Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Job 35

Verse 1

ELIHU’S THIRD DISCOURSE.

1.Elihu spake moreover — Job has made himself more righteous than God, in maintaining that he had not received his deserts. His claims of merit and reward for righteousness are met by the consideration that God is too elevated to be benefited by the virtue or harmed by the vice of man. Human actions redound to the good or ill of man himself. And yet God is not indifferent to the doings of men, though in times of suffering he may not hear their empty cries for help. They are not heard because they are wanting in humility and faith, not because God is not a moral governor of the universe.

 

Verse 2

JOB’S NOTION THAT MAN IS IN NO WAY BENEFITED BY HIS PIETY IS ERRONEOUS, Job 35:2-16.

First half — MAN’S RIGHTEOUSNESS IS TOO IMPERFECT TO POSTULATE CLAIMS UPON GOD: IF GOD REWARD AT ALL, IT IS A PURE GRATUITY, Job 35:2-8.

a. The thesis already anticipated (Job 34:9) is here formulated by a series of questions, Job 35:2-4. “There (Job 34:9) Elihu censured the complaint as an arraignment of the justice of God. Here he takes it in another point of view, namely, as laying God under obligation.” — Scott.

2.My righteousness is more than God’s — The Septuagint renders this clause, “I am righteous before the Lord.” This accords better with the actual statements of Job, although the English Version agrees with the Vulgate, and is now accepted by many. See note on Job 4:17. Delitzsch makes it a question, “Saidst thou,” etc. The sentiment that Elihu attributes to Job may be, that he had been more just to God than God had been to him.

 

Verse 3

3.What profit’ my sin — Literally, What shall I gain more than by my sin? In Job 9:22; Job 21:23-26 Job had seemed to say that the perfect and the wicked are alike to God. In Elihu’s remembrance these unguarded statements assume the form of a comparison between the gains from virtue and the profits from sin.

 

Verse 5

b. God is self-sufficient in his infinite exaltation, and consequently cannot be benefited or injured by the moral acts of men: the consequences of our actions are confined to ourselves or our fellows. “Good and evil cannot affect God; if they are distinct things, as Job, who is no Pantheist, would admit, they must have distinct effects; and these effects, not reaching God, must be on man, on the man who does good or evil.” — Davidson. Job 35:5-8.

5.Look unto the heavens — The infinite greatness of God is feebly shadowed forth by the heavens, the work of his hands. “Job’s weak and foolish attack on the divine righteousness makes shipwreck of the glory of the divine nature, as manifested in the works of creation.” — Hengstenberg. Higher than the heavens, God is too high to gain by the virtue of man or to lose by his vice.

 

Verse 6-7

6, 7.What receiveth he of thine hand — Independent and above all human conduct, he is under obligations to none; a point that had been reached before in the argument. “The all-sufficient One does not need man, and it is therefore foolish in us to demand, and fume, and murmur.” “When God crowns our merits, he crowns solely his own gifts.” — St. Augustine. See notes on Job 7:20; Job 22:2-3.

 

Verse 8

8.Thy wickedness’ son of man — The original reads more tersely, For a man like thyself is thy wickedness; and for a son of man thy righteousness. Man, and not God, loses or gains according as man is wicked or righteous. The comment of Clement, in one of his homilies, is befitting: “Him they profit nothing, but they save themselves: him they injure not, but they are destroyed.”

 

Verse 9

Second half — PIETY (SO CALLED) THAT CALLS FORTH NO RESPONSIVE BENEFIT, IS UNREAL AND WORTHLESS, IN THAT IT IS EXTORTED FROM THE SOUL OF MAN BY SUFFERING, Job 35:9-16.

a. The objection of Job, stated in Elihu’s own language, (Job 35:9,) that the prayers of human sufferers are unanswered of God, Elihu refutes by the suggestion that they have in them no more moral element than the cries of the brute, and that, too, notwithstanding God has so richly endowed the wicked with faculties for love, trust, and worship; and, consequently, God is under no moral obligations to hear. The reason why they are not heard lies in the oppressed themselves, Job 35:9-14.

9.By reason’ they make the oppressed to cry — The correct reading is, Because of the multitude of oppressions they cry out. A statement Job had made, (Job 24:12,) with the additional remark that God paid no heed to the outrage.

 

Verse 10

10.But none saith But they do not say. The reason that they are not heard is, that their cry has no element of faith or regard for God, in this respect resembling the instinctive cries of beasts and birds.

