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Deeper Commentary

Job 34:1 Moreover Elihu answered- This part of the speech is largely addressed to "you wise men" (:2) and "men of understanding" (:10). The friends are in view, but this serves to confirm Job's claim that sages and those reputed for wisdom are often wrong.

Job 34:2 Hear my words, you wise men. Give ear to me, you who have knowledge-
As in :34, Elihu considers that any who is wise will agree with him, that he is wise and is speaking wisdom. But this is a circular, self-justifying argument. Or he could be referring to the friends sarcastically as "wise men" when he proceeds to bitterly criticize them. Seeing at times he repeats their arguments, we again wonder what to make of Elihu; and that unclarity is intentional; see on Job 32:5.

Job 34:3 For the ear tries words, as the palate tastes food-
He is quoting Job (Job 12:11). Elihu thereby is attempting to repeat what is good in Job's arguments whilst condemning him where he is wrong. But as I have argued on Job 32:5 and often, Elihu may simply be a literary device to summarize the arguments so far.

Job 34:4 Let us choose for us that which is right. Let us know among ourselves what is good-
"Right" is mishpat, 'judgment'; he is urging the friends to come to a just judgment on the case. This slightly misses the point which God is to make- that He alone is the judge. The only judgment the friends are entitled to come to is that Job has maintained his faith despite adversity, contrary to their original suspicion. But this seems to be behind Paul's words in 1 Thess. 5:21 "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good", which is in the context of using "prophesyings" (1 Thess. 5:20)- i.e. the true word of God- to analyze and reject false Judaist teaching that was claimed to be inspired. We are left wondering whether Paul is merely using the outline principle, or is interpreting Elihu as the true prophet of God and Job as a false reasoner, doing so under the guise of speaking the Truth, seeing he was a prophet.

Job 34:5 For Job has said, ‘I am righteous-
Job never actually says this. He doesn't claim to be sinless and accepts he isn't. Job's argument has been that in the legal case he feels he is in with God, he is right. Elihu appears to twist this.

God has taken away my right- Job has said this (Job 27:2), but in the sense that he feels frustrated that God is not participating in the legal case and is in that sense denying him justice. So many of Elihu's quotations of Job leave us internally debating as to whether he is citing him fairly and in context, and whether he is in fact adding to Job's words. He is certainly not the sympathetic mediator we have been led by the story line to expect.


Job 34:6 notwithstanding my right I am considered a liar. My wound is incurable, though I am without disobedience’-
Again Elihu is putting words in Job's mouth. He just didn't say this. He has insisted he will not lie (Job 27:4) but that doesn't make him "a liar"- unless like the friends, Elihu is arguing that Job is in fact a sinner. Job has complained about suffering a wound or arrow (Job 6:4) when he has not been disobedient. But Elihu is out of line with the prologue in criticizing Job about this; for there it was made clear that indeed he would suffer but not because he had been disobedient.

Job 34:7 What man is like Job, who drinks scorn like water-
This seems at best an unnecessary comment, intended to mock Job, rather than to justify him- as Elihu had claimed he wanted to. He appears to be alluding to the words of Eliphaz in Job 15:16.

Job 34:8 who goes in company with the workers of iniquity, and walks with wicked men?-
As it stands, this is an untruth. But Elihu isn't rebuked by God for this. Rather is he perhaps just summarizing the arguments of the friends. LXX "saying, I have not sinned, nor committed ungodliness, nor had fellowship with workers of iniquity, to go with the ungodly".

Job 34:9 For he has said, ‘It profits a man nothing that he should delight himself with God’-
Again, this purports to be a citation of Job's words when it isn't. Job has indeed lamented that he who delighted himself with God was suffering all the same. But that was indeed the situation, as the prologue makes clear. LXX, perhaps seeking to justify Elihu, has: "For thou shouldest not say, There shall be no visitation of a man, whereas there is a visitation on him from the Lord".

