he clappeth his hands amongst us, or "he will clap"; he will either clap his hands together as expressive of extreme grief and sorrow, of the agonies of his mind; showing extravagant impatience, and pouring out his complaints in the most bitter manner, see Ezekiel 21:14; or rather by way of joy and triumph, as having got the victory over us, see Psalm 47:1;
and multiplieth his words against God, or "will multiply"; he has said too many things already against God, his justice in his dealings with him, Job 34:5; he will say more if he is not restrained. These are the reasons Elihu gives for a thorough trial and strict examination of Job; and they are taken partly from a concern for the good of Job, and partly on their account, that they might not be triumphed over, and chiefly for the glory of God.
(u) "addet"; Montanus, Mercerus, Drusius, Cocceius, so in the next clauses.
INTRODUCTION TO Job 35
Is this chapter Elihu goes on to charge Job with other unbecoming speeches, which he undertakes to refute; as that he had represented his cause more just than God's, and religion and righteousness as things unprofitable to men, only to God; to which Elihu takes upon him to make answer, Job 35:1; and that the cries of the oppressed were not heard by the Lord, so as to give occasion to songs of praise and thankfulness, to which he replies, Job 35:9; and that Job had expressed diffidence and despair of ever seeing and enjoying the favour of God, which he endeavours to remove, Job 35:14.
that thou saidst, my righteousness is more than God's? A strange expression this indeed! but what is to be understood not of his personal righteousness; Job in his senses could never say that this was more or greater than God's, or to be above it and preferred to it in any sense; nor even of righteousness imputed. Old Testament saints had the righteousness of Christ imputed to them, and were justified by it; and so Job, who had knowledge of and faith in Christ as his living Redeemer, and the Lord his righteousness: but then though this is the righteousness of God, wrought out by one that is God as well as man, and approved and accepted of by God, and imputed by him to his people, which is revealed in the Gospel, and is unto all, and upon all them that believe, and they are made the righteousness of God in Christ; yet this cannot be more than the righteousness of God: besides it is not the essential righteousness of Christ as God, as Osiander dreamed, by which men are justified, but his obedience, active and passive, as Mediator, otherwise they would be deified who are justified by it; and if even so absurd a notion as this could obtain, it would not be more of man than the righteousness of God: much less can this be interpreted of Job's inherent righteousness, or the new man which is created in righteousness and true holiness; since all the holiness and righteousness that is in man is from God, and at present imperfect, and therefore cannot be more or greater than his; and still less can this be meant of Job's external righteousness, which, how great soever, was not perfect and without sin; whereas God is just and without iniquity. But there is not a just man that does good and sins not. This therefore must be understood of the righteousness of his cause; and to say that this was more than God's was what he ought not to have said, and more than became him to say: for though a good man may defend himself against the calumnies of his enemies, by asserting his own righteousness, innocence, and integrity, and may desire the Lord to plead his cause against them, and judge him according to his righteousness and the integrity of his heart; but to attempt to make it out, that his cause is more righteous than the Lord's, is doing an ill thing. Now though Job had not expressed this in so many words, yet he had said that from whence this might by consequence be deduced; he had given great occasion for such an inference to be drawn from his speeches; for since he had spoken so largely of his innocence and integrity, and holy life, and of the hard usage nevertheless he had met with from God; and had represented his own case, as if he had behaved so well as to deserve better treatment at the hand of God than to be afflicted in the manner he was; that he had wrong done him, and complained of it, and could not be heard; his judgment was taken from him by the Lord; which was in effect to say, that his cause was better than the Lord's, and would bear a stricter examination than his; which to say was, exceeding bad and unbecoming; see Job 16:17.
