Job 34 Meaning: It’s a sad reality that in our times of suffering, it’s all too common – as we’re grasping for answers and struggling to be content with our situation – to suspect that God has gotten something wrong. We might ask, “why, God?” And sometimes – though we would be embarrassed to say it – that question is really revealing that in our hearts we’re questioning God’s justice – we’re questioning whether he’s doing right in our situation.
And we’ve seen Job do just that in this book that we’ve been studying. And what we’re going to see today is that this relatively new character – Elihu – take great issue with Job’s assertion that god is being unjust.
So, let’s turn our attention to Job 34.
And Elihu here begins this chapter with an appeal for Job and his three friends to listen to him.
KJV Job 34:1 [Furthermore/Then] Elihu [answered/continued] and said,
2 [Hear/Listen to] my words, [O ye/you] wise men;
[and give ear unto/and listen to/hear] me, [ye that have knowledge/you who know/you learned men].
And we’re not given any reason to believe that Elihu is being sarcastic or disrespectful in any way. He is addressing these men – probably all four of them – Job and his three friends – as “wise” and ones that have “knowledge.”
And Elihu acknowledges that what he says is open for their evaluation.
3 For the ear [trieth/tests/assesses] words,
as the [mouth/palate] tasteth [meat/food].
So, just like a person can taste food and determine whether it’s good or not – Elihu claims that these men should be able to listen to what he’s saying and determine whether or not it’s right.
And then he encourages all of these men – and himself included – to believe and practice what is right in terms of what he’s been saying and what he will be saying in this chapter.
4 Let us [choose/evaluate] [to us/for ourselves] [judgment/what is right]:
let us [know/come to know] among ourselves what is good.
And I admit to personally being on the fence regarding how to think about Elihu. It’s more comfortable to not come down on what he’s saying as either right of wrong.
But if Elihu were sitting right here, he would strongly disagree with that approach. Elihu doesn’t want you and me to be neutral about what he’s saying. It’s either right or wrong. And he asserts that we are able to evaluate what he says and to render a judgement.
And if Elihu is right – then he wants Job and his friends to adopt his mindset and thoughts about Job’s situation.
And the words that Elihu wants Job and his three friends to test are now what Elihu will be talking about in the rest of this chapter.
And just like Elihu’s first speech, in this – his second speech – he’ll be starting with what he’s heard Job saying.
5 For Job [hath said/says],
[‘] I am [righteous/innocent]:
and God [hath taken/turns] away my [judgment/right].
6 Should I lie [against/concerning] my right?
my wound is incurable
[although I am…] without transgression. [’]
So, Job has maintained that he is righteous and innocent of all crimes that he thinks would move God to punish him in the way that Job perceives himself to be being punished. And that much is fine for Job to say.
But Job has gone further than that. And he’s claimed that God has taken away his judgement or his justice.
And we all closely identify with Job’s struggles and feelings and temptations. And I think that we would tend to overlook statements made by Job that are a little over-the-top and inaccurate in various ways.
But Elihu is not going to cut Job any slack on this matter of his accusing God of denying Job justice.
And actually, Elihu goes on to harshly accuse Job of scorning God and joining hands with wicked people in verses 7 and 8.
7 What man is like Job,
who [drinketh up/drinks] [scorning/derision] like water?
8 [Which/He] [goeth/goes about] in company with [the workers of iniquity/evildoers],
[and walketh/he goes along] with wicked men.
So, Elihu is claiming that Job drinks up derision like someone would drink water. That is, it comes very naturally to Job. It’s something that he does repeatedly and without much thought. Job scorns God often and with very little effort. That’s according to Elihu.
And Elihu is not saying in verse 8 that Job is a wicked man. That’s what Job’s three friends were claiming – that Job actually is wicked. But instead Elihu is saying that Job is acting like wicked men. He goes about – as it were – in the company of evildoers.
Job himself is not wicked. But according to Elihu Job is acting like he’s wicked. And that’s because Job is saying that God is not being just with him.
