Furthermore Elihu answered and said,
Verses 1-37. - In this chapter Elihu turns from Job to those whom he addresses as "wise men" (ver. 2), or "men of understanding" (ver. 10). Whether these are Job's three special friends, or others among the company which had perhaps gathered to hear the debate, is uncertain. He makes the subject of his address to them Job's conduct - scarcely a polite thing to do in Job's presence. Job, he says, has scorned God and charged him with injustice (vers. 5-9). He will vindicate him. This he proceeds to do in vers. 10-30. He then points out what Job's course ought to be (vers. 31-33), and winds up by an appeal to the "men of understanding" to endorse his condemnation of Job as a sinner and a rebel (vers. 34-37). Verses 1, 2. - Furthermore Elihu answered and said, Hear my words, O ye wise men. Having, as he may have thought, reduced Job to silence by the fame of his reasonings, Elihu, wishing to carry with him the general consent of his audience, makes an appeal to them, or, at any rate, to the wise among them, to judge Job's conduct and pronounce upon it. It is probable, as Schultens remarks, that a considerable number of influential persons had by this time collected together to hear the discussion which was going on. To these Elihu specially addresses himself: Give ear unto me, ye that have knowledge.
Hear my words, O ye wise men; and give ear unto me, ye that have knowledge.
For the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat.
Verse 3. - For the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat. A proverbial expression, already used by Job in the dialogue (Job 12:11). "It is as much the business of the ear to discriminate between wise and foolish words, as of the palate to distinguish between wholesome and unwholesome food."
Let us choose to us judgment: let us know among ourselves what is good.
Verse 4. - Let us choose to us judgment; i.e. "Let us seek to come to a right conclusion (mishphat) on each subject that comes before us for consideration." Let us know among ourselves that which is good. "Let us know, discern, and recognize that which is right and good." Excellent sentiments, but somewhat pompously put forth by a young man addressing elder ones.
For Job hath said, I am righteous: and God hath taken away my judgment.
Verse 5. - For Job hath said, I am righteous. Job had maintained his "righteousness" in a certain sense, i.e. his integrity, his honesty, his conviction that God would ultimately acquit him; but he had not maintained his sinlessness (see the comment on Job 33:9). He had not even said, in so many words, "I am righteous." The nearest that he had come to saying it was when (in Job 13:18) he had exclaimed, "I know that I shall be held righteous," or "justified." And God hath taken away my judgment. Job had said this (Job 27:2), but in the sense that God had withheld from him the judgment on his cause which he desired, not that he had perverted judgment, and wrongfully condemned him (see the 'Speaker's Commentary,' vol. 4. p. 97).
Should I lie against my right? my wound is incurable without transgression.
Verse 6. - Should I lie against my right? This was an essential portion of Job's argument (see Job 27:4). Against the theory of his secret heinous wickedness put forward by his "comforters," he maintained consistently his freedom from conscious deliberate opposition to the will of God, and refused to make the confessions which they suggested or required, on the ground that they would have been untrue - in making them he would have "lied against his right." In this certainly Job "sinned not." But it was essential to the theory of Elihu, no less than to that of Eliphaz and his friends, that Job was suffering on account of past iniquity, whether he were being punished for it in anger or chastised for it in love (see Job 33:17, 27). My wound (literally, my arrow; comp. Job 6:4) is incurable without transgression; i.e. without my having committed any transgression to account for it.
What man is like Job, who drinketh up scorning like water?
Verse 7. - What man is like Job, who drinketh up scorning like water? This comment is not only unnecessary, but unfair. It was not for Elihu, who professed a desire to "justify" (or completely exonerate) Job, to aggravate his guilt by means of rhetorical comment; and the comment itself was unfair, for Job had not indulged in scorn to any extent, much less "drunk it up like water" (comp. Job 15:16). He had in no respect scorned God; and if he had occasionally poured some scorn upon his "comforters" (Job 6:21; Job 12:2; Job 13:4-13; Job 16:2; Job 21:2-5; Job 26:2-4), must it not be admitted that they had deserved it? It was the duty of Elihu to act as moderator between Job and the "comforters," whereas he here seeks to exasperate them, and lash them up to fury against their afflicted friend. Perhaps Job's impassive attitude has embittered him.
