Job 34

CHAPTER XXXIV

Elihu begins with an exhortation to Job's friends, 1-4;

charges Job with accusing God of acting unrighteously, which

he shows is impossible, 5-12;

points out the power and judgments of the Almighty, 13-30;

shows how men should address God, and how irreverently Job has

acted, 31-37.

NOTES ON CHAP. XXXIV

Verse 3. The ear trieth words] I do not think, with Calmet, that

the inward ear, or judgment, is meant simply. The Asiatics valued

themselves on the nice and harmonious collection of words, both in

speaking and in writing; and perhaps it will be found here that

Elihu labours as much for harmonious versification as for pious

and weighty sentiments. To connect sense with sound was an object

of general pursuit among the Hebrew, Arabic, and Persian poets;

and so fond are the latter of euphony, that they often sacrifice

both sense and sentiment to it; and some of the Greek poets are

not exempt from this fault.

Verse 4. Let us choose to us judgment] Let us not seek the

applause of men, nor contend for victory. Let our aim be to obtain

correct views and notions of all things; and let us labour to find

out what is good.

Verse 5. Job hath said, I am righteous] Job had certainly said

the words attributed to him by Elihu, particularly in Job 27:2,

&c., but it was in vindication of his aspersed character that he

had asserted his own righteousness, and in a different sense to

that in which Elihu appears to take it up. He asserted that he was

righteous quoad the charges his friends had brought against him.

And he never intimated that he had at all times a pure heart, and

had never transgressed the laws of his Maker. It is true also that

he said, God hath taken away my judgment; but he most obviously

does not mean to charge God with injustice, but to show that he

had dealt with him in a way wholly mysterious, and not according

to the ordinary dispensations of his providence; and that he did

not interpose in his behalf, while his friends were overwhelming

him with obloquy and reproach.

Verse 6. Should I lie against my right?] Should I acknowledge

myself the sinner which they paint me, and thus lie against my

right to assert and maintain my innocence?

My wound is incurable without transgression.] If this

translation is correct, the meaning of the place is sufficiently

evident. In the tribulation which I endure, I am treated as if I

were the worst of culprits; and I labour under incurable maladies

and privations, though without any cause on my part for such

treatment. This was all most perfectly true; it is the testimony

which God himself gives of Job, that "he was a perfect and upright

man, fearing God and eschewing evil;" and that "Satan had moved

the Lord against him, to destroy him, WITHOUT A CAUSE. See

Job 1:1; 2:3.

The Chaldee translates thus:-

"On account of my judgment, I will make the son of man a liar,

who sends forth arrows without sin."

Mr. Good thus:-

"Concerning my cause I am slandered;

He hath reversed my lot without a trespass."

The latter clause is the most deficient, ; Miss

Smith's translation of which is the best I have met with: "A man

cut off, without transgression." The word chitstsi, which we

translate my wound, signifies more literally, my arrow; and if we

take it as a contracted noun, chitstsey for chitstsim,

it means calamities. anush, which we translate incurable,

may be the noun enosh, wicked, miserable man; and then the whole

may be read thus: "A man of calamities without transgression." I

suffer the punishment of an enemy to God, while free from

transgression of this kind.

Verse 7. Drinketh up scorning like water?] This is a repetition

of the charge made against Job by Eliphaz, Job 15:16. It is a

proverbial expression, and seems to be formed, as a metaphor, from

a camel drinking, who takes in a large draught of water, even the

most turbid, on its setting out on a journey in a caravan, that it

may serve it for a long time. Job deals largely in scorning; he

fills his heart with it.

Verse 8. Which goeth in company with the workers of iniquity]

This is an allusion to a caravan: all kinds of persons are found

there; but yet a holy and respectable man might be found in that

part of the company where profligates assembled. But surely this

assertion of Elihu was not strictly true; and the words literally

translated, will bear a less evil meaning: "Job makes a track

arach, to join fellowship, lechebrah, with the workers

of iniquity;" i.e., Job's present mode of reasoning, when he says,

"I am righteous, yet God hath taken away my judgment," is

according to the assertion of sinners, who say, "There is no

profit in serving God; for, if a man be righteous, he is not

benefited by it, for God does not vindicate a just man's cause

against his oppressors." By adopting so much of their creed, he

intimates that Job is taking the steps that lead to fellowship

with them. See Job 34:9.

Verse 10. Far be it from God] Rather, Wickedness, far be that

from God; and from iniquity, the Almighty. The sense is

sufficiently evident without the paraphrase in our version.