and, what profit shall one have, if I be cleansed from my sin? The words, "if I be cleansed", are a supplement, and seem necessary; so Mr. Broughton supplies. Sin is of a defiling nature, yet man may be cleansed from it, not by anything he can do, but only by the grace of. God and blood of Christ; and from such a cleansing profit arises. This fits a man for the service and worship of God, and for communion with him; gives him peace of mind, and makes him meet for heaven. This Job had not expressly said, and not at all in this sense, but it seems to be inferred from Job 9:29; where he is speaking of outward purity of life, and yet was plunged into the ditch of afflictions. Some render the words to this sense, as if there was no profit "by expiation of atonement for sin" (u); the same word signifying both sin and atonement for it: there is none but by the blood and sacrifice of Christ, and much profit arises from that; pardon of sin proceeds upon it, and this furnishes out much solid peace, joy, and comfort, Romans 5:10. Others, what profit by punishment for sin (w), unless to God? so sin is sometimes put for punishment; or through leaving sin and repenting of it (x). Now though these are not the causes of the pardon of sin, yet it is given and applied to such who do repent of it, confess and forsake it, Proverbs 28:13. Or by being "without sin" (y): no man is without sin; but a man may be without any gross and enormous crime he is chargeable with, or without living a vicious course of life; and this is profitable, as has been before observed. Jarchi's paraphrase is,
"what shall I profit more by my righteousness than by my sin?''
which sense is followed by others: I may as well be wicked as righteous; I am not the better for it, since I am afflicted in the manner I:am: my righteousness is of no profit to me; if to any, it is to God. To this Elihu returns an answer in the following verses.
(u) "de expiatione mea", Mercerus, &c. "in expiando peccatum", Grotius; "pro piaculo venit", Cocceius; so Simeon Bar Tzemach in loc. (w) "Supplicio meo", Junius & Tremellius; "mucta pro illo aut poena", Cocceius; "ex poena peccati mei", Drusius; so Ben Gersom. (x) "Subaudi relicto", so Mercerus, Drusius; "remisso et per poenitentiam diluto", Munster. (y) "Absque peccato", i.e. "ita vivendo ut non perccom"; so some in Michaelis.
and behold the clouds which are higher than thou; the clouds of the air or sky, which are lower than the starry heavens, yet these were higher than Job, and much more the starry heavens: but because the word has the signification of "thinness", which does not so well agree with the clouds, which are thick substances, condensed air; some take it to be meant of the supreme region of the heavens, which is pure and thin; so Sephorno: and Job is directed to look to these, not as stargazers do, such as are given to judicial astrology, to judge of the fates of men and kingdoms; but rather thereby to be led to the contemplation of God the author of them, and the glorious perfections of his being they display; and chiefly to observe the height of them, that they were out of his reach, and he could neither help them nor hurt them; that he could neither increase nor diminish the light of the celestial bodies, which he could only behold; nor either advance or hinder their course, nor in the least add to or abate their influence and efficacy; and if he could neither be beneficial nor harmful to them, how was it possible that he could be of any advantage or detriment to God, by any actions of his, good or bad, who is higher and out of sight? This is the answer Elihu in general returned, he more particularly replies as follows.
or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what dost thou unto him? As he is not hurt by a slight single sin, a failing or infirmity, an error or mistake, common to men, as the preceding word may signify; so not by greater sins, presumptuous ones, gross enormities, rebellions against God, overt acts of treason against the Almighty, and these multiplied and heaped up even unto heaven; for though by these the name of God is profaned and blasphemed, and he is dishonoured and despised, and his manifestative glory is eclipsed, or he has not the honour given him that is due unto him; yet his essential glory is untarnished, unsullied, and unhurt, no more than the sun by an eclipse; he is the same without any variableness or shadow of turning, as well as is over all blessed for ever. And, indeed, his manifestative glory in many instances receives a lustre, through his power, wisdom, and goodness, overruling the sins of men for the display of it; as the fall of the first Adam made way for the sending of Christ the Saviour, in which God has shown forth the exceeding riches of his grace; and as his mercy and grace are displayed in the pardon of sin, and his power and justice in the punishment of sin and sinners; and his patience and longsuffering in bearing with them.
or what receiveth he of thine hand? He can receive nothing but what he has given, or what he has a prior right to and is his due, and so cannot be laid under any obligation to man by what he does; nor can man merit anything at his hand, not even the least temporal mercy, and much less spiritual ones and everlasting life: and what notice God is pleased to take of the good works of men, in away of reward, is not of debt, but of grace, and entirely owing to his goodness; and does not arise from any intrinsic worth in them, or from any advantage to him by them.
