Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
1 Yea, at this my heart trembleth
And tottereth from its place.
2 Hear, O hear the roar of His voice,
And the murmur that goeth out of His mouth.
3 He sendeth it forth under the whole heaven,
And His lightning unto the ends of the earth.
4 After it roareth the voice of the thunder,
He thundereth with the voice of His majesty,
And spareth not the lightnings, when His voice is heard.
5 God thundereth with His voice marvellously,
Doing great things, incomprehensible to us.
Louis Bridel is perhaps right when he inserts after Job 36 the observation: L'clair brille, la tonnerre gronde. לזאת does not refer to the phenomenon of the storm which is represented in the mind, but to that which is now to be perceived by the senses. The combination שׁמעוּ שׁמוע can signify both hear constantly, Isa 6:9, and hear attentively, Job 13:17; here it is the latter. רגז of thunder corresponds to the verbs Arab. rḥz and rjs, which can be similarly used. The repetition of קול fo noititeper eh five times calls to mind the seven קולות (ἑπτὰ βρονταί) in Psa 29:1-11. The parallel is הגה, Job 37:2, a murmuring, as elsewhere of the roar of the lion and the cooing of the dove. The suff. of ישׁרהוּ refers to the thunder which rolls through the immeasurable breadth under heaven; it is not perf. Piel of ישׁר (Schlottm.), for "to give definite direction" (Ch2 32:30) is not appropriate to thunder, but fut. Kal of שׁרה, to free, to unbind (Ew., Hirz. and most others). What Job 37:3 says of thunder, Job 37:3 says of light, i.e., the lightning: God sends it forth to the edges, πτέρυγες, i.e., ends, of the earth. אחריו, Job 37:4, naturally refers to the lightning, which is followed by the roar of the thunder; and יעקּבם to the flashes, which, when once its rumble is heard, God does not restrain (עקּב = עכּב of the Targ., and Arab. ‛aqqaba, to leave behind, postpone), but causes to flash forth in quick succession. Ewald's translation: should He not find (prop. non investigaverit) them (the men that are to be punished), gives a thought that has no support in this connection. In Job 37:5 נפלאות, mirabilia, is equivalent to mirabiliter, as Dan 8:24, comp. Psa 65:6; Psa 139:14. ולא נדע is intended to say that God's mighty acts, with respect to the connection between cause and effect and the employment of means, transcend our comprehension.
6 For He saith to the snow: Fall towards the earth,
And to the rain-shower
And the showers of His mighty rain.
7 He putteth a seal on the hand of every man,
That all men may come to a knowledge of His creative work.
8 The wild beast creepeth into a hiding-place,
And in its resting-place it remaineth.
9 Out of the remote part cometh the whirlwind,
And cold from the cloud-sweepers.
10 From the breath of God cometh ice,
And the breadth of the waters is straitened.
Like אבי, Job 34:36, and פּשׁ, Job 35:15, הוא, Job 37:6 (is falsely translated "be earthwards" by lxx, Targ., and Syr.), also belongs to the most striking Arabisms of the Elihu section: it signifies delabere (Jer. ut descendat), a signification which the Arab. hawâ does not gain from the radical signification placed first in Gesenius-Dietrich's Handwrterbuch, to breathe, blow, but from the radical signification, to gape, yawn, by means of the development of the meaning which also decides in favour of the primary notion of the Hebr. הוּה, according to which, what was said on Job 6:2; Job 30:13 is to be corrected.
