted man would be rescued from death and restored to a vigorous state.

The only occurrence of the Hebrew verb rutapásh in the Bible is in Job 33:25. This verb is commonly thought to mean “grow fresh,” but this is by no means certain.

In verse 26, the Septuagint refers to one “vowing [or praying] to the Lord” and indicates that “it” (or “he”) “will be acceptable.” “And he will enter with a clean” or pure “face with an utterance.” This could mean that the man would be coming into God’s presence in purity or sincerity with an utterance as an expression of joy and gratitude.

The marks of Origen in the third century CE indicate that the Greek text for verses 28 and 29 was added from the version of Theodotion. Its wording differs from the extant Hebrew text. Verse 28 opens with the petition, “Deliver my soul” (me or my life) for it “not to go into corruption and [that] my life will see light.”

Verse 29 of the Greek text of Theodotion reads, “Look, all these things the Mighty One does three ways with a man.” This rendering suggests that God may repeatedly deal with a man but in different ways.

In verse 31, the Greek wording about remaining silent (based on the marks of Origen) is supplied from the text of Theodotion’s version.

According to the marks of Origen, the wording of the Greek text of verse 32 was added from the version of Theodotion. It reads much like the extant Hebrew text. “If there are words, answer me. Speak, for I want you to be justified.”

The marks of Origen indicate that the wording of the Greek text of verse 33 was added from the version of Theodotion. This text corresponds to that of the extant Hebrew text. “If not, you listen to me. Be silent, and I will teach you wisdom.”