Job 34
Benson Commentary
Furthermore Elihu answered and said,
Job 34:1. Furthermore Elihu answered and said — Job making no reply to what Elihu had said, probably because he saw that he had touched the particular point in which he was especially defective, Elihu carries the charge a little higher, and tells him, with more sharpness than before, that there were some words in his discourse which sounded in his ears as if he accused God’s justice and goodness: for what else did he mean when he complained that God did not do him right, and that he destroyed alike both good and bad? Which rash assertions Elihu overthrows from the consideration of the sovereign dominion, power, righteousness, and wisdom of God. That it was impossible God could act unjustly: for were he so disposed, what could hinder him from annihilating the whole human race at once? He needed only withdraw his preserving power, and they would instantly fall into dust. Since, then, he did not act in this manner, but his ways were perfectly agreeable to righteousness, he was not to be addressed in so rude a manner as Job had made use of. Reverence and respect were due to earthly princes; how much more to Him in whose sight the prince and beggar were the same! for he was the Maker of them all. That though God would look with a merciful eye on the infirmities of human nature, when accompanied with humility, yet the arrogant were sure to find no favour at his hands; he would not fail to execute his vengeance on them, that they might be an example to others. That submission and resignation were the behaviour fit for man in the presence of God; and therefore, toward the conclusion of the chapter, he represents to Job what behaviour and discourse would have better become him than that which he had used.

Hear my words, O ye wise men; and give ear unto me, ye that have knowledge.
Job 34:2-4. Hear my words O ye wise men — Who are here present: do you judge whether what I have said, and have still further to say, be not reasonable and true. For the ear trieth words — Man’s mind judgeth of the truth and propriety of things spoken and heard; as the mouth tasteth meat — And distinguishes what is sweet and palatable from what is otherwise. The ear is put for the mind, to which things are conveyed by it. Let us choose to us judgment — Let us agree to examine the business, that we may be able to pronounce a righteous judgment. Let us not contend for victory, but for truth and justice. Let us know among ourselves what is good — Let us show one another who hath the best cause.

For the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat.
Let us choose to us judgment: let us know among ourselves what is good.
For Job hath said, I am righteous: and God hath taken away my judgment.
Job 34:5-6. Job hath said, I am righteous — I am so far righteous that I have not deserved, nor had any reason to expect, such hard usage from God. God hath taken away my judgment — So Job had said, Job 27:2; that is, he denies me that which is just and equal, namely, to give me a fair hearing. Should I lie against my right — Thus Job had spoken in effect, Job 27:4-6. Should I falsely accuse myself of sins of which I am not guilty? Should I betray mine own cause, and deny that integrity which I am conscious I possess? My wound is incurable without transgression — Without any such crying sin as might reasonably bring down such terrible judgments upon my head.

Should I lie against my right? my wound is incurable without transgression.
What man is like Job, who drinketh up scorning like water?
Job 34:7-9. Who drinketh up scorning like water — That is, abundantly and greedily: who doth so break forth into scornful expressions, not only against his friends, but, in some sort, even against God himself. The Hebrew may be interpreted, What man, being like Job, would drink up scorning? &c. That a wicked or foolish man should act thus, is not strange; but that a man of such piety, gravity, wisdom, and authority, as Job, should be guilty of such a sin, this is wonderful. Which walketh with wicked men — Although I dare not say he is a wicked man, yet in this matter he speaks and acts like one of the wicked. For he hath said — Not absolutely, and in express terms, but by consequence, It profiteth a man nothing. &c. —

That though a man study to please God, he shall not be profited by it. For he said that good men were no less, nay, sometimes more miserable here than the wicked, Job 9:22; Job 30:26. And that, for his part, he was no gainer, as to this life, by his piety, but a loser, and that God showed him no more kindness and compassion than he usually did to the vilest of men.

Which goeth in company with the workers of iniquity, and walketh with wicked men.
For he hath said, It profiteth a man nothing that he should delight himself with God.
Therefore hearken unto me, ye men of understanding: far be it from God, that he should do wickedness; and from the Almighty, that he should commit iniquity.
Job 34:10-12. Hearken to me, ye men of understanding — Ye who are present, and understand these things, do you judge between Job and me. Far be it from God that he should do wickedness — This I must lay down as a principle, that the righteous and holy God neither does nor can deal unjustly with Job, or with any man, as Job insinuates that God hath dealt with him. For the work of a man — That is, the reward of his work; shall he render unto him, &c. — Job’s afflictions, though great and distressing, are not undeserved, but justly inflicted upon him, both for the original corruption of his nature, and for many actual transgressions, which are known to God, though Job, through partiality, may not see them. And Job’s piety shall be recompensed, it may be, in this life, but undoubtedly in the next; and therefore piety is not unprofitable, as Job signifies. Neither will the Almighty pervert judgment — As Job hath erroneously affirmed.

