1 "Elihu continued and said: 2 "Do you think this to be just? You say, 'I am in the right before God.' 3 If you ask, 'What advantage have I? How am I better off than if I had sinned?' 4 I will answer you and your friends with you. 5 Look at the heavens and see; observe the clouds, which are higher than you. 6 If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against him? And if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to him? 7 If you are righteous, what do you give to him; or what does he receive from your hand? 8 Your wickedness affects others like you, and your righteousness, other human beings."
A. This is the shortest of Elihu's speeches. He has turned to speak directly to Job. He again quotes Job. A better translation of v.2 is "You say, 'I am more righteous than God.' The NRSV translators have soft-pedalled the vigor of the statement. Is this a fair thing for Elihu to say? Has Job considered himself morally superior to God? Read Job 30:24ff. I think this might be the passage that Elihu has in mind. What is Job saying there?
B. In v.3 Elihu also attributes another thought to Job--that he is no better off than if he had sinned. Does Job say that or might one draw this inference from what Job has said? This is a little different from St. Paul's statement, "Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound" (Rom 6:1)? But it shares the same intellectual space. It suggests that Job believes that he would have faced the same result had he lived the life of an open sinner. Can you hear that in Job 9:20-21?--"It is all one."
C. Elihu then has a principle he is trying to lay out in the remainder of the passage. What is it? Why is it important for him to mention this point now? I see it almost as a "deck-clearing" point--where he is saying, 'Job, don't worry. Neither your sin nor your righteousness affects God.' Eliphaz makes a point somewhat similar to this in 22:3.
9 "Because of the multitude of oppressions people cry out; they call for help because of the arm of the mighty. 10 But no one says, 'Where is God my Maker, who gives strength in the night, 11 who teaches us more than the animals of the earth, and makes us wiser than the birds of the air?' 12 There they cry out, but he does not answer, because of the pride of evildoers. 13 Surely God does not hear an empty cry, nor does the Almighty regard it. 14 How much less when you say that you do not see him, that the case is before him, and you are waiting for him! 15 And now, because his anger does not punish, and he does not greatly heed transgression, 16 Job opens his mouth in empty talk, he multiplies words without knowledge."
A. Elihu now changes the focus of his comments to speak about oppressed people. How do they cry out?
B. But Elihu suggests that the cry of the oppressed is not a properly-oriented cry to God. What is deficient about it?
C. Yet, God does not answer their cry. I think Elihu retreats into some kind of obscurity here, but can you make out what he is trying to say?
D. So, why doesn't God heed and answer Job?
E. Elihu seems to be working on a theory that those who don't recognize the ways that God speaks (see chs. 32-33) have closed themselves off from hearing him, possibly because of their pride. Is this how would you articulate what Elihu seems to be trying to say?
F. Is my thesis in the opening paragraphs too much of a stretch--that Job's persistence in his wicked speaking actually hurts the other oppressed who cry (improperly) to God? Might a better thesis be that their insufficient cry to God is simply illustrative of Job's futile address to God?
G. What is Elihu's "bottom line" in this passage?