Sunday, September 22
Job 33: This speech should not be considered an afterthought, much less a "later addition," to the Book of Job. It is simply another voice in the discussion. Elihu disagrees with and criticizes both Job and the three comforters. For him the discussion is not reducible to an either/or. Job, he believes, has gone too far in his demands for a trial between himself and God, while JobŐs friends have made what Elihu regards as an inadequate presentation of the traditional wisdom. Like the other components in this complex discussion, ElihuŐs contribution is a critique, and the Book of Job would be quite a different and less subtle work without it. Indeed, ElihuŐs remarks contains some of the bookŐs best parts, variations of which will appear in GodŐs own account near the end. These parts of heavily didactic, nonetheless, and seldom rise to the high poetic levels of the other speakers, especially Job himself. ElihuŐs chief objection to JobŐs friends concerns their exclusive attribution of divine punishment to human suffering. Punishment and reward, Elihu argues, do not between them comprise the whole of GodŐs dealing with man. There is another and important aspect to the "negative side of God," namely, divine exhortation. God sends afflictions, Elihu contends, not just to punish, but also to admonish. If a man accepts these sufferings as GodŐs loving correction and invitation, rather than as divine punishment, he will avoid the pride and self-satisfaction that may sometimes be the peril of a godly life. Such afflictions will serve, therefore, as a restorative. Neither Job nor his friends, he believes, have sufficiently considered this perspective.
Monday, September 23
Job 34: Having reprimanded Job, Elihu turns to the other three, who have not, Elihu believes, answered JobŐs challenges to God as they should have. The notion of injustice in God involves an internal contradiction, Elihu believes (verses 10,12); the very existence of the world depends on the thesis of GodŐs righteousness (verses13-15). Neither is there any justice higher than God (verse 17), nor is the Almighty likely to be influenced by the more powerful of His creatures (verse 19). Nothing in manŐs experience is hidden from the gaze of God (verses 21-22). The font and source of justice, God holds all human activity to the same standard and the same sanctions (verses 24-28). What his comforters should have told Job is that God, through the sufferings that He has sent, had only JobŐs proper correction in mind (verses 31-32), whereas their insistence that Job was being punished simply provoked him to an improper assertion of his innocence. It was the responsibility of these men, says Elihu, to have provided Job with proper instruction. Their ineptitude has served only to incite Job into open rebellion against God (verses 35-37). Indeed, JobŐs call for a trial, in which he might argue his case against God, distorts the proper relationship between God and man. God is never manŐs enemy or opponent. God makes Himself no oneŐs adversary. God needs opponents no more than He needs powerful friends, nor does He act from a sense of need anyway. To portray God as an enemy is to reduce Him to our level.
Tuesday, September 24
Job 35: Elihu gives a fair paraphrase of JobŐs position Ń namely, that his own righteousness exceeds GodŐs! (verse 2) Job may not have said it just that way, but it amounts to the same thing (verse 3; cf. 4:17; 13:18; 15:3; 19:6-7; 21:15; 27:2-6). Is this likely? asks Elihu. He turns JobŐs gaze upwards, then, to the physical symbols of GodŐs transcendence (verse 5). God is not, in Himself, altered by either manŐs virtue or his vice (verses 6-9). God does what He does, simply because He is righteous. Therefore, He is to be trusted (verse 14). On the other hand, no one has a forensic claim on God; indeed, even to voice such a claim is, in some measure, to attempt to put oneself on GodŐs level.
Wednesday, September 25
Job 36: God, says Elihu, does not hate (verse 5). Nor is He capricious; He gives judgment (mishpat) for the poor (verses 6,15). If He does chastise, it is ever with a view to manŐs correction and repentance (verses 8-10,22). The time of trial, therefore, is the proper occasion of taking stock of oneŐs conscience. However, not to receive the judgment of God with repentance is most serious (verses 11-14). It is Job who has failed in this regard, not God (verse 16), and his present path is parlous. He must exercise caution, lest his mind be lured into total rebellion (verses 17-18). At this point, Elihu waxes poetic, and the chapter closes with his praise of God in creation (verses 26-33), which continues into the following chapter (37:1-13). Virtually all the lines of this paean of praise have parallels in the Book of Psalms.
