The fourth and last part of Elihu’s speech we hear in Job 36-37. It contains no quotation of what Job said. It is now about Who God is, the connection between God’s righteousness and His power over creation.
1 - 4 More Words in God’s Behalf
1 Then Elihu continued and said,
2 “Wait for me a little, and I will show you
That there is yet more to be said in God’s behalf.
3 “I will fetch my knowledge from afar,
And I will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.
4 “For truly my words are not false;
One who is perfect in knowledge is with you.
Elihu has not yet finished speaking and continues (verse 1). He has already made three speeches – just like Job and his friends – but he adds a fourth. He asks Job to wait a little and to listen to him (verse 2). He wants to tell in God’s behalf, what else he can show in His favor. A lot has already been said by him about God, but there is still more in his heart that he wants to pass on about Him, which will be of use to Job. These are not superfluous words. We will see that they are a wonderful introduction to the apparition of God to Job and His speaking to him immediately after Elihu has finished speaking.
Elihu says that he will “fetch from afar” his knowledge regarding God and His actions (verse 3). Thus, he will not speak from his own perceptions like his friends, not walk the paths that have been trodden, and not appeal to tradition. This means that he will not go back to a distant past, but will appeal to what lies beyond the human understanding. He appeals to God Himself, Who is far above man (Jer 23:23; 31:3), the Source of wisdom that comes from above (Jam 3:17).
With the knowledge he obtains from God, he will ascribe “righteousness” to Him Whom he calls “my Maker”. Anything that a person can say about God and do justice to Him can only happen if such a person has been informed about it by God. For the knowledge of God, we must be with Him. The condition of God’s knowledge of Himself is to acknowledge Him as his Maker.
In this way, in that state of mind, we will do God justice in our speaking. We do not seek our own honor, our own right, but His honor. Then we will be, like Elihu, a true servant of God. We can then be used by Him to give Him righteousness, that is to declare Him righteous in His actions. When we realize that, the consequence is that we trust Him. Then all doubt about His intentions will disappear and we will not accuse Him, however covered up, of injustice.
Before Elihu speaks about God, he again points out the importance of what he is going to say (verse 4). “For truly my words are not false.” He insists he’s telling the truth. His words are reliable and worthy of all acceptance. They are, to use Paul’s words, “of truth and rationality” (Acts 26:25, literal translation). Yet without restraint and at the same time without moderation, he can add that he is “perfect in knowledge”. There is nothing secretive in what he says, and there is no double ground in his words. He adds that he is with Job, saying once more that he is the same for God as Job (Job 33:6).
Elihu – he is that “one who” – does not owe his perfectness to himself, but to God; he has received it from Him, “from afar”, as he said in verse 3. He does not exalt himself there, but is with and beside Job, on the same level before God.
5 - 7 God Does Not Despise Any
5 “Behold, God is mighty but does not despise [any];
[He is] mighty in strength of understanding.
6 “He does not keep the wicked alive,
But gives justice to the afflicted.
7 “He does not withdraw His eyes from the righteous;
But with kings on the throne
He has seated them forever, and they are exalted.
In verse 5 Elihu begins to speak words that ascribes righteousness to his Maker as he said in verse 3. In amazement he exclaims that God is mighty and that Godliness or wickedness does not leave Him indifferent. That combination is very rare among people. Mighty people almost always despise those who have no power. God is not like that. God is mighty, but that doesn’t mean He despises the insignificant man. For the might of God lies in “the strength of understanding”. The word ‘understanding’ can also be translated as ‘wisdom’ or ‘reason’. It means that His strength lies in His love, His wisdom, His mind. Love, wisdom, reason underlie everything He does in His might. That is what makes Him so admirable!
His wisdom is mighty and powerful. This is expressed in His knowledge of the wicked and the afflicted (verse 6). He knows who is a wicked person and what to do with such a person, and He knows who the afflicted are and what to do with them. He does not let the wicked live, even if he seems to prosper and grow. He gives justice to the afflicted, though everything seems to be against them. Job is an afflicted one, so he may know that God will heed him and give him justice.
The righteous may experience that God takes His eyes off him, that He does not see him (this is so with Job). But God does not withdraw His eyes from him (verse 7). Elihu says that in a way that shows that God cannot, so much the righteous is in His interest (Psa 34:15a). He keeps a constant and close eye on him and watches him, even though the righteous may not always experience it. God knows that the righteous suffers and gives him His full attention.
In the end He will place them “with kings on the throne … forever”. Then He will lift them out of all misery and exalt them to a place of honor and reign that will never end. He will do this in the future (Rev 3:21; 20:4,6; 22:5). We see this in a way in the end of the Lord with Job (Job 42:10-17; Jam 5:11).
8 - 15 The Purpose of Oppression
8 “And if they are bound in fetters,
And are caught in the cords of affliction,
9 Then He declares to them their work
And their transgressions, that they have magnified themselves.
10 “He opens their ear to instruction,
And commands that they return from evil.
11 “If they hear and serve [Him],
They will end their days in prosperity
And their years in pleasures.
12 “But if they do not hear, they shall perish by the sword
And they will die without knowledge.
13 “But the godless in heart lay up anger;
They do not cry for help when He binds them.
14 “They die in youth,
And their life [perishes] among the cult prostitutes.
15 “He delivers the afflicted in their affliction,
And opens their ear in [time of] oppression.
Now it may still be so, that righteous people are bound and caught by affliction (verse 8). They cannot free themselves from it and cannot get away from it. They are, as it were, bound with fetters and cords (cf. Lam 3:7). Although it seems as if God is targeting them, it is precisely His loving concern for them. He acts with them because He is merciful and wants to make them realize this.
He thereby makes their work known to them (verse 9). He lets them know what they are doing, but that they do not involve Him in it. A situation has arisen in which the transgressions have “magnified themselves”. If transgressions have taken over, that means that God, by denouncing Him, no longer stands in the first place. Job has transgressed by blaming God for his misery. To return from evil means here: to acknowledge that God has the right to do with him according to His own wise intentions, even if he does not understand them.
Through the affliction that comes upon them, He wants to open their ears to His instruction or discipline (verse 10; cf. Job 33:16). Affliction aims to make man repent, to make him reflect on his former life, and to wonder why all this happens to him. Elihu does not look at the cause of the admonition – the friends did – but at its purpose. God speaks to them through the trial. Through what He brings to the righteous, He says that they must “return from evil”. That evil is that they do not involve Him in their lives.
First the positive result of God’s instruction is presented (verse 11). If the righteous listen to God’s voice in the trial, it will be seen in serving Him (again). God will get the first place again in the heart. As a result, they will enjoy prosperity for the remaining days of their lives. They will become “years in pleasures”, years full of everything that is pleasant. Job will experience this (Job 42:12,17). This is what the grace of God has in mind with trials.
But if people do not hear, they will perish (verse 12). These are people who appear to be righteous but are not. When they are tested, they do not submit to God’s will, but resist Him. They do not accept His instruction, which He brings upon them by means of discipline to draw them to Himself, but reject it. They perish “by the sword,” that is to say, they are taken away by sudden death.
They pass way without having submitted their spirit to God. Without knowledge of the ways God has gone with them and the discipline He has brought upon them for their sake, they die. In all that God has brought upon them, they have never seen an intention from on high. They never thought deeply about the usefulness of what happened to them. Job did. He did not understand God, but he did seek Him.
Nor is Job a man with a godless or hypocritical heart (verse 13). People with a hypocritical heart sin continuously. In their dissatisfaction they accumulate anger in their hearts; their anger about the course of events increases more and more. But there is no cry from them to God for help if He brings misery upon them and binds them with it. Instead of repenting to God, they rebel against Him. Job has constantly called for help in his affliction. This proves that Elihu does not mean him, but speaks of people who hold to a form of godliness, but deny its power (2Tim 3:5; Mt 15:6-9).
Such people will not live long, for they will die young (verse 14). This is in contrast to the blessing given to the righteous who hear and serve God (verse 11). They will also die an extraordinarily shameful death. In their death they will receive no honor, which they claimed for themselves in their hypocrisy during their lives. The way their lives end fits the way they have lived. They lived in depravity and that will also mark their end.
On the other hand, the afflicted in his affliction is delivered by God (verse 15). Job will experience this when he comes face to face with God. God will open his ear in the oppression in which he finds himself. He will make His intention known to him, so that he will understand why all this suffering has come upon him. God does not deliver the afflicted out of the affliction – which He will later do – but in the affliction. It means that God comes to him and supports him in his affliction and gives him comfort and strength to persevere. He delivers him from doubt, fear, and unbelief by turning his heart to Him.
