BOTH THE CHARACTER AND GOVERNANCE OF GOD REFUTE ANY CHARGE OF INJUSTICE
Roy Zuck: Job’s Complaint: God is unjust; He does not relieve me of my suffering (19:6-7; 27:2; cf. 34:5-6).
Francis Andersen: Elihu’s defense of the justice of God, which blends the themes of his power, knowledge and impartiality (10–30), is flanked by open attacks on Job for impiety (2–9) and folly (31–37).
John Hartley: Elihu now defends God’s righteous rule against Job’s inflammatory complaint that since God fails to keep times of judgment the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. Believing that God never does wrong, Elihu contends that God speedily punishes all the wicked, including powerful kings. He never shows partiality in his judgment. Elihu argues this point so intensely because he seems to fear that Job, in hardening his heart to God’s disciplinary judgment, stands in danger of the final punishment, death. Therefore, he wants to convince Job to relinquish his complaint and submit himself to God. . .
Elihu has endeavored to refute both Job’s claim of innocence and his complaint that God does not always execute justice in matters on earth by elaborating the thesis that God, the sovereign Lord, governs the world justly. Nothing escapes God’s attention nor does he allow any wicked person to exert his influence unchecked. From this perspective Elihu cannot fathom how any human being could demand that God grant him judicial hearing by filing a complaint against God himself. In fact, such a demand reeks of rebellion against God’s rule. Job, therefore, needs to accept God’s disciplinary punishment rather than questioning God’s motives. Otherwise he is deserving of the severest penalty.
Delitzsch: If we confine our attention to the real substance of the speech, apart from the emotional and rough accessories, Elihu cast back the reproach of injustice which Job has raised, first as being contradictory to the being of God, ch. xxxiv. 10 sq.; then he seeks to refute it as contradicting God’s government … It is worthy of recognition, that … his [Elihu’s] theodicy [defense of God] differs essentially from that proclaimed by the friends. It is not derived from mere appearance, but lays hold of the very principles.
Warren Wiersbe: Elihu presented three arguments to prove that there is no injustice with God.
– To begin with, if God is unjust, then He is not God (34:10-15)
– His second argument is that if God were unjust, there could be no just government on earth (34:16-20).
– Elihu’s third argument is that if God were unjust, then He must not see what is going on in the world (34:21-30).
David Clines: The nodal verse is surely v 17, “Can one who hates justice govern?,” for the issue of the speech is the very question of what it means to be a governor, arising as it does from Job’s assertion that God has taken away his rights (v 5). . . This second speech (chap. 34) is of a rather different character. Here the theme is no longer the educative role of suffering, and Elihu’s manner has lost some of its expository tone. The theme becomes rather the rebelliousness of Job against the divine justice, and the manner becomes correspondingly more assertive and dogmatic.
The argument in both movements is the same: God, as the supreme governor of the universe, cannot do wrong by failing to requite good and bad behavior appropriately, whereas Job, who is claiming that God has treated him unjustly, is doing wrong by implying that God has perverted justice. . .
In the speech Elihu explores the question of God’s justice in a quite thoughtful way. No one can of course equal the power of Job’s fierce diatribes against the dogma of divine justice in the face of the realities of human existence. But Elihu in reply does not simply throw up his hands in horror (he does in vv 5–9), as the other friends have been inclined to do. Without seeking to resolve the problems of retributive justice or to explain the many contradictions to it that are empirically encountered, he asks rather what it means for God to be the supreme governor of the universe, and what sense a charge of injustice could make in reference to such a one.
Though he refers to God as “the Righteous Mighty One” (v 17), his point is by no means that for the universal governor might equals right. Rather, he is affirming that the very business of governing is the dispensing of justice, and that it makes no sense to envisage an unjust ruler of the world. The special supporting case Elihu takes up is of God’s authority over human subordinates, kings and princes, who can be judged and deposed by him without fear or favor (vv 18–20). That is what it means to be a governor: controlling those with power in one’s realm. The evidence from human history and society shows that God is running a tight ship, says Elihu: mighty rulers fall in a moment and are replaced by others, a testimony to the divine system of justice that keeps all power holders under perpetual scrutiny (vv 21–22), executes instant and public judgment (vv 23–26), and ensures that the people they rule are protected from unjust government (v 30). Indeed, the dispensing of life and death across the whole creation (vv 14–15) is a signal that the divine writ runs everywhere, requiting to everyone according to their deeds, whether for weal or for woe (v 11). Even if God appears to be inactive in just rulership, behind the scenes he is controlling the fate of nations and individuals alike (vv 29c–30).
