So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.
All Commentaries on Job 32:1 Go To Job 32
Gregory The Dialogist
1. It is necessary for me to repeat the preface of this work, as often as I divide it into separate volumes, by making a pause in my observations, it order that when it is again begun to be read, the subject of the Treatise may be at once brought afresh to the memory; and that the edifice of teaching may rise the more firmly, the more carefully the foundation is laid in the mind, from considering the first beginning of the subject. Blessed Job, known to God and himself alone in his state of tranquillity, when he was to be brought before our notice, was smitten with a rod, in order that he might scatter more widely the odour of his strength, the more sweetly he gave forth his scent, as spices, from the burning. He had learned in his prosperity to rule over his subjects with gentleness, and to guard himself strictly from evil. He had learned how to use the things he had got: but we could not tell whether he would remain patient under their loss. He had learned to offer daily sacrifices to God for the safety of his children, but it was doubtful, whether he would also offer Him the sacrifice of thanksgiving when he was bereft of them. For fear then that sound health should conceal any defect, it was proper that pain should bring it to light. Permission then to practise temptation against the holy man is given to the crafty foe. But he, in seeking to destroy his goods which were known to many, brings to light the virtue of patience also which was lying hid, and whom he believed he was pressing hard by his persecutions, he magnified him by his scourges, and far extended him in example. And he exercised with great skill the permission he had received. For he burnt his herds, destroyed his family, overwhelmed his heirs, and, in order to launch against him a weapon of severer temptation, he kept in store the tongue of his wife: that thus he might both lay low the bold and firm heart of the holy man with grief, by the loss of his goods, and pierce it through with a curse, by the words of his wife. But by the many wounds he inflicted in his cruelty, he unintentionally furnished as many triumphs to the holy man. For the faithful servant of God, involved in wounds and reproaches at one and the same time, both endued with patience the sufferings of the flesh, and reproved with wisdom the folly of his wife. The ancient enemy, therefore, because he was grieved at being foiled by him in his domestic trials, proceeded to seek for help from abroad. He summoned, therefore, his friends, each from his own place, as if for the purpose of displaying their affection, and opened their lips, under the pretence of giving consolation. But, by these very means, he launched against him shafts of reproach, which would wound more severely the heart of him who securely listened to them, inasmuch as they were inflicting an unexpected wound beneath the cover of a friendship which was professed and not observed. After these, also, Eliu a younger person is urged on even to use insult, in order that the scornful levity of his youth might at all events disturb the tranquillity of such great gentleness. But against these many machinations of the ancient enemy his constancy stood unconquered, his equanimity unbroken. For at one and the same time he opposed his prudence to their hostile words, his conduct to their doings. Let no one then suppose that this holy man (although it was expressly written of him after his scourging, In all these things Job sinned not with his lips [Job 1, 22]) sinned afterwards, at least, in his words in his dispute with his friends. For Satan aimed at his temptation, but God, Who had praised him, took on Himself the purport of that contest. If any one, therefore, complains that blessed Job sinned in his words, what else does he do, but confess that God, Who pledged Himself for him, had been the loser.
2. But since the ancient fathers, like fruitful trees, are not merely beauteous in appearance, but also profitable through their fertility, their life must be so considered by us, that when we admire the freshness of their history, we may learn also how fruitful they are in allegory, in order that, since the smell of their leaves is pleasant, we may learn also how sweet is the taste of their fruits. For no one ever possessed the grace of heavenly adoption but he who has received it through the knowledge of the Only-begotten. It is right then that He should shine forth in their life and words, Who so enlightens them that they may be able [mereantur] to shine. For when the light of a candle is kindled in the dark, the candle, which causes other objects to be seen, is first seen itself. And so, if we are truly endeavouring to behold the objects which are enlightened, it is necessary for us to open the eyes of our mind to that Lightening which gives them light. But it is this which shines forth in these very discourses of blessed Job, when the shades of allegory too have been driven away, as though the gloom of midnight had been dispelled, a bright light as it were flaming across them. As when it is said, I know that my Redeemer liveth, and in my flesh I shall see God. [Job 19, 25] Paul had doubtless discovered this light in the night of history, when he said, All were baptized in Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual meat, and all drank the same spiritual drink. But they drank of the spiritual Rock that followed them, but the Rock was Christ. [l Cor. 10, 2-4] If then the Rock represented the Redeemer, why should not blessed Job suggest the type of Him, since he signified in his suffering Him Whom he spake of in his voice? And hence he is not improperly called Job, that is to say, “grieving,” because he sets forth in his own person the image of Him, of Whom it is announced long before by Isaiah, that He Himself bore our griefs. [Is. 53, 4] It should be further known, that our Redeemer has represented Himself as one Person with Holy Church, whom He has assumed to Himself. For it is said of Him, Which is the Head, even Christ. [Eph. 4, 15] And again it is written of His Church; And the body of Christ, which is the Church. [Col. 1, 24] Blessed Job therefore, who was more truly a type of Christ, since he prophesied of His passion, not by words only, but also by his sufferings, when he dwells on setting forth the Redeemer in his words and deeds, is sometimes suddenly turning to signify His body; in order that, as we believe Christ and His Church to be one Person, we may behold this signified also by the actions of a single man.