Which goeth in company with the workers of iniquity, and walketh with wicked men.
Verse 8. - Which goeth in company with the workers of iniquity. It is impossible to supply any other antecedent to "which" than Job himself. Elihu therefore accuses Job of having turned aside from righteousness, and betaken himself to the "counsel of the ungodly, the way of sinners, and the seat of the scornful" (Psalm 1:1). This is grossly to exaggerate Job's faults of temper, and puts Elihu very nearly on a level with Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar in respect of misconception and rudeness. And walketh with wicked men. If no more is meant than that Job has adopted principles and arguments commonly used by wicked men (Canon Cook), the language employed is unfortunate.
For he hath said, It profiteth a man nothing that he should delight himself with God.
Verse 9. - For he hath said, It profiteth a man nothing that he should delight himself with God. Again it must be remarked that Job had not said this. The nearest approach to it is to be found in Job 9:22, where this passage occurs: "It is all one; therefore I say, He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked" (Revised Version). Elsewhere Job speaks, not generally, but of his own individual case, remarking that his righteousness has not saved him from calamity (Job 9:17, 18; Job 10:15; Job 17:9-17, etc.). And the fact is one that causes him the deepest perplexity.
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.
Verse 10. - Therefore hearken unto me, ye men of understanding (comp. ver. 2). Elihu repeats himself, wishing to call special attention to his justification of God (vers. 10-30). Far be it from God, that he should do wickedness. Elihu probably means that to do wickedness is contrary to the very nature and idea of God; but he does not express himself very clearly. And from the Almighty, that he should commit iniquity. An evil God, a God who can do wrong, is a contradiction in terms - an impossible, inconceivable idea. Devil-worshippers, if there are or ever have been such persons, do not conceive of the object of their worship as really God, but as a powerful malignant spirit. Once rise to the height of the conception of a Power absolutely supreme, omniscient, omnipresent, the Author of all things, and it is impossible to imagine him as less than perfectly good.
For the work of a man shall he render unto him, and cause every man to find according to his ways.
Verse 11. - For the work of a man shall he render unto him. God "rewardeth every man according to his work" (Psalm 62:13), renders to each one good or evil, according as his own deeds have been the one or the other. But this must be understood of the man's whole conduct, and God's entire treatment of him. Such an absolute rectitude of God's moral government, considered as a whole, is implied and involved in his absolute and perfect justice. And cause every man to find according to his ways. We "find according to our ways" when, having "ploughed iniquity, and sown wickedness, we reap the same" (Job 4:8), or when, on the other hand, having "sown in righteousness, we reap in mercy" (Hosea 10:12). Exact retribution is the law of God's rule; but the exactness cannot be seen, or tested, or demonstrated in this life. It will appear, however, and be recognized by all, at the consummation of all things.
Yea, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment.
Verse 12. - Yea, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment. Elihu is fond of rhetorical amplification, like most young speakers. Vers. 11, 12 contain nothing that is really additional to the statement in ver. 10.
Who hath given him a charge over the earth? or who hath disposed the whole world?
Verse 13. - Who hath given him a charge over the earth? The argument seems to be that if God had "received a charge," and were in possession of a mere delegated authority, like the subordinate gods of heathen nations, he might have an interest apart from that of those whom he governs, and so be tempted to be unjust; but as he is the Author of all and the sole Ruler of all, his interest must be bound up with the true interests of his creatures, and cannot clash with them. He can thus never be unjust, since he can have no temptation to be unjust. Or who hath disposed the whole world? rather, Who hath laid upon him the whole world? (see the margin of the Revised Version). Elihu repeats the idea of the previous clause in other words.
If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath;
Verse 14. - If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath. Two renderings are proposed, both supported By about equal authority:
(1) "If he (i.e. God) set his heart upon himself, if he should gather to himself his own spirit, and breath," then all flesh would perish, etc.