Thursday, September 26
Job 37: The first half of this chapter continues ElihuŐs praise of God. This is ElihuŐs way of exhorting Job, similar to the way that St. James exhorts us: ""Is any among you suffering? Let him pray" (James 5:13). The deliberate praise of God is the proper and godly response of a faithful soul to the experience of suffering. For example, Martin RinckartŐs well known hymn, Nun danket Alle Gott ("Now thank we all our God") was composed as his response to the horrible trials of the city of Eilenburg, which suffered from a devastating plague, failed harvests, and the three different times it was sacked during the Thirty YearsŐ War. The section of ElihuŐs hymn of praise in this chapter dwells especially on the imagery of the storm. He finally closes his discourse by exhorting Job to dwell more on what he knows of God and to assess his own suffering in the light of that knowledge. What, finally, is to be said of ElihuŐs contribution to this discussion about suffering and justice? It is worth remarking that his lengthy discourse prepares the way for GodŐs revelation to the Job in the bookŐs closing chapters. It should also be noted that God does not reprimand Elihu as He does Job and the three comforters. Elihu never arrives on the scene, nor does he leave it; he has neither beginning of days, nor end of life. Like Melchizedek, he is one of the more mysterious characters of the Bible.
Friday, September 27
Job 38: Now the Lord Himself will speak, for the first time since Chapter 2. After all, Job has been asking for this (cf. 13:22; 23:5; 30:20; 31:35), and now he will get a great deal more than he anticipated. With a mere gesture, as it were, God proceeds to brush aside all the theories and pseudo-problems of the preceding chapters. God does not answer JobŐs questions. He does not so much as even notice them; He renders them hopelessly irrelevant by His own series of questions to Job. GodŐs providence over JobŐs life is even more subtle and majestic than these easier questions that Job cannot begin to answer, questions about the construction of the world, the courses of the heavenly bodies, the marvels of earth and sea, and animal life. Utterly surrounded by things that he cannot understand, will Job still demand to know mysteries even more mysterious? Implicit in these questions to Job is the reminder of GodŐs affectionate provision for all His creatures. If God so cares for the birds of the air and the plants of the fields, how much more of Job! Moreover, the world itself contains creatures that seem improbable and bewildering to the human mind. Should not man, then, expect to find that there are even more improbably and bewildering aspects to the subtler forms of the divine providence? God will not be reduced simply to an answer to JobŐs shallow questions. Indeed, the divine voice from the whirlwind never once deigns even to notice JobŐs questions. They are implicitly subsumed into a vaster and far richer mercy.
Saturday, September 28
Job 39: Having surveyed for Job the myriad manifestations of divine wisdom and power in the realms of physics and botany, the Lord now (beginning in 38:39) commences to examine the animal world. Several examples are considered, in varying degrees of detail: the lion and the raven, both of which, powerful hunters though they be, depend on GodŐs provision; the mountain goat and wild ass, both characterized by the freedom of their migrations; the r”mu (verses 9-12), a now extinct species of ox that man never managed to tame; the ostrich (and perhaps the peacock, both of them missing in the Greek text), renowned for both its stupidity and its speed, and evidently placed here to be in proximity to the next animal; the mighty war charger, whose neck, larger than its head, is "clothed with thunder," and who revels to be again in battle; and finally the hawk and the eagle, accomplished hunters who see from afar. The greatest detail is devoted to the only domesticated animal in the list, the destrier, or war horse. The horse in antiquity was reserved for combat. It was not used for ploughing (the work of the ox), nor for carrying burdens (the work of donkeys), nor for ordinary riding (the work of mules and donkeys). The horse, this most noble and impressive of all the animals that man has tamed, was employed exclusively for battle. Originally, equestrian warfare was by chariots, but fighting from horseback was introduced by at least the seventh century B.C. This latter case is what the Book of Job seems to have in mind, since the text does not mention chariots.