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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Job 35

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Elihu Accuses Job of Self-Righteousness

A. Elihu confronts what he believes to be Job’s self-righteousness.

1. (Job 35:1-3) Elihu to Job: “Are you more righteous than God?”

Moreover Elihu answered and said:
“Do you think this is right?
Do you say,
‘My righteousness is more than God’s’?
For you say,
‘What advantage will it be to You?
What profit shall I have, more than if I had sinned?’”

a. Do you think this is right: Elihu had just badgered Job severely at the end of his previous discourse. He accused him of adding rebellion to his sin, of ignoring the wise counsel of his friends (he claps his hands among us), and of speaking wrongly against God (multiplies his words against God). So to emphasize the point, he jabbed a finger at Job and said, “Do you think this is right?

b. For you say... What profit shall I have, more than if I had sinned: Elihu accused Job of a cold calculation; of saying that he denied God’s moral order and said that there was no point to sinning or not sinning.

i. “Once again Elihu puts words into Job’s mouth, and in the process not only misquotes him but grossly misrepresents his position.” (Mason)

ii. “Elihu had missed Job’s point, that he wanted to be vindicated because he did believe God was just. Of course Job, in his struggle to understand what God was doing, had sent out two signals, one of which Elihu, like the others, had not been able to hear.” (Smick)

2. (Job 35:4-8) Elihu to Job: “God is farther above you than you can imagine.”

“I will answer you,
And your companions with you.
Look to the heavens and see;
And behold the clouds;
They are higher than you.
If you sin, what do you accomplish against Him?
Or, if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to Him?
If you are righteous, what do you give Him?
Or what does He receive from your hand?
Your wickedness affects a man such as you,
And your righteousness a son of man.”

a. I will answer you, and your companions with you: Elihu’s arguments and ideas were substantially the same as those of Job’s friends. Yet he thought of himself as different, and thought that he could correct both Job and Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.

b. Look to the heavens and see; and behold the clouds, they are higher than you: Elihu wanted Job (and his friends) to understand an idea that they had already discussed and agreed upon, the idea that God is greater than man and beyond man.

i. “The Lord showed Abraham the stars, but Elihu shows Job the clouds... Elihu sees the clouds as a wall between Heaven and earth; to him they are a picture of God’s distance from man, of His unreachability and His impassiveness.” (Mason)

ii. “The further we can look unto heaven (or into it) the better shall we conceive of that infinite distance that is betwixt God in heaven and men on earth.” (Trapp)

c. If you are righteous, what do you give Him: The idea was that God was so far beyond man that there was nothing man could do to God’s benefit. Elihu felt that Job had lost his fear and godly appreciation of God.

i. Elihu had, in one sense, trapped himself in his own argument. If God is so beyond man, then what use is it for Job to repent at all? “According to the terms and requirements of Infinite Righteousness God is independent of man, according to the nature of His heart of love, which these men did not perfectly understand, He cannot be independent.” (Morgan)

ii. God is indeed God; but Elihu missed how close God comes to man. “The whole of Biblical revelation, centred and consummated in Christ, shows that human sin inflicts wounds upon God, and causes sorrow to the Holy One: and that man, living in righteousness, does give glory to God, and causes joy to His heart.” (Morgan)

iii. “If it is true that because God is so great and so high, the innocence or guilt of a petty human being is a matter of profound indifference to his Maker, on the ground that it can bring Him neither gain nor loss, we are landed, we see at once, on a very gloomy shore. We reach a conclusion fatal to all religion.” (Bradley)

B. Self-righteous Job should expect no answer from God.

1. (Job 35:9-12) God does not answer the proud, even if they are oppressed.

“Because of the multitude of oppressions they cry out;
They cry out for help because of the arm of the mighty.
But no one says,
‘Where is God my Maker,
Who gives songs in the night,
Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth,
And makes us wiser than the birds of heaven?’
There they cry out, but He does not answer,
Because of the pride of evil men.

a. Because of the multitude of oppressions they cry out: Elihu understood that men cried out to God when they were oppressed or felt afflicted by the arm of the mighty.

i. Elihu wanted to explain why God did not answer the afflicted. Job initially raised the issue. “Job had devoted an entire speech to the subject of God’s apparent indifference to his plight (Job 23) and the plight of all who suffer and are oppressed (Job 24).” (Smick)

b. But no one says, “Where is God my Maker”: Elihu noted that men seek God in their time of need, but their seeking often isn’t sincere. They don’t recognize God as their Maker, they don’t recognize His comforts (who gives songs in the night), and the wisdom He gives (makes us wiser than the birds of heaven).

