Job 36:1-33

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Elihu continued speaking. His comments are introduced with the words, “And Elihu added” or continued “and said.” (36:1)

Elihu wanted Job to bear with him a little, for he still had more to say in God’s defense (literally, “words for God”). The Septuagint does not include a reference to God. It represents Elihu as asking Job to remain with him or wait for him a little while so that he could “teach” him, for, within himself, he still had more “speech.” (36:2)

Elihu intended to obtain “knowledge from afar.” This could mean that his objective was to draw on knowledge from the full range of sources available to him or that he considered God to be the source of the knowledge he would impart and, therefore, a source that is far away from the human realm. In his statements, he purposed to ascribe “righteousness” or what is right to his Maker, whereas Job had spoken of God as being unjust in his treatment of him. According to the Septuagint rendering, Elihu would speak what is righteous, right, or just, doing so through his “works.” Possibly his “works” could be understood to include his attitude, manner when speaking, and the substantive and truthful content of his words. (36:3)

Elihu provided the assurance that his words would not be false. It appears that he regarded God as the source of his knowledge. This may be reflected in his comment, “one complete [flawless or perfect] in knowledge is with you,” seemingly through the words that Elihu intended to speak. A number of translators, however, make the application directly to Elihu. “A man of sound opinions is before you.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Before you stands one whose conclusions are sound.” (REB) The rendering of the Septuagint is a continuation of verse 3 and may indicate that Elihu would, through his works, speak “in truth” or with sincerity “and [utter] no unrighteous” or misleading “words.” The concluding phrase, “unjustly” or wrongly “you understand” could indicate that Job had misunderstood and wrongly spoken of God’s dealings with him. (36:4)

The interjection rendered “look” apparently served to focus the attention of Job on what Elihu was about to say in his defense of God. Although pointing to God as being “mighty,” Elihu indicated that this did not affect his dealings with lowly humans. God does not “reject” anyone on the basis of his might or his matchless power that makes him far superior to his creation. The Septuagint rendering is more explicit than is the extant Hebrew text. Elihu called upon Job to recognize that “the Lord will by no means reject the innocent one.” The Hebrew text concludes with the thought that God is “mighty in strength of heart.” In this case, the Hebrew expression “strength of heart” is commonly understood to mean “strength of understanding.” Another possible significance is “steadfast in purpose.” A number of translations render the Hebrew text according to emendations and convey very different meanings. “God, I say, repudiates the high and mighty.” (REB) “Behold, God rejects the obstinate in heart.” (NAB) “God does not reject anyone whose heart is pure.” (NJB) (36:5; see the Notes section.)

Emphasizing God’s justice or righteousness, Elihu said that he does not preserve the life of (make or keep alive) the wicked one and that he gives “judgment” to, or renders justice for, the “humble,” the afflicted, or the poor. In the Greek version of Theodotion, the initial phrase is rendered emphatically with two words for “not” and may be translated, “By no means will he make alive [or grant life to] the impious.” (36:6; see the Notes section.)

Elihu declared that God does not withdraw his “eyes from the righteous one.” He continues to look out for the interests of upright persons, seating them “with kings on the throne forever, and they will be exalted” or elevated to a high station. The Greek text of Theodotion refers to God as seating the righteous “in victory,” suggesting that he will make them triumphant. (36:7)

Elihu acknowledged that the righteous may experience adversity. “If they are bound in fetters” (as persons taken captive), “caught in cords of affliction” or poverty (as persons reduced to a needy state or submitted to oppression), they (as Elihu’s words in the next verse indicate) may thus become recipients of God’s discipline. (36:8)

Through the distress that God allows to come upon the righteous, “he declares to them their work and their transgressions,” exposing that they had assumed a prideful bearing. The affliction is thus revealed as discipline that serves to humble the righteous ones so that they might remain in an acceptable condition before God. According to the Greek version of Theodotion, God’s purpose in declaring to them “their works and their transgressions” is so that “they will be strong.” This could mean that they will be strong or firm in their adherence to what is right. (36:9)

Elihu indicated that God, by means of affliction, “uncovers the ear” of the righteous to be responsive to instruction, making them realize wherein they needed to make changes in their conduct or disposition. In this way, God commanded that “they turn from iniquity,” abandoning attitudes and actions that he disapproved. The shorter Greek text of Theodotion says, “And he [God] said that they should turn from injustice” or wrongdoing. (36:10; see the Notes section.)

