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Bible Commentaries
Job 34

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Furthermore Elihu answered and said,

Answered - proceeded.

Verse 2

Hear my words, O ye wise men; and give ear unto me, ye that have knowledge.

This chapter is addressed also to the "friends," as Job 33:1-33 was to Job alone.

Verse 3

For the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat.

Palate (note, Job 12:11; Job 33:2).

Verse 4

Let us choose to us judgment: let us know among ourselves what is good.

Judgment - what is right and just. Let us select, among the conflicting sentiments advanced, what will stand the test of examination.

Verse 5

For Job hath said, I am righteous: and God hath taken away my judgment. For Job hath said, I am righteous: and God hath taken away my judgment.

Judgment my right. Job's own words (Job 13:18; Job 27:2).

Verse 6

Should I lie against my right? my wound is incurable without transgression.

i.e., were I to renounce my right (i:e., confess myself guilty), I should lie. Job virtually had said so (Job 27:4-5; Job 6:28). Maurer, not so well, 'Notwithstanding my right (innocence), I am treated as a liar by God,' by His afflicting me.

My wound - literally, mine arrow-namely, by which I am pierced. So "my stroke" (hand, margin, Job 23:2). My sickness (Job 6:4; Job 16:13).

Without transgression - without fault of mine to deserve it (Job 16:17).

Verse 7

What man is like Job, who drinketh up scorning like water?

(Job 15:16.) Image from the camel.

Scorning - against God (Job 15:4).

Verse 8

Which goeth in company with the workers of iniquity, and walketh with wicked men.

Job virtually goeth in company (makes common cause) with the wicked, by taking up their sentiments (Job 9:22-23; Job 9:30; Job 21:7-15), or at least by saying that those who act on such sentiments are unpunished (Malachi 3:14, "It is vain to serve God"). To deny God's righteous government, because we do not see the reasons of His acts, is virtually to take part with the ungodly.

Verse 9

For he hath said, It profiteth a man nothing that he should delight himself with God.

With God - in intimacy (Psalms 50:18, "When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers").

Verse 10

Therefore hearken unto me, ye men of understanding: far be it from God, that he should do wickedness; and from the Almighty, that he should commit iniquity.

The true answer to Job, which God follows up, (Job 38:1-41.) Man is to believe God's ways are right, because they are His, not because we fully see they are so, (Romans 9:14; Deuteronomy 32:4; Genesis 18:25, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?")

Verse 11

For the work of a man shall he render unto him, and cause every man to find according to his ways.

Partly here; fully hereafter (Jeremiah 32:19; Romans 2:6; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 22:12).

Verse 12

Yea, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment.

(Job 8:3.) In opposition to Job (Job 34:5).

Will not - cannot.

Verse 13

Who hath given him a charge over the earth? or who hath disposed the whole world?

If the world were not God's property, as having been made by Him, but committed to His charge by some superior, it might be possible for Him to act unjustly, as He would not then be injuring Himself; but as it is, for God to act unjustly would undermine the whole order of the world, and so would injure God's own property (Job 36:23).

Disposed, [ siym (H7760)] - literally, placed; hath founded (Isaiah 44:7); established the circle of the globe.

Verses 14-15

If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath;

'If He were to set His heart on man,' either to injure him, or to take strict account of his sins. The connection supports rather (Umbreit), 'If He had regard to Himself (only), and were to gather unto Himself (Psalms 104:29) His Spirit. etc. (which He sends forth to give life to man and all other animals, Psalms 104:30; Ecclesiastes 12:7), all flesh must perish together,' etc. (Genesis 3:19.) God's loving preservation of His creatures proves He cannot be selfish, and therefore cannot be unjust.

Verse 16

If now thou hast understanding, hear this: hearken to the voice of my words.

In Job 34:2 Elihu had spoken to all men of wisdom and understanding in general, now he calls Job's special attention, If he have understanding.

