What was the purpose of Elihu’s speech to Job?

Elihu is known as the “son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram” (Job 32:2). He is one of Job’s friends who appear after Job’s three friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) came to comfort him. He offers the last and longest speech to Job (ch. 32—37). And in it, he attempts to solve the mystery that has been set by the apparent contradiction between Job’s life and his sufferings.

Elihu’s speech

The purpose of Elihu’s speech is to justify and defend God. And his thesis is: Does a man have a right to complain against God? Elihu starts his response by being “very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God” and with Job’s three friends “because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him” (Job 32:2–3). Elihu condemns Job as much as he does Job’s other friends, but for different reasons. He tells them, “I gave you my full attention. But not one of you has proved Job wrong; none of you has answered his arguments” (Job 32:12). Because Elihu was younger in years than the three friends, he was quiet during their conversation (Job 32:4–7).

And he adds to Job that no man can argue with God. “(F)or God is greater than any mortal” (Job 33:12). And “It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice” (Job 34:12). Elihu’s philosophy of divine discipline points that Job must be a sinner. According to his belief, whether the afflictions of Job were due to discipline or punishment, Job must have committed some sin to justify them. In this respect, his thinking is not different from Job’s other three friends.

The uselessness of contending with God

Elihu maintains that the Almighty does as He sees best, and He does not need to give reasons for His actions. God is like a father, who may see reasons for his actions that he does not need to explain to his child. Further, “God does not listen to [the arrogant person’s] empty plea; the Almighty pays no attention to it. How much less, then, will he listen when you say that you do not see him, that your case is before him and you must wait for him” (Job 35:13,14).

Thus, according to Elihu’s reasoning the consequences of sin or righteousness are felt, not by God, but by man. The Almighty is so far from the effects of either sin or righteousness that there is no reason for Him to deviate from stern justice. This means that where there should be recompense there will be, and where there should be a punishment, there should be. Therefore, there is a benefit in being good.

Elihu upholds the greatness of God

In Job 36—37, Elihu says, “How great is God—beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out” (Job 36:26). And he advises, “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders” (Job 37:14). Thus, in Elihu’s valuation, God is too exalted to modify the workings of cause and effect which call for reward for the righteous and punishment for the evildoer.

Where did Elihu err?

However, Elihu’s viewpoint fails in that it doesn’t present the actual tender connection between God and His children (Isaiah 43:1). Elihu sees God’s divine existence, but he doesn’t see His closeness to His people. For the gospel message presents the picture of a loving Heavenly Father who is affected by what His creatures do, and who interacts with them on a personal way. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Heb. 4:15). In fact, God loved His creatures unto death (John 3:16).

Elihu is not mentioned again after he ends his speech with Job. And it is interesting to note that God did not rebuke him as he did to Eliphaz the Temanite, and his two other friends (Job 42:7).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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