“If,” according to Elihu, individuals listened to or obeyed and served God by choosing to do his will, “they will finish their days in good” (“in good things” [Theodotion]) or in prosperity “and their years” in pleasantness (“in dignity” or “in comeliness” [Theodotion]). Their life would turn out well for them, and they would find the years that pass to be enjoyable. (36:11)

As to those who fail to obey God, Elihu said, “they will perish by a weapon.” This suggests that their life would end prematurely by violent means. Their dying “without knowledge” could mean that they would die as senseless persons who foolishly chose to live a corrupt life. According to the Septuagint rendering, God does not deliver the impious ones “because they do not wish to know” him or to have a relationship with him as his approved servants. Although they had been admonished, they were unresponsive. (36:12)

Persons “profane of heart” or who are completely corrupt in their inmost selves lay up (literally, “set”) “anger.” This could mean that they store up for themselves the wrath that God will express against them for their vile deeds. Another possible significance would be that these individuals harbor anger. The Greek version of Theodotion refers to these persons as “hypocrites [in] heart” or individuals who hide their real aims under a false appearance or with lies. They “will set wrath.” This could mean that they set God’s anger against themselves. The Greek text could also be understood to mean that these hypocrites set their heart in wrath, being motivated to lash out in fury against others. When God “binds” these impious ones or punishes them like captives, they will not cry out to him as persons seeking his aid. (36:13; see the Notes section.)

Elihu said regarding those who disregard God that “their soul,” or they themselves, “will die in youth” or experience a premature death. Their life will end in disgrace “among male prostitutes.” The Septuagint quotes Elihu as saying, “May their soul [the impious themselves] surely die in youth, and their life [be] wounded by messengers” or “angels” (of death). (36:14)

Elihu regarded affliction or suffering to be God’s means to deliver those who are afflicted. He apparently viewed suffering as a form of divine discipline to awaken within those who were afflicted the realization that they needed to change their conduct. In this way, God used the affliction to rescue them from a course of life that would have been hurtful to them. God “uncovers their ear by oppression” or “distress.” This could mean that the distress they experience chastises them, making them more responsive to God and the need to live in harmony with his requirements. (36:15; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

With reference to Job, Elihu seemingly indicated that what had befallen him was God’s means to “allure” him out of the “mouth of distress” into a broad place where he would no longer be hemmed in or restrained by affliction. The distress itself (as Elihu previously mentioned) would prompt Job to change his attitude and course of action, restoring him to the fullness of God’s favor. “And the comfort of [his] table,” or that which would be placed on his table, would be “full of fatness” or rich and satisfying fare. Accordingly, Job would again return to a prosperous state. (36:16; see the Notes section.)

If the thought is that Job was full of the judgment of one who is wicked, this could mean that he had taken that one’s side when maintaining that God had dealt unjustly with him. For this reason, judgment and justice would then take hold or would be expressed against him. The much shorter text of the Septuagint says that “judgment” or justice “will not fail for righteous ones.” This suggests that upright persons would ultimately have justice rendered in their case. Although not specifically expressed in this verse, the general context points to God as the source of the favorable outcome. (36:17)

The Hebrew noun sépheq has been linked to a root meaning to “clap the hands” or one applying to “abundance.” If the application is to “clapping,” the thought may be that “wrath” could incite Job to the clapping of his hands as a gesture of mockery. The words of Elihu could then constitute a warning that anger over what he was experiencing should not incite him to mock or scorn God. A number of translations are more explicit in conveying this significance than is the extant Hebrew text. “Beware that wrath does not entice you into scoffing.” (NRSV) “Don’t let your anger and the pain you endured make you sneer at God.” (CEV) Those who prefer the meaning “abundance” for the noun sépheq emend the Hebrew text in a variety of ways. This is reflected in the renderings of a number of modern translations. “Be careful that no one entices you by riches.” (NIV) “Beware of being led astray by abundance.” (NJB) “Let anger at his affluence not mislead you.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Do not be led astray by lavish gifts of wine.” (REB) According to the Septuagint, wrath would come upon impious ones because of the “gifts” or bribes “they would receive for injustices” or for corrupt actions. (36:18)

