Job 4:12
Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ear received a little thereof.
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(12) Now a thing.—He now proceeds to enforce and illustrate what he has said in highly poetical language, which has been versified in one of Byron’s Hebrew Melodies.

Secretly brought to me.—Literally, was stolen for me. Joseph uses the same expression of himself in Genesis 40:15.

Mine ear received a little, compared with the inexhaustible resources remaining unrevealed. The word used for little is only found once again, and in the mouth of Job (Job 26:14).

Job 4:12. Now — Hebrew, and, or moreover, a thing, &c. — To show Job more evidently the sin and folly of impatience, and to impress what he had already advanced, or should yet further advance on that subject, more fully on his mind, Eliphaz relates a vision he had had, perhaps since he came to him: as if he had said, If these observations be not sufficient to convince thee, hear what God himself hath secretly revealed to me. In those early ages of the world, before God had vouchsafed to mankind a written revelation, it was usual with him to communicate the knowledge of his will to those that were pious, and earnestly desired it, by dreams and visions. A thing — Hebrew, a word, oracle, or message from God; was secretly brought to me — The Hebrew expression יגנב, jegunnab, is very elegant, namely, stole in upon me; or, was brought by stealth unto me; that is, privately and secretly, as the word of God used to come to the prophets, being spoken to their ear with a low and still voice, or signified to their minds in a mild and gentle manner. This is opposed to the more public declaration of God’s word to the people by the prophets, which was frequently by their crying aloud, Isaiah 58:1. Mine ear received a little thereof — The word, שׁמצ, shemets, here rendered little, occurs but once more in the Bible, namely, Job 26:14, where it is also translated little: How little a portion is heard of him? Symmachus translates it here ψιθυρισμον, and in chap. 26. ψιθυρισμα, both which words signify whisper, which here may be interpreted a hint or intimation. Eliphaz does not pretend to have understood the revelation that had been made to him in this vision perfectly, but something of it he perceived. He certainly would take care not to lose a syllable of what the spirit said, but he intends by the expression, that he did not fully comprehend the deep meaning of the words which he heard. Or he may be considered as expressing himself thus through modesty and humility, from a deep sense of his own weakness, and the small measure which he judged he possessed of the knowledge of divine things. As if he had said, Many, I doubt not, have a much more familiar acquaintance with God, and more full revelations from him, than I can pretend to; but a little of that treasure he hath been pleased to impart to me.

4:12-21 Eliphaz relates a vision. When we are communing with our own hearts, and are still, Ps 4:4, then is a time for the Holy Spirit to commune with us. This vision put him into very great fear. Ever since man sinned, it has been terrible to him to receive communications from Heaven, conscious that he can expect no good tidings thence. Sinful man! shall he pretend to be more just, more pure, than God, who being his Maker, is his Lord and Owner? How dreadful, then, the pride and presumption of man! How great the patience of God! Look upon man in his life. The very foundation of that cottage of clay in which man dwells, is in the dust, and it will sink with its own weight. We stand but upon the dust. Some have a higher heap of dust to stand upon than others but still it is the earth that stays us up, and will shortly swallow us up. Man is soon crushed; or if some lingering distemper, which consumes like a moth, be sent to destroy him, he cannot resist it. Shall such a creature pretend to blame the appointments of God? Look upon man in his death. Life is short, and in a little time men are cut off. Beauty, strength, learning, not only cannot secure them from death, but these things die with them; nor shall their pomp, their wealth, or power, continue after them. Shall a weak, sinful, dying creature, pretend to be more just than God, and more pure than his Maker? No: instead of quarrelling with his afflictions, let him wonder that he is out of hell. Can a man be cleansed without his Maker? Will God justify sinful mortals, and clear them from guilt? or will he do so without their having an interest in the righteousness and gracious help of their promised Redeemer, when angels, once ministering spirits before his throne, receive the just recompence of their sins? Notwithstanding the seeming impunity of men for a short time, though living without God in the world, their doom is as certain as that of the fallen angels, and is continually overtaking them. Yet careless sinners note it so little, that they expect not the change, nor are wise to consider their latter end.Now a thing - To confirm his views, Eliphaz appeals to a vision of a most remarkable character which he says he had had on some former occasion on the very point under consideration. The object of the vision was, to show that mortal man could not be more just than God, and that such was the purity of the Most High, that he put no confidence comparatively even in the angels. The design for which this is introduced here is, evidently, to reprove what he deemed the unfounded self-confidence of Job. He supposed that he had been placing an undue reliance on his own integrity; that he had not a just view of the infinite holiness of God, and had not been aware of the true state of his own heart. The highest earthly excellency, is the meaning of Eliphaz, fades away before God, and furnishes no ground for self-reliance. It is so imperfect, so feeble, so far from what it should be, that it is no wonder that a God so holy and exalted should disregard it: He designed also, by describing this vision, to reprove Job for seeming to be more wise than his Maker in arraigning him for his dealings, and uttering the language of complaint. The word "thing" here means a word (Hebrew), a communication, a revelation.