(Note: Arab. hawâ is originally χαίνειν, to gape, yawn, hiare, e.g., hawat et-ta‛natu, the stab gapes (imperf. tahwı̂, inf. huwı̂jun), "when it opens its mouth" - the Turkish Kamus adds, to complete the picture: like a tulip. Thence next hâwijatun, χαίνουσα χαῖνον, i.e., χᾶσμα = hûwatun, uhwı̂jatun, huwâatun, mahwâtun, a cleft, yawning deep, chasm, abyss, βάραθρον, vorago; hawı̂jatun and hauhâtun (a reduplicated form), especially a very deep pit or well. But these same words, hâwijatun, hûwatun, uhwı̂jatun, mahwâtun, also signify, like the usual Arab. hawa'â'un, the χάσμα between heaven and earth, i.e., the wide, empty space, the same as 'gauwun. The wider significations, or rather applications and references of hawâ: air set in motion, a current of air, wind, weather, are all secondary, and related to that primary signification as samâ, rain-clouds, rain, grass produced by the rain, to the prim. signification height, heaven, vid., Mehren, Rhetorik d. Araber, S. 107, Z. 14ff. This hawâ, however, also signifies in general: a broad, empty space, and by transferring the notion of "empty" to mind and heart, as the reduplicated forms hûhatun and hauhâtun: devoid of understanding and devoid of courage, e.g., Koran xiv. 44: wa-af'i-datuhum hawâun, where Bedhw first explains hawâ directly by chalâ, emptiness, empty space, i.e., as he adds, châlijetun ‛an el-fahm, as one says of one without mind and courage qalbuhu hawâun. Thence also hauwun, emptiness, a hole, i.e., in a wall or roof, a dormar-window (kauwe, kûwe), but also with the genit. of a person or thing: their hole, i.e., the space left empty by them, the side not taken up by them, e.g., qa‛ada fi hauwihi, he set himself beside him. From the signification to be empty then comes (1) hawat el-mar'atu, i.e., vacua fuit mulier = orba oiberis, as χήρα, vidua, properly empty, French vide; (2) hawâ er-ragulu, i.e., vacuus, inanis factus est vir = exanimatus (comp. Arab. frg, he became empty, euphemistic for he died).
From this variously applied primary signification is developed the generally known and usual Arab. hawâ, loose and free, without being held or holding to anything one's self, to pass away, fly, swing, etc., libere ferri, labi, in general in every direction, as the wind, or what is driven hither and thither by the wind, especially however from above downwards, labi, delabi, cadere, deorsum ruere. From this point, like many similar, the word first passes into the signification of sound (as certainly also שׁאה, שא): as anything falling has a full noise, and so on, δουπεῖν, rumorem, fragorem edere (fragor from frangi), hence hawat udhnuhu jawı̂jan of a singing in the ears.
Finally, the mental Arab. hawan (perf. hawija, imperf. jahwâ with the acc.), animo ad or in aliquid ferri, is attached to the notion of passing and falling through space (though by no means to hiare, or the supposed meaning "to breathe, blow"). It is used both emotionally of desire, lust, appetites, passions, and strong love, and intellectually of free opinions or assertions springing from mere self-willed preference, caprices of the understanding. - Fl.)
The ל of לשּׁלג influences Job 37:6 also. The Hebr. name for rain, גּשׁם (cogn. with Chald. גשׁם, Arab. gism, a body), denotes the rain collectively. The expression Job 37:6 is exceeded in Job 37:6, where מטרות does not signify rain-drops (Ew.), but, like the Arab. amtr, rain-showers. The wonders of nature during the rough season (חרף, סתיו, Sol 2:11), between the autumnal and vernal equinoxes, are meant; the rains after the autumnal equinox (the early rain), which begin the season, and the rains before the vernal equinox (the late rain, Zac 10:1), which close it, with the falls of snow between, which frequently produce great desolation, especially the proper winter with its frosty winds and heavy showers, when the business of the husbandmen as of the nomads is brought to a stand-still, and every one retreats to his house or seeks a sheltering corner.
This is the meaning of Job 37:7 : He sealeth up (חתם בּ as Job 33:16) the hand of all men that they cannot, viz., on account of the cold out of doors, be opened for work, that all people of His work (i.e., thanking Him for their origin as His handiwork, Job 34:19) may come to the perception (of Him who doeth all things). The expression is remarkable, and by the insertion of a m may be as easily cleared up as Job 33:17 : לדעת כּל־אנשׁים מעשׂהוּ, in order that each and every one may acknowledge His work; after which even Jer. translates: ut noverint singuli opera sua. The conjecture אנשׁים עשׂהוּ (Schultens junior, Reiske, Hirz.) is inferior to the former (Olsh.) by its awkward synecdoche num. The fut. consec. in Job 37:8 continues the description of what happens in consequence of the cold rainy season; the expression calls to mind Psa 104:22, as Job 34:14. does Psa 104:29. The winter is also the time of the stormy and raw winds. In Job 37:9 Elihu means the storms which come across from the great wide desert, Job 1:19, therefore the south (Isa 21:1; Zac 9:14), or rather south-east winds (Hos 13:15), increasing in violence to storms. החדר (properly the surrounded, enclosed space, never the storehouse, - so that Psa 135:7 should be compared, - but adytum, penetrale, as Arab. chidr, e.g., in Vita Timuri ii. 904: after the removal of the superincumbent earth, they drew away sitr chidrihâ, the curtain of its innermost part, i.e., uncovered its lowest depth) is here the innermost part of the south (south-east), - comp. Job 9:9 חדרי תימן, and Job 23:9 יעטף ימין (so far as יעטף there signifies si operiat se), - especially of the great desert lying to the south (south-east), according to which ארץ חדרך, Zac 9:1, is translated by the Targ. דרומא ארעא. In opposition to the south-east wind, מזרים, Job 37:9, seems to mean the north winds; in and of itself, however, the word signifies the scattering or driving, as also in the Koran the winds are called the scatterers, dhârijât, Sur. li. 1.
