Job 34:17
Shall even he that hateth right govern? and wilt thou condemn him that is most just?
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(17) Shall even he. . . .—The argument is that one who holds such a position of absolute rule cannot be other than most just. He who is fit to rule must be just, and He who is the ultimate ruler must be fit to rule, and must, therefore, be just; but if He is absolutely just, how shall we condemn His government or Him on account of it, even though we cannot explain it all or reconcile it with our view of what is right?

Him that is most just, is rather him that is just and mighty, i.e., not only just, but able also to execute justice because mighty.

34:16-30 Elihu appeals directly to Job himself. Could he suppose that God was like those earthly princes, who hate right, who are unfit to rule, and prove the scourges of mankind? It is daring presumption to condemn God's proceedings, as Job had done by his discontents. Elihu suggests divers considerations to Job, to produce in him high thoughts of God, and so to persuade him to submit. Job had often wished to plead his cause before God. Elihu asks, To what purpose? All is well that God does, and will be found so. What can make those uneasy, whose souls dwell at ease in God? The smiles of all the world cannot quiet those on whom God frowns.Shall even he that hateth right govern? - Margin, as in Hebrew "bind." That is, shall he bind by laws. The argument in this verse seems to be an appeal to what must be the conviction of mankind, that God, the Great Governor of the universe, could not be unjust. This conviction, Elihu appears to have supposed, was so deep in the human mind, that he might appeal even to Job himself for its truth. The question here asked implies that it would be impossible to believe that one who was unjust could govern the universe. Such a supposition would be at variance with all the convictions of the human soul, and all the indications of the nature of his government to be found in his works.

And wilt thou condemn him that is most just? - The great and holy Ruler of the universe. The argument here is, that Job had in fact placed himself in the attitude of condemning him who, from the fact that he was the Ruler of the universe, must be most just. The impropriety of this he shows in the following verses.

17. "Can even He who (in thy view) hateth right (justice) govern?" The government of the world would be impossible if injustice were sanctioned. God must be just, because He governs (2Sa 23:3).

govern—literally, "bind," namely, by authority (so "reign," 1Sa 9:17, Margin). Umbreit translates for "govern, repress wrath, namely, against Job for his accusations.

most just—rather, "Him who is at once mighty and just" (in His government of the world).

He that hateth right, i.e. that is unrighteous. But this he expresseth in a most emphatical manner, the reason and weight whereof seems to me to be this: If God be unjust, he is not so from fear of any superior, (as inferior magistrates do many unrighteous things against their consciences to please their prince or chief ruler, or to avoid his displeasure,) but merely from an intrinsical hatred of justice, or love of unrighteousness; which being most absurd to imagine concerning God, therefore he cannot possibly be unjust, or do any unjust action.

Govern; so this word, which properly signifies to bind, is fitly rendered by most interpreters; and so it is used Isaiah 3:7, because governors have a power to bind their subjects by laws and penalties, and they are as it were the ligaments by which societies are bound and kept together, which without them would be dissolved and broken to pieces. Elihu’s argument here is the same with that of Abraham’s, Genesis 18:25, and that of St. Paul’s, Romans 3:5,6, If God be unrighteous, how shall he judge or govern the world? And the argument is undeniable, If God were unjust, there would be nothing but injustice, and confusion, and mischief in the world; whereas we see there is a great deal of justice administered by rulers in the world, and all this must proceed from him who is the fountain and author of all justice, and rule, and authority. And as the psalmist saith, Psalm 94:9, He that formed the eye, shall not he see? so say I, He that makes men just, shall he be unjust? Him that is most just, i.e. God, who hath given so many clear and unquestionable evidences of his justice, in giving just and holy laws, in encouraging and rewarding very many righteous persons in this life, and inflicting dreadful and remarkable judgments upon tyrants and oppressors. Or, him that is just and mighty; for the next verse speaks of such, who were generally in those times more considerable for their power and authority than for their justice. So here is a double argument against Job’s censures of God’s justice. He is just, and therefore giveth thee no cause to condemn him; and withal potent, and therefore can punish thee yet far worse for so doing.