Job 34:10 Therefore listen to me, you men of understanding-
As noted on :2, this is circular reasoning. Elihu is saying that any wise man will listen to him and agree with him. The argument feels somewhat manipulative.

Far be it from God, that He should do wickedness, from the Almighty, that He should commit iniquity- This is a typical debating technique; implying an awful conclusion arises from the argument of the opponent, even if they haven't stated that. And even though their supposed argument has been misquoted and unfairly summarized (see on :9 etc.). In theological squabbles, this kind of thing is often done. "If you believe what he says [which is being misquoted anyway], then effectively you are saying [something awful] about God".

Job 34:11 For the work of a man He will render to him, and cause every man to find according to his ways-
This was the argument of Eliphaz (Job 4:8); Job's sufferings were to be understood as judgment for sin, which therefore Job has committed. The idea of future and ultimate judgment at a last day of judgment has been overlooked.

Job 34:12 Yes surely, God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert justice-
As explained on :10, this is a very manipulative argument. Elihu is saying that Job's position (which as noted on :9 he misquotes) implies God is wicked and unjust. But Job has never said nor implied this. Far from being keen to justify Job, Elihu acts more like a vicious minded prosecutor- although I have argued elsewhere that he is merely a literary device to summarize the arguments of the friends, adding no new material to their arguments (see on Job 32:5).

Job 34:13 Who put Him in charge of the earth? Or who has appointed Him over the whole world?-
The following statement of God's greatness is true as far as it goes, but Job would have agreed with it. Elihu is implying that Job disagrees with it. And this again is a parade example of where dialogue goes wrong. One party goes on at length about a position which their opponent agrees with, because they are failing to understand 'the other', but are arguing against a straw man position. 

Job 34:14 If He set His heart on Himself, if He gathered to Himself His spirit and His breath-
The whole of creation keeps on going as a result of God having a heart that bleeds for people. “If he causes his heart to return unto himself”, the whole of creation would simply cease (Job 34:14 RVmg.). His spirit is His heart and mind, as well as physical power. Creation is kept going not by clockwork, but by the conscious outpouring of His Spirit, by the fact that our creator has a constantly and passionately outgoing spirit toward us. In times of depression we need to remember this; that they very fact the world is still going, the planet still moves, atoms stay in their place and all matter still exists… is proof that the God who has a heart that bleeds for us is still there, with His heart going out to us His creation. And the spirit of the Father must be in us His children.

Job 34:15 all flesh would perish together, and man would turn again to dust-
This is indeed the case (Ps. 104:29), but Elihu seems to be deploying the argument that Job effectively thinks God's Spirit is not active in the world any more (:14); and Job is wrong, because in this case, he would not be alive. But Job wasn't doubting this, indeed he wonders as to why God keeps him alive "every moment". We can reflect that man's returning to dust is indeed his lot, the result of his sin (Gen. 3:19); but until that point, God's Spirit keeps us from returning to dust (:14). His Spirit is therefore keeping us alive by grace every moment.

Job 34:16 If now you have understanding, hear this. Listen to the voice of my words-
As noted on :2,10, Elihu is implying that every man of understanding will listen to him with approval. Elihu certainly comes over as manipulative in his argument; and that is not required of anyone who is simply speaking God's word.

Job 34:17 Shall even one who hates justice govern? Will you condemn him who is righteous and mighty?-
Elihu has misquoted Job (see on :9), and then claimed that Job's words were implying God was wicked and injustice. Elihu now solemnly proceeds to argue that such false accusation was inappropriate even against human rulers; and was unspeakably awful against God. All this is a false path of logic and typical of dialogue gone wrong, exaggerating the implications of the other's argument. However we can read the argument as Elihu saying that Job can not be a ruler himself, because he mocks others who are in authority (:18,19).

Job 34:18 Who says to a king, ‘Vile!’ or to nobles, ‘Wicked!’?-
"Is it fit to say to a King (God), Thou art wicked? and to princes (Angels), ye are ungodly?". Here Elihu is rebuking Job for wrongly accusing the Angels, who had brought the trials. But as noted on :17, this is an exaggeration of Job's position.

