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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

JOB 37

THE CONCLUSION OF ELIHU'S LONG-WINDED REMARKS

This writer cannot accommodate to the opinions of some very respected commentators who understand Elihu's speeches as not merely commendable, but actually appropriate as an introduction to what God Himself would say in the following chapters.

For example, Meredith G. Kline wrote that: "Though the Speaker from the whirlwind does not mention Elihu by name, He does not ignore him. For by continuing Elihu's essential argument and endorsing his judgments concerning both Job and his friends, the Lord owns him as his forerunner."F1

We believe that God did indeed ignore Elihu, not only refusing to mention his name, although mentioning the names of all others named in the book, God also interrupted and terminated Elihu's remarks with a question addressed to Job, "Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge"? (Job 38:2). Such an evaluation as that cannot be applied to Job's words, because God Himself said that, "My servant Job has spoken of me the thing that is right" (Job 42:7,8). Moreover, God specifically stated that the three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar had spoken "folly" (Job 42:8); and Elihu's words, in almost every particular, are the same as those of the three, only more vituperative and derogatory toward Job. There is no way that we could accept Elihu's long and ridiculous speeches as any kind of a proper introduction to what the Lord would say out of the whirlwind. God answered Job and his friends by name, and ignored Elihu altogether, except in the derogatory words in the Lord's opening question to Job.

Also, Kelly in Layman's Bible Commentary, wrote that, "Elihu, in this chapter, says that God is infinitely great and righteous, and does not himself violate the principle of righteousness in dealing with men. His righteousness, therefore, is unimpeachable; it is not to be called in question but is to become the basis of godly fear in men. A sounder prelude to the speeches of the Lord ... could hardly be imagined."F2 It is true that some of the things Elihu said were true; but it is what he meant by them which is offensive to this writer, For example, when Elihu said that God is not unrighteous in his dealings with men, he means that Job is a dirty sinner and that he should confess it, the same being proved by Job's sufferings. There can be no wonder that God refused even to mention Elihu, because Elihu's one motive was that of compelling Job to renounce his integrity.

There are also some very positive and definite traces of pagan mythology in the things Elihu said in this chapter, as pointed out by Pope. See on Job 37:22 in this chapter.

Instead of this chapter being some kind of profound introduction to God who appears in Job 38, "Elihu is like one who is introducing a great man with much elaborate praise; and the great man (God) suddenly interrupts him and accuses the speaker of a lack of knowledge of his subject; and the irony is even greater, because, in Elihu's case, he did not even know that he was introducing God."F3

"In this chapter, Elihu is arguing that nature itself teaches that God rewards and punishes men according to their deeds."F4 But of course, that is not true at all. He also argues in Job 37:13b that, "The lightning can be regarded as an instrument of God's love."F5 Pope also noted that, "It is hard to see how this could be regarded as true," adding that, "Maybe it could be argued that the love and mercy is toward the people that the lightning misses"! Of course, this must be added to a fantastic list of things that Elihu said that had no relation whatever to the truth. Nature reveals nothing whatever of God's love, mercy, truth or justice. Knowledge of such things is found only in Divine Revelation.

As we have stressed all along, "Nature is red in tooth, and fang and claw," and there's absolutely nothing in nature that supports Elihu's vain arguments. And look at the irony in these two chapters (Job 36--37). In the very middle of Elihu's speech about nature's endorsement of his evil notion that Job was a wicked sinner, "Even while Elihu is arguing ... God suddenly appears in nature and demands to know who is darkening counsel without knowledge."F6

Job 37:1-5

ELIHU'S DESCRIPTION OF THE APPROACHING STORM

Yea, at this my heart trembleth.

And is moved out of its place.

Hear, oh, hear the noise of his voice,

And the sound that goeth out of his mouth.

He sendeth it forth under the whole heaven,

And his lightning to the ends of the earth.

After it a voice roareth;

He thundereth with the voice of his majesty;

And he restraineth not the lightnings when his voice is heard.

