(to return to Table of Contents, click here)

 

373. Job 36:22-33, The Greatness of God

 

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’?

24 Remember to extol his work,

    of which mortals have sung.

25 All people have looked on it;

    everyone watches it from far away.

26 Surely God is great, and we do not know him;

    the number of his years is unsearchable.

27 For he draws up the drops of water;

    he distills his mist in rain,

28 which the skies pour down

    and drop upon mortals abundantly.

29 Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds,

    the thunderings of his pavilion?

30 See, he scatters his lightning around him

    and covers the roots of the sea.

31 For by these he governs peoples;

    he gives food in abundance.

32 He covers his hands with the lightning,

    and commands it to strike the mark.

33 Its crashing tells about him;

    he is jealous with anger against iniquity."

 

    

If Job 29-31 functioned as Job’s three-chapter peroration after he had delivered nine speeches  (Job 3; 6-7; 9-10; 12-14; 16-17; 19; 21; 23-24; 26-27), then we might look at Job 36:22-37:24 as Elihu’s 36-verse peroration after delivering  3 1/2 speeches (32-33; 34; 35; 36:1-21). The proportion of peroration to other speeches is about the same for both. In addition, both Job and Elihu finish their words with considerable drama and eloquence.

 

We might further divide this section into

 

a) Verses 22-26, God’s Greatness;

b) Verses 27-30, God’s Work in the Rains and Thunder;

c) Verses 31-33, Conclusion.

 

Our division, however, is only tentative. The speech from verses 18-33 resists easy outline. The NRSV, for example, divides this longer section into verses 18-23 and 24-33; Anderson ends the first section at verse 25; others divide things differently. Elihu returns to clarity, for the most part, though it doesn’t take him much to make us worry that he will lose it again.  


An interesting feature of Job 36 is its repetition of unusual words and phrases throughout. Kabbalistic commentators no doubt could have a field day with it, but I don’t know if any of the repetition has any significance. This repetition goes beyond Elihu’s cultivation of a unique vocabulary, which has been noted above. For example, we have koach (“strength/force” in verses 5, 19, 22;  paal (“to do/works”) in verses 23, 24; suth (“incite/allure”) in verses 16, 18; saggi/saga (“to be great”; this may be related to a similar-meaning verb sagab in v 22) in verses 24, 26; kabbir/makbir (“to be great/much”) in verses 5 (twice—kabbir) and 32 (once—makbir); nagad (“declare”) in verses 9, 33); hen (“thus”) in verses 22, 26, 30; rachoq (“from afar”) in verses 3, 25); paras/miphras ("spread out") in verses 29, 30; and kasah (“cover”) in verses 30, 32. Except for koach and hen, these words are never mentioned three or more times in Job 36.