Elihu spake moreover, and said,
Verses 1-16. - In this short chapter, once more Elihu addresses himself to Job, first (vers. 1-8) answering his complaint that a life of righteousness has brought him no correspondent blessings; and then (vers. 9-14) explaining to him that his prayers and appeals to God have probably not been answered because they were not preferred in a right spirit, i.e. with faith and humility. Finally (verb. 15, 16), he condemns Job for haughtiness and arrogance, and reiterates the charge that he "multiplies words without knowledge" (comp. Job 34:35-37). Verses 1, 2. - Elihu spake moreover, and said, Thinkest thou this to be right, that thou saidst, My righteousness is more than God's? Once more it is to be observed that Job had said no such thing. At the worst, he had made statements from which it might be argued that he regarded himself as having a more delicate sense of justice than God (e.g. Job 9:22-24; Job 10:3; Job 12:6, etc.). But Elihu insists on pushing Job's intemperate phrases to their extremest logical issues, and taxing Job with having said all that his words might seem to a strict logician to involve (compare the comment on Job 34:5, 9).
Thinkest thou this to be right, that thou saidst, My righteousness is more than God's?
For thou saidst, What advantage will it be unto thee? and, What profit shall I have, if I be cleansed from my sin?
Verse 3. - For thou saidst What advantage will it be unto thee? i.e. What advantage will thy righteousness be unto thee? Job had certainly argued that his righteousness brought him no temporal advantage; but he had always a conviction that he would ultimately be the better for it. Elihu, however, does not acknowledge this; and, assuming that Job expects to receive no advantage at all from his integrity, argues that God is not bound to afford him any. And, What profit shall I have, if I be cleansed from my sin? rather, And what profit shall f have, more than if I had sinned? (see the Revised Version, and compare the comments of Rosenmuller and Canon Cook).
I will answer thee, and thy companions with thee.
Verse 4. - I will answer thee, and thy companions with thee; i.e. "thy comforters, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar." Elihu has pledged himself to confute their reasonings, no less than those of Job (Job 32:5-20), and now proposes to carry out this intention. But it is not very clear that he accomplish, s his purpose. In point of fact, he does little more than repeat and expand the argument of Eliphaz (Job 22:2, 3).
Look unto the heavens, and see; and behold the clouds which are higher than thou.
Verse 5. - Look unto the heavens, and see; and behold the clouds which are higher than thou; i.e. "look to the material sky and heavens, so far above thee and so unapproachable, and judge from them how far the God who made them is above thy puny, feeble self - how incapable he is of being touched by any of thy doings."
If thou sinnest, what doest thou against him? or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto him?
Verse 6. - If thou sinnest, what doest thou against him? Man's sins against God cannot injure him, diminish from his power, or lower his dignity. They can only injure the sinner himself. God does not punish them because they harm him, but because they are discords in the harmony of his moral universe. Or even if thy transgressions be multiplied; i.e. if thou persistest in a long course of sin, and addest "rebellion" to transgression, and self-complacency to rebellion, and "multipliest thy words against God" (Job 34:37) - even then, what doest thou unto him?.. what hurt dost thou inflict upon him? None.
If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hand?
Verse 7. - If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? By parity of reasoning, as our sins do not injure God, so our righteousness cannot benefit him. As David says, "My goodness extendeth not to thee" (Psalm 16:2). Or what receiveth he of thine hand? All things being already God's, we can but give him of his own. We cannot really add to his possessions, or to his glory, or to his felicity. We cannot, as some have supposed they could ('Religions of the Ancient World,' pp. 143, 144), lay him under an obligation.
Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art; and thy righteousness may profit the son of man.
Verse 8. - Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art; and thy righteousness may profit the son (rather, a son) of man. Job must not think, Elihu means, that, because his good actions benefit and his bad actions injure his fellow men, therefore they must also in the one case injure and in the other benefit God. The cases are not parallel. God is too remote, too powerful, too great, to be touched by his actions. Job has done wrong, therefore, to expect that God would necessarily reward his righteousness by prosper us, happy life, and worse to complain because his expectations have been disappointed. It is of his mere spontaneous goodness and bounty that God rewards the godly.
By reason of the multitude of oppressions they make the oppressed to cry: they cry out by reason of the arm of the mighty.
