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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Job 36

Verses 1-2

Elihu also proceeded, and said,

Elihu maintains that afflictions are to the godly disciplinary, in order to lead them to attain a higher moral worth, and that the reason for their continuance is not, as the friends asserted, on account of the sufferer's extraordinary guilt, but because the discipline has not yet attained its object-namely, to lead him to humble himself penitently before God, (Isaiah 9:13.) "The people turneth not unto Him that smiteth them; neither do they seek the Lord of hosts" (Jeremiah 5:3). This is Elihu's fourth speech. He thus exceeds the ternary number of the others. Hence, his formula of politeness (Job 36:2). Literally, Wait yet but a little for me. Bear with me a little further. I have yet much to say (Job 32:18-20). There are Chaldeisms in this verse, agreeably to the view that the scene of the book is near the Euphrates and the Chaldees [ katar (H3803) and zª`eeyr (H2191), used in the Chaldaic (Aramaic) rather than the ordinary Hebrew sense].

Verse 3

I will fetch my knowledge from afar, and will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.

From afar - not trite commonplaces, but drawn from God's mighty works.

Ascribe righteousness - whereas Job had ascribed unrighteousness (Job 34:10-12). A man. in inquiring into God's ways, should at the outset presume they are all just, be willing to find them so, and expect that the result of investigation will prove them to be so; such a one will never be disappointed (Barnes).

Verse 4

For truly my words shall not be false: he that is perfect in knowledge is with thee. For truly my words shall not be false: he that is perfect in knowledge is with thee.

I will not "speak wickedly for God," as the friends (Job 13:4; Job 13:7-8) - i:e., vindicate God by unsound arguments.

He that is perfect ... - rather, as the parallelism requires, 'a man of integrity in sentiments [ tªmiym (H8549) dee`owt (H1844)] is with thee' (is he with whom thou hast to do). Elihu means himself, as opposed to the dishonest reasonings of the friends (Job 21:34).

Verse 5

Behold, God is mighty, and despiseth not any: he is mighty in strength and wisdom.

Strength and wisdom - rather, strength of understanding (heart): the force of the repetition of "mighty" is, "mighty" as God is, none is too low to be "despised" by Him; because His 'might' lies especially in 'His strength of understanding,' whereby He searches out the most minute things, so as to give to each his right. Elihu confirms his exhortation (Job 35:14).

Verse 6

He preserveth not the life of the wicked: but giveth right to the poor.

Right ... poor - he espouses the cause of the afflicted.

Verse 7

He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous: but with kings are they on the throne; yea, he doth establish them for ever, and they are exalted.

(1 Peter 3:12.) God does not forsake the godly, as Job implied, but 'establishes,' or makes them sit on the throne as kings (1 Samuel 2:8; Psalms 113:7-8). True of believers, in the highest sense, already in part (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6); hereafter fully (Revelation 5:10; Job 22:5).

And they are - that they may be.

Verses 8-10

And if they be bound in fetters, and be holden in cords of affliction;

If they be afflicted, it is no proof that they are hypocrites, as the friends maintain; or that God disregards them, and is indifferent whether men are good or bad, as Job asserts: God is thereby, 'disciplining them,' and 'showing them their sins,' and if they bow in a right spirit under God's visiting hand, the greatest blessings ensue.

Verse 9. Work - transgression: so "work" is used, Job 33:17, margin.

That ... exceeded - `in that they behaved themselves mightily'-literally, as mighty heroes [ yitgabaaruw (H1396)]; i:e., presumptuously, or, at least, self-confidently.

Verse 10. (Job 33:16-18; Job 33:23)

Verse 11

If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures.

Serve - i:e. worship; as in Isaiah 19:23 God is to be supplied (cf. Isaiah 19:20).

Verse 12

But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge.

Perish by the sword - (Job 33:18).

Without knowledge - in, i:e., on account of, their foolishness (Job 4:20-21).

