Avraham ben Yaakov
JOB CHAPTER 35
V 1: "And Eli-hu answered and said." (v 1). In Eli-hu's second discourse, contained in the previous chapter, he had answered Job regarding the question of reward and punishment, whereas now he is going to discuss the suffering that came upon Job himself. For this reason he paused between one subject and the other in order to gather his thoughts. (Metzudas David ad loc.)
V 2: "Do you think this to be right, that you say, My righteousness is more than God's?". Ramban (ad loc.) explains that Eli-hu will repeatedly blame Job for having said he was more righteous than God. For Job was convinced that he was righteous and that the terrible calamities that befell him were not because of any crime. He gave expression to this in different ways, sometimes arguing that God considered him His enemy, sometimes that He does not watch over the creatures of the lower world providentially. In addition Job had complained that man's sin does not harm God nor does his merit benefit Him and if so, He does not need or want man to repent - for Job had wanted to fear God but suffering came upon him anyway, so what more could he do to conciliate Him? This is another argument against providence. Eli-hu now addresses this in the coming section of his discourse (ch 35 vv 3-16).
V 3: "For you say, What advantage will it be to you? What profit shall I have more than if I had sinned?" - Eli-hu reviews Job's argument prior to answering him: "You say that if everything comes through fate as decreed by the heavenly order of the stars and planets, what benefit do you have from serving God and refraining from sin: (Metzudas).
V 4: "I will answer you and your companions with you." Ramban (on v 2) explains that the reason why Eli-hu included Job's companions with him in this verse is because their leader, Eliphaz, had also implied that man's merits are of no benefit to God (see Job 22:2-3). Eli-hu will answer that it is true that sin neither harms nor benefits God, but nevertheless He commanded man to act righteously and warned him against sin for the good of His creatures. For this reason He sends punishment and does not accept the prayers of one who cries to Him and wants to fear God - on account of his acts of oppression against others, of which he may not even be aware. Thus Job is exonerated from the charge of having been a liar in his claims about his righteousness, yet God is shown to be the righteous one (see Ramban at length on v 2).
V 5: "Look to the heavens." - "Since He is exalted and you are lowly and He has no benefit whether you are wicked or righteous, why should you boast to Him about your righteousness?" (Rashi).
V 8: "Your wickedness may hurt a man as you are and your righteousness may profit the son of man" - "He is saying that evil is only called wickedness on account of the harm it does to a man on Job's level, while righteousness and charity are only called good on account of the fact that they benefit another man - for God commanded his creations to practice justice and righteousness for their own benefit" (Ramban).
Vv 9-10: The oppressed cry out because of the strong arm of their oppressors, and no one asks "Where is God my Maker." The simple meaning of the verse is that the oppressors do not stop to think about and heed God's law forbidding oppression, despite the fact that they themselves are His creatures. Metzudas David construes the phrase "he gives songs in the night" as referring to the righteous man, who may offer his prayers to God yet is nevertheless accounted responsible for the sins of the wicked if he does not stand up to protest against them. According to Metzudas David, Eli-hu is implying in this and the following verses that Job's suffering came to him not because he was not righteous but because he did not protest against the wicked for their oppression. [This fits with the Midrash telling that when Pharaoh consulted Bilaam, Job and Jethro as to whether to enslave Israel , Bilaam agreed and was later killed, Jethro disagreed and was rewarded, while Job failed to protest and had to suffer.]
V 12: "There when they cry He does not answer." At times God may not answer the cries of the righteous - this, according to Metzudas David, because they have not protested against the wicked.
V 13: Metzudas David construes: "But it is false to say that God does not hear and that the Eternal does not see it" - God may appear hidden at times, but this does not mean He does not hear and know everything that is going on.
V 14: "Even though you say, You do not see it, nevertheless, there is law before Him - and you must have hope in Him" - God watches over everything, and therefore there is a place for prayer to Him (Metzudas).
V 1: "And Eli-hu ADDED" - "Until now, Eli-hu has given three discourses (chapters 33, 34 & 35 - chapter 32 was merely introductory) corresponding to Job's three companions. What follows is a fourth, and this is why it is called ADDITIONAL" (Rashi).
Ramban comments: "In this discourse Eli-hu does not attack Job, for he had already blamed him enough in each of his first three discourses. Now Eli-hu comes like the companions to speak the praise of God, telling how He watches over the world. Since God watches over His world constantly despite His loftiness and exaltedness, it is impossible to believe that He has entirely removed His providence from the beings of the lower worlds on account of His exaltedness and the lowliness of man. For the lower worlds were created for the sake of man, for none besides him recognizes his Creator. If so, all God's providence over the varieties of lower creatures is for the sake of man - so how could it be that He pays no attention to him? Moreover we must attribute Justice to the Creator of all when we see Him to be a great King and a righteous Judge who watches over everything providentially (Ramban on v 1).
V 2: "Wait for me a little." - "Eli-hu did not want Job to think that he had finished everything he had to say in case he would interrupt, therefore he asked him to wait a little longer" (Metzudas David).
V 5: "Behold God is mighty and will not despise anyone." This verse is cited in the Talmud as proof that when many people pray together God does not reject their prayers, and for this reason one should try to worship with a congregation, or at least - if this is not possible - at the time the congregation are praying (Berachos 8a).
Vv 6-7: It is not true that God is indifferent whether people are righteous or not, for He will not give life to the wicked, whereas He will eventually vindicate the poor.
Vv 8-12: Poverty and other forms of suffering are a test. "Then He declares to them their work" (v 9) - "For through this suffering He informs them that they have sinned before Him" (Rashi) - suffering is a message sent to man from God. If man heeds the message, he will end his days well, but if not he will pass from the world and die without ever having attained true understanding.
V 13: Those who flatter their hearts - giving way to all the desires of their evil inclination - chaff against suffering and do not cry out to God when they suffer despite the fact that it is He who sends them the suffering.
V 15: "He delivers the poor by means of his affliction and opens their ears through oppression" - "On account of their having been afflicted, He delivers them from Gehennom, and through the oppression He brings upon them He opens their ears to hear Him when He says, Return to Me" (Rashi).
V 17: Metzudas explains: "Even if you have been filled up with the judgment of suffering that would be fit for the wicked, so what - because it must really be considered a benefit since the judgment and suffering that have come upon you will sustain you and save you from the punishment of hell so that you will delight in the world to come."
Vv 18-21: Eli-hu warns Job not to prefer the success of the wicked to his own suffering, for their success leads only to ultimate destruction.
Vv 22-26: God is exalted above all, and no one can accuse Him of any miscarriage of justice.
Vv 27ff: The detailed way in which God watches over the world providentially is exemplified in the way He sends the rains - sometimes in abundance, sometimes very sparingly. "For through them He judges the peoples." (v 31) - It is through sending abundant rain or withholding them that God sends each nation its deserts. He also judged the generation of the flood with excessive rain, and rained down fire and sulfur on the wicked inhabitants of Sodom (Rashi, Metzudas David).
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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