Shall even he that hateth right govern?.... That hates moral and civil justice; is such an one fit to rule among men or over them? No, surely; for to love righteousness and do it is a qualification of a civil governor; it is his business to administer justice; and if an hater of it, he can never be a proper person to rule: and if God was an hater of that which is right, as he would seem to be if he did not do it, he would not be fit to govern the world as he does. To this absurdity is Job reduced, by suggesting that right was not done him, or that God had removed his judgment from him; see 2 Samuel 23:3, Romans 3:5. Mr. Broughton translates the words, "can a foe to judgment rule well?" And yet it cannot be denied, but must be owned, that God does judge in the earth, and judges righteously. Or shall such an one "bind" (b)? the allusion may be to a surgeon that binds up wounds. Sin makes wounds, and such as cannot be healed by men; but God can bind them up and cure them, and does: but would he do this if he hated that which is right, if he was not kind and merciful, just and good? see Hosea 6:1. Or, as others render it, which comes pretty near to the same sense, "shall a hater of judgment refrain wrath" (c)? Such are tyrants, cruel and unmerciful, full of wrath and vengeance, and which they execute in a barbarous manner: but such is not God; he stirs not up all his wrath, which he in justice might; he retains it not for ever, but delights in mercy;

and wilt thou condemn him that is most just? It is not right to condemn any just man, to charge him wrongfully, and then pass an unrighteous sentence on him; and much less to charge the righteous God with injustice, and condemn him that is most just, superlatively just; in whom there is not the least shadow of unrighteousness; who is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works; who is naturally, essentially, and infinitely righteous.

(b) "obligabit", Montanus; so Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Michaelis. (c) "An nasum osor judicii fraenabit?" Schultens.

Shall even he that hateth right {m} govern? and wilt thou condemn him that is most just?

(m) If God were not just, how could be govern the world?

17. condemn him that is most just] Or, condemn the just, the mighty One.

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). Job 34:1716 And oh understand now, hear this;

Hearken to the sound of my words.

17 Would one who hateth right also be able to subdue?

Or wilt thou condemn the All-just?

18 Is it becoming to say to a king: Worthless One!?

Thou evil-doer! to princes?

19 To Him who accepteth not the person of rulers,

And regardeth not the noble before the poor:

For they are all the work of His hands.

20 In a moment they die, and at midnight

The people are overthrown and perish,

And they put aside the mighty - not by the hand of man.

This strophe contains several grammatical rarities. At first sight it appears that Job 34:16 ought to be translated: "and if there is understanding (viz., to thee equals if thou hast), then hear this." But בּינה is accented as Milel and with Mercha, and can therefore not be a substantive (Hirz., Hahn, and others); for the retreat of the accent would be absolutely incomprehensible, and instead of a conjunctive, a distinctive, viz., Dech, ought to be expected. Several of the old expositors, therefore, interpret with Nolde: quod quum ita sit, intellige; but this elliptical ואם, well as it might also be used for Job 21:4, is unsupportable; the Makkeph between the two words is also against it, which rather arises from the assumption that בּינה is the imperat., and אם as an exception, like Genesis 23:13, is an optative particle joined to the imper. 2 instead of to the fut.: "and if thou shouldst observe" ( equals ואם־תּבין). To translate Job 34:17 with Schultens: num iram osor judicii frenabit, is impracticable on account of the order of the words, and gives a thought that is inappropriate here. אף is a particle, and the fut. is potentialis: is it also possible that an enemy of right should govern? (חבשׁ, imperio coercere, as אצר 1 Samuel 9:17, אסר Psalm 105:22); right and government are indeed mutually conditioned, without right everything would fall into anarchy and confusion. In Job 34:17 this is applied to the Ruler of the world: or (ואם, an, as Job 8:3; Job 21:4; Job 40:9) wilt thou condemn the mighty just One, i.e., the All-just? As Elihu calls God שׂגּיא כח, Job 37:23, as the Almighty, and as the Omniscient One, תּמים דּעים, Job 37:16, so here as the All-just One, צדּיק כּבּיר. The two adjectives are put side by side ἀσυνδέτως, as is frequently the case in Arabic, and form one compound idea, Ew. 270, d.

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