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Elihu accuseth Job of charging God with injustice: he avers, that the Almighty can never act unjustly; and that humility and submission were required from man towards so great a Being.
Before Christ 1645.
Job 34:1. Furthermore Elihu answered and said— Elihu goes on with his impeachment of Job. He accuses him of having charged the Almighty with a denial of justice, and with having punished him beyond his deserts, Job 34:2-6. This is a language, he tells him, which could be used only by the profligate and abandoned, among whose party he seemed willing to enrol himself; otherwise he would never have said, that God makes no difference between the righteous and the wicked; referring to chap. Job 9:22-23. That it was impossible to suppose God could act unjustly; for, were he so disposed, what could hinder him from annihilating the whole human race at once? He needed only to withdraw his preserving power, and they would instantly fall into dust. Job 34:7-15. Since then he did not act in this manner, but his ways were perfectly agreeable to righteousness, he was not to be addressed in so rude a manner as Job had made use of. Reverence and respect were due to earthly princes; how much more to him in whose sight the prince and the beggar were the same: for he was the maker of them all. Job 34:16-19. That though God would look with a merciful eye on the infirmities of human nature, when accompanied with humility; yet the arrogant were sure to find no favour at his hands; he would not fail to execute his vengeance on them, that they might be an example to others, Job 34:23-30. That submission and resignation was the behaviour fit for man in the presence of God; and that were he really a man of that knowledge which he pretended, he would not act in this manner: but it was apparent that he was not so, by his acting the part of a wicked man, and adding contumacy to his sin. Job 34:31-37.
Job 34:5. God hath taken away my judgment— This refers to the words of Job, chap. Job 27:2 and the force of the exception lies in a misinterpretation. Job had said, God hath respited my judgment: this Elihu turns to, God hath refused me justice.
Job 34:6. Should I lie against my right?— As to my accusation, I am belied: my wound is mortal, though I have not transgressed. Heath and Houb.
Job 34:13. Who hath given him a charge?— Who, on earth, can be his overseer? The meaning is, "Who on earth hath authority to examine into and controul his proceedings?" See Schultens and Heath.
Job 34:17. Shall even he that hateth right— Would he that hateth judgment reign in his fury? The sense is, "Since he can so easily destroy all the human race, would he, if he was not a lover of justice, restrain his fury from destroying them?" Schult. and Heath.
Job 34:22. There is no darkness, nor shadow of death— i.e. "Not death itself shall conceal the workers of iniquity from the eye of God, or withdraw them from his justice: Men may flatter themselves with the hope of annihilation, if they please; but they will find themselves sadly disappointed when they come to make trial of the other state." Peters. Instead of that he should enter, in the latter clause of the next verse, Heath reads, When he shall enter.
Job 34:26. In the open sight of others— This is a metaphor taken from executions, which are performed in public places amid a croud of spectators, for the sake of example.
Job 34:30. That the hypocrite reign not— That a profligate man may not reign; that there may be no snares for the people. Heath.
Job 34:31. I have borne chastisement, &c.— I lift up my hands; let me not be utterly destroyed. Heath. See Houb.
Job 34:33. Should it be according to thy mind? &c.— It is He will recompence that which proceedeth from thee; whether thou refusest, or whether thou choosest; and not I. The latter clause is an invitation to a confession of his crimes; and includes an argument, that it was God who was to punish them, and not man: as he, therefore, was perfectly acquainted with them, there was no reason why he should not make an ample confession. Heath.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Elihu, encouraged by Job's silence to proceed, resumes his discourse.
1. He addresses the audience. Perhaps the important debate had been attended by others, besides Job's friends; or, though in the present case they erred greatly, yet they were probably, in the general, both wise and good men. He desired to be judged by their wisdom, persuaded that his arguments would bear the test; and those whose taste was most correct would best relish his discourse.
He proposes, therefore, to proceed with the subject, that they might come to a right judgment of Job's case, and consult as to what would be the best advice to give him under his present distress. Note; Mutual assistance is the means of mutual improvement.
2. He recites the charge which he draws from Job's assertion. Job hath said, I am righteous, so as not to deserve (he thought) so heavy visitations, chap. Job 27:6. And God hath taken away my judgment, chap. Job 27:2 because he had not appeared to remove his afflictions, or silence the accusations of his friends. Should I lie against my right? my wound is incurable without transgression, chap. Job 9:17 Job 16:17-20 he hath said, it profiteth a man nothing that he should delight himself with God: Not expressly indeed; but Elihu infers this as the consequence of his reasoning; chap. Job 9:22 Job 21:14-15 not that Job really thought so; but, in the rashness of dispute, unguarded expressions give a just handle for rebuke.