Verses 13-15

But the hypocrites in heart heap up wrath: they cry not when he bindeth them.

Same sentiment as Job 36:11-12 expanded.

Verse 13. Hypocrites - or, the ungodly (Maurer); but "hypocrites" is perhaps a distinct class from the openly wicked. (Job 36:12).

Heap up wrath - of God against themselves (Romans 2:5). Umbreit translates, 'nourish their wrath against God,' instead of 'crying' unto Him. This suits well the parallelism and the Hebrew [ yaasiymuw (H7760) 'aap (H639)] - literally, put or lay up wrath. But the English version gives a good parallelism, "hypocrites" answering to "cry not;" (Job 27:8; Job 27:10, "Will he ... the hypocrite ... always call upon God?") "heap up wrath" against themselves to "He bindeth them" with fetters of affliction (Job 36:8).

Verse 14. Rather (Deuteronomy 23:17). 'Their life is (ended) as that of (literally, among) the unclean,' prematurely and dishonourably. So the second clause answers to the first. A warning that Job make not common, cause with the wicked (Job 34:36).

Verse 15. Poor - the afflicted pious.

Openeth ... ears - (Job 36:10); so as to be admonished in their straits ("oppression") to seek God penitently, and so be "delivered" (Job 33:16-17; Job 33:23-27).

Verse 16

Even so would he have removed thee out of the strait into a broad place, where there is no straitness; and that which should be set on thy table should be full of fatness.

Literally, He would have led forth thee also out of the jaws of a strait" - namely, if thou hadst humbled thyself as the pious poor in affliction, and hadst opened thine ear to admonition in thy straits (Job 36:15; Psalms 18:19; Psalms 118:5). [ mipiy (H6310) tsaar (H6862)] The "broad place" expresses the liberty, and the well-supplied "table" the abundance of the prosperous (Psalms 23:5; Isaiah 25:6).

Verse 17

But thou hast fulfilled the judgment of the wicked: judgment and justice take hold on thee.

'But if thou art fulfilled (i:e., entirely filled) with the judgment of the wicked' (i:e., the guilt incurring judgment, 'But if thou art fulfilled (i:e., entirely filled) with the judgment of the wicked' (i:e., the guilt incurring judgment, Maurer; or, as Umbreit, referring to Job 34:5-7; Job 34:36, the judgment pronounced on God by the guilty in misfortunes), judgment (God's judgment on the wicked; Jeremiah 51:9, playing on the double meaning of "judgment") and justice (or, as Maurer, 'guilt and its judicial penalty') shall closely follow each other' (Umbreit). The English version, however, is good sense, and accords with the Hebrew: 'Thou hast fulfilled the judgment of the wicked,' by making common cause with them in their judgment of God: accordingly, 'judgment (from God) and justice take hold'-namely, of thee. The abruptness of the Hebrew expresses better the retributive correspondence between Job's continuance in an unhumbled spirit of judging God and his continuance in affliction, the judicial just penalty. Job 34:7-8 shows Elihu puts no 'if' in the case, but asserts Job does "fulfil the judgment of the wicked."

Verse 18

Because there is wrath, beware lest he take thee away with his stroke: then a great ransom cannot deliver thee.

(Numbers 16:45; Psalms 49:6-7; Matthew 16:26.) Even the "ransom" by Jesus Christ (Job 33:24) will be of no avail to willful despisers (Hebrews 10:26-29).