There are just two flaws in Elihu’s argument. First, the evidence of history is against it. Tyrants may fall in an instant, but do they, as a matter of course? Secondly, he does not allow for the possibility that the supreme governor of the universe is himself an arbitrary tyrant. If the second rung of world governors, kings and princes and the like, can include evildoers who should be deposed, who is to say that the very top rung is not occupied by the ultimate malign force? It is not a question that very often arises, for most of those who do not believe in an all-just God do not believe in any God at all. But it is precisely Job’s question, for while he does not for a moment doubt the existence of God, he deeply questions God’s integrity. And so Elihu, like all the other friends, talks right past Job.
(:1-4) PROLOGUE – ELIHU’S SECOND SPEECH
“Then Elihu continued and said,”
(:2-4) CALL FOR DISCERNMENT
Elmer Smick: In 12:11–12 Job was sarcastic about the bad “food” the counselors had been dishing out to him under the guise of “the wisdom of the aged.” Elihu here is determined to show where real wisdom lies, where food may be found that is really good. He calls for all who are wise to join him in his banquet of words to find out how good they are.
A. (:2) Listen to Me
“Hear my words, you wise men,
And listen to me, you who know.”
Derek Kidner: He is not speaking to Job, but to the “wise men” (34:2), possibly the three friends. His point is simple and forceful: if God is just (as he undoubtedly is), any criticism of him is necessarily unjust. Since Job has been criticizing God, he is in the wrong. The case against Job seems irrefutable.
The problem with this kind of reasoning is that it has failed to take into account Job’s actual predicament. Elihu is arguing in a manner that seems divorced from the reality of Job’s pain. What he says is true in general, but misses the point that Job is making. His theology is impeccable: God’s right to rule owes itself to no one except God himself (34:13). He is the sovereign Sustainer who reveals his grace every moment of the day by granting life and breath to man (34:14-15). God is “the just and mighty One” (34:17). He rules without “partiality” (34:18-19). The mighty die at God’s command (34:20). They are not in control of it in any way (34:23). He does not have to give an account for what he does: he may bring down the mighty suddenly and quickly (34:24-25). Those who have abused their power will be punished (34:26-28). Even if God seems slow to act, that is his prerogative: God cannot be accused of injustice (34:29-30).
For Elihu, then, Job’s demand for vindication is constantly imputing wrong to God. Job has, by this demand, added “rebellion” to his sins (34:37).
B. (:3) Exercise Discernment
“For the ear tests words,
As the palate tastes food.”
Peter Wallace: The Discerning Ear Will Know the Good (v.1-4)
C. (:4) Choose What is Right and Good
“Let us choose for ourselves what is right;
Let us know among ourselves what is good.”
John Hartley: Elihu asks he wise to listen attentively (he ‘ezin), for the ear discerns the truth of the spoken word just as the palate tastes food (cf. 12:11). He requests that they join him in deciding which line of argumentation, Job’s or his, is right (mispat) and good (tob). Right stands for that which is legally correct and good for that which is morally sound. If the elders side with his position, Elihu is hopeful that Job will change his mind and leave off his complaint against God.
I. (:5-9) ELIHU’S MISCHARACTERIZATION OF JOB’S ATTACK AGAINST GOD’S JUSTICE
A. (:5) Job’s Complaint against God
“For Job has said, ‘I am righteous,
But God has taken away my right;’”
Peter Wallace: When you are talking with someone else, you need to work hard to understand them on their own terms. (Not that you need to agree with their way of thinking – but until you understand how they think, you will never answer them clearly and cogently).
B. (:6) Job’s Incurable Wound Despite His Integrity
“Should I lie concerning my right?
My wound is incurable,
though I am without transgression.”
David Guzik: This was another slight mischaracterization of what Job said. Job certainly did claim to be wounded so severely by his trials that it might seem incurable; yet again he never claimed to be sinless. He only claimed that there was not some special sin that made him the target of this special catastrophe.