16 - 21 The Application to Job
16 “Then indeed, He enticed you from the mouth of distress,
Instead of it, a broad place with no constraint;
And that which was set on your table was full of fatness.
17 “But you were full of judgment on the wicked;
Judgment and justice take hold [of you].
18 “[Beware] that wrath does not entice you to scoffing;
And do not let the greatness of the ransom turn you aside.
19 “Will your riches keep you from distress,
Or all the forces of [your] strength?
20 “Do not long for the night,
When people vanish in their place.
21 “Be careful, do not turn to evil,
For you have preferred this to affliction.
Elihu will now apply to Job the general principles of the government of God he has just described. Through the disasters that have come upon Job, God has enticed him “from the mouth of distress” (verse 16; cf. Hos 2:13). God has taken everything away from him in order to bring him to “a broad place with no constraint”. Now that Job has lost everything, God is free to do His work in Job. Job is physically depleted, but God presents him with food on his table that is full of fatness. Perhaps here we can think of a table in a spiritual sense. A table symbolizes fellowship. God wants that fellowship with Job, full fellowship.
Job is not there yet (verse 17). He is still “full” of something else, “of judgment on the wicked”. This trial and the justice dominate his thoughts, making him incapable of hearing God’s voice. In this way he behaves like a wicked person who does not listen to God’s voice either. Elihu did not say that Job was a wicked man, but warned him not to behave like one.
He warns him not to get so angry that he comes to scoff at God (verse 18). If he does not bow down, he can come to that. If he cannot control it and commits this evil, even a great ransom will not be able to avert the punishment which is then his share. He will then have to bear the consequences of his intransigence.
Job should not think that his riches gave him a certain protection against God (verse 19). He may – rightly – have seen his wealth as a proof of God’s goodness. He has also worked hard for it, and that hard work has been blessed by God. But did he not rely somewhat on his wealth and strength in the process? Has he seen it as a merit of his own rather than a favor from God? Has the thought occurred to him that God was also obliged to give him his riches?
Now that he has lost everything, he has not yet lost confidence in himself. But because he has lost everything and feels that he has lost God as well, he longs for the night (verse 20). By this he means that God must take him away. He has expressed this longing once before (Job 7:15). Elihu tells him not to do that anymore. Otherwise he will perish when the nations are driven out of their land and taken away into exile.
Let Job take care that he does not resort to evil, whether he commits it himself or joins those who commit evil (verse 21). It may offer a prospect of forgetting the misery, but over time it will become clear how much he has made a mistake. It is always a wrong choice to follow our natural tendencies instead of repenting and bowing before God (verse 16). And so Job is at a crossroads. What choice will he make?
22 - 25 Exalt God’s Work
22 “Behold, God is exalted in His power;
Who is a teacher like Him?
23 “Who has appointed Him His way,
And who has said, ‘You have done wrong’?
24 “Remember that you should exalt His work,
Of which men have sung.
25 “All men have seen it;
Man beholds from afar.
Elihu returns to his starting point (verse 5) and points out to Job the high exaltation that God has by His power. He is the Almighty God, Who holds everything under His control and controls everything according to His counsel. As far above man, He bends down to that puny man to teach him. He does so in an inimitable way. No one is equal to Him as a Teacher.
God teaches His teaching in the creation and in the lives of individuals. Elihu here says to Job, as it were, that God teaches him lessons in the exercise of His power. In all that God has brought about to Job, He shows that He wants to tell Job Who He is and who Job is. Job receives private lessons from God, because God is deeply interested in Job personally and caring about him.
God composes His lessons for Job, and every man, Himself (verse 23). No one prescribes them to Him. Nobody tells Him how He should teach, which practical exercises He should have performed. No one can say to Him that He adds injustice in the material He has for each person. He composes the package with the care that is proper to Him. He never commands anyone more than he or she can bear (1Cor 10:13). He knows us through and through and knows exactly what we need to learn and attunes the lessons accordingly. All His works are special lessons for us.
Therefore, it is fitting for Job that he exalts God’s work (verse 24) rather than complaining about it. God’s deeds invite us to sing about them. People have done this throughout the ages and it is fitting for us as well. That is why we have been created. Because of sin people don’t do that anymore. If we are saved by the blood of Christ, we have all the more reason to sing of God’s work in redemption.
