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JOB 36


Elihu Speaks of God's Dealings With Men Elihu Proclaims God's Goodness Discourses of Elihu
The Speeches of Elihu
The Real Meaning of Job's Suffering
    Fourth Discourse of Elihu
36:1 36:1-4
  Hymns to God's Omnipotence
  Elihu Proclaims God's Majesty

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. Etc.



 1Then Elihu continued and said,
 2"Wait for me a little, and I will show you
 That there is yet more to be said in God's behalf.
 3I will fetch my knowledge from afar,
 And I will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.
 4For truly my words are not false;
 One who is perfect in knowledge is with you.
 5Behold, God is mighty but does not despise any;
 He is mighty in strength of understanding.
 6He does not keep the wicked alive,
 But gives justice to the afflicted.
 7He does not withdraw His eyes from the righteous;
 But with kings on the throne
 He has seated them forever, and they are exalted.
 8And if they are bound in fetters,
 And are caught in the cords of affliction,
 9Then He declares to them their work
 And their transgressions, that they have magnified themselves.
 10He opens their ear to instruction,
 And commands that they return from evil.
 11If they hear and serve Him,
 They will end their days in prosperity
 And their years in pleasures.
 12But if they do not hear, they shall perish by the sword
 And they will die without knowledge.
 13But the godless in heart lay up anger;
 They do not cry for help when He binds them.
 14They die in youth,
 And their life perishes among the cult prostitutes.
 15He delivers the afflicted in their affliction,
 And opens their ear in time of oppression.
 16Then indeed, He enticed you from the mouth of distress,
 Instead of it, a broad place with no constraint;
 And that which was set on your table was full of fatness."

36:2 "Wait for me a little while" This is a Piel imperative (BDB 509, KB 506). The Hebrew root normally means "to surround" but in Syrian it means "to wait."

▣ "I will show you" This is a Piel imperfect (BDB 296, KB 295) used in a cohortative sense.

This verse is a literary way Elihu expresses his desire that Job hear him (cf. Job 33:1b; 34:2,10,16; 37:14). Elihu is arrogantly asserting he, and he alone, really has true wisdom (cf. Job 36:4b; 33:3-4) and is speaking for God!

36:3a This may be idiomatic for Elihu gathering information about God from

1. a variety of places

2. God Himself (see same word used in Ps. 139:2)

Therefore, it becomes an assertion of his complete and full knowledge of God.

36:3b Elihu asserts that he can substantiate that God is just and fair, which Job has denied.

▣ "my Maker" The MT (BDB 821, KB 950, Qal active participle) asserts God as creator of human beings. A synonymous title was used in Job 35:10 (BDB 793 I, KB 889, Qal active participle).

36:4a This implies that Job's words, also as well as his three comforters' words, are false! Only Elihu has true and complete knowledge of God (Job 36:4b). He claims a unique illumination in Job 33:3.

36:5-16 Here is a list of the actions of God.

1. God is mighty, Job 36:5a

2. God despises no one, Job 36:5a

3. God is mighty in understanding (lit. heart), Job 36:5b

4. God destroys the wicked, Job 36:6a; kings also, Job 36:12-16

5. God gives justice to the afflicted, Job 36:6b

6. God does not withdraw His eyes from the righteous, Job 36:7a

7. God places kings on their thrones, Job 36:7b

8. God instructs kings, Job 36:10a

9. God commands they repent of evil, Job 36:8-10

10. God blesses obedient, repentant kings, Job 36:11

Though Elihu uses "kings," he is obviously referring to Job as a tribal elder or community leader (cf. Job 36:17-23).

36:5b "understanding" This is literally "heart." NJB accepts an emendation and reads, "whose heart is pure." The UBS Text Project (p. 123) gives the NASB translation of the MT a "B" rating (some doubt). See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEART.

The theological essence of this line of poetry is that God acts on His purposes and is resolute in accomplishing them.

36:6a This is the theology of "the two ways." Job has disagreed with this (cf. Job 9:24; 21:7). As Job is an exception, so too, the prosperous wicked!

36:7 The interpretive issue becomes, "Are there two groups in Job 36:7 or just one?"

1. the righteous

2. kings

"Kings" seems out of place unless it is an allusion to

1. Job's tribal/area leadership

2. imagery of the righteous being treated as a king


36:8-11 Elihu asserts that the purpose of suffering may be to help turn back to God a faithful follower who has sinned (Job 36:15). This is the stated purpose of the "cursing" passages in the Mosaic Covenant (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-30).

36:8 The concept of being bound by God (cf. Job 36:13) is a Hebrew idiom for judgment (i.e., Ps. 107:10; 149:8). The opposite idiom is "to set free" (cf. Ps. 146:7; Isa. 42:7; 49:9; 61:1).

36:10 "He opens their ear to instruction" This is a Hebrew idiom. God initiates revelation (cf. Job 33:16; 36:15); mankind can only respond to God's initiation. This is covenant (see SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT).