C. (:7-8) Job’s Condemnation by Elihu
1. (:7) Worthy of Derision
“What man is like Job,
Who drinks up derision like water,”
John Hartley: The picture is that of a very thirsty person gulping down large amounts of water. With a similar metaphor Eliphaz had said that a vile, corrupt man drinks iniquity like water (15:16). What Eliphaz had implied about Job, Elihu says bluntly. He charges that Job has accepted the scorn heaped on him without shame. He comes to this conclusion, for he is convinced that the taunting that Job bears does not move him to adopt a humble attitude.
2. (:8) Walks with the Wicked
“Who goes in company with the workers of iniquity,
And walks with wicked men?”
D. (:9) Job’s Outrageous Conclusion Mischaracterized by Elihu
“For he has said,
‘It profits a man nothing
When he is pleased with God.’”
Elmer Smick: Verse 9 is not a direct quotation of Job. In 21:15 Job imagined wicked people saying this, and then Job complained that calamity did not come very often on them (21:17). So it is only by implication that Elihu can accuse Job. His accusation is based on Job’s sentiment that the righteous get the same treatment as the wicked.
David Guzik: Job certainly said nothing like this. We can understand how Elihu thought this about Job, because Job claimed to delight in God and he now seemed to claim that it profited him nothing. But Elihu is taking general trains of thought of Job, and extending them further than Job did.
Mason: What most alarmed Elihu about Job was that somehow this man had the cheek to blame God for his problems, and yet still to consider himself righteous and faithful.
David Clines: The clinching example of Job’s harmful theology is, according to Elihu, his statement that there is no profit in religion. It is true that Job has said, in two classic passages at least, that there is no reward for good or punishment for evil: in 9:22 he has said that God destroys both righteous and wicked alike, and in 21:7 that the wicked live to a ripe old age and are not cut off for their sins. In the one place, that sounds as if there is no profit in religion because there is no profit anywhere, in the other as if there is no profit in religion because there is no retributive punishment anywhere. Either way, Elihu’s report of Job’s theology seems fair. Yet it is this same Job who has also described the wicked as those who say, “What gain shall we have if we pray to him?” (21:15). On this matter of profit Job has been in a double bind: if he says religion is profitable, it means that his piety is not disinterested (as well as contradicting his own experience); but if he says religion is unprofitable, he aligns himself with the wicked who have no time for God. For Elihu it is obvious that Job’s language is impious (as also talk of the unprofitability of religion is in Mal 3:14), but for Job it is the language of a God-obsessed man wrestling with the problems of theodicy.
II. (:10-30) ELIHU’S DEFENSE OF GOD’S JUSTICE
Matthew Henry: He undertakes to convince him that he had spoken amiss, by showing very fully,
1. God’s incontestable justice, ver 10-12, 17, 19, 23.
2. His sovereign dominion, ver 13-15.
3. His almighty power, ver 20, 24.
4. His omniscience, ver 21, 22, 25.
5. His severity against sinners, ver 26-28.
6. His overruling providence, ver 29, 30.
A. (:10-15) Impossible for God to Pervert Justice
(:10a) Appeal for Discernment
“Therefore, listen to me, you men of understanding.”
Francis Andersen: Elihu [in vv. 10-15] repeats the self-evident truth that God can do no wrong. He attaches three thoughts to this proposition. First, he infers from God’s supremacy as Creator that He is not accountable to anyone (13). This takes us to the edge of a dangerous cliff. For, if everything God does is right, by definition, and if, because He is Sovereign, God does everything that happens, it follows that everything that happens is right, and the category of evil disappears. Secondly, verses 14 and 15 specify that every living thing depends on God for its being, so that He may, indiscriminately or universally, withdraw this gift of existence and do nothing wrong. This is a fine acknowledgment of God as owner of all, and a fine tribute to His might. But it leaves no grounds for saying that any act of God is ‘good’ rather than ‘bad’. ‘Might makes right’ is the upshot of Elihu’s doctrine, and in this emphasis he approaches rather closely to Job’s contention. But he wriggles out of the difficulty by falling back on the doctrine that God requites every person according to his behaviour (11), stating it in crass individualistic terms. But this is the very thing under debate, and no answer to the problem.