Was secretly brought to me - Margin, "by stealth." The Hebrew word (גנב gânab) means "to steal," to take away by stealth, or secretly. Here it means, that the oracle was brought to him as it were by stealth. It did not come openly and plainly, but in secrecy and silence - as a thief approaches a dwelling. An expression similar to this occurs in Lucian, in Amor. p. 884, as quoted by Schultens, κλεπτομένη λαλιὰ καί ψιθυρισμός kleptomenē lalia kai psithurismos.

And mine ear received a little thereof - Dr. Good translates this, "And mine ear received a whisper along with it." Noyes, "And mine ear caught a whisper thereof." The Vulgate, "And my ear received secretly the pulsations of its whisper" - venas susurri ejus. The word rendered "a little," שׁמץ shemets, occurs only here and in Job 26:14, where it is also rendered little. It means, according to Gesenius, a transient sound rapidly uttered and swiftly passing away. Symm. ψιθυρισμός psithurismos - a whisper. According to Castell, it means a sound confused and feeble, such as one receives when a man is speaking in a hurried manner, and when he cannot catch all that is said. This is probably the sense here. Eliphaz means to say that he did not get all that might have been said in the vision. It occurred in such circumstances, and what was said was delivered in such a manner, that he did not hear it all distinctly.

But he beard an important sentiment, which he proceeds to apply to the case of Job. - It has been made a question whether Eliphaz really had such a vision, or whether he only supposed such a case, and whether the whole representation is not poetic. The fair construction is, that he had had such a vision. In such a supposition there is nothing inconsistent with the mode in which the will of God was made known in ancient times; and in the sentiments uttered there is nothing inconsistent with what might have been spoken by a celestial visitant on such an occasion. All that was spoken was in accordance with the truth everywhere revealed in the Scriptures, though Eliphaz perverted it to prove that Job was insincere and hypocritical. The general sentiment in the oracle was, that man was not pure and holy compared with his Maker; that no one was free from guilt in his sight; that there was no virtue in man in which God could put entire confidence; and that, therefore, all were subjected to trials and to death. But this general sentiment he proceeds to apply to Job, and regards it as teaching, that since he was overwhelmed with such special afflictions, there must have been some secret sin of which he was guilty, which was the cause of his calamities.

12. a thing—Hebrew, a "word." Eliphaz confirms his view by a divine declaration which was secretly and unexpectedly imparted to him.

a little—literally, "a whisper"; implying the still silence around, and that more was conveyed than articulate words could utter (Job 26:14; 2Co 12:4).

Now, Heb. and, or moreover, I will further convince thee by a vision which I had relating to such matters as these. That here follows a relation of a vision is apparent from the punctual description of all its circumstances. To think as some do, that this was but a fiction and artifice which Eliphaz used, that his words might have more authority with Job, or that this was a diabolical delusion, seems to be both uncharitable and unreasonable, partly because Eliphaz, though under a mistake concerning Job’s case, was doubtless a wise and good man, and therefore would not needlessly make himself a liar for Job’s conviction; and partly from the matter of this vision, which is no way suitable to the nature or designs of the devil, but holy and agreeable to the Divine majesty and purity, and useful for men’s instruction, and humiliation, and reformation. It was therefore a Divine vision, which in that age and state of the church, before the Holy Scriptures were written, was the usual way of God’s discovery of his mind to those that sought to him.

