Job 37:1-24

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The roaring or the rumbling of thunder that announced either God’s coming for judgment or the approaching of a storm apparently filled Elihu with fear. He is quoted as referring to his “heart” as trembling (or being “troubled” [Theodotion]) and to be so agitated as to appear to be leaping (flowing or dropping [Theodotion]) from “its place.” (37:1; see the Notes section.)

Referring to thunder as the voice of God, Elihu called upon Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Job to listen to the rumbling of this voice — the “growling” (or thunderous sound) that “comes from his mouth.” The Greek version of Theodotion conveys a somewhat different significance. “Hear a report [literally, hearing] in the wrath of the Lord’s fury. And a thought will come forth from his mouth.” This rendering appears to portray thunder as the “wrath of the Lord’s fury” and the means for making known what is to come. (37:2)

Elihu spoke of God as letting “it” or his thunderous voice go under “all the heavens” or the entire celestial dome. He then referred to God’s “lightning” (literally, “light”) as going to the “wings” or “extremities” of the earth. These “extremities” would be everywhere the land and the apparent celestial vault meet at the horizon. The Greek version of Theodotion refers to God’s rule as being “under all of heaven” or his dominion as extending over everything beneath the sky. Like the extant Hebrew text, the version of Theodotion indicates where the light goes, “and his light upon the wings [or extremities] of the earth.” (37:3)

“After it” (the “light” or “lightning”), a “sound roars.” Elihu perceived this as God thundering with his majestic voice. The plural pronominal suffix (“them”) may refer to thunderbolts, and Elihu appears to have referred to God as not restraining them when his voice is being heard. (37:4; see the Notes section regarding the version of Theodotion.)

Greatly impressed by the sound of thunder, Elihu spoke of God as thundering wondrously with his voice. Thereafter he referred to God as doing “great things” that were beyond the comprehension of humans. The version of Theodotion identifies God as the “Strong One” or “Mighty One” and refers to him as thundering “wondrous things with his voice” or making known things that give rise to astonishment. This phrase about the “Strong One” is followed by the words of the Septuagint. “For he has done great things which we did not know” or comprehend. (37:5)

Elihu represented God as telling snow to fall on the earth and also showers (literally, a “shower of rain”) and torrential downpours (literally, “shower of rains of his strength”) to do so. The Septuagint says regarding God, “He commands snow, ‘Come upon the earth.’” These words (according to the marks of Origen) are then followed by the Greek text from the version of Theodotion. Rahlfs’ printed Greek text may be translated, “and winter rain and winter rains of his strength.” (37:6)

Elihu referred to God as sealing up “in” or “on” the “hand of every man” or “earthling.” In view of the previous mention of snow and downpours, the sealing up relating to the hand may apply to stopping humans from carrying out their activities because of unfavorable weather conditions. By the way in which they are affected, “all mortals” come to know God’s work. Without the addition from the text of the Greek version of Theodotion, the Septuagint rendering indicates that God’s causing snow to fall upon the earth serves to show to every man “his own weakness.” This could be because snow can hinder or stop people from carrying on their customary labors. Modern translations interpretively render the extant Hebrew text in ways that are not explicitly expressed therein. “He [God] brings all human activity to standstill, for everyone to acknowledge his work.” (NJB) “He shuts everyone fast indoors, and all whom he has made are quiet.” (REB) “He shuts up all mankind indoors.” (NAB) “So that all men he has made may know his work, he stops every man from his labor.” (NIV) (37:7; see the Notes section.)

If verse 7 is correctly understood as applying to the effect of snow and downpours or cold winter weather on humans, this would also apply to animals. “Beasts” (a collective singular in Hebrew) go into their “lairs” or lurking places and stay in their dens. Possibly the reference is to wild animals that hibernate during the winter. The Septuagint rendering may be translated, “But the beasts went in under shelter and remained quiet in their den.” (37:8)

Elihu spoke of a windstorm coming from its “chamber” and “cold” from “scatterings,” probably referring to strong winds that cause damage and scatter wreckage. Fierce winter winds from the north bring bone-chilling cold. The “windstorm” from the chamber could refer to a strong wind from the south. According to the Septuagint, “whirlwinds come out of their chambers, and cold from mountain peaks.” (37:9)

Elihu attributed the giving of “ice” to the “breath of God.” The reference to the “breadth of waters” being “in constraint” probably means that streams, rivers, and lakes have become covered with ice. A number of modern translations make this significance explicit in their renderings. “And the breath of God freezes streams and rivers.” (CEV) “The breath of God produces ice, and the broad waters become frozen.” (NIV) “By the breath of God the ice is formed, and the wide waters are frozen hard.” (REB) (37:10; see the Notes section.)

Elihu’s words literally could be rendered, “Surely with moisture, he [God] burdens a cloud [‘av]; he scatters a cloud [‘anán] of his light.” The apparent thought is that God causes a cloud mass to be filled with moisture as if weighing it down. This would signify that rain was the forced release of the burdensome load. The expression “cloud of light” may designate a cloud formation from which lightning proceeds. Elihu’s words may be understood to indicate that God scatters or disperses such a cloud mass. Modern translations vary in the interpretive meanings they convey. “He loads the clouds with moisture; he scatters his lightning through them.” (NIV) “With hail, also, the clouds are laden, as they scatter their flashes of light.” (NAB) “He hurls lightning from the dense clouds, and the clouds spread his light.” (REB) “Rain clouds filled with lightning appear at God’s command.” (CEV) (37:11; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Elihu represented God as “turning by his direction” (tachbuláh [tachbulóhth]). The Hebrew word (tachbuláh [tachbulóhth]) is commonly thought to be a nautical term that basically relates to steering a ship. In the previous verse mention was made of a “cloud” (‘av) and a “cloud [‘anán] of his light.” Both Hebrew words in verse 11 are singular and can be rendered “cloud” or “cloud mass.” When referring to the purpose of God’s direction, verse 12 includes the expression that may be translated “he commands them,” with “them” being the rendering of a masculine third person plural suffix. The Hebrew words ‘av and ‘anán for “cloud” or “cloud mass” are also masculine gender. This provides a measure of support for the conclusion that the “turning” by God’s direction relates to clouds and, in view of the expression “cloud of light,” the use of the plural suffix (“them”) could also include lightning. Elihu referred to the “turning” by God’s “direction,” guidance, or steering to be the carrying out of “all that he commands them [probably the clouds, if not also the lightning] on the face of the habitable earth [or land].” (37:12; see the Notes section.)

What God uses for the purpose of causing to come or to happen is not expressed in the text. Based on the previous mention of rain, wind, clouds, and light or lightning, one may conclude that the agents God is portrayed as using include rain, hail, storms, and lightning. It can be “for a rod” of discipline, instruction, or correction as when severe storms damage crops and cause extensive flooding. In this case, the Greek text of Theodotion reads, “for discipline” or “for instruction.” Rain can be for “his land,” all the land that belongs to God by reason of his being its Creator. “His land” benefits from precipitation, for rain provides the needed water for crops to grow and to flourish. When rainfall brings an end to periods of drought or comes at the right time for crops, this development may be included in what is meant by the words “for kindness” or “for mercy.” Essential rain would have been perceived as an evidence of God’s compassion for humans and animals. The concluding phrase in the Greek version of Theodotion may be translated, “he will find him.” Possibly this could mean that God will find man or humans either to discipline or to extend mercy. (37:13; see the Notes section.)

Elihu called upon Job to “give ear to this,” probably meaning that he should listen to what he was about to say regarding the things God’s works reveal. He asked Job to “stand,” or to put himself in a position that would enable him to give undivided attention, and to consider the “wondrous works of God.” According to the Septuagint, Elihu directed Job to let himself be admonished through the “power of the Lord” or the activity that revealed his power. (37:14)

One of the “wondrous works of God” to which Elihu drew attention by means of a rhetorical question related to “light” or “lightning.” There is a measure of obscurity in the wording of the Hebrew question. “Do you know [how] God lays [commands] upon them and causes the light of his cloud to shine?” Possibly the question relates to how God directs or governs the clouds and causes lightning to flash from “his cloud” or the cloud mass that is under his control. In the Septuagint, the thought is clearly expressed, but the meaning differs from what the wording of the extant Hebrew text would allow. “We know that God established his works, making light out of darkness.” Modern translations vary in their renderings of the Hebrew text. “Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash?” (NIV) “Do you know how God lays his commands upon them, and makes the light shine forth from his clouds?” (NAB) “Do you know how God controls them or how his clouds make the lightning flash?” (NJB) “Do you know how God assigns them their tasks, how he sends light flashing from his clouds?” (REB) “Can you explain why lightning flashes at the orders of God who knows all things?” (CEV) (37:15)