Job 34:19 Who doesn’t respect the persons of princes, nor respects the rich more than the poor; for they all are the work of His hands-
The argument seems to be that the God who has created all men therefore doesn't show favour to the rich ones more than the poor ones. The fact we are all created beings makes us equal before our creator. He doesn't therefore respect persons; but Job, according to Elihu, mocks God as vile and wicked (:18). As often happens in dysfunctional dialogue, Elihu is jumping from one false implication about Job to another. His argument that God doesn't accept the faces [NEV "persons"] of men is finally proven totally false when God accepts the face of Job in intercession for the friends (s.w. Job 42:9).

Job 34:20 In a moment they die, even at midnight. The people are shaken and pass away. The mighty are taken away without a hand-
The later application of Job to Hezekiah and the exiles would be in the midnight destruction of the Assyrians (2 Kings 19:35) and in the promise that the kingdoms of the world which dominated the exiles would be destroyed without human hand (Dan. 2:34). 

Job 34:21 For His eyes are on the ways of a man. He sees all his goings-
Elihu is implying that Job considers that God's eyes don't see him. But Job so often states the opposite. Elihu, representing the arguments of the friends, has reasoned from one false implication to another, until he ends up accusing Job of believing the very opposite of what Job has stated.

Job 34:22 There is no darkness, nor thick gloom, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves-
Job hardly appears to be hiding himself from God. He indeed complains that God appears to be hidden from him, and he earnestly seeks God's face and a meeting with Him in judgment.

Job 34:23 For He doesn’t need to consider a man further, that he should go before God in judgment-
The idea seems to be that man is automatically in God's judgment presence. This is what God is going to later imply by His appearance and demonstration of His presence in creation. I suggested on Job 32:5 that the function of Elihu in the narrative is to summarize the position of the friends, and to give a foretaste of God's position.

Job 34:24 He breaks in pieces mighty men in ways past finding out, and sets others in their place-
The present tenses imply Elihu thinks that God's judgments are revealed in this life (:23), involving breaking the mighty in pieces and replacing them with others. He clearly has Job in view. But Job's perspective is better and truer; God judges not so much now, as at the last day. Likewise the exiles had looked in vain for the breaking in pieces of their oppressors, and Dan. 2:34 explains that this is to only happen at the last day. 

Job 34:25 Therefore He takes knowledge of their works. He overturns them in the night, so that they are destroyed-
As argued on :24, Elihu is assuming that Divine judgment happens right now, with God destroying men at night because He has noticed their sins. This is not only untrue, it is totally out of step with the prologue's explanation of why Job is suffering.

Job 34:26 He strikes them as wicked men in the open sight of others-
This appears to be justifying the friends; they had openly seen Job's being stricken.

Job 34:27 because they turned aside from following Him, and wouldn’t pay attention to any of His ways-
This was totally untrue of Job, as the prologue makes clear. Job had not cursed God and died, he had retained his integrity.

Job 34:28 so that they caused the cry of the poor to come to Him. He heard the cry of the afflicted-
This is simply repeating the assumption of the friends; Job is suffering, therefore he sinned, and they have speculated that he abused the poor, and God had heard their cry and was punishing Job. For Elihu to repeat this, when Job has denied it and given evidence to that effect, and the prologue has stated he is righteous and not suffering because of any sin... surely demonstrates that Elihu is phony, if we consider him as an individual. But he is, I suggest, introduced into the narrative to summarize the arguments of the friends; see on Job 32:5. 

Job 34:29 When He gives quietness, who then can condemn?-
But Job is not condemning God, and to imply this is wrong. 