(2) "If he [i.e. God] set his heart upon [or, 'against'] man, if he were to gather to himself man's spirit and man's breath," then, etc. The difference is not great. God could, either by withdrawing from man the breath and spirit which he has given him, or simply by withholding from man the quickening and sustaining influences which he is perpetually putting forth, reduce all humankind to nothingness. Being so completely master of man, he would surely not condescend to treat him with injustice. Injustice implies something of opposition, struggle, rivalry.
All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust.
Verse 15. - All flesh shall perish together (comp. Psalm 104:29). Without God's sustaining hand, all creatures would fall back into nothingness. And man shall turn again unto dust, Either Elihu refers here to Genesis 3:19, or else he has a traditional knowledge of man's origin, handed down from a remote antiquity, which is in entire conformity with the Hebrew belief.
If now thou hast understanding, hear this: hearken to the voice of my words.
Verse 16. - If now thou hast understanding, hear this. The appeal is not to Job, but to any wise and intelligent man among the many hearers who were present (see the comment on vers. 1, 2). Hearken to the voice of my words (comp. vers. 2, 10).
Shall even he that hateth right govern? and wilt thou condemn him that is most just?
Verse 17. - Shall even he that hateth right govern? Is it conceivable that there can be at the head of the universe, its Ruler and Guide, One who hates justice? The appeal is to the instinctive feeling that in the one God perfect goodness and omnipotence are united. Its spirit is exactly that of Abraham's question, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (see Genesis 18:5). And wilt thou condemn him that is most just? rather, him that is both just and strong (see the Revised Version).
Is it fit to say to a king, Thou art wicked? and to princes, Ye are ungodly?
Verse 18. - Is it fit to say to a king, Thou art wicked? and to princes, Ye are ungodly? Would any subject of an earthly king deem it fitting to accuse his sovereign of wicked and unjust conduct? Would he even tax those who stood next to the king - the princes and great officers of the court - with ungodliness? If a sense of what is becoming and seemly would restrain a man from the use of language of this sort towards his earthly ruler, can it be right that he should allow himself in such liberty or speech towards his heavenly King, his absolute Lord and Master? Job had not really used such language of God, though the complaints which he had made with respect to God's treatment of him might not unreasonably be held to imply some such accusation.
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.
Verse 19. - How much less to him that accepteth not the persons of princes! How much less becomingly is such language used of One so far above princes that he regards them as on a level with all other men, and pays them no special respect! Worldly rank is, of course, nothing with God. All mankind are his subjects and servants, whom he differentiates one from another solely by their moral and spiritual qualities. Nor regardeth the rich more than the poor. If earthly rank is of no account with God, much less is abundance of possessions. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus places his complete indifference in a strong light. For they all are the work of his hands. All classes of men, rich and poor, powerful and weak, are equally God's creatures, brought into the world by him, given by him their several stations, and regarded by him with favour or disfavour, according as they conduct themselves in their various occupations and employments.
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.
Verse 20. - In a moment shall they die. All lie under the same law of death -
"Pallida Mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas
(Horace,'Od.,' 1:4, 11. 13, 14.) In a moment, whenever God wills, they pass from life and disappear, the rich equally with the needy, the powerful prince as much as the outcast and the beggar. And the people shall be troubled at midnight, and pass away. (comp. Exodus 12:29; 2 Kings 19:35). Such sudden catastrophes are infrequent; but it is within the power of God to produce them at any time. When they occur, they strikingly exemplify the equality of his dealings with all classes of men, since none escape (Exodus 11:5; Exodus 12:29). And the mighty shall be taken away without hand; i.e. without human agency (comp. Daniel 2:34).
For his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings.
Verse 21. - For his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings. Elihu proceeds to a fresh argument. The omniscience of God is a security against his acting unjustly. He knows exactly each man's powers, capacities, temperament, temptations, circumstances He can exactly me, sure each man's due, and will assuredly mete it out to each without partiality or prejudice.
There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.
