Elihu spent this chapter detailing how powerful God is and challenging Job to compare himself to God or question Him. Whilst the description of God’s power and majesty are certainly truthful, what Elihu missed is God’s love for mankind. He continued and continues to show us great mercy and love, even at the time this book was written God had shown favour to man. This is missing from Elihu’s idea of God (and contradicts his earlier suggestions that God spoke quietly to man because here he accurately predicted that God comes in great power and strength).
Job knew God’s mercy which is why he asked to present his case to God. Job always kept God in his proper place as almighty and all powerful but he also managed to keep the concept of a relationship with God governed by God’s rules in mind. Job definitely did not claim to understand God (or arrogantly speak for Him like Elihu) but Job knew God better than Elihua, Bildad, Zophar and Eliphaz.
Job knew that somehow man matters to God. For some obscure reason whether we are righteous or sinful matters to God who is all powerful and almighty. Relationship and worship balance awe and fear in considering God in our lives. Whilst Elihu plead platitudes (some of course were true), he never showed true awe of God.
Can one start a blog post with a snort of derision? What do you think of the first few verses of this chapter? They are in the NIV version as follows:
‘Bear with me a little longer and I will show you that there is more to be said in God’s behalf.
I get my knowledge from afar; I will ascribe justice to my Maker.
Be assured that my words are not false; one perfect in knowledge is with you.” (verses 1-4)
Elihu insisted he spoke in God’s behalf and arrogantly claimed to be “perfect in knowledge” – the man was impossible. I wonder if he has been included as a fool or jester in this story – behaving absurdly to emphasise points and lighten the tone. Surely we are not meant to listen to him seriously?
Elihu the wise spent this chapter directly contradicting his opinions in the previous chapter. Previously he asserted that it made no difference to God what man did and He gives no attention to man. In this chapter he said that God “does not despise men” and He spends time correcting men and controlling the wicked and those who do not listen to Him. Here we have a contradiction and the same old denial of reality – Elihu specified that God dealt quickly with wicked men on earth bringing about their early deaths whereas Job has always tried to balance the fact that this does not happen with a just God. Job did this by believing in eternal justice and judgment after death. Elihu has no conception of such a deep idea.
Elihu finished this chapter by describing God’s power and wisdom – the only part of his argument that was truthful and consistent.
Again Elihu set up strange illogical arguments. He first of all challenged Job’s assertion that God would clear him (verse 2) with Job’s point that there is no reason to do what God says because we gain nothing by not sinning. Then Elihu spent the rest of the chapter detailing how God does not listen to anyone because what we do makes no difference to Him. He finished by saying: “So Job opens his mouth with empty talk; without knowledge he multiplies words.” (verse 16).
Job did not assert that God never listens to anyone – he actually said he longed for the times when God was near to Him. Job knew and believed that it does matter to God what we do with our lives. Elihua said the opposite, which is untrue and then accused Job of lying!
Not only does Elihu’s argument make no sense in this chapter, but he changed his argument as he went. Future chapters quote him as saying exactly the opposite to what he asserted here. He seems to have been all puffery and no wisdom.
Elihu continued to speak in a sarcastic tone suggesting that as wise men together they could assess what is right. He argued the same argument that Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar had but in a more extreme way.
Again he took one point and twisted it. He focused on Job’s suggestion that it makes no difference whether man tries to please God or not. Elihu extended it to say that Job was lying (again) and he was rebelling against God since surely God treats us as we deserve?
Whilst Job did suggest such a thing it was within a context of confusion and pain – he also continued to claim that God did judge but not necessarily in this life and that although the suffering he was experiencing from God was not fair he knew God would vindicate him eventually (perhaps even after death). Job never rebelled against God. He begged God to hear him, he felt that God was being unfair but he always saw God as the ultimately fair judge. Job also knew that the simple formula of do good and be blessed with its corollary do bad and have a horrid life simply was not true. He knew that sometimes wicked people have long and happy lives and righteous ones suffer. Yet he still believed in God and that God would ultimately demand retribution from those who sinned.
Elihu on the other hand is fixated with Job lying and therefore hanging out with wicked men rebelling against God. His final barrage started by saying that Job spoke without wisdom or insight and he should therefore be punished. What punishment could Job receive that he had not already received? Killing Job would be a mercy not a punishment especially since he believed in an ultimate judgment by God at death and in God’s justice. Elihu was the one without insight or wisdom even though he babbled about being wise all the time. He refused to see the reality that Job saw that life was not as simple as do good be blessed; sin and suffer. He could not balance the contradiction in his mind that righteous men do suffer yet God is good and will judge everyone ultimately.
I have combined chapter 32 and 33 because 32 is simply Elihu’s introduction of himself whilst 33 contains his initial argument in the discussion. It does mean I have allowed myself a few more words today.