With his stroke - [saapaq is the same as caapaq (H5607), smite] (Job 34:26). Umbreit translates 'Beware lest the wrath of God (thy severe calamity) lead thee to scorn' (Job 34:7; Job 27:23): literally, to smite the hands in scorn. This accords with the verb in the parallel clause, which ought to be translated, 'Let not the great ransom (of money, which thou canst give) seduce thee' (margin, turn thee aside, as if thou couldst deliver thyself from "wrath" by it). As the "scorn" in the first clause answers to the "judgment of the wicked," Job 36:17, so 'ransom, seduce' to "Will he esteem riches," Job 36:19. Thus Job 36:18 is the transition between Job 36:17; Job 36:19. Maurer for "wrath" translates 'milk' or 'butter,' the very image for wealth which Job himself had used, Job 29:6, 'Beware lest thy milk-like flow of wealth seduce thee in abundance' (so the Hebrew means, Job 20:22). The Hebrew [ cheemaah (H2534)] will bear either meaning, milk or wrath. The English version is good Hebrew and good sense.

Verse 19

Will he esteem thy riches? no, not gold, nor all the forces of strength.

Forces of strength - i:e., resources of wealth (Psalms 49:6-7; Proverbs 11:4, "Riches profit not in the day of wrath").

Verse 20

Desire not the night, when people are cut off in their place.

Desire - pant for [ tish'ap (H7602)]. Job had wished for death, (Job 3:3-9, etc.)

Night - (John 9:4).

When, lª- - whereby, or wherein; literally, for the purpose.

Cut off - literally, ascend, as the grain cut and lifted upon the wagon or stack (Job 5:26); so cut off, disappear.

In their place - literally, under themselves [ tachtaam (H8478)]; so, without moving from their place, on the spot, suddenly (Job 40:12). (Maurer.) Umbreit's translation, 'To ascend (which is really, as thou wilt find to thy cost, to descend) to the people below' (literally, under themselves) answers better to the parallelism and the Hebrew. Thou pantest for death as desirable, but it is a "night" or region of darkness; thy fancied ascent (amelioration) will prove a descent (deterioration, Job 10:22); therefore desire it not.

Verse 21

Take heed, regard not iniquity: for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction.

Regard - literally, turn thyself to.

Iniquity - namely, presumptuous speaking against God (Job 34:5, and above Job 36:17-18, note).

Rather than - to bear "affliction" with pious patience. Men think it an alleviation to complain against God. But this is adding sin to sorrow; it is sin, not sorrow, which can really hurt us (contrast Hebrews 11:25).

Verses 22-25

Behold, God exalteth by his power: who teacheth like him?

God is not to be impiously arraigned, but to be praised for His might, shown in His works.

Exalteth - rather [ yasgiyb (H7682)], doeth lofty things; shows His exalted power (Umbreit). (Psalms 21:13.)

Teacheth - (Psalms 94:12, etc.) The connection is, returning to Job 36:5, God's "might" is shown in His "wisdom:" He Teacheth - (Psalms 94:12, etc.) The connection is, returning to Job 36:5, God's "might" is shown in His "wisdom:" He alone can teach; yet, because He, as a sovereign, explains not all His dealings, forsooth Job must presume to teach Him (Isaiah 40:13-14, "Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or, being His counselor, hath taught Him?" Romans 11:34; 1 Corinthians 2:16). So the transition to Job 36:23 is natural. Umbreit, with the Septuagint, translates, 'Who is Lord?' wrongly, since this meaning belongs to later Hebrew [mowreeh is plainly, as the English version, "teacher"].

Verse 23. Job dared to prescribe to God what He should do (Job 34:10; Job 34:13).

Verse 24. Instead of arraigning, let it be thy fixed principle to magnify God in His works (Psalms 111:2-8; Revelation 15:3): these, which all may "see," may convince us that what we do not see is altogether wise and good (Romans 1:20).

Behold - so "see," Job 36:25; not as Maurer, 'sing,' laud (note, Job 33:27) [ shorªruw (H7891), from shuwr, to see or behold].

Verse 25. See - namely, with wondering admiration (Maurer).

Man may behold '(yet) mortals (a different Hebrew word [ 'ªnowsh (H582)] from "man" [ 'aadaam (H120)]) behold it (only) from afar off: see but a small "part" (Job 26:14).

