Moreover Elihu answered and said,
Thinkest thou this to be thy right,
Or sayest thou, My righteousness is more than God's,
That thou sayest, What advantage will it be unto thee?
And what profit shall I have, more than if
I had sinned?
I will answer thee,
And thy companions with thee.
Look unto the heavens, and see;
And behold thy skies which are higher than thou.
If thou hast sinned, what effectest thou against him?
And if thy transgressions be multiplied, what dost thou unto him?
If thou be righteous, what givest thou unto him?
Or what receivest thee of thy hand?
Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art,
Or thy righteousness may profit a son of man."
Back in Job 34:9, Elihu had mentioned a third accusation against Job, namely, that he had declared faithfulness to God as affording no profit; and here Elihu proposes to answer that alleged claim of Job. Elihu here ignored altogether the real point of whether or not there is profit in serving God in this life, focusing his attack against Job on whether or not Job had any right to complain.
This whole paragraph affirms the proposition that neither man's righteousness nor his wickedness affects God. "Transgressions do not diminish God, nor do pious acts give him anything."F1 We are stunned and amazed at this ridiculous position of Elihu. "He comes very close here to viewing God as so far removed from human life, that he cannot be known or loved at all."F2 Against this colossal error, there stand the glorious facts: the Cross of Jesus Christ, God's love of the whole world, and the willingness of the Son of God to die for human redemption. Elihu's position here, as more fully expressed in the following paragraph, is that God is no more concerned with human prayer than he might be with the cry of a screaming rabbit in the clutches of a hawk.
MORE OF ELIHU'S VAIN REASONING
By reason of a multitude of oppressions they cry out;
They cry for help by reason of the arm of the Almighty.
But none saith, Where is God my Maker?
Who giveth songs in the night,
Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth,
And maketh us wiser than the birds of the heavens?
There they cry, but none giveth answer,
Because of the pride of evil men.
Surely God will not hear an empty cry,
Neither will the Almighty regard it.
How much less when thou sayest thou beholdest him not,
The cause is before him, and thou waitest for him!
But now, because he hath not visited in his anger,
Neither doth he greatly regard arrogance;
Therefore doth Job open his mouth in vanity;
He multiplieth words without knowledge."
By reason of the multitude of oppressions they cry out; They cry for help by reason of the arm of the mighty. But none saith, Where is God my Maker, Who giveth songs in the night, Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, And maketh us wiser than the birds of the heavens? There they cry, but none giveth answer, Because of the pride of evil men. Surely God will not hear an empty [cry], Neither will the Almighty regard it. How much less when thou sayest thou beholdest him not, The cause is before him, and thou waitest for him! But now, because he hath not visited in his anger, Neither doth he greatly regard arrogance; Therefore doth Job open his mouth in vanity; He multiplieth words without knowledge.
(Job 35:9). What Elihu is saying here is that when men do pray (as Job has been doing) it is merely because of their suffering, and not because of any true desire for God.F3
None saith, Where is God my Maker
(Job 35:10)? This means that they do not pray with that trust in their prayers which is pleasing to God.F4 The plurals here should not mislead us. Elihu is accusing Job.
Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth. and maketh us wiser than the birds of the heavens?
(Job 35:11). We appreciate Pope's rendition of this: Teaches us BY the beasts of the field. BY the birds of the heavens.F5 The allegation here is that the type of prayer Job has been praying, due to pain only, Does not raise man any higher than the animal creation.F6
There they cry, but none giveth answer
(Job 35:12). Here is the problem of unanswered prayer; and Elihu has the glib answer ready, the wrong one, of course.
It is because of the pride of men
(Job 35:13). The plurals here are misleading; Elihu is accusing Job. When God finally interrupted this devil-originated speech of Elihu. he did not accuse Job of pride, thus revealing Elihu's cocksure answer here as the wild guess of an ignorant man. But Elihu even had another answer.
Surely God will not hear an empty cry
(Job 35:13). Elihu thought that when prayer was not answered, it was because the prayer was empty;F7 but he did not explain what he meant by that. The New Testament reveals two great reasons why prayers are not answered. (1) Ye have not, because ye ask not (James 4:2). A far greater tragedy than unanswered prayer is the tragedy of unoffered prayer. (2) Ye ask, and receive not; because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend it in your pleasures (James 4:3).
Thou sayest thou beholdest him not
(Job 35:14). Job indeed had complained of his inability to find God; and Barnes believed that here, Elihu says that, although God is invisible, yet this should not be regarded as a reason why Job should not confide in him.F8
"Job 35:15 conveys no intelligible idea."F9
Job opens his mouth in vanity. multiplies words without knowledge
(Job 35:16). As our version has it, Elihu here is charging Job with all of his irresponsible talk as being able so to speak because God has overlooked his arrogance (Job 35:15). However, it was not Job, but Elihu who was, Darkening counsel by words without knowledge, (Job 38:2), according to the verdict of Almighty God Himself.
Footnotes for Job 35
1: Layman's Bible Commentary, Vol. 8, p. 136.
4: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 440.
5: The Anchor Bible (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1982), Job, p. 227.
6: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 440.
8: Barnes' Notes on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, a 1987 reprint of the 1878 edition),Job, Vol. 2, p. 161.