Job 34:1-20: Zeal with Knowledge

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Job 34:1-20: Zeal with Knowledge

December 13, 2022


John 18:1-18, Revelation 10, Job 34:1-20, Jonah 1-4 

Job 34:1-20:

In the Book of Job, we have a simple—and stunning—story. Job, a righteous man, is visited by the most painful suffering imaginable. His family dies. His wealth is destroyed. He himself is in physical pain. Job’s wife encourages him to “curse God and die,” but instead Job determines that he will trust God.

So far, so good. But a twist enters when Job begins to speak. In his speaking, he declares himself innocent and questions why God has given him such great suffering. Job is surrounded by three friends. They have been quiet until now. But when they hear Job protest his suffering, and his own interest, they are quiet no more. They insist that the only explanation for Job’s suffering is that he has done something to deserve it. But Job replies that he has not done anything to deserve suffering. On and on the dialogue goes until they reach a stalemate.

But now, listening in the background, a young man—Elihu by name—steps forward. He rebukes Job’s friends for failing to correct Job. And he rebukes Job for impugning the justice of God. Elihu’s reply is also lengthy, and interestingly enough, when God speaks at the end of this book, Elihu is the one character in the book who receives no mention whatsoever. Elihu seems to speak like a passionate young man whose zeal does not allow him to formulate a clear answer one way or another, but who is clear that the situation as it is cannot be tolerated.

In this first half of this chapter. Elihu criticizes Job’s friends for failing to be “wise” enough to answer Job. But he also criticizes Job for saying the same things that sinful people say:

Is there anyone like Job, who drinks scorn like water? He keeps company with evildoers; he associates with the wicked. For he says, ‘There is no profit in trying to please God.’” (34:7-9).

As to why Job is suffering, Elihu seems mainly to be saying that it is unthinkable that God would do anything that is unjust:

It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice” (34:12).

And again:

Can someone who hates justice govern? Will you condemn the just and mighty One?” (34:17).

In other words, Elihu is walking down the fence and complaining that there is one. On the one hand, God is just. Surely this cannot be denied! On the other hand, Job is suffering and complaining that he has suffered. That is not good either! What is the answer? Elihu has no clear definitive answer to the problem of suffering. I suppose at least he is defending the justice of God. But then it is also clear that he does not approve of Job’s complaints or questions either.

As we read through Elihu, it is striking how important is that we are people who have zeal and passion for God, but also people with knowledge and understanding. It is good to have zeal. But zeal without knowledge is rarely if ever helpful. Let us be people of logic and fire, of the Word and Spirit, of love and truth. Take time today to review your reading habits. Are you reading books or blogs that are stretching your mind and helping you to understand God better? Do you take the time to read the Bible and pray in your own devotional life? If you have friends or acquaintances who are in deep suffering—like Job—certainly don’t be like his so-called “comforters” who criticize him and add guilt to his pain. But also, don’t just be like Elihu either, calling him to a higher trust in God but not giving him any real answers. We need love and truth, fire and logic, zeal with knowledge.


Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.


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