Verse 26

Behold, God is great, and we know him not, neither can the number of his years be searched out.

God's greatness in heaven and earth: a reason why Job should bow under His afflicting hand.

Know him not - only in part, and afar off (Job 36:25; 1 Corinthians 13:12).

His years - (Psalms 90:2; Psalms 102:24; Psalms 102:27); applied to Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:12). His infinitude as to duration is the first characteristic of God's greatness noticed.

Verses 27-28

For he maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof:

The marvelous formation of rain (so Job 5:9-10; Job 37:13).

Maketh small - rather, 'He draweth (up) to Him; He attracts [ yªgaara` (H1639) - literally, draws off] (from the earth below) the drops of water; they (the drops of water) pour down rain, (which is) His vapour.' "Vapour" is in apposition with "rain," marking the way in which rain in formed-namely, from the vapour drawn up by God into the air and then condensed into drops, which fall (Psalms 147:8). The suspension of such a mass of water, and its descent, not in a deluge, but in drops of vapoury rain, are the marvel. The selection of this particular illustration of God's greatness forms a fit prelude to the storm in which God appears (Job 38:1).

Verse 28. Abundantly - literally, upon many men.

Cf. (Job 37:5). God's marvels in thunder and lightnings.

Verse 29

Also can any understand the spreadings of the clouds, or the noise of his tabernacle?

Spreadings ... - the canopy of thick clouds which covers the heavens in a storm (Psalms 105:39).

The noise (crashing) of his tabernacle - namely, thunder; God being poetically said to have His pavilion amidst dark clouds (Psalms 18:11; Isaiah 40:22).

Verse 30

Behold, he spreadeth his light upon it, and covereth the bottom of the sea.

Light - lightning.

It - His tabernacle. The light, in an instant spread over the vast mass of dark clouds, forms a striking picture. "Spread" is repeated from Job 36:29, to form an antithesis, 'He spreads not only clouds but light.'

Covereth the bottom (roots) of the sea - namely, with the light. In the storm the depths of ocean are laid bare; and the light "covers" them at the same moment that it "spreads" across the dark sky. So in Psalms 18:14-15, the discovering of "the channels of waters" follows the "lightnings." Umbreit translates, 'He spreadeth His light upon Himself, and covereth Himself with the roots of the sea' (Psalms 104:2): God's garment is woven of celestial light, and of the watery depths raised to the sky to form His cloudy canopy. The phrase 'cover Himself with the roots (the depths) of the sea' is harsh; but the image is grand.

Verse 31

For by them judgeth he the people; he giveth meat in abundance.

These (rain and lightnings) are marvelous, and not to be understood (Job 36:29), yet necessary: "For by them He judgeth (chastiseth on the one hand), etc., (and on the other, by them) He giveth meat" (food), etc. (Job 37:13; Job 38:23; Job 38:27; Acts 14:17).

Verse 32

With clouds he covereth the light; and commandeth it not to shine by the cloud that cometh betwixt.

Rather, 'He covereth (both) His hands with light (lightning, Job 37:3, margin: literally, 'upon both hands He spreads light as a covering' [ `al (H5921) kanpowt (H3671 ], and giveth it a command against his adversary'-literally, the one assailing Him [ `aaleyhaa (H5921) bªmapgiya` (H6293): or else, 'He giveth it a command against (whomsoever it is directed) in striking' (Psalms 8:2; Psalms 139:20; 21:19 ). Thus, as in Job 36:31, the two-fold effects of His waters are set forth, so here of His light; in the one hand destructive lightning against the wicked; in the other, the genial light for good to His friends, etc. (Job 36:33.) (Umbreit)

Verse 33

The noise thereof sheweth concerning it, the cattle also concerning the vapour.