A thing, Heb. a word, to wit, from God, as Proverbs 13:13, a doctrine or message.

Was secretly brought to me, Heb. was stolen, or brought by stealth into me, i.e. privately and secretly, as the word of God used to come to the prophets, being spoken in their ear, as it was to Samuel, 1 Samuel 9:15; and the like to Moses, so as Pharaoh, though present, could not hear nor observe it, Exodus 11:1, with a low and still voice, a secret whisper. This is opposed to the more public delivery of God’s word by the prophets to the people, which was done by crying aloud, Isaiah 48:1.

Mine ear received, i.e. I heard.

A little thereof, or, a parcel thereof, i.e. of God’s word; not of that particular word which God had now delivered to Eliphaz, which doubtless God would so speak, that he to whom he directed his speech might hear it all, and Eliphaz certainly would be as careful not to lose a syllable of it; but a parcel of God’s word in general, which this indeed was. And withal, this may be a modest and humble expression, arising from a deep sense of his own infirmity, and the small measure of his knowledge of Divine things, whereof he knew only some little fragments and parcels, as Paul said, We know but in part, 1 Corinthians 13:9. As if he had said, Many, I doubt not, have more familiar acquaintance with God, and more full revelations from God, than I can pretend to, but a little of that treasure God hath been pleased to impart to me.

Now a thing was secretly brought to me,.... From reason and experience, Eliphaz proceeds to a vision and revelation he had from God, showing the purity and holiness of God, and the frailty, weakness, folly, and sinfulness of men, by which it appears that men cannot be just in the sight of God, and therefore it must be wrong in Job to insist upon his innocence and integrity. Some indeed have thought that this was a mere fiction of Eliphaz, and not a real vision; yea, some have gone so far as to pronounce it a diabolical one, but without any just foundation; for there is nothing in the manner or matter of it but what is agreeable to a divine vision or to a revelation from God; besides, though Eliphaz was a mistaken man in the case of Job, yet was a good man, as may be concluded from the acceptance of a sacrifice for him by the Lord, which was offered for him by Job, according to the order of God, and therefore could never be guilty of such an imposture; nor does Job ever charge him with any falsehood in this matter, who doubtless would have been able to have traversed and exposed him; add to all this, that in his discourse annexed to and continued along with this account, stands a passage, which the apostle has quoted as of divine inspiration, 1 Corinthians 3:19; from Job 5:13. When Eliphaz had this vision, whether within the seven days of his visit to Job, or before, some time ago, which he might call to mind on this occasion, and judging it appropiate to the present case, thought fit to relate it, is not certain, nor very material to know: it is introduced after this manner, "a thing" or "word", a word of prophecy, a word from the Lord, a revelation of his mind and will, which was hidden and secret, and what before he was not so well acquainted with; this was "brought" unto him by the Spirit of God, or by a messenger from the Lord, sent on this occasion, and for this purpose; and the manner in which it was brought was "secretly" or "by stealth", as Mr. Broughton and others (l) render it; it was "stolen" unto him, or "secretly" brought, as the Targum, and we, and others (m); it was in a private way or manner; or "suddenly", as some others (n), at unawares, when it was not expected by him: it may have respect to the still and silent manner in which it was revealed to him, "there was silence, and he heard a voice"; a still one, a secret whisper; or to the almost invisible person that revealed it, whose image he saw, but could not discern his form and likeness; or it may be to the distinguishing favour he enjoyed, in having this revelation particularly made to him, and not to others; he heard this word, as it were, behind the curtain, or vail, as the Jews (o) say, explaining this passage:

mine ear received a little of it; this revelation was made, not by an impulse upon his spirits, but vocally, a voice was heard, as after declared, and Eliphaz was attentive to it; he listened to what was said, and heard, and took it in with much delight and pleasure, though but a small part of it, as his capacity was able to retain it; or it was but a small part of the will of God, an hint of his only, as some interpret it (p). Schultens has shown, from the use of a word near this in the Arabic language, that it signifies "a string of pearls"; and so may design a set of evangelic truths, comparable to gold, silver, and precious stones, and which are indeed more desirable than them, and preferable to them; what they are will be observed hereafter.

