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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Job 34

 

 

Verse 1

ELIHU’S SECOND DISCOURSE.

1. Elihu spake — Literally, answered. (See note on Job 3:2.) Elihu waits for Job to respond. The chapter is devoted to establishing the justice of God. Elihu does not argue so much from instances of divine providence as from the necessity of the divine nature, and from the fact that God founded, upholds, and continues to govern, the world. His reasoning is not inductive, but rather through the intuitions of the moral sense. Man feels that God must do right — a like argument to that which Goethe employs in proof of the divine existence. His government is comprehensive and impartial. The high and the low are punished with equal severity. That government is founded in wisdom: certainly man can not improve upon it. (Job 34:33.) The language is more severe than we should have expected from the opening remarks of Elihu; yet it is marked by a deference which was wanting on the part of the friends. He who speaks under the divine impulse must at times utter unwelcome truths.


Verse 2

PROOF FROM THE NATURE AND ADMINISTRATION OF GOD THAT MAN HAS NO RIGHT TO DOUBT GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS OR JUSTICE. Chap. 34.

EXORDIUM, Job 34:2-9. a. An appeal to the wise that they shall hearken with the ear of the understanding, and subject his argument to the ordeal of reason, Job 34:2-4.

2. O ye wise — Other listeners than Job and the three were probably present; and either to them or an imaginary audience he now makes his appeal. This circuitous mode of address helps to relieve the severity of the chastisement he is about to administer to Job.


Verse 3

3. As the mouth tasteth — Literally, As the palate tastes in order to eat.

See note on Job 33:2; Job 12:11.


Verse 4

4. Choose judgment — Better, Prove the right. He proposes to bring to the touchstone of right the matter at issue between Job and his God. Compare 1 Thessalonians 5:21.


Verse 5

b. Elihu proceeds to cite Job’s objectionable sayings, which he thinks contain the most dangerous sentiments of the wicked, and which reasonably give rise to suspicions as to the company and associations of Job , vv5-9.

5. For Job hath said — See outline, page 202. Job has been guilty of a twofold error; first in asserting his own righteousness, and secondly in declaring that God had not treated him according to right. Job 10:7; Job 27:6; Job 27:2. The first of these citations is but preparatory to the second, which contains the theme he is about to treat, and which is taken verbally from Job 27:2.


Verse 6

6. Should I lie against my right, etc. — Though this is not exactly, it is virtually, the language of Job. Compare, for instance, Job 6:4; Job 9:17; Job 9:20; Job 16:8. The sense of the first clause is, according to Schlottmann, “Shall I declare myself guilty while I know myself innocent?” But the reading of Hitzig is more exact and terse: “Against my right I shall lie;” that is, With right on my side I am accounted a liar in maintaining it.

My wound — Literally, My arrow — the cause, by synecdoche, put for the effect. Job 6:4.


Verse 7

7. Drinketh up scorning like water — He uses against Job one of the figures of Eliphaz, (see note on Job 15:16,) in which “iniquity” is the subject instead of “scorning,” as here.


Verse 8

8. In company — Literally, To the company. That Job should have uttered such words (Job 34:5-6) stirs the indignation of Elihu. His zeal for God and the truth leads him, like the friends, into embittered language and unjustifiable assault. His view is in general just, that the language a man speaks betokens the company he keeps. He intimates that the complaints Job makes are merely the sentiments of the utterly godless, though in another guise. Like sentiments lead to like company, and, vice versa, as we see in the following verse, low associations give rise to low ideas. Dr. Clarke thinks there is an allusion here to a caravan, in which all kinds of persons were found.


Verse 9

9. It profiteth a man nothing, etc. — Job had, indeed, used a similar expression, (Job 21:15,) but had applied it to the wicked. He had maintained the contrary, (Job 17:9; Job 21:15; Job 28:28,) though it must be admitted that some of Job’s repinings are susceptible of such an interpretation (Job 9:22-25; Job 21:7; Job 24:1) as he himself seems to have felt at the close of his description of the happiness of the wicked. (Job 21:7-15.) The variations, if not errors, Elihu makes in his citations from Job are no more than might have been expected from one who had to rely solely on his memory for the points made in the course of the long discussion. They serve to illustrate and demonstrate the reality of the debate, and more particularly the genuineness of the Elihu section. Had Elihu’s speeches been an interpolation, (see Excursus VI,) as some German commentators hold, ordinary prudence, to say nothing of human workmanship in general, would have furnished joinering different from this.


