Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Job 36:21

"Be careful, do not turn to evil, For you have preferred this to affliction.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Holiness;   Watchfulness;  
Dictionaries:
Holman Bible Dictionary - Job, the Book of;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Elihu;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Job, Book of;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Regard not iniquity - It is sinful to entertain such wishes; it is an insult to the providence of God. He sends affliction; he knows this to be best for thee: but thou hast preferred death to affliction, thereby setting thy wisdom against the wisdom of God. Many in affliction, long for death; and yet they are not prepared to appear before God! What madness is this! If he takes them at their wish, they are ruined for ever. Affliction may be the means of their salvation; the wished-for death, of their eternal destruction.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Job 36:21". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/job-36.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Take heed, regard not iniquity - That is, be cautious that in the view which you take of the divine government, and the sentiments which you express, you do not become the advocate of iniquity. Elihu apprehended this from the remarks in which he had indulged, and regarded him as having become the advocate of the same sentiments which the wicked held, and as in fact manifesting the same spirit. It is well to put a man who is afflicted on his guard against this, when he attempts to reason about the divine administration.

For this hast thou chosen rather than affliction - That is, you have chosen rather to give vent to the language of complaint, than to bear your trials with resignation. “You have chosen rather to accuse divine Providence than to submit patiently to his chastisements.” “Patrick.” There was too much truth in this remark about Job; and it is still not an uncommon thing in times of trial, and indeed in human life in general. People often prefer iniquity to affliction. They will commit crime rather than suffer the evils of poverty; they will be guilty of fraud and forgery to avoid apprehended want. They will be dishonest to their creditors rather than submit to the disgrace of bankruptcy. They will take advantage of the widow and the fatherless rather than suffer themselves. “Sin is often preferred to affliction;” and many are the people who, to avoid calamity, would not shrink from the commission of wrong. Especially in times of trial, when the hand of God is laid upon people, they “prefer” a spirit of complaining and murmuring to patient and calm resignation to the will of God. They seek relief even in complaining; and think it “some” alleviation of their sufferings that they can “find fault with God.” “They who choose iniquity rather than affliction, make a very foolish choice; they that ease their cares by sinful pleasures, escape their troubles by sinful projects, and evade sufferings for righteousness‘ sake by sinful compliances against their consciences; these make a choice they will repent of, for there is more evil in the least sin than in the greatest affliction.” Henry.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Job 36:21". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/job-36.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Job 36:21

Take heed; regard not iniquity; for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction.

Affliction better than sin

Elihu rebukes Job with a becoming dignity, for some rash and unadvised speeches which the severity of his other friends, and the sharpness of his own anguish, had drawn from him, and particularly cautions him in the passage before us. Illustrate and prove the general proposition, that there can be no greater folly than to seek to escape from affliction by complying with the temptations of sin. That the greater part of mankind are under the influence of a contrary opinion, may be too justly referred from their practice. How many have recourse to sinful pleasures to relieve their inward distress. In order to evade sufferings for righteousness’ sake, thousands make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience, through sinful compliances with the manners of the world.

1. Sin separates us from God, the only source of real felicity. That man is not sufficient to his own happiness is a truth confirmed by the experience of all who have candidly attended to their own feelings. This makes men seek resources from abroad, and fly to pleasures and amusements of various kinds, to fill up the blanks of time, and divert their uneasy reflections. God alone can be the source of real happiness to an immortal soul. Sin bereaves the soul of man of this its only portion. Afflictions are often the means of bringing the soul nearer to Him.

2. Affliction may not only consist with the love of a father, but may even be the fruit of it. “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.” A good man may even glory in tribulation. But sin is always both evil in its nature, and pernicious in its effects.

3. Sin is evil whether we feel it or not, and worst when we are most insensible of it. To be past feeling, in this respect, is the worst woe we can possibly bring upon ourselves. Affliction, though a bitter, is a salutary medicine. It is the discipline by which we are trained to glory, honour, and virtue. The greatest error we can fall into, is that of taking this world for the place of our rest. To cure this fatal mistake, God visits us with affliction.

4. In afflictions we are commonly passive, but always active in sin. The one is left to our choice, the other is not. When we suffer in the cause of virtue, we are in the hand of our most faithful and everlasting friend; but when we sin, in order to avoid suffering, we commit ourselves into the hands of that malicious and cunning enemy, who goeth about seeking whom he may devour.

5. The evil of affliction is of short duration, but that of sin perpetual. (R. Walker.)

Caution against losing the crown through fear of the cross

Three things to be observed in Job’s case.

1. Job, before his afflictions, is called a man “perfect and upright,” one that feared God, and eschewed evil: that is, both a moral man and a pious man. Before anyone may suppose that the lamentations of Job suit his case, he must be clear that he has lived like Job.