The extant Hebrew text includes Elihu’s warning to Job that he should not let a “large ransom” lead him astray. In this case, the “large ransom” may be understood to designate a bribe. A number of modern translations make this explicit in their renderings. “Beware … of being corrupted by expensive presents.” (NJB) “Do not let bribery warp your judgement.” (REB) “Do not let a large bribe turn you aside.” (NIV) (36:18)

A form of the Hebrew verb ‘arákh is linked to the word that may be rendered “cry for help.” The basic meaning of ‘arákh is “arrange” or “set in order,” but this does not fit the wording of the initial question. Translators commonly resort to following a variety of emendations, and this has led to numerous different renderings. “Will your cry avail to keep you from distress, or will all the force of your strength?” (NRSV) “Would your wealth or even all your mighty efforts sustain you so you would not be in distress?” (NIV) “Will that wealth of yours, however great, avail you, or all the resources of your high position?” (REB) “Will your limitless wealth avail you, all your powerful efforts?” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Your reputation and riches cannot protect you from distress.” (CEV) None of these renderings, however, really apply to Job’s circumstances, for he had lost his riches and the position of respect that he formerly enjoyed. He had been reduced to a sickly and helpless state. Perhaps the question is whether Job could do anything to make his outcry effective in the face of God’s judgment. The answer would be, No. In his distress, “all forces of strength,” or every bit of limited strength that Job could muster, would be of no avail. An entirely different thought is expressed in the Septuagint rendering. Elihu told Job not to let his mind willingly turn him aside from the “petition of powerless ones in distress.” (36:19; see the Notes section.)

Elihu cautioned Job not to long for (literally, “pant after”) “the night” or the time of darkness. It is then that “peoples go up” or depart from their place. In this context, “the night” appears to refer to a time of judgment when peoples are forcibly taken away or perish. Another possibility is that longing for the “night” could refer to seeking the world of darkness, the gloomy realm of the dead to which peoples depart from their place suddenly and unexpectedly. Modern translations contain a variety of interpretive renderings that contain wording that has no basis in the extant Hebrew text. “Have no fear if in the breathless terrors of the night you see nations vanish where they stand.” (REB) “Do not long for the night, to drag people away from their homes.” (NIV) “Do not crush people you do not know to install your relations in their place.” (NJB) “Nor can you find safety in the dark world below.” (CEV) (36:20; see the Notes section.)

Elihu believed that Job was wrong in saying that God had been unjust when causing him to suffer. This appears to be the reason for his telling Job to guard himself not to turn to iniquity and then adding, “for this you have chosen rather than affliction.” Instead of accepting his affliction as discipline that could benefit him, Job, by his expressions, had shown a preference for saying things that Elihu considered to be evil. (36:21; see the Notes section.)

Instead of finding fault with God as he considered Job to have done, Elihu focused on exalting God and thus implied that this is what Job should be doing. The initial interjection rendered “look” served to direct Job’s attention to what Elihu was about to say. “God is exalted in his power.” The astonishing things God does give evidence of his great power, thus revealing him to be the Almighty, the one who is exalted far above all intelligent creatures. Through his works and his dealings with humans, he provides instruction. Appropriately, therefore, Elihu raised the question, “Who is a teacher like him?” The implied answer is that, as an instructor (or, according to the Septuagint, a “mighty one”), God has no equal. (36:22; see the Notes section.)

