Job 36

CHAPTER XXXVI

Elihu vindicates God's justice, and his providential and

gracious dealings with men, 1-9.

Promises of God to the obedient, and threatenings to the

disobedient; also promises to the poor and afflicted, 10-16.

Sundry proofs of God's merely, with suitable exhortations and

cautions, 17-33.

NOTES ON CHAP. XXXVI

Verse 1. Elihu also proceeded] Mr. Heath gives a good summary of

this chapter. Elihu goes on to lay before Job the impropriety of

his behaviour towards God, and desires him to consider how vain it

will prove. That God Almighty will never yield the point; that he

will administer impartial justice to all men, Job 36:2-6. That

the general course of his providence is to favour the righteous:

and that though he may sometimes correct them in love, yet if they

submit patiently to his fatherly corrections, they shall enjoy all

manner of prosperity; but if they be stubborn, and will not

submit, they will only draw down greater proofs of his

displeasure, Job 36:7-16. He tells him that, had he followed the

former course, he had probably, before now, been restored to his

former condition; whereas, by persisting in the latter course, he

was in a fair way of becoming a signal example of Divine justice,

Job 36:17, 18. He therefore warns him to use the present

opportunity, lest God should cut him off while he was in a state

of rebellion against him; for with God neither wealth, power, nor

any other argument that he could use, would be of any avail,

Job 36:18-26. That God was infinitely powerful; there was no

resisting him: and infinitely wise, as sufficiently appeared by

his works; there was, therefore, no escaping out of his hands.

That his purity was so great that the sun, in his presence, was

more dim than the smallest ray of light when compared to that

grand luminary; that his holiness was manifest by his aversion to

iniquity; and his goodness, in supplying the wants of his

creatures.

Verse 2. That I have yet to speak on God's behalf.] I have other

proofs to allege in behalf of God's justice and providence.

Verse 3. I will fetch my knowledge from afar] lemerachok,

"from the distant place," meaning probably both remote antiquity

and heaven; see below. I will show thee that all antiquity and

experience are on my side. I can bring proofs from the remotest

ages and from the most distant countries to demonstrate that God

is infinitely WISE, and can do nothing foolish or erroneous; that

he is infinitely POWERFUL, and can bring all the purposes of his

wisdom to effect; that he is infinitely GOOD, and can will

nothing, and can do nothing that is not good in itself, and well

calculated to do good to his creatures. And I shall show that his

operations in the heavens and on the earth prove and demonstrate

the whole.

And will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.] By proving the

above points, the righteous conduct of God, and his gracious

government of the world, will be fully established.

That Elihu brings his knowledge from afar-from every part of the

creation, as well as from the Divine nature-is evident from the

end of the chapter. Job 36:32 1. The

omnipotence of God;-God is great. 2. The eternity of God-We

know him not, the number of his years cannot be found out,

Job 36:26. 3. From the

economy of God in the atmosphere, in dews, rain, vapour, and the

irrigation of the earth;-He maketh small the drops, &c.,

Job 36:27, 28. 4. In the

thunder and lightning, by which he performs such wonders in the

atmosphere, and executes such judgments in the world;-Also who can

understand the noise of his tabernacle? He spreadeth his light

upon it. He judgeth the people, &c., Job 36:29-33.

Verse 4. My words shall not be false] My words shall be truth

without falsity.

He that is perfect in knowledge is with thee.] "The perfection

of knowledge is with thee." Thou art a sensible, well-informed

man, and will be able to judge of what I say.

Verse 5. God is mighty and despiseth not any] He reproaches no

man for his want of knowledge. If any man lack wisdom, he may come

to God, who giveth liberally, and upbraideth not. I prefer this to

the passive sense, will not be despised.

He is mighty] Literally, "He is mighty in strength of heart;" he

can never be terrified nor alarmed.

Verse 6. He preserveth not the life] He will not give life to

the wicked; all such forfeit life by their transgressions.

But giveth right] Justice will he give to the afflicted or

humble, aniyim.

Verse 7. He withdraweth not his eyes] Exactly similar to those

words of David, Ps 34:15: "The eyes of the Lord are upon the

righteous."

But with kings are they on the throne] I think the words should

be read thus:-"But with kings upon the throne shall he place them;

and they shall be exalted for ever." The word vaiyeshibem,

he will establish or place them, should be added to the first

clause, as I have done; and then the sense becomes much clearer.

Instead of lanetsach, forever, perhaps to victory would be

a better sense: "But with kings upon the throne will he place

them; and they shall be exalted or triumph to victory." This is

precisely the same idea, and conveyed in nearly the same words, as

that of our Lord:-"To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with

me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my

Father in his throne;" Re 3:21. "Unto him that loved us, and

washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings

and priests unto God and his Father, to him be glory," &c.;

Re 1:5, 6.

