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JOB CHAPTER 34
He accuseth Job for charging God with injustice, Job 34:1-9.
God, the almighty Disposer, Governor, and Judge of the world, cannot be unjust, Job 34:10-17.
It is not fit to say of kings and princes they are unjust, much less of God: his power over and observance of man, who cannot hide from God, Job 34:18-22.
He exerciseth his power and justice over them, Job 34:23-30.
Man’s duty under God’s afflictions, Job 34:31,Job 34:32.
He reproveth Job’s words against God, Job 34:33-37.
O ye wise men, who are here present, do you judge of the truth and reason of what I have said, and am further to say; for I am willing to submit all to the judgment of the truly wise.
i.e. Man’s mind judgeth Of things spoken and heard.
The ear, the sense of discipline, is put for the mind, to which things are conveyed by it. See Poole "Job 12:11".
Judgment, i.e. justice and equity; judgment being oft synecdochically used for just judgment, as Job 8:3; Job 19:7; Job 32:9; Psalms 37:28. Let us not contend for victory, but only for truth and justice. This shall be my only care and business· Let us lay aside all prejudices and animosities, which I perceive have had too great an influence upon thee and thy friends, and impartially consider the naked truth and right of the muse. Let us know, i.e. let us discover or make it known one to another. What is good; who hath the best cause.
I am righteous; either,
1. I am perfectly righteous. But this Job did not say, but the contrary, Job 9:2,Job 9:3; Job 14:4. Or,
2. I am a sincere person, no hypocrite, as my friends made me. But this Elihu doth not deny. Or,
3. I am so far righteous, and have been so holy and blameless in my life, that I have not deserved, nor had any reason to expect, such hard usage from God. And this Job had oft intimated, and Elihu doth justly blame him for it, that he blazoned his own righteousness with tacit reflections upon God for dealing so severely with him.
God hath taken away my judgment; for so Job had said, Job 27:2; i.e. he denies me that which is but just and equal, to give me a fair hearing, to suffer me to plead my cause with or before him, to show me the reasons of his contending with me, and what sins besides common infirmities I have been guilty of, whereby I have deserved such extraordinary judgments; which Elihu justly taxeth him with as a very irreverent and presumptuous expression.
Should I lie against my right? so Job had said in effect, Job 27:4-6. Should I falsely accuse myself of such sins of which I am no way conscious to myself? Should I betray mine own cause, and deny my integrity, and say that I deserved worse than I have done?
Without transgression, i.e. without any great, or heinous, or crying sin, as this word commonly signifies, which might reasonably bring down such terrible judgments upon my head.
i.e. Abundantly and greedily; who doth so oft and so easily break forth into scornful and contemptuous expressions, not only against his friends, but in some sort even against God himself, whom he foolishly and insolently chargeth with dealing rigorously with him. The words may be thus read,
What man, being like Job, would drink up?..? That a wicked or foolish man should do thus is not strange; but that a man of such piety, gravity, wisdom, and authority as Job should be guilty of such a sin, this is wonderful.
Although I dare not say, as his three friends do, that he is a wicked man, yet in this matter he speaks and acts like one of them.
He hath said; not absolutely and in express terms, but by unforced consequence, and as concerning this life, and with reference to himself; because he said that good men were no less, nay, sometimes more, miserable here than the wicked, Job 9:22; Job 30:26, and that for his part he was no gainer as to this life by his piety, but a loser, and that God showed him no more kindness and compassion than he usually did to the vilest of men; which was a very unthankful and ungodly opinion and expression, seeing godliness hath the promise of this life as well as of that to come, and Job had such supports, and such assurances of his own uprightness, and of his future happiness, as he confesseth, as were and should have been accounted even for the present a greater comfort and profit than all which this world can afford.
That he should delight himself with God; that he should choose and delight to walk with God, and make it his chief care and business to please him, and to do his commandments; which is the true and proper character of a godly man.