Verse 17

Shall even he that hateth right govern? and wilt thou condemn him that is most just?

'Can even He who (in thy view) hateth right (justice) govern?' The government of the world would be impossible if injustice were sanctioned. God must be just, because He governs (2 Samuel 23:3, "He that ruleth over men must be just").

Govern - literally, bind, namely, by authority (so 'reign,' margin, 1 Samuel 9:17; cf. Psalms 149:8). Umbreit translates, for "govern," repress wrath-namely, against Job for his accusations.

Most just - rather, 'Him who is at once mighty and just' (in His government of the world) [ tsadiyq (H6662) kabiyr (H3524)].

Verse 18

Is it fit to say to a king, Thou art wicked? and to princes, Ye are ungodly?

Literally, (Is it fit) to be said to a king? It would be a gross outrage to reproach thus an earthly monarch, much more the King of kings (Exodus 22:28). But Maurer, with the Septuagint, and Vulgate, reads (It is not fit to accuse of injustice Him) who says to a king, Thou art wicked; to princes, Ye are ungodly - i:e., who punishes impartially the great as the small. This accords with Job 34:19. He remarks that the English version would require the infinitive absolute [ he'aamor (H559)], whereas the Hebrew is [ ha'ªmor (H559)]. He reads [ haa'omeer (H559)], 'who says.'

Verse 19

How much less to him that accepteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor? for they all are the work of his hands.

(Acts 10:34; 2 Chronicles 19:7; Proverbs 22:2; Job 31:15.)

Accepteth not the persons of - shows no partiality to.

Verse 20

In a moment shall they die, and the people shall be troubled at midnight, and pass away: and the mighty shall be taken away without hand.

They - "the rich" and "princes" who offend God.

The people - namely, of the guilty princes; guilty also themselves.

At midnight - image from a night attack of an enemy on a camp, which becomes an easy prey (Exodus 12:29-30, "At midnight the Lord smote all the first-born").

Without hand - without visible agency, by the mere word of God (so Job 20:26, "a fire not blown;" Zechariah 4:6; Daniel 2:34, "a stone was cut out without hands").

Verse 21

For his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings.

God's omniscience and omnipotence enable Him to execute immediate justice. He needs not to be long on the "watch," as Job thought (Job 7:12; 2 Chronicles 16:9; Jeremiah 32:19).

Verse 22

There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.

Shadow of death - thick darkness (Amos 9:2-3. Psalms 139:12; Psalms 139:12).

Verse 23

For he will not lay upon man more than right; that he should enter into judgment with God.

(1 Corinthians 10:13; Lamentations 3:32; Isaiah 27:8.) Better, as Umbreit, 'He does not (needs not to) regard (as in Job 34:14; Isaiah 41:20) man long (so the Hebrew [ `owd (H5750) - literally, again, i:e., continuously, for a long time]; Genesis 46:29), in order that he may go (be brought by God) into judgment.' Literally, 'Set his (attention) upon men' (Job 11:10-11). So Job 34:24, "without number" ought to be translated 'without (needing any) searching out,' such as has to be made in human judgments.

Verse 24

He shall break in pieces mighty men without number, and set others in their stead.

Break in pieces - (Psalms 2:9; Job 12:18; Daniel 2:21).

Without number - rather, as margin, 'without searching out' [ lo' (H3808) cheeqer (H2714)].

Verse 25

Therefore he knoweth their works, and he overturneth them in the night, so that they are destroyed.

Therefore - because He knows all things (Job 34:21), He knows their works, without a formal investigation (Job 34:24).

In the night - suddenly, unexpectedly (Job 34:20). Fitly in the night, as it was in it that the godless hid themselves (Job 34:22). Umbreit, less simply, for "over-turneth" [ haapak (H2015)], translates, 'walketh' - i:e., God is ever on the alert, discovering all wickedness.

Verse 26

He striketh them as wicked men in the open sight of others;

Striketh - chasteneth.

