Elihu also proceeded, and said,
Verses 1-33. - The two chapters, ch. 36. and 37, form a single discourse, and ought not to have been separated; or, at any rate, not so unskilfully as they are, in the middle of a description of a thunderstorm. They constitute a final appeal to Job, who is exhorted to submission, resignation, and patience, in consideration of God's inscrutability, and of his perfect justice, wisdom, and strength. Ch. 36 begins with a short preface (vers. 1-4), in which Elihu seeks to prove his right to offer counsel to Job, after which God's justice is demonstrated (vers. 5-16), and Job warned that his petulance may lead to his complete destruction (vers. 17-25). Finally, in illustration of God's might and unsearchableness' the description of a thunderstorm is commenced (vers. 26-33), which is carried on into the next chapter. Verses 1, 2. - Elihu also proceeded, and said, Suffer me a little, and I will show thee that I have yet to speak on God's behalf; literally, that there are yet words for God. The controversy, i.e., is not exhausted; there is yet much that may be urged on God's behalf, in respect of the charges thou hast made against him.
Suffer me a little, and I will shew thee that I have yet to speak on God's behalf.
I will fetch my knowledge from afar, and will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.
Verse 3. - I will fetch my knowledge from afar (compare the declaration of Bildad, Job 8:8). In neither case does the performance justify the pretentious character of the preface. Elihu's arguments are, for the most part, trite and commonplace. And will ascribe righteousness to my Maker. I will show, i.e., that God is righteous and just (comp. Job 34:10, 12).
For truly my words shall not be false: he that is perfect in knowledge is with thee.
Verse 4. - For truly my words shall not be false: he that is perfect in knowledge is with thee. The words sound arrogant; but perhaps Elihu does not mean any more than W pledge himself to speak truthfully, and to say only what he has perfect knowledge cf. It is clear that he speaks of himself, net of God (Stanley Loathes). in the second clause of the verse, as in the first.
Behold, God is mighty, and despiseth not any: he is mighty in strength and wisdom.
Verse 5. - Behold, God is mighty. The preface over, the argument to prove God's justice begins. First, he "is mighty." How unlikely that any one who is mighty - nay, almighty - should be unjust! Next, he despiseth not any. Job has wrongly charged him with "despising the work of his own hands." In truth, he despises nothing that he has made. "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Matthew 10:29, 30). Much less, then, is any man despised. Moreover, God is mighty in strength and wisdom; or rather, in strength of undertaking and therefore above the weakness of being unjust.
He preserveth not the life of the wicked: but giveth right to the poor.
Verse 6. - He preserveth not the life of the wicked. There is no special providence over the life of the wicked, as Job had supposed, or pretended to suppose (Job 21:7; comp. Job 12:6). On the contrary, God "overturneth" wicked men "in the night, so that they are destroyed; he striketh them as wicked men in the open sight of others" (Job 34:25, 26). But giveth right to the poor. The poor and afflicted, the meek and humble, God vindicates. They are his special charge. So far is he from favouring the ungodly.
He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous: but with kings are they on the throne; yea, he doth establish them for ever, and they are exalted.
Verse 7. - He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous. Under no circumstances does God cease to keep an eye upon the righteous, as Job had seemed to imply when he exclaimed, "Oh that I were as in months of old, in the days when God preserved me!" or "watched me!" (Job 29:2). "The eyes of the Lord are" always "upon the righteous, as his ears are open unto their cry" (Psalm 34:15). With kings are they on the throne. In some cases, God shows his care of the righteous by "setting them with princes, even with the princes of his people" (Psalm 113:8), raising them, that is, to high station, and making them companions of the great of the earth. Yea, he doth establish them for ever, and they are exalted. They are permanently established in their high positions, like Joseph and Mordecai and Daniel; and they are exalted to the highest pitch of prosperity.
And if they be bound in fetters, and be holden in cords of affliction;
Verse 8. - And if they be bound in fetters, and be holden in cords of affliction. On the other hand, there are doubtless cases where the righteous suffer adversity - are even "bound in fetters," and "holden in cords of affliction" (Genesis 39:20; Jeremiah 40:1: Daniel 3:21; Matthew 14:3; Acts 12:6; Acts 16:24; Acts 24:27, etc.). But even here God's vigilance is not relaxed. On the contrary, he watches with the utmost care over their afflictions, apportioning them according to the needs of each, and making every possible effort, by means of them, to work their reformation (see the two following verses).
Then he sheweth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded.