(Note: This dhârijât is also differently explained; but the first explanation in Beidhwi (ii. 183, Fleischer's edition) is, "the winds which scatter (blow away) the dust and other things.")
In מזרים, Reiske, without any ground for it, traces the Arab. mirzam (a name of two stars, from which north wind, rain, and cold are derived); the Targ. also has one of the constellations in view: מכּוּת מזרים (from the window, i.e., the window of the vault of heaven, of the mezarim); Aq., Theod. ἀπὸ μαζούρ (= מזרות, Job 38:32); lxx ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν ἀκρωτηρίων, we know not wherefore. Concerning מנּשׁמת־אל (with causal מן) with reference to the wind, vid., on Job 4:15. יתּן, it gives, i.e., comes to light, is used as in Gen 38:28; Pro 13:10. The idea of מוּצק (not fusum from יצק, but coarctatum from צוּק) cannot be doubtful in connection with the antithesis of רחב, comp. Job 36:16, the idea is like Job 38:30 (comp. Mutenebbi: "the flood is bound by bands of ice"); the בּ of בּמוּצק is, as Job 36:32, the Beth essentiae, used far more extensively in Hebr. than in Arab. as an exponent of the predicate: the breadth of the water is (becomes) straitened (forcibly drawn together).
11 Also He loadeth the clouds with water,
He spreadeth far and wide the cloud of His light,
12 And these turn themselves round about,
Directed by Him, that they execute
All that He hath commanded them
Over the wide earth.
13 Whether for a scourge, or for the good of His earth,
Or for mercy, He causeth it to discharge itself.
With אף extending the description, Elihu, in the presence of the storm that is in the sky, continually returns to this one marvel of nature. The old versions connect בּרי partly with בּר, electus (lxx, Syr., Theod.) or frumentum (Symm., Jer.), partly with בּרה = בּרר in the signification puritas, serenitas (Targ.); but בּרי is, as Schultens has already perceived, the Hebr.-Arabic רי, Arab. rı̂yun, rı̂j-un (from רוה = riwj), abundant irrigation, with בּ; and יטריח does not signify, according to the Arab. atraha, "to hurl down," so that what is spoken of would be the bursting of the clouds (Stick.),
(Note: This "atraha" is, moreover, a pure invention of our ordinary Arabic lexicons instead of ittaraha (VIII form): (1) to throw one's self, (2) to throw anything from one's self, with an acc. of the thing. - Fl.)
