Job 34:1-35:16 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. How does Elihu summarize Job’s position? See chapter 34 verses 5-6 (printed below) According to Elihu, what conclusion is Job tempted to make? See chapter 34 verse 9 (printed below)

Now Job has said, “I am innocent, but God has denied me justice. (6) Although I am right, I am considered a liar; although I have not committed a transgression, his arrows inflict an incurable wound.” (Job 34:5-6)

…he has said, “It is of no benefit to a man when he tries to please God.” (Job 34:9)

Job maintains that he is righteous, but God has denied him justice (34:5). Job contends that he is not being treated as a righteous man—he is suffering affliction, a treatment that is expected to be inflicted upon the unrighteous. Job protests that he is considered to be a liar; although he has not committed a transgression, God’s arrows inflict an incurable wound (34:6). That is to say, God disregards Job’s righteous conduct and ignores his pleas of innocence, treating Job as though he were a liar when he proclaims himself to be innocent and righteous. According to Elihu, Job is in danger of drawing the conclusion, “It is of no benefit to a man when he tries to please God” (34:9). Since God insists on treating the righteous in the same way as the wicked—disregarding their righteous lifestyle and ignoring their pleas of innocence—there is no value in serving God by living a life of devotion to His commandments: there is no personal benefit (no profit) to be derived from such a life.

2. According to Elihu, by maintaining the attitude expressed in chapter 34 verse 9 (printed above), with whom is Job identifying himself? See chapter 34 verses 7-9 (printed below)

What man is like Job, who drinks up derision like water? (8) He keeps company with evildoers and associates with wicked men, (9) for he has said, “It is of no benefit to a man when he tries to please God.” (Job 34:7-9)

Elihu warns that by entertaining the attitude described in verses 5-6 and 9, Job is putting himself in league with evildoers and wicked men (34:7-9). Wicked men utter a similar sentiment as that attributed to Job in verse 9: the wicked calculate devotion to God in terms of the personal benefit (the profit) to be derived from such devotion, and conclude that such devotion is not worth their effort (cp. Job 21:14-15). They do not view devotion to God as the basic purpose and fulfillment of man’s existence (cp. Ecclesiastes 12:13), a devotion that shall certainly be honored by God in His justice and righteousness.

3. What question does Elihu ask Job in chapter 34 verse 33 and what comment does he make in verses 34-35 (printed below?)

Will God deal with you on your terms, so that you may object if it is not to your liking? You must decide, not I. Tell me what you think. (Job 34:33)

Men of understanding will say to me, indeed, a wise man who hears me will say, (35) “Job speaks without knowledge, his words lack insight.” (Job 34:34-35)

Elihu now asks Job directly, “Will God deal with you on your terms, so that you may object if it is not to your liking?” (34:33) In other words, does Job imagine that he is in a position to dictate the terms to God, so that if God does not deal with Job in a way that seems satisfactory and just to Job, Job has the option of rejecting God’s will and demanding that God re-consider His treatment of His servant?—such an attitude would be exceedingly arrogant. Elihu assures Job that a wise man would agree that Job’s words lack insight (34:34-35). Job’s position (as outlined in 34:5-6,9) is lacking in spiritual understanding, a spiritual understanding that acknowledges God’s sovereign prerogative over man (cp. Isaiah 64:8) as well as God’s justice and goodness (cp. Psalm 89:14).

4. What does Elihu emphatically assert in chapter 34 verses 10-12 (printed below?) To whom does he speak and why?

Now then, listen to me, you men of understanding. Far be it from God to do evil; far be it from the Almighty to do wrong! (11) Indeed, he repays a man for what he has done; he brings upon him what his conduct deserves. (12) Surely God does not do evil; the Almighty does not pervert justice. (Job 34:10-12)

To the men of understanding, Elihu testifies concerning God’s righteousness (34:10-12). He addresses men who possess spiritual understanding, as opposed to fools and scoffers who only deal with superficialities or who are deeply prejudiced against God. Elihu begins by affirming that it is far from God to do evil or to do wrong (34:10b). On the contrary, God will administer justice: to each man will God pay back what he deserves (34:11). Elihu emphatically repeats his assertion that God is just: “Surely God does not do evil; the Almighty does not pervert justice” (34:12).

5. What questions does Elihu ask Job in chapter 35 verses 1-8 (printed below?) What does he tell Job to do (see verse 5?) What do you think he wants Job to understand?

Then Elihu continued, (2) Do you think that it is right for you to say, “I am more righteous than God?” (3) Is it right that you say, “What benefit is it to you, O God, if I am righteous? What do I gain by not sinning?” (4) I will answer you, and your friends with you. (5) Look at the heavens, observe them; gaze at the sky high above you. (6) If you sin, what affect does that have against God? Even if your sins are many, what does that do to him? (7) If you are righteous, what do you give him, what does he receive from your hand? (8) Your wickedness only affects a man like yourself, and your righteousness only affects fellow human beings. (Job 35:1-8)

Elihu inquires as to whether it is right for Job to pose the question, “Is it worth serving God?” (35:3) Not only does such a position call into question God’s own righteousness (as the One who “rewards those who earnestly seek him;” Hebrews 11:6b); it also betrays a very unrighteous motivation for serving God: a motivation that seeks to exploit God for one’s own personal, temporal advantage, rather than offering obedience that is motivated by love and devotion and moral obligation to God—it is the attitude of the wicked (note again Job 21:14-15). Elihu calls upon Job to consider the heavens (35:5). As Job contemplates the awesome dimensions of God’s creation, he should be led to humbly appreciate the awesome greatness of God Himself. Elihu fears that Job thinks too highly of himself and has far too low a view of God. Job is in danger of taking the haughty and ungodly position that maintains: God must demonstrate His righteousness by answering me and performing acts that conform to my concept of what a righteous God should do. Elihu is seeking to make Job understand that God is not answerable to man: God does not have to immediately reward righteousness and repay wickedness out of necessity, as one who is indebted to the righteous or imperiled by the wicked—on the contrary, God will sovereignly act as He sees fit and in His time, motivated solely by His own divine justice.