Verse 8. And if they be bound in fetters] These are means

which God uses, not of punishment, but of correction.

Verse 9. He showeth them their work] He shows them the exceeding

sinfulness of sin.

That they have exceeded.] yithgabbaru, "that they have

strengthened themselves," and did not trust in the living God; and

therefore they would not help themselves when trouble came.

Verse 10. He openeth also their ear] He gives them to understand

the reason why they are thus corrected, and commands them to

return from those iniquities which have induced him to visit

them with afflictions and distresses.

Verse 11. If they obey and serve him] There may appear in the

course of Providence to be some exceptions to this general rule;

but it is most true, that this is literally or spiritually

fulfilled to all the genuine followers of God. Every man is happy,

in whatsoever circumstances, whose heart is unreservedly dedicated

to his Maker.

Verse 12. But if they obey not] This also is a general rule,

from which, in the course of Providence, there are only few, and

those only apparent, deviations. Instead of they shall perish by

the sword, the meaning of the Hebrew beshelach yaaboru,

is, "By a dart they shall pass by." They shall be in continual

dangers, and often fall before they have lived out half their

days. Mr. Good translates: They pass by as an arrow. The VULGATE:

Transibunt per gladium. "They shall pass away by the sword."

Verse 13. But the hypocrites in heart] chanphey, the

profligates, the impious, those who have neither the form nor the

power of godliness. The hypocrite is he who has the form but not

the power, though he wishes to be thought as inwardly righteous as

he is outwardly correct; and he takes up the profession of

religion only to serve secular ends. This is not the meaning of

the word in the book of Job, where it frequently occurs.

They cry not] "Though he binds them, yet they cry not." They are

too obstinate to humble themselves even under the mighty hand of

God.

Verse 14. They die in youth] Exactly what the psalmist says,

"Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days,"

Ps 55:23. Literally, the words of Elihu are, "They shall die in

the youth of their soul."

Their life is among the unclean.] bakedeshim, among

the whores, harlots, prostitutes, and sodomites. In this sense

the word is used, though it also signifies consecrated persons;

but we know that in idolatry characters of this kind were

consecrated to Baal and Ashtaroth, Venus, Priapus, &c. Mr. Good

translates the rabble. The Septuagint: Their life shalt be wounded

by the angels.

Verse 15. And openeth their ears in oppression.] He will let

them know for what end they are afflicted, and why he permits them

to be oppressed. The word yigel might be translated he shall

make them exult, or sing with joy, in oppression; like the three

Hebrews in the burning fiery furnace.

Verse 16. Even so would he have removed thee] If thou hadst

turned to, obeyed, and served him, thy present state would have

been widely different from what it is.

Verse 17. But thou hast fulfilled the judgment of the wicked] As

thou art acting like the wicked, so God deals with thee as he

deals with them.

Elihu is not a whit behind Job's other friends. None of them

seems to have known any thing of the permission given by God to

Satan to afflict and torment an innocent man.

Verse 18. Because there is wrath] This is a time in which God is

punishing the wicked; take heed lest thou be cut off in a moment.

Redeem the time; the days are evil.

Then a great ransom] When he determines to destroy, who can

save?

Verse 20. Desire not the night] Thou hast wished for death;

(here called night;) desire it not; leave that with God. If he

hear thee, and send death, thou mayest be cut off in a way at

which thy soul would shudder.

Verse 21. Regard not iniquity] It is sinful to entertain such

wishes; it is an insult to the providence of God. He sends

affliction; he knows this to be best for thee: but thou hast

preferred death to affliction, thereby setting thy wisdom against

the wisdom of God. Many in affliction, long for death; and yet

they are not prepared to appear before God! What madness is this!

If he takes them at their wish, they are ruined for ever.

Affliction may be the means of their salvation; the wished-for

death, of their eternal destruction.

Verse 22. God exalteth by his power] He has brought thee low,

but he can raise thee up. Thou art not yet out of the reach of his

mercy. Thy affliction is a proof that he acts towards thee as a

merciful Parent. He knows what is best to be done; he teaches thee

how thou shouldst suffer and improve. Why sin against his

kindness? Who can teach like him?

Verse 23. Who hath enjoined him his way] Has God taken

instructions from any man how he shall govern the world?

Thou hast wrought iniquity?] Who can prove, in the whole compass

of the creation, that there is one thing imperfect, superabundant,

or out of its place? Who can show that there is, in the course of

the Divine providence, one unrighteous, cruel, or unwise act? All

the cunning and wickedness of man have never been able to find out

the smallest flaw in the work of God.