but, according to טרח, a burden (comp. Arab. taraha ala, to load), "to burden;" with fluidity (Ew., Hirz., Hahn, Schlottm.), better: fulness of water, He burdens the clouds (comp. rawij-un as a designation of cloud as the place of rain). ענן אורו, His cloud of light, is that that is charged with lightning, and הפיץ has here its Hebr.-Arab. radical signification effundere, diffundere, with a preponderance of the idea not of scattering, but of spreading out wide (Arab. faid, abundance). והוּא, Job 37:12, refers to the cloud pregnant with lightning; this turns round about (מסבּות, adv. as מסב, round about, Kg1 6:29) seeking a place, where it shall unburden itself by virtue of His (God's) direction or disposing (תחבּוּלת, a word belonging to the book of Proverbs; lxx, Cod. Vat. and Alex., untranslated: εν θεεβουλαθωθ, Cod. Sinait. still more monstrous), in order that they (the clouds full of lightning) may accomplish everything that He commands them over the surface of the earth; ארצה as Job 34:13, and the combination תּבל ארצה as Pro 8:31, comp. ארץ ותבל, Psa 90:2. The reference of the pronominal suff. to men is as inadmissible here as in Job 37:4. In Job 37:13 two אם have certainly, as Job 34:29, two ו, the correlative signification sive ... sive (Arab. in ... wa-in), in a third, as appears, a conditional, but which? According to Ew., Hirz., Hahn, Schlottm., and others, the middle one: if it (the rod) belongs to His land, i.e., if it has deserved it. But even the possessive suff. of לארצו shows that the ל is to be taken as dat. commodi: be it for a rod, be it for the good of His land; which is then followed by a conditional verbal clause: in case He mercifully causes it (the storm) to come, i.e., causes this His land to be overtaken by it (המציא here with the acc., the thing coming, whereas in Job 34:11 of the thing to be overtaken). The accentuation, indeed, appears to assume a threefold sive: whether He causeth it to discharge itself upon man for punishment, man for mercy, or His earth for good with reference to man. Then Elihu would think of the uninhabited steppe in connection with אם לארצו. Since a conditional אם by the side of two correlatives is hazardous, we decide finally with the lxx, Targ., and all the old versions, in favour of the same rendering of the threefold אם, especially since it corresponds to the circumstances of the case.
14 Hearken unto this, O Job;
Stand still and consider the wonderful works of God!
15 Dost thou know when God designeth
To cause the light of His clouds to shine?
16 Dost thou understand the balancings of the clouds,
The wondrous things of Him who is perfect in knowledge?
Job is to stand still, instead of dictating to God, in order to draw from His wondrous acts in nature a conclusion with reference to his mystery of suffering. In Job 37:15 ידע בּ does not, as Job 35:15 (Ew. 217, S. 557), belong together, but בּ is the temporal Beth. שׂוּם is equivalent to שׂים לבּו (vid., on Job 34:23); עליהם does not refer to נפלאות (Hirz.) or the phenomena of the storm (Ew.), but is intended as neuter (as בּם Job 36:31, בּהם Job 22:21), and finds in Job 37:15 its distinctive development: "the light of His clouds" is their effulgent splendour. Without further support, ידע על is to have knowledge concerning anything, Job 37:16; מפלשׂי is also ἁπ. γεγρ.. It is unnecessary to consider it as wrongly written from מפרשׂי, Job 36:29, or as from it by change of letter (as אלמנות = ארמנות, Isa 13:22). The verb פּלּס signifies to make level, prepare (viz., a way, also weakened: to take a certain way, Pro 5:6), once: to weigh, Psa 58:3, as denom. from פּלס, a balance (and indeed a steelyard, statera), which is thus mentioned as the means of adjustment. מפלשׂי accordingly signifies either, as synon. of משׁקלי (thus the Midrash, vid., Jalkut, 522), weights (the relations of weight), or even equipoised balancings (Aben-Ezra, Kimchi, and others), Lat. quomodo librentur nubes in are.
(Note: The word is therefore a metaphor taken from the balance, and it may be observed that the Syro-Arabic, on account of the most extensive application of the balance, is unusually rich in such metaphors. Moreover, the Arabic has no corresponding noun: the teflı̂s (a balance) brought forward by Ges. in his Thes. and Handwrterbuch from Schindler's Pentaglotton, is a word devoid of all evidence from original sources and from the modern usage of the language, in this signification.)
מפלאות is also a word that does not occur elsewhere; in like manner דּע belongs exclusively to Elihu. God is called תּמים דּעים (comp. Job 36:4) as the Omniscient One, whose knowledge is absolute as to its depth as well as its circumference.
17 Thou whose garments became hot,
When the land is sultry from the south:
18 Dost thou with Him spread out the sky,
The strong, as it were molten, mirror?
19 Let us know what we shall say to Him! -
We can arrange nothing by reason of darkness.
20 Shall it be told Him that I speak,
Or shall one wish to be destroyed?
