Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Job 35

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-16

The Third Speech (35:1-16)

In this, the shortest of the four divisions of Elihu’s utterances, the speaker turns to the third charge of error he had previously brought against Job, that of declaring that religion was profitless to man (see 34:9). Here, however, Elihu clarifies the issue: it is that Job maintains that he has a right to complain to God that faithfulness has brought him no "advantage." It is this with which Elihu deals, not the question of whether there is any profit.

Elihu offers Job and his "friends" an answer to this complaint. Since it can hardly be said that Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar reflect Job’s view here, the "friends" in this case must be any imagined supporters for his ideas. In fact, Elihu is close to Eliphaz (compare 22:2-3 with 35:2-8) when he declares that man does not have the right to press the question of advantage of righteousness since neither man’s righteousness nor his wickedness affects God. Transgressions do not diminish him, nor do pious acts give him anything. Man’s morality does affect mankind but not the transcendent God. Again Elihu is seen to be arguing from the very idea of God, and warning against any tendency to construct a God out of the materials of man’s reason or his experiences. In so doing he comes close, of course, to viewing God as so removed from human life that he cannot be known — or loved — at all. And in one sense at least there stands against Elihu, as the other side of the truth he sets forth, the whole incredible fact of the Cross of Jesus Christ, with its manifestation of how far man’s unrighteousness does affect God.

When Elihu turns to the seemingly contradictory aspects of Job’s own case, he has an original solution to offer. When men do cry to God because of their sufferings, as Job has been doing, it is because of the suffering and not because of a true desire for God. In his very cry for relief man remains centered in himself, and not in his Creator. Verses 10 and 11 are reminiscent of the Garden of Eden where man was made superior to the beasts of the earth and the birds of the air, to have dominion over them and to live as the image of the Maker. In his experiences, however, man is determinedly self-centered and does not seek for God, who alone can transform the night of suffering with songs of deliverance (see Job 33:26-28). Thus, although men like Job complain, they are not answered, because even their cry is another symptom of the evil disease of pride (vss. 12-13).

Job’s insistence, then, that he has a case and that he waits for God’s answer must in the end be seen as arrogance. In fact, Elihu declares that because God has not answered. Job is bold to push his complaint to even greater extremes (vss. 15 and 16, but the meaning is not certain; see margin). Elihu certainly sees the issues on a more profound level than have the friends, although his diagnosis is not flawless. In the ultimate resolution of the book, Job is not condemned for this sin of pride which Elihu posits. But it can be credited to Elihu’s account that he steadfastly avoids the trap of declaring that Job’s tragedy is due specifically to this or any other sin, and that his view of God is a positive preparation for the coming speeches of the Almighty.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Job 35". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/job-35.html.
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