Job 36 Commentary: Let’s turn our attention to Job 36.
In Job 36, we’re still hearing from this man named Elihu. And he’s still attempting to correct Job.
Job 36 Commentary: “listen to me” 1-4
So, Elihu begins by urging Job to listen to him.
KJV Job 36:1 Elihu [also proceeded, and said,/continued and said,/said further:]
2 [Suffer me a little/Wait for me a little/Be patient with me a little longer], and I will [shew/instruct] thee
[that I have yet to speak/that there is yet more to be said/for I still have words to speak] on God’s behalf.
3 [I will fetch/With] my knowledge [from afar/I will speak comprehensively],
and will ascribe righteousness to my [Maker/Creator].
4 For [truly/in truth] my words [shall not be/are not] false:
he that is [perfect/complete] in knowledge is with thee.
And embedded in Elihu’s plea for Job to listen to him is Elihu’s purpose. Elihu wants to “ascribe righteousness to” his Maker and Creator – to God.
Elihu believes that God has been – to use a common phrase these days – “thrown under the bus.” How is that?
Well, Job has been struggling to understand why he’s suffering. He has believed that if he’s righteous then God will continue to bless him. Instead, now Job is seeming to be punished – even though he’s still righteous.
And as we saw in this book – Job has an explanation for this and his three friends do, too.
The three friends say that Job has sinned and that’s why he’s getting punished.
But Job – for his part – has been starting to accuse God of doing wrong – of denying him justice.
And Elihu wants to set the record straight. God is righteous in all that he does. And so, that’s what Elihu is going keep doing in this chapter – ascribing righteousness to God.
Job 36 Commentary: argument 5-21
So, let’s investigate Elihu’s next point in this book. How is Elihu going to ascribe righteousness to God now?
5 [Behold/Indeed], God is mighty, [and/but] despiseth not [any/people]:
he is mighty [in strength and wisdom/and firm in his intent].
So, God is mighty. And Elihu could be saying that God is both mighty and that he doesn’t despise or think little of anyone – or he could be saying that despite God’s might, he still doesn’t think little of all the little people in this world.
Because the tendency of people in this world – if they’re strong – if so think little of those who are weak. But that’s not the way that God works. He is just in that sense.
So, that’s positive. But there’s a negative that Elihu wants Job to know about.
6 He [preserveth not the life of/does not keep alive/does not allow to live] the wicked:
but giveth [right/justice] to the [poor/afflicted].
So, God deals with the wicked and the poor in different ways. He doesn’t despise anyone – but at the same time he’s not going to give special protection to the wicked. Likewise, God gives justice to the poor and afflicted – which is what Job has been challenging – thinking that God has denied him justice. Elihu says, “Not so!”
Then Elihu focuses-in on the righteous and how God treats them.
7 He [withdraweth/takes off] not his eyes from the righteous:
but with kings are [they/the righteous] on the throne;
yea, he doth establish them for ever,
and they are exalted.
So, not only does God not despise the righteous poor and afflicted people of this world, not only does he give them justice – but Elihu says that it’s as if God puts them on thrones alongside kings! God exalts them! And Elihu says that God does this for that kind of person forever!
But sometimes life is hard for these people. And Elihu says as much next. Sometimes those righteous whom God exalts – well, they experience affliction.
8 And if they be bound in [fetters/chains],
and [be holden/are caught/are held captive] [in/by the] cords of affliction;
9 Then he [sheweth/declares to/reveals to] them [their work/what they have done],
and their transgressions [,] that they [have exceeded/have magnified themselves/they were behaving proudly].
So, Elihu says that there are times – and he’s not saying that this is always the case necessarily – but sometimes a righteous person – whom God is so concerned about – sometimes a person like that is afflicted. Yes, Elihu says, that does happen in this life.
And when it happens, God is often gracious to let that righteous person know what sin he committed – how that person was acting proudly, for example.
And Elihu continues to paint the picture of God drawing a righteous man who has sinned back to himself graciously.
10 He [openeth also their ear/reveals this] [to/for] [discipline/instruction/correction],
and commandeth that they return from [iniquity/evil].
So, that’s what Elihu says about the righteous. God exalts them and favors them. But at the same time, he’s not going to ignore any sin that we commit.
Well, so that’s God’s approach to them. But how the righteous react to God’s treatment of them can take two different paths.
Here’s the first way that a righteous individual can respond to God’s painful dealings with him.
11 If they obey and serve him,
they shall [spend/end/live out] their days in prosperity,
and their years in [pleasures/pleasantness].
And by the way, that is of course how things end up for Job. He does obey and serve in response to God’s dealings with him. And he does end up spending the rest of his days in prosperity and pleasure.
But here’s the other possibility in terms of how the righteous will respond to God’s chastening of them.