And then Elihu reports that Job has gone even further and claimed that there’s no point in finding your delight in God.
9 For he [hath said/says],
[‘] It profiteth a man nothing
[that/when] he [should delight himself/is pleased/makes his delight] with God. [’]
So, worshiping God – according to Job – is not profitable.
Now, the fact is that I can’t find Job saying this anywhere. I can’t even figure out what Elihu might be paraphrasing from what Job has said.
I suppose this is a logical conclusion of what Job is asserting. If God perverts justice against one who delights in him then – yes – I suppose the conclusion of that reality would be to recognize that it doesn’t profit a person to delight in a God like that.
You delight in him. He turns around and mistreats you. That’s the picture that Job is basically painting.
And so, that is very unsettling to Elihu. And, he demands once more that these men listen to him.
10 Therefore [hearken unto/listen to] me,
ye men of understanding:
And, Elihu is going to do his best to vindicate God.
far be it from God, [that he should do/to do] wickedness;
and from the Almighty, [that he should commit/to do] [iniquity/wrong/evil].
And if Job is accusing God of wickedness, then – yes – we all disagree with him on that point. And that’s how Elihu is interpreting Job’s words. Job is asserting that God is doing wickedly – that he’s committing iniquity. And that’s just plain wrong.
No – in fact – God is totally just and he treats men according to what they deserve…
11 For [the work of a man shall he render unto him/he pays a man according to his work/he repays a person for his work],
and [cause every man to find according to/he causes the consequences to find him] [ß à] [his ways/the conduct of a person].
So, God treats each person the way that that person deserves to be treated.
And even if it seems to Job’s eyes like he’s suffering for no reason – and that God is not treating him the way that he deserves – Elihu goes on to say that God always does right.
12 [Yea, surely/Surely/Indeed, in truth] God [will/does] not [do/act] wickedly,
[neither will/and] the Almighty [pervert/does not pervert] [judgment/justice].
And so, once again Elihu denies Job’s claim that God is perverting or denying justice to Job.
And we might not be as offended by that insinuation as Elihu is – that God is denying justice to Job. But Elihu is now going to spell out why that accusation is so troubling to him – and should be to us.
13 Who [hath given/gave/entrusted to] him [a charge/authority] over the earth?
[or/and] who [hath disposed/has laid on him/put him over] the whole world?
So, the fact is that God must do right. If he doesn’t, who’s going to call him to account? No one put him in charge of the world. He’s just always been in that position. And to question the justice of the only one who has the right to rule this place is absurd.
We are truly completely dependent upon his grace and mercy – and, yes, his justice!
14 If [he/God] [set his heart upon man/should determine to do so/were to set his heart on it], [do what?…]
if he [should…] gather [unto himself/in] his spirit and his breath; [God’s, I think, not man’s...] [what would happen?...]
15 All flesh [shall/would] perish together,
and [man/human beings] [shall turn again/would return] [unto/to] dust.
So, how dependent we are on God! We can rest assured that he’s going to always do what is right. But really, if he wanted to do anything he pleased – no one could stop him. And how thankful we all are that God always acts according to his character – and his character is always just.
Well, that idea of God’s absolute sovereignty over mankind sets Elihu off to once again appeal for these men to listen to him.
16 If [now thou hast/you have] understanding, [hear/listen to] this:
[hearken to/listen to/hear] [the voice of my words/the sound of my words/what I have to say].
And Elihu’s words are going to probe how Job could think that there would be any way for God to rule if he were unjust?
17 [Shall/Do you really think that] [even he that hateth right/one who hates justice] [govern/rule/can govern]?
and wilt thou [condemn/declare guilty] [him that is most just/the righteous mighty one/the supremely righteous one]?
So, it seems like Elihu is appealing to Job’s reason and really attacking Job’s questioning of God’s justice. Like – how could you really in your heart of hearts believe that God – the sovereign – the ultimate – that he would really be unjust?! People condemn the wicked. But you’re proposing to condemn the only being with no trace of wickedness! Do you see the impropriety of what you’re saying??
