Job 36:1. Elihu also proceeded — Having reprehended some of the unwarrantable expressions in Job’s discourses, Elihu comes closer to the business, and speaks to the very cause itself, showing, from the nature of God, and the methods of his providence, that he will administer impartial justice to all men. That the general course of his providence is to favour the righteous; that though he may sometimes correct them in love, yet, if they submit patiently to his fatherly correction, and amend their ways, they shall enjoy all manner of prosperity; but, if they are stubborn, and will not submit, they only draw down greater degrees of his vengeance on themselves. That, if Job had, instead of disputing, submitted himself humbly to God’s corrections, he would have delivered him, (it being as easy for him to lift up as to cast down.) And that his not discerning the reason of his corrections (which Job had made a great cause of his grief, Job 19:7) ought not to have hindered his humble submission; because we are not able to comprehend any of the works of God, which we see every day, and acknowledge to be most excellently contrived. He therefore warns him to make use of the present opportunity, lest God should cut him off while in a state of rebellion. That God was infinitely powerful; that there was therefore no resisting him; infinitely wise, as sufficiently appeared by his works; there was therefore no escaping out of his hand; that his purity was so great, that the sun in his presence was more dim than the smallest ray when compared to that bright luminary; that his holiness was manifest from his aversion to iniquity, and his goodness in supplying the wants of his creatures. That man was utterly incapable of accounting for the least of his works; how then dared he to attempt to penetrate the secrets of his providence, and to call him to an account for his dealings with men? This could proceed only from an unjustifiable self-conceit; a crime which the Almighty would not fail severely to punish. Upon the whole, the difference between the argument of Elihu and that of the three friends seems to be this; they suppose Job to be guilty of great crimes, which had drawn down the divine vengeance on him, and infer his guilt merely from his sufferings; on the contrary, Elihu takes it for granted his plea of innocence was true, nevertheless, thinks him exceedingly blameworthy for his behaviour under his afflictions: that he did not sufficiently consider the infinite distance between a weak, frail, sinful creature, and an all-powerful, wise, just, and good Creator; that, instead of submitting himself, as was his duty, and owning the justice of God’s providence toward him, he acted the part of the hardened sinner, and flew in the face of the Almighty; accusing him of injustice and severe treatment; rudely challenging him to answer for his conduct, and pretending to erect himself into a judge of his actions. He tells him, as long as he continued in those dispositions, there was no hope of an abatement of the correction he was under; but he might rather expect an increase of affliction, if not an utter destruction. Job himself is so sensible of the truth of what Elihu had said, that he doth not so much as attempt to answer; and, though he doth not absolutely give up the point — for it was God must convince him, and not man — yet it undoubtedly laid the foundation of that disposition, which ended in an entire submission to God’s will, and a thorough conviction of his own vileness.
Job 36:2-4. Suffer me a little — Give me thy patient attention but a little longer, and I have done. I will show I have yet to speak on God’s behalf — That I have not yet said all that can be said to justify God’s dispensations toward thee. I will fetch my knowledge from afar — From remote times, and places, and things. I will not confine my discourse to any particular case, but will justify God by declaring his great and glorious works of creation and providence, both in the heaven and the earth, and the manner of his dealings with men in other parts and ages of the world. These are the chief heads of the following discourse, and therefore the best comment upon this general expression. And will ascribe righteousness to my Maker — I will prove and maintain this truth, that God is righteous in all his ways. My words shall not be false — Neither contrary to truth, nor to my views and apprehensions of it. I will admit into my discourse no kind or degree of flattery, calumny, or sophistry; he that is perfect in knowledge is with thee — He that is sincere and upright in his use of his knowledge, who will deliver his opinion honestly and truly, unbiased by fear or favour, passion or prejudice; and who believes that, as he has accurately considered, so he fully understands the matters about which he will speak. Bishop Patrick’s paraphrase on the verse is, “Assure thyself I will not seek to baffle thee with sophistical arguments: he that discourses with thee is none of those subtle disputers, but loves sincere and solid reason.” The latter clause, however, may be considered as connected with what follows, and understood as spoken of God. The meaning then will be, Thou hast to do with a God of perfect knowledge, by whom all thy words and actions are weighed.