12 But if they [obey not/do not hear/refuse to listen],
they [shall perish by the sword/pass over the river of death],
and [they shall die/expire] without knowledge.
So, that’s the second way that those who seem to be righteous can take to God’s painful dealings with them.
And such a person will prove that he’s not really righteous, but rather he’s given another term to describe him if he responds poorly to God’s chastening.
13 [But the/The] [hypocrites/godless] [in/at] heart [heap up/lay up/nourish] [wrath/anger]:
they cry not [when/even when] he bindeth them.
14 They die in [i.e., their…] youth,
and their life [is/perishes/ends] among the [unclean/cult prostitutes/male cultic prostitutes].
So, someone who appears to be righteous shows himself to actually be a godless hypocrite by not crying out to God when he’s in trouble.
And I want to emphasize that for us. God wants us to cry out to him in our afflictions. It’s not something that he wants us to grit our teeth and bear silently. He wants us to call out to him in those difficult times that he brings into our lives.
Because if a person doesn’t do that – doesn’t call out to God – Elihu says that that person is heaping up wrath. And God will sometimes kill a person like that when they’re young. Their end is totally shameful.
On the other hand though…
15 He delivereth the [poor/afflicted] [in/by] [his/their] affliction[s],
[and openeth their ears/he reveals himself to them] [in/by their] [oppression/suffering].
So, Elihu is saying that Job should take heart. God uses oppression and suffering to open our ears to his voice. And Elihu gives Job hope that God will deliver him even in the midst of his afflictions.
And that’s the positive message that he continues into verse 16.
16 [Even so/Then indeed/And surely] [would he have removed/he enticed/he drew] thee out of the [strait/mouth of distress] into a broad place, where there is no straitness;
and that which should be set on thy table should be full of fatness.
So, Elihu holds out hope that God can and will deliver Job out of his situations that feel constricting and confining and uncomfortable – and that God will lead him out into a free, open, broad space as it were.
But God hasn’t done that for Job just yet. And Elihu thinks that that’s because Job has been focused on the wrong thing.
17 But thou [hast fulfilled/were full of/are preoccupied with] the judgment [of/due] the wicked:
judgment and justice take hold [on/of] thee.
So, because Job has been so concerned about the kind of treatment he thinks that he should be receiving and comparing that to what wicked men deserve, Elihu says that judgement and justice have taken told of him.
And that’s likely saying that God had brought judgement and justice upon Job – because Elihu goes on to talk about wrath in the next verse – perhaps the wrath that comes with God’s judgement and justice.
18 Because there is wrath, beware lest he take thee away with his stroke:
then a great ransom cannot deliver thee.
NAU Job 36:18 “Beware that wrath does not entice you to scoffing;
And do not let the greatness of the ransom turn you aside.
NET Job 36:18 Be careful that no one entices you with riches;
do not let a large bribe turn you aside.
So, Elihu says that Job needs to be careful. God is already bringing some level of judgement and justice to bear on him. And if Job isn’t careful – if he doesn’t stop being so preoccupied with what the wicked deserve versus what he deserves – then there’s this wrath from God that might be ratcheted-up and there’s a real possibility that God will take Job away with the stroke of his discipline.
And if that were to happen, there’s no ransom – no amount of money – that can deliver Job.
And that’s what Elihu reemphasizes in the next verse.
19 Will [he esteem thy riches/your riches keep you from distress/your wealth sustain you so that you would not be in distress]?
[no, not gold, nor/even] all [the forces of strength/your might efforts].
So, nothing can deliver Job from God’s wrath. So, Elihu’s message to Job is to stop aggravating God by his constant comparing of his situation to what wicked people deserve.
And then Elihu seems to say that Job’s concern that others be judged is a dangerous preoccupation.
20 [Desire/Look for/Long for] not the [cover of the…] night,
[when people are cut off in their place/when people vanish in their place/to drag people away from their homes].
So, Elihu makes it sound as if Job is waiting for the cover of night in order to drag people off from their place. That’s Elihu’s way of saying that that’s what Job’s extreme concern that the wicked get their judgement in this life right away – amounts to.
And that might seem like an extreme statement – like, would Job really drag people away at night? But Elihu finishes this sub-section in this chapter by saying that Job has turned to evil in his affliction in other ways – so what he said is not so far-fetched.
21 [Take heed/Be careful], [regard not iniquity/do not turn to evil]:
[for this/for because of this] hast thou [chosen rather than/been tested by] affliction.
So, Elihu warns Job here. He pleads with him not to turn to doing evil. Elihu thinks that Job has already turned to it in his heart – and the prime example of that turning to evil for Elihu is when Job started questioning God’s justice in this world.
In Elihu’s mind, Job has chosen evil rather than to just take his affliction in stride.
And next time, we’ll pick up our study with the next verse as Elihu extols God’s awesome power.