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.
What does your mind go to when you’re suffering? Do you question God’s goodness? Do you start to think that he might be dealing unjustly with you?
Well, as we’ve seen, the biblical character Job has allowed his mind to wander in these directions.
And if you’re guilty of doing the same thing that Job has done – questioning God’s goodness and justice when you’re suffering – well, the man named Elihu is going to tell you what to think about.
The big point that he makes in our text today is that when we’re suffering and tempted to question God’s character – we need to consider his work. We need to think about what God does. And when we do that, we can see that his work is ultimately beyond our understanding.
And what we need to learn from that is that if his work – which we can see – is beyond our understanding… then what else of what he’s doing – in your life – might be beyond your understanding?
So, let’s turn our attention to Job, chapter 36 once more.
We’ll pick up Job 36 with the 22nd verse.
Job 36 Commentary: God is a powerful teacher
And it’s here that Elihu wants to remind Job that God is a powerful teacher.
22 Behold, God [exalteth by/is exalted in] his power:
who [teacheth/is a teacher] like him?
And this reminds us that one of Elihu’s main points through these few chapters in which he’s been speaking has been that God teaches us through our sufferings.
In addition, Elihu has maintained that God is sovereign. God himself brings the suffering to teach us. And he is both exalted in his power and he can exalt a person – when he pleases and in his perfect timing.
Job 36 Commentary: God is an unfailing sovereign
Elihu also wants to remind Job that God is an unfailing sovereign.
23 Who hath [enjoined/appointed/prescribed for] him his way[s]?
or [who can say/who has said/said to him], [‘] Thou hast [wrought iniquity/done wrong/done what is wicked]? [’]
So, no one has assigned God his tasks. God doesn’t have a supervisor. He is sovereign.
And you might know some people who – if left alone with no one to supervise them – they would do wrong. Well, of course, God is not that way. He has no supervisor – and yet even if he did, no one would ever be able to accuse him of doing wrong because he would never be inclined to do wrong.
Job 36 Commentary: Job should magnify God’s work
And therefore, Elihu is going to remind Job that he needs to think about God’s work and magnify it.
24 Remember [that thou magnify/that you should exalt/to extol] his work,
[of…] which [men/people] [behold/have sung/have praised in song].
And Elihu wants to emphasize that last point – that people have beheld and praised God’s work.
25 [Every man/All humanity] [may see/has seen] it;
[man/people] [may behold/gaze on] it afar off.
And Elihu is going to go on to catalog numerous phenomena throughout this message that are properly characterized as God’s “work.”
Job 36 Commentary: God is great and infinite
But before he gets to that, Elihu declares that God himself is great and infinite.
26 [Behold/Yes], God is [great/exalted], [and we know him not/beyond our knowledge],
neither can the number of his years be searched out.
And so, catch Elihu’s approach.
Job is suffering. He’s consumed with figuring out why.
But Elihu comes along and says, “Forget that. Rather, consider God himself and what he does.” And the logic behind Elihu’s approach might not be all that apparent yet – but hopefully it will be throughout the message.
Job 36 Commentary: Rain
Well, at this point, Elihu starts cataloging God’s work that he thinks Job needs to consider as he’s suffering and struggling to know what God is up to.
So, he starts with rain.
27 For he [maketh small/draws up] the drops of water:
they [pour down rain according to the vapour thereof/distill rain from the mist/distill the rain into its mist]:
28 Which the clouds [do drop and /pour down]
[distil/they drip/and shower] upon man abundantly.
So, Elihu draws Jobs attention to the amazing water cycle. Water is drawn up from the earth into clouds. Then the clouds drop that rain back down onto the earth.
So, let me ask you a question. When you’re suffering and struggling with God’s justice in this world… have you ever considered… the water cycle?
I know, it sounds ridiculous at first. But this is how Elihu confronts Job and its how God is going to confront Job later on.
So, I say this in all seriousness and with every intention of doing this myself in the future – when you’re tempted to question God’s justice in this life think about God’s work. Think about the water cycle!
Job 36 Commentary: Clouds and Thunder
And here’s something that’s related to the water cycle that Elihu wants Job to consider in his suffering – God’s work concerning clouds and thunder.
29 [Also can any/Can anyone/Who can?] understand the spreadings of the clouds,
[or the noise/the thunderings] of his [tabernacle/pavilion]?
So, Elihu now goes beyond mentioning how God’s work of the water cycle works – and he starts asking questions.
Can anyone really understand the “spreadings of the clouds?”
Now, we learn in grade school that there are different kinds of clouds. They have different formations. And there are explanations for the conditions under which each type is formed.
But why? Why does a certain type of cloud form when there is a certain atmospheric condition?