Verses 9-14. - Job had made it a frequent subject of complaint that God did not hear, or at any rate did not answer, his prayers and cries for relief. Elihu answers that Job's case is not exceptional. Those who cry out against oppression and suffering frequently receive no answer, but it is because they "ask amiss." Job should have patience and trust. Verse 9. - By reason of the multitude of oppressions they make the oppressed to cry; rather, by reason of the multitude of oppressions, men cry out. It is not Job only who cries to God. Oppressors are numerous; the oppressed are numerous; everywhere there are complaints and outcries. They cry out by reason of the arm of the mighty. The oppressors are, for the most part, the mighty of the earth - kings, princes, nobles (see Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 3:14, 15; Hosea 5:10; Amos 4:1, etc.).
But none saith, Where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night;
Verse 10. - But none saith, Where is God my Maker? The oppressed, in many cases, do not appeal to God at all. They mutter and complain and groan because of their afflictions; but they have not enough faith in God to cry to him. Or, if they do so cry, it is not in a right spirit; it is despondingly, despairingly, not confidently or cheerfully. God is one who giveth songs in the night. The truly pious man sings hymns of praise in his affliction, as Paul and Silas did in the jail at Philippi, looking to God with faith and a lively hope for deliverance.
Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven?
Verse 11. - Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven. Elihu probably alludes to Job's defence of his complaints as natural, like the instinctive cries of beasts and birds (Job 6:5). God, he says, has given to man a higher nature than he has bestowal on the brutes; and this nature should teach him to carry his griefs to God in a proper spirit- a spirit of faith, piety, humility, and resignation. If men cried to him in this spirit, they would obtain an answer. If they do not obtain an answer, it must be that the proper spirit is lacking (comp. James 4:3).
There they cry, but none giveth answer, because of the pride of evil men.
Verse 12. - There they cry. "There," smitten by calamity, they do at last cry to God. But none giveth answer. They "ask, and receive not." Why? Because of the pride of evil men. Because, i.e., they ask proudly, not humbly; they claim relief as a right, not as a favour; they approach God in a spirit that offends him and prevents him from granting their requests.
Surely God will not hear vanity, neither will the Almighty regard it.
Verse 13. - Surely God will not hear vanity. God will not hear prayers that are rendered "vain" by sin or defect in those who offer them, as by a want of faith, piety, humility, or resignation. Neither will the Almighty regard any such petitions.
Although thou sayest thou shalt not see him, yet judgment is before him; therefore trust thou in him.
Verse 14. - Although thou sayest thou shalt not see him; rather, How much less when thou sayest thou canst not see him! (compare the Revised Version); i.e. how much less will God attend to thy prayers when thou sayest that thou canst not see or find him (Job 9:11; Job 23:3, 8-10), that he is altogether hid from thee, and treats thee as an enemy (Job 33:10)! Still, judgment (or, the cause, i.e. "thy cause') is before him, or "awaits his decision." Therefore trust thou in him. Wait on, in patience and trust. The last word is not yet spoken.
But now, because it is not so, he hath visited in his anger; yet he knoweth it not in great extremity:
Verses 15, 16. - Leaving his advice to sink into Job's mind, Elihu turns from him to the bystanders, and remarks, with some severity, that it is because Job has not been punished enough, because God has not visited him for his petulance and arrogance, that he indulges in "high swelling words of vanity," and continues to utter words which are foolish and" without knowledge." Verse 15. - But now, because it is not so, he hath visited in his anger. This is an impossible rendering. The Hebrew is perfectly plain, and is to be translated literally as follows: But now, because he hath not visited his (i.e. Job's) anger. (So Schultens, Canon Cook, and, with a slight difference, our Revisers.) God had not visited Job with any fresh afflictions on account of his vehement expostulations and overbold and reckless words. Yet he knoweth it not in great extremity. The Authorized Version again wholly misses the meaning. Translate, with the Revised Version, Neither doth he greatly regard (Job's) arrogance.
Therefore doth Job open his mouth in vain; he multiplieth words without knowledge.
Verse 16. - Therefore doth Job open his mouth in vain; or, in vanity (comp. ver. 13). He multiplieth words without knowledge; i.e. he is bold to speak words that are vain and insensate, because God has not, as he might have done, punished him for his previous utterances.