Job 36:5. God is mighty, and despiseth not any — His greatness doth not cause him (as the greatness of men causeth them) to despise or oppress such as are mean. He is mighty in strength and wisdom — His strength is guided by wisdom, and therefore cannot be employed to do any thing unbecoming him, or unjust toward his creatures, either of which would be an instance of folly.
Job 36:6-7. He preserveth not the life of the wicked — Namely, for ever: but will in due time forsake them, and give them up to the destroyer. Ab. Ezra interprets it, The years of the wicked shall be shortened. But giveth right to the poor — He upholds, and will certainly, at the proper time, deliver his poor, oppressed ones, from all their oppressors. He will avenge their quarrel upon their persecutors, and force them to make restitution of what they have unjustly robbed them of. For if men will not right the injured poor, God will. He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous — He never ceases to care for and watch over them; no, not when they are afflicted or persecuted, when he may seem to neglect them. If our eye be ever toward God in duty, his eye will be ever upon us in mercy, and when we are at the lowest will not overlook us. With kings are they on the throne — He sometimes raises them to the highest offices that kings can confer upon them; yea, he doth establish them for ever — Their felicity is more stable and permanent than that of the wicked; they are established as long as they live. And they are exalted — Above the power of their enemies, that would pull them down: or, they continue to be exalted, and are not cast down from their dignity, as the wicked commonly are.
Job 36:8-10. If they be bound in fetters — If, through the vicissitude of worldly affairs, they are brought from their throne into a prison, as sometimes hath been done. Then he showeth them their work — Their evil works: by these afflictions he brings them to a sight of their sins; that then have exceeded — That they have greatly sinned by abusing their power and prosperity, which even good men are too prone to do. He openeth also, &c. — He inclines them to hearken to what God speaks by his rod, who would not hear in the time of their prosperity; namely, to hear the rod and him that hath appointed it; and commandeth — Either by his word or Spirit accompanying this affliction, and discovering the design of God in this dispensation; that they return from iniquity — The chief cause of their calamity and trouble.
Job 36:11-12. If they obey — God’s admonition and command; they shall spend their days in prosperity — They shall be restored to their former prosperity, and shall live and die in it. This he says according to the tenor of God’s promises, especially in the Old Testament state of the church, and according to the common course of God’s providence in those days, which Elihu and other good men had observed; and their years in pleasures — Abounding in worldly comforts, and delighting themselves in the love and favour of God thereby manifested to them. But if they obey not — If the righteous, spoken of Job 36:7, opposed to the hypocrites, mentioned in the next verse, be disobedient to the divine admonitions; they shall perish by the sword — They shall be cut off by some extraordinary or remarkable judgment; and they shall die without knowledge — Shall die in or for their inadvertency or folly, or, because they are without knowledge, as בבלי דעת, bibli dagnath, may be rendered, because they are ignorant, or brutish, and will not learn the lessons which God so plainly teaches them.
Job 36:13-14. But the hypocrites in heart — Such as are truly void of that piety which they profess; heap up wrath — By their impenitence and obstinacy in all conditions they treasure up God’s wrath against themselves; they cry not — Unto God for help. They live in the gross neglect of God and of prayer; when he bindeth them — Namely, with the cords of affliction expressed Job 36:8, which is mentioned as an aggravation of their wickedness; because even wicked men, if not hardened in their vices, will seek God in a time of affliction. They die in youth — They provoke God to cut them off before their time. The Hebrew is literally, Their soul dieth in youth. And their life is among the unclean — They die young because they lived among prostitutes, or sodomites, as the word,
קדשׁים, kedeshim, properly signifies: they die by some exemplary stroke of divine vengeance. Yea, and after death their life is among the unclean, the unclean spirits, the devil and his angels, for ever excluded from the New Jerusalem, into which no unclean thing shall enter.
