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JOB 34


Elihu Vindicates God's Justice Elihu Proclaims God's Justice Discourses of Elihu
The Speeches of Elihu
The Three Sages Have Failed to Justify God

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. There are many textual issues in this chapter (especially Job 34:29-33). See UBS Text Project, pp. 114-122. The rare words, poetic imagery, and the shortening of phrases, which a contemporary speaker would understand, are the things that cause confusion.


B. Elihu, like the three comforters, calls on Job to hear, listen (imperatives, cf. Job 32:10; 33:1,31,33; 34:2,10,16).


C. Elihu defends the righteousness of God by disallowing the righteousness of Job. "The two ways" must be true!


D. Elihu presents his message by a series of rhetorical questions.

1. Job 34:13 (twice), 17,18-19,33 expect a "no" answer'

2. Job 34:19 expects a "yes" answer



 1"Then Elihu continued and said,
 2"Hear my words, you wise men,
 And listen to me, you who know.
 3For the ear tests words
 As the palate tastes food.
 4Let us choose for ourselves what is right;
 Let us know among ourselves what is good.
 5For Job has said, ‘I am righteous,
 But God has taken away my right;
 6Should I lie concerning my right?
 My wound is incurable, though I am without transgression.'
 7What man is like Job,
 Who drinks up derision like water,
 8Who goes in company with the workers of iniquity,
 And walks with wicked men?
 9For he has said, ‘It profits a man nothing
 When he is pleased with God.'"

34:2 "wise men. . .you who know" These phrases and (1) "you men of understanding" in Job 34:10,34a and (2) "a wise man" in Job 34:34b are hard to assign to a group. Elihu has condemned the three comforters in Job 32:5-6,9,12,15; therefore, it may refer to

1. the three friends (sarcasm)

2. the sages of Edomite culture

3. simply a rhetorical device not meant to address anyone specifically

Remember, one major theme of Job is "who has true wisdom?"!

34:3 This is a quote from Job 12:11. Elihu has been listening carefully and taking notes!

34:4 The two verbs are Qal cohortatives. They are related to "you wise men" of Job 34:2. They set the literary stage for Elihu's quoting/alluding to Job's previous statements. He asserts that all truly wise men must be rejecting Job's words!

34:5-6 "For Job has said. . ." Elihu alludes to/quotes several statements of Job.

1. "I am righteous" – Job 6:29; 9:20-21; 10:7; 12:4; 13:18; 27:5-6

2. "God has taken away my rights" – Job 16:7-9,11-14; 27:2

3. "My wound is incurable, though I am without transgression" – see #1 (cf. Job 6:4)

4. "It profits a man nothing when he is pleased with God" – Job 21:14-15; 22:17



NKJV"Should I lie concerning my right"
NRSV"in spite of being right, I am counted a liar"
TEV"He asks, ‘How could I lie and say I am wrong'"
NJB"My Judge is treating me cruelly"
JPSOA"I declare the judgment against me false"
REB"he has falsified my case"
LXX"the Lord. . .played false in my judgment"

The interpretive question is who is the subject, Job (MT) or God (LXX, TEV, NJB, REB)? Is Job the liar or is God? The issue is Job's defense of being innocent. Is he innocent and God unfair? The UBS Text Project (p. 114) and the UBS Handbook (p. 620) suggest that the verse is speaking of God's falsification of Job's legal case. Maybe God has accepted the false accusations of the three comforters (cf. Job 13:4-10) over Job's affirmation of innocence.

▣ "wound" This is literally "arrow" (BDB 346, KB 343 I) but used in the sense of "wound" (i.e., God's arrow, cf. Job 6:4; Ps. 7:13; 18:14; 38:2; etc.).

34:7-8 Elihu accuses Job.

1. drinks up derision like water

a. a man who drinks iniquity, Job 15:16

b. a man who says false things about God, Job 34:7

2. goes in company with workers of iniquity (of "the two ways" of Psalm 1)

3. walks with wicked men (Zophar, Job 11:11; Eliphaz, Job 22:15; Job, Job 31:5-8)

4. speaks lies (i.e., Job 34:9)



NRSV, TEV"in company"
JPSOA"common cause"
REB"bad company"
LXX"lawless acts"
Peshitta"companion and friend"

This feminine noun (BDB 288, KB 288) occurs only here but is obviously related to two masculine nouns (BDB 288) meaning "company," "association," "companion."

34:9 This may be an allusion to Job's words in Job 9:22-24 or 21:7-13. In these texts Job asserts that "the two ways" does not always reflect life. The wicked do prosper and the innocent do suffer! Something must be wrong with traditional theology. See note #2 at Job 34:10-15.

 10"Therefore, listen to me, you men of understanding.
 Far be it from God to do wickedness,
 And from the Almighty to do wrong.
 11For He pays a man according to his work,
 And makes him find it according to his way.
 12Surely, God will not act wickedly,
 And the Almighty will not pervert justice.
 13Who gave Him authority over the earth?
 And who has laid on Him the whole world?
 14If He should determine to do so,
 If He should gather to Himself His spirit and His breath,
 15All flesh would perish together,
 And man would return to dust."

