When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? - How beautiful is this sentiment, and how true! He ever acts as a sovereign, but his actions are all wise and just. If he give quietness, who dares to give trouble? And if he give to every human being the right to worship himself according to their conscience, for the director of which he gives both his word and his Spirit, who shall dare to say to another, "Thou shalt worship God in my way, or not at all;" or, through a pretended liberality, say, "Thou shalt be tolerated to worship him so and so;" and even that toleration be shackled and limited? Reader, thou hast as much right to tolerate another's mode of worship as he has to tolerate thine: or, in other words, neither of you have any such right at all; the pretension is as absurd as it is wicked. If, however, there be any thing in the religious practice of any particular people that is inimical, by fair construction, to the peace of the country, then the civil power may interfere, as they ought to do in all cases of insurrection; but let no such inference be drawn when not most obviously flowing from the practice of the people, and the principles they profess; and when solemnly disclaimed by the persons in question. Whatever converts sinners from the error of their ways must be good to society and profitable to the state.
Whether it be done against a nation - He defends and supports nations or individuals howsoever weak, against their enemies, howsoever numerous and powerful. He destroys nations or individuals who have filled up the measure of their political or moral iniquity, though all other nations and individuals stand up in their support.
When he giveth quietness - That is, when God designs to give rest, comfort, ease, or prosperity in any way to a man. The Hebrew word used here may refer to any kind of ease, rest, or peace. The idea which Elihu intends to convey is, that God has all things under his control, and that he can bring prosperity or adversity upon an individual or a nation at his own pleasure.
Who then can make trouble? - literally, “Who can condemn, or hold guilty” - ירשׁע yarâsha‛ The sense is, that no one can overwhelm him with the consciousness of guilt, to whom God intends to give the peace resulting from his favor and friendship. Or, no one can bring calamities upon a man “as if” he were guilty, or so as to “show” that he is guilty, when God intends to treat him as if he were not. This is as true now as it was in the time of Elihu. When God designs to give peace to a man‘s soul, and to impart to him the evidence that his sins are forgiven, there is no one who can excite in his mind the conviction of guilt, or take away the comfort that God gives. When he designs to “treat” a man as if he were his friend, and to impart to him such evidences of his favor as shall convince the world that he is his friend, there is no one who can prevent it. No one can so calumniate him, or so prejudice the world against him, or so arrest the descending tokens of the divine favor, as to turn back the proof of the favor of God; compare Proverbs 16:7.
And when he hideth his face - To “hide the face,” is a common expression in the Scriptures to denote calamity, distress, and the lack of spiritual comfort, as the expression “to lift up the light of the countenance” is a common phrase to denote the opposite; compare Job 13:24.
Who then can behold him? - An expression denoting that no one can then have cheering and elevating views of God. No one can then have those clear conceptions of his character and government which will give peace to the soul. “This” is also as true now as it was in the time of Elihu. We are dependent on God himself for any just views of his own character, for any elevating and purifying conceptions of his government and plans, and for any consolation flowing in upon our souls from the evidence that he is our friend.
Whether it be done against a nation, or against a man only - The same truth pertains to nations and to individuals. The same laws respecting the sources of peace and happiness apply to both. Both are alike dependent on God, and neither can secure permanent peace and prosperity without him. Both are alike at his sovereign disposal; and neither can originate permanent sources of prosperity. This, too, is as true now as it was in the time of Elihu. Nations are more prone to forget it than individuals are, but still it is a great truth which should never be forgotten, that neither have power to originate or perpetuate the means of happiness, but that both are alike dependent on God.