Verse 9. - Then he sheweth them their work. God, by his chastisements, makes men see what has been faulty in their life's work, in what respects they have been negligent, where they have lapsed into actual sin. Signal afflictions are a call to men to "consider their ways," and search out the nature of their offences. Some afflictions, as sickness and imprisonment, by depriving men of active employment, almost force them to engage in such a retrospect. And their transgressions that they have exceeded; rather, and their transgressions wherein they have behaved themselves proudly (compare the Revised Version). In all sin, as it is a contempt of God's Law, there is an element of pride. The temptation to pride especially besets those whose conduct is, in outward appearance, correct and virtuous.
He openeth also their ear to discipline, and commandeth that they return from iniquity.
Verse 10 - He openeth also their ear to discipline. It is the especial merit of Elihu's theory of suffering that he views it as far less penal than disciplinary and restorative. Job's sufferings especially he views in this light. Instead of looking upon Job, like his other friends, as a heinous sinner, upon whom Go, I is taking vengeance, he regards him as a person who is being chastised, in love, for some fault or faults that he has committed, to his ultimate advantage and improvement. This, though not exactly the truth, is far nearer the truth than the view taken by the other three "friends." And commandeth that they return from iniquity. God's chastisements are to be viewed as commands to men to "go and sin no more."
If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures.
Verse 11. - If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures (comp. Job 12:13-19; Jeremiah 7:23; Jeremiah 26:13). Under the old covenant, prosperity was promised to the righteous, and even to the repentant, frequently, and in the most definite terms. Under the new, when any such promise is made, it is carefully guarded (Mark 10:30); while in many passages the promise is of an opposite character - the righteous are told to expect tribulations and persecutions (John 16:33; Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:12: Hebrews 12:1-11; 1 Peter 4:12, 13, etc.).
But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge.
Verse 12. - But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword. Not, necessarily, by a material sword, but by the sword of God's vengeance, which slays in a thousand different manners, piercing through all obstacles, and reaching to the heart and spirit. And they shall die without knowledge. Either without knowing that they are about to die, or in their wilful ignorance of God's intentions in chastising them.
But the hypocrites in heart heap up wrath: they cry not when he bindeth them.
Verse 13. - But the hypocrites in heart heap up wrath. In his vindication of God's justice, Elihu here passes from the case of the righteous (ver. 7) to that of the "hypocrites," or rather the ungodly. They, he says, "heap up wrath," i.e. "treasure up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath" (Romans 2:5), continually intensify God's anger against them, and, as it were, lay in a store of it, which will one day be outpoured upon them. They cry not when he bindeth them. They do not cry to him, they do not deprecate his anger, when they first find themselves bound with the "cords of affliction" (ver. 8), but allow his wrath to increase and accumulate.
They die in youth, and their life is among the unclean.
Verse 14. - They die in youth; literally, their soul dieth in youth. The result is that, while they are still young, the vital strength of their soul is sapped; they "come to a premature end, like youths who have destroyed the spring of life by licentiousness" (Cook). And their life is among the unclean. (On the particular "uncleanness" intended, see Deuteronomy 23:17.)
He delivereth the poor in his affliction, and openeth their ears in oppression.
Verse 15. - He delivereth the poor in his affliction; rather, he delivereth the afflicted by his affliction (see the Revised Version). Elihu recurs to what he had said in ver. 10 with respect to the discipline of affliction. The bulk of the afflictions sent by God are, according to him, intended to act medicinally. If the afflicted man receives them aright, they are the very means of his deliverance (comp. Psalm 119:67, 71; Hebrews 12:11). And openeth their ears in oppression; rather, by suffering. Their sufferings lead them to God, cause them to pay more attention to his Word, lead them to open their ears to his inward voice.
Even so would he have removed thee out of the strait into a broad place, where there is no straitness; and that which should be set on thy table should be full of fatness.
Verse 16. - Even so would he have removed thee out of the strait into a broad pine, where there is no straitness; and that which should be set on thy table should be full of fatness. Another quite different interpretation has been proposed by Ewald, and adopted by Dillmann and Canon Cook, who suppose Elihu to speak, not of what would have happened to Job under certain circumstances, but of what had actually happened to him, and render, "Thee moreover hath thy unbounded prosperity seduced from listening to the voice of affliction, and the case of thy table which was full of fatness." But the rendering of the Authorized Version, which is substantially that of Schultens and Rosenmuller, is still upheld by many scholars, and has been retained by our Revisers. If we adopt it, we must understand Elihu as assuring Job that he too would have been delivered and restored to his prosperity, if he had accepted his afflictions in a proper spirits and learnt the lesson they were intended to teach him (see vers. 9, 10).