For the work of a man shall he render unto him, and cause every man to find according to his ways.
Yea, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment.
Who hath given him a charge over the earth? or who hath disposed the whole world?
Job 34:13. Who hath given him a charge over the earth? — Over the inhabitants of the earth, to rule them according to his laws, and to give an account to him thereof? Who or where is his superior, that made the world, and then delivered the government of it to God? There is no such person. God himself is the sole Creator, the supreme, absolute Lord of all, and therefore cannot act unjustly; because the Creator and Lord of the world must needs have all possible perfections in himself, and, among others, perfect justice; and because he is of himself all-sufficient, and independent of all other beings, and able to do and procure whatsoever he pleaseth; and therefore as he hath no inclination, so he hath no temptation to any unrighteous action; this being generally the reason of all the unrighteous actions in the world, that the persons who do them either are obliged to do them to gratify some superior who commands them, or else they want or desire something which they cannot justly obtain. For he would be a monster, and not a man, who would take away any thing by injustice or violence which he might have by right. Or who hath disposed the whole world? — “He did not receive the government of the world from any above himself; nor is there any higher being, whose authority he may be thought to dread, and for fear of whom he may be tempted to act unjustly.” — Bishop Patrick. The Hebrew of the former clause, מי פקד עליו ארצה, mi pakad gnalaiv artzah, the phraseology of which is rather peculiar, is rendered by Chappelow, Who enjoined him to create the earth? and by some others, Who on earth can be his overseer? The meaning evidently is, as Dr. Dodd observes from Schultens and Heath, “Who on earth hath authority sufficient to examine into and control his proceedings.”

If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath;
Job 34:14-15. If he set his heart upon man — Hebrew, אליו, eelaiv, upon him, meaning man, doubtless. If his eye and heart be upon man, and he diligently observe him and all his ways, and whatsoever is amiss in him, and therefore resolve to punish him: or, if he set his heart against him, (as the word may properly be, and often is rendered,) and therefore resolve to cut him off: if he gather — Or, without if, which is not in the Hebrew, he will gather unto himself his spirit and his breath — Namely, by death, by which God is said to take away men’s breath, Psalm 104:29, and to gather their souls, Psalm 26:9. All flesh — All mankind, who are called flesh, Genesis 6:3; Genesis 6:17; Isaiah 40:6; shall perish together — Or, alike, without any exception, be they high or low, wise or foolish, good or bad; if God design to destroy them, they cannot withstand his power, but must needs perish by his stroke. The design of this and the foregoing verse is the same with that of Job 34:13, namely, to declare God’s absolute and uncontrollable sovereignty over all men, to dispose of them either for life or death as it pleases him; and consequently to show that Job had cause to be thankful unto God, who had continued his life so long to him, and had no cause to complain, or tax God with any injustice for afflicting him.

All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust.
If now thou hast understanding, hear this: hearken to the voice of my words.
Job 34:16-17. If thou hast understanding, hear this — As thou art a man of understanding, hear and consider what I say. Shall even he that hateth right — That is unrighteous; govern — Hebrew, יחבושׁ, jachabosh, bind, as the word properly signifies, but is fitly rendered govern by most interpreters, because governors have a power to bind their subjects by laws and penalties, and they are the ligaments by which societies are bound and kept together, which, without them, would be dissolved and broken to pieces. Elihu’s argument is the same with that of Abraham, Genesis 18:25, and that of St. Paul, Romans 3:5-6. If God be unrighteous, how shall he judge, or govern the world? And the argument is undeniable; if God were unjust, there would be nothing but injustice and confusion in the world; whereas we see there is a great deal of justice administered in the world, and all this must proceed from Him who is the fountain of all justice, and rule, and authority. And as the psalmist says, He that formed the eye, shall he not see? so we may say, He that makes men just, shall he be unjust? Wilt thou condemn him that is most just? — God, who hath given so many clear and unquestionable evidences of his justice, in giving just and holy laws, in encouraging and rewarding righteous persons in this life, and inflicting dreadful judgments upon tyrants and oppressors.

Shall even he that hateth right govern? and wilt thou condemn him that is most just?
Is it fit to say to a king, Thou art wicked? and to princes, Ye are ungodly?
Job 34:18-19. Is it fit to say to a king, Thou art wicked? — Hebrew, Belial, or a son of Belial. Though a king may be wicked, yet his subjects neither may nor dare call him so, Exodus 22:28. And therefore if any evil thought did arise in thee, thou oughtest to have been afraid to utter it, and bring forth such unworthy expressions against God. That accepteth not the persons of any — Who respecteth not the greatest princes, so as to do any unjust thing to gain their favour, or avoid their displeasure, and to whom princes and peasants are equally subject, and infinitely inferior; who, therefore, is free from all temptation to injustice, which commonly proceeds from respect of persons; and to whom therefore thou didst owe more reverence than thy words have expressed. For they all are the work of his hands — And therefore of equal worth and price with him, and equally subject to his power and pleasure.