3. He expresses his astonishment, that so good a man as Job should say or insinuate such improper things. What man is like Job, who drinketh up scorning like water? either lays himself open by such words to scorn and contempt of the enemies of religion, or is so free in his reflections upon God, and so liberal of ridicule and contempt on his friends. See chap. Job 11:3. Which goeth in company with the workers of iniquity, and walketh with wicked men, not in his conduct indeed, but by uttering such speeches as seemed to countenance and encourage them in their iniquities. Note; it is a grief to good men, when the conduct or conversation of professors gives occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully, or to the wicked an argument to harden themselves in sin.
2nd, Elihu had proved, that God, in afflicting men, designed their good. Here he vindicates him from the charge of wrong, directing his discourse to the company, who, if Job would not hear, might bear testimony to the truth of what he advanced.
1. He asserts, that God neither can nor will do any injury to any man, nor, though Sovereign and Almighty, abuse his power by a capricious use of it; but with infinite justice deal with all men, giving them according to their works; and he rejects, with the greatest abhorrence, the very suggestion of the contrary. Note; (1.) As long as a sinner is out of hell, he is bound to lay his hand on his mouth before a righteous God, and own that he has received less than his iniquity deserves. (2.) Though God's justice does not always evidently appear here, the day is at hand when he shall be acknowledged just in all his judgments.
2. He proves this by arguments drawn from the sovereign dominion and irresistible power of God. Who hath given him a charge over the earth? He hath no superior whom he should fear, and be influenced by to do iniquity: Or, who hath given man a charge over the earth? hath not God? And can it be supposed that, after being so beneficent, he would become unjust? assuredly not: Or, who hath disposed the whole world with such order and regularity, and filled it with such a variety of blessings? How absurd then the thought, that he should do wickedly, who filleth the whole earth with his goodness. If he set his heart upon man, in strict justice to enter into judgment with him; if, as he might, he should gather unto himself his spirit and his breath, which once he gave, the consequence would be, that all flesh shall perish together, and man, even the whole human race, shall turn again unto dust. As we are creatures, he who made us may unmake us when he pleases; it is but to withdraw his support, and we breathe our last; and, as we are sinners, he would appear righteous if he consumed the earth. But he spares us, and thereby shews how far he is from doing man any injustice, when daily we hold our all, though forfeited, through his mercy.
3rdly, Elihu appeals to Job, if, or seeing, he was a man of understanding, for the absurdity of his positions: he admitted God's government, yet complained that he was oppressed: condemning thereby the most just. Even to man that is a worm, if placed on a throne, it were insolent and highly improper, though there were foundation for the charge, to call him son of Belial, or wicked. How much more then must it appear presumptuous to lay such a charge against the King of Kings, who regardeth no man's person; but, with the strictest justice and impartiality, considering all men alike the work of his hands, pronounces sentence and executes judgment upon them. Note; Great and poor must shortly stand before the same judge where the greatness of the one, and the poverty of the other, will be no plea for favour or compassion; but every man shall receive according as his work is: to beget therefore in Job higher and more worthy thoughts of God, and a more humble and lowly sense of his own deserts, Elihu suggests the following considerations:
1. God's omnipotence. The mightiest men are unable to stand before him; death, sudden as terrible, shall overtake them: At midnight there shall be a cry of destruction; and with strokes of judgment, invisible but irresistible, they fall. Let the loftiest tremble; they are as easily brought down, and as unable to grapple with the arm of death, as the meanest creature that they may despise.
2. His omniscience. As none are above his judgment, neither can any escape his notice. Naked and open before him are all the ways of men; he observes and minutes even the secrets of their souls. Though darkness, thick as the shadow of death, be sought to conceal their sins from his all-seeing eye, they are not hid; or, though wrapped up within the closest cells of a corrupted heart, there is not a thought passes there but he knoweth it altogether. As, therefore, he will not be unjust through want of power; so neither can he be so through error or mistake. Note; (1.) It is the folly of sinners, that they think to hide their sins, as if, by concealing them from the eyes of men, they could elude the scrutiny of God. (2.) There is not a more awakening consideration, which should affect the sinner's soul, than that the eye of God is constantly observing his heart and all his ways.
3. His justice. He never will give any man cause to complain of him. When he visits for iniquity, he will not lay a heavier burden than the sin deserves. And, therefore, as there is no appeal from his bar, nor possibility of altering the sentence of the most just, it were the highest folly to demand a fresh trial, when the result must necessarily be on that plan in disfavour of the sinner.
