Job 34:1-37

Submitted by admin on Mon, 2015-04-27 17:29.

Posted in | printer-friendly version »

Elihu continued to speak. This is introduced with the words, “And Elihu answered and said.” (34:1)

Elihu appears to have directed his words to Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, referring to them as “wise” and “knowing” and called upon them to “hear [his] words” and to “give ear” or pay attention to him. Rahlfs’ printed text of the Septuagint concludes with the words, “Give ear to the good” (or pay attention to what is good). (34:2)

Elihu represented the ear as testing words or evaluating what is said. He likened what the ear did regarding words to what the palate (“throat” [Theodotion]) did when tasting food. Based on verse 4, the point he seemingly endeavored to make was that he wanted those whom he addressed to give serious attention to his words and then determine whether they expressed the truth about Job. (34:3; see the Notes section and 12:11, where Job used almost the same words to make his point.)

Apparently regarding the thoughts he planned to express, Elihu said, “Let us choose judgment for ourselves. Let us determine what is good among ourselves.” For Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar to “choose judgment” and to “determine what is good” would have meant for them to choose what was right when making a decision and to ascertain what was “good” or right when evaluating Job’s case. (34:4; see the Notes section.)

Any decision involving the case of Job would have required considering what he had expressed. Elihu did this when quoting Job as having said, “I am righteous” or innocent, “and God [the Lord (LXX)] has taken away my judgment.” The Septuagint rendering could be understood to indicate that the Lord had refused to consider Job’s case. Although he personally felt that he was upright and not guilty of serious sin, Job believed that God had dealt unjustly with him, not granting him an opportunity to make his defense before him. (34:5)

The wording of the Hebrew text is obscure regarding the thought Elihu next attributed to Job. A literal rendering could be, “Shall I lie about my judgment [mishpát]”? My arrow [is] mortal without transgression.” If the words are rendered as a question and the Hebrew noun mishpát is understood in its basic sense to mean “judgment,” the question may be as to whether Job would lie about the judgment (in the form of suffering) that had been expressed against him. It would have been senseless for him to do so. Job considered the suffering to which he had been submitted as being like a mortal wound from an arrow. The words “without transgression” indicate that Job insisted that he had not committed the kind of transgression that would have merited being afflicted as he had been. (34:6)

The obscurity of the Hebrew text has resulted in a variety of interpretive renderings. “Would I lie about my case? My wound is incurable, though I am without transgression.”(HCSB) “Would I lie about my right? I have been hurt so that I cannot be healed, but I have done no wrong.” (NLV) “I am innocent, but they call me a liar. My suffering is incurable, even though I have not sinned.” (NLT) “Instead of getting a fair trial, I am called a liar. I have been seriously hurt, even though I have not sinned.” (NCV) “Even though I’m right, he [God] thinks I’m a liar. Even though I’m not guilty, his arrows give me wounds that can’t be healed.”(NIRV) “Notwithstanding my right I am set at nought; in my wound the arrow rankles, sinless though I am.” (NAB) “I declare the judgment against me false; my arrow-wound is deadly, though I am free from transgression.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Job also argues that God considers him a liar and that he is suffering severely in spite of his innocence.” (CEV) “He [God] has falsified my case; my state is desperate, yet I have done no wrong.” (REB) With reference to the Lord, the Septuagint rendering could be translated, “He was false with my judgment.” (34:6; see the Notes section.)

Job had repeatedly expressed himself to the effect that God had treated him unjustly. Elihu apparently considered this to be mockery directed against God and raised the question, “What man [is] like Job who drinks mockery like water?” The reference to “like water” may relate to the fact that Job made his expressions without any hesitancy. (34:7; see the Notes section.)

In the light of verse 9, the words of verse 8 indicate that Elihu considered Job as placing himself on the side the evildoers because he thought a man did not benefit from trying to please God. Elihu is quoted as referring to Job as one who “goes in company with evildoers and walks with wicked men.” (34:8; see the Notes section.)

Elihu represented Job as saying that it does “not benefit a man” to take delight in or to please God. This was because Job repeatedly said that he had lived uprightly and yet had been subjected to great suffering, affliction that he believed God had brought upon him. (34:9; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Elihu appealed to men or “mortals of heart,” or men with understanding, to “hear” him or to listen to what he had to say. He insisted that (contrary to what Job had said about the way God had treated him) “far be it from God to act wickedly and [from] the Almighty to do wrong.” According to the Septuagint rendering, Elihu is the one indicating that it was unthinkable for him “to act impiously before the Lord and to pervert justice before the Almighty.” (34:10)

To establish that God is not unjust in his treatment of humans, Elihu said, “For [according to] an earthling’s [a man’s] work, he [God] will repay him; and in a man’s way, he will find him.” In Elihu’s view, God repays individuals on the basis of their deeds and, as the One who finds them in their way or their course of life, deals with them according to what their conduct deserves. (34:11; see the Notes section.)

Elihu summed up the point about the rightness of God’s dealings when saying, “Most certainly God will not act wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert judgment” or treat anyone unjustly. In the Septuagint, this thought is expressed with rhetorical questions. “But do you think the Lord will do what is inappropriate” (or wrong)? “Or will the Almighty pervert judgment” or justice? (34:12)

God is not answerable to anyone. This is the apparent thought of Elihu’s rhetorical questions. “Who has put him in charge over the earth? Or who placed the inhabited land, all of it, [under him]?” God is the supreme authority, for he is the Creator. The Septuagint rendering is specific in identifying God as the one who “made the earth.” This is followed by the rhetorical question, “And who is the One making [the things] under heaven and everything existing [there]?” (34:13)

If God were to “set his heart” on a man and “gather his spirit and his breath to himself,” the individual would not continue to live. In this context, God’s setting “his heart” may refer to focusing his attention to act against the man, and the gathering of “his spirit and his breath” would denote depriving him of the life principle and the breath that sustains it. The initial phrase of the Hebrew text also contains the wording that may be rendered “to himself,” and “set” could be understood to mean “direct” (“direct his heart to himself”). A number of modern translations reflect this significance in their renderings. “If he were to turn his thoughts inwards …” (REB) If He but intends it … (Tanakh [JPS 1985 edition]) “If it were his intention … (NIV) (34:14; see the Notes section concerning the Septuagint rendering.)

Without the “spirit” or life principle, “all flesh will perish together,” and man, the “earthling, will return to the dust” or to the elements of the ground. According to the Septuagint rendering, “all flesh will die together, and every mortal will return to the earth [or ground] from which he was also formed.” (34:15)

The imperative to “hear” or listen is a second person singular verb and may be understood as being directed to Job. Elihu prefaced the words “hear this” with “and if understanding.” This could mean “if you, Job, have understanding.” The Septuagint rendering may be translated, “Lest he [God] admonish [you], hear [or listen to] these things.” The imperative to listen is stressed with the additional words, “Give ear to the sound of my declarations [words (LXX)]” or let the sound of what I say be accepted responsively. (34:16)

Job believed that God had dealt unjustly with him, implying that God was not a lover of justice. The comments of Elihu counter this with rhetorical questions. “Shall indeed the one hating judgment [or justice] exercise control? And will you condemn one [who is] righteous [and] mighty?” One who hates justice should not be in a governing position, and Job would most assuredly not have condemned the one who is both mighty and righteous. Accordingly, God who has control over everything could not possibly be one who hates justice. He is the Almighty and righteous, and this rules out any valid basis for faultfinding. The Septuagint rendering is even more specific in focusing on the Almighty. “Behold [Job] the One hating lawless deeds and the One destroying the wicked ones, [the One who is] eternally righteous.” (34:17)

Elihu indicated how wrong it was for Job to charge God with dealing unjustly. He did this by asking whether one would “say to a king,” you are a “worthless one,” and to “nobles,” you are “wicked.” If it was understood to be wrong to make such expressions about men in high station, it would be even more serious to imply that God was unjust. The Septuagint rendering refers to the one who would “say to a king, You are acting lawlessly,” as being impious or ungodly. (34:18; see the Notes section.)

What Elihu next said about God made it clear that it was wrong for Job to maintain that he was unjust in his treatment of him. Elihu referred to God as one who “does not lift up the face of princes,” or does not show partiality to them by reason of their exalted standing among people. He does not give more consideration to a noble than to a poor person. He treats all without partiality, for “all of them” are the “work of his hands.” (34:19; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

It appears that Elihu made the point about God’s impartiality by referring to the reality that all humans die. No one receives preferential treatment. “In a moment [people] die, even at midnight.” They may die suddenly and unexpectedly. People are “shaken” or experience turmoil and “pass away” from the land of the living. The “mighty are taken away without a hand,” or with no violent action being directed against them from a human source. (34:20; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Elihu indicated that God’s judgments are just, for nothing escapes his attention. “His eyes [are] on the ways of a man, and he sees all his steps” or every move he makes. According to the Septuagint rendering, God is an “observer of the works of men”; and of the things they do, nothing is hidden from him. (34:21)

Evildoers cannot find a place of “gloom and death’s shadow” or deep darkness where they can hide themselves from God. There is no escape from his observation and from his judgment. (34:22)

According to the extant Hebrew text, God “does not appoint [a time for] a man to go before [him] in judgment.” He can act whenever he chooses and does not need to arrange for a judicial hearing beforehand — the kind of hearing that Job wanted. The Greek text, which Origen identified with his marks as having been added from the version of Theodotion, may be understood to say that God will not set something additional on men or impose on them any requirement besides what he had previously revealed. (34:23; see the Notes section.)

God “breaks mighty ones,” bringing them to their end “without search” or “investigation.” Already knowing everything about them and their activity and conduct, he does not need to undertake any additional examination. God sets others in the place of the mighty ones who were deposed. The Septuagint rendering departs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. God is identified as the one “comprehending unsearchable things, honorable things also, and extraordinary things for which there is no number.” This suggests that there is nothing beyond the realm of God’s knowledge. (34:24)

Respecting the “mighty ones,” God “knows their works.” He is fully aware of everything they do. “In the night,” when they do not expect it, God overturns the mighty ones (apparently for corrupt deeds and oppression), and they are crushed. (34:25; see the Notes section.)

God strikes individuals as or among wicked ones, doing so in the public place where others will see their punishment. According to the Septuagint rendering, God extinghished or put an end to the ungodly. They were visible before him, indicating that he knew what they were doing and, on that basis, executed his judgment against them. (34:26)

God’s punitive judgment befell individuals “because they turned aside from following him,” disregarding his authority over them. They had no regard for any of “his ways,” refusing to live uprightly. The Septuagint says that “they turned aside from the law of God and did not recognize” or observe “his precepts.” (34:27)

The ones against whom God executed judgment were guilty of mistreating and oppressing lowly ones. As a consequence, “they caused the outcry of the poor to come to him.” Because “he hears the outcry of the afflicted,” or responds to it, God acted against the oppressors. (34:28; see the Notes section.)

For God to remain quiet would mean for him not to take any action, and Elihu’s words suggest that no one can rightly condemn him for this. Likewise for him to deal in a manner that brings about quietness would provide no valid basis for leveling a charge against him. If the meaning is giving quietness, it could signify ending circumstances that result in trouble, suffering, or oppression. The hiding of God’s face would denote his turning attention away or refusing to take action. Without any evidence of activity from God, no one would behold him. This could be understood as applying to a nation and to a man in the same way. There is a measure of ambiguity in the Hebrew text, and this has resulted in a variety of renderings. “When He makes quietness, who then can make trouble? And when He hides His face, who then can see Him, whether it is against a nation or a man alone?” (NKJV) “When He is silent, who will condemn? If He hides His face, who will see Him, be it nation or man?” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “But if he remains silent, who can condemn him? If he hides his face, who can see him? Yet he is over man and nation alike, to keep a godless man from ruling …” (NIV) “But if he is still silent and no one can move him, if he veils his face, so that no one can see him, he is taking pity on nations and individuals.” (NJB) This rendering suggests that, out of compassion for nations and individuals, God refrains from executing punitive judgment. (34:29; see the Notes section.)

When God does take action, it is so that a godless man will not reign and that there be no one ensnaring people or leading them into a sinful course. The Greek text of Theodotion represents God as causing “a hypocritical man to reign because of the discontent of the people.” This could mean that, on account of the discontent of the people with their governing authority, they end up with a king whose exercise of rulership proves to be contrary to his words and promises. (34:30)

Translators have rendered the words about what is said to God as part of a question or a statement, and they also have commonly supplied an object for the Hebrew verb rendered, “I have borne.” Although the Hebrew text does not specifically address Elihu’s words to Job, a number of translators convey this significance in their renderings. “For has anyone said to God, ‘I have borne punishment; I will not sin any more’ …?” (ESV) Has he said to God, ‘I will bear [my punishment] and offend no more’ …?” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Job, you should tell God that you are guilty and promise to do better.” (CEV) “Job, have you confessed your sins to God and promised not to sin again?” (GNT, Second Edition) The Greek version of Theodotion conveys a different thought. God is called the “Mighty One,” and the words said to him are, “I have received” (or “I have taken”); I will not take a pledge.” There is no object for the verb that can be rendered “have received” or “have taken.” It could mean that, because of having been the recipient of blessings, the individual would not take pledges from others for the repayment of loans. If the significance is “I have taken,” the thought could be that in the past the individual did take pledges but promised not to do so in the future. (34:31)

According to Elihu’s comments, the one asked to teach is God, and the one making the request is either any individual or Job himself. The petition is, “Teach me what I do not see” or recognize. Then, upon becoming fully aware of his error, the individual (or Job) would promise not to repeat the wrong. (34:32; see the Notes section.)

Elihu’s question for Job was whether it should be on the basis of his personal judgment that God should requite even though he personally had rejected. In the Hebrew text, the verb for “reject” has no object. The implied object could be God or what God was doing. In view of Job’s insistence that God had dealt unjustly with him, Elihu appears to have represented this as Job’s rejection of God or of God’s manner of governing affairs. Therefore, if Job knew a better way, Elihu told him to choose, whereas he personally would not do so. The implication is that, unlike Job, he did not find fault with God or with what God did. Elihu then told Job, “Declare what you know” or make known a superior way for God to govern. (34:33; see the Notes section.)

Elihu concluded that Job would not have the support of wise men. Men or mortals of understanding (literally, “men” or “mortals of heart”) and any “wise man” who might hear what Elihu said would censure Job (as evident from the next verse). The Greek version of Theodotion contains similar wording but concludes with the phrase, “but a wise man heard [or listened to] my word.” (34:34)

Wise men would tell Elihu that “Job speaks without knowledge” and that his “words” are not the product of insight. This was because Job maintained that God had been unjust in his dealings with him. (34:35)

Elihu wanted Job to be tested to the limit (apparently that he might see his error), for his “answers” or responses were like those of wicked men. He considered Job to have aligned himself with wicked men when referring to God as being unjust. According to the Septuagint rendering, Elihu called upon Job to “learn” and not to continue giving “an answer like senseless ones.” (34:36; see the Notes section.)

From Elihu’s perspective, Job had sinned when he contended that God had afflicted him without justification. He also maintained that Job had added rebellion to his sin. This could be because he found fault with Job’s wanting to face God personally to present his cause and to establish that his suffering was undeserved. The reference to Job’s clapping as an act of derision may indicate that Elihu understood Job’s expressions about what God had done to him as constituting mockery. Elihu then concluded with the thought that Job had multiplied words “against God.” (34:37; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)


The marks of Origen in the third century CE indicate that the wording of the Greek text for verses 3 and 4 was added from the version of Theodotion. This wording is much like that of the extant Hebrew text.

In verse 6, the concluding phrase was, according to the marks of Origen, added from the Greek version of Theodotion. “My arrow [is] violent without injustice.” The thought appears to be that the suffering to which Job had been afflicted was like an arrow that had hit him with violence even though he had not been guilty of unjust acts.