Verse 11. For the work of a man shall he render] God ever will

do justice; the righteous shall never be forsaken, nor shall the

wicked ultimately prosper.

Verse 13. Who hath given him a charge] Who is it that governs

the world? Is it not God? Who disposes of all things in it? Is it

not the Almighty, by his just and merciful providence? The

government of the world shows the care, the justice, and the mercy

of God.

Verse 14. If he set his heart upon man] I think this and the

following verse should be read thus:-"If he set his heart upon

man, he will gather his soul and breath to himself; for all flesh

shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust." On

whomsoever God sets his heart, that is, his love, though his body

shall perish and turn to dust, like the rest of men, yet his soul

will God gather to himself.

Verse 17. Shall-he that hateth right govern?] Or, Shall he who

hateth judgment, lie under obligation? It is preposterous to

suppose that he who lives by no rule, should impose rules upon

others. God, who is the fountain of all justice and righteousness,

binds man by his laws; and wilt thou, therefore, pretend to

condemn him who is the sum of righteousness?

Verse 18. Is it fit to say to a king, Thou art wicked?] The

sentence is very short, and is thus translated by the VULGATE: Qui

dicit regi, Apostata? Qui vocat duces impios? "Who says to a king,

Apostate? Who calls leaders impious ?" Literally, Who calls a king

Belial? Who calls princes wicked? Civil governors should be

treated with respect; no man should speak evil of the ruler of the

people. This should never be permitted. Even where the man cannot

be respected, because his moral conduct is improper, even there

the office is sacred, and should be reverenced. He who permits

himself to talk against the man, would destroy the office and

authority, if he could.

Verse 19. That accepteth not] If it be utterly improper to speak

against a king or civil governor, how much more so to speak

disrespectfully of God, who is not influenced by human caprices or

considerations, and who regards the rich and the poor alike, being

equally his creatures, and equally dependent on his providence and

mercy for their support and salvation.

Verse 20. In a moment shall they die] Both are equally dependent

on the Almighty for their breath and being; the mighty as well as

the poor. If the great men of the earth have abused their power,

he sometimes cuts them off by the most sudden and unexpected

death; and even at midnight, when in security, and least capable

of defence, they are cut off by the people whom they have

oppressed, or by the invisible hand of the angel of death. This

appears to be spoken in reference to Eastern tyrants, who seldom

die a natural death.

Verse 22. There is no darkness] In this life; and no shadow of

death in the other world-no annihilation in which the workers of

iniquity may hide themselves, or take refuge.

Verse 23. For he will not lay upon man] The meaning appears to

be this: He will not call man a second time into judgment; he does

not try a cause twice; his decisions are just, and his sentence

without appeal.

Mr. Good translates:-

"Behold, not to man hath he intrusted the time

Of coming into judgment with God."

Man's time is not in his own hand; nor is his lot cast or ruled

by his own wisdom and power. When God thinks best, he will judge

for him; and, if oppressed or calumniated, he will bring forth his

righteousness as the light, and do him justice on his adversaries.

Verse 24. He shall break in pieces] In multitudes of cases God

depresses the proud, and raises up the humble and meek. Neither

their strength nor number can afford them security.

Verse 25. He knoweth their works] He knows what they have done,

and what they are plotting to do.

He overturneth them in the night] In the revolution of a single

night the plenitude of power on which the day closed is

annihilated. See the cases of Belshazzar and Babylon.

Verse 26. He striketh them as wicked men] At other times he

executes his judgments more openly; and they are suddenly

destroyed in the sight of the people.

Verse 27. Because they turned back] This is the reason why he

has dealt with them in judgment. They had departed from him in

their hearts, their moral conduct, and their civil government.

He is speaking of corrupt and tyrannical rulers. And they did not,

would not, understand any of his ways.

Verse 28. So that they cause the cry of the poor] They were

cruel and oppressive: the poor cried through their distresses, and

against their oppressors; and God heard the cry of the poor.

Nothing so dreadful appears in the court of heaven against an

unfeeling, hardhearted, and cruel man of power, as the prayers,

tears, and groans of the poor.