Chapter 33 is full of how young Elihu is but how he thought he must be quiet because of the Job and his friends’ age which should give them wisdom. Then he warbled on how he realised that not only are the old wise but the young also understand what is right. Then he highlighted how he was going to put them all right with the full attention of his young mind. He claimed he was speaking from the God. He insisted he would not flatter anyone or be partial in any way.
Finally he stopped talking about himself and in chapter 33 he started his argument. I have been confused by his contribution to the debate (just as I have been initially with each previous party). I have googled Elihu and found many contradicting suggestions. Some people suggest he has got all the right answers and is both representing Job to God and chastising him whilst putting down the friends’ for their insufficient arguments. Others suggest he is preparing the scene for God so everything is about God (and generally correct). Others say that his contribution is satirical because of his arrogance and his equally incorrect doctrine – hence being a prologue for God but from an incorrect view of the world.
I tend towards the latter perspective and will outline why. Firstly he is even more arrogant than Bildad, Eliphas and Zophar. Twenty-two verses of puff and flattery of himself – it reminds me of the scene in the film “A Knight’s Tale” when Geoffrey Chaucer is employed to bigging up the main character before his entrance into the jousting arena – and he uses over the top images and ridiculous adjectives to emphasis his friend’s bravery and nobility. In the film it is seen as satire (particularly since they are using a real character (Chaucer) in this completely fictional tale and because the man is pretending to be a Knight). But Elihu is bigging up himself which makes it even more absurd.
Secondly then I read his arguments they do not entirely run true and he uses hyperbole and exaggeration to hide the more dubious parts of his argument (I know that the entire debate thus far has extreme language but Elihu takes it to another level).
Thirdly he regularly told Job to pay attention and learn from him which is really arrogant…
I know my view seems all about Elihu’s language but he does twist things – for example he highlights that Job cannot say God does not speak to him because God sends dreams and visions and whispers into men’s ears. Yeah? So what? Of course God talks to us in many ways and sometimes we don’t hear Him but equally often He doesn’t speak. How could Elihu challenge that Job has missed God’s answer? He could not know except to accept or reject what Job said. This really sets up God’s arrival on the scene because there is no doubt He is there and speaking.
Elihu does pick up on a point that it might not be God inflicting the suffering on Job or that the suffering could be interpreted as discipline or prevention not punishment. On the first point he come closest to the truth that God has allowed Satan to do this and is not Himself punishing Job – but Elihu does not fully grasp this truth. On the second point again yes but it is not true in this case and Elihu insisted that he was all-wise and wonderful. Mmmm … yes, Elihua is almost blasphemous in his assertions that he has the truth.
In this chapter Job listed all the possible sins he could think of and possible punishments or consequences of such behaviour. It is presented as an affidavit before God saying that if he (Job) had done this then these things should happen. The list is interesting in its variety and some of the sins that are included are challenges in themselves:
- Job said he made a covenant before God not to look lustfully at women because God knows everything everyone does
- Job said God could weigh him in honest scales and find that he was honest if he was accused of lying or running away after being deceitful
- Job said that God can give his harvest to others if it is proved that he has lied or defiled his hands
- Job said that his wife could be given to other men if it is found that his heart had been enticed by other women (not sure how his wife would have felt about this)
- Job noted that he expected God to deal with him if he had denied servants justice because God made them both
- Job then listed many things that he asked God to judge him upon because he believed he had not done them and they include
- denying the desires of the poor
- not helping widows
- no giving poor men clothes
- raising his hand against those without protection (this is the only one Job suggested an immediate punishment that his arm should be broken off at the shoulder if he had done this)
- putting his trust in gold
- worshiping the sun or moon
- rejoiced at an enemies misfortune (oh dear I do this)
- cursing an enemy
- not feeding those in his household
- not giving travelers hospitality
- concealing his sin
- fearing the crowd and his clan
- not caring for his lands and “devouring its yield without payment”
- broken the spirit of his tenants
These words are the end of Job’s case which he presented to God. They are also a brilliant list interpreting the laws of God for governing society – and a challenge to anyone who thinks they live well before God.
Job’s saintly past is challenged a little here. In the first part of this chapter he said that there were men whom he had disdained because they were weak and could not work. He recorded in here that their sons now mocked him because he was weak.
The next part of the chapter focuses on how the rest of the people around him also turned against him and he felt insecure and unsafe. The next few verses cover how God has not answered him and continued to allow him to suffer.
In the next part of the chapter Job despaired that whilst he used to weep for the afflicted and help them no one has helped him in his time of need. This is the concluding section which is continued by Job highlighting that when he looked for help none came from anyone.
I do wonder how Job balanced his view of himself as righteous with his disregard for some weak men – maybe Job had wracked his mind and found something in his past that he was ashamed of. Perhaps these verses are a small bend to his friends’ view that he must have done something bad in the past to have earned this “punishment”. Yet Job rallied by verses 24 and 25 to question why no one will help him when he helped people in the past.
In this chapter Job appears as a tired and lonely man. Yet he still does not question God’s presence nor ultimately His right to do as He wishes with Job’s life.