How much less to him that accepteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor? for they all are the work of his hands.
In a moment shall they die, and the people shall be troubled at midnight, and pass away: and the mighty shall be taken away without hand.
Job 34:20-21. In a moment shall they die — Whensoever God doth but give the word, and send his summons for them. The rich and the prince, no less than the poor, must submit to the law of death, which God hath imposed upon all men without exception. And the people shall be troubled — Hebrew, יגעשׁו, jegognashu, concutientur, tremiscent, shall be shaken, shall tremble, at the approach of death, or through the calamities which God will bring upon them. Whole nations, or people, are no less subject to God’s power than any particular persons: their number cannot secure them from his hand. At midnight — Suddenly or unexpectedly, when they are most secure. And the mighty shall be taken away — From their place or power, or out of this life; without hand — Without any hand or instrumentality of man; by some secret act or judgment of God, which he often inflicts upon those who are out of the reach of men. For his eyes are upon the ways of man — “There is no one passage of man’s life but God is acquainted with it, and therefore cannot be suspected, through ignorance of their actions, (any more than through fear of their persons,) to overlook their crimes, or to do them any injustice.” — Patrick. God doth not destroy either prince or people unjustly, no, nor out of his mere pleasure, but for their sins, which he sees exactly, although they use all possible arts to hide them.

For his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings.
There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.
Job 34:22-23. There is no darkness, &c. — The workers of iniquity may flatter themselves, or deceive others, by covering their wicked actions with plausible pretences and professions, but they cannot deceive God, nor conceal their ways or hearts from his inspection. He will not lay upon man more than right — More or heavier punishments than they deserve, or than are proportionable to their sins, which he accurately observes, and therefore can adapt punishments to them; that he should enter into judgment, &c. — Thereby to give him any pretence or occasion of entering into judgment with him, or of condemning his proceedings, for which there might seem to be some colour, if God did lay upon man more than is right.

For he will not lay upon man more than right; that he should enter into judgment with God.
He shall break in pieces mighty men without number, and set others in their stead.
Job 34:24-26. He shall break in pieces mighty men, &c. — Neither their greatness nor their numbers can secure them from the stroke of God’s justice; and set others in their stead — Give away their power and dignity to others, who shall come in their place. Therefore he knoweth their works — That is, it appears from this that he knows all their evil works, because he judges and punishes them for them; and he overturneth them in the night — When they are at rest and secure; or, he turneth or bringeth upon them the night, namely, of calamity and tribulation, as the next words explain it, and as the words light and darkness are often used. He striketh them as wicked men — That is, as he useth to smite wicked men; or, as תחת, tachath, rather means here, according to Ab. Ezra, inter improbos, among the wicked, or, for wicked men; that is, because they are wicked men, therefore he destroys them without any regard to their quality; in the open sight of others — In public view, for their greater shame, for the greater glory of God’s justice, and for the greater terror of other wicked persons.

Therefore he knoweth their works, and he overturneth them in the night, so that they are destroyed.
He striketh them as wicked men in the open sight of others;
Because they turned back from him, and would not consider any of his ways:
Job 34:27-28. Because they turned back from him — From God, whom they or their progenitors had owned; and from his laws, which God had written on their minds, Romans 2:14; and from the practice of true religion, to sin and folly. And would not consider any of his ways — So as to walk in them. Hebrew, לא השׂכילו, lo hischilu, they would not understand, or consider them wisely, so as to make a proper and wise use of their knowledge of them. They cause the cry of the poor to come to him — To God, as the following words imply, it being God’s work to hear the cry, and plead the cause, of the afflicted or oppressed. Their case is bad who have the prayers and tears of the poor against them; for these will draw down vengeance, sooner or later, on the heads of their oppressors.

So that they cause the cry of the poor to come unto him, and he heareth the cry of the afflicted.
When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? and when he hideth his face, who then can behold him? whether it be done against a nation, or against a man only:
Job 34:29-30. When he giveth quietness — Either to the poor and oppressed persons last mentioned, or to any other persons or people, as it follows; who then can make trouble? — No man or creature can hinder God’s design; and when he hideth his face — Withdraws his favour and help from them, and thereby exposes them to oppressions and calamities; who then can behold him? — Who can enjoy the light of his countenance, or look up to him with cheerfulness and confidence, to desire or expect his help? whether it be done against a nation or a man only — God can carry on his work, either of mercy or justice, as easily and as irresistibly upon a whole nation as upon one particular person. That the hypocrite reign not May not continue his tyranny; lest the people be insnared — Lest the people should be longer kept in the snares of oppression; God doth this to free poor oppressed people from the snares which ungodly men lay for them.