2. A great part of Job’s complaints are made in answer to the three friends. Whatever Job’s sin was, it was not hypocrisy. No wonder that when accused, Job should break out in strong cries of grief, defend his innocence, and hold fast his integrity.

3. Some of Job’s complaints are absolutely sinful; they are murmurings of self-righteousness and rebellion. Job would not submit to the chastisement of God. The other three had accused Job falsely, but Elihu accused him justly. If any take comfort from reading these sinful complaints of Job, and think that, because Job complained in the way he did, they may do the like, they are greatly mistaken. And if any go further and think that because, like Job, they utter sinful complaints, like him too they shall be pardoned and accepted in the end, they are yet more mistaken. Unless they are brought, like the penitent patriarch, to see and confess with self-abhorrence the sinfulness of their murmurs, those complaints will be the ruin of their souls, even though they may be expressed in simple language. It is owned that it is hard to bear affliction. A wounded spirit is tempted to breathe hard sayings against God. But a child of God will not indulge such a temper. He will know the wickedness of it. There are many, however, who do not murmur against God’s dealings with them, who may still be accused of choosing iniquity rather than affliction. In truth, it may be charged against all unconverted men. There is an affliction which all who live in a careless, unconverted state must suffer before they can have any hope of salvation. To everyone whose conscience tells him that he has not yet been brought to a sense of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the word of the Lord is, “Take heed.” It would be a false and unscriptural representation of Christ and religion, to make it appear a light or an easy thing to be His disciple. And he who does not find it a life of constant struggle and watchfulness, of difficulty and self-denial, may be certain that he is altogether mistaken if he thinks he is a believer. Let no man flatter himself that the way to glory is a path strewed with flowers, one in which he may take his fill of pleasure and indulge his indolence. The true profession of Christianity is inseparable from suffering. It would be well for all those who are living in security, who have no fear for the safety of their souls, if they would examine the grounds of their confidence, and ask themselves in what way they bear their cross daily? What afflictions of the righteous fall to their lot? If they find that they really are not bearing the cross; that they are suffering none of the “afflictions of the righteous,” they may be sure that their confidence is not the assurance of faith, but the presumption of ignorance . . . It generally happens that a believer’s comforts and spiritual consolations rise higher in proportion to his trials and conflicts. (R. W. Dibdin, M. A.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Job 36:21". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/job-36.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

MORE CONDEMNATION OF JOB FROM ELIHU

"Take heed, regard not iniquity:

For this hast thou chosen rather than affliction.

Behold, God doeth loftily in his power:

Who is a teacher like unto him?

Who hath enjoined him his way?

Or who can say, Thou hast wrought unrighteousness?"

The various versions afford little help in understanding exactly what Elihu intended by some of the things said here; but given his invariable purpose of forcing Job to renounce his integrity, we can easily see how vigorously he strove to achieve that objective.

Certainly, Elihu, was the most persistent, the most vigorous, and the most skillful assailant Job encountered in this whole narrative. Satan must have been very proud of him.

The final paragraph here (Job 36:24-33) begins a discussion of God's glorious works in the natural creation, a topic that is concluded in the final chapter (Job 37) of Elihu's speech. Some scholars have commented that it is a fitting introduction to the whirlwind and the appearance of God that interrupted and terminated it; but just what Elihu's point might have been in this elaboration of his thoughts is not exactly clear. "It has been suggested that a storm was gathering, which ultimately broke at the theophany, and that this turned Elihu's thoughts in the direction of this conclusion of his speech."[15] Whatever did it, "Elihu now turned to unfold to Job the greatness of God as revealed in his control of the universe and of the forces of nature."[16]

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Job 36:21". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/job-36.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Take heed, regard not iniquity,.... Not any iniquity, as to show any approbation of it, love for it, and desire after it. All appearance of sin, of every sin, is to be abstained from; but particularly by the iniquity here meant may be the sin of impatience under his affliction; murmuring at the dealings of God with him; arraigning his justice, and saying very indecent things of him, as in Job 34:5. Or it may mean the evil he had been guilty of in so earnestly desiring the night of death:

for this thou hast chosen rather than affliction; chose rather to die than to be afflicted as he was; or chose rather to complain of God, as if he dealt hardly with him, and did not do justly by him, than to submit patiently to the will of God, as he, ought to have done: or this he chose "through affliction"F4מעני "prae afflictione", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "prae miseria ex adflictione", Michaelis. ; through the force of it, because of it, and by means thereof; and so is a sort of excuse that Elihu makes for him; though at the same time he would have him by no means to regard such iniquity, and indulge to it.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Job 36:21". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/job-36.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Take heed, regard not p iniquity: for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction.