Verse 24. Remember that thou magnify his work] Take this into

consideration; instead of fretting against the dispensations of

Divine providence, and quarrelling with thy Maker, attentively

survey his works; consider the operation of his hands; and see the

proofs of his wisdom in the plan of all, of his power in the

production and support of all, and of his goodness in the end

for which all have been made, and to which every operation in

nature most obviously tends; and then magnify his work. Speak of

him as thou shalt find; let the visible works of thy Maker prove

to thee his eternal power and Godhead, and let nature lead thee to

the Creator.

Verse 25. Every man may see it] He who says he can examine the

earth with a philosophic eye, and the heavens with the eye of an

astronomer, and yet says he cannot see in them a system of

infinite skill and contrivance, must be ignorant of science, or

lie against his conscience, and be utterly unworthy of confidence

or respect.

Verse 26. God is great] He is omnipotent.

We know him not] He is unsearchable.

Neither can the number of his years be searched out.] He is

eternal.

These three propositions are an ample foundation for endless

disquisition. As to paraphrase and comment, they need none in this

place; they are too profound, comprehensive, and sublime.

Verse 27. He maketh small the drops of water] This appears

simply to refer to evaporation, and perhaps it would be better to

translate yegara, "he exhales;" detaches the smallest

particles of the aqueous mass from the surface in order to form

clouds, as reservoirs for the purpose of furnishing rain for the

watering of the earth. God is seen in little things, as well as

great things; and the inconceivably little, as well as the

stupendously great, are equally the work of Omnipotence.

They pour down rain] These exceedingly minute drops or vapour

become collected in clouds; and then, when agitated by winds, &c.

many particles being united, they become too heavy to be sustained

by the air in which they before were suspended, and so fall down

in rain, which is either a mist, a drizzle, a shower, a storm,

or a waterspout, according to the influence of different winds, or

the presence and quantum of the electric fluid. And all this is

proportioned, le-edo, "to its vapour," to the quantity of the

fluid evaporated and condensed into clouds.

Verse 28. Which the clouds do drop] In proportion to the

evaporation will be the clouds or masses of volatilized and

suspended vapour; and in proportion to this will be the quantum

of rain which in different forms will fall upon the earth.

There is a remarkable addition to this verse in the Septuagint.

I shall insert the whole verse: ρυησονταιπαλαιωματαεσκιασεδε

νεφηεπιαμυθητωβροτωωρανεθετοκτηνεσινοιδασιδεκοιτης

ταξινεπιτουτοιςπασινουκεξισταταισουηδιανοιαουδε

διαλλασσεταισουηκαρδιααποσωματος; "The rains descend, and the

clouds cover with their shadows multitudes of men: he hath

appointed to animals to know the order of their dwellings. At the

contemplation of these things is not thy mind transported, and thy

heart ready to part from thy body?"

Verse 29. Can any understand the spreadings of the clouds]

Though the vapour appear to be fortuitously raised, and subject,

when suspended in the atmosphere, to innumerable accidents, to

different winds and currents which might drive it all to the sandy

deserts, or direct its course so that it should fall again into

the great deep from which it has been exhaled, without watering

and refreshing the earth; yet so does the good and wise providence

of God manage this matter, that every part of the arable terrene

surface receives an ample supply; and in every place, where

requisite, it may be truly said that "The rain cometh down, and

the snow from heaven, and water the earth, and cause it to bring

forth and bud, that it may minister seed to the sower, and bread

to the eater."

In Egypt, where there is little or no rain, the earth is watered

by the annual inundation of the Nile; there, because this system

of evaporation is not necessary, it does not exist. Who can

account for this economy? How are these clouds so judiciously and

effectually spread through the atmosphere, so as to supply the

wants of the earth, of men, and of cattle? I ask, with Elihu, "Who

can understand the spreadings of these clouds?" And I should like

to see that volunteer in the solution of paradoxes who would step

forward and say, I am the man.

The noise of his tabernacle?] By the tabernacle we may

understand the whole firmament or atmospheric expansion; the place

where the Almighty seems more particularly to dwell; whence he

sends forth the rain of his strength, and the thunder of his

power.

The noise must refer to the blowing of winds and tempests. or to

the claps, peals, and rattling of thunder, by means of the

electric fluid.

Verse 30. He spreadeth his light upon it] Or, as Mr. Good

translates, "He throweth forth from it his flash." These two

verses may both have an allusion to the sudden rarefaction of that

part of the atmosphere whence the thunder proceeds, by the agency

of the electric fluid; the rushing in of the air on each side to

restore the equilibrium, which the passage of the fire had before

destroyed. The noise produced by this sudden rushing in of the

air, as well as that occasioned by the ignition of the hydrogen

gas, which is one of the constituents of water, is the thunder of

his tabernacle, viz., the atmosphere, where God appears, in such

cases, to be manifesting his presence and his power.