Verse 22. - There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves. "All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:13). However careful wicked men may be to conceal their misdeeds by "waiting for the twilight" (Job 24:15), or doing them "in the dark" (Job 24:16), they will find it quite impossible to escape the all-seeing eye of the Almighty, which is as clear-sighted in the deepest darkness as in the brightest light ("Yea, the darkness is no darkness with thee, but the night is as clear as the day; the darkness and light to thee are both alike," Psalm 139:11, Prayer-book Version).
For he will not lay upon man more than right; that he should enter into judgment with God.
Verse 23. - For he will not lay upon man more than right; rather,for he needeth not further to consider a man (see the Revised Version). He has no need to consider any man's case twice; he sees it at the first glance, and judges it infallibly. That he should enter into judgment with God, Were it not so, a man might perhaps claim to have a second trial, and, pleading in his own defence, might "enter into judgment with God," or (according to others) "go before God in judgment;" but God's absolute omniscience precludes this.
He shall break in pieces mighty men without number, and set others in their stead.
Verse 24. - He shall break in pieces mighty men without number; rather, in ways that are unsearchable, or in ways past finding out (see the Revised Version). And set others in their stead (comp. 1 Samuel 2:7; Psalm 75:7; Daniel 2:21).
Therefore he knoweth their works, and he overturneth them in the night, so that they are destroyed.
Verse 25. - Therefore (i.e. to that end or with that object in view) he knoweth (rather, taketh knowledge of) their works. As God governs the world, and governs it, to a large extent, by exalting some men and depressing others, he is bound to take strict account of their conduct, that he may exalt the worthy and depress the unworthy. And he overturneth them in the night (comp. ver. 20). So that they are destroyed; literally, crushed. God's judgments fall on men suddenly, either "in the night," or as "In the night, i.e. suddenly, unexpectedly, when they are quite unprepared; and fall on them with "crushing" force, with a might that is wholly irresistible,
He striketh them as wicked men in the open sight of others;
Verse 26. - He striketh them as wicked men; i.e. as open and acknowledged malefactors. In the open sight of others; literally, in the place of beholders; i.e. publicly, openly, where their fate is an example to others.
Because they turned back from him, and would not consider any of his ways:
Verse 27. - Because they turned back from him (On the sin of "turning back," see 2 Kings 17:15, 16; Proverbs 26:11; 2 Peter 2:22.) And would not consider any of his ways (comp. Psalm 28:5; Isaiah 5:12). The folly and wickedness of such conduct is reproved by Solomon in the strongest terms, "Because I have called, and ye refused: I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Thou shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: they would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their Own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them" (Proverbs 1:24-32).
So that they cause the cry of the poor to come unto him, and he heareth the cry of the afflicted.
Verse 28. - So that they cause the cry of the poor to come unto him. Elihu views the wicked man as almost certainly an oppressor, whose misdeeds "cause the cry of the poor to come before God," and provoke God, the Avenger of the poor and needy, to visit him with chastisement. And he heareth the cry of the afflicted (comp. Exodus 2:23, 24; Exodus 22:23, 24; Psalm 12:5, etc.) God's ears are ever open to the cry of the oppressed, and his hand is ever heavy upon those who "afflict" the weak and defenceless (Isaiah 1:24; Isaiah 3:12-15; Amos 5:11, 12; Micah 3:1-4; Habakkuk 1:13).
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:
Verse 29. - When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? literally, Who then can condemn? The sentiment is the same as that of St. Paul in the Epistle to the Romans, "If God be for us, who can be against us?... Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?" (Romans 8:31-34). And when he hideth his face, who then can behold him? When God hideth away his face, then all flesh is troubled (Psalm 104:29); man shrinks into himself, and despairs of happiness; nature itself seems to fail and fade. None nan behold him when he hides himself; none can do more than deprecate his anger, and pray, "Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us" (Psalm 4:6). Whether it be done against a nation, or against a man only. The results are similar, whether God withdraws the light of his countenance from a nation or from an individual. In either case, there is no help from without; ruin and destruction follow.
That the hypocrite reign not, lest the people be ensnared.