God thundereth marvelously with his voice;

Great things doeth he which we cannot understand."


 
Verses 1-5
Yea, at this my heart trembleth, And is moved out of its place. Hear, oh, hear the noise of his voice, And the sound that goeth out of his mouth. He sendeth it forth under the whole heaven, And his lightening unto the ends of the earth. After it a voice roareth; He thundereth with the voice of his majesty; And he restraineth not [the lightnings] when his voice is heard. God thundereth marvellously with his voice; Great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend.
(Job 37:2). Elihu's notion that God is speaking to men by lightning and thunder could be true only in the most indirect sense. Paul reminds us that God's everlasting power and divinity are clearly seen since the creation of the world, being perceived through the things that are made (the wonders of the natural creation) (Romans 1:20); but, of course, the natural creation has no personal word whatever for mankind regarding such things as God's love, mercy and redemption from sin.

Yes, the breath-taking excitement of a violent thunderstorm reminds men of the almighty power and glory of God, in exactly the same manner as a sunrise, an earthquake, or the sudden eruption of a volcano; but the only true communication between God and man comes via the sacred scriptures. "It is Elihu's error here that he regards natural phenomena as supernatural."F7

It seems likely that Elihu delivered the remarks of this chapter at the very time that he and the others were watching the approach of a storm. And from thoughts of the storm, he then proceeded to mention snow, rain, and other natural phenomena. "Job 37:1-5 elaborate the picture of the storm; and Job 37:6-13 deal with new evidences, the ice, snow and cold of winter, etc."F8

REGARDING OTHER NATURAL PHENOMENA

For he saith to the snow, Fall thou on the earth;

Likewise to the shower of rain,

And to the showers of the mighty rain.

He sealeth up the hand of every man,

That all men that he hath made may know it.

Then the beasts go into coverts,

And remain in their dens.

Out of the chamber of the south cometh the storm,

And cold out of the north.

By the breath of God ice is given;

And the breadth of the waters is straitened.

Yea, he ladeth the thick cloud with moisture;

He spreadeth abroad the cloud of his lightning:

And it is turned around by his guidance,

That they may do whatever he commandeth them

Upon the face of the habitable world,

Whether it be for correction, or for his land,

Or for lovingkindness, that he cause it to come."


 
Verses 6-13
For he saith to the snow, Fall thou on the earth; Likewise to the shower of rain, And to the showers of his mighty rain. He sealeth up the hand of every man, That all men whom he hath made may know [it]. Then the beasts go into coverts, And remain in their dens. Out of the chamber [of the south] cometh the storm, And cold out of the north. By the breath of God ice is given; And the breadth of the waters is straitened. Yea, he ladeth the thick cloud with moisture; He spreadeth abroad the cloud of his lightning: And it is turned round about by his guidance, That they may do whatsoever he commandeth them Upon the face of the habitable world, Whether it be for correction, or for his land, Or for lovingkindness, that he cause it to come.
(Job 37:7). Rawlinson interpreted this to mean that, In winter time and in periods of heavy rain, God puts an end to ordinary out-of-doors labor, that during the time of their enforced idleness, men may have leisure for reflection, and that they may employ it in meditating upon God and his marvelous work.F9

By the breath of God, ice is given; and the breadth of the waters is straitened
(Job 37:10). Driver wrote that the possible meaning here is: The cold wind freezes the streams and pools.F10

Job 37:11-13 is rendered as follows in the Anchor Bible:F11

"He hurls lightning from the nimbus,

Scatters his light from the clouds.

It changes direction as he wills,

Doing whatever he commands

All over his inhabited earth.

Whether for discipline, or for grace,

Or for mercy, he makes it find its mark."

(See Pope's comment on this in the chapter introduction.)

ELIHU CHARGES JOB WITH IGNORANCE

Hearken unto this, O Job:

Stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God.

Dost thou know how God layeth his charge upon them,

And causeth the lightning of his cloud to shine?

Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds,

The wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge?