34:10-15 Elihu defends God's power and justice.

1. far be it from God to do wickedness, Job 34:10,12 (cf. Job 8:3; 36:23; 37:23; Deut. 32:4)

2. He pays a man according to his work (cf. Job 4:8; 34:25; Ps. 28:4; 62:12; Pro. 12:14; 24:12; Eccl. 12:14; Jer. 17:10; 32:19; Ezek. 33:20; Matt. 16:27; 25:31-46; Rom. 2:6; 14:12; 1 Cor. 3:8; 2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:7-10; 2 Tim. 4:14; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 2:23; 20:12; 22:12)

3. He is the sovereign creator, Job 34:13

4. He is the sustainer of all life, Job 34:14-15


34:10 "men of understanding" This is literally "men (BDB 35, KB 43) of heart (BDB 523, KB 516)." See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEART.

▣ "far be it" This idiomatic expression (like Paul's "God forbid," "may it never be") is also found in Job 27:5.

34:12 This is the issue of the book! Is God fair/just with His human creatures (cf. Job 8:3)? Elihu says "yes"; Job says "no."

The book never really answers the question. It simply asserts God as sovereign (i.e., Job 38:1-42:6)! The mystery remains but "the two ways" does not fit all suffering and pain (i.e., Gen. 3:15; Psalm 22; Isaiah 53).

NRSV"of a truth"
NJB"be sure of it"
REB"the truth is"
LXX"now, do you think"

This is a Hebrew idiom (a conjunction, BDB 64 II and an adverb, BDB 53). The same form is found in Job 19:4. It denotes a true statement.

▣ "the Almighty" See SPECIAL TOPIC: The Almighty (Shaddai).

34:14 The question of this verse is "whose heart, spirit, and breath" are being addressed:

1. God's heart (JPSOA, Peshitta)

2. humankind's spirit and breath (JPSOA, Peshitta)

The NKJV translates the three (i.e., heart, spirit, and breath) as belonging to God.

Job 34:14-15 is contextually part of a hypothetical ("if") sentence. In whatever way Job 34:14 is translated, Job 34:15 shows the terrible result. Life would cease (cf. Job 12:10)!

34:15 "man would return to dust" This is an allusion to Gen. 2:7 and 3:19. This imagery is used earlier by Job in Job 10:9.

 16"But if you have understanding, hear this;
 Listen to the sound of my words.
 17Shall one who hates justice rule?
 And will you condemn the righteous mighty One,
 18Who says to a king, ‘Worthless one,'
 To nobles, ‘Wicked ones';
 19Who shows no partiality to princes
 Nor regards the rich above the poor,
 For they all are the work of His hands?
 20In a moment they die, and at midnight
 People are shaken and pass away,
 And the mighty are taken away without a hand."

34:16-20 This strophe is directed to Job (another hypothetical, BDB 49, Job 34:14,16). It mentions the leaders who are rejected by God if they are not righteous (cf. Job 34:30).

1. a king

2. a judge (implied by use of "partiality")

3. nobles (king's wealthy, powerful supporters)

4. princes (king's family)

If they show partiality they will be removed. This may reflect Job's claims/imagery in Job 29:25 or 31:37. Job may have been a regional chief, surely a local elder.

34:17a "rule" This verb (BDB 289, KB 289, Qal imperfect) normally means "to bind," but it is used in several senses in Job.

1. to bind up wounds, Job 5:18 (cf. Ps. 147:3)

2. to dam up (i.e., bind) a stream, Job 28:11

3. to govern/rule (i.e., bind up or control social life), Job 34:17

4. to bind a covering on a dead body in the grave

In Gen. 22:3; 40:13; Num. 22:21; Jdgs. 19:10; 2 Sam. 16:1; 17:23; 19:26, it means "to saddle" (several times in Kings). Only in this context does it mean "to rule." NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 19, suggests it may mean "to imprison," which seems to follow the basic meaning of the Hebrew root better.


NASB"will you condemn a righteous mighty one"
NKJV"will you condemn Him who is most just"
NRSV"will you condemn one who is righteous and mighty"
TEV"are you condemning the righteous God"
NJB"would you dare condemn the Upright One, the Almighty"
JPSOA"would you condemn the Just Mighty One"

The NASB implies it refers to a righteous judge who acts fairly to all without partiality, but the other translations think it refers to God. He is the just and impartial One, therefore, Job must be a liar.

The adjectives "righteous" (BDB 843) and "mighty" (BDB 460) can be a hendiadys. The NET Bible translates them as "the supremely righteous One," following Dhorme (516).

34:19a "shows no partiality" This verb (BDB 669, KB 724, Qal perfect) is literally "does not lift the face." It is regularly used of impartial judges (cf. Deut. 1:17; 16:19; 24:17; Lev. 19:15) and of God (cf. Deut. 10:17; 2 Chr. 19:7; and probably here).

34:19c This line of poetry obviously refers to God's creation of humankind (Genesis 1-2).

34:20 Those in power who act unjustly in partiality are quickly removed by the God of justice!

"People" (BDB 766 I) may refer to the rich leaders mentioned in Job 34:18-19.


