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Bible Commentaries
Job 36

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-24

5. Elihu’s fourth speech chs. 36-37

Of all Elihu’s discourses, this one is the most impressive because of his lofty descriptions of God.

"This concluding statement contains Elihu’s best and most distinctive ideas. Up until now he has been treading on familiar and conventional ground, repeating largely the ideas which Job and his friends have already expressed. The harsh tone that Elihu had adopted in his second and third speeches is here softened. Job 36:1-21 is a more mature and engaging statement of orthodox theology than anything found elsewhere in the book." [Note: Ibid., p. 258.]

Verses 1-26

God’s dealings with man 36:1-26

The first four verses of chapter 36 introduce this speech. In them, Elihu again urged Job to pay attention to what he would say. He claimed that his words were true and that he himself was "perfect in knowledge" (Job 36:4).

"In his defence [sic] of the righteousness of God, Elihu now develops his thought on the disciplinary meaning of suffering. God is great, but he does not despise men. The incorrigibly wicked he does not preserve, but in mercy he afflicts the righteous that they may be cleansed of all sin and pride." [Note: Rowley, p. 227.]

Four times in this chapter and twice in this section (Job 36:1-25) Elihu said, "Behold" (Job 36:5; Job 36:22; Job 36:26; Job 36:30). In each case, he then proceeded to say something important about God. After this, he applied that truth.

Elihu’s first affirmation was that God is mighty and merciful (Job 36:5-10), and He uses suffering to instruct people. There are two possible responses to God’s teaching: hearing (Job 36:11) and not hearing (Job 36:12), and each has consequences. Elihu developed these responses and consequences further, first the response of the godless (Job 36:13-14), and then that of the godly (Job 36:15-16). Essentially the godless typically become angry and refuse to turn to God for help, and this often leads to a life of shame and an untimely death (Job 36:13-14). The righteous who suffer, on the other hand, more often turn to God, submit to His instruction, learn from it, and live (Job 36:15). Finally, Elihu applied these points to Job and warned him against responding to his sufferings like the ungodly (Job 36:16-21). Specifically, Job should avoid anger and scoffing and not let the large price he was paying for his God-sent education (the "ransom," Job 36:18) divert him from godly living.

Elihu’s next major declaration about God, introduced by the second "Behold" (Job 36:22), was that He is a sovereign and supremely wise teacher (Job 36:22-23). Elihu’s application to Job was that he should worship God rather than murmuring, complaining, and pitying himself (Job 36:24-25). Worship would enable him to learn the lessons that God was teaching him. The introverted (chiastic) structure of Job 36:22-26 emphasize the fact that God is worthy of praise.

"Elihu has, in fact, steered the argument away from the justice of God to His wisdom, using His power as the bridge." [Note: Andersen, p. 262.]

God’s dealings with nature 36:27-37:24

Elihu focused next on God’s activities in nature. There may be references to autumn conditions in Job 36:27-33, winter in Job 37:1-13, and summer in Job 37:17-18. [Note: Zuck, Job, p. 158.]

Elihu’s third "Behold" (Job 36:26) draws attention to the infinite wisdom of God. No one can understand how or why He deals with nature as He does (Job 36:29).

The fourth "Behold" (Job 36:30) affirms a similar point. God uses rain to bring both blessings and curses on people. Lightning and thunder declare God’s presence even if people cannot fully understand when or why they come as they do.

Having introduced the idea of God’s sovereign control over all things as reflected in His control of nature (Job 36:26-33), Elihu elaborated on these thoughts in chapter 37. In Job 36:1-13 he cited more examples of God’s working in nature that we cannot comprehend fully (Job 37:5). We can learn that He does these things for different purposes. (Job 37:7). Sometimes God does them for people’s benefit or harm, but sometimes He does them simply for the sake of His world (Job 37:13).

At this point, Elihu turned again to apply these truths to Job’s situation (Job 37:14-24). He urged Job to be humble before such a great God (Job 37:14-20). No one can find Him, but we can count on Him to be just (Job 37:21-23). Job also needed to fear God (Job 37:24).

". . . fear is a normal human emotion and there is nothing wrong with it. We use the fear of sickness, injury, or death to teach children to wash their hands, stay away from power lines, and look carefully before crossing the street. Fear of financial loss motivates people to buy insurance, and fear of death encourages them to have an annual physical checkup.

"Fear of death (and the judgment that follows) is a legitimate motive for trusting Jesus Christ and being saved." [Note: Wiersbe, p. 37.]

Job 36:21 may mean that a person cannot look directly at the sun when the sky is clear of clouds. The implication is that neither can we see God in all His glory; He is partially unknowable.

Job 36:22 seems to be another allusion to Ugaritic mythology. The Canaanites thought their gods lived in the north, but Elihu said the true God comes out of the north in golden majesty (lit. gold), perhaps like the sun. Since the sun does not rise in the north, this cannot be a description of sunrise as symbolic of God’s appearing. Rather, it may contrast the appearing of the true God with Baal’s supposed appearing. [Note: Cf. Pope, pp. 286-87.]

In his four speeches, Elihu introduced a different reason for suffering: God has things to teach people that they can only learn through pain. He also described God in terms that suggest he may have had a more realistic, fuller concept of God than Job’s three friends did. All the same, neither Elihu nor the other three men had adequate insight into Job’s situation. They could not have had it unless God revealed to them what had transpired in His heavenly court (chs. 1-2). Elihu’s words are closer to the truth and set the stage for God’s fuller special revelation of Himself that follows in chapters 38-42. Generally, Elihu emphasized the positive aspects of God’s character, whereas the other three comforters emphasized the negative aspects. Elihu saw God more as a teacher, whereas the other men spoke of Him as a judge.

"Worshipers of the ancient Near Eastern gods, Satan, Job, and his three antagonists-all these believed that suffering originated from a ’tit for tat,’ ’measure for measure,’ compensation theology, which governs the correspondence between righteous behavior and prosperity, and sinful behavior and misery. However, Elihu showed that neither he nor God supported this theory. Under God’s justice, suffering comes to people for several reasons, many of which are unrelated to compensation theology." [Note: Larry J. Waters, "Elihu’s Theology and His View of Suffering," Bibliotheca Sacra 156:622 (April-June 1999):158. Cf. idem, "Elihu’s Categories of Suffering from Job 32-37," Bibliotheca Sacra 166:644 (October-December 2009):405-20. See also Hartley, pp. 485-86, for a summary of Elihu’s contribution.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Job 36". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/job-36.html. 2012.
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