Job 36:15-16. And openeth their ears — That is, causeth them to hear, and understand, and do the will of God; hearing being often put for obeying; in oppression — That is, in the time of their oppression; or, by oppression, or tribulation, as the means of opening their ears and hearts. He will not deliver all afflicted persons, but only those whose ears he openeth to receive his counsels. Even so would he have removed thee — If thou hadst opened thine ear to God’s counsels, humbled thyself under his correcting hand, and sued to him for mercy; out of the strait into a broad place — Hebrew, מפי צר, mippi tzar, out of the mouth or jaws of tribulation; which, like a wild beast, is ready to swallow thee up, into a state of ease and freedom. That which should be set on thy table — Thy dishes, or the food in them; should be full of fatness — Should be rich, nourishing, agreeable, and delicious. Such are the expressions which Elihu uses to denote that liberty and plenty to which he thought the righteous were entitled; in opposition to confinement and scarcity, the portion of the wicked.
Job 36:17. But thou hast fulfilled the judgment of the wicked — Or, the cause, or sentence, as the word דיןdin, most properly signifies. Thou hast fully pleaded their cause, and justified the hard speeches which wicked men utter against God. Therefore the just judgment of God takes hold on thee. Thou hast maintained their cause against God, and God passes against thee the sentence of condemnation due to wicked men.
Job 36:18-19. Because there is wrath — Conceived by God against thee; because, by thy pleading the cause of the wicked, thou hast provoked God’s wrath against thee; beware lest he take thee away by his stroke — בשׂפק, besaphek, properly, with the stroke of his hand or foot, an allusion to men’s expressing their anger by striking with their hand or stamping with their foot. Look to thyself, and reconcile thyself to God by true repentance, while thou hast an opportunity. A great ransom cannot deliver thee — If once God’s wrath take hold on thee, and sentence be executed upon thee before thou repentest and humblest thyself before thy judge, neither riches nor friends, nor any person or thing in heaven or earth can redeem thee: no ransom or price will be accepted for thee. Will he esteem thy riches? — If thou hadst as much of them as ever; no, nor all the forces of strength — The strongest forces; not if thou hadst all the treasure and all the force which all the powers of earth could muster up.
Job 36:20-21. Desire not the night — The night of death, which Job had often desired, for then thou art irrecoverably gone: take heed of thy foolish and often-repeated desire of death, lest God inflict it upon thee in anger. When people are cut off in their place — By which individuals, and even whole nations and bodies of people, are sometimes cut off in wrath, in their several places where they are: or, are suddenly taken away before they can remove out of the place where the stroke of God finds them; or, in the place where they are settled and surrounded with all manner of comforts and friends, all which cannot prevent their being cut off. Take heed, regard not iniquity — Hebrew, אל תפן, al teepen, look not to it; namely, with an approving or desiring eye, as this expression is used Proverbs 23:31. This hast thou chosen rather than affliction — Thou hast chosen rather to quarrel with God, and censure his judgments, than humbly and quietly, submit to them, and wait upon God by faith and prayer for deliverance in his due time and appointed way.
Job 36:22-23. Behold, God exalteth by his power, &c. — God is omnipotent; and therefore can either punish thee far worse, or deliver thee, if thou dost repent. He is also infinitely wise; and as none can work like him, so none can teach like him: therefore do not presume to teach him how to govern the world. None teacheth with such authority and convincing evidence, with such condescension and compassion, with such power and efficacy as God doth, he teaches by the Bible, and that is the best book; by his Son, and he is the best master. Who hath enjoined him his way? — Wherein he should walk; that is, what methods he should use in the administration of human affairs? If he had a superior, who gave him laws for his actions, he might be accountable to him for what he did; but he is supreme and uncontrollable; who hath no law to regulate him but his own holy nature and blessed will, and therefore how rash and absurd a thing is it for any man to censure his proceedings! Thou hast wrought iniquity — Thou hast swerved from the law and rule given thee.