To stress what Job did not know, Elihu directed another rhetorical question to him, “Do you know the floatings [plural of miphlás] of a cloud [or cloud mass], the wondrous works of the one complete [or perfect] in knowledge [plural in Hebrew, possibly to indicate all aspects of knowledge]?” There is a measure of uncertainty about the meaning of the Hebrew word miphlás, with “floating” being one suggested significance. Other possible meanings include “balancing,” “hovering,” “swaying,” and “poising.” The question appears to be whether Job could explain how a cloud containing water remains high above the land and does not come crashing down from above. This was yet another example of what Elihu regarded as one of God’s amazing works. According to the Septuagint rendering, God understands the “dissolution” (“separation” or “division”) of clouds, possibly meaning how they seem to separate from a mass. The concluding phrase departs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. It refers to the falls that wicked ones experience as something extraordinary. (37:16)

Another work of God about which Elihu spoke to Job was the effect of a development from the “south.” A wind from the south passing over the dry desert brought hot weather. Job would find his garments to be uncomfortably hot, and the “earth” or land would be still. Stifling heat would greatly limit or end much of human activity and the usual noise that accompanied it. As a result, there would be quiet in the land. The Septuagint indicates that Job’s robe would be hot; and “upon the earth” or land, there would be quiet. (37:17)

Elihu perceived the “heavens” or the sky to be a celestial dome or vault that resembled a tent above the land. Therefore, he asked Job whether he, with or like God, could spread out the “heavens.” To Elihu’s eyes, the celestial vault appeared like a solid expanse. This is the reason he is quoted as describing the “heavens” as being “firm” or “hard” like a metal mirror. Elihu’s words may also allude to the changed appearance of the sky during long periods of drought. The dust-filled air makes the sky look like the surface of a metal mirror. (37:18; compare Deuteronomy 28:23 and see the Notes section.)

Seemingly because Job had expressed his desire to make his defense before God, Elihu said to him, “Make known to us what we should say to him.” The implication of the next phrase is that he and the others present had no knowledge as to what they could possibly say to God in presenting a defense. “We cannot set forth [a case] on account of darkness” or because of our ignorance as to how we should argue our case. (37:19; see the Notes section.)

Elihu raised the question as to whether God should be “told” (saphár) that he, Elihu, would speak, presenting his case before him. In Elihu’s view, this would have been the height of folly. It would be like asking for one’s own destruction. This appears to be the implication of Elihu’s words about whether a man would ever wish to be “swallowed up.” (37:20; see the Notes section.)

The “light” that is described as “brilliant” may be understood to refer to the sun. For people not to be able to see the sun or to look upon it would be either because the cloud covering hides it from view or because it is too bright for humans to behold. Regarding what happens after a wind passes, the text says that it “makes them [the heavens] clean.” The dark clouds are blown away, transforming the appearance of the “heavens” or the skies to that of a blue dome from which the sun is seen to shine brightly. Modern translations vary in representing the reference to be either to an existing clear sky or initially to a cloud-covered sky. “Now, then, one cannot see the sun, though it be bright in the heavens, until the wind comes and clears them [of clouds].” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition) “Nay, rather, it is as the light which men see not while it is obscured among the clouds, till the wind comes by and sweeps the clouds away.” (NAB) “At one moment the light is not seen, being overcast with cloud; then the wind passes by and clears it away.” (REB) “There are times when the light vanishes, behind darkening clouds; then comes the wind, sweeping them away.” (NJB) “Now, no one can look on the light when it is bright in the skies, when the wind has passed and cleared them.” (NRSV) “Now no one can look at the sun, bright as it is in the skies after the wind has swept them clean.” (NIV) “No one can stare at the sun after a breeze has blown the clouds from the sky.” (CEV) (37:21; see the Notes section.)

In the Hebrew text, zaháv is referred to as arriving from the “north.” The word zaháv is the designation for “gold.” In this context, the meaning appears to be something that resembles “gold.” Elihu is then quoted as attributing fear-inspiring or awe-inspiring majesty to God. Translators vary in their renderings of this verse. “Out of the north he comes in golden splendor; God comes in awesome majesty.” (NIV) “And a golden glow comes from the north.” (REB) “By the north wind the golden rays emerge; the splendor about God is awesome.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “From the North the splendor comes, surrounding God’s awesome majesty.” (NAB) “Yet the glorious splendor of God All-Powerful is brighter by far [than the sun].” (CEV) The Septuagint text may be rendered, “From the north [are] clouds shining like gold; upon these, great [are] the glory and honor of the Almighty.” (37:22)

The Almighty is far above humans. Elihu said of him that “we [humans] cannot find him.” He is beyond reach and discovery. The Almighty is “great in power.” His might is unequaled, but it is never misused or misapplied. All his dealings are just. “He will not mishandle judgment and abundant righteousness.” The Septuagint rendering represents Elihu as saying that “we [humans] do not find another like him in strength, him who judges the righteous things [or who judges rightly]; do you not think that he hears” or gives heed? (37:23)