Most expositors connect Job 37:17 with Job 37:16 : (Dost thou know) how it comes to pass that ... ; but אשׁר after ידע signifies quod, Exo 11:7, not quomodo, as it sometimes occurs in a comparing antecedent clause, instead of כאשׁר, Exo 14:13; Jer 33:22. We therefore translate: thou whose ... , - connecting this, however, not with Job 37:16 (vid., e.g., Carey), but as Bolduc. and Ew., with Job 37:18 (where ה before תרקיע is then the less missed): thou who, when the land (the part of the earth where thou art) keeps rest, i.e., in sultriness, when oppressive heat comes (on this Hiph. vid., Ges. 53, 2) from the south (i.e., by means of the currents of air which come thence, without דּרום signifying directly the south wind), - thou who, when this happens, canst endure so little, that on the contrary the heat from without becomes perceptible to thee through thy clothes: dost thou now and then with Him keep the sky spread out, which for firmness is like a molten mirror? Elsewhere the hemispheric firmament, which spans the earth with its sub-celestial waters, is likened to a clear sapphire Exo 24:10, a covering Psa 104:2, a gauze Isa 40:22; the comparison with a metallic mirror (מוּצק here not from צוּק, Job 37:10; Job 36:16, but from יצק) is therefore to be understood according to Petavius: Coelum areum στερέωμα dicitur non a naturae propria conditione, sed ab effectu, quod perinde aquas separet, ac si murus esset solidissimus. Also in תרקיע lies the notion both of firmness and thinness; the primary notion (root רק) is to beat, make thick, stipare (Arab. rq‛, to stop up in the sense of resarcire, e.g., to mend stockings), to make thick by pressure. The ל joined with תרקיע is nota acc.; we must not comp. Job 8:8; Job 21:22, as well as Job 5:2; Job 19:3.
Therefore: As God is the only Creator (Job 9:8), so He is the all-provident Preserver of the world - make us know (הודיענוּ, according to the text of the Babylonians, Keri of הודיעני) what we shall say to Him, viz., in order to show that we can cope with Him! We cannot arrange, viz., anything whatever (to be explained according to ערך מלּין, Job 32:14, comp. "to place," Job 36:19), by reason of darkness, viz., the darkness of our understanding, σκότος τῆς διανοίας; מפּני is much the same as Job 23:17, but different from Job 17:12, and חשׁך different from both passages, viz., as it is often used in the New Testament, of intellectual darkness (comp. Ecc 2:14; Isa 60:2). The meaning of Job 37:20 cannot now be mistaken, if, with Hirz., Hahn, and Schlottm., we call to mind Job 36:10 in connection with אמר כּי: can I, a short-sighted man, enshrouded in darkness, wish that what I have arrogantly said concerning and against Him may be told to God, or should one earnestly desire (אמר, a modal perf., as Job 35:15) that (an jusserit s. dixerit quis ut) he may be swallowed up, i.e., destroyed (comp. לבלעו, Job 2:3)? He would, by challenging a recognition of his unbecoming arguing about God, desire a tribunal that would be destructive to himself.
21 Although one seeth now the sunlight
That is bright in the ethereal heights:
A wind passeth by and cleareth them up.
22 Gold is brought from the north, -
Above Eloah is terrible majesty.
23 The Almighty, whom we cannot find out,
The excellent in strength,
And right and justice He perverteth not.
24 Therefore men regard Him with reverence,
He hath no regard for all the wise of heart.
He who censures God's actions, and murmurs against God, injures himself - how, on the contrary, would a patiently submissive waiting on Him be rewarded! This is the connection of thought, by which this final strophe is attached to what precedes. If we have drawn the correct conclusion from Job 37:1, that Elihu's description of a storm is accompanied by a storm which was coming over the sky, ועתּה, with which the speech, as Job 35:15, draws towards the close, is not to be understood as purely conclusive, but temporal: And at present one does not see the light (אור of the sun, as Job 31:26) which is bright in the ethereal heights (בּהיר again a Hebr.-Arab. word, comp. bâhir, outshining, surpassing, especially of the moon, when it dazzles with its brightness); yet it only requires a breath of wind to pass over it, and to clear it, i.e., brings the ethereal sky with the sunlight to view. Elihu hereby means to say that the God who his hidden only for a time, respecting whom one runs the risk of being in perplexity, can suddenly unveil Himself, to our surprise and confusion, and that therefore it becomes us to bow humbly and quietly to His present mysterious visitation. With respect to the removal of the clouds from the beclouded sun, to which Job 37:21 refers, זהב, Job 37:22, seems to signify the gold of the sun; esh-shemsu bi-tibrin, the sun is gold, says Abulola. Oriental and Classic literature furnishes a large number of instances in support of this calling the sunshine gold; and it should not perplex us here, where we have an Arabizing Hebrew poet before us, that not a single passage can be brought forward from the Old Testament literature. But מצּפון is against this figurative rendering of the זהב (lxx νέφη χρυσαυγοῦντα). In Eze 1:4 there is good reason for the storm-clouds, which unfold from their midst the glory of the heavenly Judge, who rideth upon the cherubim, coming from the north; but wherefore should Elihu represent the sun's golden light as breaking through from the north? On the other hand, in the conception of the ancients, the north is the proper region for gold: there griffins (grupe's) guard the gold-pits of the Arimaspian mountains (Herod. iii. 116); there, from the narrow pass of the Caucasus along the Gordyaean mountains, gold is dug by barbarous races (Pliny, h. n. vi. 11), and among the Scythians it is brought to light by the ants (ib. xxxiii. 4). Egypt could indeed provide itself with gold from Ethiopia, and the Phoenicians brought the gold of Ophir, already mentioned in the book of Job, from India; but the north was regarded as the fabulously most productive chief mine of gold; to speak more definitely: Northern Asia, with the Altai mountains.