4. He illustrates this justice, power, and omniscience of God, in his dealings with men. The wicked, though never so numerous or great, are broken in pieces, and better men rise up in their stead. He knows their works, and brings their destruction upon them unawares, when, in the night, asleep and secure, they dream of no danger near. He makes his vengeance visible, that others may see and take warning by the ruin of these sinners, whose iniquities always justify God in his punishments. Because they rejected his government, and would pay no regard to his will and ways, but by oppression extorted the cries of the afflicted and needy; therefore doth vengeance, terrible as righteous, come upon them. Note; (1.) They who will not be guided by God's word, will assuredly be smitten with his rod of judgment, and broken in pieces as a potter's vessel. (2.) Rejection of God's warnings, and obstinate disregard of his will and ways, fill up the measure of men's iniquities. (3.) The groanings of the poor against the hard-hearted, and of the oppressed against the unjust, are heard by the righteous and compassionate God, and he will shortly recompence them.
5. God's dealings are not to be controlled by weak man. When he giveth quietness, whether to communities in peace and safety protecting them from their enemies; or to individuals, prospering their worldly affairs, especially filling their souls with spiritual peace and joy in believing; who then can make trouble? and interrupt or disturb them in the enjoyment of the quietness that he bestows? and when he hideth his face in anger, who then can behold him, or appear before an offended God, whether it be done against a nation, or against a man only? None can rescue a devoted people from their destruction; nor can any bear up under a sense of God's wrath, or relieve the distresses of the soul that he hath wounded but himself. Note; (1.) National peace and security are from God alone. (2.) If a soul enjoy a sense of the divine favour through faith in Jesus, no accusations of sin, or fears of death or hell, need disturb it. (3.) When God is our enemy, the whole world, and all that is in it, cannot procure us one helper to protect us from the frowns of his displeasure.
6. He watcheth over the welfare of kingdoms, that the hypocrite reign not, who by craft and fraud sought to step into the throne, and tyrannise over the people whom he had deluded. God disappoints his devices, lest the people be ensnared. Note; (1.) Ambition often creeps in order to climb. (2.) When religion has been made the usurper's pretext, good men have been ready to fall into the snare.
4thly, Elihu means not to leave the conviction of what is wrong to grieve the afflicted Job, without direction how to behave, that he may be extricated from his distress.
1. He suggests to him what in his case was proper to be said and done. Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, and desire to submit cheerfully and patiently, and wait the Lord's leisure for its removal. I will not offend any more, by charging God foolishly, as severe and unjust. That which I see not, teach thou me: I see much evil which deserves punishment, yet I see but a part: Who can understand his errors? Open my eyes, and make my conscience tender and sensible. If I have done iniquity, I will do no more; the past sufficeth: henceforward, through divine grace, I hope to walk more holily and humbly than I have hitherto done. Note; (1.) They who are truly humbled for sin, will never complain against God for what they suffer. (2.) When we are afflicted, we are especially called upon to inquire after the cause. (3.) When we turn to God, we must resolutely turn from sin: Christ and Belial cannot agree.
2. He reproves him for his waywardness. Should it be according to thy mind? It were highly unreasonable that the creature's will should prevail against his creator and governor: Beside, He will recompence it, whether thou refuse, or whether thou choose: And therefore it is in vain to struggle against his will. But if thou shouldst persist, thou must bear the blame, and not I: never will I object to any of his dispensations, which are all holy, and just, and good: Therefore speak what thou knowest, if it appear a wiser method of proceeding than that which I have suggested. Note; (1.) He who knows what is most for our good, and designs that in all he doth, must needs do well; and it is the height of folly to object. (2.) To struggle against God, or find fault with him, is as useless as it is foolish and sinful.
3. He appeals, for the reasonableness of what he had advanced, to all men of wisdom and godliness. However, wise Job might be, in the present case he apprehends that he had betrayed some want of understanding, as well as some defect in piety. And he wished heartily that the company would weigh Job's words, as well as his answer, as he disputed not for victory, but truth. Three reasons he gives for wishing Job's case to be thoroughly tried. [1.] Because he apprehended that his speeches had a tendency to strengthen the hands of the wicked. [2.] Because he had appeared hastily to triumph in his defence, when, in fact, he was justly to be blamed, though clear of some particulars which his friends had suggested. [3.] Because to his impatience under reproof, he had added rebellion against God; and, by continued self-vindication, accused him as unrighteous. Note; (1.) Great men, and good men, are still but men, and will see daily cause to say, "Forgive us our trespasses." (2.) The kindest office of christian friendship is, to improve and lead us to a right and humbling view of ourselves.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Job 34". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13