By means of rhetorical questions, Elihu pointed out that no one has the right to challenge God, telling him what to do, how to do it, or what course to take. “Who has appointed [or prescribed] his way for him?” In the Septuagint, the question is, “And who is examining [or testing] his works [as might one for the purpose of making an evaluation]?” “And who can say, He has done injustice [or wrong]?” (36:23)

Elihu admonished Job to remember to extol God’s work or to laud all of his activity. The admonition in the Septuagint is, “Remember that his works are great,” deserving to be praised and to be regarded with reverential awe. In the Hebrew text, the verse concludes with the thought that “men [mortals] have sung” about his work. They have made his doings the subject of songs of praise and thanksgiving. (36:24; see the Notes section.)

Elihu indicated that God’s work or activity is clearly discernible. “All men” or “earthlings” (a collective singular in Hebrew) “have looked upon it.” “From afar” (as God carries out his activity far from the earthly realm), “mortals” (a collective singular in Hebrew) can see. The Hebrew suffix rendered “it” is masculine gender and can be translated both “he” and “it,” for Hebrew does not have neuter suffixes. A number of modern translations are specific in making the application to God. “All mankind gazes at him; the race of mortals look on from afar.” (REB) “From down here on earth, everyone has looked up and seen how great God is.” (CEV) (36:25; see the Notes section.)

Elihu recognized that there was abundant reason for praising God. He is “great, beyond our knowledge.” His wisdom and might are impossible for humans to fathom, for there is nothing in the earthly realm that could be used for comparison purposes. He is eternal and, as Elihu, expressed it, the “number of his years” is unsearchable. These years can neither be comprehended nor counted. (36:26; see the Notes section.)

Elihu regarded rain as providing evidence about God’s greatness. He attributed to God the drawing up of “drops of water” and the filtering (zaqáq) of rain “from his mist.” The Hebrew word zaqáq basically means “refine” and, therefore, “filter” appears to be an acceptable rendering in this context. According to the Septuagint, the “drops of rain are counted for him” (God). This is followed by the Greek text added (according to the marks of Origen) from the version of Theodotion. “And they [the raindrops] will be poured out with rain into a cloud.” (36:27; see the Notes section about the renderings of modern translations.)

Elihu continued, saying that the “clouds pour down.” They drop upon “man” or the “earthling” (a collective singular designating humans) “abundantly.” Copious rain descends upon people from above. According to another view, the Hebrew word for “man” or “earthling” (adhám) refers to the “ground” and that the Hebrew word that has been rendered as an adverb “abundantly” (rav [great, many, or much]) should be understood as applying to “showers.” One translation that reflects this view is the Revised English Bible. “The rain-clouds pour down in torrents, they descend in showers on the ground.” The Septuagint does not support such a rendering. It refers to “mortals” and not the ground. “And clouds overshadow countless mortals.” (36:28; see the Notes section.)

To the ancients like Elihu, the formation of clouds and the roar of thunder that accompanied lightning were a mystery. Therefore, he asked about who could understand the “spreadings of a cloud, the crashings of his pavilion.” The “spreadings of a cloud” could refer to the way the blue sky becomes overcast. With his words, Elihu poetically portrayed God as being surrounded by clouds as if the cloud mass was his pavilion. From there, the rumbling of thunder proceeded. The wording of the Greek version of Theodotion that was added to the Septuagint (according to the marks of Origen) refers to the “spreadings of a cloud” as being the “equal” or “measure” of God’s “tent.” (36:29)

“Look,” Elihu continued, God “scatters his lightning about him, and the roots of the sea he covers.” In this context, the Hebrew expression “roots of the sea” appears to designate the seabed, for roots are at the bottom of trees and other plants. Lightning lights up the dark sky, and so light may here be portrayed as penetrating to the bottom of the sea and thus covering it. (36:30; see the Notes section.)

If rendered “for by these he judges peoples,” the words of Elihu could indicate that God can use wind, downpours, and lightning to execute punitive judgment. It is, however, possible that judging here relates to ruling or exercising dominion, which could also include making provisions for humans. This general sense is conveyed in a number of modern translations. “This is the way he governs the nations.” (NIV) “By these things He controls peoples.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Thus he sustains the nations.” (REB, which translation inserts these words after verse 28). Rain and storms supply the water that is essential for crops to grow. Accordingly, Elihu concluded, “He [God] gives food in abundance.” (36:31; see the Notes section.)

