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360. Job 35:9-16, Job’s Empty Words, Introduction
9 “Because of the multitude of oppressions they cry out;
They cry for help because of the arm of the mighty.
10 But no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker,
Who gives songs in the night,
11 Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth
And makes us wiser than the birds of the heavens?’
12 There they cry out, but He does not answer
Because of the pride of evil men.
13 “Surely God will not listen to an empty cry,
Nor will the Almighty regard it.
14 How much less when you say you do not behold Him,
The case is before Him, and you must wait for Him!
15 And now, because He has not visited in His anger,
Nor has He acknowledged transgression well,
16 So Job opens his mouth emptily;
He multiplies words without knowledge.”
In the second half of Job 35 Elihu changes the focus of his discussion from the four complaints or theological observations of verses 2-8 to the reason why people cry to God and aren’t heard. When Elihu does this, he really gets to the nub of Job’s case because Job feels he has been crying to God ever since, and even before, serious distress entered his life, but God has been deaf to his pleas. Elihu will argue two things here: 1) a general point; and 2) the application of that general point to Job.
1) His general point will be that God doesn’t hear people’s cry because they are filled with pride. Therefore, their cry is empty or in vain (vv 12-13). 2) Then, as applied to Job, if God won’t hear this kind of cry, even though the people uttering it are oppressed, God certainly won’t hear Job’s cry. This is especially true when Job’s cry is coupled with his petulant statements about not seeing God and his arrogant confidence in his case (v 14). Instead of seeking a relationship, Job is seeking a fight.
Elihu starts strong here, but his ideas are not as compelling as in Job 33, where he talked about God’s twofold communication method with people. He is strongest when he mentions the relational possibilities between humans and God. Conversely, he is least convincing when he tries to argue ideas—such as the judgment of God in Job 34— how it happens, who is touched by it and how Job’s conduct is implicated in that of the “mighty” of 34:16-30. Here he tries to argue another idea—why God doesn’t answer the cry of people—but his argument likewise isn’t well-developed. For example, he will talk about people who “cry out” in verse 9, but we get the impression that they are just crying out in pain and not crying out to God. Yet, the real issue is not just people who cry out in pain, but is precisely those who are in pain and cry out to God. So, he is a bit muddled in this crucial area.
He is also unhelpful when he mentions a general “one-size-fits-all” approach as to why oppressed people aren’t heard by God. They aren’t heard by God because they are proud. But, more specifically, he says it is “because of the pride of evil men” (v 12). So, is he trying to say that the reason people in general aren’t heard when they cry out is that they aren’t crying to God or that their prayer/cry is laced with pride or because they, as evil men, are naturally pride-filled? But Job plainly has cried out to God—so does he fit into the category that Elihu is proposing in verse 9, those who “cry out”? Though Job never literally says, ‘Where are you, God?’ (v 10), he spends a good deal of time in a fruitless search for God (see especially 23:8-9).
Thus we are beginning to recognize what is true with almost anyone else is also true for Elihu—that he does certain things exceedingly well, and in other things he isn’t so strong. Elihu plays the “relational” or “teaching” card very well, but he falls short when he enters into the theological realm. Let’s briefly consider this passage to show the flow, the inadequacies and the promise of his argument.