Verse 10

Main division. ELIHU FORMULATES AND REFUTES JOB’S ERROR BY A COUNTER PROPOSITION: THE NATURE OF GOD NOT ONLY DECLARES IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD TO DO WRONG, BUT NECESSITATES RIGHT DOING IN ALL HIS WORKS, Job 34:10-30.

a. The proposition is stated (Job 34:10-12) and enforced by the consideration that the creation and continued preservation of the world, and all that live, imply that God, because of his almightiness thus declared, and who consequently must forever be independent of all, must be animated by love for his creatures. “An almighty, and at the same time an unjust, God, is an unimaginable thought.” — Hengstenberg. Job 34:10-15. Comp. Bildad’s position, Job 8:3.

10. Men of understanding — Literally, Men of heart.

Far be it from God — Far from God be wickedness, and iniquity (far be it) from the Almighty! The italics in A.V. are not needed. The word rendered far is a strong expression of aversion. He abhors the thought that wickedness should or could belong to God. If such were the case, man would have to deal with an infinite monster. The entrance of evil into the divine nature would be the wreck of right, of justice, and of all hope. Happy are we that we have not to harbour the thought of omnipotence linked with evil. “If God is the author of evil, he is consequently not good; and if he is not good, he is not God.” — Basil the Great.


Verse 11

11. The work of a man פעל . The same as in Job 7:2, (which see,) and, like the Sanscrit karman, involves the ideas of deed and desert. The deed essentially contains the desert, so that in the thought of man, as well as that of God, the one necessitates the other.

For — Rather, or much more. And cause every man to find, etc. — The literal rendering of this clause discloses a startling element of retribution. It reads: “According to a man’s way, He causeth it to find him.” However wide the orbit in which retribution moves, sooner or later it overtakes the evil-doer. See note, Job 4:8.


Verse 12

12. Surely — The word is radically the amen, verily, of the New Testament. In no stronger language could he lay down the proposition he is about to illustrate — God cannot do wrong. The titles God bears — El and Shaddai — are a guarantee that evil can in no form belong to God. “Sin, unrighteousness, dwells only in the sphere of the finite.” Dr. Samuel Clarke treats Job 34:10-12 in two sermons on “The Justice of God.”


Verse 13

13. Who hath given him a charge, etc. — The ה is paragogic, not directive. The clause should read, Who hath given the earth in charge to him? Evil-doing can not be imputed to Deity, because of the absoluteness of the divine government. There is none higher than himself, therefore none whose favour God needs to seek. A deputy may be tempted to do wrong to please his superior, but not God; for it was he “who founded, שׂם the whole world.” Of his own free will he governs his own world. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:25. Compare Romans 3:5-6.


Verse 14

14. Upon man — The marginal reading is now quite generally accepted — upon him, meaning God himself. That God is not self-seeking — does not set his heart upon himself, but is a being of benevolence — is evinced by the continued preservation of all living beings. He needs but withdraw to himself his spirit and breath, and all flesh would suddenly perish together. Life is not a spontaneous product of matter, but an element imparted to it by God, and entirely dependent upon him. The argument in brief is: God is not selfish, and therefore is not unjust. Compare Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Solomon 11:24-26.


Verse 16

b. The divine justice is still further proven from the conception of God as ruler of the universe, (Zockler,) Job 34:16-30. α. Without justice the administration of the world could not be carried on; for “right and government are mutually conditioned.” (Delitzsch.) The impartiality of the divine government, and the equal regard of God for his creatures, are made manifest through the mode in which he treats the great ones of the earth; also by the way he inflicts the one common doom of death, Job 34:16-20.

16. If now thou, etc. — And if there is understanding. The original does not necessarily convey any reflection upon Job: it rather invites Job’s special attention to another form of argumentation. Elihu is about to announce truths that ought to be self-evident, and yet that had been overlooked by the friends.


Verse 17

17. Govern — The prime meaning of the Hebrew is “restrain.” Eichhorn, Hitzig, etc., propose to read א as a noun, thus, “restrain wrath;” but the reading of the A.V., even, with which agree Ewald, Dillmann, etc., accords better with the argument of Elihu, notwithstanding the opinion of Umbreit, that the rendering wrath is favoured by the parallelism. Right is equivalent to law, order; wrong means lawlessness, confusion, anarchy. The idea is absurd, so Elihu argues, that a wrongdoer or a hater of the right would govern — “restrain” — (a world.) But God does govern the world, as Elihu proceeds to show; thus establishing his proposition that injustice does not belong to God.

Most just — Literally, the just, the mighty.