John Hartley: With the conjunction Therefore Elihu marks the transition from his presentation of Job’s position to the development of his own thesis. At this point he again entreats the wise to listen to his words. The wise are called men of understanding (‘anse lebab, lit. “men of heart”). With the solemn adjuration far be it (halila), Elihu loudly exclaims his thesis that God could never do evil (resa) or wrong (‘awel). He formulates the thesis negatively to enhance its impact. Then he states the reason for this thesis positively.
1. (:10b-12) Based on General Principle
a. (:10b) Injustice Is Inconsistent with God’s Character
“Far be it from God to do wickedness,
And from the Almighty to do wrong.”
Elmer Smick: From this point on throughout the next twenty-one verses, Elihu expounds on the theme that “God only does right.” Notice how he repeats himself to emphasize this theme in vv.10 and 12. . . Whether Job has seen it or not, Elihu insists on that most basic truth: “For truly God cannot perpetrate evil” (‘It is unthinkable that God would do wrong!” NIV, v.12).
b. (:11) Immutability of Retribution Theology
“For He pays a man according to his work,
And makes him find it according to his way.”
David Guzik: Many people today believe the idea of Elihu (and Eliphaz) and believe it as an absolute spiritual law instead of a general principle. Some take the passage from Galatians 6:7: Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. Yet it is important to understand the context of Paul’s statement, which was encouragement and exhortation for Christians to give materially for the support of their ministers. It is true that the principle of Galatians 6:7 has application beyond giving and supporting teachers and ministers. It has a general application in life; what we get out is often what we put in. Yet Paul did not promote some law of spiritual karma that ensures we will receive good when we do good things or always receive bad when we do bad things. If there were such an absolute spiritual law, it would surely damn us all. Instead, Paul simply related the principle of sowing and reaping to the way we manage our resources before the Lord. He used the same picture in 1 Corinthians 9:11 and 2 Corinthians 9:6-10.
c. (:12) Impossibility of God Perverting Justice
“Surely, God will not act wickedly,
And the Almighty will not pervert justice.”
2. (:13-15) Based on God’s Independent and Transcendent Governance
David Clines: Perhaps the best line of approach is this: if life, which depends entirely on God’s decision, continues as it does, it shows that God is not perverting the justice due to the righteous. You have only to assume, says Elihu, that there are righteous people and that they deserve to live. The fact that they continue to live shows that God is not acting wickedly; if he were, they would be dead. He has only to withdraw his breath, and they would meet their fate. . . Only those who deserve to live are alive, so Elihu believes. Ergo, God does not pervert justice.
John Hartley: This teaching means that whatever misfortune a person experiences is justly deserved. There are no exceptions, for God makes no mistakes. Elihu resolutely renounces Job’s stern accusation against God when he said: “Know then that God has put me in the wrong and closed his net about me” (19:6). Elihu is convinced that in statements like this Job has gone too far in his questioning and is guilty of rebelling against God.
a. (:13) Accountable to Nobody
“Who gave Him authority over the earth?
And who has laid on Him the whole world?”
Delitzsch: There is … a divine love which has called the world into being and keeps it in being; and this love, as the perfect opposite of sovereign caprice, is a pledge for the absolute righteousness of the divine rule.
David Clines: God’s undisputed sovereignty over the world ensures that whatever he wants to happen does happen, and thus, implicitly, that if some humans are rewarded and some are punished, that is God’s implementation of his ruling principle of retribution.
John Hartley: With rhetorical questions Elihu asks who gave God the right to rule. The answer is, of course, no one! God, being supreme, does not have to report to anyone. Since his right to rule is inherent in his being, any challenge of his rule is a disparagement of his person.
b. (:14-15) Sovereign over All Life
“If He should determine to do so,
If He should gather to Himself His spirit and His breath,
15 All flesh would perish together,
And man would return to dust.”
David Guzik: Here, Elihu wanted to emphasize the idea of God’s independence and transcendence. He wanted Job to remember that God was so mighty that Job was entirely wrong to question Him at all.
David Clines: As the sole governor and sustainer of the universe (v 13), God would find it very easy to destroy all his creation (vv 14b–15), if he set his mind to it (v 14a). But he does not do so because that would be unjust to those who deserve to live, and he would not be true to himself if he did not uphold the rights of the righteous.
