New European Commentary


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Job 36:1 Elihu also continued and said- Elihu as it were speaks up for God in this chapter; although by this stage, we the audience are deeply sceptical of him.

Job 36:2 Bear with me a little, and I will show you; for I still have something to say on God’s behalf- Elihu seems to utter four speeches, more than the friends. We are set up to expect some new contribution; but we are already sceptical as to whether Elihu is going to add anything to the argument, as he is repeating the essential argument of the friends. Elihu appears to be a literary device to summarize the friends' arguments, reminding us of Job's weaker moments in his self-righteousness, and giving a foretaste of God's argument which is yet to come. He now moves on to focus upon God's argument, although as we listen to him, we are wondering what God really has to say, seeing Elihu lacks integrity. This all leads up to our thankful marvel when God Himself does appear and speak.

Job 36:3 I will get my knowledge from afar, and will ascribe righteousness to my Maker-
Elihu often speaks of his "opinion". "Opinion" really means "knowledge", and the Hebrew word is used only by Elihu (Job 32:6,10,17). He claims his knowledge comes from "afar", from God (Job 36:3), but he also recognizes that God alone has totality of "knowledge" (Job 37:16). So we are again left with Elihu as an enigma, not totally reflecting God's knowledge, although considering that his view is in line with God's. This enigma of Elihu is purposeful; as explained on Job 32:5, his function is to elicit our opinions; we too who like to think our view is in line with God's, and yet admitting we lack His total knowledge.

Job 36:4 For truly my words are not false. One who is perfect in knowledge is with you-
We have seen Elihu repeatedly misquoting Job and fabricating things which Job never said. This skepticism we have about Elihu's promise to speak only truly lead us to likewise immediately question whether he was indeed "perfect in knowledge". That is after all a huge claim for any mortal man to make. Elihu uses the same phrase about God in Job 37:16. Elihu seems here to at best be claiming to speak directly on God's behalf, if not to be somehow Divine. But the friends effectively do the same, and it is all these failed attempts to speak on God's behalf which lead up to the necessity and power of God's final appearance. See on :6.

Job 36:5 Behold, God is mighty, and doesn’t despise anyone. He is mighty in strength of understanding-
Job felt despised or cast away by God (Job 10:14) just as the exiles did, but this wasn't the case; God will not despise or cast away His servant people (Job 36:5; Is. 41:9; Jer. 31:37; 33:26). The grace of it all was that although he wanted to cast away his life (Job 7:16; 9:21), just as God's people cast away His covenant (Is. 8:6; 30:12; Jer. 6:19), God would not cast away His people in their exile and depression (s.w. Lev. 26:44), even if they cast him away. See on Job 26:2.

Job 36:6 He doesn’t preserve the life of the wicked, but gives to the afflicted their right-
Yet Job has repeatedly complained that God preserves his life when Job instead wishes to die. Job is living evidence that God preserves life; for it seems Job was indeed preserved by God's grace alone at the point of death, to the point that he was experiencing a living death. Again, Elihu is shown to be obviously wrong, straight after his claim to be somehow Divinely "perfect in knowledge" (:4).

Job 36:7 He doesn’t withdraw His eyes from the righteous, but with kings on the throne, He sets them forever, and they are exalted-
This was exemplified in the Divine influence upon Persian kings like Cyrus in allowing the restoration. Hence the mention of kings on the throne is particularly relevant to the exiles. We recall how Ezra and Nehemiah experienced God's eyes and "good hand" upon them, so that kings sitting on thrones made decrees of restoration. The contrast is with how Job was righteous in his own eyes (s.w. Job 32:1). What matters is that God's eyes are upon us, imputing righteousness to us in His view.


Job 36:8 If they are bound in fetters, and are taken in the cords of afflictions-
The force of "then" in :9 is that if people suffer, then God uses it to help them toward knowing themselves and repentance. This may be true on one level; and the reference to the fetters and cords of imprisonment continue the similarity with the captives in Babylon, who were intended to be reformed by their experiences so that God could bring about their restoration. But this isn't really the case with Job. His sufferings weren't in order to reform him nor to elicit his repentance, as the prologue states clearly. Elihu is wrong to say that 'Suffering is intended to elicit repentance, you're suffering, therefore, fess up and repent'. That was the view of the friends, and it is not appropriate to Job. It would be a very surface level reading of the book which concluded that this is the intention of the sufferings. The question of the book is not that of suffering, but rather "how can a man be just with God?". 