and thy righteousness may profit the son of man; may profit a man himself (, Job 35:3), and others, but neither for justification before God; but godliness is profitable to a man's self, both for this life and that to come, and good works are profitable to other men; for what reasons they are to be performed and maintained, see 1 Timothy 4:8. Some are of real and direct profit to men, as acts of beneficence to them, and all as being examples to them; but then no works of righteousness can be profitable to God, they adding nothing to him; which is what Elihu undertook to answer to.
they cry out by reason of the arm of the mighty; which falls with weight, and lies heavy upon them, and crushes them; meaning the power they have, and which they abuse to the injury of them; nor are they able to help themselves or deliver themselves out of their hands, they being mighty, if not in body, yet through wealth; and by means of that authority over them which gives it them: now on account of the pressure upon them, they cry, not to God, but to men: and if they cry to God, it is in a murmuring and complaining way, through impatience under their burden, through envy at the riches and power of others, in a passionate manner, in a revengeful spirit, calling and seeking for vengeance on their oppressors; not in an humble penitent manner, acknowledging their sins, and owning their unworthiness to be heard and regarded, and submitting all to the will of God: for which reasons they are not heard, their cries and, prayers being reckoned no other than howlings, Hosea 7:14.
who giveth songs in the night; which respects not the praises of the angels in the night, as the Targum; nor the shining of the moon and stars in the night, which cause praise and thankfulness; nor the singing of birds in the night, as of the nightingale; senses some give into: but matter and cause of rejoicing in the night, either taken literally, as the mercies of the day, which, when reflected upon when men come to lie down on their beds at night, and commune with their hearts there, afford them songs of praise, see Psalm 42:8. Or the mercies of the night, as sweet refreshing sleep, and preservation in safety from all dangers by fire, thieves, &c. all which are of God; and, when duly considered, will direct to encompass him with songs of deliverance, see Psalm 137:2. Or, figuratively, the night sometimes signifying a time of calamity, affliction, and distress, either on temporal or spiritual accounts; and when men seek to him in such a night with their whole hearts, and he is pleased to visit them in a gracious manner, and favour them with his presence and the discoveries of his love, this occasions songs of praise to him, Isaiah 26:9. But when men are unconcerned about and not thankful for the mercies of the day and of the night, though these administer songs unto them, it is no wonder that, when they cry through oppression, they are not heard.
(y) "factores mei"; Drusius, Mercerus, Piscator, Cocceius, Michaelis, Schultens; so Broughton.
and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven? who are wise to provide food and nests for themselves and their young; and such as are birds of passage, as the turtledove, the crane, the stork, and the swallow, to know the time of their coming and returning, see Jeremiah 8:7. But then neither the beasts not; the fowls, though they are endowed with much knowledge and sagacity, according to their natures, yet not with reason and understanding, as men are, so as to make reflections on things they see and hear, and reason and discourse about them; nor are they capable of being taught and attaining to knowledge and wisdom as men are, by the works of God, of creation, and providence; and by the word of God, the Scriptures of truth, which are able to make men wise unto salvation; and by the Spirit of God, who teaches all things of a spiritual nature. God not only endows men with reason, but with sentiments of religion, which brutes are incapable of: he gives to men wisdom in the hidden part; he puts in them his fear, which is the beginning of wisdom; he makes them wise to know God in Christ, and to know his Son Jesus Christ, whom to know is life eternal; and he gives them knowledge of a future state, and hope of immortality and eternal life. Wherefore it becomes them to bear afflictions and oppressions with a fortitude of mind, and patiently submit to the will of God, and wait his time for deliverance, having called upon him in faith, and left their case with him; but if they only cry, as the brutes do under their burdens, it need not seem strange they are not heard and answered; since God has given them more wisdom and knowledge than they, and therefore should behave after another manner; though sometimes they act a part inferior to them, Jde 1:10.
