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I’ve been looking at the distinction between God (el), God (eloha), and the Almighty in the book of Job and noticed something. Oftentimes these seem to be named alongside one another rather than as the same entity. So I was looking at the possibility of el referring to Jesus and came across what seems to be a very detailed messianic prophecy.

You will miss this in most translations because only the more literal translations preserve this.

Job 33 (ESV)

14 For God (el) speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it.
(Jesus says keep watch twice in Gethsemane)

15 In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, while they slumber on their beds,
(The disciples sleep)

16 then he opens the ears of men and terrifies them with warnings,
(Jesus restores the ear to the servant of the high priest)

17 that he may turn man aside from his deed and conceal pride from a man; 18 he keeps back his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword.
(He saves Peter’s life, showing him he will die by the sword if he lives by it.)

19 “He is also rebuked with pain on his bed and with continual strife in his bones,
(ESV renders the literal he as man. He refers back to el who is now shown suffering)

20 so that his life loathes bread, and his appetite the choicest food. 21 His flesh is so wasted away that it cannot be seen, and his bones that were not seen stick out.
(Beatings remove his flesh so it cannot be seen, and the crucifixion dislocates his bones so that they stick out.)

22 His soul draws near the pit, and his life to those who bring death.
(He approaches death on the cross)

23 If there be for him an angel, a mediator, one of the thousand, to declare to man his uprightness,
(ESV renders “what is right for him” but “uprightness” is literal. Appears to refer to the robber on the cross. The messenger, the only one willing to declare Jesus’ uprightness.)

24 and he is merciful to him, and says, ‘Deliver him from going down into the pit; I have found a ransom;
(Jesus has mercy on the robber and spares him from destruction. He provides the ransom.)

25 let his flesh become fresh with youth; let him return to the days of his youthful vigor’;
(Future resurrection, in reference to the robber who is spared.)

26 then he prays to God, and he accepts him; he sees his face with a shout of joy, and he restores to man his [own] righteousness.
(ESV renders man prays to God, but literal is he. Either Christ prays to God for the robber’s acceptance or His own acceptance. His righteousness is given to man.)

27 He sings before men and says: ‘I sinned and perverted what was right, and it was not repaid to me.
(KJV renders “if any say, I have sinned” in line with confession.)

28 He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and my life shall look upon the light.’
(Lays out salvation if one confesses their sins. Jesus is the Light that is then looked upon.)

29 “Behold, God (el) does all these things, twice, three times, with a man, 30 to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be lighted with the light of life.
(Not sure if the parallel ends here, but possibly refers to when Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him, and then restores him after. Or perhaps the three days Jesus was dead, but this is a weaker parallel.)

These are the words of Elihu, whom God does not rebuke at the end of Job.

Is this interpretation a stretch, or does it hold merit?

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  • I think it is a stretch - Job is NOT uttering a prophecy but is expressing deep personal feelings. Now, if you want to take this a "type" of certain things in the life of Jesus, then that would be very highly interpretive, spiritual or typological understanding that is not explicit in the text. None of this is referenced in the NT. One can do this with almost every character and story of the OT.
    – Dottard
    Jan 13 at 21:24
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    These aren’t the words of Job. They are the words of Elihu. Elihu is the man that speaks last to condemn Job and his three friends, and he is the only one that God doesn’t condemn at the end of the book. Some already take him as a prophet aside from the parallels of this passage.
    – Any_mouse
    Jan 13 at 21:57
  • My apologies - you are quite correct but the remarks still stand.
    – Dottard
    Jan 13 at 21:59
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    @Any_mouse Up-voted +1 (if only for the presentation of two themes in scripture, side by side). The Hebrew meaning of Elihu's name is highly significant as also (as the OP states) the fact that he speaks last and is not rebuked, as also, that after he speaks the Lord speaks in a whirlwind. Also, his utterance is continuous, prolonged and is not interrupted. It is certainly prophetic. It is also conclusive in the book. Elihu's words certainly can bear the weight of significant spiritual interpretation.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 13 at 22:24

2 Answers 2

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While I agree that this passage of Job 33:14-28 contains elements of a Messianic prophecy, I do not think the associations made by the OP hold up under close scrutiny. Still, the side-by-side pairings with the narrative of the thief work well, not as a fulfillment of a prophecy as much as an illustration of Job’s themes of repentance and redemption.

In the passage, Job lays out two ways by which God communicates to man (v14). Any interpretation, I think, needs to take into account this inherent structure. While the argument for a Messianic association is weak with regard to the first way that God speaks to man, it is much stronger with regard to the second. Looking at biblehub, biblical commentators are in general agreement that verses 23-24 allude to Christ. Consider how the concepts of mediator, ransom, righteousness, deliverance, and grace in these verses touch on the major themes of the New Testament (Barrick 2003).

vv23-24 (NASB) – If there is an interceding angel for him, One out of a thousand, To remind a person of what is right for him, And he is gracious to him, and says, ‘Free him from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom’

Beneath the surface narrative, the passage outlines God's two-fold plan for divine-human communication. God speaks to man, first through people via visions and dreams when man is sleeping. Then, when he is on the brink of death, he speaks through a person, a messenger or mediator, a one in a thousand “interceding angel” (v23).

If the subtext of the second way that God speaks is understood to be the Messiah, the subtext of the first is interpreted to be the prophets (cf Num 12:6).

v15-16 – In a dream, a vision of the night, When deep sleep falls on people, While they slumber in their beds Then He opens the ears of people, And horrifies them with warnings

Numbers 12:6 – “Now hear My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, will make Myself known to him in a vision. I will speak with him in a dream.