Elihu represented God as covering “light” (“lightning,” in this context) with his hands or having it under control for his use and commanding it to strike (literally, “meet” or “encounter”). The Greek version of Theodotion contains a literal rendering that obscures the seeming meaning of the Hebrew text. “In [literally, upon] his hands, he has covered light, and he commanded concerning it [literally, her] in encountering.” The nearest antecedent for the feminine pronoun (“her”) is the noun “food” in the previous verse, but how this could relate to meeting or encountering is not readily apparent. One interpretation of the text attributes to God the appointment of one over the food, one who would be meeting him. This significance, however, is foreign to an actual encounter with God. (36:32)

Elihu’s words may be translated, “Its roaring announces concerning him. Domestic animals [a collective singular in Hebrew] [announce his] anger against injustice.” The rendering “injustice” is based on vowel pointing that differs from the Masoretic Text. If the vowel points of the Masoretic Text are followed, the reference would be to “one coming up” or to “what is coming up.” The Hebrew text could be understood to portray the rumble of thunder as announcing God’s coming for judgment and domestic animals, by their agitation, making known his coming in anger. Another possible meaning is to interpret the roaring to announce the coming of a storm and the domestic animals doing so by their changed behavior. The obscurity of the Hebrew text has given rise to numerous different renderings in modern translations. (36:33; see the Notes section for the renderings of modern translations and the wording of the Greek version of Theodotion.)

Notes

In verse 5, the expression “by no means” is a rendering that conveys the emphatic sense of two Greek words for “not.” According to the marks of Origin in the third century CE, the Greek wording of the phrase “mighty in strength of heart” was added from the version of Theodotion.

Based on the marks of Origen, the Greek text of verses 6 through 11 (with the exception of the initial phrase of verse 10) was added from the version of Theodotion. The wording of the Greek text is much like that of the extant Hebrew text. Without the additoin, the Septuagint reads, “Know, however, that the Lord will by no means reject the innocent one, but he will listen to the righteous one.” The expression “by no means” preserves the emphatic sense of the two Greek words for “not.” (36:5, 10)

The Greek text of verse 13, according to the marks of Origen, was added from the version of Theodotion.

In verse 15, the wording of the Septuagint rendering differs from that of the extant Hebrew text. God’s judgment upon the impious is to be expressed against them “because they oppressed the weak and the powerless one.” The concluding phrase may be rendered, “But he will make manifest the judgment of the meek.” This may point to an approved judgment from God for them.

The wording of verse 16, according to the marks of Origen, was added to the Greek text from the version of Theodotion. The rendering resembles the extant Hebrew text but conveys a somewhat different meaning. “And more than that, he diverted you out of the mouth of the enemy. An abyss — a pouring over underneath it. And your table full of fatness descended.” This obscure wording could be understood to mean that God maneuvered Job out of the “mouth of the enemy,” a mouth that was like an abyss with turbulent water at the bottom, and the former prosperity of Job had descended into this abyss.

In verse 19, the phrase about “strength” (“and all those fortifying strength”) is added to the Greek text from the version of Theodotion, but it is unrelated to the words of the Septuagint that precede it.

The wording of verse 20, according to the marks of Origen, was added to the Greek text from the version of Theodotion. It is similar to the reading of the extant Hebrew text and may be rendered, “You should not drag away [at] night [so that] peoples go up instead of them.” To convey a comprehensible meaning some have added “mighty men.” Peoples would be left unprotected and forced to go up or to depart instead of the mighty men who had already been dragged away at night.

In verse 21, the Septuagint rendering quotes Elihu as saying to Job, “But be on guard not to do inappropriate things” or to carry out wrongs. According to the marks of Origen, the remainder of the Greek text is an addition from the version of Theodotion. “For you have chosen for this one on account of poverty.” One way to link this phrase to the wording of the Septuagint would be to resort to an editorial change, making “this” refer to Job’s choosing to do “inappropriate” or wrong things because of the state of poverty to which he had been reduced.

