Job 34:1-34:37 Good Lord, Job

Standard
…trying to build consensus… starts ripping into Job… judging God is another matter… Is God wicked? …just, sovereign, impartial, knows what’s going on… given all this, how can you complain? … something He wants to get rid of, though you can’t see…

Job 34:1-34:37

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

Again, I am impressed with Elihu’s tone, even if its partly rhetorical. Perhaps I’m just sympathetic since he’s the young upstart, but it does feel to me like he is sincerely trying to listen and build consensus. He continues his habit of summarizing Job’s position:

For Job hath said, I am righteous: and God hath taken away my judgment. Should I lie against my right? my wound [is] incurable without transgression.

I find the NIV clearer, but the sense still comes through the KJV, and it certainly sounds like Job to me. Then, somewhat abruptly, Elihu starts ripping into Job:

What man [is] like Job, [who] drinketh up scorning like water? Which goeth in company with the workers of iniquity, and walketh with wicked men.

Whoa! Harsh words. I supposed I shouldn’t be surprised, after being told how angry Elihu is. What motivates this strong claim?

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

Clearly, this crossed a line for Elihu. He was relatively gentle in correcting Job’s statements about himself, but judging God is another matter entirely:

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.

Hmm. What’s going on here? Is Job in fact claiming that God is wicked (resha`)? What does that mean, anyhow?

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

Okay, that seems a reasonable definition of justice: to do unto others (shalam) as they have done (po’al). To give peace for peace, and war for war. Not vice versa.

So, how does Job’s statement accuse God of wickedness? Well, certainly a man who beats his slave without reason — especially one who works diligently to please (ratsah) his master — is considered wicked. Is that analogy applicable here?

I don’t know. Elihu isn’t helping me, as he appears to go off on a tangent. His main points seem to be:

1. God is just

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

2. God is sovereign

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

3. Sovereignty requires justice (or something like that)

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

4. God is impartial

[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

5. God knows what’s going on

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

Hmm. Elihu is not so much arguing with Job, as asserting a series of facts. Unlike the earlier friends, though, he doesn’t appeal to authority or tradition. He appears to assert these truths as self-evident. The culmination would seem to be in 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:

Alas, as too often happens in Job, the juiciest passages are the ones most ambiguously translated. But, the basic sense seems to be “given all this, how can you complain?”

Elihu then goes further and offers a concrete recommendation:

Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne [chastisement], I will not offend [any more]:[That which] I see not teach thou me: if I have done iniquity, I will do no more.

This I find fascinating, especially the phrase “see not” (chazah bil`adey). I would interpret this (perhaps generously) as:

Job, I understand that you consider yourself blameless. Unlike your other friends, I don’t think you have been willfully and knowingly evil. But, that doesn’t mean you are perfect. If God is shaking you, He must have something in your life He wants to get rid of, though you can’t see what it is. You need to accept that God’s standards of righteousness are higher than your own. Why not simply ask Him to show you what you’re doing wrong, so that you can repent? Why insist that you have nothing to learn?

Perhaps this is the answer to yesterday’s riddle: Elihu really does want to clear Job. Not in the sense that Job is already righteous, but rather that he can become so.

Well, maybe. The closing verses are a bit harsher that I’ve implied:

My desire [is that] Job may be tried unto the end because of [his] answers for wicked men. For he addeth rebellion unto his sin, he clappeth [his hands] among us, and multiplieth his words against God.

I do find it intriguing that Elihu condemns Job, not so much for being wicked, but for giving “aid and comfort” to them by his words. Of course that may just be elliptical style, since he does condemn Job’s rebelliousness (pesha`). I suppose it depends on how he wants Job tried to the extremes (bachan netsach). I interpret that as Elihu being concerned about the danger of Job’s words, and thus wanting the record to be set straight — rather than merely putting Job to the inquisition as punishment.

Is that really what’s going on? I don’t know, but hopefully we’ll soon see.

Prayer

God, I confess that I have often stood with Job. I have felt wronged and treated unjustly though blameless, and been angry with you for it. Looking back, I can see the blindness that prevented me from acknowledging the depths of my sin and brokenness. Forgive me, O Lord, according to your great love. Show me the paths of my heart, that you alone know. Cleanse me that I may be clean; wash me that I might become whiter than snow. By the blood of Jesus your son, Amen.

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