Verse 18

18. Is it fit to say האמר may also signify, “Him who saith.”

Thou art wicked — Some ascribe this language to God, “the most just,” and read, Him (God) who saith to a king, Thou worthless one, (literally, belial,) etc.; which accords better with the context.


Verse 19

19. Omit italics, how much less to, and read:

Him that אשׁר . God treats all, the rich and the poor, even princes, according to their deserts. In Job 34:19-20 Elihu establishes the impartiality of God. The Wisdom of Solomon (vi, 7) furnishes a good comment on this verse.


Verse 20

20. Shall they die — Rather, they die.

Shall be troubled — Literally, Are shaken, as by an earthquake, or smitten, as by the nocturnal attack of an enemy. Hengstenberg sees here an allusion to the destruction of the Egyptians at midnight, (Exodus 11:5,) which also is the view of the Targum.

The mighty shall be taken away — Literally, they take away the mighty — they, the mysterious agents so often introduced in this book — invisible and silent.

Without hand — Literally, “not by hand;” as in Lamentations 4:6, “no hands attacked her,” that is, Sodom. (See note Job 7:3.) Compare Daniel 8:25.


Verse 22

β The unerring righteouness of the divine government is made both possible and necessary by the OMNISCIENCE OF GOD. All men, with all their deeds, are naked and open before him, and he needs no inquisition in order to form and pronounce a righteous judgment, (Job 34:21-24.) “He cannot, therefore, through ignorance, punish the innocent nor the guilty beyond their true demerit.” — Scott.

22. Shadow of death — Used here, as elsewhere, in the same association with darkness, (Job 3:5; Job 10:21; Job 28:3,) for the darkness of sheol. In all God’s creation — even in sheol — there is no veil of darkness that can hide the sinner. Deeds of darkness, like the seed of certain plants, are by nature’s ordinance winged against concealment or final destruction. The wish on the part of the evil doer to hide sin involves an acknowledgment that there is justice over the creation, and points to an everlasting contest between the Supreme will to detect and the human interest to conceal, as John Foster shows in a thoughtful discourse on this text. (Broadmead Lec.1:167-175.)


Verse 23

23. For he will not lay upon man more — Literally, For not again (or repeatedly) doth he set thought upon man, (or, he doth not long regard man; same meaning of עוד, as in Genesis 46:29,) that he may go to God in judgment. “A single thought of God, without the uttering of a word, is enough to summon the whole world to judgment.” — Wordsworth. Elihu has possibly in mind the complaints of Job that God refused to enter into judgment with him, and reminds him of another phase of the painful subject, to wit, that before he is aware God may bring him into judgment.


Verse 24

24. Without number לא חקר. Without searching. God needs no process of investigation that he may discern, sever, and “break in pieces” the guilty.


Verse 25

γ Guided by unerring wisdom God goeth forth with the hand of an almighty one against the mighty, and suddenly crushes them in the presence of many beholders. His omniscience and his impartial love of his creatures are guarantees that HIS OMNIPOTENT POWER shall not err in the allotment of good and evil, Job 34:25-30.

25. Therefore — A logical inference from Job 34:23, and the central thought of Job 34:24, that God acts without prolonged examination.

In the night — Sudden is his work of retribution, for he overturneth the wicked in a night. Or, night may be the grammatical object of the verb הפךְ, (compare Exodus 10:19 ; 1 Samuel 10:9; Job 30:15,) and be read, “He (God) turneth night;” that is, God brings on night, in the sense of great calamity.


Verse 26

26. In the open sight of others — Literally, They (the mighty) are punished like malefactors, in the place of beholders; that is, where all can see, in order that they may take warning.


Verse 27

27. Compare Psalms 28:5. From him — The margin is more exact, and teaches us that God expects close following.


Verse 28

28. The cry of the poor — Apostasy and neglect of God culminated in the cruel treatment of the poor, which brings down upon the wicked his wrath. Cruelty unconsciously sends up to God for judgment the righteous cause of the maltreated; and, as in the case of the oppressed Israelites, “God heareth their groaning.”


Verse 29

29. Make trouble ירשׁע . Its meaning is not “condemn,” (Delitzsch, Zockler,) but alarm, trouble. (Hitzig.) Nor is the object of the verb “trouble,” God, as Hirtzel and others think, but the afflicted. When he gives his sorrowing ones rest, who then can trouble (them.) See note Job 3:17. Whether against a nation — The purposes of God toward nations and individuals alike are, until their development, as hidden as is the face of Deity. God chastens a nation as a whole, or as individuals, the monarch as readily as the serf.


