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HIS APPEAL AS TO WISE MEN
Since Job had wisely refrained from speaking, Elihu makes an appeal to all his hearers, as to wise men (v.2). This reminds us of1 Corinthians 10:15; 1 Corinthians 10:15, "I speak as to wise men: judge for yourselves what I say." Having heard Elihu's first words, Job and his friends were wise to listen rather than to speak. They had knowledge enough to know that their knowledge was deficient. But in listening they could test the words of Elihu, a test that he was fully willing that they should make (v.3), just as the taste tells whether food is good or not.
Elihu did not elevate himself above them, however, but appealed to them, unitedly with himself, to choose what is true justice, to "know among ourselves what is good" (v.4). Thus he wisely seeks to draw his hearers to a consensus of opinion.
HE REFUTES JOB'S QUESTIONING OF GOD'S JUSTICE
Elihu does not consider at all what the three friends had charged Job with, for they had no basis for their accusations. Rather, Elihu refers to what Job himself had said, "I am righteous, but God has taken away my justice" (v.5). However righteous Job was, it was unrighteous of him to dare to speak of God in this way. Further, Job had said, "My wound is incurable, though I am without transgression" (v.6). Job implied that God had brought him down to a state that could not be cured, though Job had not been guilty of any transgression (v.6). Because Job had thus spoken, Elihu asks, "What man is like Job, who drinks scorn like water, who goes in company with the workers of iniquity and walks with wicked men?" (vv.7-8).
He does not accuse Job of being wicked, but of speaking like the wicked do against God, and therefore putting himself in their company! "For he has said, it profits a man nothing that he should delight in God" (v.10). In speaking thus, Job did not realise he was inviting further trouble.
JOB'S CHARGE REFUTED
Elihu therefore urges them to listen to his answer to Job, again crediting them with sufficient understanding to judge if he was telling the truth (v.10). Then he makes the simple, clear declaration, "Far be it from God to do wickedness, and from the Almighty to commit iniquity." Job ought not to have had the slightest doubt about this, no matter how greatly he may have suffered. Whatever questions may have arisen in Job's mind, the actual fact of truth remains, that "He (God) repays man according to his work, and makes man to find a reward according to his way "(v.11). He does not say when God repays man, for this is a matter that depends on God's inscrutable wisdom; but God will never do wickedly or pervert justice (v.12), as Job had inferred God had done in his case.
Then Elihu asks, "Who gave Him charge over the earth? or who appointed Him over the whole world?" (v.13). He is asking in effect, "Is God answerable to anybody?" Did Job appoint God as the authority over the whole world? If so, of course then God would be answerable to Job! Indeed the opposite is true: Job, and every individual, is answerable to God. In fact, if God so desired, He could "gather to Himself His Spirit and His breath" by which He gives life to all mankind. What would happen then? "All flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust" (vv.14-15). How withering a rebuke to the pride of man! How clearly this tells us that we are always totally dependent on the power of God, not only in creating us, but in constantly, sustaining us in life.
Elihu appeals again to Job and his three friends, "If you have understanding, hear this; listen to the sound of my words" (v.16). He asks them pointedly, "Should one who hates justice govern? Will you condemn Him who is most just?" If one hates justice, he should not be allowed to govern. Would Job suggest this as to God? But God is most just. Even in men's normal relationships it is not fitting to accuse a king of being worthless or a prince wicked (v.18): how much more serious it is to imply that God is not righteous.
"Yet He is not partial to princes, nor does He regard the rich more than the poor" (v.19). Job had been rich, but he should have observed that God did not favour him above others who were poor. In fact, he imagines that God showed partiality by allowing him to suffer rather that others. But this only exposed his lack of discernment. However, all men are "the work of His hands." God is engaged in a very wise work in dealing with every individual.
Men do not have authority over their own lives: in a moment they die, in the middle of the night; the people are shaken and pass away; the mighty are taken away without a hand" (v.20). Whatever man may think or say about this, his utter helplessness is evident. God's eyes see what man does not, for His eyes observe all the ways of man and every step he takes (v.21). Men may seek darkness to hide themselves, but their efforts in this matter are futile (v.22). They love darkness rather than light, but the darkness hides them only from the observation of other men, though they stupidly think they can deceive God.
Samuel Ridout in his book on Job, says the meaning of verse 23 is that "He (God) does not need to study a man's ways, but at a glance, as it were, knows him and enters into judgment with him" (P. 192). "Therefore He knows their works," as without need of patient investigation, and overthrows them, even in the night (v.25), when they think to hide themselves from view, "and they are crushed." This often happens, but only when God decides it. Thus He may strike them in their wickedness in the open sight of others (v.26) rather than in the dark. The reason is immediately given, "Because they turned their back from Him, and would not consider any of His ways" (v.27). This was not true of Job, yet he had spoken in such a way as the wicked speak.
"They cause the cry of the poor to come to Him, for He hears the cry of the afflicted" (v.28). These were those who oppressed the poor.
Did God hear the cry of the poor? Yes indeed! Did God hear the complaints of Job? Job did not think so, but God does hear, and He will answer in His own time and way. Well might Elihu then ask, "When He gives quietness, who then can make trouble?" (v.29). At the moment God had not given quietness to Job, though He certainly did so later. On the other hand, when God hides His face, who then can understand Him, whether a nation or an individual? God does either of these things when He pleases, and submission to Him is the only proper response from man.
Each of these cases is used by God to put the hypocrite in his place (v.30), for a hypocrite would like to have the place of authority, but his thoughts are moved by his feelings, not by faith, so that he is defeated by God's sovereign wisdom in doing things in a way that does not pamper men's feelings. People then are not snared by the hypocrite if they simply believe God.
THUS, JOB REQUIRED TESTING
Elihu indicates that God was testing Job. If Job was failing the test, he must be tested further. Could Job not say to God, "I have borne chastening: I will offend no more; teach me what I do not see; if I have done iniquity, I will do no more?" It was plain that Job did not see the reasons for God's dealing with him. Why not then humbly appeal to God to teach him, rather than criticise God?
Should God repay Job according to Job's terms - just because Job did not approve? (v.33). Elihu therefore tells Job, "You must choose, and not I." It was Job who was being tested. Would he choose to criticise God or to submit to God? Thus, he was invited, "speak what you know." When he criticised God, he did not know what he was talking about, but spoke what he suspected might he the case. How good to remember that the Lord Jesus always spoke what He knew (John 3:11).
"Men of understanding" or "wise men" would listen to such advice, and realise that Job had spoken of God without knowledge or wisdom (vv.34-35). Well might Elihu desire that Job might be tried to the utmost because his answers were like those of wicked men (v.36). Job should have known better, for he was not wicked. Yet whatever other sin he might be guilty of, Job was adding to it the serious crime of rebellion against the God of all creation, as though he could withstand God and prosper! (v.37).
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Job 34". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany