Job 35:1-16

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Elihu continued to speak. The introductory words are the same as in the opening verse of chapter 34. “And Elihu answered and said.” (35:1)

Elihu directed a rhetorical question to Job. “Do you think this to be judgment” (or justice)? He then quoted Job as saying, “My righteousness before God.” The reference to “righteousness before God” implied that Job regarded himself as being in the right, for he believed that God had wrongly subjected him to suffering. The Septuagint rendering is more direct in reproving Job. “What [is] this [that] you thought in judgment? Who are you that you said, ‘I am righteous before the Lord’?” The words “in judgment” suggest that Job is being represented as regarding himself to be in the right, insisting that God had no reason to mistreat him. Elihu, however, considered that Job, a mere mortal, was presumptuous in claiming to be righteous before God. This is evident from the challenging words, “Who are you that you said”? (35:2)

Elihu represented Job as raising the question as to what advantage he had from living an upright life and whether he really was better off because of not sinning. In the Septuagint, the question Elihu attributed to Job is, “Having sinned, what shall I do?” Perhaps this is to be understood to mean that his sinning would have made no difference in the way his life turned out. (35:3)

Elihu purposed to answer the questions he had attributed to Job. He would answer Job and the companions with him. The Septuagint rendering is specific in identifying these companions as Job’s “three friends,” Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. (35:4)

Elihu directed attention to the “heavens” or to the sky above, telling Job to “look up to the heavens and see.” He also wanted Job to note that the “clouds” were high above him. The implication appears to be that God is far higher than humans and that it was wrong for Job to judge God as having wronged him without any justification. (35:5)

Elihu raised rhetorical questions. “If you have sinned, what have you done against [God]? And if your transgressions are increased, what do you do to him?” The implied answer is that humans cannot personally harm God by their sinful acts or transgressions. In the Septuagint, the questions basically read the same but do not include an equivalent for the third person singular suffix (“him”). (35:6)

Again using rhetorical questions, Elihu focused on whether anyone could possibly benefit God. “If you are righteous” or upright, “what do you give to him? Or what does he receive from your hand?” There is absolutely nothing any human could give to God that would prove to be gain for him. (35:7; see the Notes section.)

Whether a person is wicked or righteous impacts fellow humans but not God. This is the thought Elihu expressed. “Your wickedness [affects] a man like yourself; and your righteousness” (your honest dealings) a “son of man” or a fellow earthling. (35:8; see the Notes section.)

“Because of a multitude of oppressions” that are committed and which cause much suffering, people “cry out,” doing so in their distress and for relief from mistreatment. “Because of the arm of the mighty” (or the power oppressors use against them), “they call out for help,” longing to be rescued from their difficult situation. (35:9; see the Notes section.)

Apparently based on what he had observed, Elihu concluded that people may cry out in distress, but they do not really think about God or earnestly seek him. No one says, “Where [is] God my Maker who gives songs” (or provides occasions for songs) “in the night?” The “night” could refer to a time of gloom or distress, and “songs” would then be sung when relief came. (35:10; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering and additional comments about the word “songs.”)

Elihu recognized that the wisdom God teaches humans is superior to that of the “beasts of the earth” or the land animals. He has also made humans wiser than the “birds of the heavens” (or the birds that fly above the earth). In possession of greater God-given wisdom than beasts and birds, humans should be looking to God their Maker. The implied thought of Elihu’s words could be that humans should cry out to God in sincerity, revealing their having greater wisdom than animals and birds that cry out to God for their food. (Compare Job 38:41 and Psalm 147:9.) According to the Septuagint, Elihu acknowledged that God had set him apart from the “quadrupeds of the earth” and from the “birds of heaven.” As one set apart from quadrupeds and birds, Elihu, as verse 14 says, expected to be saved from harm. (35:11)

Elihu referred to people as crying out but said that God does not “hear,” listen, or respond to their outcry. The apparent reason is that they were not in an acceptable condition before God and did not appeal to him in sincerity. They remained arrogant in their attitude and did not conduct themselves in a divinely approved manner. So it was “because of the pride of evil men” that God did not listen to their pleas and respond favorably. (35:12; see the Notes section.)

God does not hear (or listen to) vanity or emptiness, which would include cries for help that are not expressed in sincerity and with due humility. The Almighty will not regard any outcries that are mere emptiness or worthlessness. (35:13; see the Notes section.)

After having pointed out that the Almighty would not listen to outcries that were mere empty pleas, Elihu may be understood as saying that God would be even less inclined to listen to Job’s defense. He referred to Job as having said that he did not see God, that the case (which he had presented) was before him, and that he was waiting for him (for God’s response to his defense). It is also possible that Elihu’s words about waiting were directed to Job. The thought would then be that Job’s case was before God and he should patiently wait for God’s response. Modern translations are more specific or interpretive when conveying one of these two ways to understand the text. “He will listen to you even less when you say that you do not see him, that your case is before him, that you must wait for him.” (NCV) “So he certainly won’t listen to you. When you say you don’t see him, he won’t hear you. He won’t listen when you state your case to him. He won’t pay attention even if you wait for him.” (NIRV) “And how much less when you say, ‘I cannot see him, my case is open and I am waiting for him.’” (NJB) “Though you say, ‘You do not take note of it,’ the case is before Him; so wait for Him.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Even though you say that you see him not, the case is before him; with trembling should you wait upon him.” (NAB) “The worse for you when you say you do not see him! Humble yourself in his presence and wait for his word.” (REB) (35:14; see the Notes section.)

Elihu’s words (“and now because his anger does not punish, and he does not know folly greatly”) could be a continuation of what he represented Job as having said. It is also possible that these words may state the reason for what Job said but which statements Elihu referred to as “emptiness” or foolish talk. This difference in meaning is reflected in the renderings of modern translations. “Or [when you (Job)] say, ‘His [God’s] anger never punishes, he does not seem aware of human rebellion.’” (NJB) “And further [when you say], that his anger never punishes and he does not take the least notice of wickedness.” (NIV) “And now, because his anger does not punish, and he does not greatly heed transgression, Job opens his mouth in empty talk.” (NRSV) “But now, because God does not grow angry and punish, because he lets folly pass unheeded, Job gives vent to windy nonsense.” (REB) The basic message of the Hebrew text appears to be that there were times when God did not express his anger against those who deserved punishment, making it appear as though he did not know about the wrong. According to the Greek version of Theodotion, the rendering is (including part of verse 16), “And now, because no one is looking upon his wrath, and he did not know exceeding transgression, also Job, acting foolishly, opens his mouth.” This could be understood to mean that no one is seeing any evidence that God has expressed his wrath against evildoers, appearing as though not knowing or being aware of serious wrongdoing. As a consequence of this, Job spoke foolishly or in ignorance. (35:15; see the Notes section.)

Elihu referred to Job as opening his mouth in emptiness or senseless talk and multiplying words “without knowledge.” This is because Elihu considered Job to have seriously erred when representing God as having been unjust by causing him to suffer. In effect, Elihu spoke of Job as a man who did not know what he was talking about or who uttered nonsense. (35:16; see the Notes section.)


According to the marks of Origen in the third century CE, the Greek text for the second question in verse 7 was added from the version of Theodotion. It reads much like the extant Hebrew text. “Or what will he receive from your hand?”

Based on the marks of Origen, the wording of the Greek text from verses 8 and 9 and the first phrase of verse 10 was added from the version of Theodotion. The Greek rendering of verse 8 is much like the reading of the extant Hebrew text. “Your impiety [is] for a man, one like you; and your righteousness to a son of man.”

In verse 9, the added text from the Greek version of Theodotion differs somewhat from the extant Hebrew text. “Because of the many, those falsely accused will cry out. They will call out for help because of the arm [or power] of the many.”

In verse 10, the Septuagint does not mention “songs.” It says that God “appoints the watches of the night.” A number of modern translations also do not contain the rendering “songs.” The words found in these translations include “strength” (NRSV, Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) and “protection” (REB), and these renderings are based on a link of the Hebrew word zemír (“song”) to a somewhat similar Arabic root (dmr).

In verse 12, the wording of the opening phrase in the Greek text (according to the marks of Origen) was added from the version of Theodotion. It corresponds to the reading of the extant Hebrew text, but it does not fit the words of the Septuagint that follow. Without the addition, the concluding phrase of verse 12 could be understood to say that Elihu was set apart “from the insolence of the wicked.” This suggests that God would not allow arrogant, wicked men to harm Elihu.

In verse 13, the rendering of the Septuagint departs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. “For the Lord does not wish to see” things that are inappropriate or wrong. The next sentence is completed in verse 14. “For he, the Almighty, is an observer of those carrying out lawless deeds.”

In verse 14, the Septuagint rendering about the Almighty in the role of an observer of those engaging in lawless acts is followed by the words, “and he will save me.” This suggests that Elihu believed the Almighty would deliver him from lawless ones who desired to harm him. The concluding part of the verse could be rendered, “And plead before him if you are able to praise him as he is.” This could mean that Job, if he were to plead his case before God, should be able to praise him as the God he truly is. It would not be as Job had represented God when maintaining that he had dealt unjustly with him.

The marks of Origen indicate that verses 15 and 16 of the Greek text have been added from the version of Theodotion.

In verse 16, the Greek text of Theodotion refers to Job as weighing down or burdening his words “in ignorance.” Possibly this could mean that Job made his words burdensome to those hearing them.