The marks of Origen in the third century CE indicate that the Greek wording of verse 7 was added from the version of Theodotion. This wording corresponds to the reading of the extant Hebrew text.

Without the addition from the Greek version of Theodotion, verses 6 and 8 read, The Lord “was false with my judgment, [though I was] not sinning nor being impious, nor shared I a way with those doing lawless deeds, to go with the impious.” This Septuagint rendering indicates why Job regarded the judgment to which he had been submitted to have been unwarranted.

The wording of verse 9 in the Septuagint differs from that of the extant Hebrew text. “For you should not say, There will be no visitation of a man, and [there is] a visitation of him by the Lord.” This could be understood to mean that God does make a visitation for judgment, and so one should not say that there is no such visitation.

In the Greek text of verse 11, the concluding phrase is (based on the marks of Origen) added from the version of Theodotion. It is a literal rendering of the Hebrew text, “and in a man’s way, he will find him.”

The Septuagint rendering of verse 14 starts a sentence that is completed in verse 15. “For if he should want to constrain and hold onto the spirit with himself, all flesh will die together.”

The marks of Origen in the third century CE indicate that the wording of the concluding phrase of verse 18 was added from the Greek version of Theodotion. This phrase refers to one who would say “to rulers, O most impious one.”

In verse 19, the Septuagint rendering continues the description of a disrespectful (an impious) man. Such a one would have no shame or respect “before the face [or person] of an honorable man,” nor would he “know” (or recognize that it was fitting) to give “honor to men” of dignified standing so as show respect for them (literally, “admire their faces”).

The Septuagint rendering of verse 20 refers to the outcome for the impious ones. It would be “in vain for them to cry out” for help “and petition a man, for they dealt unlawfully, turning aside powerless ones.” They refused to alleviate the suffering to which oppression had subjected helpless persons.

In verse 23, the Septuagint, without the addition from the Greek version of Theodotion, reads, “For the Lord observes everyone.” This is why lawless ones will not escape punishment.

The marks of Origen indicate that the concluding phrase of verse 25 was added to the Greek text from the version of Theodotion. This phrase differs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. It is, “and he [God] overturns night, and they [the lawless ones] will be humbled” or brought low.

The wording for the Greek text of verses 28 through 33 was not found in the Septuagint available to Origen in the third century CE. He marked this section as having been added from the Greek version of Theodotion. The Greek text of verse 28 conveys the same thought as does the extant Hebrew text.

Verse 29 of the Greek version of Theodotion reads much like the extant Hebrew text. “And he will cause quiet, and who will condemn [him]? And he will hide [his] face, and who will see him? And against a nation and against a man together” or in the same way.

The wording of verse 32 in the Greek version of Theodotion differs somewhat from the extant Hebrew text. “I will see apart from myself; show me.” Perhaps the thought is that, on his own, he could not see or understand what he had done wrong but would be able to do so if God were to reveal it to him. The verse concludes with the words, “If I have practiced injustice” (wrongdoing or unrighteousness), “I will not continue” (to do so).

In verse 33, the wording of the Greek version of Theodotion, though obscure, does resemble the extant Hebrew text. “Will he not exact it from you?” This could mean, Will not God repay you for the wrong you did? “For you will reject [God’s way of dealing], for you will choose [another way] and not I [Elihu]. And [you, Job] speak what you knew” (as a better way in your estimation).

In the Hebrew text, verse 36 opens with ’avi, which can be the noun “father” with the first person singular suffix (“my”). This significance has the support of the Vulgate, which reads pater mi (“my father”), and the one so designated would be God. Numerous modern translations, however, do not render ’avi as “my father” but represent ’avi as an expression of entreaty. “Would that Job were tried to the limit.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “If only Job could be put to the test once and for all.” (REB) “Kindly examine him thoroughly.” (NJB) These renderings are based on linking ’avi to the Arabic word bayya and then defining ’avi as meaning “would that.”