Job 36:24-25. Remember — Call to mind this thy duty; that thou magnify his work — Every work which he doth; do not condemn any of his providential works, but adore them as done with admirable wisdom and justice. Behold — With admiration and astonishment. Every man may see it — Namely, his work last mentioned. The power, and wisdom, and greatness of God are so manifest in all his works, that all who are not stupid must see and acknowledge them. Man may behold it afar off — The works of God are so great and conspicuous, that they may be seen at a great distance. Hence Elihu proceeds to give some instances, in the works of nature and common providence. His general aim is to show, 1st, That God is the first cause and supreme director of all the creatures; whom therefore we ought with all humility and reverence to adore: 2d, That it is presumption in us to prescribe to him in his special providence toward men, when the operations even of common providence about the meteors are so mysterious and unaccountable.
Job 36:26. Behold, God is great — Infinite in majesty, and power, and wisdom, and all perfections, and therefore just in all his ways; and we know him not — Namely, perfectly. Though we see something of him in his works, it is but little in comparison of that which is in him. He is incomprehensibly great in his essence, in his attributes, in his works, and in his ways; and therefore be not so inconsiderate and rash, O Job, as to censure those of his dispensations which thou canst not fully understand. Neither can the number of his years be searched out — He is eternal, as in his being, so in all his counsels, which must be infinitely wise, and therefore above the comprehension of short-lived men.
Job 36:27-28. For he maketh small, &c. — Having affirmed that God’s works are incomprehensibly great and glorious, he now proves it from the most common works of nature and providence. And hence he leaves it to Job to consider how much more deep and inconceivable the secret counsels of God must be. The drops of water — He orders matters so wisely, that the waters which are in the clouds do not fall down at once in spouts, which would be pernicious to the earth and to mankind, but by degrees and in drops. According to the vapour thereof — According to the proportion of vapours which the heat of the sun hath drawn up from the earth or sea. So it denotes that great work of God by which the rain is first made of vapours, and afterward resolved into vapours, or into the matter of succeeding vapours, by a constant rotation. Which the clouds distil abundantly — In such plenty as the necessities of the earth require; which also is a wonderful work of God.
Job 36:29-30. Can any understand the spreadings of the clouds? — Hebrew, of a cloud: whence it comes to pass that a small cloud, no bigger than a man’s hand, suddenly spreads over the whole heavens: how the clouds come to be suddenly gathered and so condensed as to bring forth thunder and lightning. Or the noise of his tabernacle — The thunder produced in the clouds, which are often called God’s tent or tabernacle. Behold, he spreadeth his light — That is, the lightning, fitly called God’s light, because God only can light it; upon it — That is, upon the cloud, which is, in a manner, the candlestick in which God sets up this light; and covereth the bottom of the sea — The lightning spreads far and wide over all parts of the sea, and pierceth deep, reaching even to the bottom of it.
Job 36:31-33. For by them he judgeth the people — By thunder and lightning, and rain from the clouds, he executes his judgments against ungodly people. He giveth meat — By the same clouds by which he punisheth wicked men, he provideth plentiful showers to drop fatness upon the earth. With clouds he covereth the light — With thick and black clouds spread over the whole heavens, as in times of great thunders and lightnings, he obscures the light of the day, or the splendour of the shining sun. Hebrew, על כפים, gnal cappaim, with hands he covereth the sun; either the clouds are so called for their resemblance to hands, or the meaning is, that God covereth the light as by the hollow of his hand. And commandeth it not to shine — Or, יצו, jetzav, giveth a charge concerning it, that it shall be covered; by the cloud that cometh betwixt — Which God interposes as a veil between the sun and the earth. The noise thereof showeth concerning it — The thunder gives notice of the approaching rain. The cattle also, &c. — As the thunder, so also the cattle showeth concerning the vapour — Concerning the coming of the rain, by a strange instinct, seeking for shelter when a change of weather is near.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Job 36". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany