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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Job 35

Verses 1-16

The Speeches of Elihu (continued)

1-8. Elihu (Job 34:9) had charged Job with saying that there was no advantage in being righteous. He now deals with this assertion.

2. Right] RV 'thy right,' thy just cause.

3. If I he cleansed from my sin] RV 'more than if I had sinned.'

4. Thy companions] those who held the same views.

5-8. Elihu points to the infinite distance between God and man, and shows that He cannot be injured by the evil or benefited by the good which we do. But a man's conduct is most important both to himself and to his fellows.

9-16. Coming to the problem why the cry of the oppressed seems often unanswered, Elihu replies it is because there is a lack of real prayer and trust in God. Hence Job must not expect to be heard so long as he murmurs at the way God treats him.

9. They make the oppressed to cry] rather, 'men cry out.'

10. Who giveth songs in the night] i.e. who delivers in the night of trouble, and causes men to sing with joy.

12. Render, 'They cry because of the pride of evil men, but none giveth answer'; i.e. because there is no humble, trustful appeal to God.

13. Vanity] or, unreality.

14. Shalt] rather, 'dost.' Although Job thinks God is indifferent to his cause, it is not forgotten, only he must wait patiently.

15. RV 'But now, because he hath not visited in his anger, neither doth he greatly regard arrogance'; i.e. because God does not seem to punish sin at once.

16. In vain] i.e. with foolish views.

In this chapter Elihu follows Eliphaz in explaining that righteousness is profitable to the upright, since God is too exalted to have any interest of His own to serve in perversion of justice. He urges further that the reason for God's silence when the wretched appeal to Him is that their cry is prompted by their selfishness. Both arguments are quite irrelevant to the case of Job.

Verses 1-16

The Speeches of Elihu

It is the view of almost all scholars that the speeches of Elihu are a later addition. The grounds for this view are the following. His presence comes upon the reader with surprise, he is not mentioned with the other friends in the Prologue, and we have had no intimation that he has all the while been listening to the debate. It is still more remarkable that he is not mentioned at the close. Here God passes judgment on Job and the friends, and it is strange that Elihu is ignored. If the author intended Elihu to represent the true view, why did he not represent God as praising him, if not, why is he not condemned with the friends? This silence is the more surprising in view of the contents of the speeches. Elihu blames the friends for the ineffectiveness of their attack, yet he adopts somewhat the same attitude and repeats their arguments, though passing, to some extent, beyond them. He elaborates the thought that suffering is discipline, and may actually be an expression of the goodness of God. He works out this vein of argument more fully than the three friends. Still it is difficult to think that, after the debate between Job and the friends had been exhausted, the poet should have introduced a new speaker unless he had something better to say, unless, in fact, he could sum up the case and decide between the disputants. Job could have met the arguments of Elihu as easily as those of the friends. We may be well assured that the author who made him triumph over them would never have let him be silenced by the similar contentions of Elihu. It is also noteworthy that Elihu in his description of celestial marvels to some extent anticipates the speech of God which is to follow, and thus robs it of some of its effect. The style of the speeches is throughout on a much lower level, they are prolix and hard to understand, and the language is more coloured by Aramaic influences. It is also noteworthy that the opening words in Jehovah's speech, 'Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?', which refer to Job, do not well admit the view that another speaker has made a lengthy speech since Job finished speaking. There are minor arguments that need not be mentioned here.
A few scholars, however, still regard the speeches as part of the original poem. It is argued that the function of Elihu is to exhibit and correct the spiritual pride of Job, which he had himself failed to detect and overcome. Elihu brings home his fault to him, and shows how the discipline through which God has brought him was designed to purify him of his unsuspected sin and raise him to a loftier spiritual eminence. In spite of the subtle arguments urged in favour of this view it must be dismissed as very unlikely. The main lesson of the book on this theory nowhere finds clear expression, while the debate is largely irrelevant. The representation of the design of God does not harmonise with that in the Prologue, and the Divine speeches lose much of their significance. Moreover, according to the Prologue, which represents the author's view, Job is a truly blameless man, acknowledged as such by God Himself. With this Elihu does not agree, hence it was not the original author who introduced him into the book. Nor is it the fact that Elihu convicts Job, it is the vision of God that brings him to contrition.
The reasons for the insertion of these speeches lie on the surface. The author wished to reassert the doctrine held by the friends, but also to develop aspects of it which had not received due weight. He dwells on the value of affliction for discipline, and lays much stress on the goodness of God. He also wished to rebuke Job for his unbecoming words about God. And he seems to have dissented from the poet, to whom we owe the rest of the book, in his representation of Job's character before his trial, while he also thought it an impropriety to represent God as condescending to debate with Job.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Job 35". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.