Matthew Poole's Commentary
Elihu spake moreover, and said,Our good or evil extendeth not to God, Job 35:1-7, but to men on earth, who are hereby oppressed, and cry out, but not unto God, nor are delivered, Job 35:8-12. He exhorteth to hope in God, though for the present he be angry, Job 35:13-16.
No text from Poole on this verse.
Thinkest thou this to be right, that thou saidst, My righteousness is more than God's?Canst thou in thy conscience, upon second thoughts, approve of what thou hast said? Not that Job said this in express terms, but he said those things from which this might seem to follow, as that God punished him more than he deserved or expected, all things considered; and that if he might be admitted to debate his cause with or before God, he did not doubt to carry it, and to obtain that ease and favour from God, which otherwise God would not afford him. But this charge against Job he proves in the next verse.
For thou saidst, What advantage will it be unto thee? and, What profit shall I have, if I be cleansed from my sin?This verse contains the proof of the foregoing charges. Job had oft affirmed that he was, and still continued to be, righteous, though he had no present benefit by it, but much bitterness with it; and God was not kind to Job, notwithstanding all his former and present piety, but dealt with him as if he had been a most wicked man; which was in effect to say, that he was more righteous than God.
What advantage will it, to wit, his righteousness last mentioned, be unto thee, i.e. unto me; such changes of persons being very frequent in the Hebrew language.
If I be cleansed from my sin; or, by the expiation of my sin; for the same Hebrew word signifies both to sin and to purge out or expiate sin. Or, by it (to wit, by my righteousness) more than by my sin. So the sense is, I have no more present benefit by all my care to please and serve God, than wicked men have by their sins against him. God regards my cries no more than theirs, and shows no more kindness or pity to me than he doth to the most profligate wretches. But still remember Job speaks not here of the future life, wherein he knew he should have much advantage, as he professed before, but only of this present state.
I will answer thee, and thy companions with thee.Thy companions, i.e. those who are of thy opinion, or with whom thou dost associate thyself in those speeches and carriages; which seems to be meant not of Job’s three friends, (as many understand it, for their opinions were contrary to Job’s in this point,) but of wicked men, with whom Job is said to walk and go in company for this same opinion or assertion, Job 34:8,9. And these men he here calls Job’s companions, partly because they are very forward to harp upon the same string, and to accuse God and justify themselves upon all occasions; and partly that he might awaken Job to a more serious review of his former assertions, by representing to him whose cause he pleaded, and who were his confederates and colleagues in this opinion.
Look unto the heavens, and see; and behold the clouds which are higher than thou.How much more is God, who is far above all heavens, higher than thou! And therefore God is out of the reach of all profit or loss by thy actions. If thy goodness do not profit thee, it is certain it doth not profit him; and therefore doth not lay any obligation upon him to indulge or recompense thee for it, save only so far as he hath graciously obliged himself; and therefore thou canst not accuse him of injustice for afflicting thee, nor pretend that thou hast deserved better usage from him. And this infinite distance between God and thee should cause thee to think and speak more modestly and reverently of that glorious majesty.
If thou sinnest, what doest thou against him? or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto him?Thy sins do him no hurt, and therefore thy righteousness brings him no benefit, as it follows.
If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hand?He gaineth nothing by it, nor can indeed receive any good from thee, because all thy good comes from him. And therefore thou hast no reason to boast of nor to upbraid God with thy piety, which is much to thy advantage, but nothing to his.
Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art; and thy righteousness may profit the son of man.If God were such a one as thou art, he might have benefit or hurt by thine actions; but being an infinite, independent, and self-sufficient Being, he is far exalted above all thy good or evil.
By reason of the multitude of oppressions they make the oppressed to cry: they cry out by reason of the arm of the mighty.The multitude, or greatness. This verse is supposed to contain an argument to prove what he said Job 35:8, that one man’s wickedness may hurt another. But he rather seems to begin a new matter, and having answered one of Job’s objections, to proceed to another, which may be either,
1. That which Job had oft complained of, that he cried to God, and God did not hear his cry; which Elihu answers by a parallel case of men crying out for oppression; whom yet God doth not hear nor help, and that for just reasons, which he leaves to Job to apply to himself. Or,
2. That which Job had alleged, Job 24:12, and which might seem to reflect upon God’s providence. This therefore Elihu repeats in this verse, and answereth in the following.
To cry; not only to murmur and complain, but to cry out by reason of sore oppression, and to cry to the oppressors or others for pity and help. By reason of the arm of the mighty; because their oppressors are too strong for them.
But none saith, Where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night;None, i.e. few or none (for few are oft called and accounted as none, both in Scripture and other authors) of the great numbers of oppressed persons.
None saith, to wit, seriously or sincerely, and it may be not so much as in word and profession.
Where is God? they howl and cry out of men, and to men, but they seek not after God; they do not acknowledge him in all their ways; they praise him not for that ease, and liberty, and estate, and other mercies which God gave them; and by this unthankfulness they forfeit their mercies; and therefore if God suffer oppressors to take them away, they have no cause to complain of God, but only of themselves: they will not vouchsafe to pray to God seriously and fervently, either to continue or to restore their lost mercies; and therefore if God do not hear nor regard their brutish cries, arising only from a natural sense of their misery, it is not strange nor unjust.
My Maker; who alone made me, and whose power and providence preserveth me every day, and who only can protect and deliver me; all which were obligations upon them to praise God, and pray to him, and depend upon him, and aggravations of their gross neglect of God. Heb. my Makers, in the plural number; which being used not only here, but also Ecclesiastes 12:1 Isaiah 44:5, and that without any necessity, when it might as well have been put in the singular number, yea, though Elohim be plural, as it is Genesis 1:1, plainly implies a plurality of persons in the Divine essence, of which see on Genesis 1:26. Songs, i.e. matter of songs; great occasion to rejoice and praise God.