When He hides His face, who then can see Him? Alike whether to a nation, or to a man- God hid His face from the exiles (s.w. Dt. 31:17,18; 32:20; Is. 8:17; 54:8; 59:2; 64:7; Jer. 33:5; Ez. 39:23), and again, His apparent hiding of His face from Job was not because Job had sinned but because he was suffering as representative of his people. Hence "whether to a nation, or to a man".

Job 34:30 that the Godless man may not reign, that there be no one to ensnare the people-
LXX "causing a hypocrite to be king, because of the waywardness of the people". Elihu clearly expresses the friends' perspective, that although Job has been a ruler, he has been deposed by God because he is a hypocrite and is ensnaring people.

Job 34:31 For has any said to God, ‘I am guilty, but I will not offend any more-
This kind of oblique reference to Job comes over as disingenuous. Elihu is telling Job how he ought to repent, for things which clearly Job has not been guilty of, as explained on the previous verses. He is repeating the language of all three friends (Job 5:8; 8:5; 11:13-15). That Job does finally repent in similar words is a sign of his humility. Although falsely accused and urged to repent in a certain form of words, he uses those words to repent- even though he is innocent of the charges. He realizes he has not responded perfectly to the trials brought upon him, and recognizes that although counted perfect by God, that was by grace, and he himself had sinned. The RVmg. here offers "though I have not offended"; in which case, Elihu is urging Job to confess sin even if he hasn't done it. This kind of burdening others with false guilt happens frequently amongst religious people. There is true guilt, which we should take before God; and false guilt, which we need not take and indeed must not take.

Job 34:32 Teach me that which I don’t see. If I have done iniquity, I will do it no more’?-
Finally Job does repent, but he doesn't need to ask God to reveal his sin to him. This realization of sin is elicited by the revelation of God Himself. It didn't need Elihu and the friends to elicit it; they are therefore revealed as failures.

Job 34:33 Shall His recompense be as you desire, that you refuse it? For you must choose, and not I-
The idea of the Hebrew appears to be that Job cannot decide God's judgment as he desires; and Job was refusing to accept God's judgment because it was not as he wished. But God's judgment has not yet been revealed, and his sufferings were not a part of any judgment upon him for personal sins. The prologue has made this clear.

Therefore speak what you know- Job remains silent before Elihu, as the Lord before His false accusers. He is learning the lesson that human words uttered before humans are inappropriate in these situations. He has learned that the dialogue is broken and it is not only pointless but counter productive to continue it. We can imagine a pause for silence in the drama at this point.

Job 34:34 Men of understanding will tell me, yes, every wise man who hears me-
LXX "Because the wise in heart shall say this, and a wise man listens to my word". As in :2,10, Elihu considers that any who is wise will agree with him, that he is wise and is speaking wisdom. But this is a circular, self-justifying argument.

Job 34:35 ‘Job speaks without knowledge. His words are without wisdom’-
Job does finally repent in similar words. This is a sign of his humility. Although falsely accused and urged to repent in a certain form of words, he uses those words to repent- even though he is innocent of the charges. He realizes he has not responded perfectly to the trials brought upon him, and recognizes that although counted perfect by God, that was by grace, and he himself had sinned. Elihu's appeal here is that of God in Job 38:2; 42:3. But this is not to say that Elihu is God's representative in all that he says, for our commentary so far has demonstrated that this is just not the case. I have argued that Elihu functions as a way of summarizing the arguments so far presented, and giving a foretaste of God's final argument.


Job 34:36 I wish that Job were tried to the end, because of his answering like wicked men-
Job's attitude had been that when God had finished trying him, he would come forth as gold (s.w. Job 23:10). But Elihu, far from wanting sincerely to justify Job, clearly wants to see Job condemned "to the end". He labels him a "wicked" man, when the prologue has laboured the point that this is not the case.

Job 34:37 For he adds rebellion to his sin. He claps his hands among us, and multiplies his words against God
- But God says that Job spoke what was right about Him. "Among us" reflects Elihu's identity with the friends. LXX "for iniquity will be reckoned against us, if we speak many words before the Lord".