Noise - `He revealeth it (literally, announceth concerning it) to His friend (antithesis to adversary, Job 36:32: so the Hebrew [ ree`ow (H7452), from reea` (H7453), a friend] is translated, Job 2:11): also to cattle and plants' (literally, that which shooteth up; Genesis 40:10; Genesis 41:22). As the genial effect of "water" in the growth of food is mentioned in Job 36:31, so here that of "light" in cherishing cattle and plants (Umbreit).The English version may be in the main retained, translating, 'His noise (thunder) announces concerning Him (His coming in the tempest); the cattle (too announce) concerning Him when He is in the act of rising up' (in the storm) [reea`], properly tumult, from raa`a` (H7489), to le tumultuous: hence, the thunder-peal] (Maurer). Some animals give various intimations that they are sensible of the approach of a storm, (Virgil's 'Georgics,' 1: 373, etc.)

Remarks:

(1) In order to comprehend God's dealings at all, we must set out with the principle that God's ways must be all righteous, simply because they emanate from God. We must not, like Job, for a moment, call in question His justice, but, with Elihu, "ascribe righteousness to our Maker" (Job 36:3). (2) His omnipotent "might" and "understanding" are shown not merely in His more stupendous works, but in His regarding with fatherly love and providential care the very humblest of His creatures. He searches out accurately the most minute objects, so as to withhold from none their right (Job 36:6).

Thou art as much His care as if, beside, Not man or angel lived in heaven or earth: Thus sunbeams pour alike a glorious tide To light up worlds or wake an insect's mirth.

(3) Whatever unbelief may whisper to the contrary, "God never withdraws His eyes from the righteous" (Job 36:7). It is true, they are at times, afflicted; but it is an utter mistake, either, with Job's friends, to infer from this that the religion of the sufferer was mere hypocrisy, or, with Job, to infer that, as the sufferer was consciously sincere, God neglects the pious man, and is indifferent whether men are godly or not (Job 36:8). Nay, the true reason is, God disciplines His people with chastisements, in order to make sin exceeding sinful to them, and to teach them more entire self-abasement at the remembrance of their own vileness, however respectable they be in outward act and sincere in their worship of God (Job 36:9-10). Whenever this blessed end is attained, and they meekly submit to Him, He withdraws the rod, and grants them outward prosperity (Job 36:11; Job 36:15-16).

(4) But if, instead of humble submission and acceptance of God's chastening, they cherish angry feelings against Him that striketh them, and will not cry to Him for His loving mercy to interpose in their behalf unworthy though they be, they are in danger of being given up to final destruction, from which no riches or largeness of resources can "ransom" them (Job 36:17-20). Even the redemption accomplished by Christ can be of no avail to hardened reprobates and scorners.

(5) Men in suffering often pant for death as a relief, when they are in a state unfit for dying (Job 36:20). Bad as may be the condition of the unhumbled and impenitent here, it is infinitely preferable to that which awaits them beyond the grave. It is, therefore, the worst kind of suicidal folly for any unbeliever to desire it. Rather let him cease from iniquity (Job 36:21) and rebellion against God's ways.

(6) To choose vain and sinful complaints against God, as a kind of alleviation of one's pain, rather than to learn the lesson of meek submission and penitent confession of having deserved it by sin is a wretched choice to make (Job 36:21): for it is adding to sorrow sin, which alone can lastingly hurt us. Our wisest course is, instead of presuming to be "teachers of God, and enjoining Him His way" (Job 36:22-23), we should "magnify His work" (Job 36:24). What we see of God's doings may assure us that what we do not see, as being beyond the reach of our finite faculties, is altogether in accordance with perfect beneficence and justice. It is true, we get but a glimpse, and from "afar off" (Job 36:25), of even the small portion of His works which we do see. But even this glimpse is enough to show how unsearchable is His infinite perfection of nature and operations (Job 36:26-30). The works of nature which come under our cognizance in a great measure display His power, exercised on the one hand in judgment against His foes, on the other in blessings on His servants (Job 36:31-33).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 36". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/job-36.html. 1871-8.