But thou hast fulfilled the judgment of the wicked: judgment and justice take hold on thee.
Verse 17. - But thou hast fulfilled the judgment of the wicked; i.e. but, as thou hast not so acted, the result has been different. Thy hardness and impenitence have brought upon thee the judgments reserved by God for the wicked - judgment and justice take hold on thee - thou art suffering the just penalty of thy obstinacy.
Because there is wrath, beware lest he take thee away with his stroke: then a great ransom cannot deliver thee.
Verse 18. - Because there is wrath, beware lest he take thee away with his stroke. The original is exceedingly obscure, and three or four quite distinct renderings have been proposed; but one of the latest critics (Professor Stanley Loathes) prefers to all the other translations that of the Authorized Version. Job is threatened by Elihu with a coming judgment which shall remove him from the earth altogether. Then a great ransom cannot deliver thee. Once let destruction fall, and there is no longer any place for ransom. Nothing can then deliver thee from thy just punishment.
Will he esteem thy riches? no, not gold, nor all the forces of strength.
Verse 19. - Will he esteem thy riches! rather, Will thy riches suffice? (Revised Version); or Will they stand the shock of battle? (Schultens). Will they be a sufficient strength to thee in the time of trouble? No, not gold. This rendering is now generally given up, and the words, lo betsar (לא בצר), are taken in connection with the preceding sentence, thus: Will thy riches suffice that thou be not in distress? or, in other words, Will they keep thee out of trouble? If not, will all the forces of thy strength suffice to do so? Assuredly, nothing will avail against the "stroke" of God (ver. 18).
Desire not the night, when people are cut off in their place.
Verse 20. - Desire not the night, when people (rather, peoples) are cut off in their place. This is an allusion to Job's repeatedly expressed desire to be cut off at once, and laid in the grave (Job 6:9; Job 7:15; Job 14:13, etc.). Elihu holds that such a desire is wrongful. It certainly implies a want of complete resignation to the Divine will.
Take heed, regard not iniquity: for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction.
Verse 21. - Take heed, regard not iniquity; i.e. be on thy guard. Whilst thou art careful to preserve thy integrity and faith in God, do not fall into sin in other respects - as by impatient desires, or proud thoughts, or rash accusations of God. For this hast thou chosen rather than affliction. Rather than acquiesce in thy afflictions and bear them patiently, thou hast elected to murmur, to complain, to question the justice of God, and speak overboldly concerning him. There is some ground for Elihu's condemnation; but it is excessive; it fails to make allowance for the extremity of Job's sufferings, and the disturbing influence of extreme suffering on the mind and judgment. It is, at any rate, more severe than God's judgment upon his servant (Job 38:2; Job 42:7).
Behold, God exalteth by his power: who teacheth like him?
Verse 22. - Behold, God exalteth by his power; rather, behold, God doeth loftily in his power (see the Revised Version). Who teacheth like him? This has been called "the key-note of Elihu's whole discourse" (Cook). The entire providential government of the world by God he views as didactic, as a series of moral lessons addressed to men by their Maker (see Job 33:14, 16; Job 35:11; Job 36:9, etc.). If the lessons intended are taken to heart, then all goes well with men; if they are rejected, then very sad and terrible results follow (Job 36:12).
Who hath enjoined him his way? or who can say, Thou hast wrought iniquity?
Verse 23. - Who hath enjoined him his way? (comp. Job 34:13). While God is thus the universal and all-perfect Teacher, there are some who would fain instruct him, dictate the course which he ought to pursue, improve and amend his universe. Something of this spirit has appeared in Job's remonstrances, which seem to insinuate that the Divine government of the world might be carried on better than it is (see Job 9:22-24; Job 10:3; Job 13:20-26; Job 16:11-17, etc.). Elihu's intention is to reprove Job for his presumption. Or who can say, Thou hast wrought iniquity? Job has not said this; but he has gone near to saying it (Job 9:24; Job 10:3; Job 21:7-26; Job 24:2-12, etc.); compare the comment on Job 34:5-12.
Remember that thou magnify his work, which men behold.
Verse 24. - Remember that thou magnify his work. Instead of murmuring, Job should "magnify God's work." He should recognize the mercy of God, even in his own afflictions, and praise him for it. Which men behold. Men are looking on, anxiously considering Job's sufferings; he is a spectacle to them, as the apostles were to men and angels (1 Corinthians 4:9), and the more reason therefore that he should, by patient endurance, by submission and confession, cause his sufferings to redound to the glory and honour of God.
Every man may see it; man may behold it afar off.