The marks of Origen indicate that the initial phrase of verse 22 was added to the Greek text from the version of Theodotion. “Look, the Strong One will prevail [or will fortify] by his strength.”

According to the marks of Origen, the concluding phrase of the Greek text for verse 24 is added from the version of Theodotion. There is no mention of singing. The text refers to the “works” as ones “over which men ruled.” This could apply to man’s having been granted dominion over God’s earthly creative works. (Compare Psalm 8:5-8.)

Based on the marks of Origen, the Greek wording of the first phrase of verse 25 was added from the version of Theodotion. The phrase may be rendered, “Every man has seen for himself.” These words are followed by the rendering of the Septuagint (“how many mortals are being wounded”).

The Greek wording of verse 26, based on the marks of Origen, was added from the version of Theodotion. This wording differs from the extant Hebrew text. “Look, the Strong One [God] [is] great [literally, much or abundant], and we will not know [him], and the number of his years [is] also infinite.” These words of Elihu suggest that God is so great that humans simply cannot grasp this, and thus he remains incomprehensible to them.

In verse 27, the renderings in modern translations convey various meanings. “He forms the droplets of water, which cluster into rain, from His mist.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “He holds in check the waterdrops that filter in rain through his mists.” (NAB) “For he draws up the drops of water; he distills his mist in rain.” (NRSV) “He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the streams.” (NIV) “It is he who makes the raindrops small and pulverises the rain into mist.” (NJB)

According to the marks of Origen, the Greek text of the initial phrase of verse 28 was added from the version of Theodotion. This phrase may be rendered, “Age-old things will flow.” Perhaps the thought is that downpours can produce rushing streams that sweep vulnerable old things away. Additionally, the Septuagint contains an expanded text, which concludes the verse with words indicating that God “appointed an hour” or a time for domestic animals and that “they know” their appointed time of “rest.” This is followed by the rhetorical question, “Is not your mind astonished over all these things, and does not your heart depart from the body?” This suggests that the effect is so overwhelming as to make it seem that the “heart” or the thinking faculty leaves the body when the things perceived of God’s activity are of a nature that simply cannot be comprehended. It then appears as if the reasoning faculties have left the body.

The marks of Origen indicate that the Greek wording of verse 30 was added from the version of Theodotion. It reads, “Look, he [God] stretches out edo upon him, and he has covered the roots of the sea.” The word “edo” is a transliteration of the Hebrew expression rendered “his lightning.”

The wording of verses 31 through 33 is (according to the marks of Origen) an addition to the Greek text from the version of Theodotion. In verse 31, the Hebrew expression rendered “in abundance” consists of a preposition and the participial form of the verb kavár. The verb kavár means “to make many” or “to multiply,” and it is derived from the same root as a Hebrew word for “strong” or “mighty.” This is the apparent reason for the rendering of Theodotion, and the Greek wording may be translated, “For by them, he will judge peoples. He will give food to the strong one” (literally, “one being strong”).

The renderings of verse 33 in modern translations vary considerably. “Its noise tells of Him. The kindling of anger against iniquity.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Its crashing tells about him; he is jealous with anger against iniquity.” (NRSV) “Its crashing declares his presence; the cattle also declare that he rises.” (ESV) “His thunder speaks for him and incites the fury of the storm.” (NAB) “In his anger he calls up the tempest, and the thunder is the herald of its coming.” (REB) “His crashing gives warning of its coming, anger flashes out against iniquity.” (NJB) “His thunder announces the coming storm; even the cattle make known its approach.” (NIV) “And the thunder tells of his anger against sin.” (CEV)

A literal rendering of Theodotion’s Greek text of verse 33 is even more obscure than is the extant Hebrew text. “He will announce his friend concerning it, acquisition also concerning injustice.” A grammatical change would make the initial phrase understandable. “He [God] will proclaim to his friend concerning it” (possibly his coming for judgment). For the concluding phrase one could add the verb “exists.” “Acquisition” or “possession” exists “also concerning injustice.” This could be interpreted to mean that “injustice” leads to the acquisition or possession of God’s punitive judgment.