Job 36:9 then He shows them their work, and their transgressions, that they have behaved themselves proudly-
See on :8. The intention of Job's sufferings was not so that he himself would learn and repent. Again we must give full weight to the teaching of the prologue about this. The same words for "to show... transgression" are used of how the prophets sought to show Israel their sin (Is. 58:1; Mic. 3:8). But that was not by the prophets making their audience suffer. It was by direct appeal, and this is what God does at the end of the book.

Job 36:10 He also opens their ears to instruction, and commands that they return from iniquity-
Job had been 'chastened' (s.w. "instruction"; Job 5:17). The positive effect of "chastening" is only experienced upon repentance, returning from iniquity. Judah in exile didn't repent, and so they were left with the problem of having been 'chastened' apparently in vain, and not experiencing a 'return' to the land because they didn't 'return' to God. The friends fail to realize that "chastening" may not necessarily be for our own personal sins; the suffering servant was 'chastened' not for his own sins, but to achieve our peace with God (Is. 53:5 s.w.). 


Job 36:11 If they listen and serve Him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures-
Job had listened and served God, and is described by God as His "servant". But his days weren't spent in pleasure and prosperity. Again and again, Elihu's position is simply repeating that of the friends, and he fails in his promise to add something radically new to the dialogue. Job has earlier argued that this simplistic view was wrong because the wicked did indeed "spend their days in prosperity" (s.w. Job 21:13). Elihu is quoting Job's words but absolutely failing to engage with his argument.

Job 36:12 But if they don’t listen, they shall perish by the sword; they shall die without knowledge-
Elihu's argument is like that of the friends- that unless Job repents, he will "perish by the sword". But the prologue has made it clear that Job's life is to be preserved. He will not perish by the sword. And yet the idea that Job is "without knowledge" is repeated by God (Job 38:2) and accepted by Job (Job 42:3). Again, we see Elihu functioning as an introduction to God's ideas. We at this point wonder whether Job is indeed "without knowledge". Elihu's language provokes that question; and then we have it answered in God's usage of the phrase. Elihu's function is to provoke the question.

Job 36:13 But those who are Godless in heart lay up anger. They don’t cry for help when He binds them-
Job did indeed cry to God for help (see on Job 35:13). To state he had a "Godless heart" is simply untrue and inappropriate for Elihu to judge. There are several allusions to Job in Romans, all of which confirm that Job is set up as symbolic of apostate Israel; although he was so as their representative, without being himself astray from God. For he was the righteous suffering the punishment of the wicked. An example is Elihu's description here of Job as a hypocrite heaping up wrath, which connects with Paul's description of the Jews as treasuring up unto themselves "wrath against the day of wrath" (Rom. 2:5). 


Job 36:14 They die in youth. Their life perishes among the unclean- Elihu is reasoning from the position that Job is about to die in relative youth; and he is lying there amongst the unclean, apparently terminally ill. All such reasoning is ignoring the prologue; for Job was not to die. His life would not perish but was to be preserved.

Job 36:15 He delivers the afflicted by their affliction, and opens their ear in oppression-
As discussed on :9,10, Elihu's reasoning is not rooted in the Divine words stated in the prologue. The purpose of suffering was not for the reformation of Job. Job's deliverance was to be by grace, and not because he had learnt lessons from affliction.

Job 36:16 Yes, He would have allured you out of distress, into a broad place, where there is no restriction. That which is set on your table would be full of fatness-
Elihu implies that if Job repents, then he will be brought out from a narrow place into a broad place (Job 36:16). God perhaps comments on this by saying that the "broad place" is in fact the whole earth (Job 38:18). Man is already in freedom; it is a case of accepting it. Whilst I have argued that the idea that suffering leads to spiritual development and repentance was irrelevant in Job's case, it was relevant to Israel in outline terms, especially to the exiles in Babylon for whom the book was rewritten (see on Job 1:1). Elihu's speeches especially have many Chaldee influences in them, suggesting that an ancient Hebrew story was rewritten in Babylon, under inspiration. God's intention was likewise to allure His sinful people to the freedom of repentance (Hos. 2:14), far from the restriction of captivity and judgment (s.w. Is. 9:1), to a feast of fat things in the restored kingdom (Is. 25:6).