And then Elihu points out the fact that Job wouldn’t accuse a human ruler of unrighteousness to his face – and yet, he’s going to do that to God??
18 [Is it fit to say/Who says] to a king, [Thou art wicked/Worthless one/Worthless man/Belial]?
and to [princes/nobles], [Ye are ungodly/Wicked ones/Wicked men]?
No – it’s not fit to say those things to those people. We submit to rulers and authorities.
Well then… why would you accuse God of injustice?
19 [How much less to him that accepteth not the persons of/Who shows no partiality to] princes,
[nor regardeth/and does not take note of] the rich [more than/above] the poor?
for they all are the work of his hands.
So, God is going to be just to both rich and poor. He’s not impressed with princes. He’s not despising the poor. Because he made them both.
And in contrast to the eternal God, mankind – whom God has created – is momentary and temporary.
20 In a moment [shall they/they] die,
and the people [shall be troubled/are shaken] at midnight, and pass away:
and the mighty [shall be taken away/are removed] [without hand/without a hand/effortlessly].
And so, while Job would never accuse a king or prince of injustice – one of these guys who was made by God – Job is straying into the arena of accusing that very God … who created those people … whom Job would not dare accuse of injustice…
But the reality is that these kings and princes very well might have clouded judgement. But the same is absolutely untrue of God. God sees and knows all – especially in regard to the people that he’s created.
21 For his eyes are upon the ways of [man/an individual],
and he [seeth/observes] all his [goings/steps].
22 There is no darkness, nor [shadow of death/deep shadow],
where [the workers of iniquity/evildoers] [may/can] hide themselves.
And because of that, God doesn’t even need to take time to consider whether or not to punish people who do wrong. He just knows and doesn’t need time to discover the facts like a human judge would.
23 For he [will not lay upon man/does not need to consider a person] [more than right /further/still];
that he should [enter into judgment with God/come before God in judgement].
So, God doesn’t need any time to consider a person to know if he should be brought into God’s presence to be judges. God just knows perfectly who needs what. Our Heavenly Father knows what we need before we ask him. He also knows the completely correct course of action for each of us without even needing to ask or consider what to do.
And God knows exactly whom to depose from power in this life and whom he would like to raise up to take the place of those people.
24 He [shall break in pieces/shatters] [mighty men/the great] without [number/inquiry],
and [set/sets up] others in their [stead/place].
And notice the emphasis on God doing these things “without number” as the KJV presents it – or “without inquiry.” In other words, God doesn’t need to search out a matter like a human king does. No – God knows everything without the need to inquire or ask questions.
And because of that infallible knowledge, God alone is able to deal with people according to his justice.
25 Therefore he knoweth their [works/deeds],
and he [overturneth/overthrows] them in the night,
[so that/and] they are [destroyed/crushed].
So, God can overthrow mighty men whose deeds displease him in the night – when no one is watching.
But God can also take care of these people openly.
26 He striketh them [as wicked men/like the wicked/for their wickedness]
in [the open sight of others/a public place/in a place where people can see];
And Elihu is going to return to a concept he said at the beginning. He’s said in this chapter that God justly deals with people according to their deeds. They earn punishment – they get it.
And so, these people that Elihu has been highlighting that get overthrown at night and struck in public by God – this happens to them for a reason. It’s because their deeds are evil.
So, why does God chasten and punish these people?...
27 Because they [turned back/turned aside/have turned away] from [him/following him],
and [would not consider/had no regard for/have not understood] any of his ways:
And here’s an example of their wickedness that calls God to act…
28 So that they cause the cry of the poor to come [unto/before] him,
[and/and that/so that] he [heareth/might hear/hears] the cry of the [afflicted/needy].
And God doesn’t answer for his behavior and choices with people or nations…
29 [When he/But if God] [giveth quietness/keeps quiet/is quiet], who [then can make trouble/then can condemn/can condemn him]?