Ye men of understanding; you who are present, and understand these things, do you judge between Job and me.
Far be it from God that he should do wickedness: this I must lay down as a principle, that the righteous and holy God neither doth nor can deal unjustly with Job, or with any man, as Job insinuates that God had dealt with him.
The work, i.e. the reward of his work, or according to his work. Job’s afflictions, though great and sharp, are not undeserved, but justly inflicted upon him, both for his original corruption, and for many actual transgressions, which are manifest to God, though Job, through his partiality, may not see them. And Job’s piety shall be recompensed, it may be, in this life, but undoubtedly in the next. And therefore piety is not unprofitable, as Job saith.
As Job hath wickedly affirmed. For the phrase, See Poole "Job 8:3".
Over the earth, i.e. over the inhabitants of the earth, to rule them according to his laws, and to give an account to him of it. Who or where is his superior that made the world, and then delivered the government of it to God? There is no such person. God himself is the sole Creator, the absolute and supreme Lord and Governor, of all the world, and therefore cannot do unjustly. The reason is, partly, because all unrighteousness is a transgression of some law, and God hath no law to bound him but his own nature and will; partly, because the Creator and Lord of the world must needs have all possible perfections in himself, and, amongst others, perfect justice, and must needs be free from all imperfections and obliquities, and therefore from injustice; and partly, because he is of himself all-sufficient, and independent upon all other persons, and able to do and procure whatsoever pleaseth him; and therefore as he hath no inclination, so he hath no temptation, to any unrighteous actions; this being generally the reason of all unrighteous actions in the world, because the persons who do them either are obliged to do it, to gratify some superior authority who commands them to do it, or else do want or desire something which they cannot justly obtain; for he is a monster, and not a man, who will take away any thing by injustice or violence which he may have by right.
Who hath disposed, or committed, to wit, to him, to be governed by him, in the name and for the use and service of his superior Lord, to whom he must give an account.
Upon man, Heb. upon him, i.e. man, as may seem probable from Job 34:11,Job 34:15, where man is expressed; and from the next clause of this verse, where he speaks of that
breath which is in man. If his eye and heart be upon man, if he diligently and exactly observe him, and all his ways, and whatsoever is amiss in him, and, which follows upon it of course, resolve to punish him. Or, if he set his heart against (as this particle el is used, Amos 7:15, and elsewhere, as hath been noted before) him, to wit, to cut him off. If he gather unto himself; if it please him to gather to himself, to wit, by death, , whereby God is said to take away men’s breath, Psalms 104:29, and to gather men’s souls, Psalms 26:9, and the spirit is said to return unto God, Ecclesiastes 12:7.
His spirit and his breath, i.e. that spirit and breath, or that living soul, that God breathed into man, Genesis 2:7, and gives to every man that cometh into the world.
All flesh, i.e. every man, who is called flesh, Genesis 6:3,Genesis 6:17; Isaiah 40:6.
Together, or, alike, without any exception, be they great or mean, wise or foolish, good or bad; if God design to destroy them, they cannot withstand his power, but must needs perish by his stroke. The design of this and the foregoing verse is the same with that of Job 34:13, See Poole "Job 34:13", namely, to declare God’s absolute and uncontrollable sovereignty over all men, to dispose of them either to life or to death, as it pleaseth him, and consequently to show that Job had cause to be thankful to God, who had continued his life so long to him, which he might have taken away as soon as ever he had given it, and had no cause to complain of him, or to tax him with injustice for afflicting him, as he did.
As thou art a man of understanding, hear and consider what I say.
He that hateth right, i.e. that is unrighteous. But this he expresseth in a most emphatical manner, the reason and weight whereof seems to me to be this: If God be unjust, he is not so from fear of any superior, (as inferior magistrates do many unrighteous things against their consciences to please their prince or chief ruler, or to avoid his displeasure,) but merely from an intrinsical hatred of justice, or love of unrighteousness; which being most absurd to imagine concerning God, therefore he cannot possibly be unjust, or do any unjust action.