but none giveth answer; to them, either God or men, and they lie groaning and howling under their oppression;
because of the pride of evil men; this is either to be connected with "they cry", and then the sense is, that they cry by reason of the oppressions of wicked men, who, through the pride of their hearts, and to show their superior power and authority, persecute and distress them, Psalm 10:2. And it is because of this they cry out, being distressed by them, and not through any sense of sin they have committed, as the reason of God's suffering them to be thus oppressed: or "with none give answer"; God gives them no answer to their cry, because pride is not withdrawn from them, which is one end he has in afflicting men; because they are not humbled under the mighty hand of God, and are not brought to a sense of sin and humiliation for it, and acknowledgment of it. And another reason follows:
neither will the Almighty regard it; vanity, vain prayers and vain persons; he regards the prayer of the destitute, the lowly, and the humble, but not the prayer of such as before described; he cannot "look" at, it (b), nor at them: he looks to the poor and contrite, and desires to see their countenance and hear their voice in prayer; but he is of purer eyes thou to look on vain persons and their vain prayers; and a greater contempt cannot be shown to petitioners and their petitions than when those to whom they apply will not so much as look at them, but turn both a deaf ear to them, and their eyes away from them.
(z) "falsitatem", Beza; "mendacium", Pagninus, Montanus. (a) "Quod temerarium est", Cocceius. (b) "non intuatur illud", Pagninus, Montanus; "non videt illud", Cocceius; so Michaelis and Schultens.
yet judgment is before him; all things are naked and open to him, and stand clear before him; he has perfect knowledge of what is right and wrong; no cause is unknown to him, and needs not to be searched into by him; nor can he nor will he ever pass a wrong judgment: he is just and true, righteous in all his ways and works, the Judge of the whole earth, who will do right, and will plead and judge the cause of every good man sooner or later; if not now, there is a judgment to come with him, when all must appear before his judgment seat, and he will render unto every man according to his works;
therefore trust thou in him, or "wait for him" (c); wait for his coming to judgment: wait till that time comes when everything will be brought to light, and every good man shall have praise of God. Or, as we render it, "trust in him"; God alone is the object of trust and confidence, and happy is the man that trusts in him; he is to be trusted in for all things, both temporal, spiritual, and eternal; and particularly for this of doing justice to his people; if not now, yet hereafter, he will render tribulation to them that trouble them; he will right all their wrongs and avenge their injuries, and remove the rebuke that is upon them, and confess them before men and angels, and declare them righteous, and receive them into his kingdom and glory: and be is to be trusted in at all times, in times of adversity as well as prosperity; and even when he is not to be seen, and the dispensations of his providence are dark and intricate, see Isaiah 50:10; The word used signifies such a trust, hope, and waiting, as of a woman in travail, who bears her pains patiently, holding and trusting for a safe deliverance of a child, to the joy of her and her family.
(c) "et expectabis eum", Montanus; "expecta eum", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Mercerus; so Michaelis, Schultens.
he hath visited in his anger; corrected and chastised in fatherly anger and displeasure, though not in wrath and vengeance, and in a way of punishment in strict justice; but consistent with his invariable love and free favour in Christ; being displeased at his want of faith and patience, failing in the exercise of which is oftentimes resented by the Lord, see Numbers 20:12;
yet he knoweth it not in great extremity: so stupid was Job, that though he was in the utmost extremity of affliction, in his body, family, and substance, yet was not sensible it was his duty to trust in God, and patiently wait for him; he knew that the hand of God was upon him, and that he had visited him in anger, and that his arrows stuck fast in him, and his hand pressed him sore; but was insensible of the cause of the continuance of it, his unbelief, impatience, and non-submission to the will of God. The word for "extremity" signifies "abundance" (d), and may be applied to an abundance and plenty of good things; and therefore some understand it of Job's prosperity, and take the sense to be, that God took no notice of this; it did not hinder him from visiting him, but he destroyed it all: though Mr. Broughton, on the other hand, interprets it of the great plenty of sorrows and distresses Job was attended with, the true cause of which he did not advert to: some (e) think the whole refers to the merciful dealings of God with Job, and read the first clause,
"know now his anger hath visited but a little or noticing;''
the affliction is but a light one comparatively speaking, scarce any thing at all in comparison of what sin deserves, being abundantly less than that:
"neither hath he made great inquisition, or inquired out the multitude''
of sins; not strictly and severely marking them, and dealing with and for them according to their deserts; see Ezra 9:13; with which compare 2 Corinthians 4:17; and therefore Job had no reason to complain of God, or of any hard usage from him.
(d) "in copia", Montanus; "ad auctum valde", Cocceius; "prosperitatem", De Dieu; so Patrick. (e) Tigurine version, Mercerus, Piscator; so Ben Gersom.