In times of little liberality, when some men thought they did

God service by persecuting those who did not exactly receive their

creed, nor worship God in their way, a certain great man in

Scotland grievously persecuted his tenants, because they had

religious meetings in private houses out of the order of the

establishment; though he never molested them when they spent their

time and their money in the alehouse. A holy, simple woman, one of

those people, went one morning to the house of the great

persecutor, and desired to speak with him. The servant desired to

know her message, and he would deliver it; for she could not be

admitted. She told him she could deliver her message to none but

his master; said it was a matter of great importance, and

concerned himself intimately, and alone. The servant having

delivered this message, and stated that the woman appeared to have

something particular on her mind, his worship condescended to see

her. "What is your business with me?" said he, in a haughty,

overbearing tone. To which she answered, "Sir, we are a hantle o'

puir folk at ___, who are strivin' to sairve God accordin' to our

ain conscience, and to get our sauls sav'd: yee persecute us; and

I am come to beg yee to let us alane, and in ye dinna, we'll pray

yee dead." This rhetoric was irresistible. His lordship did not

know what influence such people might have in heaven; he did not

like to put such prayers to the proof; wisely took the old woman's

advice, and e'en let them alane. He was safe; they were satisfied;

and God had the glory. When the poor refer their cause to God, he

is a terrible avenger. Let the potsherds strive with the potsherds

of the earth; but wo to the man that contendeth with his Maker.

Verse 29. When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?]

How beautiful is this sentiment, and how true! He ever acts as a

sovereign, but his actions are all wise and just. If he give

quietness, who dares to give trouble? And if he give to every

human being the right to worship himself according to their

conscience, for the director of which he gives both his word and

his Spirit, who shall dare to say to another, "Thou shalt worship

God in my way, or not at all;" or, through a pretended liberality,

say, "Thou shalt be tolerated to worship him so and so;" and even

that toleration be shackled and limited?

Reader, thou hast as much right to tolerate another's mode of

worship as he has to tolerate thine: or, in other words, neither

of you have any such right at all; the pretension is as absurd as

it is wicked.

If, however, there be any thing in the religious practice of any

particular people that is inimical, by fair construction, to the

peace of the country, then the civil power may interfere, as they

ought to do in all cases of insurrection; but let no such

inference be drawn when not most obviously flowing from the

practice of the people, and the principles they profess; and when

solemnly disclaimed by the persons in question. Whatever converts

sinners from the error of their ways must be good to society and

profitable to the state.

Whether it be done against a nation] He defends and supports

nations or individuals howsoever weak, against their enemies,

howsoever numerous and powerful. He destroys nations or

individuals who have filled up the measure of their political or

moral iniquity, though all other nations and individuals stand up

in their support.

Verse 30. That the hypocrite reign not] The Vulgate translates,

Who causes a wicked man to reign because of the sins of the

people. This was precisely the defense which Hegiage, the

oppressive ruler of the Babylonian Irak, under the caliph Abdul

Malec, made when he found the people in a state of insurrection.

See at the end of the chapter. See Clarke on Job 34:37.

Verse 31. Surely it is meet to be said unto God] This is Elihu's

exhortation to Job: Humble thyself before God, and say, "I have

suffered-I will not offend."

Verse 32. That which I see not] "What I do not know, teach thou

me; wherein I have done iniquity, I will do so no more."

Verse 33. According to thy mind? he will recompense it] Mr. Good

renders the whole passage thus:-

"Then in the presence of thy tribes

According as thou art bruised shall he make it whole.

But it is thine to choose, and not mine;

So, what thou determinest, say."

This may at least be considered a paraphrase on the very obscure

original. If thou wilt not thus come unto him, he will act

according to justice, whether that be for or against thee. Choose

what part thou wilt take, to humble thyself under the mighty hand

of God, or still persist in thy supposed integrity. Speak,

therefore; the matter concerns thee, not me; but let me know what

thou art determined to do.

Verse 34. Let men of understanding tell me] I wish to converse

with wise men; and by men of wisdom I wish what I have said to be

judged.

Verse 35. Job hath spoken without knowledge] There is no good in

arguing with a self-willed, self-conceited man. Job has spoken

like a man destitute of wisdom and discretion.

Verse 36. My desire is that Job may be tried unto the end]

abi yibbachen Aiyob, "My father, let Job be tried." So

the VULGATE, Pater mi, probetur Job. But it may be as in the

common translation, I wish Job to be tried; or, as Mr. Good

renders it, Verily, let Job be pursued to conquest for replying

like wicked men.

This is a very harsh wish: but the whole chapter is in the same

spirit; nearly destitute of mildness and compassion. Who could

suppose that such arguings could come out of the mouth of the

loving Saviour of mankind? The reader will recollect that a very

pious divine has supposed Elihu to be Jesus Christ!