Govern; so this word, which properly signifies to bind, is fitly rendered by most interpreters; and so it is used Isaiah 3:7, because governors have a power to bind their subjects by laws and penalties, and they are as it were the ligaments by which societies are bound and kept together, which without them would be dissolved and broken to pieces. Elihu’s argument here is the same with that of Abraham’s, Genesis 18:25, and that of St. Paul’s, Romans 3:5,Romans 3:6, If God be unrighteous, how shall he judge or govern the world? And the argument is undeniable, If God were unjust, there would be nothing but injustice, and confusion, and mischief in the world; whereas we see there is a great deal of justice administered by rulers in the world, and all this must proceed from him who is the fountain and author of all justice, and rule, and authority. And as the psalmist saith, Psalms 94:9, He that formed the eye, shall not he see? so say I, He that makes men just, shall he be unjust? Him that is most just, i.e. God, who hath given so many clear and unquestionable evidences of his justice, in giving just and holy laws, in encouraging and rewarding very many righteous persons in this life, and inflicting dreadful and remarkable judgments upon tyrants and oppressors. Or, him that is just and mighty; for the next verse speaks of such, who were generally in those times more considerable for their power and authority than for their justice. So here is a double argument against Job’s censures of God’s justice. He is just, and therefore giveth thee no cause to condemn him; and withal potent, and therefore can punish thee yet far worse for so doing.
Thou art wicked; or, Thou art Belial, or a son of Belial. Though a king may really be unjust and wicked, yet their subjects neither may nor dare presume to call them so, Exodus 22:28. And therefore if some evil thought did arise in thee, yet how wast thou not afraid to utter such unworthy and almost blasphemous expressions against God?
To him that accepteth not the persons of princes, i.e. to God, who respecteth not the greatest princes, so as to do any unjust thing to gain their favour, or to avoid their anger, to whom princes and peasants are equally subject, and infinitely inferior; who therefore is free from all temptation to injustice, which commonly proceeds from respect of persons, Leviticus 19:15, and to whom therefore thou didst owe more reverence than thy words have expressed.
They all are the work of his hands; and therefore of equal worth and price with him, and equally subject to his power and pleasure.
In a moment; whensoever God doth but give the word, and send his summons for them.
Shall they, i. e. the rich and the prince, no less than the poor, must submit to the law of death, which God hath imposed upon all men, without exception, and they cannot charge God with injury therein.
The people; whole nations or people are no less subject to God’s power than any particular persons; their numbers cannot secure them from God’s hand.
Troubled, i.e. disturbed and terrified with those calamities which God shall bring upon them.
At midnight; suddenly, and when they are most secure.
Pass away; either,
1. Go into captivity, or run or flee away they know not whither for their lives. Or,
2. Perish or die, as he said before, and as this word is oft used, as Job 14:20; Psalms 37:36; Ecclesiastes 1:4. So the same thing is said of the people, which in the first branch of the verse was said of the princes.
Taken away; either from their place or power, or out of this life.
Without hand; without any hand or help of man, by some secret and stupendous work and judgment of God; which he oft inflicts upon those who are out of the reach of men.
This is added as the reason of the judgments mentioned in the foregoing verse, God doth not afflict nor destroy either princes or people unjustly, no, nor out of his mere pleasure and absolute sovereignty, (to which Job seemed to impute his calamities,) but for their sins, which God sees exactly, although they use all possible arts and tricks to hide them from him. Therefore no man hath cause to complain of God, but of himself, for all that he may suffer in the world.
They may flatter themselves, or cheat others, by covering their wicked actions with plausible pretences and professions; but they cannot deceive God, nor keep their hearts and ways from his sight.
More than right; more or heavier punishments than they deserve, or than are proportionable to their sins, which he accurately observes, as was now said, and therefore can suit punishments to them.