John Hartley: Since all human existence is contingent on God’s will, a person risks his life in contesting God’s lordship.
B. (:16-30) Implementation of Justice = Essence of Governance
(:16) Appeal for Discernment
“But if you have understanding, hear this;
Listen to the sound of my words.”
1. (:17-20) Disregard for Justice Out of the Question
Elmer Smick: From all this Elihu maintains that people are not in a position to stand as God’s judge (v.17). Without God’s impartial judgment, especially on those who hold power (vv.18–19), the world would dissolve into hopeless anarchy. Because of his omnipotence, no one can influence him as he actively governs.
David Clines: In the first strophe of this address to Job, Elihu argues that just rule is of the essence of God’s sovereignty. Deciding cases, discriminating between suppliants, ordering the social framework, impartially dispensing justice, that is the very business of a ruler. Anyone who does not care for that line of work does not become a sovereign: does an enemy of justice govern (v 17a)? Elihu’s thought is not so crass as some of his commentators make out: he is far from arguing that might is right or that God’s power in itself is all the guarantee needed for the rightness of his judgments. And Elihu is not much concerned here with the case of tyrants and unjust rulers (except insofar as they lie under God’s judgment, v 18), though as limiting cases they are not a little damaging to his position. The center of his thesis is this: rectitude is bound up in the notion of sovereignty.
a. (:17) Perversion of Justice Out of the Question
“Shall one who hates justice rule?
And will you condemn a righteous mighty one,”
Warren Wiersbe: However, Elihu made a big mistake in singling out and emphasizing only one divine attribute, the justice of God; for God is also loving and gracious. (Bildad had made the same mistake in his speeches.) In His wisdom, God devised a plan of redemption that satisfies both His justice and His love (Rom. 3:21-31). Because of the Cross, God can redeem sinners and still magnify His righteousness and uphold His holy law.
John Hartley: In the OT it is assumed that justice is the foundation of God’s rule (cf. Ps. 96:4-13). Elihu highlights this dogma by juxtaposing two of God’s honorific titles: the Righteous One (saddiq) and the Mighty One (kabbir, cf. Ps. 99:4). In this way of thinking, if it is true that God fails to judge justly, as Job complains, then Job’s belief that God is all-powerful is invalid. But since Job still thinks that God rules supremely, then he is surely mistaken in his charge that God hates justice. It is logically impossible in Elihu’s reasoning for one who hates justice to govern (habas). This argument had much more weight in ancient times than today (cf. Prov. 16:10-15; 20:8), for the philosophy behind Western democracies requires the separation of the judicial system from the executive branch of government. But in ancient thought justice and power were believed to be united in the ideal ruler. The word translated govern (habas, lit. “to bind”) is significant. It has this meaning only in this passage. This word has many special usages: “to saddle (an animal)”; “to heal,” i.e., to bind up a wound for healing; “to wrap” on a turban. In Syriac and Arabic it also means “to put in irons, imprison.” With God as its subject it often carries the sense of healing (Ps. 147:2-3; cf. Hos. 6:1; Isa. 30:26; 61:1). Elihu may have chosen this word to mean “govern” in order to emphasize the redemptive nature of God’s rule.
b. (:18-19) Partiality in Justice Out of the Question
“Who says to a king, ‘Worthless one,’
To nobles, ‘Wicked ones’;
19 Who shows no partiality to princes,
Nor regards the rich above the poor,
For they all are the work of His hands?”
David Clines: God is impartial because from his perspective all humans are on a common footing, as equally his creatures (the reference in the third colon is probably to all humans, rather than to rulers, as Peake suggested). And again, it is not their creatureliness that disposes God to act kindly toward them; it is that their common status as the “work of his hands” makes the social distinctions they have engineered among themselves entirely insignificant.
Roy Zuck: Partiality on God’s part is out of the question because He is not influenced by men’s power or money.
c. (:20) Justice Administered Swiftly and Unexpectedly – Even to the Most Powerful
“In a moment they die,
and at midnight people are shaken and pass away,
And the mighty are taken away without a hand.”
