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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Job 34

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Elihu Denounces Job

A. Elihu denounces Job for losing faith and denying God's justice.

1. (Job 34:1-9) He again inaccurately summarizes Job's argument.

Elihu further answered and said:
"Hear my words, you wise men;
Give ear to me, you who have knowledge.
For the ear tests words
As the palate tastes food.
Let us choose justice for ourselves;
Let us know among ourselves what is good."
 
"For Job has said, 'I am righteous,
But God has taken away my justice;
Should I lie concerning my right?
My wound is incurable, though I am without transgression.'
What man is like Job,
Who drinks scorn like water,
Who goes in company with the workers of iniquity,
And walks with wicked men?
For he has said, 'It profits a man nothing
That he should delight in God.'"

a. Hear my words, you wise men: Here Elihu again gave a wordy introduction to his point. In this speech he would quote the words of Job, the ones he felt accused God and justified himself.

i. "Of course, neither of these quotations was direct. They rather summarize the conclusions which Job's arguments seemed to warrant." (Morgan)

b. My wound is incurable, though I am without transgression: This was another slight mischaracterization of what Job said. Job certainly did claim to be wounded so severely by his trials that it might seem incurable; yet again he never claimed to be sinless. He only claimed that there was not some special sin that made him the target of this special catastrophe.

i. Elihu tried to quote specific statements of Job to rebuke, but he quoted selectively and unfairly. "Elihu picked out only those words of Job that he needed in order to prove his point." (Smick)

ii. "True it is, that Job in his heat had let fall very many lavish and inconsiderate speeches, as is to be seen almost throughout the tenth chapter; but yet it was far from him ever to say either that himself was without sin or that God was unjust, as Elihu would bear him down." (Trapp)

iii. Should I like concerning my right? "Should I falsely accuse myself of such sins of which I am in no way conscious to myself? Should I betray mine own cause, and deny my integrity, and say that I deserved worse than I have done?" (Poole)

c. What man is like Job … who goes in company with the workers of iniquity: It seems unthinkable that Elihu believed that Job actually was companion of wicked men. Perhaps he meant that what he considered to be Job's confused moral thinking led him to associate with the morally corrupt.

i. "In language even stronger than that of his elders, the youthful speaker attacks Job, not for some concealed guilt in his past life - of this, unlike his three elders, the youthful speaker says nothing - but as uttering blasphemy with delight, as drinking up scorning, as one athirst beneath an Eastern sun drinks water, and by so doing throwing himself on the side of the wicked." (Bradley)

d. For he has said, "It profits a man nothing that he should delight in God": Job certainly said nothing like this. We can understand how Elihu thought this about Job; because Job claimed to delight in God and he now seemed to claim that it profited him nothing. But Elihu is taking general trains of thought of Job, and extending them further than Job did.

i. "Job had wailed 'that those who provoke God are secure' (Job 12:6) while one who is 'righteous and blameless' is made 'a laughingstock' (Job 12:4; cf. 10:3; 21:7-8; 24:1-12). To Elihu this could mean nothing else than an accusation that God does wrong and it is unthinkable that God would do wrong." (Smick)

ii. "What most alarmed Elihu about Job was that somehow this man had the cheek to blame God for his problems, and yet still to consider himself righteous and faithful." (Mason)

2. (Job 34:10-15) The righteousness of God and His moral order.

"Therefore listen to me, you men of understanding:
Far be it from God to do wickedness,
And from the Almighty to commit iniquity.
For He repays man according to his work,
And makes man to find a reward according to his way.
Surely God will never do wickedly,
Nor will the Almighty pervert justice.
Who gave Him charge over the earth?
Or who appointed Him over the whole world?
If He should set His heart on it,
If He should gather to Himself His Spirit and His breath,
All flesh would perish together,
And man would return to dust."

a. For he repays man according to his work: Elihu followed the simple "you always reap what you sow" equation earlier promoted by Eliphaz in the very first speech of Job's friends (Job 4:7-11).

i. Many people today believe the idea of Elihu (and Eliphaz), and believe it as an absolute spiritual law instead of a general principle. Some take the passage from Galatians 6:7: Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. Yet it is important to understand the context of Paul's statement, which was encouragement and exhortation for Christians to give materially for the support of their ministers. It is true that the principle of Galatians 6:7 has application beyond giving and supporting teachers and ministers. It has a general application in life; what we get out is often what we put in. Yet Paul did not promote some law of spiritual karma that ensures we will get good when we do good things or always get bad when we do bad things. If there were such an absolute spiritual law it would surely damn us all. Instead, Paul simply related the principle of sowing and reaping to the way we manage our resources before the Lord. He used the same picture in 1 Corinthians 9:11 and 2 Corinthians 9:6-10.