That the hypocrite reign not, lest the people be ensnared.
Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more:
Job 34:31-32. Surely it is meet to be said unto God — It is certainly but fit and reasonable that man, a weak and sinful creature, should speak thus to his Maker and supreme Lord, who is so much superior to him, and so mighty and righteous in all his ways; I have borne chastisement — Or, I do, or shall bear it, namely, quietly and contentedly; I will bear the Lord’s indignation, and accept of the punishment of my own iniquity, and not accuse God falsely and foolishly, as I have done; I will not offend any more — Hebrew, לא אחבל, lo echbol, I will not corrupt, namely, myself, or my ways; or, I will take, or demand no pledge, in which sense also this word is often used, and so the meaning will be, “I confess I have been too bold with God in desiring that he would come with me into judgment, and that I might have a pledge that he would do so; but I will no longer desire it, but will submit myself wholly to him.” That which I see not, teach thou me — I will no longer maintain my innocence, but from thy judgments I will conclude that there are some secret sins in me, for which thou dost chastise, me: and which I, through my ignorance or partiality, cannot yet discover, and therefore I beg that, through thy Spirit, thou wouldst manifest them to me. If I have done iniquity, I will do no more — I will amend my former errors.

That which I see not teach thou me: if I have done iniquity, I will do no more.
Should it be according to thy mind? he will recompense it, whether thou refuse, or whether thou choose; and not I: therefore speak what thou knowest.
Job 34:33. Should it be according to thy mind? — Having advised and directed Job how to conduct himself, and what to say to God in his afflicted state, he now proceeds to enforce his advice with solid arguments; should it — Namely, God’s chastening of thee, about which the great controversy was; be according to thy mind? — Or, as thou wouldst have it? Shall thy opinion or affection give laws and measures to God, that he shall afflict only such persons, and in such a manner and measure, and so long, as thou choosest? Does God need, or should he seek for, thy advice how to govern the world, and whom and when to reward or punish? Dost thou quarrel with him because he chastises thee more severely and longer than thou expectedst? He will recompense it — Namely, thy iniquity, expressed Job 34:32; whether thou choose, or whether thou refuse — Whether thou art satisfied with his dispensations, and patiently submittest thereto, or whether thou art offended with them, and rebellest against them; and not I — It is not I nor thou, that must prescribe to God, but he will do what he pleaseth. Or, the Hebrew, ולא אני, velo ani, may be rendered, But not I, and then the sense of the clause will be, Do thou choose or refuse as thou pleasest, and contend with God for acting otherwise with thee than according to thy opinion he ought to act; but so would not I do, if it were my case; and I can say nothing for such a course: but do thou speak what thou knowest, or what thou canst say for it, as it follows. The reader will observe, that the preceding exposition of this obscure verse is given according to our present translation, some of the first words of which, however, namely, those in Italic letters, are not in the Hebrew, and are thought by some learned men to be improperly supplied. Heath, Dodd, and many others, leaving out those words, propose to read the verse thus: It is he will recompense that which proceedeth from thee, whether thou refusest or whether thou choosest, and not I. The words, they think, were intended to induce Job to make confession of his sins, and, in order thereto, include this argument: It is God who is to punish thy sins, and not man: as he, therefore, is perfectly acquainted with them, there is no reason why thou shouldst not make an ample confession of them, since, whether thou comply or refuse, thou wilt receive the same retribution of thy actions.

Let men of understanding tell me, and let a wise man hearken unto me.
Job 34:34-36. Let men of understanding tell me — I am content that any wise man should judge of my words. Let any such tell us what is their opinion. Job hath spoken without knowledge — Job seems to me to be very much mistaken, and his discourse to be inconsiderate, and without reason. My desire is, that Job may be tried — That his words and matters, which I am now debating, may be examined and sifted; unto the end — Thoroughly and exactly, till the cause be brought to an issue; because of his answers for wicked men — Because of his replies or discourses on their behalf: he hath put arguments into their mouths against God and his providence.

Job hath spoken without knowledge, and his words were without wisdom.
My desire is that Job may be tried unto the end because of his answers for wicked men.
For he addeth rebellion unto his sin, he clappeth his hands among us, and multiplieth his words against God.
Job 34:37. He addeth rebellion unto his sin — He sinned before by impatience under his afflictions, but now he is grown obstinate, and, instead of humbling himself for his sins, he justifies himself, and accuses the blessed God. He clappeth his hands among us — In token of victory, insulting and triumphing; and multiplieth his words against God — In effect, though not directly.

Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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