Job 35

Elihu’s Third Speech

This short speech falls into two sections: Elihu refutes Job’s claim that goodness avails nothing (35:2–8), asserting that when the cry of the afflicted goes unanswered they have not learned their lesson (35:9–16).
1Then Elihu answered:

2 “Do you think this to be
The line could be read as “do you reckon this for justice? Here “to be” is understood.
The word “when” is not in the Hebrew text, but is implied.
you say, ‘My right before God.’
The brief line could be interpreted in a number of ways. The MT simply has “my right from God.” It could be “I am right before God,” “I am more just/right than God” (identifying the preposition as a comparative min (מִן); cf. J. E. Hartley, Job [NICOT], 463), “I will be right before God,” or “My just cause against God.”

3 But you say, ‘What will it profit you,’
The referent of “you” is usually understood to be God.

and, ‘What do I gain by not sinning?’
The Hebrew text merely says, “What do I gain from my sin?” But Job has claimed that he has not sinned, and so this has to be elliptical: “more than if I had sinned” (H. H. Rowley, Job [NCBC], 224). It could also be, “What do I gain without sin?”

4 I
The emphatic pronoun calls attention to Elihu who will answer these questions.
will reply to you,
The Hebrew text adds, “with words,” but since this is obvious, for stylistic reasons it has not been included in the translation.

and to your friends with you.
5 Gaze at the heavens and see;
consider the clouds, which are higher than you!
The preposition is taken here as a comparative min (מִן). The line could also read “that are high above you.” This idea has appeared in the speech of Eliphaz (22:12), Zophar (11:7ff.), and even Job (9:8ff.).

6 If you sin, how does it affect God?
Heb “him” (also in v. 7); the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

If your transgressions are many,
what does it do to him?
7 If you are righteous, what do you give to God,
or what does he receive from your hand?
8 Your wickedness affects only
The phrase “affects only” is supplied in the translation of this nominal sentence.
According to Strahan, “Elihu exalts God’s greatness at the cost of His grace, His transcendence at the expense of His immanence. He sets up a material instead of a spiritual stand of profit and loss. He does not realize that God does gain what He desires most by the goodness of men, and loses what He most loves by their evil.”
a person like yourself,
and your righteousness only other people.
Heb “and to [or for] a son of man, your righteousness.”

9 “People
The word “people” is supplied, because the sentence only has the masculine plural verb.
cry out
because of the excess of oppression;
The final noun is an abstract plural, “oppression.” There is no reason to change it to “oppressors” to fit the early versions. The expression is literally “multitude of oppression.”

they cry out for help
because of the power
Heb “the arm,” a metaphor for strength or power.
of the mighty.
Or “of the many” (see HALOT 1172 s.v. I רַב 6.a).

10 But no one says, ‘Where is God, my Creator,
who gives songs in the night,
There have been several attempts to emend the line, none of which are particularly helpful or interesting. H. H. Rowley (Job [NCBC], 225) says, “It is a pity to rob Elihu of a poetic line when he creates one.”

11 who teaches us
The form in the text, the Piel participle from אָלַף (’alaf, “teach”) is written in a contracted form; the full form is מְאַלְּפֵנוּ (meallefenu).
more than
Some would render this “teaches us by the beasts.” But Elihu is stressing the unique privilege humans have.
the wild animals of the earth,
and makes us wiser than the birds of the sky?’
12 Then
The adverb שָׁם (sham, “there”) connects this verse to v. 11. “There” can be locative or temporal – and here it is temporal (= “then”).
they cry out – but he does not answer –
because of the arrogance of the wicked.
13 Surely it is an empty cry
Heb “surely – vanity, he does not hear.” The cry is an empty cry, not a prayer to God. Dhorme translates it, “It is a pure waste of words.”
– God does not hear it;
the Almighty does not take notice of it.
14 How much less, then,
when you say that you do not perceive him,
that the case is before him
and you are waiting for him!
The point is that if God does not listen to those who do not turn to him, how much less likely is he to turn to one who complains against him.

15 And further,
The expression “and now” introduces a new complaint of Elihu – in addition to the preceding. Here the verb of v. 14, “you say,” is understood after the temporal ki (כִּי).
when you say
that his anger does not punish,
The verb פָקַד (paqad) means “to visit” (also “to appoint; to muster; to number”). When God visits, it means that he intervenes in one’s life for blessing or cursing (punishing, destroying).

and that he does not know transgression!
The word פַּשׁ (pash) is a hapax legomenon. K&D 12:275 derived it from an Arabic word meaning “belch,” leading to the idea of “overflow.” BDB 832 s.v. defines it as “folly.” Several define it as “transgression” on the basis of the versions (Theodotion, Symmachus, Vulgate). The RSV took it as “greatly heed,” but that is not exactly “greatly know,” when the text beyond that requires “not know at all.” The NIV has “he does not take the least notice of wickedness.”

16 So Job opens his mouth to no purpose;
The word הֶבֶל (hevel) means “vanity; futility; to no purpose.”

without knowledge he multiplies words.”
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