b. Surely God will never do wickedly, nor will the Almighty pervert justice: Elihu was correct, and this was an idea agreed upon by Job and his three friends. Yet the problem was that Elihu and Job three friends also seemed to assume that God would never do mysteriously, and were too confident in their ability to understand God and His ways.

i. "Elihu is now caught in the same logic as the friends. By affirming that God's ways cannot be questioned, he is forced to denounce Job's opinions as impious." (Andersen)

c. If He should gather to Himself His Spirit and His breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust: Here Elihu wanted to emphasize the idea of God's independence and transcendence. He wanted Job to remember that God was so mighty that Job was entirely wrong to question Him at all.

3. (Job 34:16-20) God preserves His moral order.

"If you have understanding, hear this;
Listen to the sound of my words:
Should one who hates justice govern?
Will you condemn Him who is most just?
Is it fitting to say to a king, 'You are worthless,'
And to nobles, 'You are wicked'?
Yet He is not partial to princes,
Nor does He regard the rich more than the poor;
For they are all the work of His hands.
In a moment they die, in the middle of the night;
The people are shaken and pass away;
The mighty are taken away without a hand."

a. Will you condemn Him who is just? Elihu took Job's agonized cries to God as Job condemning God. It was an unfair assumption; Job's agony was deeply rooted in the sense that he did love God and respect His justice.

b. Yet He is not partial to princes, nor does He regard the rich more than the poor: Elihu, in his own wordy way, was again emphasizing the perfect justice of God.

4. (Job 34:21-30) The perfection of God's judgments.

"For His eyes are on the ways of man,
And He sees all his steps.
There is no darkness nor shadow of death
Where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.
For He need not further consider a man,
That he should go before God in judgment.
He breaks in pieces mighty men without inquiry,
And sets others in their place.
Therefore he knows their works;
He overthrows them in the night,
And they are crushed.
He strikes them as wicked men
In the open sight of others,
Because they turned back from Him,
And would not consider any of His ways,
So that they caused the cry of the poor to come to Him;
For He hears the cry of the afflicted.
When He gives quietness, who then can make trouble?
And when He hides His face, who then can see Him,
Whether it is against a nation or a man alone?;
That the hypocrite should not reign,
Lest the people be ensnared."

a. His eyes are on the ways of man, and He sees all his steps: Elihu continued on the theme of God's perfect justice. Here he emphasized the idea that nothing man does is hidden from the eyes of God.

i. "How true it all is, and how important, that we should lay it all to heart! But how completely if failed to explain the problem of Job's sufferings. Once more we have to say that it was all true, even about Job, but it was not all the truth." (Morgan)

b. He strikes them as wicked men in the open sight of others, because they turned back from Him, and would not consider any of His ways: Elihu meant this as a warning for Job. God's judgment was so perfect that He judged the kings and princes of this world without partiality. Therefore, if Job did not repent of the sin that prompted his crisis and his sinful response to it, he could be certain God would judge him as one who turned back from Him.

i. Adam Clarke had an interesting story to tell on the observation of Elihu that God would avenge the cry of the poor to come to Him when the rich and influence oppressed them: "In times of little liberality, when some men thought they did God service by persecuting those who did not exactly receive their creed, nor worship God in their way, a certain great man in Scotland grievously persecuted his tenants, because they had religious meetings in private houses out of the order of the establishment; though he never molested them when they spent their time and their money in the alehouse. A holy, simple woman, one of those people, went one morning to the house of the great persecutor, and desired to speak with him. The servant desired to know her message, and he would deliver it, for she could not be admitted. She told him she could deliver her message to none but his master; said it was a matter of great importance, and concerned himself intimately, and alone. The servant having delivered this message, and stated that the woman appeared to have something particular on her mind, his worship condescended to see her. 'What is your business with me?' said he, in a haughty, overbearing tone. To which she answered, 'Sir, we are a hantle o' puir folk at---, who are strivin' to sairve God accordin' to our ain conscience, and to get our sauls sav'd: yee persecute us; and I am come to beg yee to let us alane; and in ye dinna, we'll pray yee dead.' This rhetoric was irresistible, His lordship did not know what influence such people might have in heaven; he did not like to put such prayers to the proof; wisely took the old woman's advice, and e'en let them alane. He was safe; they were satisfied; and God had the glory. When the poor refer their cause to God, he is a terrible avenger. Let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth, but we to the man that contendeth with his Maker."