3. But what else is signified by his wife, who provokes him to words of blasphemy, but the depravity of carnal men? For placed, with yet unreformed manners, within the pale of the Holy Church, they press harder on those of faithful lives, the nearer they are to them; because when they cannot as being faithful be avoided by the faithful, they are endured as a greater evil, the more inward it is. But his friends, who while pretending to advise, inveigh against him, represent to us heretics, who under the pretence of advising, carry on the business of leading astray. And thus while speaking to Job on behalf of the Lord, they hear His reproof; because all heretics in truth while endeavouring to maintain God’s cause, do in fact offend Him. Whence also it is properly said to them by the same holy man, I desire to reason with God, first shewing that ye are forgers of lies, and followers of corrupt doctrines. [Job 13, 3. 4.] It is plain then that they typify heretics, since the holy man accuses them of being devoted to the profession of false doctrines. And since Job is by interpretation grieving, (for by his grief is set forth either the passion of the Mediator, or the travails of Holy Church, which is harassed by the manifold labours of this present life,) so do his friends also by the very word which is used for their names set forth the nature of their conduct. For Eliphaz signifies in Latin “contempt of God;” and what else is the conduct of heretics than a proud contempt of God by the false notions they entertain of Him? Bildad is interpreted “oldness alone.” And well are all heretics termed oldness alone, in the things they speak of God, since they are anxious to appear preachers, not with any honest intention, but with an earnest desire after worldly honour. For they are urged to speak not by the zeal of the new man, but by the evil principles of their old life. Sophar too is called in Latin ‘dissipation of the prospect,’ or a ‘dissipating of the prospect.’ For the minds of the faithful raise themselves to the contemplation of things above: but when the words of the heretics endeavour to draw them aside from the right objects of contemplation, they do their best to dissipate the prospect. In the three names then of Job’s friends, there are set forth three cases of the ruin of heretics. For did they not despise God, they would never entertain false notions respecting Him; and did they not contract oldness, they would not err in their estimate of the new life; and unless they marred the contemplation of the good, the divine judgments would not have reproved them with so strict a scrutiny, for the faults which they committed in their words. By despising God then, they keep themselves in their oldness: but by remaining in their oldness, they obstruct the view of them that are right by their crooked discoursing.
4. After these also, Eliu, a younger person, is joined to them in their reproaches of blessed Job. In his person is represented a class of teachers, who are faithful, but yet arrogant. Nor do we easily understand his words, unless we consider them by the help of the subsequent reproof of the Lord. Who is he that involves sentences in unskilful words? [Job 38, 2] for when He uses the word ‘sentences,’ but does not immediately subjoin of what nature they are, He intends the word without doubt to be understood favourably. For when ‘sentences’ are spoken of, unless they are said to be bad, they cannot be understood in a bad sense. For we always take the word in a good sense, if no unfavourable addition is made; as it is written, A slothful man seems wiser in his own opinion than seven men uttering sentences. [Prov. 26, 16] But by its being said that his sentences are involved in unskilful language, it is plainly shewn that they were uttered by him with the folly of pride. For it is a great unskilfulness in him, to be unable to express himself with humility in what he says, and to blend with sentiments of truth the words of pride.
5. For the nature of every thing that is said can be distinguished by four different qualities. If, for instance, either bad things are said badly, good things well, bad things well, or good things badly. A bad thing is badly said, when wrong advice is given; as it is written, Curse God, and die. [Job 2, 9] A good thing is well said, when right matters are rightly preached; as John says, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. [Matt. 3, 2] A bad thing is well spoken, when a fault is adduced by the speaker, simply to be reproved; as Paul says, The women changed their natural use into that which is against nature. [Rom. 1, 26] In which place he subjoined too the execrable doings of men. But he related these unseemly things in a seemly way, that by telling of things unbecoming, he might recal many to the practice of what is becoming. But a good thing is ill spoken, when what is proper is brought forward with an improper object; as the Pharisees are reported to have said to the blind man who had received his sight, Be thou His disciple; [John 9, 28] for they said this for the express purpose of reproaching him, not as wishing what they said; or as Caiaphas says, It is expedient that one man should die for the people, that the whole nation perish not. [John 11, 50] It was a good thing which he said, but not with good view; for while he longed for His cruel death, he prophesied the grace of redemption. And in like manner Eliu also is reproved for saying right things in a wrong way: because in the very truths which he utters he is puffed up with arrogance. And he represents thereby the character of the arrogant, because through a sense of what is right he rises up into words of pride.