(p) And so murmur against God through impatiency.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Job 36:21". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/job-36.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

regard — literally, “turn thyself to.”

iniquity — namely, presumptuous speaking against God (Job 34:5, and above, see on Job 36:17, Job 36:18).

rather than — to bear “affliction” with pious patience. Men think it an alleviation to complain against God, but this is adding sin to sorrow; it is sin, not sorrow, which can really hurt us (contrast Hebrews 11:25).

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 36:21". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/job-36.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Take heed, regard not iniquity: for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction.

Chosen — Thou hast chosen rather to quarrel with God, and censure his judgments, than quietly to submit to them.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Job 36:21". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/job-36.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Job 36:21 Take heed, regard not iniquity: for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction.

Ver. 21. Take heed, regard not iniquity] This especially of blaming God’s judgments, as if they were unequal. No more of that, saith Elihu. Cave tibi, ne coniecias oculos ad vanitatem, Beware thou cast not an eye towards such a vanity or iniquity as that is. This was very good counsel; and it is very well observed that this whole following treatise to the end of the thirty-seventh chapter is, as it were, a gentle lenitive of that foregoing sharp rebuke which otherwise was likely to drive Job beside all patience.

For this thou hast chosen rather than affliction] That is, this forementioned iniquity of speaking rashly and wickedly against God’s proceedings with thee; this thou hast chosen rather than to bear thine affliction, or thy poverty, patiently. Now this was an ill choice; for, quas non oportet mortes praeeligere, saith Zuinglius (Epist. 3), What deaths ought not a man rather to make choice of, what torments not rather undergo, yea, into what deepest gulf of hell itself not rather enter, than wittingly and willingly to sin against God! The ancient martyrs would not be delivered upon base terms, Hebrews 11:35. Daniel chose rather to be thrown to the lions than to violate his conscience, and so to have a lion roaring in his own bosom. The primitive Christians cried out, Ad leonem magis quam lenonem (Tertul.). I would rather enter into hell, being clear from sin and innocent, quam peccati sorde pollutus, coelorum regna tenere, than go to heaven, if I might, besmeared with the filth of sin, saith Anselm. I would rather leap into a bonfire and be burnt, said another of the ancients, than commit any sin against God (Pintus in Daniel). Some write, that there is a certain little beast, called the mouse of Armenia, which will rather die than be defiled with any filth; insomuch that if her hole be besmeared with dirt she will rather choose to be taken than polluted. Such ought the servants of God to be.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Job 36:21". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/job-36.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Regard not iniquity, or, look not to it, to wit, with an approving or coveting eye, as this word is used, Proverbs 23:31. Thou hast chosen rather to quarrel with God, and censure his judgments, than humbly and quietly to submit to them, and to wait upon God by faith and prayer for deliverance in his time and way.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Job 36:21". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/job-36.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

21.This hast thou chosen — Poor, weak human nature shrinks from chastisement, though it knows such to be divine and for its real good. But to choose iniquity rather than affliction is to act over again the folly of the Jews, who chose Barabbas rather than Christ. “There is more evil in the least sin than in the greatest affliction.” — Henry. “In particular the closing verses of this division (16-21) contain statements’ such as occur in the like combination nowhere in the Old Testament, and such as belong in truth to the profoundest utterances which the literature of the Old Testament has produced in the attempt to solve the mystery of affliction before the coming of Christ.” — Zockler.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 36:21". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/job-36.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Iniquity, or blaspheming, (chap. xxxiv. 37.; Menochius) and murmurs, to which alone thou hast given way since thy fall. (Calmet)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Job 36:21". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/job-36.html. 1859.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

"Job should be careful that he not turn to sin (by complaining), which seems to have been his preference in bearing his trials without complaint" (Zuck p. 158). Elihu feels that holding God in awe and murmuring about how God is running the world is a contradiction and two things that should not go together. What he says is very true. One cannot truly worship God and be complaining at the same time.

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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Job 36:21". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/job-36.html. 1999-2014.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Take heed, regard not iniquity: for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction.

Regard - literally, turn thyself to.

Iniquity - namely, presumptuous speaking against God (Job 34:5, and above Job 36:17-18, note).

Rather than - to bear "affliction" with pious patience. Men think it an alleviation to complain against God. But this is adding sin to sorrow; it is sin, not sorrow, which can really hurt us (contrast Hebrews 11:25).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 36:21". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/job-36.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(21) Regard not iniquity.—Or, perhaps, the special sin of longing for death, for thou hast desired to die rather than bear thine affliction. Alas! Job’s case is not a solitary one, for who that has been tried as he was has not longed for the end?

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Job 36:21". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/job-36.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Take heed, regard not iniquity: for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction.
regard
Psalms 66:18; Ezekiel 14:4; Matthew 5:29,30
this
34:7-9; 35:3; Daniel 3:16-18; 6:10; Matthew 13:21; 16:24; Acts 5:40,41; Hebrews 11:25; 1 Peter 3:17; 4:15,16
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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Job 36:21". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/job-36.html.