New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Job 35:1 Moreover Elihu answered- Here Elihu claims he is adding something new to the dialogue so far. For he condemns both Job and the friends. We have been set up to expect and hope that he will contribute something new, to an argument that has started to go around in circles. But we are disappointed; for Elihu only repeats the arguments of the friends.

Job 35:2 Do you think this to be your right, or do you say, ‘My righteousness is more than God’s’-
The words of Job are misquoted in :3, and so this accusation is wrong too. Elihu repeatedly jumps from one false premise to another. Job was not claiming to be more righteous than God, in fact he has said quite the opposite. This is what happens when the words and situation and personality of the other is not really engaged with, and their words are made to fit our preconceived assumptions of what we think they are really saying.

Job 35:3 that you ask, ‘What advantage will it be to you? What profit shall I have, if I had not sinned?’-
Job's words of Job 21:15 about the sinful children of sinners are misquoted by Elihu here as if Job has said this about himself, and about there being generally no profit in serving or praying to God. Yet Elihu claims to speak on God's behalf. We can however understand Elihu as merely reiterating the position of the friends, as a kind of summary at the end of their dialogues; and at the same time giving a foretaste of the speeches of God which are to come. He therefore serves as a literary device in the story, particularly required for an illiterate audience hearing or viewing the drama presented, and having inevitably forgotten the details of all the positions previously presented.

Further, the reference seems to be also to Elihu's words in Job 22:2 "Can a man be profitable to God? Surely he who is wise is profitable to himself". These words are applied here by Elihu to Job. It seems an obvious and unkindly wilful misquotation- until we accept the viewpoint that Elihu is not so much speaking for himself, as summarizing for the audience the arguments presented so far, with Elihu playing the role of the friends in summarizing the argument so far.

The idols and the Gentile nations amongst whom the exiles lived would not "profit" them (s.w. Is. 30:5,6; 44:9,10); but as the book of Esther makes clear, they were profiting well, apparently, from remaining amongst them. But the only real "profit" would be if they quit all that and returned to Zion (Is. 48:17 s.w.). But they saw no "profit" in being forgiven and restored as God's people (s.w. Job 35:3). Rather they considered the temporal "profit" of life in Babylon as far greater profit.

Job 35:4 I will answer you, and your companions with you-
Elihu claims he is adding something new to the dialogue so far. For he condemns both Job and the friends. We have been set up to expect and hope that he will contribute something new, to an argument that has started to go around in circles. But we are disappointed; for Elihu only repeats the arguments of the friends.

Job 35:5 Look to the heavens, and see. See the skies, which are higher than you-
The huge height of God above man doesn't mean, contrary to how Elihu argues, that God is insensitive to human sin and righteousness (:6,7). God's response is to display His power and demonstrate the omnipresence of His Spirit- not just in the cosmos, but in very intimate and concealed processes upon the earth. He Himself as it were 'comes down' to demonstrate that this argument and feeling is so untrue; and He was to yet more powerfully rend the heavens and come down to earth in His manifestation in His Son.

Job 35:6 If you have sinned, what effect do you have against Him? If your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to Him?-
This is repeating the arguments of the friends, that God is so far from man that He is insensitive to human sin. Nothing could be more untrue. Elihu's promise to contribute something radically new and helpful to the discussion (see on :4) is felt by us to be very hollow.

Job 35:7 If you are righteous, what do you give Him? Or what does He receive from your hand?-
The prologue has stressed God's positive view of Job's righteousness. Clearly enough, He is sensitive to human morality. Elihu is contradicting himself by arguing that God is too distant to be much affected by human behaviour, and yet then calling down God's wrath upon Job for his behaviour.

Job 35:8 Your wickedness may hurt a man as you are, and your righteousness may profit a son of man-
Elihu is so wrong. God is hurt, terribly, by human sin. The prophets of the exile made this point in multiple ways. He was "broken" by their unfaithfulness to Him, feeling it as Hosea did, as if His wife had been unfaithful to Him.

Job 35:9 By reason of the multitude of oppressions they cry out. They cry for help by reason of the arm of the mighty-
This sounds like Israel in captivity in Egypt and Babylon crying out. Elihu's accusation is that Job has cried out because of his affliction, but not to God his maker (:10). Elihu was wrong. Job had indeed cried out to God. And the exiles in Babylon could have followed his path to restoration.

Job 35:10 But none says, ‘Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night-
We wonder if Paul and Silas had meditated about this as they sung songs in the night. The Passover festival was the time when songs were sung at night. The exiles were bidden believe that they too would be released from captivity. But none was found amongst them who truly sought for God.

Job 35:11 who teaches us more than the animals of the earth, and makes us wiser than the birds of the sky?’-
God's answer is that the animals do teach us of God's ways. This would appear to imply His disagreement with Elihu on this point.

Job 35:12 There they cry, but none gives answer, because of the pride of evil men-
Elihu's argument is that Job has cried out because of his affliction, just as all sufferers do (:9). But he is not heard because his cry is "empty" (:13) and he is a proud, evil man. Yet the prologue has stressed Job is not evil.

Job 35:13 Surely God will not hear an empty cry, neither will the Almighty regard it-
"Empty" is the word for 'vanities', often used of idols. Elihu is sliding headlong down a path of false logic which leads him to ever more seriously slander Job. He is implying that Job's crying out in his sufferings is in fact a crying out to idols; for Job is an idolater. The parameters of the prologue have been overlooked; just as the foundational principles of God's word which are to guide and frame our relationships are so often likewise ignored.

Job feels he has 'cried out' to God for justice and not been heard (Job 19:7; 30:20); and that there is nothing wrong with crying out to God in distress, it is a perfectly natural reaction (Job 24:12). One comment upon this is that the young ravens cry out to God for food and yet are not always heard (Job 38:41 s.w.). But God in the wider picture sustains all of creation by grace. Job feels hurt that God has not responded to his 'crying out' because he says that when the needy cried out to him, he had heard (Job 29:12 s.w.). But here we see his works based approach; he thought that his response to those who cried out to him meant that therefore God must respond to his crying out. And God is not so primitive. His apparent silence is because His response is not predicated upon human works and charity. It is by grace alone, as is taught in His final appearance to Job. The exiles likewise were to finally see the response to their crying out to God in the restoration (Is. 58:9), just as their representative Jonah cried out to God from the belly of sheol amidst the sea of nations, and was heard (s.w. Jonah 2:2).

Job 35:14 How much less when you say you don’t see Him. The cause is before Him, and you wait for Him!-
This seems a cruel twist of Job's great statement of faith in Job 19:25-27; he believed that although he didn't now see God, yet he would do so in a bodily form in the resurrection and judgment of the last day.

Job 35:15 But now, because He has not visited in His anger, neither does He greatly regard arrogance-
Elihu is again wrong. God does greatly regard the sin of arrogance, and the restoration prophets repeatedly cite pride as the essential reason for the judgment of Israel. Elihu here argues that because God has not judged Job "in His anger", "therefore" Job speaks as he does (:16). But this is obviously contradictory to Elihu's position that Job's sufferings are exactly because God is angry with Job.

Job 35:16 therefore Job opens his mouth with empty talk, and he multiplies words without knowledge
- See on :15. "Words without knowledge" is exactly what God accuses Job of (Job 38:2 s.w.). Elihu functions in the story as a means of summarizing the arguments so far, and giving us a foretaste of the Divine judgment which is to come.