Literally, the verb is "uncovers" (BDB 162, KB 191, Qal imperfect, cf. Zech. 7:11). This is similar to the idiom of "circumcise your ears" (i.e., Jer. 6:10; Acts 7:51).

▣ "return from evil" This verb (BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal imperfect) is one of several Hebrew terms which denotes a change of spiritual direction. See SPECIAL TOPIC: REPENTANCE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT (OT).

Notice in Job 36:10 how the sovereign God reveals His will but calls on a human person to respond. This is the intersection of election and free will. Both are biblical; both are true; both are necessary. See SPECIAL TOPIC: ELECTION/PREDESTINATION AND THE NEED FOR A THEOLOGICAL BALANCE/Predestination and the Need for a Theological Balance.

36:11-12 "If they hear and serve" This is the essence of the verb shema (cf. Deut. 6:4-6), "to hear, so as to do" (cf. James 1:22-25).

Notice the traditional "two ways" emphasis—repent and be prosperous and live a long life.


JPSOA"perish by the sword"
TEV"cross the stream"
NJB"go down the canal"
REB"cross the river of death"
NET Bible"pass over the river of death"

The Hebrew verb (BDB 716, KB 778) means "to pass over" or "to pass through." It has a wide semantic field. However, it is often used in connection with

1. death involving water – Ps. 88:16-17; 124:3-4; Jonah 2:4; Isa. 54:9

2. death – Job 33:18; 34:20; Ps. 37:36

However, the word "sword" (BDB 1019, cf. Job 15:22) gives the NASB, NKJV, NRSV, JPSOA textual support for their translation, "perish."

36:13 The godless do not call out to God, but the faithful do (cf. Job 36:15). The verb "delivers" (BDB 322 I, KB 321, Piel imperfect) in Job 36:15 denotes God saving/delivering

1. from affliction, Job 36:15; Ps. 119:153

2. from calamity, Ps. 18:18-19

3. from trouble, Ps. 34:6-7; 50:15; 81:7; 91:15

4. from death, Ps. 56:13; 116:8



NASB"among cult prostitutes"
NKJV"among the perverted persons"
NRSV"in shame"
NJB"among the male prostitutes of the temple"
JPSOA"the depraved"
REB"male prostitutes"
LXX"by messengers" (angels)
Peshitta"snatched by famine"

The MT has "temple prostitute" (man, cf. Deut. 23:17; 1 Kgs. 14:24; 15:12; 22:46; 2 Kgs. 23:7). The feminine form is used in Deut. 23:17; Hos. 4:14. It is used of harlotry in general in Gen. 38:21-22.

Temple prostitutes are associated with fertility worship (i.e., imitation magic). Exactly how Job would have known of this is uncertain. See Special Topic: Fertility Worship of the ANE.

36:15-16 This is the key thought in the dialogues (Job 4-37). God delivers the afflicted who turn to Him. The new thought is that "affliction" itself is a tool to help sinners turn back to God (cf. Heb. 12:5-13).

 17"But you were full of judgment on the wicked;
 Judgment and justice take hold of you.
 18Beware that wrath does not entice you to scoffing;
 And do not let the greatness of the ransom turn you aside. 
 19Will your riches keep you from distress,
 Or all the forces of your strength?
 20Do not long for the night,
 When people vanish in their place.
 21Be careful, do not turn to evil,
 For you have preferred this to affliction.
 22Behold, God is exalted in His power;
 Who is a teacher like Him?
 23Who has appointed Him His way,
 And who has said, ‘You have done wrong'?"

36:16-20 Notice the statements of scholars.

1. The AB (p. 233) says, "These verses are so difficult that many critics omit them in despair."

2. The UBS Handbook (p. 665) says "Job 36:16-21 are extremely difficult to interpret and as Rowley says, ‘scarcely any two interpreters are agreed as to their meanings.'"

3. NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 786, says, "It is uncertain whether Job is being accused, warned, or encouraged. It is also unclear by what means the sufferer is being (NIV), or was (RSV), or will be (Dhorme, 544-45) enticed. . ."


36:16a "from the mouth of distress" What powerful personification imagery!

36:16b,c These two lines of poetry draw on two Hebrew idioms.

1. "a broad place" – this is the opposite of a tight, restricted place (i.e., trouble, pain, doubt, fear, etc); it comes from penned up animals being released into pasture (i.e., freedom from restrictions). The noun (BDB 931) occurs only here.

2. "table full of fatness" – this is imagery for wonderful, boundless food (opposite of hunger and need)


36:17 I am not sure the NASB paragraphing is accurate here. It seems the fullness of plenty in Job 36:16 is contrasted with the fullness of judgment. Elihu is accusing Job of improper use of his wealth, influence, and position (i.e., Job 36:19).

