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Monday, July 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Job 34

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



The whole cycle of speeches in Job is a marvel of human failure to understand. The relation between sin and suffering Job never for a moment disputed. The thing that confronted Job was that, in spite of his integrity toward God and the absence of any gross wickedness that could possibly have deserved the terrible misfortunes that had overtaken him, he was judged by his friends, and everyone else, as a wicked sinner who was getting exactly what his wicked conduct deserved.

It appears to this writer that one of the primary purposes of this book was that of contradicting that nearly universal fallacy. The false idea that wickedness is at once punished by God with retribution in kind is not true. It was not true in the days of Job; it was not true in the days of Christ; and it is not true today.

In Luke 13:1-5, Christ pointed out that those men whose blood Pilate had mingled with the sacrifices, and that those men upon whom the tower of Siloam fell were not any worse sinners than other citizens of Jerusalem; and in John 9:2-3, even the apostles of Christ had to be told that neither the blind man nor his parents had committed sins that resulted in his being born blind. The relevance of these New Testament passage is seen in the fact that people supposed the victims of those tragedies were being punished for their sins.

Since it was this very fallacy that was so vigorously alleged against Job by the instruments of Satan in this terrible campaign to compel him to renounce his integrity, we must conclude that the doctrine itself is a primary weapon of Satan, invented by him and continually advocated by evil men.

“Elihu continued to ignore the particular situation of Job and dealt only in generalities. Whereas Job had argued from the particular to the general, from his own case, to the character of God, as confirmed by other injustices around him, Elihu dealt only with his concept of theology (which was in error), concluding from it that Job was wicked.”(F1)

“There are three charges which Elihu brought against Job: (1) he said he was righteous (Job 9:21; Job 13:18); (2) this was an implication (in the sight of Elihu) that Job was accusing God of injustice; and (3) he even claimed that religion brought no profit to man. “It is impossible to justify this third charge from anything that Job had said. It was only a deduction made by Elihu from the general drift of what Job was saying.”(F2)

It was the erroneous views of Elihu and Job’s other accusers that led to their false judgment of him.

“This second speech of Elihu is not addressed primarily to Job, but to a group called `wise men’; and Elihu is no longer reasoning with Job with a view to helping him. He is attacking Job.”(F3)

Verses 1-9


“Moreover Elihu answered and said, Hear my words, ye wise men; And give ear unto me, ye that have knowledge. For the ear trieth words, As the palate tasteth food. Let us choose for us that which is right: Let us know among ourselves what is good. For Job said, I am righteous, And God hath taken away my right: Notwithstanding my right, I am accounted a liar; My wound is incurable, though I am without transgression. What man is like Job, Who drinketh up scoffing like water, Who goeth in company with the workers of iniquity, And walketh with wicked men? For he hath said, It profiteth a man nothing That he should delight himself with God.”

“Hear my words, ye wise men” The break at the beginning of this chapter means that Job had completely ignored Elihu, and that here Elihu turned to address the crowd that is imagined to have assembled to hear the speeches.(F4) Kelly pointed out that the crowd of onlookers here is “imagined,”(F5) there being no reference whatever to it in the text. However, the idea that the wise men here are a different group from the three friends is supported by the fact that, “The tone of reproof Elihu used in addressing the three friends (Job 32:7 ff) is no longer present in this chapter.”(F6)

“Notwithstanding my right, I am accounted a liar” We protest the evil rendition of Job 34:6 by Pope in the Anchor Bible. He rendered it, “Concerning my case, he (God) lies, wounded with his dart, yet sinless.”(F7) Many of the greatest scholars reject such a rendition. Atkinson translated it, “Although I am right, I am considered a liar,”(F8) which without any doubt is the true meaning of the place. The noted Albert Barnes gave it as, “In respect to my cause, I am regarded a liar. The arrow in me is fatal, though I am free from transgression.”(F9) Noyes, as quoted by Barnes, rendered it this way: “Though I am innocent I am made a liar.”

“What man is like Job, who drinketh up scoffing like water” “In this Elihu repeats the slander of Eliphaz, replacing `iniquity’ with `scoffing,’ and adding a totally groundless accusation that Job is a companion of evildoers (Job 34:8).”(F10) The word here rendered `scoffing,’ according to Keil, carries the meaning of `blasphemy.’“(F11)

“For he hath said, It profiteth a man nothing that he should delight himself in God” “Again it must be remarked that Job had not said this.”(F12) The nearest approach to anything like this that Job has said is in Job 9:22, where he stated that “God destroyeth the perfect and the wicked,” with the meaning that fatal accidents happen to good and bad alike.

Verses 10-15


“Therefore hearken unto me, ye men of understanding: Far be it from God that he should do wickedness, And from the Almighty, that he should commit iniquity. For the work of a man, will he render unto him, And cause every man to find according to his ways. Yea, of a surety, God will not do wickedly, Neither will the Almighty pervert justice. Who gave him a charge over the earth? Or who hath disposed the whole world? If he set his heart upon himself, If he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath; All flesh shall perish together, And man shall turn again unto dust.”

“The work of a man he (God) will render unto him” Elihu here repeats, “In crass individualistic terms the doctrine that God requites every man according to his behavior.”(F13) In context, this was merely Elihu’s way of saying that, “Job is getting exactly what he deserves.” The great error of Elihu’s bombastic words here is that, “He says a lot about God’s justice but not a word about divine grace.”(F14)

“God will not do wickedly” “Elihu said this as an effort to refute that which he (erroneously) supposed that Job had said.”(F15) “Job had not accused God of injustice, nor was he inclined to do so.”(F16)

“Who gave him a charge over the earth” “The thought here is that God rules the earth and is answerable to no one for his actions, a thought repeated again by Elihu in Job 36:23; but this truth Job had already stated emphatically in Job 9:12.”(F17)

“All flesh shall perish together” “If God Chose, he would have a right to cut down the whole race of mankind. How then should men complain of loss of health, comforts, friends, or anything else, and presume to arraign God as if he were unjust”?(F18) This was Elihu’s answer to what he conceived as Job’s accusation against God. Although Job’s persistent affirmation of his integrity seemed to his friends to be an accusation against God, they had totally misunderstood Job’s position. Job was not affirming that God was wicked or unjust; but that it could not have been his personal wickedness that led to his sufferings. Not God, but his sufferings were unjust; but since that contradicted the false theology of his friends, they erroneously concluded that Job was wicked.

Verses 16-20


“If now thou hast understanding, hear this: Hearken to the voice of my words. Shall even one that hateth justice govern? And wilt thou condemn him that is righteous and mighty? - Him that saith to a king, Thou art vile, Or to nobles, Ye are wicked; That respecteth not the persons of princes, Nor regardeth the rich more than the poor; For they all are the work of his hands. In a moment they die, even at midnight; The people are shaken and pass away, And the mighty are taken away without hand.”

“Shall even one that hateth justice govern” The thought here is that, “The very continuation of the rule of God implies its justice.”(F19)

“Him that saith to a king, Thou art vile” “The charge of injustice is serious enough if made only against an earthly ruler, but how much more serious is such a charge against God”?(F20) However, Elihu was not logical in bringing in the matter of earthly rulers here; because, “Fools may be set in high places (Ecclesiastes 10:5), and addressed with noble titles (Isaiah 32:5).”(F21)

“The mighty are taken away without hand” Both these verses (Job 34:19-20) deal with the doom of persons who accuse rulers (especially God) of injustice. Driver noted that, “The reason why God does not excuse wickedness in the rich and powerful is that they are his creatures with whom he has no cause to curry favor; and the proof that they are wicked is the fact that such persons die early.”(F22) It is not hard to discern Elihu’s intended application of these words to Job. According to Elihu, Job was an example of how God would not excuse the wickedness of the rich and powerful. Yes, Job was not yet dead; but Elihu expected him to die at any time. Elihu was a very effective instrument of Satan.

Verses 21-30

“For his eyes are upon the ways of a man, And he seeth all his goings. There is no darkness, nor thick gloom, Where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves. For he needeth not further to consider a man, That he should go before God in judgment. He breaketh in pieces mighty men in ways past finding out, And setteth others in their stead. Therefore he taketh knowledge of their works; And he overturneth them in the night, so that they are destroyed. He striketh them as wicked men In the open sight of others; Because they turned aside from following him, And would not have regard to any of his ways: So that they caused the cry of the poor to come upon him, And he heard the cry of the afflicted. When he giveth quietness, who then can condemn? And when he hideth his face, who then can behold him? Alike, whether it be done unto a nation or unto a man: That the godless man reign not, That there be none to ensnare the people.”

Elihu here continues his cruel, unjust and relentless attack upon Job. Job had longed for an `umpire’ who might plead his case before God; but Elihu declares that God needs no such assistance, because he is omniscient (Job 34:22-23).

“He breaketh in pieces mighty men” No one could avoid knowing whom Elihu was speaking of.

“In the open sight of others” Just look how public Job’s disasters were!

And why did God do all this to Job? (1) He would not regard any of God’s ways (Job 34:27); (2) he abused the poor and the afflicted (Job 34:28); when God finally sends quietness (when Job dies) who could condemn God for such a judgment? This of course, was merely Elihu’s analysis of the situation; and he was totally in error.

Verses 31-37


In these final verses of the chapter, in spite of several of them being very obscure, or even unintelligible, it is clear enough that Elihu’s prescription for Job is simple enough: “Either admit your wickedness, or we hope God will punish you to death.” It is quite obvious that in Elihu, Satan played his last card against Job,… AND LOST!

“For hath any said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will not offend anymore: That which I see not, teach thou me: I have done iniquity, I will do it no more? Shall his recompense be as thou wilt, that thou refuseth it? For thou must choose, and not I: Therefore speak what thou knowest. Men of understanding will say unto me, Yea, every wise man that heareth me: Job speaketh without knowledge, And his words are without wisdom. Would that Job were tried unto the end, Because of his answering like wicked men. For he addeth rebellion unto his sin; He clappeth his hands among us, And multiplieth his words against God.”

Job 34:28-33 are replete with difficulty, and the LXX omitted them entirely.”(F23) Also, Driver noted that, “These verses, as a whole, are unintelligible, or at least very ambiguous; and, in view of the extreme uncertainty of the remainder, insoluble.”(F24)

Taking our text as it stands in our version, it teaches that Elihu blasts Job: “because he has not admitted his sin” (Job 34:31-32); and also because he has not allowed his friends to prescribe his punishment, but has insisted on refusing it (Job 34:33). Elihu in Job 34:34 moves to rally the whole community (that assembly of onlookers flattered by Elihu as `wise men’) against Job, calling upon them to approve his verdict that Job is not only a terrible sinner but an ignoramus also (Job 34:34-35).

“Would that Job were tried to the end” Elihu by this is calling on the assembly to ratify his verdict that Job must either confess his wickedness, or they favor God’s putting him to death. He even gave three reasons to support his appeal: (1) Job answers like a wicked man (Job 34:36); (2) he has added rebellion against God to his sin (Job 34:37); and (3) he multiplies his words against God (Job 34:37).

With the whole community coming together under Elihu’s extremely bitter and antagonistic speech, and presumably favoring Elihu’s evil accusations against Job, we may well presume that the greatest pressure that Satan could possibly have brought against Job reached its climax in this vituperative, disgusting, egotistical and satanic assault upon Job’s integrity. We praise God that Job found the grace to sit in silent contempt and repudiation of his evil speech, not deigning to take the slightest notice of it.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Job 34". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/job-34.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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