 21"For His eyes are upon the ways of a man,
 And He sees all his steps.
 22There is no darkness or deep shadow
 Where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.
 23For He does not need to consider a man further,
 That he should go before God in judgment.
 24He breaks in pieces mighty men without inquiry,
 And sets others in their place.
 25Therefore He knows their works,
 And He overthrows them in the night,
 And they are crushed.
 26He strikes them like the wicked
 In a public place,
 27Because they turned aside from following Him,
 And had no regard for any of His ways;
 28So that they caused the cry of the poor to come to Him,
 And that He might hear the cry of the afflicted—
 29When He keeps quiet, who then can condemn?
 And when He hides His face, who then can behold Him,
 That is, in regard to both nation and man?—
 30So that godless men would not rule
 Nor be snares of the people."

34:21-30 This strophe is parallel to Job 34:16-20. The God of justice is characterized and the wicked are judged.

God is described as

1. His eyes are upon the ways of human beings (cf. Job 34:11,25; 24:23b; 31:4)

2. there is no darkness or deep shadow that can hide sinners from Him (cf. Ps. 139:11-12; Jer. 23:24; Amos 9:2-3)

3. His justice is fair and sure the first time (Job 34:23 may be an allusion to Job's question in Job 24:1)

4. He removes the wicked and establishes the righteous (notice the dashes after Job 34:28 and before 34:30; RSV, NASB, NRSV use them to show that 34:30 relates to 34:28)

The wicked described.

1. they are judged publicly (this surely fits Job's life)

2. because they have turned from His path

3. because they have taken advantage of the poor

4. they shall not rule (Job 34:30)


34:23 There is a textual question with the adverb "yet" (BDB 728). Many scholars emend it to "appointed time" (BDB 588, NRSV) but NASB and NKJV see "yet" used in the sense of "further" (i.e., more time to examine). The UBS Text Project (p. 116) gives "yet" an "A" rating (very high probability).

34:28 God hears the cry of the poor and afflicted but Elihu assumes Job has abused the poor and powerless.

The question for Job is "Why has He not heard my cries?"

34:29 This verse addresses Job's complaint that God is hiding from him, will not answer him. Sometime God does 

1. keep quiet (i.e., He is at rest and needs to be aroused)

2. hide His face (cf. Job 13:24; Ps. 13:1; 44:24; 88:14; Isa. 45:15)

For both individuals (Job) and nations (i.e., I think the author is a Judean sage), this verse hints at the corporate purpose of the book of Job.

Peshitta"who then can condemn"
NKJV"who then can make trouble"
NJB"no one can move him"

The UBS Text Project (p. 118) supports the first option following the MT (BDB 957, KB 1294, Hiphil imperfect) with an "A" rating.

The NJB is an emendation which reverses the last two Hebrew consonants, "and who will shake" (BDB 950, KB 1271).

 31"For has anyone said to God,
 ‘I have borne chastisement;
 I will not offend anymore;
 32Teach me what I do not see;
 If I have done iniquity,
 I will not do it again'?
 33Shall He recompense on your terms, because you have rejected it?
 For you must choose, and not I;
 Therefore declare what you know.
 34Men of understanding will say to me,
 And a wise man who hears me,
 35‘Job speaks without knowledge,
 And his words are without wisdom.
 36Job ought to be tried to the limit,
 Because he answers like wicked men.
 37For he adds rebellion to his sin;
 He claps his hands among us,
 And multiplies his words against God.'"

34:31-37 In this strophe Elihu asserts Job's guilt by his previous words. Job has accused God of injustice. If God is just, then Job must be unjust!

Notice the number of "I's" which Elihu attributes to Job's false statements.

1. I have borne chastisement, Job 34:31

2. I will not offend anymore, Job 34:31

3. I do not see (i.e., understand God), Job 34:32

4. if I have done iniquity, I will do it no more, Job 34:32



NJB"His decisions"

There is no stated object of the verb. It could refer to

1. Job's legal case (NKJV, "your terms")

2. God's ways with humans (TEV, NJB, i.e.; "the two ways")

3. Elihu's argument (NET Bible, see the remainder of Job 34:33)



NKJV"Oh, that"
JPSOA"would that"
REB"if only"

The MT has "my father." It is possible to take it as "I entreat" (BDB 106), from an Arabic root. Note how the ancient versions take it as an affirmation that Job will be put on trial by God (or by his peers).

34:37b There have been many suggestions about what this line of poetry in context means.

1. Job's arrogant condemnation of God (Job 34:37c)

2. Job causes spiritual doubt among those who hear him (Dhorme)

3. Job attacks the very foundation of Edomite law and legal precedent (NJB)



This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Who are the wise men of Job 34:2,10,34?

2. Why does Elihu quote/allude to Job's previous statements?

3. Explain Job 34:9 in your own words.

4. How does Job 34:11 characterize "the two ways"?

5. Who is referred to in Job 34:17b?

6. What does "God hides His face" mean (Job 34:29)?

7. Does Job 34:31-32 describe Job's previous claims?

8. To what does Job 34:37b refer?


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