Questions From Readers
◼ Job 33:24 speaks of “a ransom” being found for Job, allowing him to avoid dying. Who was to be that ransom for Job?
There was no human ransom sacrifice offered for Job back then, but God did cover, or forgive, Job’s error.
Satan caused Job many troubles, including “a malignant boil from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.” Job’s state was so bad that his wife urged him to “curse God and die.” Even Job mused whether death was better than such suffering.—Job 2:7-9; 3:11.
When it seemed that Job might die, Elihu assessed Job’s precarious situation and laid the basis for hope, saying: “His flesh wastes away from sight . . . And his soul draws near to the pit, and his life to those inflicting death. If there exists for him a messenger, a spokesman, one out of a thousand, to tell to man his uprightness, then he favors him and says, ‘Let him off from going down into the pit! I have found a ransom! Let his flesh become fresher than in youth.’”—Job 33:21-25.
We know that Jesus Christ gave up his perfect human life as a corresponding ransom for imperfect humans. His sacrifice balanced what Adam had lost, paying the needed price to bring about release from sin. (Romans 5:12-19; 1 Timothy 2:5, 6) However, this is not the only use of “ransom” in the Bible. The Hebrew word found at Job 33:24 basically means “cover.” (Exodus 25:17) When God was dealing with ancient Israel, he had an arrangement to cover, or atone for, sins—sacrifices that covered sin, setting matters straight between humans and God.—Exodus 29:36; Leviticus 16:11, 15, 16; 17:11.
Earlier, though, God had been willing to accept sacrifices as expressions of thanks or of requests for forgiveness and approval. (Genesis 4:3, 4; 8:20, 21; 12:7; 31:54) Job understood the value of such sacrifices. We read: “He got up early in the morning and offered up burnt sacrifices according to the number of all of [his sons]; for, said Job, ‘maybe my sons have sinned and have cursed God in their heart.’ That is the way Job would do always.” (Job 1:5) Since he tried to please God and obviously had a contrite spirit, his sacrifices had value in God’s sight.—Psalm 32:1, 2; 51:17.
But Job later suffered sickness that seemed to threaten his life. He also had a wrong view of his righteousness, so he needed correction, which Elihu then provided. (Job 32:6; 33:8-12; 35:2-4) Elihu said that Job need not continue in his sad condition right down to death and the pit (Sheol, or the common grave). If Job would repent, “a ransom” could be found.—Job 33:24-28.
We need not think that by “ransom” Elihu meant a human back then who would die in Job’s behalf. In view of the sacrifices that true worshipers had been accustomed to offering, the sort of ransom to which Elihu was alluding in Job’s case might have been an animal sacrifice. Interestingly, God later told Job’s three critical companions: “You men must offer up a burnt sacrifice in your own behalf; and Job my servant will himself pray for you.” (Job 42:8) Whatever the form of the ransom, Elihu’s main point was that Job could have his error covered and experience resulting benefits.
That is what happened. Job ‘repented in dust and ashes.’ Then what? “Jehovah himself turned back the captive condition of Job . . . As for Jehovah, he blessed the end of Job afterward more than his beginning . . . And Job continued living after this a hundred and forty years and came to see his sons and his grandsons—four generations.” Granted, that ransom did not free Job from sin, so in time he died. Yet, the prolonging of his life proves that, effectively, ‘his flesh became fresher than in youth, and he returned to the days of his youthful vigor.’—Job 33:25; 42:6, 10-17.
Those blessings that came from applying a limited ransom to Job serve as a preview of the abundant blessings that will come to believing mankind in the new world. Then, the full benefit of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice will be available, removing forever the disastrous effects of sin and imperfection. What reason we will have for “joyful shouting,” as Elihu mentioned!—Job 33:26.