(Note: Vid., the art. Gold, S. 91, 101, in Ersch and Gruber. The Indian traditions concerning Uttaraguru (the "High Mountain"), and concerning the northern seat of the god on wealth Kuvra, have no connection here; on their origin comp. Lassen, Indische Alterthumskunde, i. 848.)
Thus therefore Job 28:1, Job 28:6 is to be compared here.
What Job describes so grandly and minutely in Job 28:1, viz., that man lays bare the hidden treasures of the earth's interior, but that the wisdom of God still transcends him, is here expressed no less grandly and compendiously: From the north cometh gold, which man wrests from the darkness of the gloomy unknown region of the north (צפון, ζόφος, from צפן, cogn. טמן, טמר,
(Note: The verb צּפּה, obducere, does not belong here, but to צפח, and signifies properly to flatten (as רקע, to make thin and thick by striking), comp. Arab. ṣfḥ, to strike on something flat (whence el-musâfaha, the salutation by striking the hand), and Arab. ṣf‛, to strike with the flat hand on anything, therefore diducendo obducere.)
upon Eloah, on the contrary is terrible majesty (not genitival: terror of majesty, Ew. 293, c), i.e., it covers Him like a garment (Psa 104:1), making Him inaccessible (הוד, glory as resounding praise, vid., on Job 39:20, like כבוד as imposing dignity). The beclouded sun, Job 37:21 said, has lost none of the intensity of its light, although man has to wait for the removing of the clouds to behold it again. So, when God's doings are mysterious to us, we have to wait, without murmuring, for His solution of the mystery. While from the north comes gold - Job 37:22 continues - which is obtained by laying bare the interior of the northern mountains, God, on the other hand, is surrounded by inaccessibly terrible glory: the Almighty - thus Job 37:23 completes the thought towards which Job 37:22 tends - we cannot reach, the Great in power, i.e., the nature of the Absolute One remains beyond us, the counsel of the Almighty impenetrable; still we can at all times be certain of this, that what He does is right and good: "Right and the fulness of justice (ורב־ according to the Masora, not ורב-) He perverteth not." The expression is remarkable: ענּה משׁפּט is, like the Talmudic ענּה דּין, equivalent elsewhere to הטּה משׁפט; and that He does not pervert רב־צדקה, affirms that justice in its whole compass is not perverted by Him; His acts are therefore perfectly and in every way consistent with it: רב־צדקה is the abstract. to צדיק כביר, Job 34:17, therefore summa justitia. One may feel tempted to draw ומשׁפט to שׂגיא כח, and to read ורב according to Pro 14:29 instead of ורב, but the expression gained by so doing is still more difficult than the combination לא יענּה...ומשׁפט; not merely difficult, however, but putting a false point in place of a correct one, is the reading לא יענה (lxx, Syr., Jer.), according to which Hirz. translates: He answers, not, i.e., gives no account to man. The accentuation rightly divides Job 37:23 into two halves, the second of which begins with ומשׁפט - a significant Waw, on which J. H. Michaelis observes: Placide invicem in Deo conspirant infinita ejus potentia et justitia quae in hominibus saepe disjuncta sunt.