(l) "furtive", V. L. Montanus, Cocceius, Drusius; "furtivum verbum venit", Schultens. (m) "Clanculum", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "clam", Beza. (n) "Subito", Schmidt, Michaelis. (o) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 89. 2.((p) In David de Pomis, Lexic. fol. 217. 3.

Now a thing was {h} secretly brought to me, and mine ear received a little thereof.

(h) A thing I did not know before was declared to me by vision, that is that whoever thinks himself just will be found a sinner when he comes before God.

12. Now a thing] Or, and a word. Eliphaz proceeds to another point, but he introduces it calmly, though with deepening earnestness in his tone; it is something additional, and he appends it by the simple and.

a little thereof] Rather, the whisper thereof. His ear caught it all, but the whole of it was but a whisper.

12–5:7. Turning to Job’s murmurs against heaven, Eliphaz points to the unapproachable purity of God and the imperfection of all creatures, and warns Job against such complaints

Having expressed his wonder that a righteous man like Job should fall into such utter despair under afflictions, forgetting that to the righteous affliction is but a discipline, Eliphaz seeks to draw Job back to consider what is the real cause of all affliction. This is the imperfection of man, an imperfection which he shares indeed with all created beings, in the highest of whom to God’s eye there is limit and possible error. And this being so, murmuring can only aggravate his affliction by provoking the anger of God.

The passage falls into two divisions. In the first, Job 4:12-21, Eliphaz contrasts the holiness of God with the imperfection of all creatures, even the pure spirits on high, and much more a material being like man, and thus indirectly suggests to Job the true secret of his troubles. In the second, ch. Job 5:1-7, having laid this broad foundation, he builds on it a warning to Job against his murmurs. Only the wicked resent God’s dealing with them, and by doing so bring increased wrath upon themselves till they perish.

With great delicacy and consideration Eliphaz, instead of impressing the imperfection of man on Job directly, narrates how this truth was once impressed upon himself by a voice from heaven. It was in the dead of night, when all around were in deep sleep. His mind was agitated by perplexing thoughts arising out of visions of the night. Suddenly a great terror fell upon him. Then there passed before his face a breath. And there seemed to stand before him a form, too dim to discern, from which came forth a still voice, which said, Can man be righteous with God? Or, Can a man be pure with his Maker? Even to the holy angels He imputeth error, how much more to frail and earthly man? Job 4:12-21.

Applying to Job this truth, so impressively taught to himself, Eliphaz asks, If Job appeals against God, whether any of the holy beings, who minister between God and men, will listen to his appeal? (ch. Job 5:1). Nay, it is only the wicked who resent the afflictions of God, and by their rebellious impatience increase their afflictions till they are destroyed. Such an instance he had himself seen. He saw a fool, a rebellious murmurer against Heaven, spreading forth his roots and giving promise for a moment of prosperity. But suddenly destruction came upon him. His harvest was seized by the hungry robber; the rights of his children were trampled upon; and his home was broken up and desolate (Job 4:2-5). And finally, Eliphaz condenses into a vivid aphorism his teaching in this section: for trouble springs not out of the ground—it is not accidental nor a spontaneous growth of the soil. But man is born unto trouble—it is his nature so to act that by his evil deeds he brings trouble upon himself. Out of his heart rises up evil as naturally as the fire sends forth sparks (Job 4:6-7).

Verses 12-21. - Eliphaz proceeds to narrate a spiritual experience of a very strange and striking character. It was night, and he had fallen asleep, when suddenly he was, or seemed to himself to be, awake. A horrible fear came over him, and all his limbs trembled and quaked. Then a spirit seemed to pass before his face, while every hair on his body rose up and stiffened with horror. It did not simply pass across him, but stood still, in a formless form, which he could see but not clearly distinguish. There was a deep hush. Then out of the silence there seemed to come a voice, a whisper, which articulated solemn words. "Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man," etc.? Supernatural visitations were vouchsafed by God to many besides the chosen people - to Laban, when he pursued Jacob (Genesis 31:24), to Abimelech (Genesis 20:6), to the Pharaoh of the time of Joseph (Genesis 41:1-7), to his chief butler (Genesis 40:9-11), and his chief baker (Genesis 40:16, 17), to Balaam the son of Beer (Numbers 22:12, 20; Numbers 23:5-10, 16-24; Numbers 24:3-9, 15-24), to Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:28-35; Daniel 4:1-32), and others. The method and manner of these visitations raise a multitude of questions which it is impossible to answer, but are convincing evidence to all who believe Scripture to be true, that communications can pass between the spiritual and material worlds of a strange and mysterious character. The communication to Eliphaz may have been a mere vision, impressed upon his mind in sleep, or it may have been actually brought to him by a spiritual messenger, whom he could dimly see, and whose voice he was privileged to hear. Modern pseudo-science pronounces such seeing and hearing to be impossible. But poets are often clearer-sighted than scientists, and Shakespeare utters a pregnant truth when he says -

