Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Elihu also proceeded, and said,
1, 2. Elihu maintains that afflictions are to the godly disciplinary, in order to lead them to attain a higher moral worth, and that the reason for their continuance is not, as the friends asserted, on account of the sufferer's extraordinary guilt, but because the discipline has not yet attained its object, namely, to lend him to humble himself penitently before God (Isa 9:13; Jer 5:3). This is Elihu's fourth speech. He thus exceeds the ternary number of the others. Hence his formula of politeness (Job 36:2). Literally, "Wait yet but a little for me." Bear with me a little farther. I have yet (much, Job 32:18-20). There are Chaldeisms in this verse, agreeably to the view that the scene of the book is near the Euphrates and the Chaldees.
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.
3. from afar—not trite commonplaces, but drawn from God's mighty works.
ascribe righteousness—whereas Job ascribed unrighteousness (Job 34:10, 12). A man, in enquiring into God's ways, should at the outset presume they are all just, be willing to find them so, and expect that the result of investigation will prove them to be so; such a one will never be disappointed [Barnes].
For truly my words shall not be false: he that is perfect in knowledge is with thee.
4. I will not "speak wickedly for God," as the friends (Job 13:4, 7, 8)—that is, vindicate God by unsound arguments.
he that is perfect, &c.—Rather, as the parallelism requires, "a man of integrity in sentiments is with thee" (is he with whom thou hast to do). Elihu means himself, as opposed to the dishonest reasonings of the friends (Job 21:34).
Behold, God is mighty, and despiseth not any: he is mighty in strength and wisdom.
5. Rather, "strength of understanding" (heart) the force of the repetition of "mighty"; as "mighty" as God is, none is too low to be "despised" by Him; for His "might" lies especially in "His strength of understanding," whereby He searches out the most minute things, so as to give to each his right. Elihu confirms his exhortation (Job 35:14).
He preserveth not the life of the wicked: but giveth right to the poor.
6. right … poor—He espouses the cause of the afflicted.
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. (1Pe 3:12). God does not forsake the godly, as Job implied, but "establishes," or makes them sit on the throne as kings (1Sa 2:8; Ps 113:7, 8). True of believers in the highest sense, already in part (1Pe 2:9; Re 1:6); hereafter fully (Re 5:10; Job 22:5).
and they are—that they may be.
And if they be bound in fetters, and be holden in cords of affliction;
8-10. If they be afflicted, it is no proof that they are hypocrites, as the friends maintain, or that God disregards them, and is indifferent whether men are good or bad, as Job asserts: God is thereby "disciplining them," and "showing them their sins," and if they bow in a right spirit under God's visiting hand, the greatest blessings ensue.
Then he sheweth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded.
that … exceeded—"In that they behaved themselves mightily" (literally, "great"); that is, presumptuously, or, at least, self-confidently.
He openeth also their ear to discipline, and commandeth that they return from iniquity.
10. (Job 33:16-18, 23).
If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures.
11. serve—that is, worship; as in Isa 19:23. God is to be supplied (compare Isa 1:19, 20).
But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge.
12. (Job 33:18).
without knowledge—that is, on account of their foolishness (Job 4:20, 21).
But the hypocrites in heart heap up wrath: they cry not when he bindeth them.
13-15. Same sentiment as Job 36:11, 12, expanded.
hypocrites—or, the ungodly [Maurer]; but "hypocrites" is perhaps a distinct class from the openly wicked (Job 36:12).
heap up wrath—of God against themselves (Ro 2:5). Umbreit translates, "nourish their wrath against God," instead of "crying" unto Him. This suits well the parallelism and the Hebrew. But the English Version gives a good parallelism, "hypocrites" answering to "cry not" (Job 27:8, 10); "heap up wrath" against themselves, to "He bindeth them" with fetters of affliction (Job 36:8).
They die in youth, and their life is among the unclean.
14. Rather (De 23:17), Their life is (ended) as that of (literally, "among") the unclean, prematurely and dishonorably. So the second clause answers to the first. A warning that Job make not common cause with the wicked (Job 34:36).
He delivereth the poor in his affliction, and openeth their ears in oppression.
