Job 36:1-37:24 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. What does Elihu teach Job about God in chapter 36 verses 5-7 (printed below?)

God is mighty, but he does not despise anyone; he is mighty in the strength that comes from understanding. (6) He does not keep the wicked alive, but gives the afflicted their rights. (7) He does not take his eyes off the righteous; he seats them on the throne with kings and exalts them forever. (Job 36:5-7)

Elihu teaches that although God is mighty, “He does not despise anyone” (36:5)—here is divine condescension. Not only is God gracious, “he is mighty in the strength that comes from understanding” (36:5b). That is to say, God not only has concern for man, He also knows how best to minister to him. The object of God’s gracious and wise assistance is the righteous, as opposed to the wicked (36:6-7). God does not keep the wicked alive (36:6a); i.e., the wicked are not permitted to endlessly perpetuate their ungodly lives, there comes for them a day of accountability and final judgment. Conversely, God gives the afflicted their rights (36:6b): in His time and because of His righteousness, God vindicates the righteous who have been afflicted and provides justice for them. God does not take His eyes off the righteous (i.e.; He does not ignore their devotion and is not indifferent to their plight); indeed, He will exalt them to the position of king forever (36:7.)

2. According to Elihu, what is one part of God’s gracious concern for His people? See chapter 36 verses 8-12 (printed below.)

But if men are bound in chains, held tight by cords of affliction, (9) he tells them what they have done—that they have transgressed and acted arrogantly. (10) He opens their ear to instruction and he commands, “Turn away from iniquity!” (11) If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment. (12) But if they do not listen, they will cross the river of death and die because they lacked commitment. (Job 36:8-12)

Part of the Lord’s gracious concern for men is the discipline/chastening/training He administers to them (36:8-12). There may be times when men find themselves “bound in chains, held tight by cords of affliction” (36:8). Elihu is speaking of times when men encounter suffering in their lives, suffering inflicted by God. The men who are the object of God’s loving concern are viewed as being taken captive by God as prisoners of war in order to check and restrain them from further pursuing a course of transgression (36:9). When such times occur, God “tells them what they have done—that they have transgressed and acted arrogantly” (36:9). God enlightens them as to the cause of and reason for their affliction; namely, the fact that they have departed from the path of righteousness, which conduct itself has been motivated by pride—they have acted arrogantly. The Lord’s act of discipline at such times is an act of love and covenantal faithfulness. The fact that the righteous need such discipline shows that even the most godly men are susceptible to sin and in constant need of God’s grace and divine oversight.

3. What counsel does Elihu give Job in chapter 36 verses 18-20 (printed below?)

Do not let wrath stir you up against chastisements; neither let the greatness of the ransom turn you away in despair. (19) Will your cry of protest succeed in delivering you from your distress? Or can all the force of your strength deliver you? (20) Do not long for the night, when people vanish from their place. (Job 36:18-20)

Elihu cautions Job against allowing anger to stir him up against chastisements (36:18a). Job is being counseled not to respond to God’s disciplinary measures with anger that causes him to harden himself against God and become defiant. But neither should Job let the greatness of the ransom turn him away in despair (36:18b). Job should not succumb to despair, thinking that his sin is so great that it is beyond forgiveness, supposing that his sin demands a ransom greater than he could ever hope to provide—the Lord Himself provides the required ransom (cp. 1 John 2:1b-2a). Elihu asks, “Will your cry of protest succeed in delivering you from your distress? Or can all the force of your strength deliver you?” (36:19). In other words, can Job by his loud protests or by the exertion of all his strength, deliver himself from his present situation? Certainly not. Elihu is seeking to make Job understand the futility of striving against God (cp. Job 9:4b). Job should come to his senses and submit to God’s disciplinary training. Elihu further cautions Job not to “long for the night, when people vanish from their place” (36:20). Job cannot deliver himself by his own defiant efforts, nor should he seek death as a means of deliverance; for the death of an unrepentant sinner is not a means of deliverance, it is a “deliverance” unto condemnation.