Verse 30

30. Hypocrite Ungodly. Lest, etc. — מן, that not, introduces this as well as the preceding clause. That the people be not ensnared; literally, from snares of the people.


Verse 31

Conclusion — THE FOLLY OF JOB’S ACCUSATIONS OF GOD IS EVIDENT, AND, IF UNREPENTED OF, SHOULD LEAD TO CONTINUED CHASTISEMENT. 31-37.

If a human being be called to suffer the will of a wise, impartial, and loving God, instead of summoning God to judgment, or dictating Utopian schemes for the world’s government, he should rather confess his errors and sins, and seek enlightenment in regard to the hidden evil of his soul — the fruitful source of all his woes, Job 34:31-37.

31. Surely… not offend any more — Schultens enumerates fifteen different explanations of this verse, and compares it to a rock around which arise great waves of opinions. Surely it is meet, etc. — For does one say, indeed, unto God, (Zockler, Hitzig,) giving to ה the sense of an interrogative. Gesenius agrees with the authorized version.

I have borne נשׂאתי. Hirtzel, Welte, Zockler, Dillmann, supply “the yoke of punishment;” and Hitzig “the yoke of obedience.” Delitzsch and Hahn read “I have been proud.”

I will not offend לא אחבל. The clause is terse, and may mean, “I will not do evil,” — (thus Delitzsch, Gesenius.) Hirtzel and Hitzig read, “I will not cast it off,” that is, the yoke of punishment.

Eichhorn, Ewald, and Umbreit give the expression an air of defiance — that the man declares himself called to expiate what he has not committed. Such a sense ill accords with the remainder of the declaration, which certainly is that of a docile penitent. Hengstenberg’s reading is substantially the same as that of Ewald. Zockler’s, “Does any one say, indeed, to God, I expiate without doing wrong?” etc., is less exceptionable than that of Eichhorn, etc., but it is open to similar objections, not the least of which is that it is equivocal and feeble. This “compendious moral confession” must be a harmonious whole, (Delitzsch,) and may best be read. Surely to God it should be said, I have borne it, (punishment,) I will not be perverse; which agrees with Conant. The Arabs have a proverb that “every one who offends becomes a security,” that is, is bound over to punishment.


Verse 32

32. That which I see not בלעדי, without, beyond: — that which lies beyond my vision. The expression points to latent sins — unknown iniquity. The soul is a darkened chamber that hides its own uncleanness. The light of the divine Spirit alone discloses the hidden domains of evil — the man of corruption to his own quickened conscience. “Moses well calls sin a secret thing, whose greatness no mind can comprehend. For as the wrath of God is, and as death is, so also is sin, an inconceivable infinite.” — LUTHER, on Psalms 90:8 . The reader is referred to Sermons, in loc., by Leighton and Tillotson.


Verse 33

33. According to thy mind — This verse is exceedingly obscure. It may be read: Shall he repay it (thy doings) according to thy mind, that thou dost refuse. But thou must choose, and not I then what thou knowest, speak. In murmuring at his lot, Job has complained of the ordering of God’s providence. If he is not satisfied with the divine scheme, let him take the responsibility of proposing a better one. A pertinent rebuke to grumblers of every grade.

Refuse מאסת . The sense will be made more intelligible by the insertion either of the words “thy lot,” “fate,” or “suffering.” See the same verb in Job 7:16; Job 42:6.


Verse 34

34. Let men, etc. — Rather, men of understanding will say to me, even the wise man who hears me, etc.


Verse 35

35. Job… without knowledge, etc. — Such might be the purport of what wise men would say.


Verse 36

36. My desire — The word אבי, which also signifies “my father,” is probably cognate with the root, אבה, “to desire,” and is correctly rendered in the text. In the Arabic, to the present time, the vernacular abi is an expression for importunate imploring, and is kindred to abghi, a word used to express more moderate desire. Delitzsch, in loc., devotes some five pages to a learned treatise on this word.

Unto the end — The phrase עד נצח may express either duration or degree of trial, or both; in the same manner as εις το παντελες, “to the uttermost,” of Hebrews 7:25, may be interpreted either of completeness or duration.

For After the manner of wicked men. They use the same arguments, and utter the same complaints.


Verse 37

37. For he addeth rebellion — The root idea of פשׁע “rebellion,” is, “break from,” “sever.” The more Job murmurs, the more he becomes alienated from God. The danger is that he will completely apostatize from God. That Job may, if possible, be saved, it is desirable that he be tried to the utmost, or “till eternity,” (Furst,) if need be.

Clappeth — An expression of contempt, same as in Job 27:23.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 34:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/job-34.html. 1874-1909.

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