Well, maybe it’s because of the specific temperature and altitude and so on…
But why? Why would the temperature and altitude have that effect on the clouds?
And as many answers come back to that question – they can all themselves be questioned. Ultimately – it’s like Elihu says – “who can understand the spreadings of the clouds?” The answer is – ultimately no one can. No human is able to thoroughly understand how God spreads his clouds.
Much less thunder. Thunder is amazing. It can be frightening – it can shock you out of your sleep. As a soccer coach the sound of thunder forces me to cancel practice or even a game.
And we’re told that the cause of thunder is the heat from lightning that expands the air around that lightning bolt. And that causes the sound of thunder.
But I have some questions about that!
Why does heat expand air? And why does expanding air cause a noise that’s so loud? And on and on.
No matter what we can explain with our present-day observation abilities – there are some things we just can’t explain and never will be able to.
But for God, this is all simple. In fact, he feels “at home” with these things. The clouds in the verse we just read are referred to as his tabernacle – his pavilion – where he dwells.
What an amazing God.
Job 36 Commentary: Lightning (High) and Seas (Low)
And so, next Elihu wants Job to consider something related to thunder. And that’s lightning – and then a little less related – the seas.
30 [Behold/See how], he [spreadeth/scattered] his [light/lightning] [upon/about] [it/him],
[and/he has] covereth the [bottom/depths] of the sea.
So, Elihu wants Job’s gaze to be turned upward and then downward.
Upward toward the clouds to catch a glimpse of the lightning that lights up God’s tabernacle – the clouds.
And downward to consider the incredible depths of the sea that God covers with water.
Now, the lowest point that we know of in the oceans is called the Mariana Trench – which is out in the Pacific Ocean near the island of Guam. The depth there reaches over 35,000 feet or over 6 ½ miles.
And people actually have gone that deep since the writing of the book of Job. And yet, the point that Elihu is making is not that man can never go that deep. The point that Elihu is making is that the scope of God’s work is extreme.
High as the clouds! Low as the depths of the sea! Miles high in the sky – miles low into the oceans!
Consider that the next time you’re dissatisfied with how God is working in your life. Consider the extreme scope of God’s work… when God’s ways aren’t making sense to you.
Hey – do you suppose that a God whose work is so high and so deep – ultimately beyond your comprehension in those ways – that he might be doing some work in your life in ways that are beyond your comprehension?
Job 36 Commentary: Judgement and Provision
Well, now at this point Elihu dips back in to the realm of mankind. He’s been calling Job’s attention and ours to God’s work in nature.
But now in the next verse he’s going to connect God’s work in nature with the effects that that work has when it comes to God’s human creatures.
31 [For/It is] by [them/these] judgeth he the [people/peoples/nations];
[he/and] [giveth/supplies] [meat/food] in abundance.
So, God can work with clouds in such a way that no rain falls. And that’s how God can judge nations – by not sending rain from those clouds of his.
But God can also provide abundantly for his human creatures – both through the rain that comes through clouds and waters crops and by the depths of the oceans that can provide food for people in the form of fish.
God uses water to both judge and to provide for the nations of the earth.
Job 36 Commentary: Clouds and Sun or Lightning
Well, next Elihu is going to turn his attention to God’s work in sending storms.
Here’s a depiction of how a storm begins…
32 With [clouds/his hands] he covereth the [light/lightning];
[and commandeth it not to shine by the cloud that cometh betwixt./And commands it to strike the mark./and directs it against its target.]
So, God causes clouds to cover the light. Isn’t that a pretty good description of what immediately precedes a storm?
A few other translations translate a few words differently and do different things with the italicized words in the KJV to make it sound like Elihu is describing the approach of lighting.
Either way – whether Elihu is speaking of clouds obscuring the sun or lightning striking the earth – he’s getting us ready for what is to come.
Job 36 Commentary: Heaven and Creatures Announce the Storm’s Approach
And that is – Elihu describing how both heaven and various creatures practically announce the approach of this storm.
Clouds obscure the light from the sun – or lighting starts striking the earth – as a storm approaches – verse 32 – and…
33 [The noise thereof/His thunder] [sheweth/declares/announces] [concerning it/his presence/the coming storm],
the cattle also [,] concerning [the vapour/what is coming up/the storm’s approach].
So, as a storm rolls in – the sky is a pretty good indicator to mankind as to what’s coming. The sky is dark. There’s thunder. All that.
But animals also get a sense of what’s coming.
And I remember as a kid when my parents had cats – it seems like cats – even though Elihu doesn’t mention them here – cats do seem to have a sense of when strange weather is coming. And certainly, cattle do as well – since they’re out in the field.
So, that’s the effect of this coming storm on both the sky and animals.