i. Who gives us songs in the night: “A holy soul has continual communion with God: night and day its happiness is great; and God, from whom it comes, is the continual subject of its songs of praise.” (Clarke)

ii. “Elihu’s reason is right in the majority of cases. The great cause of a Christian’s distress, the reason of the depths of sorrow into which many believers are plunged, is simply this — that while they are looking about, on the right hand and on the left, to see how they may escape their troubles, they forget to look to the hills whence all real help cometh; they do not say, ‘Where is God my Maker, who giveth songs in the night?’” (Spurgeon)

iii. Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth: “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.” (Poole)

iv. “Beasts, birds, fowls, and in many cases pond-fishes, know and seem thankful to the hand that feeds them; while man, made much more noble than they, gifted with the greatest powers, privileged with the most important benefits, considers not the Lord, nor discerns the operation of his hand. Quadrupeds, reptiles, and fowls, have more gratitude to their masters than man has to his God.” (Clarke)

c. They cry out, but He does not answer, because of the pride of evil men: When men cry out to God in such insincerity, Elihu said that God does not answer them, and He does not answer because of the pride of evil men.

i. Elihu said this with full knowledge that Job had complained that God would not answer him. Therefore, Elihu freely associated Job with the insincere, proud, and evil men.

2. (Job 35:13-16) Elihu to Job: “God does not want to hear your empty talk.”

Surely God will not listen to empty talk,
Nor will the Almighty regard it.
Although you say you do not see Him,
Yet justice is before Him, and you must wait for Him.
And now, because He has not punished in His anger,
Nor taken much notice of folly,
Therefore Job opens his mouth in vain;
He multiplies words without knowledge.”

a. Surely God will not listen to empty talk: Elihu resumed his harsh approach towards Job. His idea was that God did not hear Job because he was a false, empty seeker.

i. “The Elihus of this world do not care about the cruelty of their perfectionist advice and its unreality. Their theory is saved; that is what matters.” (Andersen)

b. Although you say you do not see Him, yet justice is before Him: Elihu wanted Job to see that God was indeed right in front of him, present in the fact of justice. If Job would only be patient (you must wait for Him), he would see the God whom he claimed was hidden from him.

i. “To complain that you do not see him is an impertinence, when the fault lies with Job.” (Andersen)

c. Because He has not punished in His anger... therefore Job opens his mouth in vain: Again, Elihu was very harsh with Job. “Job, if God were to punish you as you deserve, you would not be able to even open your mouth in the vain way that you do. You also speak ignorantly” (he multiplies words without knowledge).

i. “Since verse 15 is quite obscure, we are left to guess that it means that Elihu is accusing Job of completely misunderstanding God’s unresponsiveness as heedlessness, whereas in fact God is holding His anger in. Job is guilty of despising God’s longsuffering.” (Andersen)

ii. Elihu saw that God had not yet answered Job, at least not in any way that Job had hoped. Therefore he said, “Job opens his mouth in vain.” The idea was, “Job, if you were really a godly man, then God would have answered you by now. The fact that He hasn’t proves your ungodliness.”

©2019 David Guzik — No distribution beyond personal use without permission


  1. Andersen, Francis I. "Job: An Introduction and Commentary" Volume 14 (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1975)
  2. Bradley, George Granville "Lectures on the Book of Job: Delivered in Westminster Abbey" (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1887)
  3. Clarke, Adam "Clarke's Commentary: The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments with a Commentary and Critical Notes" Volume 3 (Job-Song of Solomon) (New York: Eaton and Mains, 1827)
  4. Mason, Mike "The Gospel According to Job" (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1994)
  5. Morgan, G. Campbell "An Exposition of the Whole Bible" (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Revell, 1959)
  6. Morgan, G. Campbell "Searchlights from the Word" (New York: Revell, 1926)
  7. Poole, Matthew "A Commentary on the Holy Bible" Volume 1 (Genesis-Job) (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1968)
  8. Smick, Elmer B. "Job: The Expositor's Bible Commentary" Volume 4 (1 Kings-Job) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1992)
  9. Spurgeon, Charles Haddon "The New Park Street Pulpit" Volumes 1-6 and "The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit" Volumes 7-63 (Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications, 1990)
  10. Trapp, John "A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments" Volume 2 (Ezra to Psalms) (Eureka, California: Tanski Publications, 1997)

Updated: August 2022

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