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
Verse 12. - Now a thing was secretly brought to me; rather, a word (or, a message) was brought to me stealthily. And mine ear received a little thereof; rather, a whisper thereof (see the Revised Version, and comp. Job 26:14, and the Vulgate, which gives susurrus). As the form of the vision was not distinct to Eliphaz's eyes (ver. 16), so neither were the words which were uttered distinct to his ears. He thinks himself able, however, to give the sense of them (see vers. 17-21). Job 4:1212 And a word reached me stealthily,

And my ear heard a whisper thereof.

13 In the play of thought, in visions of the night,

When deep sleep falleth on men,

14 Fear came upon me, and trembling;

And it caused the multitude of my bones to quake with fear.

15 And a breathing passed over my face;

16 It stood there, and I discerned not its appearance:

An image was before my eyes;

A gentle murmur, and I heard a voice.

The fut. יגגּב, like Judges 2:1; Psalm 80:9, is ruled by the following fut. consec.: ad me furtim delatum est (not deferebatur). Eliphaz does not say אלי ויגנּב (although he means a single occurrence), because he desires, with pathos, to put himself prominent. That the word came to him so secretly, and that he heard only as it were a whisper (שׁמץ, according to Arnheim, in distinction from שׁמע, denotes a faint, indistinct impression on the ear), is designed to show the value of such a solemn communication, and to arouse curiosity. Instead of the prosaic ממּנוּ, we find here the poetic pausal-form מנהוּ expanded from מנּוּ, after the form מנּי, Job 21:16; Psalm 18:23. מן is partitive: I heard only a whisper, murmur; the word was too sacred and holy to come loudly and directly to his ear. It happened, as he lay in the deep sleep of night, in the midst of the confusion of thought resulting from nightly dreams. שׂעפּים (from שׂעיף, branched) are thoughts proceeding like branches from the heart as their root, and intertwining themselves; the מן which follows refers to the cause: there were all manner of dreams which occasioned the thoughts, and to which they referred (comp. Job 33:15); תּרדּמה, in distinction from שׁנה, sleep, and תּנוּמה, slumber, is the deep sleep related to death and ecstasy, in which man sinks back from outward life into the remotest ground of his inner life. In Job 4:14, קראני, from קרא equals קרה, to meet (Ges. 75, 22), is equivalent to קרני (not קרני, as Hirz., first edition, wrongly points it; comp. Genesis 44:29). The subject of הפחיד is the undiscerned ghostlike something. Eliphaz was stretched upon his bed when רוּח, a breath of wind, passed (חלף( dessap, similar to Isaiah 21:1) over his face. The wind is the element by means of which the spirit-existence is made manifest; comp. 1 Kings 19:12, where Jehovah appears in a gentle whispering of the wind, and Acts 2:2, where the descent of the Holy Spirit is made known by a mighty rushing. רוּח, πνεῦμα, Sanscrit âtma, signifies both the immaterial spirit and the air, which is proportionately the most immaterial of material things.

(Note: On wind and spirit, vid., Windischmann, Die Philosophie im Fortgang der Weltgesch. S. 1331ff.)

His hair bristled up, even every hair of his body; סמּר, not causative, but intensive of Kal. יעמד has also the ghostlike appearance as subject. Eliphaz could not discern its outline, only a תמוּנה, imago quaedam (the most ethereal word for form, Numbers 12:8; Psalm 17:15, of μορφή or δόξα of God), was before his eyes, and he heard, as it were proceeding from it, רקל דּממה, i.e., per hendiadyn: a voice, which spoke to him in a gentle, whispering tone, as follows:

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