As, [ tachat (H8478)] - literally, under; i:e., because they are wicked. But Maurer takes it 'in the place where wicked men are punished:' as the next clause explains the Hebrew (see margin), 'in the places of those beholding' -

i.e., before the sight of all (Joshua 5:8).

Sight of others. Sinners hid themselves in darkness; therefore they are punished before all, in open day. Image from the place of public execution (Job 40:12; Exodus 14:30; 2 Samuel 12:12).

Verses 27-28

Because they turned back from him, and would not consider any of his ways:

The grounds of their punishment in Job 34:26; Job 34:28 states in what respect they "considered not God's ways" - namely, by oppression, whereby "they caused the cry," etc.

Verse 29

When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? and when he hideth his face, who then can behold him? whether it be done against a nation, or against a man only:

(Proverbs 16:7; Isaiah 26:3, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind it stayed on thee.")

Make trouble - rather, condemn [ yarshia` (H7561)] (Romans 8:33-34). Maurer, from the reference being only to the godless, in the next clause, and Job 34:20, translates, 'When God keeps quiet [ yashqiT (H8252); leaves men to perish, Psalms 83:1; Umbreit, from the Arabic, strikes to the earth], who shall condemn Him as unjust?' (Job 34:17.)

Hideth ... face - (Job 23:8-9; Psalms 13:1).

It be done - whether it be against a guilty nation (2 Kings 18:9-12) or an individual that God acts so.

Verse 30

That the hypocrite reign not, lest the people be ensnared.

Ensnared - into sin (1 Kings 12:28; 1 Kings 12:30). Or, rather, enthralled by further oppression (Job 34:26-28).

Verse 31

Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more:

Job accordingly says so (Job 40:3-5; Micah 7:9; Leviticus 26:41). It was to lead him to this that Elihu was sent. Though no hypocrite, Job, like all, had sin, therefore through affliction he was to be brought to humble himself under God. All sorrow is a proof of the common heritage of sin, in which the godly shares; and therefore he ought to regard it as a merciful correction. Umbreit and Maurer lose this by translating, as the Hebrew will bear, 'Has any a right to say to God, I have borne chastisement and yet have not sinned?' (so Job 34:6.)

Borne - namely, the penalty of sin; as in Leviticus 5:1; Leviticus 5:17, "He shall bear his iniquity.

Offend - literally, to deal destructively or corruptly [ 'echbol (H2254), from chaabal, to corrupt]. (Nehemiah 1:7.)

Verse 32

That which I see not teach thou me: if I have done iniquity, I will do no more.

(Job 10:2; God premises to teach His people, Psalms 32:8, when penitently seeking His inward teaching; Psalms 19:12; Psalms 139:23-24.) The Hebrew is literally 'Besides those things which I see, teach thou me.'

No more - (Proverbs 28:13; Ephesians 4:22).

Verse 33

Should it be according to thy mind? he will recompense it, whether thou refuse, or whether thou choose; and not I: therefore speak what thou knowest.

'Should God recompense (sinners) according to thy mind? Then it is for thee to reject and to choose, and not me' (Umbreit); or, as Maurer translates, the latter clause, 'For thou hast rejected (God's way of recompensing; state, therefore, thy way), for thou must choose, not I' - i:e., it is thy part, not mine, to show a better way than God's. The English version is good sense thus: 'Should it (God's dealing) be according to thy mind? (literally, from with thee.) (Nay, it is preposterous to think God will govern according to thy ideas and not His own.) He will recompense it (iniquity, Job 34:32), whether thou refuse, or whether THOU choose (whether thou likest or likest not His way of dealing: I say "THOU"): for it is not I (who call in question God's dealings): therefore, speak what thou knowest' (not what thou knowest not-namely, God's ways of governing the world). The "thou" is in emphatical opposition to "I," and is therefore expressed in the Hebrew.

Verses 34-35

Let men of understanding tell me, and let a wise man hearken unto me.