Elihu closes with the practical inference: Therefore men, viz., of the right sort, of sound heart, uncorrupted and unaffected, fear Him (יראוּהוּ verentur eum, not יראוּהוּ veremini eum); He does not see (regard) the wise of heart, i.e., those who imagine themselves such and are proud of their לב, their understanding. The qui sibi videntur (Jer.) does not lie in לב (comp. Isa 5:21), but in the antithesis. Stick. and others render falsely: Whom the aggregate of the over-wise beholds not, which would be יראנּוּ. God is the subj. as in Job 28:24; Job 34:21, comp. Job 41:26. The assonance of יראוהו and יראה, which also occurs frequently elsewhere (e.g., Job 6:21), we have sought to reproduce in the translation.
In this last speech also Elihu's chief aim (Job 36:2-4) is to defend God against Job's charge of injustice. He shows how omnipotence, love, and justice are all found in God. When judging of God's omnipotence, we are to beware of censuring Him who is absolutely exalted above us and our comprehension; when judging of God's love, we are to beware of interpreting His afflictive dispensations, which are designed for our well-being, as the persecution of an enemy; when judging of His justice, we are to beware of maintaining our own righteousness at the cost of the Divine, and of thus avoiding the penitent humbling of one's self under His well-meant chastisement. The twofold peculiarity of Elihu's speeches comes out in this fourth as prominently as in the first: (1) They demand of Job penitential submission, not by accusing him of coarse common sins as the three have done, but because even the best of men suffer for hidden moral defects, which must be perceived by them in order not to perish on account of them. Elihu here does for Job just what in Bunyan (Pilgrim's Progress) the man in the Interpreter's house does, when he sweeps the room, so that Christian had been almost choked with the dust that flew about. Then (2) they teach that God makes use of just such sufferings, as Job's now are, in order to bring man to a knowledge of his hidden defects, and to bless him the more abundantly if he will be saved from them; that thus the sufferings of those who fear God are a wholesome medicine, disciplinary chastenings, and saving warnings; and that therefore true, not merely feigned, piety must be proved in the school of affliction by earnest self-examination, remorseful self-accusation, and humble submission.
Elihu therefore in this agrees with the rest of the book, that he frees Job's affliction from the view which accounts it the evil-doer's punishment (vid., Job 32:3). On the other hand, however, he nevertheless takes up a position apart from the rest of the book, by making Job's sin the cause of his affliction; while in the idea of the rest of the book Job's affliction has nothing whatever to do with Job's sin, except in so far as he allows himself to be drawn into sinful language concerning God by the conflict of temptation into which the affliction plunges him. For after Jehovah has brought Job over this his sin, He acknowledges His servant (Job 42:7) to be in the right, against the three friends: his affliction is really not a merited affliction, it is not a result of retributive justice; it also had not chastisement as its design, it was an enigma, under which Job should have bowed humbly without striking against it - a decree, into the purpose of which the prologue permits us an insight, which however remains unexplained to Job, or is only explained to him so far as the issue teaches him that it should be to him the way to a so much the more glorious testimony on the part of God Himself.
With that criticism of Job, which the speeches of Jehovah consummate, the criticism which lies before us in the speeches of Elihu is irreconcilable. The older poet, in contrast with the false doctrine of retribution, entirely separates sin and punishment or chastisement in the affliction of Job, and teaches that there is an affliction of the righteous, which is solely designed to prove and test them. His thema, not Elihu's (as Simson
(Note: Zur Kritik des B. Hiob, 1861, S. 34.)
with Hengstenberg thinks), is the mystery of the Cross. For the Cross according to its proper notion is suffering ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης (or what in New Testament language is the same, ἕνεκεν Χριστοῦ). Elihu, however, leaves sin and suffering together as inseparable, and opposes the false doctrine of retribution by the distinction between disciplinary chastisement and judicial retribution. The Elihu section, as I have shown elsewhere,
(Note: Vid., Herzog's Real-Encyklopdie, art. Hiob, S. 119.)