Job 36:17 But you are full of the judgment of the wicked. Judgment and justice take hold of you-
Elihu implies that Job has refused God's offers of repentance (:16) because Job continues to suffer; and now Elihu in the next verses appears to relish describing the inevitable destruction of Job. This relishing in Job's judgment is far removed from the ways of the God who takes no pleasure in the death nor judgment of the wicked. Clearly Elihu is presented as out of step with God.

Job 36:18 Don’t let riches entice you to wrath, neither let the great size of a bribe turn you aside-
The prologue began with the satan / sons of God / friends wondering whether Job's Divinely given wealth was the basis for his faith. But their initial doubts developed into various other theories- not least that Job's wealth was because he had accepted bribes. Now Elihu warns Job not to let his wealth allure him to Divine condemnation ["wrath"]; but rather to be allured by God's encouragement to repentance (:16). But we see how far Elihu has strayed from the initial issues. Perhaps the lesson is that once we start to question the integrity of heart in another believer, we will end up imagining all manner of slander against them. What began as passing conspiracy theory becomes solidified as actual slander in our hearts and then in our words. Quite apart from anything else, the dialogues are a worked example of how personal relationships break down once the Divine parameters bounding them are ignored. AV "Because there is wrath, beware lest he take thee away with his stroke: then a great ransom cannot deliver thee". The idea then would be that Job is foolish to think that his wealth can buy off Divine condemnation.

Job 36:19 Would your wealth sustain you in distress, or all the might of your strength?-
The idea is as in :18, that Job is foolish to think that his wealth can buy off Divine condemnation. But he has not implied that. His wealth came from God's blessing, and was really his misfortune rather than his crime.

Job 36:20 Don’t desire the night, when people are cut off in their place-
Job's clear desire was to meet God in the light, and he himself has noted that it is the wicked who desire the night as they think they can sin in secret, hidden from God and man. Elihu's lack of basic moral framework for his dialogues leads him to do as the friends had done- speculate ever more wildly about Job's sins, and ever more dogmatically state that he has really done these things. This is the downward spiral of dialogue that is not started nor finished in love for the human person, but rather in jealousy.

Job 36:21 Take heed, don’t regard iniquity; for you have chosen this rather than affliction-
Elihu several times states that Job has made a choice; and he has chosen to continue in sin, which means the sufferings will continue, and shall lead him to death. Again, Elihu is far adrift from the guiding light of the prologue. For there it is clear that Job has absolutely no choice in the experience.

Job 36:22 Behold, God is exalted in His power. Who is a teacher like Him?-
As discussed on :8-10, this continues Elihu's misplaced idea that God is trying to teach Job through his sufferings, and that Job isn't responding. Rather is it the friends, represented by Elihu, who are intended to learn from Job's sufferings.

Job 36:23 Who has prescribed His way for Him? Or who can say, ‘You have committed unrighteousness?’-
Job says that He is following in God's footsteps and vows to hold on to following God's way to the end. He is certainly not prescribing God's way, in the sense of telling Him which way He should take. Neither is Job accusing God of committing unrighteousness.

Job 36:24 Remember that you magnify His work, whereof men have sung-
The idea may be as in GNB "He has always been praised for what he does; you also must praise him". Again, Elihu is setting up a straw man. Job has not refused to praise God. He is not out of line with the truly faithful, who have always sung God's praises.

Job 36:25 All men have looked thereon. Man sees it afar off-
Elihu continues the theme of the friends; faithful men of old have seen things their way, and Job is out of step with them. He needs to repent and come to praise God along with them. This terrible need to be seen as in step with other believers and their positions and experiences is on one hand natural. But it can militate against a personal journey with God, and a leading by Him to the final "truth" of personal relationship with Him.