My maker . The plural form does not so much express “excellency” as point to the multiplicity and richness of the divine benefits, “so that the one is instar multorum,” (Hengstenberg,) that is, the one God bestows as if he himself were many beings in one. Compare “thy Creator” (plural form) in Ecclesiastes 12:1.

Songs in the night — As with Paul and Silas at midnight in prison. Acts 16:25. The Talmud gives a pleasing allegory entitled “The Songs of the Night.” “As David in his youthful days was tending his flocks on Bethlehem’s fertile plains, the Spirit of the Lord descended upon him, and his senses were opened, and his understanding enlightened, so that he could understand the songs of the night. The heavens proclaimed the glory of God, the glittering stars formed one general chorus, their harmonious melody resounded upon earth, and the sweet fulness of their voices vibrated to its utmost bounds. “Light is the countenance of the Eternal,” said the setting sun. “I am the hem of his garment,” responded the soft and rosy twilight. The clouds gathered themselves together and said, “We are his nocturnal tent.”’ “We bless thee from above,” said the gentle moon. “We too bless thee,” responded the stars; and the lightsome grasshopper chirped, “Me too he blesses in the pearly dewdrop.” — See KITTO’S Journal of S.L., 6:67; also, sermon, in loc., by H. Melvill.

 

 

 

Verse 11

11.More than the beasts of the earth — The bestowment of reason and of a moral sense, and of the knowledge of God and of our duty, leads God to expect something more from us than brutish cries, such as those of the raven, (Psalms 147:9,) or the thirsty cattle, (Joel 1:20,) or the hungry young lion. (Psalms 104:21.) Their cries he hears, but not the cries of prayerless men.

Fowls of heaven — See note Job 12:7; Job 28:7; Job 28:21.

 

Verse 12

12.There — Or, under such circumstances.

None giveth answer He answereth not these evil men (same as in Job 35:9) because of their pride. Elihu’s imagination sees a multitude of ingrates, in the midst of whom is Job with his complaints and murmurs. To astonished Job, who repined because God refused to hear him, Elihu points out his associates, his fellow sinners and sufferers, who also prayed when trouble came: — See! “there they cry!” and leaves him to draw his own moral. Like Aug. Comte, they would sooner pray to and worship “collective man” than God, and appeal to God only as a last resource. It is instructive to see a Herbert Spencer dismiss “the religion of humanity,” held by the great sceptic, “as countenanced neither by induction nor deduction;” in all probability destined himself to be dismissed in like manner by some leading sceptic of the future.

 

Verse 13

13.Vanity — That is, a vain and empty cry, one that has no spiritual element.

 

Verse 14

14.Although’ trust thou in him — Read, much less when thou sayest thou beholdest him not! (Job 23:8.) The cause is before him; therefore wait thou on (or for) him.

Judgment The cause, , neglected of men, is not neglected of God. It is before him.

b. A specific and sufficient reason for Job why his prayers are not heard is, that his speeches are dogmatic, vain, and foolish, 15, 16.

 

Verse 15

15.But now’ great extremity — But now, because his anger visits not, nor strictly marks transgression. Compare Psalms 130:3. Extremity , pash, iniquity, or transgression. This interpretation of this doubtful word, which appears but once in the Scriptures, accords with the Septuagint and the Vulgate, and is adopted by Hirtzel, Conant, Renan, Noyes, etc. It is probably an abbreviated form of the Hebrew word for transgression, ( ,) a word Elihu has already used against Job. See Job 34:37. Delitzsch and Dillmann derive it from the Arabic, the former making it to signify “sullenness,” the latter, either folly or arrogance.

Delitzsch, whom Zockler calls “one of the weightiest opponents of the genuineness of the whole Elihu section,” here makes an important admission, that “even at the close of the third speech of Elihu, the Arabic, and in fact Syro-Arabic colouring common to this section, with the rest of the book, is confirmed;” while, on the other hand, he urges that we miss the bold original figures which, up to chapter 31, followed like waves upon one another; and that we perceive a deficiency of skill, as now and then between Koheleth (in Solomon’s Songs) and Solomon. This supposed defect of genius in the first speeches of Elihu, Zockler adequately meets by the suggestion that Elihu is now the preacher of repentance, speaking as plainly, simply, and with as little art as possible. Soon he shall stand forth the “eulogist and glorifier of God, surpassing the former speakers in the power, loftiness, and adornment of his discourse; nay, even rivaling in this respect the representation of Jehovah himself.” See Excursus VII, page 208.

 

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 35". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/job-35.html. 1874-1909.