15. poor—the afflicted pious.
openeth … ears—(Job 36:10); so as to be admonished in their straits ("oppression") to seek God penitently, and so be "delivered" (Job 33:16, 17, 23-27).
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. Rather, "He will lead forth thee also out of the jaws of a strait" (Ps 18:19; 118:5).
broad place—expresses the liberty, and the well-supplied "table" the abundance of the prosperous (Ps 23:5; Isa 25:6).
But thou hast fulfilled the judgment of the wicked: judgment and justice take hold on thee.
17. Rather, "But if thou art fulfilled (that is, entirely filled) with the judgment of the wicked (that is, the guilt incurring judgment" [Maurer]; or rather, as Umbreit, referring to Job 34:5-7, 36, the judgment pronounced on God by the guilty in misfortunes), judgment (God's judgment on the wicked, Jer 51:9, playing on the double meaning of "judgment") and justice shall closely follow each other [Umbreit].
Because there is wrath, beware lest he take thee away with his stroke: then a great ransom cannot deliver thee.
18. (Nu 16:45; Ps 49:6, 7; Mt 16:26). Even the "ransom" by Jesus Christ (Job 33:24) will be of no avail to wilful despisers (Heb 10:26-29).
with his stroke—(Job 34:26). Umbreit translates, "Beware lest the wrath of God (thy severe calamity) lead thee to scorn" (Job 34:7; 27:23). This accords better with the verb in the parallel clause, which ought to be translated, "Let not the great ransom (of money, which thou canst give) seduce thee (Margin, turn thee aside, as if thou couldst deliver thyself from "wrath" by it). As the "scorn" in the first clause answers to the "judgment of the wicked" (Job 36:17), so "ransom" ("seduce") to "will he esteem riches" (Job 36:19). Thus, Job 36:18 is the transition between Job 36:17 and Job 36:19.
Will he esteem thy riches? no, not gold, nor all the forces of strength.
19. forces of strength—that is, resources of wealth (Ps 49:7; Pr 11:4).
Desire not the night, when people are cut off in their place.
20. Desire—pant for. Job had wished for death (Job 3:3-9, &c.).
cut off—literally, "ascend," as the corn cut and lifted upon the wagon or stack (Job 36:26); so "cut off," "disappear."
in their place—literally, "under themselves"; so, without moving from their place, on the spot, suddenly (Job 40:12) [Maurer]. Umbreit's translation: "To ascend (which is really, as thou wilt find to thy cost, to descend) to the people below" (literally, "under themselves"), answers better to the parallelism and the Hebrew. Thou pantest for death as desirable, but it is a "night" or region of darkness; thy fancied ascent (amelioration) will prove a descent (deterioration) (Job 10:22); therefore desire it not.
Take heed, regard not iniquity: for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction.
21. regard—literally, "turn thyself to."
iniquity—namely, presumptuous speaking against God (Job 34:5, and above, see on Job 36:17, 18).
rather than—to bear "affliction" with pious patience. Men think it an alleviation to complain against God, but this is adding sin to sorrow; it is sin, not sorrow, which can really hurt us (contrast Heb 11:25).
Behold, God exalteth by his power: who teacheth like him?
22-25. God is not to be impiously arraigned, but to be praised for His might, shown in His works.
exalteth—rather, doeth lofty things, shows His exalted power [Umbreit] (Ps 21:13).
teacheth—(Ps 94:12, &c.). The connection is, returning to Job 36:5, God's "might" is shown in His "wisdom"; He alone can teach; yet, because He, as a sovereign, explains not all His dealings, forsooth Job must presume to teach Him (Isa 40:13, 14; Ro 11:34; 1Co 2:16). So the transition to Job 36:23 is natural. Umbreit with the Septuagint translates, "Who is Lord," wrongly, as this meaning belongs to later Hebrew.
Who hath enjoined him his way? or who can say, Thou hast wrought iniquity?
23. Job dared to prescribe to God what He should do (Job 34:10, 13).
Remember that thou magnify his work, which men behold.
24. Instead of arraigning, let it be thy fixed principle to magnify God in His works (Ps 111:2-8; Re 15:3); these, which all may "see," may convince us that what we do not see is altogether wise and good (Ro 1:20).
behold—As "see" (Job 36:25), shows; not, as Maurer, "sing," laud (see on Job 33:27).
Every man may see it; man may behold it afar off.
25. See—namely, with wondering admiration [Maurer].
man may behold—rather, "(yet) mortals (a different Hebrew word from 'man') behold it (only) from afar off," see but a small "part" (Job 26:14).
Behold, God is great, and we know him not, neither can the number of his years be searched out.
26. (Job 37:13). God's greatness in heaven and earth: a reason why Job should bow under His afflicting hand.
know him not—only in part (Job 36:25; 1Co 13:12).
his years—(Ps 90:2; 102:24, 27); applied to Jesus Christ (Heb 1:12).
For he maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof:
27, 28. The marvellous formation of rain (so Job 5:9, 10).
maketh small—Rather, "He draweth (up) to Him, He attracts (from the earth below) the drops of water; they (the drops of water) pour down rain, (which is) His vapor." "Vapor" is in apposition with "rain," marking the way in which rain is formed; namely, from the vapor drawn up by God into the air and then condensed into drops, which fall (Ps 147:8). The suspension of such a mass of water, and its descent not in a deluge, but in drops of vapory rain, are the marvel. The selection of this particular illustration of God's greatness forms a fit prelude to the storm in which God appears (Job 40:1).
Which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly.
28. abundantly—literally, "upon many men."
Also can any understand the spreadings of the clouds, or the noise of his tabernacle?
29. (Job 37:5). God's marvels in thunder and lightnings.
spreadings, &c.—the canopy of thick clouds, which covers the heavens in a storm (Ps 105:39).
the noise—"crashing"; namely, thunder.
of his tabernacle—God being poetically said to have His pavilion amid dark clouds (Ps 18:11; Isa 40:22).
Behold, he spreadeth his light upon it, and covereth the bottom of the sea.
it—His tabernacle (Job 36:29). The light, in an instant spread over the vast mass of dark clouds, forms a striking picture.
spread—is repeated from Job 36:29 to form an antithesis. "He spreads not only clouds, but light."
covereth the bottom—roots.
of the sea—namely, with the light. In the storm the depths of ocean are laid bare; and the light "covers" them, at the same moment that it "spreads" across the dark sky. So in Ps 18:14, 15, the discovering of "the channels of waters" follows the "lightnings." Umbreit translates: "He spreadeth His light upon Himself, and covereth Himself with the roots of the sea" (Ps 104:2). God's garment is woven of celestial light and of the watery depths, raised to the sky to form His cloudy canopy. The phrase, "cover Himself with the roots of the sea," is harsh; but the image is grand.
For by them judgeth he the people; he giveth meat in abundance.
31. These (rain and lightnings) are marvellous and not to be understood (Job 36:29), yet necessary. "For by them He judgeth (chastiseth on the one hand), &c. (and on the other, by them) He giveth meat" (food), &c. (Job 37:13; 38:23, 27; Ac 14:17).
With clouds he covereth the light; and commandeth it not to shine by the cloud that cometh betwixt.
32. Rather, "He covereth (both) His hands with light (lightning, Job 37:3, Margin), and giveth it a command against his adversary" (literally, the one "assailing" Him, Ps 8:2; 139:20; Job 21:19). Thus, as in Job 36:31, the twofold effects of His waters are set forth, so here, of His light; in the one hand, destructive lightning against the wicked; in the other, the genial light for good to His friends, &c. (Job 36:33) [Umbreit].
The noise thereof sheweth concerning it, the cattle also concerning the vapour.
33. noise—rather, He revealeth it (literally, "announceth concerning it") to His friend (antithesis to adversary, Job 36:32, so the Hebrew is translated, Job 2:11); also to cattle and plants (literally, "that which shooteth up"; Ge 40:10; 41:22). As the genial effect of "water" in the growth of food, is mentioned, Job 36:31, so here that of "light" in cherishing cattle and plants [Umbreit]. If English Version, "noise" be retained, translate, "His noise (thunder) announces concerning Him (His coming in the tempest), the cattle (to announce) concerning Him when He is in the act of rising up" (in the storm). Some animals give various intimations that they are sensible of the approach of a storm [Virgil, Georgics, I.373, &c.].