Here, I. Elihu humbly addresses himself to the auditors, and endeavours, like an orator, to gain their good-will and their favourable attention. 1. He calls them wise men, and men that had knowledge, Job 34:2. It is comfortable dealing with such as understand sense. I speak as to wise men, who can judge what I say, 1 Cor. 10:15. Elihu differed in opinion from them, and yet he calls them wise and knowing men. Peevish disputants think all fools that are not of their mind; but it is a piece of justice which we owe to those who are wise to acknowledge it, though our sentiments do not agree with theirs. 2. He appeals to their judgment, and therefore submits to their trial, Job 34:3. The ear of the judicious tries words, whether what is said be true or false, right or wrong, and he that speaks must stand the test of the intelligent. As we must prove all things we hear, so we must be willing that what we speak should be proved. 3. He takes them into partnership with him in the examination and discussion of this matter, Job 34:4. He does not pretend to be sole dictator, nor undertake to say what is just and good and what is not, but he is willing to join with them in searching it out, and desires a consultation: “Let us agree to lay aside all animosities and feuds, all prejudices and affectation of contradiction, and all stiffness in adhering to the opinion we have once espoused, and let us choose to ourselves judgment; let us fix right principles on which to proceed, and then take right methods for finding out truth; and let us know among ourselves, by comparing notes and communicating our reasons, what is good and what is otherwise.” Note, We are then likely to discern what is right when we agree to assist one another in searching it out.
II. He warmly accuses Job for some passionate words which he had spoken, that reflected on the divine government, appealing to the house whether he ought not to be called to the bar and checked for them.
1. He recites the words which Job had spoken, as nearly as he can remember. (1.) He had insisted upon his own innocency. Job hath said, I am righteous (Job 34:5), and, when urged to confess his guilt, had stiffly maintained his plea of, Not guilty: Should I lie against my right? Job 34:6. Job had spoken to this purport, My righteousness I hold fast, Job 27:6. (2.) He had charged God with injustice in his dealings with him, that he had wronged him in afflicting him and had not righted him: God has taken away my judgment; so Job had said, Job 27:2. (3.) He had despaired of relief and concluded that God could not, or would not, help him: My wound is incurable, and likely to be mortal, and yet without transgression; not for any injustice in my hand, Job 16:16, 17. (4.) He had, in effect, said that there is nothing to be got in the service of God and that no man will be the better at last for his (Job 34:9): He hath said that which gives occasion to suspect that he thinks it profiteth a man nothing that he should delight himself with God. It is granted that there is a present pleasure in religion; for what is it but to delight ourselves with God, in communion with him, in concurrence with him, in walking with him as Enoch did? this is a true notion of religion, and bespeaks its ways to be pleasantness. Yet the advantage of it is denied, as if it were vain to serve God, Mal. 3:14. This Elihu gathers as Job’s opinion, by an innuendo from what he said (Job 9:22), He destroys the perfect and the wicked, which has a truth in it (for all things come alike to all), but it was ill expressed, and gave too much occasion for this imputation, and therefore Job sat down silently under it and attempted not his own vindication, whence Mr. Caryl well observes that good men sometimes speak worse than they mean, and that a good man will rather bear more blame than he deserves than to stand to excuse himself when he has deserved any blame.
2. He charges Job very high upon it. In general, What man is like Job? Job 34:7. “Did you ever know such a man as Job, or ever hear a man talk at such an extravagant rate?” He represents him, (1.) As sitting in the seat of the scornful: “He drinketh up scorning like water,” that is, “he takes a great deal of liberty to reproach both God and his friends, takes a pleasure in so doing, and is very liberal in his reflections.” Or, “He is very greedy in receiving and hearkening to the scorns and contempts which others cast upon their brethren, is well pleased with them and extols them.” Or, as some explain it, “By these foolish expressions of his he makes himself the object of scorn, lays himself very open to reproach, and gives occasion to others to laugh at him; while his religion suffers by them, and the reputation of that is wounded through his side.” We have need to pray that God will never leave us to ourselves to say or do any thing which may make us a reproach to the foolish, Ps. 39:8. (2.) As walking in the course of the ungodly, and standing in the way of sinners: He goes in company with the workers of iniquity (Job 34:8), not that in his conversation he did associate with them, but in his opinion he did favour and countenance them, and strengthen their hands. If (as it follows, Job 34:9; for the proof of this) it profits a man nothing to delight himself in God, why should he not lay the reins on the neck of his lusts and herd with the workers of iniquity? He that says, I have cleansed my hands in vain, does not only offend against the generation of God’s children (Ps. 72:13, 14), but gratifies his enemies, and says as they say.