Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Elihu spake moreover, and said,
Thinkest thou this to be right, that thou saidst, My righteousness is more than God's?XXXV.
(2) My righteousness is more than God’s.—See Job 19:6, &c. Job had not in so many words said this, but what he had said was capable of being so represented, and perhaps seemed to involve it. (Comp. Job 9:22; Job 10:15.) Here, again, there was a misrepresentation of what Job had said. He certainly did not mean that he was none the better for being righteous; on the contrary, he had distinctly said, “Let mine enemy be as the wicked,” &c. (Job 27:7, &c.), because he could not delight himself in God; but it was perfectly true that he had said that his righteousness had not delivered him from suffering.
I will answer thee, and thy companions with thee.(4) And thy companions.—Elihu professes to answer Job’s friends as well as himself, but what he says (Job 35:5, &c.) is very much what Eliphaz had said before (Job 15:14, &c., Job 22:3, &c., and Bildad in Job 25). It is indeed true that God is too high to be affected by man’s righteousness or unrighteousness, but it does not follow therefore that He is indifferent, for then He would not be a righteous judge. (See Note on Job 34:9.)
By reason of the multitude of oppressions they make the oppressed to cry: they cry out by reason of the arm of the mighty.(9) By reason of the multitude of oppressions.—The argument seems to be that among men there may be oppression, but not with an almighty and just Judge. The right course, therefore, is to wait. “Men may, indeed, complain because of the oppression of an earthly tyrant; but how canst thou say thou beholdest Him not?” (See Job 9:9.)
But none saith, Where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night;(10) But none saith.—Some render this, “But he who giveth songs in the night saith not, Where is God my Maker,” i.e., the selfish and luxurious oppressor, who spendeth the night in feasting and revelry. This is an intelligible meaning. On the other hand, though the phrase, “who giveth songs in the night,” has become proverbial, and, with the meaning assigned to it, is very beautiful, it may be doubted whether it is so obvious or natural in this place. This is a matter for individual taste and judgment to decide. If it is understood of God, it ascribes to Him the turning of sorrow into gladness, and the night of affliction into joy—an office which is, indeed, frequently assigned to God, but of which the appropriateness is not so manifest here. The decision of this question will perhaps partly depend upon the view we take of the words which follow—“Where is God my Maker?”—whether they are part of the cry of the oppressed or whether they are the words of Elihu. If the latter, then they become more intelligible; if otherwise, it is difficult to see their special appropriateness in this particular place. Perhaps it is better to regard them as the words of Elihu.
Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven?(11) Who teacheth us.—Or it may be, Who teacheth us by, and maketh us wise by, &c. Then the sense will be that the oppression is so severe that the victims of it forget that God can give songs in the night, and that He has favoured men more than the beasts of the field, and that, as not one sparrow can fall to the ground without Him, so He has even numbered the hairs of those who are of more value to Him than many sparrows.
Surely God will not hear vanity, neither will the Almighty regard it.(13) God will not hear vanity.—Some understand this as part of the cry in Job 35:12 : “Seeing it is all in vain, God doth not hear, neither doth the Almighty regard it.”
Although thou sayest thou shalt not see him, yet judgment is before him; therefore trust thou in him.(14) Although thou sayest thou shalt not see him.—Rather, Dost not behold Him.
But now, because it is not so, he hath visited in his anger; yet he knoweth it not in great extremity:(15) But now, because it is not so, is very obscure. The Authorised Version refers the first clause to God and the second to Job. Perhaps we may render, But now, what His anger has visited upon thee is as nothing (compared with thy deserts); yea, He hath not regarded the great abundance (of thy sin), i.e., hath not visited it with anger. Therefore doth Job, &c. Others render it, “But now, because it is not so (i.e., there is no judgment), He hath visited in His anger, saith Job, and He regardeth it not, saith He, in His exceeding arrogance;” or, “But now, because He hath not visited in His anger, neither doth He much regard arrogance, therefore Job,” &c. The word thus rendered arrogance is not found elsewhere; it appears to mean abundance or superfluity. Of these renderings, the first seems to give the better sense. The general bearing of the verse is perhaps apparent however rendered, namely, that Job is encouraged in his murmurings, because God hath dealt too leniently with him. Elihu’s reproaches must have been some of the heaviest that Job had to bear. Happily the judgment was not to be long deferred. (See Job 38:1.)