Job 36:26 Behold, God is great, and we don’t know Him. The number of His years is unsearchable-
Literally "the number of years". This is the same phrase as in Job 15:20: "The wicked man writhes in pain all his days, even the number of years that are laid up for the oppressor".  Clearly he has Job in view, who was oppressed by raiders, and was apparently writhing in pain constantly. Eliphaz suggests that Job must suffer this for a Divinely decreed "number of years". This is the phrase used of the number of years Judah and Israel were to suffer for their sins in exile at the hands of their oppressors (Ez. 4:5; Dan. 9:2). "Laid up" is AV "hidden". Perhaps Elihu alludes to this when he uses the same phrase to say that "the number of years" cannot be "searched out" because God is great (Job 36:26 AV). This may refer to how Daniel tried to search out the number of years Judah ought to be in captivity, and had to conclude that the 70 years time period was flexible, depending upon Judah's repentance and other preconditions. We note Ez. 4:5 gives a different period.    

Job 36:27 For He draws up the drops of water, which distil in rain from His vapour-
It is possible that from about this point in the narrative, we are intended to imagine a thunderstorm developing. This begins with rain at this point. It comes to full term in the theophany where God Himself as it were comes down and speaks to men. See on Job 36:33; 37:1,2; 38:34.

Job 36:28 which the skies pour down and which drop on man abundantly-
All this is true, but Elihu is describing God's power and greatness in order to prove his point in :26; that Job's deep pain about his relationship with God is all rather irrelevant because God is so distant that He doesn't pay as much attention to us as we do to Him. This is so wrong. The reverse is true. God's goodness to man is not merely like God sending rain abundantly on all men, as part of the water cycle which runs on clockwork. God Himself will appear in the gathering clouds, to demonstrate that He is not absent in His greatness, but very present.

Job 36:29 Yes, can any understand the spreading of the clouds, and the thunderings of His pavilion?-
As noted on :28, Elihu points that God cannot be understood, and so all Job's angst is in vain. And yet of course he and the friends have just as much engaged in that seeking to understand God. God's own discussion of the clouds and thunderings is simply to speak His word of grace to Job out of them. They simply show that His greatness is in His grace.

Job 36:30 Behold, He spreads His light around Him. He covers the bottom of the sea-
This again has relevance to the exiles. They felt they were at the bottom of the sea of nations, just as Jonah felt he had gone down to the depths of the sea. And yet from there he was restored, just as the exiles could have been if they followed the path of Job.

Job 36:31 For by these He judges the people. He gives food in abundance-
The "these" appear to refer to the clouds, a symbol of judgment and yet also providing rain which "gives food". Out of judgment comes blessing. But Elihu wrongly predicated this upon the personal repentance of Job. However the principle was true for the exiles; the judgment of Babylon could have led to their release and return to the land, enjoying the blessings of a restored Kingdom, "food in abundance". Hence LXX "For by them he will judge the nations". But this potential scenario didn't work out; Babylon and her confederate nations didn't fall in the dramatic, supernatural way envisaged, the Jews didn't repent, and most refused to participate in the possible restoration.

Job 36:32 He covers His hands with the lightning, and commands it to strike the mark-
AV "With clouds he covereth the light; and commandeth it not to shine by the cloud that cometh betwixt". This is Elihu's commentary upon Job's words in Job 26:9: "He encloses the face of His throne, and spreads His cloud upon it". As so often in the drama of Job, truths are presented but without context. This is indeed true; but Job and the exiles had to learn that the cloud that came between God and themselves was that of human sin (Is. 44:22), even though God responded by bringing that cloud (Job 36:32). The years of exile were the day of cloud (Ez. 34:12; Lam. 3:44). But through that cloud, the light of God's saving glory was still visible (Job 37:15).

God’s amazing control of events in the natural world is surely through Angelic influence. God gives the lightning- often associated with Angels- a specific charge [as He does to His Angels] that it “strike the mark”. Job has earlier complained that God is using him as target practice. Elihu goes along with this, and sees it reflected in the natural creation.

Job 36:33 Its noise tells about Him, and the livestock also concerning the storm that comes up
- The idea is that the animals sensed the thunderstorm that was about to burst, and so should man. This again lends weight to the suggestion that a literal thunderstorm was gathering, which came to final term in God's theophany.