I’m On Elihu’s Side

Well, there aren’t really sides, per se. I’m referring to the exchange between the patriarch Job and the men who gathered to comfort him.

You might recall, there was initially some give and take between Job and three men who basically were counseling him to repent of whatever wickedness had brought on his terrible suffering. Then, and only then, God would restore his fortunes, they said. Job countered that he hadn’t done anything to cause his suffering. It was God’s doing.

At this point, I’m siding with Job. He sees God as independent, doing whatever He wills. His treatment of men is determined by His own will. In contrast, the friends see God as locked into reacting to whatever Man does — God’s treatment of men is determined by men.

Enter Elihu, a younger man than the three who first spoke to Job. In the past when I read what Elihu said, I was just confused. I couldn’t really figure out whether he was right in what he said, but I realize now that my reaction to him stemmed from my belief about Job.

Job, after all, is one of the heroes of the faith. The book of James uses him as an example of patience. What’s more, God used Job as an example of righteousness when He pointed him out to Satan. Job, then, is one of the good guys. Maybe he was the Best Guy, apart from Christ, who ever lived.

But not so long ago, it dawned on me that at the end of the book of Job, the hero was on his face, repenting of his sin. So somewhere between Job 2:10 (“in all this Job did not sin with his lips”) and 42:6 (“I repent in dust and ashes”), he did in fact sin.

I began to look at what Job said in a different light, and inevitably, as I saw Job more clearly, I began to understand what Elihu was saying.

I don’t have this down in a clear, systematic way, but here are the points I believe he was making.

1. God makes Himself known in a variety of ways. [Therefore men are without excuse].

2. God will not act wickedly. [Though Job is accusing Him of just that by saying He’s punishing him unjustly.]

3. God is sovereign, just, omniscient, and righteous.

4. Consequently, Job or the friends should have said, “Teach me what I do not see.”

5. Instead Job said, “My righteousness is more than God’s.” He’s punishing me when I did no wrong. [I found it startling to see that Job was taking the same position as some of the emergent thinkers like Mike Morrell, he of the “Am I nicer than God?” article.]

6. Job is teetering toward wickedness.

“Beware that wrath does not entice you to scoffing;
And do not let the greatness of the ransom [what he’d lost] turn you aside” (Job 37:18)

7. God is greater than we can know.

Enter God.

One of the reasons I never “got” Elihu before was because God never made any comment about him. He talked to Job and about the three men who spoke first, but never mentioned Elihu.

Did He need to? Perhaps His presence alone was validation of what Elihu said. I mean finally, after all the give and take, the defensive justifications and false accusations, someone speaks what is true about God. Then, and only then, did He show Himself. I think that might be corroboration enough that Elihu had it right.

Published in: on January 19, 2011 at 7:05 pm  Comments (3)  
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  1. That’s so funny, because I’m pretty sure it was to Elihu that God was referring when He came out of the whirlwind and the first thing He said was “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?”

    See, Job’s friends said a lot of things about God that were correct, but all of them had the perspective that Job had sinned and God was punishing him for it, when that wasn’t the case at all. They were speaking without knowledge of what they were speaking about – God’s motives in allowing Job to suffer.

    I think also in that culture it was extremely disrespectful for a young person to lecture an older person, especially a (formerly) prominent, wealthy man like Job.


  2. Ironically, I have been reading through Job for my daily reading. I always found Elihu interesting as well. Zoe, you are correct about what you said (younger man not speaking up to older men) and you see Elihu waiting until his elders are finished before speaking. I also find it interesting at the end of Job when God says he is angry at Job’s three friends and tells them to take bulls and rams to Job to sacrifice that Elihu is not mentioned. I take this to mean Elihu said the right things about God.

    I love how Elihu ends his argument for God: “We cannot imagine the power of the Almighty; but even though he is just and righteous, he does not destroy us. No wonder people everywhere fear him. All who are wise show him reverence.” Job. 37:24 (NLT)


  3. Zoe, I wondered, too, if God was referring to Elihu when He said the line you quoted. Interestingly, Job repeats it right before he repents, almost as if he’s saying, Who am I to think I could speak correctly about God? It would seem he at least took the line as God’s rebuke of him.

    Plus, I can’t find anything that Elihu said about God that doesn’t square with what the rest of Scripture reveals about Him.

    Morgan, I agree. His closing argument is very strong, especially that last line. But there are a lot of things he said that I love. For one, he summarized Job’s position in a way that helped me understand what he was saying. But then this:

    Far be it from God to do wickedness,
    And from the Almighty to do wrong.
    …Surely, God will not act wickedly,
    And the Almighty will not pervert justice.
    Who gave Him authority over the earth?
    And who has laid on Him the whole world?
    …Shall one who hates justice rule?
    And will you condemn the righteous mighty One
    – 34:10b, 12, 17



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