In the night; either,
1. Metaphorically taken, i.e. in the night of affliction; implying that they want not cause to bless God even in their afflictions. Or rather,
2. Properly, as this word is always used in Job, one place excepted, which is doubtful, to wit, Job 36:20; which he may mention rather than the day, either because oppressed persons, who in the day time are cruelly used by their oppressors, are permitted to rest in the night; or because the hand and mercy of God is more manifest in the preservation, and rest, and sleep of the night, than in the blessings of the day, which are procured by man’s industry; or because the day is the time of action, the night of contemplation, when we do and ought to remember God’s mercies with thanksgiving: compare Psalm 42:8 119:62.
Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven?This is mentioned as a further aggravation of men’s neglect of God in their misery. God hath given to men those gifts which he hath denied to beasts, reason and religion, wisdom to know God and themselves, and their obligations to God, and their dependence upon him. And therefore it ill becometh them to lie like brute creatures, roaring and crying out in their miseries, without taking any notice of God in way of prayer or praise; and if they do so, it is no wonder if God takes no notice of them.
There they cry, but none giveth answer, because of the pride of evil men.There, or then, as this particle is used, Psalm 14:5 Ecclesiastes 3:17 Zephaniah 1:14; in that time or condition.
The pride of evil men; either
1. Of the oppressors. So this is the reason not of the last clause, why none answereth, but of the former, why they cry; the latter clause being therefore shut up within a parenthesis, and the words thus are to be transposed, as some place them,
There they cry, because of the pride of evil men, but none giveth answer; the reason whereof followeth in the next verse. Or rather,
2. Of the oppressed persons. And so there is no need of any parenthesis or transposition. And so these words contain one reason of the words immediately foregoing, which is most natural, and easy, and usual, to wit, why none giveth answer, i.e. why God doth not answer nor regard their cries, because of their pride, &c., because they are both evil, wicked and impenitent, and proud, unhumbled for those sins for which God brought these miseries upon them, and unsubdued to the obedience of God.
Surely God will not hear vanity, neither will the Almighty regard it.Either,
1. Vain and light persons, that have no true wisdom or solid piety in them, but are wholly addicted to vain and worldly things, rejoicing immoderately when they have them, and crying out for want of them, as here they do. Or,
2. Vain cries, which proceed not from faith or piety, but only from self-love and a natural sense of their misery; which is common to them with brute beasts. The abstract is here put for the concrete, as wickedness is oft put for wicked men, and pride for proud persons, and the like.
Neither will the Almighty regard it: though God be able to help them, as this title of God implies, and though he be the Judge of the world, as the former name of God signifies, to whom therefore it belongs to right the oppressed against the oppressor, yet in this case he justly refuseth to help them.
Although thou sayest thou shalt not see him, yet judgment is before him; therefore trust thou in him.Thou shalt not see him; or, thou canst not see him; the future tense of the indicative mood being oft put potentially; i.e. thou canal not have thy desire in appearing and pleading thy cause before him. So this is a new matter, and Elihu answers another objection of Job’s, of which see Job 23:8,9, and tells him that he is not to judge of God by present appearance; because though God may for a season hide his face, and delay to give him an answer, yet he will certainly do him right. Before him, i.e. before God, or in his presence, or at his tribunal, or in all his ways and admininstrations. And
judgment is put for justice or just judgment, as it is Job 8:3 Psalm 37:28 99:4, and oft elsewhere. So the sense is, God is and will show himself to be just in all his ways, and therefore thou dost wickedly in reflecting upon God’s justice. Or, yet judge thyself
before him; instead of accusing God, condemn thyself, acknowledge thy sins, and then thou mayst hope for mercy. Compare 1 Corinthians 11:31.
Trust thou in him; instead of murmuring against him, put thy trust in him. Repent of what is past, and humble thyself under God’s hand, and do not despond for the future, but wait upon God patiently in his way till deliverance come to thee; for it will certainly come if thou dost not hinder it.
But now, because it is not so, he hath visited in his anger; yet he knoweth it not in great extremity:Because it is not so, i.e. because Job doth not acknowledge God’s justice and his own sins, and wait upon God in his way for mercy, according to the last advice given to him, Job 35:14.
He, to wit, God, to whom this great work of visiting is ascribed every where in Scripture.
Hath visited in his anger, i.e. hath laid grievous afflictions upon him; all which is too little to bring Job to compliance with God.
He knoweth it not; Job is not sufficiently sensible of it, so as to be humbled under God’s hand.
In great extremity; or, though (which particle is sometimes understood, of which examples have been before) in great extremity, or abundance, to wit, of afflictions. Though Job hath hitherto been and still is exercised with very sore calamities, yet they have not brought Job to the knowledge of God and of himself. But this verse is and may be rendered thus, And now know that his (i.e. God’s) anger hath visited thee little or nothing, (to wit, in comparison of what thou hast deserved and mightest reasonably expect,) neither hath he known (i.e. judged or punished, as this word is used, Proverbs 10:9, and elsewhere) thee in or according to (as the prefix beth is sometimes used) the great abundance, to wit, of thy sins. And therefore thy complaints against God are very unrighteous and unreasonable.
Therefore doth Job open his mouth in vain; he multiplieth words without knowledge.Therefore; hence it is manifest.
Open his mouth in vain, i.e. pour forth his complaints without any success, and gets no ease by them.
He multiplieth words without knowledge, thereby discovering his ignorance of God and of himself.