How thy garments are warm,

When the earth is still by reason of the south wind?

Canst thou with him spread out the sky,

Which is strong as a molten mirror?

Teach us what we shall say unto him;

For we cannot set our speech in order by reason of darkness.

Shall it be told him that I would speak?

Or should a man wish that he were swallowed up?"


 
Verses 14-20
Hearken unto this, O Job: Stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God. Dost thou know how God layeth [his charge] upon them, And causeth the lightning of his cloud to shine? Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, The wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge? How thy garments are warm, When the earth is still by reason of the south [wind]? Canst thou with him spread out the sky, Which is strong as a molten mirror? Teach us what we shall say unto him; [For] we cannot set [our speech] in order by reason of darkness. Shall it be told him that I would speak? Or should a man wish that he were swallowed up?
(Job 37:16). Some of the writers assume that Elihu is here speaking of God; but back in the previous chapter, (Job 36:4b), Elihu speaks of himself as one who is perfect in knowledge. One of inexcusable features of Elihu's tirade is the unqualified arrogance and egotism of it; and it appears that Elihu is here contrasting Job's ignorance not with God's wisdom, but with that of Elihu! Pope also noticed that in this chapter (Job 37:20), Elihu intimates that he has more sense than to do what Job has (allegedly) done, i.e., challenge God to an argument.F12

THE EVIDENCE OF PAGAN MYTHOLOGY IN ELIHU'S SPEECH

And now men see not the light which is bright in the skies;

But the wind passeth and cleareth them.

Out of the north cometh golden splendor:

God hath upon him terrible majesty.

Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out:

He is excellent in power;

And in justice and plenteous righteousness, he will not afflict.

Men do therefore fear him:

He regardeth not any that are wise of heart."

"This conclusion of Elihu's speech is exceedingly obscure and ambiguous ... We cannot discern with any certainty allusions to certain remarkable observations or theories of natural phenomena."F13

This is the paragraph which in all probability exposes Elihu's speech as having elements of pagan mythology in it.


 
Verses 21-24
And now men see not the light which is bright in the skies; But the wind passeth, and cleareth them. Out of the north cometh golden splendor: God hath upon him terrible majesty. [Touching] the Almighty, we cannot find him out: He is excellent in power; And in justice and plenteous righteousness he will not afflict. Men do therefore fear him: He regardeth not any that are wise of heart.
(Job 37:22). The sun does not rise out of the north; and this verse has puzzled translators for centuries; but Pope has this: With the recovery of the Ugaritic mythological texts, we are now in a better position to understand this. A major motif of the Baal cycle of myths is the building of a splendiferous place of gold, silver and lapis lazuli on the height of mount Zaphon. The golden splendor mentioned in this verse,. suggesting the glory of the lightning that comes from the mythical golden palace of the storm god on Mount Zaphon.F14 This mythological `Mount Zaphon' was supposed to be located in the far north; and Pope rendered Job 37:22 thus:

"From Zaphon comes gold; Around God is awful majesty."

C. F. Keil confirmed that the word "golden" in this verse is literally gold,F15 thus supporting in that particular Pope's rendition.

This writer does not presume to accept Pope's translation here; but if true, it is fully in keeping with our low estimate of the value of Elihu's speeches.


Footnotes for Job 37
1: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 486.
2: Layman's Bible Commentary, Vol. 8, p. 140.
3: R. B. Sweet Publishing Company, No. 216, p. 66.
4: Ibid.
5: The Anchor Bible (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1982), Job, p. 244.
6: Ibid.
7: Layman's Bible Commentary, op. cit., p.139.
8: Ibid.
9: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 7d, p. 597.
10: International Critical Commentary, Job, p. 319.
11: The Anchor Bible (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1982), op. cit., pp. 239, 240.
12: Ibid., p. 245.
13: International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 322.
14: The Anchor Bible (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1982), op. cit., p. 246.
15: C. F. Keil, Keil-Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), Vol. 4b, p. 303ff.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Job 37". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=job&chapter=037>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.