4. Against what does Elihu caution Job in chapter 36 verse 21 (printed below) and what positive action should Job take (see verses 22-26 printed below?)

Beware that you do not turn to evil, which to you may seem preferable to affliction. (Job 36:21)

God is sovereign; who is a teacher like him? (23) Who has appointed his way for him, or who has said to him, “You have done wrong?” (24) Remember to extol his work, which men have praised in song. (25) All mankind has seen it; men gaze upon it from afar. (26) How great God is—beyond our understanding! The number of his years is unsearchable! (Job 36:22-26)

Elihu exhorts Job, “Beware that you do not turn to evil, which to you may seem preferable to affliction” (36:21). Elihu is warning Job not to abandon his devotion to God in this time of affliction, departing from God and turning to evil. Elihu then proceeds to urges Job to consider God as the great Master Teacher (36:22-23): Job should submit to God’s disciplinary training and profit spiritually from it. Rather than wallow in self-pity or futile defiance of God, Job is exhorted to remember to extol God’s work (36:24). Job is reminded that men have sung of God’s mighty work; all men have witnessed His works, albeit, from a distance (36:24-25). Elihu exclaims, “How great God is—beyond our understanding!” (36:26): the greatness of God is far beyond human comprehension. Job should acknowledge this and, consequently, submit unto God.

5. To what event in nature does Elihu direct Job’s attention (see 36:27-37:13 printed below?) Why does he do so?

He draws up the drops of water from the sea, they distill as rain from his clouds. (28) The clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers fall on mankind. (29) Who can understand how he spreads out the clouds, how he thunders from his pavilion. (30) See how he scatters his lightning over the landscape; his light reveals the depths of the sea. (31) By these rainstorms he nourishes the people; he provides food in abundance. (32) He picks up lightning in his hands and commands it to strike the mark. (33) His thunder announces his presence; the fury of the storm reveals the wrath of his holy indignation. 37 At this my heart trembles and leaps from my bosom. (2) Listen! Listen to the roar of his voice, to the rumbling that comes from his mouth. (3) He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven and sends it to the ends of the earth. (4) After that comes the sound of his roar; he thunders with his majestic voice. When his voice resounds, no one can hold back the storm. (5) God thunders marvelously with his voice; he does great things that are beyond our comprehension. (6) He says to the snow, “Fall on the earth,” and to the pouring rain, “Be a mighty downpour!” (7) By his storm he keeps everyone indoors, so that all men may respect his work. (8) Animals enter their lair; they remain in their dens. (9) The tempest comes from its chamber, the cold from the driving winds. (10) The breath of God produces ice, and the broad waters become frozen. (11) He loads the clouds with moisture, he scatters his lightning through them. (12) At his direction they swirl around over the face of the whole earth. (13) Whether for discipline—if the people are not obedient—or for mercy, he sends the storm accordingly. (Job 36:27-37:13)

Elihu calls Job’s attention to the thunderstorm as a manifestation of God’s majestic greatness. God causes the water vapor to ascend into the heavens and form into clouds; then He causes the clouds to release their vast quantity of water in the form of rain that refreshes the earth (36:27-28). The clouds are poetically conceived of as being a sort of heavenly tent that contains and conceals God’s awesome presence (36:29). From this cloudy pavilion God’s thunder sounds forth and He sends out His flashing lightning that illuminates all the landscape below, even revealing the depths of the sea (36:30). God employs the majestic thunderstorm to fulfill a variety of purposes. By means of the bountiful rain God “nourishes the people; he provides food in abundance” (36:31). Or again, God may employ the thunderstorm and its torrential rains as an instrument of judgment: like a mighty warrior, God lifts up the lightning bolt in his hands and orders it to strike the mark like a spear hurled at the enemy. His thunder announces his presence, and the fury of the storm reveals his indignant wrath (36:32-33).