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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–5
Verses 1–5

Usually young men are the disputants and old men the moderators; but here, when old men were the disputants, as a rebuke to them for their unbecoming heat, a young man is raised up to be the moderator. Divers of Job’s friends were present, that came to visit him and to receive instruction. Now here we have,

I. The reason why his three friends were now silent. They ceased to answer him, and let him have his saying, because he was righteous in his own eyes. This was the reason they gave why they said no more, because it was to no purpose to argue with a man that was so opinionative, Job 32:1. Those that are self-conceited are indeed hard to be wrought upon; there is more hope of a fool (a fool of God’s making) than of those who are fools of their own making, Prov. 26:12. But they did not judge fairly concerning Job: he was really righteous before God, and not righteous in his own eyes only; so that it was only to save their own credit that they made this the reason of their silence, as peevish disputants commonly do when they find themselves run a-ground and are not willing to own themselves unable to make their part good.

II. The reasons why Elihu, the fourth, now spoke. His name Elihu signifies My God is he. They had all tried in vain to convince Job, but my God is he that can and will do it, and did it at last: he only can open the understanding. He is said to be a Buzite, from Buz, Nahor’s second son (Gen. 22:21), and of the kindred of Ram, that is, Aram (so some), whence the Syrians or Aramites descended and were denominated, Gen. 22:21. Of the kindred of Abram; so the Chaldee-paraphrase, supposing him to be first called Ram—high, then Abram—a high father, and lastly Abraham—the high father of a multitude. Elihu was not so well known as the rest, and therefore is more particularly described thus.

1. Elihu spoke because he was angry and thought he had good cause to be so. When he had made his observations upon the dispute he did not go away and calumniate the disputants, striking them secretly with a malicious censorious tongue, but what he had to say he would say before their faces, that they might vindicate themselves if they could. (1.) He was angry at Job, because he thought he did not speak so reverently of God as he ought to have done; and that was too true (Job 32:2): He justified himself more than God, that is, took more care and pains to clear himself from the imputation of unrighteousness in being thus afflicted than to clear God from the imputation of unrighteousness in afflicting him, as if he were more concerned for his own honour than for God’s; whereas he should, in the first place, have justified God and cleared his glory, and then he might well enough have left his own reputation to shift for itself. Note, A gracious heart is jealous for the honour of God, and cannot but be angry when that is neglected or postponed, or when any injury is done it. Nor is it any breach of the law of meekness to be angry at our friends when they are offensive to God. Get thee behind me, Satan, says Christ to Simon. Elihu owned Job to be a good man, and yet would not say as he said when he thought he said amiss: it is too great a compliment to our friends not to tell them of their faults. (2.) He was angry at his friends because he thought they had not conducted themselves so charitably towards Job as they ought to have done (Job 32:3): They had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job. They had adjudged him to be a hypocrite, a wicked man, and would not recede from that sentence concerning him; and yet they could not prove him so, nor disprove the evidences he produced of his integrity. They could not make good the premises, and yet held fast the conclusion. They had no reply to make to his arguments, and yet they would not yield, but, right or wrong, would run him down; and this was not fair. Seldom is a quarrel begun, and more seldom is a quarrel carried on to the length that this was, in which there is not a fault on both sides. Elihu, as became a moderator, took part with neither, but was equally displeased with the mistakes and mismanagement of both. Those that in good earnest seek for truth must thus be impartial in their judgments concerning the contenders, and not reject what is true and good on either side for the sake of what is amiss, nor approve or defend what is amiss for the sake of what is true and good, but must learn to separate between the precious and the vile.

2. Elihu spoke because he thought that it was time to speak, and that now, at length, it had come to his turn, Job 32:4, 5. (1.) He had waited on Job’s speeches, had patiently heard him out, until the words of Job were ended. (2.) He had waited on his friends’ silence, so that, as he would not interrupt him, so he would not prevent them, not because they were wiser than he, but because they were older than he, and therefore it was expected by the company that they should speak first; and Elihu was very modest, and would by no means offer to abridge them of their privilege. Some certain rules of precedency must be observed, for the keeping of order. Though inward real honour will attend true wisdom and worth, yet, since every man will think himself or his friend the wisest and worthiest, this can afford no certain rule for the outward ceremonial honour, which therefore must attend seniority either of age or office; and this respect the seniors may the better require because they paid it when they were juniors, and the juniors may the better pay because they shall have it when they come to be seniors.