“Therefore,” because of who the Almighty is and what he does and has done, men or “mortals” should “fear him” or be in reverential awe before him. His not seeing any who are “wise of heart” suggests that he would not give them any attention or special consideration. In this context, the “wise of heart” appear to be persons who regarded themselves as possessing reasoning faculties, understanding, and knowledge far above the masses of humanity. They would be arrogant persons with whom God had no relationship. According to the Septuagint, “men” or humans “will fear him, and also the wise in heart will fear him.” (37:24)


The wording of verses 1 through 4 and the initial phrase of verse 5 is not contained in the Septuagint. According to the marks of Origen, this section was added from the Greek version of Theodotion.

In verse 4, the Greek pronoun in the version of Theodotion that follows the word for “behind” or “after” is autou, which may be rendered either “him” or “it.” The initial phrase has commonly been translated to apply to God. “Behind him, a voice will cry out.” It seems more in keeping with the context, however, that the reference is to “light” or “lightning” (a neuter noun) in verse 3. This could then be understood to mean that the sound of thunder is heard after the lightning is seen. Regarding God, the additional words of Theodotion’s Greek text may be translated, “He will thunder with a voice of his pride, and he will not change them because one will hear his voice.” Just what God would not change is not apparent from the context.

According to the marks of Origen, the initial phrase of verse 7 was added from the Greek version of Theodotion (“he seals up in the hand of every man”).

The marks of Origen identify the initial phrase of the Greek text in verse 10 to have been added from the version of Theodotion. This phrase indicates that “from the breath of the Strong One” or God “frost” would be given. The concluding phrase is from the Septuagint. “And he governs the water as he wishes.”

The Greek wording of verses 11 and 12 is (according to the marks of Origen) added from the version of Theodotion. Verse 11 may be translated, “And a cloud plasters over [or covers] a chosen one [or a chosen or choice thing); his light will scatter [or disperse] a cloud.” Perhaps the thought is that God protectively covers as with a cloud the individual whom he approves (a “chosen one”), and light from him disperses a cloud covering that earlier changed the brightness of day into gloomy darkness. By adding words to the Greek text, a number of translators convey a different meaning. “And [if] a cloud covers a choice thing [something precious to God], his light will disperse the cloud.”

In verse 12, the part added from the Greek text of Theodotion differs somewhat from the reading of the extant Hebrew text and does not covey a comprehensible meaning. “He [God] will turn circles by theeboulatho to their works. Everything which he commands them …” Thereafter the text of Septuagint continues with the words, “these things ordered by him on the earth.” The expression theeboulatho is a transliteration of the Hebrew word that has been defined as “direction,” “guidance,” or “steering.”

The marks of Origen identify the Greek text of verse 13 to have been added from the version of Theodotion.

The wording of verse 18 of the Greek text is not from the Septuagint. Origen marked it as having been added from the version of Theodotion. “Will you make firm with him in ancient things, strong things like an appearance of [something] poured out?” Ancient things could relate to God’s creations of long ago and, in this context, could include the “heavens.” The celestial dome appears like something strong or solid that initially had been poured out as a liquid and then hardened. If this is the significance, the implied answer to the rhetorical question would be that Job could have no part in making ancient things firm.

Without the insertion of the Greek text from the version of Theodotion, the concluding phrase of verse 17 and the text of verse 19 may be translated, “But there is quiet upon the earth” or the land. “Why? Teach me what we shall say to him [God], and let us cease [from] speaking much.”

In verse 20, the initial phrase contains a form of the Hebrew verb saphár. This verb basically means “to count” or “to number.” In this context, however, it means “to tell” or “to relate.” The translator of the Septuagint appears to have read the verb as a noun and rendered the Hebrew text as though it read sépher (book or scroll) and saphér (scribe). “Is there a scroll [bíblos] or scribe [grammateús] present with me that, standing, I should silence a man?” These words could be understood as raising the question as to whether he had a source that would assist him to formulate an argument that would win against a man. The implication would be that, if he had no such source to silence a man, he could not possibly succeed in making a defense before God.

In verse 21 of the Septuagint, the Greek text is mixed. The initial phrase from the Septuagint is, “But the light is not visible to everyone.” The words from the version of Theodotion follow, “It is bright among the age-old things …” Then the wording of the Septuagint concludes the verse (“as that from him [is] on the clouds,” possibly meaning the brightness that is from God).