c. That the hypocrite should not reign, lest the people be ensnared: Elihu thought it was important to emphasize these points because without them, the moral order of society would be overturned. If these things were shaken, then the hypocrite would reign and the common people would be ensnared.

i. The message of Elihu to Job was clear: God always does right. Yet the way he developed and applied that thought to Job's situation was wrong and even dangerous. "If everything God does is right, by definition, and if, because He is Sovereign, God does everything that happens, it follows that everything that happens is right, and the category of evil disappears." (Andersen)

B. Elihu's strong advice for Job.

1. (Job 34:31-33) Elihu: What Job should have said.

"For has anyone said to God,
'I have borne chastening;
I will offend no more;
Teach me what I do not see;
If I have done iniquity, I will do no more'?
Should He repay it according to your terms,
Just because you disavow it?
You must choose, and not I;
Therefore speak what you know."

a. For has anyone said to God: Here Elihu spoke the words of humble repentance that he thought Job should have said. Job was the anyone that Elihu had in mind.

- He should have manfully taken the chastening.
- He should have promised to offend no more, therefore admitting his previous guilt.
- He should have humbly submitted, asking God to teach him.

i. Elihu saw none of this in Job and it offended him and made him angry. He therefore pressed Job to do what he thought was right.

b. Should He repay it according to your terms: Elihu criticized what he thought was Job's arrogance. "Should God be just what you think He should be, and do just what you think He should do?"

i. "The question in verse 33 could be meant to startle Job. Must God recompense him for unfair treatment? Obviously not." (Smick)

ii. "Like the others, Elihu is locked in to the inevitable conclusion: Job is to blame. And his guilt is measured by the scale of his sufferings." (Andersen)

c. You must choose and not I; therefore speak what you know: Young Elihu tried to persuade Job with ultimatums and pressure that the three friends of Job did not use. He pressed his points on Job with great vigor.

i. It is painful to see this young, brash Elihu speak to the godly Job in this manner. Yet we remember that there is little doubt that Elihu had the best of intentions. He really though he was helping Job.

ii. "This he doth by a special instinct for Job's good, and not out of any desire for revenge. So Farellus pronounced a curse upon young Calvin's studies, in case he should refuse to join with him in the Lord's work at Geneva, where a Church had been newly planted; this so thunderstruck him, that he durst not stir therehence to his dying day." (Trapp)

2. (Job 34:34-37) Job's multiplied sins invite God's judgment.

"Men of understanding say to me,
Wise men who listen to me:
'Job speaks without knowledge,
His words are without wisdom.'
Oh, that Job were tried to the utmost,
Because his answers are like those of wicked men!
For he adds rebellion to his sin;
He claps his hands among us,
And multiplies his words against God."

a. Job speaks without knowledge, his words are without wisdom: This, according to Elihu, was the common opinion of the men of understanding and the wise men who looked at Job's situation. They all agreed that he had no real wisdom or knowledge in his situation.

b. Oh, that Job were tried to the utmost, because his answers are like those of wicked men! Young Elihu thought that Job had not suffered enough. He thought that a little more suffering (tried to the utmost) might bring Job to repentance.

i. "This is a very harsh wish: but the whole chapter is in the same spirit; nearly destitute of mildness and compassion. Who could suppose that such arguings could come out of the mouth of the loving Saviour of mankind?" (Clarke)

ii. Elihu said this because he genuinely believed that Job was getting himself deeper and deeper into sin. We know from Job 1 and 2 that Job was in fact a blameless and upright man who spoke from the fog and pain of his crisis and in the presence of his misunderstanding friends. Elihu thought that Job's problems began with his sin, and got worse as he adds rebellion to his sin, as he scorned the good advice of his friends (claps his hands among us) and as he multiplies his words against God.

iii. "Verse 37 is pretty blunt in its accusation. Earlier Job's irreverence was attributed to stupidity rather than to wickedness. The former might be cured by instruction in wisdom. The cure of the latter is more difficult, especially when it is wilful and repeated." (Andersen)

iv. "He ends the chapter by once more rebuking Job with a stern severity that exceeds even that of his friends." (Bradley)

© 2007 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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