Verse 25. - Every man may see it; rather, sees it, or has seen it. Man may behold it afar off; rather, beholds it, or has beheld it, from afar. Job's afflictions have drawn all eyes upon them - not only those of his neighbours, but of many who look on "from afar."
Behold, God is great, and we know him not, neither can the number of his years be searched out.
Verses 26-33. - Elihu passes now to a description, which must be allowed to be eloquent, of the power and providence of God, and especially of his power in the natural world. It is suggested that the storm, which ultimately broke at the theophania (Job 38:1), was already beginning to gather, and turned the thoughts of Elihu in this direction. He begins with the consideration of how rain is generated, passes rapidly to the gathering of the clouds from all quarters, and thence to the loud crashing of the thunder, and the dazzling flashes of the lightning, which illumine even the lowest depths of the sea (ver. 30). The effects of the storm are then spoken of, in words the exact meaning of which is very obscure (vers. 31-33). Verse 26. - Behold, God is great, and we know him not. This is the final lesson which Elihu seeks to impress on his hearers. God is so great their fully to comprehend him transcends the power of the human understanding. However much we know of him, there is more that we do not know. His nature is unsearchable; his depths (1 Corinthians 2:10) are inscrutable; try as we may, we can never "find him out" (Job 37:23). Neither can the number of his years be searched out. Even his duration, being eternal, is beyond us. We cannot realize the thought of pre- and post-eternity.
For he maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof:
Verse 27. - For he maketh small the drops of water; rather, he drawth up the drops of water; i.e. by the heat of his sun he causes exhalations to arise from the sea and the moist earth, and draws them up into the higher regions of the atmosphere, where they are condensed into clouds, that hang suspended in the air. They pour down rain according to the vapour thereof; literally, they flow down as rain for his mist. The water collected in the clouds flows down in the shape of rain for the purpose of watering the earth (see Genesis 2:6, where the same word (אד) occurs).
Which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly.
Verse 28. - Which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly. All is done for man, for his benefit and advantage.
Also can any understand the spreadings of the clouds, or the noise of his tabernacle?
Verse 29. - Also can any understand the spreadings of the clouds? The rapid generation of clouds, their gathering together, seemingly, from all quarters, and the way they almost suddenly overspread the heavens (1 Kings 18:45). are among the most remarkable phenomena of nature, and are very difficult to "understand" and account for. Or the noise of his tabernacle. The awful crash of the thunder, which echoes along the sky - God's "tabernacle," or pavilion (Psalm 18:11) - is, if not as inexplicable, even more fearful and astounding. Man shrinks and quails before the terrible sound, and feels himself in the presence of a mighty and inscrutable power.
Behold, he spreadeth his light upon it, and covereth the bottom of the sea.
Verse 30. - Behold, he spreadeth his light upon it. God flashes the weird brilliance of his lightning over the heaven - not over himself, as some translate (Rosenmuller, Cook). He lights up the whole sky at once with the electric splendour, and even covereth with it the bottom (literally, the roots) of the see. This is, of course, hyperbole; but it seems to be Elihu's meaning.
For by them judgeth he the people; he giveth meat in abundance.
Verse 31. - For by them judgeth he the people. By his clouds God works two opposite effects. On the one hand, he executes judgment upon the peoples, destroying their crops, causing widespread ruin by inundations, smiting and slaying numbers with his thunderbolts; on the other, he giveth meat in abundance, restoring to the parched earth its fertility by means of copious and refreshing showers, stimulating vegetation, and so furthering the harvest.
With clouds he covereth the light; and commandeth it not to shine by the cloud that cometh betwixt.
Verse 32. - With clouds he covereth the light; rather, he covereth both his hands with light, i.e. with the lightning. So Vul was represented in Assyrian and Zeus in Greek mythology, as filling their hands with thunderbolts, and hurling them upon their foes in their wrath. And commandeth it not to shine, etc. This rendering is wholly indefensible. Translate, And layeth command upon it that it strike the mark (compare the Revised Version).
The noise thereof sheweth concerning it, the cattle also concerning the vapour.
Verse 33. - The noise thereof showeth concerning it; or, concerning him. The loud crash proclaims the fierceness of God's anger. The cattle also concerning the vapour; rather, it sheweth the cattle also concerning him that goeth up; i.e. the very cattle also feel that God is in the storm, rides upon it, and "goeth up" (comp. Psalm 47:5). The rendering of the Revised Version, "(it showeth) the cattle also concerning the storm that cometh up," is very weak, and unworthy of such an orator as Elihu.
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