The passage can thus be seen as an overview/preview of God’s plan for divine-human communication. What is hinted at in this passage is later explicitly summed up in the NT text of Hebrews 1:1-2.

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son – Heb 1:1-2

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I do think much of this chapter is messianic in nature. Elihu is never admonished by God, so his words can be taken at face value as being the intended word of God. Elihu announced the coming of the Lord as he arrived in the clouds in chapter 37, so that would have been an opportune time to do it. The one who darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge was Job, not Elihu (Job 38:2). And although God does not mention Elihu, he does reference and build upon his arguments. The derivation of name “Elihu” also gives credence to his message. So although one could argue his approach was wrong at times, I do believe his message was faithful.

Elihu’s message was different from Job’s three friends. Jobs friend’s message was that Job needed to stop sinning and turn back to God so God could bless him again. On the other hand, Elihu’s message was for Job to admit his sin nature and to turn to God for forgiveness. Elihu’s message very much parallels the gospel of Christ. It is on this basis that the following analysis is offered for consideration.

At the beginning of this chapter, Elihu declares that he is there to clear things up for Job in vs3. He goes on to proclaim that he is there on behalf of Job’s request that God does not turn his back on him (i.e. withdraw his hand from him), at the same time, not make him fear his presence. This refers to Job’s request in 13:20 and 9:34. The first thing that Elihu clears up is that God has not turned his back on Job and has been dealing with Job through love, not fear. But in vs9, Elihu states that Job has a problem in that he is not willing to admit he is a sinner.

He says that Job is responsible for incorrectly accusing God of being too critical in verse 11 in regards to his walk. Here he is reminding Job of his complaint in Job 13:27 of watching him too closely and 14:16 where even blames God for his sin. He is trying to show Job that, in making these arguments, Job is saying that he is greater than God by implying he has greater understanding of himself than the understanding of his creator, God. Elihu’s answer in vs12 is that God is greater than man and questions Job as to why is he trying to fight God in vs13.

In vs14, Elihu goes on to explain how God has already reached out to Job in two ways to bring Job to repentance and how Job did not perceive it. First was in a dream (vs15) which refers back to Job 4:12, the dream of Eliphaz. And what was the message of that dream? It is found in Job 4:17, “Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his maker?” which ties back to vs12 in this chapter. Although Eliphaz did not speak of God right in other areas, Job 42:7-8, his instruction to Job in the dream was correct and sealed in that he was quoting God directly there. But Job was not responsive to that dream.

So in order to get Job to turn away from his pride (vs17) God went on to the second course of action described in vs19, which was to “chastened also with pain upon his bed” and to be brought near to the grave (vs22). However, God’s intent was not to destroy Job (vs18 and 2:6). But even though Job was brought to deaths door, he still continued to hold on to his pride and refused to acknowledge his sin.

In regards to the remainder of chapter 23, there are times in the bible where the message being presented is confusing because who is being referenced or who is speaking is not clear to the reader. But when we work that out, God’s word becomes more easily understood. Think of the Ethiopian eunuch in Mt 8:34 when he asks Philip “… whom speaketh the prophet this? Of himself, or of some other man?” I believe the verses in Job 33:23-30 falls into this category. In my opinion, and for this passage to make sense, one needs to understand that it involves an interaction between five parties as follows:

  • God the Father
  • Jesus Christ
  • The Holy Spirit
  • The messenger - Elihu speaks of himself in the third person. But also, in general, a person who is presenting the gospel.
  • Man - Job. But also the unsaved man in general, the recipient of the messenger’s plea.

So the exchange goes something like this.

23 If there be a messenger (Elihu) with him (Job), an interpreter, one among a thousand (Elihu), to shew unto man (Job) his (Christ’s) uprightness (and, by contrast, man’s sinful nature):

24 Then he (Elihu) is gracious unto him (Job), and saith, Deliver him (Job) from going down to the pit: I (Elihu) have found a ransom (which is Christ through his death on the cross).

25 His (Job’s) flesh shall be fresher than a child's: he (Job) shall return to the days of his youth (i.e “be Born Again”):

26 He (Job) shall pray unto God, and he (God the Father) will be favourable unto him (Job): and he (Job) shall see his (Christ’s) face with joy: for he (Christ) will render unto man (Job) his (Christ’s) righteousness.

Then, the next two verses summarize and restate the message in the above verses.

27 He (God) looketh upon men (Job), and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me (Job) not;

28 He (Christ) will deliver his (Job’s) soul from going into the pit, and his (Job’s) life shall see the light (Holy Spirit).

But this concept is not just a New Testament perspective. This is how God has always dealt with man.

29 Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man,

30 To bring back his (Job’s/man’s) soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living (Holy Spirit).

Verses 23-26 are prophetic in nature as it would be hard to come to a full understanding of these verses without prior knowledge of the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. But if this interpretation is correct, there is probably no clearer explanation of salvation anywhere in the bible other than the “Romans Road”. However, here the message is presented in one neat grouping instead of being pulled from various areas of Romans.

Verses 27-30 are a bit more straightforward and summarize and restate the same actions of vss23-26 but are timeless, not necessarily relying on a (fore)knowledge of Christ.

Elihu’s statement to “mark well” in v31 serves to reinforce the fact that this is the message Job needs to consider and this is the thing he is trying to make clear to Job. It is not to belittle Job. His intent is to justify Job, vs32. He gives Job a chance to respond to the Gospel in vs32. But Job is not ready to repent of his self-righteousness, so Elihu admonishes him to continue listening in his “If not” statement. Although Job is not ready to have a change of heart, he is still willing to listen, which is a testimony of Job’s patience.

Job never does respond to Elihu’s call here, but he finally does to God, in repentance, at the beginning of Chapter 42.

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