Verse 30. - That the hypocrite reign not, lest the people be ensnared; rather, that an ungodly man reign not, that a people be not a snare. (So Schultens, Professor Lee, and others.) The passage is obscure from its brevity; but this seems to be the best sense. God withdraws his favour from an ungodly king or from a wicked nation, that the king may cease to injure men by his rule, and the nation cease to be a snare to its neighbours.
Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more:
Verse 31. - Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement. (So Rosenmuller and others.) If the passage be thus rendered, Elihu must be considered as, like Eliphaz (Job 5:8), Bildad (Job 8:5), and Zophar (Job 11:13-15), counselling Job to submit himself to God, acknowledging his sin, accepting his punishment, and promising amendment for the future (ver. 22). But perhaps it is better to regard the passage as interrogative, and Elihu as asking - What man, among those whom God has cast down and punished, has ever sought to deprecate his wrath by contrition, confession, and promise of amendment, implying that, had they done so, God would have relented and forgiven them? (see the Revised Version). In this case no direct counsel is offered to Job; but still an indirect hint is given him. I will not offend any more. This is preferable to the marginal rendering of the Revised Version, "though I have not offended."
That which I see not teach thou me: if I have done iniquity, I will do no more.
Verse 32. - That which I see not, teach thou me; i.e. "If in anything I fail to see thy will, teach thou it me. Make thy way plain before my face." If I have done iniquity, I will do no more. The hypothetical form seems to be preferred, as more acceptable to Job, who maintained his righteousness, than a positive confession of sin.
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.
Verse 33. - Should it be according to thy mind? he will recompense it. The two clauses should be taken together, and the translation should run, "Should God recompense" (i.e. make his awards) "according to thy pleasure'" or "as thou wiliest?" Elihu turns to Job and directly addresses him, "Can he expect that God will make his decrees - condemn and absolve men - just as Job thinks right?" Whether thou refuse; rather, since thou refusest them. Job had refused to acknowledge the justice of God's awards and decisions. Or whether thou choose; and not I; rather, but thou must choose, and not I. It is Job who must determine how he will act. Elihu, a friend, can only point out and recommend a course, as he had done in vers. 31, 32. It is for Job himself to determine what course he will take. Therefore speak what thou knowest; i.e. "Say what thou hast determined on."
Let men of understanding tell me, and let a wise man hearken unto me.
Verse 34. - Let men of understanding tell me, and let a wise man hearken unto me. As Job does not answer him, Elihu turns to his "men of understanding" (supra, vers. 2, 10). He feels sure that he will at least have carried them with him, and that they will join in the condemnation of Job's words as wanting in true wisdom. "Men of understanding," he says, "will say unto me, yea, every wise man that heareth me will say, Job speaketh without knowledge," etc. (see the Revised Version).
Job hath spoken without knowledge, and his words were without wisdom.
Verse 35. - Job hath spoken without knowledge, and his words were without wisdom; literally, not in wisdom. The words intended are, of course, those in which Job has seemed to tax God with injustice (see the comment on ver. 9).
My desire is that Job may be tried unto the end because of his answers for wicked men.
Verse 36. - My desire is that Job may be tried unto the end; literally, Would that Job were tested to the uttermost! - "tested'" i.e., as gold is tested, by the touchstone, and "to the uttermost," so that there should be no doubt as to the result. Elihu had his wish. Job was tried as severely as possible, and the issue was pronounced by God himself. "Ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath" (ch. 42:8, Revised Version). Because of his answers for wicked men; rather, after the manner of wicked men (comp. above, vers. 5, 6, 9.). This was the view which Elihu took of Job's rash words.
For he addeth rebellion unto his sin, he clappeth his hands among us, and multiplieth his words against God.
Verse 37. - For he addeth rebellion unto his sin. Elihu holds that it is Job's "sin" which has brought on him his chastisement, and regards his expostulations and complaints as flagrant "rebellion" against the Most High. He clappeth his hands among us; i.e. he applauds himself, approves of his own conduct, and, instead of repenting, makes a boast of it. And multiplieth his words against God. Job had continued to the last (Job 31.) to justify himself and protest his integrity; which, in the view of Elihu, was to tax God with injustice.