has sprung from the endeavour to moderate the bewildering boldness with which the older poet puts forth his idea. The writer has felt in connection with the book of Job what every Christian must feel. Such a maintaining of his own righteousness in the face of friendly exhortations to penitence, as we perceive it in Job's speeches, is certainly not possible where "the dust of the room has flown about." The friends have only failed in this, that they made Job more and more an evil-doer deservedly undergoing punishment. Elihu points him to vainglorying, to carnal security, and in the main to those defects from which the most godly cannot and dare not claim exemption. It is not contrary to the spirit of the drama that Job holds his peace at these exhortations to penitence. The similarly expressed admonition to penitence with which Eliphaz, Job 4:1, begins, has not effected it. In the meanwhile, however, Job is become more softened and composed, and in remembrance of his unbecoming language concerning God, he must feel that he has forfeited the right of defending himself. Nevertheless this silent Job is not altogether the same as the Job who, in Job 40 and 42, forces himself to keep silence, whose former testimony concerning himself, and whose former refusal of a theodicy which links sin and calamity together, Jehovah finally sets His seal to.
On the other hand, however, it must be acknowledged, that what the introduction to Elihu's speeches, Job 32:1-5, sets before us, is consistent with the idea of the whole, and that such a section as the introduction leads one to expect, may be easily understood really as a member of the whole, which carries forward the dramatic development of this idea; for this very reason one feels urged to constantly new endeavours, if possible, to understand these speeches as a part of the original form. But they are without result, and, moreover, many other considerations stand in our way to the desired goal; especially, that Elihu is not mentioned in the epilogue, and that his speeches are far behind the artistic perfection of the rest of the book. It is true the writer of these speeches has, in common with the rest of the book, a like Hebraeo-Arabic, and indeed Hauranitish style, and like mutual relations to earlier and later writings; but this is explained from the consideration that he has completely blended the older book with himself (as the points of contact of the fourth speech with Job 28:1 and the speeches of Jehovah, show), and that to all appearance he is a fellow-countryman of the older poet. There are neither linguistic nor any other valid reasons in favour of assigning it to a much later period. He is the second issuer of the book, possibly the first, who brought to light the hitherto hidden treasure, enriched by his own insertion, which is inestimable in its relation to the history of the perception of the plan of redemption.
We now call to mind that in the last (according to our view) strophe of Job's last speech. Job 31:35-37, Job desires, yea challenges, the divine decision between himself and his opponents. His opponents have explained his affliction as the punishment of the just God; he, however, is himself so certain of his innocence, and of his victory over divine and human accusation, that he will bind the indictment of his opponents as a crown upon his brow, and to God, whose hand of punishment supposedly rests upon him, will he render an account of all his steps, and go forth as a prince to meet Him. That he considers himself a צדיק is in itself not censurable, for he is such: but that he is מצדק נפשׁו מאלהים, i.e., considers himself to be righteous in opposition to God, who is no angry with him and punishes him; that he maintains his own righteousness to the prejudice of the Divine; and that by maintaining his own right, places the Divine in the shade, - all this is explainable as the result of the false idea which he entertains of his affliction, and in which he is strengthened by the friends; but there is need of censure and penitence. For since by His nature God can never do wrong, all human wrangling before God is a sinful advance against the mystery of divine guidance, under which he should rather humbly bow. But we have seen that Job's false idea of God as his enemy, whose conduct he cannot acknowledge as just, does not fill his whole soul. The night of temptation in which he is enshrouded, is broken in upon by gleams of faith, in connection with which God appears to him as his Vindicator and Redeemer. Flesh and spirit, nature and grace, delusion and faith, are at war within him. These two elements are constantly more definitely separated in the course of the controversy; but it is not yet come to the victory of faith over delusion, the two lines of conception go unreconciled side by side in Job's soul. The last monologues issue on the one side in the humble confession that God's wisdom is unsearchable, and the fear of God is the share of wisdom appointed to man; on the other side, in the defiant demand that God may answer for his defence of himself, and the vaunting offer to give Him an account of all his steps, and also then to enter His presence with the high feeling of a prince. If now the issue of the drama is to be this, that God really reveals Himself as Job's Vindicator and Redeemer, Job's defiance and boldness must be previously punished in order that lowliness and submission may attain the victory over them. God cannot acknowledge job as His servant before he penitently acknowledges as such the sinful weakness under which he has proved himself to be God's servant, and so exhibits himself anew in his true character which cherishes no known sin. This takes place when Jehovah appears, and in language not of wrath but of loving condescension, and yet earnest reproof, He makes the Titan quite puny in his own eyes, in order then to exalt him who is outwardly and inwardly humbled.