Verse 37. He addeth rebellion unto his sin] An ill-natured,

cruel, and unfounded assertion, borne out by nothing which Job had

ever said or intended; and indeed, more severe than the most

inveterate of his friends (so called) had ever spoken.

Mr. Good makes this virulent conclusion still more virulent and

uncharitable, by translating thus:-

"For he would add to his transgressions apostasy;

He would clap his hands in the midst of us:

Yea, he would tempest his words up to God."

There was no need of adding a caustic here; the words in the

tamest translation are tart enough. Though Elihu began well and

tolerantly, he soon got into the spirit, and under the mistake, of

those who had preceded him in this "tempest of words."

ON Job 34:30 I have referred to the case of Hegiage, governor

of the Babylonian Irak, under the caliph Abdul Malec. When Hegiage

was informed that the people were in a state of mutiny because of

his oppressive government, before they broke out into open acts of

hostility, he mounted on an eminence, and thus harangued them:-

"God has given me dominion over you; if I exercise it with

severity, think not that by putting me to death your condition

will be mended. From the manner in which you live you must be

always ill-treated, for God has many executors of his justice; and

when I am dead he will send you another, who will probably execute

his orders against you with more rigour. Do you wish your prince

to be moderate and merciful? Then exercise righteousness, and be

obedient to the laws. Consider that your own conduct is the cause

of the good or evil treatment which you receive from him. A prince

may be compared to a mirror; all that you see in him is the

reflection of the objects which you present before him."

The people immediately dropped their weapons, and quietly

returned to their respective avocations. This man was one of the

most valiant, eloquent, and cruel rulers of his time; he lived

towards the close of the 7th century of the Christian era. He is

said to have put to death 120,000 people; and to have had 50,000

in his prisons at the time of his decease.

Yet this man was capable of generous actions. The following

anecdote is given by the celebrated Persian poet Jami, in his

Baharistan:-

Hegiage, having been separated from his attendants one day in

the chase, came to a place where he found an Arab feeding his

camels. The camels starting at his sudden approach, the Arab

lifted up his head, and seeing a man splendidly arrayed, became

incensed, and said, Who is this who with his fine clothes comes

into the desert to frighten my camels? The curse of Good light

upon him! The governor, approaching the Arab, saluted him very

civilly, with the salaam, Peace be unto thee! The Arab, far from

returning the salutation, said, I wish thee neither peace, nor any

other blessing of God. Hegiage, without seeming to heed what he

had said, asked him very civilly "to give him a little water to

drink." The Arab in a surly tone, answered, If thou desirest to

drink, take the pains to alight, and draw for thyself; for I am

neither thy companion nor thy slave. The governor accordingly

alighted, and having drank, asked the Arab, "Whom dost thou think

the greatest and most excellent of men?" The prophet sent by God,

said the Arab, and thou mayest burst with spleen. "And what

thinkest thou of Aaly?" returned Hegiage. No tongue can declare

his excellence, said the Arab. "What," asked Hegiage, "is thy

opinion of the caliph Abdul Malec?" I believe him to be a very bad

prince, replied the Arab. "For what reason?" said Hegiage.

Because, said the Arab, he hath sent us for governor the most

execrable wretch under heaven. Hegiage, finding himself thus

characterized, was silent; but his attendants coming up, he

rejoined them, and ordered them to bring the Arab with them.

The next day Hegiage ordered him to be set at table with

himself, and bade him "eat freely." The Arab, ere he tasted, said

his usual grace, "God grant that the end of this repast may be no

worse than the beginning!" While at meat the governor asked him,

"Dost thou recollect the discourse we had together yesterday?" The

Arab replied, God prosper thee in all things! but as to the secret

of yesterday, take heed that thou disclose it not to-day. "I will

not," said Hegiage; "but thou must choose one of these two things;

either acknowledge me for thy master, and I will retain thee about

my person; or else I will send thee to Abdul Malec, and tell him

what thou hast said of him." There is a third course, replied the

Arab, preferable to those two. "Well, what is that?" said the

governor. Why, send me back to the desert, and pray God that we

may never see each other's face again. Cruel and vindictive as

Hegiage was, he could not help being pleased with the frankness

and courage of the man; and not only forgave him the preceding

insults but ordered him 10,000 pieces of silver, and sent him back

to the desert, according to his wish.

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