Rather, 'men, etc., will say to me, and the wise man (Job 34:2; Job 34:10) wh hearkens to me (will say), "Job hath spoken,"' etc.

Verse 36

My desire is that Job may be tried unto the end because of his answers for wicked men.

[ 'aabiy (H1), from 'aabeh (H15), wish, desire.] Margin, not so well, My father; Elihu addressing God. This title does not elsewhere occur in Job.

Tried - by calamities.

Answers for wicked men - (see note, Job 34:8): literally, among [bª-] wicked men; making common cause with them. Trials of the godly are not removed until they produce the effect designed.

Verse 37

For he addeth rebellion unto his sin, he clappeth his hands among us, and multiplieth his words against God.

Clappeth ... hands - in scorn (Job 27:23; Ezekiel 21:17).

Multiplieth ... words - (Job 11:2; Job 35:16). To his original 'sin,' to correct which trials have been sent, 'he adds rebellion' - i:e., words arraigning God's justice.


(1) We are not at random to take up every sentiment, by whomsoever propounded, but to try, by the touchstone of true wisdom and the Revelation of God, the statements of even good men, such as was Job (Job 34:2; Job 34:4). The spiritually wise have spiritual discernment, so as almost instinctively, for the most part, under the Spirit's guidance, to choose the good and reject the evil (Hebrews 5:14) which teachers may put before them. So Paul, like Elihu, appeals to the spiritual wisdom of his hearers to test his doctrine - "I speak as to wise men, judge ye what I say" (1 Corinthians 10:15).

(2) To justify ourselves is virtually to condemn God. "He who saith, I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency" (Psalms 83:13-15), and "It profiteth a man nothing that he should delight himself with God," at one and the same time "offends against the generation of God's children," and makes common cause with God's enemies (Job 34:7-9).

(3) God, by the essential law of His nature, cannot do wrong. We should lay down this as a fixed principle, whatever appearances of injustice may now for a time be suffered in the present dispensation of the world. God's ways are even now right, and we are to believe them to be so, whether we see the grounds of His dealings or do not. The coming day of retribution will rectify all seeming anomalies, and show that His government has always throughout been perfectly righteous and just (Job 34:11).

(4) God is absolute proprietor of the world, as its Creator and Preserver: were He, then, to govern it unjustly, He would be injuring His own property-a supposition palpably absurd (Job 34:13). Moreover, His continual care for, and His love evinced in the preservation of His creatures, prove Him to be supremely unselfish, and therefore not by possibility unjust (Job 34:14-15).

(5) The fact that God governs the world, of itself proves He cannot be unjust: for if injustice were admitted, moral government of it would cease (Job 34:17; 2 Samuel 23:3). Moreover, His omniscience and His omnipotence enable Him to enforce justice by immediate execution of the penalty upon the violator of His just laws (Job 34:20-22). He has no need to go through man's tedious processes of judicial investigation: He sees and knows all things at once (Job 34:23-24),

(6) The grand end of God's dealings in afflicting us is, that we may humble ourselves under His mighty hand. Even the believer merits far worse than any trials which may befall him: so that he has no reason to complain of injustice being done him, however sorely he may be tried. Though sincere, and not a hypocritical formalist, he needs to be made to feel the evil of the common heritage of sin in which the godly also share. Chastisement makes him to realize this mortifying fact, as well as his own particular sins. Thus, with a chastened spirit, be learns to accept the punishment of sin, crying, 'I have borne chastisement, I will not offend anymore;' for it is not enough to be sorry for sin, we must "go and sin no more." Meekly, too, he prays to be taught in affliction that which he saw not before (Job 34:31-32): he is willing to know the worst of himself, and to think the best of God, who corrects him. Thus chastisement, having effected the gracious end designed, is at last removed; and the saint can look back and say, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes" (Psalms 119:71).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 34". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/job-34.html. 1871-8.
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