“All men”, without exception, see the sun, the moon, and the stars; they see the storms, the rain, and the lightning (verse 25). In it they can perceive His exalted might. All men also see His work in the lives of other people when He brings them into trial, or in disasters in nature. In contrast, man is null and void. Elihu therefore speaks of “man”. He stands there, beholds it, and stands at a great, incalculable distance from it.
That distance is literally when it comes to celestial bodies. That distance is spiritual when it comes to what can strike a person personally. The friends saw the suffering of Job from afar (Job 2:12). The distance in kilometers did not stay, because they sat down with him. But the spiritual distance with respect to understanding Job’s suffering has remained.
26 - 29 God Is Exalted, and We Do Not Know Him
26 “Behold, God is exalted, and we do not know [Him];
The number of His years is unsearchable.
27 “For He draws up the drops of water,
They distill rain from the mist,
28 Which the clouds pour down,
They drip upon man abundantly.
29 “Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds,
The thundering of His pavilion?
How great God is cannot be understood by us (verse 26). Whether it is His strength and power, His wisdom and knowledge, His love and grace, His counsel and His purposes; we humans cannot grasp the extent of it. Also “the number of His years is unsearchable”, it cannot be fathomed by us, for He is eternal. It defines us in our smallness and limitation as creatures and in the folly of our attempts to understand God’s actions and the reasons for them.
The word “for” (verse 27) is the introduction to a number of examples that prove God’s greatness, omnipotence, and wisdom to mortals, as well as their inscrutability. Elihu begins with the origin of “the drops of water”, something that is clear to almost all people and all nations. But who is aware of how this happens, that God works in the way Elihu describes here? Imperceptible to man, God pulls up drops of water in the form of vapor through the heat of the sun (Psa 135:7; Amos 5:8). Then those drops are poured out over the earth in the form of rain.
Of the raised-up water drops He forms the clouds, by which He bundles the raised water as it were into clouds (verse 28). He also sets the course of the clouds so that the raindrops “drip upon man abundantly”, that is on their fields. Thus He cares for them and shows them His goodness (Mt 5:45b; Acts 14:17). Man can only observe, sometimes predict, but not understand how God works in this.
How the clouds spread under the heavens over the earth is also incomprehensible to man (verse 29). A cloud can start small and over time blacken the whole sky (1Kgs 18:44-45a). Who can understand how He expands the clouds, then dispels them and creates them somewhere else? Science can sometimes predict where and when there are clouds. But it cannot create or disperse the clouds, nor can it determine their course.
The clouds are for God as “His pavilion” (Psa 18:11; 97:2). From there He sends His commands and sounds the thunder of His voice. We can see this, but it is impossible for us to understand why God does it.
30 - 33 God Speaks in Lightning and Thunder
30 “Behold, He spreads His lightning about Him,
And He covers the depths of the sea.
31 “For by these He judges peoples;
He gives food in abundance.
32 “He covers [His] hands with the lightning,
And commands it to strike the mark.
33 “Its noise declares His presence;
The cattle also, concerning what is coming up.
During the thundering thunderstorm God spreads His light over the earth by lightning (verse 30). He does so in the high, in the sky. By “His lightning” He covers “the depths of the sea”. The depths – Hebrew: roots – of the sea are the darkest places and invisible to us. But these dark depths of the sea are not hidden from God, Who is light. God’s greatness is seen in the highest and lowest regions of creation. He is everywhere and He reigns everywhere. He is in the light of lightning and in the impenetrable darkness of the water depths.
He can use the rain to judge peoples by causing a flood (verse 31; cf. Gen 7:11,23). He may also use the rain as a blessing to moisten the land, so that corn and other agricultural products that depend on the rain grow well and there is “food in abundance”.
Lightning, which frightens us, is covered by His hands (verse 32). This means that lightning comes out of His hand and is guided by His hand to His purpose. He determines the purpose of lightning, where it hits the earth. We can wait for lightning, but never know when it will come, how it will go nor where it will go. The moment, the speed and the direction of lightning are unpredictable and inimitable for us.
When God gives rain, He announces it (verse 33). We hear rumbling in the distance and know that thunder is coming. That is His call. His call announces that He Himself is coming. The animals, the cattle, feel instinctively that a storm is approaching, which is noticeable by their behavior. Their behavior therefore also announces Him. The cattle react to His speaking and His coming. But man often does not recognize Him when He speaks and shows His presence.