[and when/if] he hideth his face, who then can [behold/see] him?
whether it be done against a nation,
or against a man only:
So, Elihu has been speaking of how God deals with individuals – with “a man only” – for most of this chapter. But he just now in that last verse mentioned how God deals with nations.
And so, now Elihu is going to declare that God acts in the affairs of nations. And he does so in order to prevent wicked people from ruling and leading people astray…
30 [That/So that] [the hypocrite/godless men] [reign not/would not rule],
[lest the people be ensnared/and not lay snares for the people].
And God is doing all of this – bringing trouble – chastening – he’s doing this all justly according to what everyone deserves. And he’s doing these things with the repentance of these people and nations in mind.
31 [Surely it is meet to be/Has anyone?] said unto God,
I have [borne/endured] chastisement,
[but…] I will not [offend/act wrongly] any more:
32 That which I [see not/cannot see] teach thou me:
if I have done [iniquity/evil], I will do no more.
So, Elihu seems to be leading Job in a model response to God’s chastisement. The right response to God’s just – but sometimes painful – actions in your life is to repent. Be humble. Admit where you’ve done wrong. Be teachable. This is what Elihu says that God is looking for.
But in Elihu’s mind, Job is not taking this posture with God. And I’m going to read this next verse from the KJV and then from two other versions to help us understand what Elihu is saying.
33 Should it be according to thy mind? he will recompense it,
whether thou refuse, or whether thou choose; and not I:
therefore speak what thou knowest.
NAU Job 34:33 "Shall He recompense on your terms, because you have rejected it?
For you must choose, and not I;
Therefore declare what you know.
NET Job 34:33 Is it your opinion that God should recompense it, because you reject this?
But you must choose, and not I,
so tell us what you know.
So, I gather from this verse that Elihu is asking Job whether he really thinks that God needs to act according to Job’s own thoughts and preferences. After laying out how God acts justly, Elihu is expecting that Job will see how foolish it is for him to expect God to act in keeping with how Job thinks he ought to act.
But Elihu is giving Job a choice. Job can accept what Elihu says about God acting justly in this life according to peoples’ deeds. Or Job can reject what Elihu is saying. The choice belongs to Job.
And if Job does plan to reject – then Elihu would like to know what Job thinks on the matter.
But since Job doesn’t answer Elihu ever – therefore, Elihu will now declare that everyone who is wise will disagree with what Job says about God being unjust…
34 [Let men/Men] of understanding [tell/will say to/say to] me,
[and let a/and a/any] wise man [hearken unto/who hears/listening to] me [says…].
35 [‘] [Job hath spoken/Job speaks/that Job speaks] without knowledge,
and his words [were/are] without [wisdom/understanding].
36 [My desire is that Job/Job/But Job] [may/will/ought to] be [tried/tested] [unto/to] the [end/limit]
because [of his/he/his] answers [for/like/are like those of] wicked men.
37 For he addeth [rebellion/transgression] unto his sin,
he clappeth his hands [among us/in our midst],
and multiplieth his words against God. [’]
So, either verses 35-37 is what the men in verse 34 are saying – or Elihu is personally speaking verses 36 and 37 and is expressing a desire for Job to be judged for his statements. Either way, Elihu ends this chapter with no uncertainty as to what he thinks of Job’s asserting that God is withholding him justice – that God is not being righteous with Job.
And there are things that Elihu has said and will say that I just don’t know if they’re right or not. And yet, I do know that at key points and in important ways, what Elihu is saying is right. God will repeat several of the things that Elihu brings up – so in at least those ways, Elihu is right.
And one of those key areas in which Elihu is right is that Job – by holding to his own innocence and starting to question how a righteous God who punishes evil and rewards good could still be righteous and yet punish him for doing good.
Elihu says that questioning God’s justice is off-limits. It’s not an option on the table.
And for us, brethren, when we experience suffering in this life – let me just plead with all of us to not question God’s justice. Never doubt that God is right and that he’s wise. We might not understand God’s ways. But we must trust his wisdom.
And I look forward to continuing to receive this kind of admonition next time as Elihu continues his discourse.