Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Elihu also proceeded, and said,XXXVI.
(1) Elihu also proceeded.—It is not easy to acquit Elihu of some of the “arrogance” he was so ready to ascribe to Job. He professes very great zeal for God, but it is hard to see that some of his great professions are warranted. For instance, he says—
I will fetch my knowledge from afar, and will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.(3) I will fetch my knowledge from afar.—But is not this what Bildad had said before him? (Job 8:8, &c.); and yet the teaching of Job 36:6 is not very different from his.
For truly my words shall not be false: he that is perfect in knowledge is with thee.(4) He that is perfect in knowledge.—We may presume that he meant God; but in the Authorised Version it looks very much as though he meant himself. (Comp. Job 37:16.) So apparently Vulg., “perfecta scientia probabitur tibi.”
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.(7) From the righteous—i.e., the righteous man. (Comp. Psalm 113:5-8.)
Then he sheweth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded.(9) Then he sheweth them their work.—The true nature of their conduct and their transgressions, that they have behaved themselves proudly. This is Elihu’s special doctrine, that God’s chastisements are by way of discipline, to reform the future rather than to chastise the past.
If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures.(11) They shall spend their days in prosperity.—It is, perhaps, not more easy to reconcile this teaching of Elihu’s with the realities of actual fact than it is the notions of Job’s friends as to direct retribution in life.
But the hypocrites in heart heap up wrath: they cry not when he bindeth them.(13) The hypocrites in heart.—The words rather mean the godless or profane in heart.
They cry not.—That is, cry not for help.
When he bindeth them.—That is, as in Job 36:8, he has been speaking especially of one kind of affliction, like that, namely, of Joseph.
He delivereth the poor in his affliction, and openeth their ears in oppression.(15) He delivereth the poor in his affliction.—The point of Elihu’s discourse is rather that He delivereth the afflicted by his affliction; He makes use of the very affliction to deliver him by it as a means, “and openeth their ears by oppression.”
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.(16) Even so would he have removed thee. It is possible to understand this verse somewhat otherwise, and the sense may perhaps be improved. Elihu may be speaking, not of what God would have done, but of what He has actually done: “Yea, also He hath removed thee from the mouth of an adversary, even case and abundance in the place of which there was no straitness, and that which came down upon thy table full of fatness; but thou art full of the judgment of the wicked, therefore justice and judgment take hold on thee.” “God, in His mercy, saw that thou wast in danger, and He removed the cause of temptation, and thy chastisement would have been of short duration hadst thou been submissive and resigned; but thou hast been bold and daring, like the wicked, and hast reaped the judgment of the wicked.”
Because there is wrath, beware lest he take thee away with his stroke: then a great ransom cannot deliver thee.(18) Because there is wrath.—“For there is wrath: now, therefore, beware lest He take thee away with one stroke, so that great ransom cannot deliver thee.” Literally it is, let not a great ransom deliver thee, but the sense is probably like the Authorised Version.
Will he esteem thy riches? no, not gold, nor all the forces of strength.(19) No, not gold, nor all the forces of strength.—The words here are doubtful. Some render, “Will He esteem thy riches, that thou be not in distress?” or, “all the forces of thy strength;” others, “Will thy cry avail, that thou be not in distress?” &c.; but there is authority for the Authorised Version.
Desire not the night, when people are cut off in their place.(20) Desire not the night—i.e., of death, as Job had done (Job 16:22; Job 17:13, &c., Job 19:27), or as, at all events, his words might be understood. For “people,” read peoples: i.e., nations.
Take heed, regard not iniquity: for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction.(21) Regard not iniquity.—Or, perhaps, the special sin of longing for death, for thou hast desired to die rather than bear thine affliction. Alas! Job’s case is not a solitary one, for who that has been tried as he was has not longed for the end?
Behold, God exalteth by his power: who teacheth like him?(22) Behold, God exalteth by his power.—The rest of Elihu’s speech is splendidly eloquent. He dilates on the power and majesty of God, and appears to be speaking in contemplation of some magnificent natural phenomenon—as the tempest, or hurricane, or whirlwind—out of which the Lord ultimately spake (Job 38:1). It is probable that this storm was beginning to gather, and that it suggested the glorious imagery of Elihu’s speech. The points are that (1) God is the source of greatness; (2) that there is no teacher like Him (Job 36:22); (3) that He is absolute as well as almighty (Job 36:23); (4) that He is unsearchable and eternal (Job 36:26).
Remember that thou magnify his work, which men behold.(24) Which men behold.—Some render it, “Whereof men sing,” but the other seems to suit the context best.
For he maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof:(27) The drops of water.—The origin and first beginnings of the tempest are described. “He maketh small,” or draweth up by exhalation. “They pour down rain,” or “they distil in rain from His vapour,” or “belonging to the vapour thereof.” The rain is first absorbed, and then distilled and poured down.
Also can any understand the spreadings of the clouds, or the noise of his tabernacle?(29) The spreading of the clouds—i.e., how the clouds are spread over the heavens, and heaped up one upon the other like mountains in the skies when the storm gathers.
Or the noise of His tabernacle?—Or the thunderings of His pavilion (Psalm 18:12).
Behold, he spreadeth his light upon it, and covereth the bottom of the sea.(30) His light appears to mean here the lightning which flashes forth from the cloud.
And covereth the bottom of the sea.—Literally, it hath covered the roots of the sea: i.e., it, the lightning, or He, God, hath covered those clouds which are composed of the roots of the sea, that is, the drops of water which are exhaled from the sea.
For by them judgeth he the people; he giveth meat in abundance.(31) For by them—i.e., these roots of the sea, these drops of water, these rain-clouds. “He judgeth peoples” by withholding them, or “giveth meat in abundance” by sending rain on the earth; or He may use them in excess, to chastise nations by inundations and the like. The change from roots of the sea to bottom of the sea in the Authorised Version has obscured the meaning of “them” in the next verse, unless, indeed, we understand it generally, by these things.
With clouds he covereth the light; and commandeth it not to shine by the cloud that cometh betwixt.(32) With clouds.—The word here rendered “clouds” really means hands, and there seems to be no good reason why it should be otherwise understood. The verse will then read, “He covereth the lightning with His hands, and giveth it a charge that it strike the mark;” or, according to some, “giveth it a charge against the assailant.” The figure is that of a man hurling a stone or bolt, and taking aim; and a very fine one the image is. The Authorised Version cannot be right with its five inserted words.
The noise thereof sheweth concerning it, the cattle also concerning the vapour.(33) The noise thereof sheweth concerning it.—This verse is extremely difficult, and the sense very uncertain. We may translate the first clause, “The noise thereof (i.e., the crash of the thunder) declareth concerning Him:” it is His voice, and speaks of Him; but the last clause is almost unintelligible. The words as they stand mean, or may mean, cattle even concerning a goer up; but what this means who shall say? Possibly, the thunder-crash telleth the cattle even concerning Him who goeth up: i.e., even the cattle show, by their terror, that the thunder speaketh to them of God, who goeth up on high. (See Psalm 29:9; Psalm 68:4; Psalm 68:18; Psalm 47:5.) Some render the last clause, “The cattle also concerning Him as He riseth up;” or, “The cattle also concerning the rising storm.” There can be no doubt but that the general meaning is that all nature participateth in the terror caused by the thunder, which is regarded as the audible voice of God; but what the exact expression of this general thought may be it is very hard to say.
There should he no break between this chapter and the next.