2. (:21-30) Demonstration of Justice Apparent to All
Elmer Smick: Such impartial governance of the world is typified by God’s punishment of the wicked rulers who disregard his ways. This justice lies behind all the order there is, and it is confirmed and guaranteed by God’s omniscience as well as his omnipotence. Job had complained over the delay of justice (21:19; 24:1). Elihu maintains that God does not have to set times for inquiry and judgment. His omniscience enables him to judge all the time. God hears the cry of the poor and needy and punishes the wicked openly, but it is his prerogative to remain silent if and when it pleases him (v.29). Even then he keeps his control over individuals and nations for the common good (vv.29c–30?). And even then he may use the wicked to punish the wicked and so keep the godless from ruling.
a. (:21-22) God Sees All
“For His eyes are upon the ways of a man,
And He sees all his steps.
22 There is no darkness or deep shadow
Where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.”
David Clines: vs. 21 — Despite appearances, it is not to Elihu’s purpose to turn his attention to the fate of evildoers in general. His theme in the speech as a whole is the justice of God’s universal governorship (vv 10, 12), and one of his proofs of it has been God’s readiness to bring to book subordinate rulers who deviate from his standards (vv 18–19). They have been the focus in v 18, where God evaluates kings and high-ranking officials; in v 19, where he is beyond partiality; and in v 20, where his execution of judgment against the “mighty” removes them from their office.
b. (:23) God Needs No Investigative Dialogue
“For He does not need to consider a man further,
That he should go before God in judgment.”
John Hartley: Conversely, no human being has the prerogative to set a time to come before God in judgment. God, whose reign is just and sovereign, is too exalted to have to give any accounting of his rule to anyone. In his sovereign wisdom he appropriately sets the seasons of judgment.
c. (:24-25) God Strikes Down the Mighty
“He breaks in pieces mighty men without inquiry,
And sets others in their place.
25 Therefore He knows their works,
And He overthrows them in the night,
And they are crushed.”
David Clines: Significantly, Elihu includes in his depiction of God’s judgment on these unjust rulers the fact that he “sets others in their place” (v 24b). For God’s purpose is not only to punish the unjust by removing their authority; it is equally to supply alternative rulers, worthier and more honest, in order to ensure that good government is restored.
d. (:26-30) God Renders Judgment on His Terms
1) (:26-27) Judges the Rebellious
“He strikes them like the wicked in a public place,
27 Because they turned aside from following Him,
And had no regard for any of His ways;”
David Guzik: Elihu meant this as a warning for Job. God’s judgment was so perfect that He judged the kings and princes of this world without partiality. Therefore, if Job did not repent of the sin that prompted his crisis and his sinful response to it, he could be certain God would judge him as one who turned back from Him.
John Hartley: Elihu stresses God’s punishment of the wicked. God strikes the guilty for their wickedness in a public place. Such punishment is a just recompense for their clandestine ways of exploiting the poor and afflicted, causing those innocent victims public disgrace. . . God punishes these arrogant rulers in a manner that shames them deeply.
2) (:28) Judges the Oppressors
“So that they caused the cry of the poor to come to Him,
And that He might hear the cry of the afflicted—“
3) (:29-30) Judges According to His Timetable
“When He keeps quiet, who then can condemn?
And when He hides His face, who then can behold Him,
That is, in regard to both nation and man?—
30 So that godless men should not rule,
Nor be snares of the people.”
Francis Andersen: No explanation is necessary, so Job has no grounds for complaint because God has been silent to him. God is not beholden to any man for explanations, which, in any case, a man might not grasp because he sees but a few of the facts, whereas God sees all. But verses 29f. are not satisfactory, and some have found in them a darker and more disturbing thought. Even if God is quite inactive, leaving evil unchecked, who can condemn? If he chooses to hide his face, who can make him show it? The only possible explanation, brought out by NEB, is that ‘he makes a godless man king’ to punish ‘a stubborn nation’. The prophets were able to entertain the thought that the Assyrian was the rod of God’s anger (e.g. Isa. 10:5), and Habakkuk could think the same about the Babylonians. But they always added that these nations, despite such use by God, were fully accountable for their evil deeds, and would in due time pay for them. But this involves a historical stage, group guilt, and long spans of time, which are not used in the book of Job. This keeps the problem focused on the apparent injustice of God’s treatment of one man, Job.
