I will begin by giving three translations of this crucial passage. The first is from the NRSV, which I have been using throughout the study guide. The second is from the New International Version, done by a large team of Evangelical scholars in the 1970s. The third is from the Jewish Publication Society's translation of the Book of Job.
15 "He delivers the afflicted by their affliction, and opens their ear by adversity. 16 He also allured you out of distress into a broad place where there was no constraint, and what was set on your table was full of fatness."
15 "But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. 16 "He is wooing you from the jaws of distres to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food."
36:15 "He delivereth the afflicted by His affliction, and openeth their ear by tribulation. 36:16 Yea, He hath allured thee out of distress into a broad place, where there is no straitness; and that which is set on thy table is full of fatness;"
A. I quoted three translations to show that even though many scholars say that these (and the next few verses) are exceedingly hard to translate, that there is enough similarity here to make singificant sense of the passage. First, v. 15, again. Note that there are two ways to take the Hebrew preposition "ba," which can be translated as "in" or "by." What are the two meanings suggested by the preposition?
B. Even Professor Good, who doesn't really like Elihu, said that Elihu's words provide "something more" than previous words on the meaning of suffering. How so?
C. Now, moving to v. 16, notice the following words: "allured" (or "wooing"); "broad place"; "no straitness" (or "no constraint"); "full of fatness" (or "choice food"). Each has very rich and deep biblical resonances. First, note that Elihu is now applying his insight in v. 15 to Job's experience. What is his overall point?
D. Looking at the particular words. What does "wooing" suggest (cf. Hos. 11)? What is the broad place into which God is trying to lead job (cf. Ps. 18: 19)? What does the phrase "no constraint" suggest to you? Finally, do you hear echoes of Ps. 23 in the phrase "choice food" and "full of fatness"? If Elihu is drawing on so many biblical concepts in 36:16, what would be the significance of it?
17 "But you are obsessed with the case of the wicked; judgment and justice seize you. 18 Beware that wrath does not entice you into scoffing, and do not let the greatness of the ransom turn you aside. 19 Will your cry avail to keep you from distress, or will all the force of your strength? 20 Do not long for the night, when peoples are cut off in their place. 21 Beware! Do not turn to iniquity; because of that you have been tried by affliction. 22 See, God is exalted in his power; who is a teacher like him? 23 Who has prescribed for him his way, or who can say, 'You have done wrong'?"
A. Several verses or thoughts in this passage should make us pause. What is Elihu suggesting in v. 17? Are the ways of law and freedom (v.16) compatible?
B. Job has spent a good deal of effort developing his lawsuit in the Book of Job. What is Elihu saying about that effort? What is the alternative? Is it so bad if "judgment and justice seize" Job? What are the costs to Job in pursuing a legal strategy?
C. Elihu has a word to say about anger in v.18. What is it?
D. Job has been "longing for the night" ever since ch.3, hasn't he? What is Elihu's advice in this connection?
E. Elihu also has a few things to say about God. What are they?
What Elihu is doing in his final speech is attempting to give his interpretation of Job's distress. He had laid out various ways that God speaks to people in ch.33, but now he zeroes in on what he feels is the "meaning" of Job's suffering. Do you try to come up with a "meaning" for your distress? Elihu believes that suffering can lead us to freedom. What is your opinion of that argument?