The other option is a warning not to think too highly of your case (i.e., Job's legal case, cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 305) against God or the "ransom" (Job 33:24, which refers to the work of the angelic advocate).

36:18 Job 36:18 could be

1. an imperfect used in a jussive sense (NASB, "let. . .")

2. just another imperfect (this chapter has many)

The word NASB translates as "ransom" (BDB 49) can also mean "bribe" (i.e., 1 Sam. 12:3; Pro. 6:35; Amos 5:12).

36:19 The NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 441, says the phrase, "the forces of your strength," is impossible to translate. There have been numerous suggestions. They assert Job 36:10 is a "virtually unintelligible text."

36:20 This is another difficult verse; possibly evil doers seek the night for their evil acts.

36:21a This is a Niphal imperative ("take heed," BDB 1036, KB 1581) followed by a negated Qal jussive ("do not turn," BDB 815, KB 937).

36:22-23 Again, Elihu lists God's characteristics (cf. Job 36:5-16).

1. God is exalted in His power (i.e., men see it in creation, Job 36:25a)

2. God is an unmatched teacher (i.e., true wisdom)

3. God is sovereign, Job 36:23

This emphasis on the sovereign power of the creator God foreshadows God's response to Job in Job 38-41.

 24"Remember that you should exalt His work,
 Of which men have sung.
 25All men have seen it;
 Man beholds from afar.
 26Behold, God is exalted, and we do not know Him
 The number of His years is unsearchable.
 27For He draws up the drops of water,
 They distill rain from the mist,
 28Which the clouds pour down,
 They drip upon man abundantly.
 29Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds,
 The thundering of His pavilion?
 30Behold, He spreads His lightning about Him,
 And He covers the depths of the sea.
 31For by these He judges peoples;
 He gives food in abundance.
 32He covers His hands with the lightning,
 And commands it to strike the mark.
 33Its noise declares His presence;
 The cattle also, concerning what is coming up."

36:24-33 These verses describe God as creator with imagery from nature (esp. water; see Special Topic: Waters). Water was seen as a blessing from God. The regular cycles of nature were seen in a divine activity.

The context of this strophe continues into the next chapter and introduces the words of God in Job 38-41. God is the sovereign Lord of all created things (animate and inanimate).

36:26a This is not an affirmation of the unknowability of God (i.e., Ecclesiastes) but a Hebrew idiom expressing that humans cannot fully comprehend the greatness of God (cf. Job 5:9; 11:7).


JPSOA"the mist"
TEV"drops of rain"
REB"the flood"
LXX"into a cloud"

The MT has the noun "mist" (BDB 15, KB 11) that occurs only twice in the OT, Gen. 2:6 and here. KB suggests several options.

1. sea-foam (Targums)

2. inundation of floods (Akkadian)

3. subterranean stream of fresh water (i.e., Sumerian, cf. Gen. 2:6)

4. celestial stream (Arabic)

The word here seems to refer to atmospheric water (rain). The three sources of agricultural water were

1. irrigation/annual flooding

2. rain (mostly in storms)

3. dew


36:28 "They drip upon man" There are several places where "adam" ("mankind," BDB 9 IV) can be parallel to "erets" (i.e., land, ground, cf. Pro. 30:14; Jer. 32:20; Zech. 13:5). This translation makes Job 36:28 make more sense (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 1, pp. 263, 267).


TEV"depths of the sea"
LXX"roots of the sea"
NJB"the tops of the mountains"
Peshitta"the bed of the sea"
REB"the sea"

The MT has the noun construct, "the roots (BDB 1057) of the sea" (BDB 410). The NJB fits the parallelism best, but "roots" may be another allusion to the ancient subterranean pillars (cf. Job 9:6; 28:9; 38:4,6; 1 Sam. 2:8; Ps. 75:3; 104:5) that support the earth amidst the cosmic chaotic waters (cf. Gen. 1:2; Ps. 24:2; 104:3).

36:31 "He judges peoples" This phrase reflects God's universal control (cf. Job 37:12c; Ps. 9:8; 96:10). The use of "El," the general name for deity in the ANE, reflects this connotation. He is God of all!

The NJB, NAB, and REB translations emend "to judge" (BDB 192, KB 220, Qal imperfect) to "to nourish/supply" in order to make lines a and b more parallel (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 1089; NET Bible, p. 839)

36:33 "noises" This (BDB 929) refers to the thunder of a rain storm (cf. Job 37:2).


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. Does Job 36:3-4 imply Elihu is claiming a special knowledge from God?

2. How does Job 36:6-11 express the traditional theology of "the two ways"?

3. How is the word "kings" used in Job 36:7?

4. How does Job 36:10 relate to both God's sovereignty and human free will?

5. Why does the word "cult prostitutes" appear in Job 36:14?

6. What "ransom" does Job 36:18 refer to?

7. What does "we do not know Him" in Job 36:26 mean?


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