David Clines: Since the theme of God’s assured control of his subordinate governors is what animates this strophe, it is only proper that at its end the purpose of his ever-watchfulness over both nations and persons (v 29c) should become explicit: it is in order that unjust rulers should not survive or treat their peoples like the prey of a wild animal.
John Hartley: Though God remains silent, i.e., he lets affairs on earth take their ordinary course so that a tyrant rises to rule over a nation, who among mankind would ever be in a position to condemn him as Job has (e.g., 24:1-17)? When God hides his face (i.e., himself) or seems to withdraw his influence form the course of events on earth, no one can behold him. Then evil appears to reign supreme. Nevertheless, God still in control over both a nation (goy) and a man (‘adam). God does not permit a godless man (hanep) to establish a long, enduring rule. Such a tyrant is characterized as one who lays snares, i.e., uses deceitful schemes, to capture or coerce the people. Elihu holds that even if this is true, no claim that God rules unjustly could ever be substantiated. God’s slowness to act does not deny his sovereignty.
III. (:31-37) PERSONAL POLEMIC AGAINST JOB
Peter Wallace: In verses 31-37 Elihu concludes that wise men and men of understanding will convict Job.
– Job, he says, answers like wicked men.
– Job has embraced the counsel of the wicked.
David Clines: Elihu turns to Job again with his advice on what Job should be saying, formulating for him, a bit presumptuously, the very words he should use by way of confession of his wrongdoing. For Elihu the only way forward is for Job to acknowledge his sin and to promise he will not offend again (vv 31–32). He cannot expect that God will adopt his standards of justice and reward him as Job himself sees fit, especially when Job has declared himself so violently in opposition to God (v 33ab). Though Elihu can offer advice, it is of no value unless Job makes up his own mind about how he will act: he needs to sort out where he stands now, and make an open confession of what he really believes (v 34cd).
A. (:31-33) Call for Job to Repent
1. (:31) Respond to Divine Discipline
“For has anyone said to God,
‘I have borne chastisement;
I will not offend anymore;’”
David Guzik: Here, Elihu spoke the words of humble repentance that he thought Job should have said. Job was the anyone that Elihu had in mind.
• He should have taken the chastening like a man.
• He should have promised to offend no more, therefore admitting his previous guilt.
• He should have humbly submitted, asking God to teach him.
John Hartley: Elihu formulates for Job a confession for one who has arrogantly challenged God’s rule. Job should say, “I am guilty. I will not offend [habal] again.” Then he needs to ask God to teach him what he does not see. Also, he must be resolved to cease doing whatever iniquity he has done. These are elements of true repentance.
2. (:32) Reveal to Me Secret Sins
“Teach Thou me what I do not see;
If I have done iniquity, I will do it no more?”
3. (:33) Render Your Decision
“Shall He recompense on your terms,
because you have rejected it?
For you must choose, and not I;
Therefore declare what you know.”
John Hartley: It is difficult to make full sense out of v. 33 in this context. The verse seems to contain a question put to Job, seeking to convince him of the absurdity of his resolve to demand that God prove his innocence. It is foolish for Job to think that God would recompense on his own terms. Particularly Job is mistaken in supposing that God would subject himself to his avowal of innocence (chs. 29-31). Elihu then summons Job to make a choice, for Elihu cannot make that choice for him. Should Job still disagree, however, Elihu enjoins him to speak what he knows.
B. (:34-37) Condemnation of Job for Rebellion
1. (:34-35) Demonstrates a Lack of Wisdom
“Men of understanding will say to me,
And a wise man who hears me,
35 ‘Job speaks without knowledge,
And his words are without wisdom.’”
2. (:36-37) Demonstrates a Spirit of Rebellion
“Job ought to be tried to the limit,
Because he answers like wicked men.
37 For he adds rebellion to his sin;
He claps his hands among us,
And multiplies his words against God.”
John Hartley: Caught up in his own rhetoric, Elihu pronounces an imprecation against Job. . . In Elihu’s view Job’s answers to the friends are the kind of answers that the impious would give. Therefore, being guilty of impiety, he deserves the harshest fate.
Francis Andersen: Verse 37 is pretty blunt in its accusation. Earlier Job’s irreverence was attributed to stupidity rather than to wickedness. The former might be cured by instruction in wisdom. The cure of the latter is more difficult, especially when it is willful and repeated.