Elihu says that God spreadeth his light upon it. This is spoken

in reference to the flashes and coruscations of lightning in the

time of thunder storms, when, even in a dark night, a sudden flash

illuminates for a moment the surface of the earth under that

place.

And covereth the bottom of the sea.] He doth whatsoever it

pleaseth him in the heavens above, in the earth beneath, in the

sea, and in all deep places. Yea, the depths of the sea are as

much under his control and influence as the atmosphere, and its

whole collection of vapours, meteors, and galvanic and electric

fluids.

Verse 31. By them judgeth he the people] He makes storms,

tempests, winds, hurricanes, tornadoes, thunder and lightning,

drought and inundation, the instruments of his justice, to punish

rebellious nations.

He giveth meat in abundance.] Though by these he punishes

offenders, yet through the same, as instruments, he provides for

the wants of men and animals in general. Storms, tempests, and

hurricanes, agitate the lower regions of the atmosphere, disperse

noxious vapours, and thus render it fit for respiration; and

without these it would soon become a stagnant, putrid, and deadly

mass, in which neither animals could live, nor vegetables thrive.

And by dews, rains, snows, frosts, winds, cold, and heat, he

fructifies the earth, and causes it to bring forth abundantly, so

that every thing living is filled with plenteousness.

Some critics translate this latter clause thus:-He passeth

sentence amain. I cannot see this meaning in the original words.

Not one of the versions has so understood them; nor does this

translation, supposing even that the Hebrew would bear it, give so

fine and so elegant an idea as that of the common version. I

always feel reluctant to give a sense in any case that is not

supported in some of its parts by any of the ancient versions, and

more especially when it is contrary to the whole of them; and

still more particularly when opposed to the Arabic, which in the

Book of Job, containing so many Arabisms, I consider to be of

very great importance.

Verse 32. With clouds he covereth the light.] This is all

extraordinary saying, al cappayim kissah or, which

Mr. Good translates, "He brandisheth the blaze athwart the

concave." The Vulgate, with which all the other versions less or

more agree, has, In manibus abscondit lucem, "In his hands he

hideth the light;" or, more literally, "By the hollow of his hands

( cappayim) he concealeth the light, ( or,") the

fountain of light, i.e., the SUN.

And commandeth it not to shine by the cloud that cometh

betwixt.] I am afraid this is no translation of the original.

Old Coverdale is better:-And at his commandement it commeth

agayne; which is a near copy of the Vulgate. Here again Mr. Good

departs from all the versions, both ancient and modern, by

translating thus:- "And launcheth his penetrating bolt." Dr.

Stock, in my opinion, comes nearer the original and the versions

in his translation:-

"And giveth charge as to what it shall meet."

The mending of the text by conjecture, to which we should only

recur in desperate necessity, has furnished Mr. Good and Reiske

with the above translation. For my own part, I must acknowledge an

extreme difficulty both here and in the concluding verse, on which

I am unwilling to lay a correcting hand. I think something of the

doctrine of eclipses is here referred to; the defect of the solar

light, by the interposition of the moon. So in the time of an

eclipse God is represented as covering the body of the sun with

the hollow of his hand, and thus obscuring the solar light, and

then removing his hand so as to permit it to re-illuminate the

earth.

Mr. Good gets his translation by dividing the words in a

different manner from the present text. I shall give both:-

Hebrew:

Vayetsav aleyha bemaphgia

Mr. Good:

Veyezvo liahbe mapegio.

Of which he learnedly contends, "And launcheth his penetrating

bolt," is the literal sense. The change here made, to produce the

above meaning, is not a violent one; and I must leave the reader

to judge of its importance.

Verse 33. The noise thereof showeth concerning it, the cattle

also concerning the vapour.] I think this translation very

unhappy. I shall give each hemistich in the original:-

Yaggid alaiv reo

Mikneh aph al oleh.

I think this may be translated without any violence to any word

in the text:-

Its loud noise (or his thunder) shall proclaim

concerning him;

A magazine of wrath against iniquity.

This is literal, and gives, in my opinion, a proper meaning of

the passage, and one in strict connection with the context. And it

is worthy of remark that every wicked man trembles at the noise of

thunder and the flash of lightning, and considers this a treasury

of Divine wrath, emphatically called among us the artillery of the

skies; and whenever the noise is heard, it is considered the voice

of God. Thus the thunder declares concerning him. The next

chapter, which is a continuation of the subject here, confirms and

illustrates this meaning. For yaggid, Houbigant reads

yanid; and for mikneh, mikkinath; and

translates thus: "He agitates with himself his thunder, from the

indignation of his wrath against iniquity."

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