6. But what is meant by the Divine Voice directing that the three friends should be reconciled by seven sacrifices, while it leaves Eliu only beneath the reproof of a single sentence; except it be that heretics, when bedewed with the superabundance of Divine grace, sometimes return to the unity of Holy Church? This is excellently set forth by the very reconciliation of the friends, for whom nevertheless blessed Job is directed to pray. Because in truth the sacrifices of heretics cannot be acceptable to God, unless they be offered for them by the hands of the Church Catholic, that they may gain a healing remedy by her merits, whom they used to smite, by attacking her with the shafts of their reproaches. And thence is it that seven sacrifices are said to have been offered for them, because whilst they receive on confession the Spirit of sevenfold grace, they are atoned for, as it were, by seven oblations. Wherefore in the Apocalypse of John, the whole Church is represented by the sevenfold number of the Churches: [Rev. 1, 11] and hence is it that Solomon speaks thus of Wisdom, Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars. [Prov. 9, 1] The heretics then on their reconciliation express, by the very number of the sacrifices, their own former character, since it is only by their returning that they are united to the perfection of sevenfold grace. But they are properly represented as having offered for themselves bulls and rams. For in a bull is designated the neck of pride, in a ram the leading of the flocks that follow. What then is the offering of bulls and rams on their behalf, but the destruction of their proud leadership, that they may think humbly of themselves, and not seduce any longer the hearts of the innocent to follow them? For they had started aside with swelling neck from the general body of the Church, and were drawing after them the weakminded, as flocks following their guidance. Let them come then to blessed Job, that is, let them return to the Church, and offer bulls and rams to be slaughtered for a sevenfold sacrifice, who in order to be united to the Church Catholic, by the coming in of a spirit of humility, have to put an end to whatever swelling thoughts they before used to entertain from their haughty leadership.
7. But Eliu (by whom are designated those lovers of vain-glory who, living within the pale of the Church, scorn to state in a humble way the sound views which they hold) is not directed to be reconciled by sacrifice. For those who are proud, and yet faithful, because they are already within the pale, cannot be brought back by seven sacrifices. Yet the divine wisdom reproves these people in the person of Eliu, and blames in them not their sentences of truth, but their temper and language of pride. But what is the meaning of the reproof, except that the chiding of the divine severity chastens them with scourges as placed within the Church, or by a righteous judgment leaves them to themselves? For such as these preach the truth within the Church, but, in the judgment of God, deserve to hear an unfavourable sentence, because by the sound truths which they state, which are not their own, they seek not the glory of their author, but their own credit. We must therefore carefully weigh this passage, in which it is said by the Divine Voice respecting Eliu, Who is he? An interrogation of this kind is but the beginning of a reproof. For we say not, Who is he, except of a person of whom we are ignorant. But God’s ignorance is the same as His rejection: whence He will at the end say to some whom He rejects, I know you not whence you are; depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity. [Matt. 7, 23] To ask then of this haughty man, Who is he? what is it but plainly to say, I know not the haughty? that is, In the excellence of My wisdom I approve not of their doings, because, by being puffed up by human praise, they are bereft of the true glory of eternal reward. By not rejecting then his sentiments, but blaming the person who uttered them, He plainly teaches, as it were saying, I know what he says, but I know not the speaker: I approve of whatever is stated in accordance with truth, but I acknowledge not him who is elated by the truths he utters.
8. But to shew more plainly how disgracefully Eliu falls away in boastfulness of pride, we ought in the first place to set forth the character of a sound teacher; that from the straightness of this standard the deformity of his distortion may be clearly manifested. Every spiritual preacher then of the Church Catholic carefully examines himself in every thing he says, lest he should be elated with the sin of pride on account of his sound preaching; lest his conduct should be at variance with his words; lest that very peace which he preaches in the Church he should lose in his own person, by sound speaking and evil living. But it is his chief endeavour against the calumnious rumours of the adversaries to defend his conduct by his preaching, and to adorn his preaching by his life. And in all this he seeks not his own glory, but that of His Maker; and considers that every gift of wisdom he has received for the purpose of preaching, as bestowed not for his own deserts, but through the intercessions of those for whom he speaks. And thus while he casts himself down, he rises higher and higher; because he doubtless makes greater progress in gaining his own reward, by ascribing to the merits of others the good gifts he is able to exercise. He counts himself unworthy of all men, even when he lives more worthily than all together. For he is aware that the good qualities which are known to the world at large, can hardly exist in him without great peril. And though he feels himself to be wise, he would wish to be really wise without appearing so: and is especially afraid of that which is spoken of and gets abroad. And he seeks, if possible, to be silent, from perceiving that silence is safer for many, and considers that they are happier, whom a lower part in Holy Church conceals in silence; and though, in defence of the Church, he takes on himself of necessity the duty of speaking, because he is urged by the force of charity, yet he seeks with earnest longing the rest of silence. The one he maintains as a matter of wish, the other he exercises as a matter of duty. But of such ways of speaking the proud are ignorant. For they speak not because causes arise, but seek for them to arise in order that they may speak. Of such Eliu is now a type, who in what he says sets himself up beyond measure, through the sin of pride. When the words then of blessed Job were ended it is added, These three men ceased to answer Job, because he seemed just in his own eyes. [Job 32, 1]
In the expression, because he seemed to be just in his own eyes, the author of this sacred history intended to refer to the opinion of Job’s friends, and did not himself accuse him of being puffed up with pride.