That he should enter into judgment with God; thereby to give him any pretence or occasion of entering into judgment with him, or condemning his proceedings; for which there might seem to be some colour, if God did lay upon man more than right. And therefore thou, O Job, hadst no cause for thy complaints against God.
Mighty men without number; neither their greatness nor their numbers can secure them from the stroke of God’s justice.
Set others in their stead, i.e. give away their power and dignity to others who shall come in their place.
i.e. Hence it appears that he knows all their evil works, because he judgeth them for them. God or men are ofttimes said in Scripture to know or do a thing, when they only manifest their knowing and doing of it. Or, became, &c., as this particle is used, Isaiah 26:14; Isaiah 61:7. So this is subjoined as the ground or reason why he punisheth them, as is related both in the foregoing and in the following words, because he sees all their wicked designs and actions.
He overturneth them in the night, i.e. when they are at rest and secure; at midnight, as it is Job 34:20. Or, he turneth or bringeth upon them the night, to wit, of calamity and tribulation, as the next words explain it, and as the words
night and darkness are oft used. Or, he turneth the night, to wit, into day, i.e. he knoweth all their deeds of darkness, and bringeth them to light. See above, Job 34:22.
So that they are destroyed, Heb. and (or then, or therefore; for both these ways this particle is sometimes used) they shall be destroyed, or broken to pieces.
As wicked men, i.e. as he useth to smite wicked men, with a grievous and terrible stroke. Compare Isaiah 27:7. Or, for wicked men; or, because they are wicked men, therefore he destroys them without any regard to their quality.
In the open sight of others; in public view, for their greater shame, and for the greater glory of God’s justice, and for the greater terror of other oppressors, and comfort of the oppressed.
From him; from the God, whom they or their progenitors had owned; and his laws, which God hath written in the minds of all men, Romans 2:14,Romans 2:15; and, it may be, from the practice of the true religion, which sometimes they professed;
Would not consider, or understand. They did not desire nor endeavour to know them, at least practically, or to any good purpose.
His ways; either,
1. God’s providential ways. They did not lay to heart any of God’s judgments inflicted upon such oppressors as themselves, which should have given them warning, but boldly persisted in the same wicked courses. Or,
2. His precepts; oft called his ways, because he hath appointed them for us to walk in. For these ways they were in a special manner obliged to consider and practise; and the next verse giveth us an instance of their backsliding from these ways.
So that they cause, Heb. to bring, &c., which is ambiguous, and may be read, either,
1. That he, i.e. God, might bring, &c. So this is a reason why God smote them, &c., as is said, Job 34:26. Or,
2. That they, i.e. those wicked men, might bring, &c.; and so these words contain either,
1. A reason of what was last mentioned, to wit, why they would not consider nor walk in God’s ways, because they were resolved to oppress the poor, and give them cause to cry unto God; which they neither could nor would have done, if they had thoroughly understood and considered God’s ways. Or,
2. An evidence or instance of it, wherein it did appear that they had turned back from God, &c. Unto him, i.e. unto God, as the following words imply, it being God’s work to hear the cry and plead the cause of the afflicted or oppressed. Others, upon him, or upon them, or upon each of them, to wit, of the oppressors; upon whom the cry of the oppressed is said to come, because the vengeance of God is by that cry brought down upon them.
He heareth the cry of the afflicted; he delivereth the oppressed by taking the oppressor away.
When he giveth quietness; either to the poor and oppressed persons last mentioned, or to any other person or people, as it follows.
Who then can make trouble? no man or creature can hinder God’s design and work.
When he hideth his face, i.e. withdraws his favour and help from them, and thereby exposeth them to all oppressions or calamities.
Who then can behold him? i.e. who can look up to God with cheerfulness or confidence, to desire or expect his help? Or rather, who then will look upon him, or regard him, to wit, so as to pity or succour him? If God be against him, what man will or dare be for him? all men will forsake and oppose him, and so he will be utterly lost. For this who answers to the who in the former branch of the verse, and both of them speak of man and his act as opposed unto God and to his act. The case is the same in both: God can carry on his work, either of mercy or justice, as easily and as irresistibly upon a whole nation or people as upon one particular person.
Having said that God could and would carry on his own work and design effectually, whether against one man, or against a whole people, he now proceeds to give a further instance of God’s mighty power above and against the greatest monarchs, in whom their own and the people’s strength seem to be united, yet all together cannot oppose God in his work. God when he pleaseth can and doth so order affairs,
that the hypocrite (i.e. the profane wicked prince, as one of the kings of Judah is called, Ezekiel 21:25; bad princes being called hypocrites, because they do commonly cover all their oppressions, and injuries, and impieties too, with the specious pretence of justice and the public good, and the discharge of their trust and duty) may not reign, (i.e. may not continue his reign and tyranny, that he may and shall by his sovereign power and omnipotent providence be deprived of his kingdom,)
lest the people be insnared, i.e. lest the people should be longer and more and more kept and held in the snares or fetters of tyranny and oppression, i.e. God doth this to free poor oppressed people from the snares which ungodly and unrighteous princes lay for them. Or, that the people be not insnared any longer, Heb. that there be no snares of or for the people. Or, for the snares, or scandals, or sins (which are oft so called) of the people. So the sense is, that such a wicked prince may not continue to reign over that people, although by their sins they had provoked God to give them such a prince, and to continue his power over them.
Certainly it is but fit and reasonable that man should say thus to his Maker and supreme Lord, and that instead of contending with God, he should submit to him. Or, (which comes to the same thing,) But hath he said? so the sense is, I have showed the absolute power which God hath over all his creatures, and that he may justly, and doth ofttimes severely, punish all sorts of men as he sees fit. And this Job should have applied to his own case. But, I appeal to all of you, hath he, i.e. Job, (who is the principal subject of this whole discourse, and to whom he now begins to direct his discourse,) said, that which here follows? which is a kind of form of confession or humiliation, which Elihu puts into Job’s mouth, as fit to have been used by him. Nay, hath not his speech and carriage been of a directly contrary nature and tendency? Instead of humbling himself under God’s hand, which was his duty, hath he not been full of murmurings and complaints against God?
Unto God; unto one so much thy superior, so mighty and so righteous in all his ways; with such a one a weak and sinful creature (as thou art) should not presume to contest.
I have borne chastisement; or, I do or shall bear it, to wit, quietly and contentedly; I will bear the Lord’s indignation, and accept of the punishment of my own iniquity, and not accuse God falsely and foolishly, as I have done.
I will not offend any more, Heb. I will not corrupt, to wit, myself or my ways; which is oft understood in like cases. Or, I will take or demand no pledge; for so this verb is oft used. So the sense may possibly be, I confess I have been too bold with God, in desiring that he would come with me into judgment, and that I could have a pledge or surety that he would do so; but I will no longer desire it, but submit myself wholly to him.
I will no longer maintain mine innocency, but from thy judgments I will conclude and have reason to believe that there are some secret sins in me, for which thou dost chastise me, and which I through mine ignorance or partiality cannot yet discover, and therefore do beg that thou wouldst by thy Spirit manifest them to me. If I have done iniquity, I will amend my former errors.
Having advised and directed Job how to behave himself, and what to say to God in his case, he now proceedeth to enforce his advice by solid arguments.
Should it (to wit, God’s chastening of thee, about which the great controversy was)
be according to thy mind? Heb. from with thee, as thou wouldst have it? Shall thy opinion or affection give laws and measures to God that he shall afflict only such persons, and in such a manner and measure, and so long, as thou wouldst have him. Doth God need, or should he seek for, thy advice how to govern the world, and whom and when to reward or punish? Dost thou quarrel with God, because he punisheth thee worse and longer than thou expectest or desirest?
He will recompence it, to wit, thy iniquity, expressed Job 34:32. Whether thou art satisfied or offended with his proceedings, he regards not, as not being obliged to give thee an account of his matters, whether thou would refuse his punishments or accept of them. It is not I, nor thou, that must prescribe to God, but he will do what he pleaseth. Or, but not I, i.e. do thou refuse or choose as thou pleasest, and contend with God for doing with thee otherwise than according to thy opinion or good will; but so would not I do, if it were my case; and I can say nothing for this course which thou takest, and therefore do thou
speak what thou knowest, or what thou canst say for it, as it here follows. If thou cans, say any thing for this practice, here I am ready to hear thy defence, and to justify thee as far as I can truly and righteously do. But this verse is and may well be otherwise rendered, and that very agreeably to the Hebrew, though still the sense will be the same, Shall he, i.e. God, render or recompense it (to wit, thy iniquity) according to thy mind, (i.e. no further than thou dost like and consent,) because thou refusest? (to wit, his chastisement. Is he obliged to forbear punishing thee because thou art not pleased with it? Shall not he dispense either favours or afflictions as he sees fit without thy consent?) shalt thou choose, and not I? (so Elihu speaks this in the name and person of God; such sudden changes of persons being not unusual in this book. Shalt thou, O Job, choose for me, and not I for myself?)
therefore speak what thou knowest. If this be thy opinion, speak what thou cans, in defence of it; and here am I ready to plead for God against thee. So here Elihu returns to speak in his own person.
I am content that any wise man should judge of my words, and let such consider what I say. Or, as others translate the place, Men of understanding will speak for or with (as the prefix lamed is sometimes used, as Genesis 46:26; Numbers 18:11; Job 17:5) me, and
wise men will
hearken or assent unto me.
Without knowledge; foolishly and inconsiderately.
1. That he may be further tried by God, or exercised with afflictions, till he be thoroughly convinced or humbled. But it seems harsh that he should pray for the continuance or increase of Job’s afflictions. Or rather,
2. That his words and cause which I am now debating may be examined and sifted, that you that are here present, or any other wise men, may consider and judge thereof, as he desired above, Job 34:2,Job 34:10,Job 34:34.
Unto the end, i.e. thoroughly and exactly, till the cause be brought to an issue. Or, unto victory, i.e. till judgment be brought forth unto victory.
Because of his answers; or, concerning his answers, or replies, or discourses; for answering is oft used in Scripture, both in the Old and New Testament, for speaking. So he limits and changeth the state of the controversy: I do not meddle with Job’s former life, nor charge him with hypocrisy, as his three friends have done; but I justly reprove him for his hard speeches against God, whereby he hath reproached his justice and goodness.
For wicked men, i.e. on their behalf, or for their use. He hath put arguments into their mouths against God and his providence. Or, with or among wicked men; as if he were one of them; or such answers as they use to make, which therefore are very unbecoming such a man as Job is, or pretends to be.
He sinned before, as other ways, so by impatience under his afflictions, which may be ascribed to human infirmity; but now he is grown obstinate and incorrigible, and instead of repenting and humbling himself for his sins, he excuseth them, and justifieth himself, and accuseth the blessed God. Or thus,
For otherwise, unless he be thoroughly tried and rebuked, he will add rebellion unto his sin; he will break forth into open rebellion against God, and (as it follows) he will clap, &c. For the Hebrew words are of the future tense, although such are oft rendered by the past tense.
He clappeth his hands, in token of joy and victory, as this phrase is used, Psalms 47:1; Psalms 98:8; insulting and triumphing, not only over us, as if none of us were able to answer him, but in a sort over God himself, inasmuch as he hath again and again desired leave of God to debate his cause with or before him, and in that case did not doubt to maintain it, but could not obtain the favour or justice of a fair hearing.
Multiplieth his words against God: whereas the reverence which he oweth to God, and his infinite distance from him, should teach him to be very modest and sparing in his speeches of God, Job on the contrary poureth forth whole floods of bold and presumptuous expostulations with God, and reflections upon God’s proceedings with him.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Job 34". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13