THE BURDEN FOR IMPARTING WISDOM FALLS ON THOSE TRULY INSPIRED BY GOD REGARDLESS OF AGE OR EXPERIENCE
John Hartley: Job’s avowal of innocence is so audacious and final that it leaves the comforters speechless. All are terrified, waiting for an answer from the heavens. But God remains silent. Then a young man named Elihu arises. Taking advantage of the silence, he asks for permission to address Job. Possessed by a compelling need to defend God’s honor, he is convinced that he can instruct Job even though the others have failed. Who should change the mood but the youthful, bombastic Elihu. What a surprise! Elihu’s verbose, overly apologetic style offers comic relief to break the tight, fearful atmosphere created by Job’s oath. . .
After a lengthy apology for speaking, Elihu delivers four unanswered discourses. His thesis is twofold: God disciplines a person to turn him from the error of his way, and God governs justly without exception. Although Elihu’s approach is close to that of the three friends, he differs from them in that he does not assume that all suffering is punishment for past sins. He teaches that misfortune may befall a person in order to awaken him to some wrongful attitude or unconscious error and thus keep him from taking a wrong course. Another major difference in his teaching is the emphasis that suffering may be an expression of God’s mercy more than his wrath. With these theses Elihu makes a significant contribution to the core issue of the book, namely, how the righteous should respond to suffering.
Furthermore, the Elihu speeches stress God’s sovereignty. If God had spoken immediately after Job’s oath, it would appear that Job’s oath had compelled him to answer. That God remains silent indicates that his coming appearance rests in his sovereign decision. God always keeps the initiative with himself.
Francis Andersen: Elihu’s first speech (32:6–33:33). This is quite a rigmarole. The speech proper does not begin until 33:1, where Job is addressed by name. The rest of chapter 32 (verses 6–22) is Elihu’s self-introduction and apologia for intervening. He is very wordy. When he finally attempts to refute Job point by point (33:8–28), his remarks are framed by opening (33:1–7) and closing (33:29–33) exhortations directed to Job personally.
Derek Kidner: Many critics are not kind to Elihu. They see him as an egocentric, brash young man, full of himself and with nothing of any relevance to say. True, he is young, confident, inexperience, talkative and obviously angry, but none of these precludes him from making a contribution. Elihu is bold enough to challenge the received wisdom of the day and perhaps it takes someone of his temperament to do that. After all, the received wisdom of the day would have Elihu say nothing at all!
Warren Wiersbe: While Elihu said some of the same things as the other speakers, his purpose was different form theirs. He was not trying to prove that Job was a sinner, but that Job’s view of God was wrong. Elihu introduced a new truth into the debate: that God sends suffering, not necessarily to punish us for our sins, but to keep us form sinning (33:18, 24) and to make us better persons (36:1-15). Paul would have agreed with the first point (2 Cor. 12:7-10) and the writer of Hebrews with the second (Heb. 12:1-11).
Elmer Smick: Despite his anger (32:2–3) and wordy lecturing style, Elihu never gets bitter as did Bildad and Zophar. Nor does he stoop to false accusation about Job’s earlier life (cf. Eliphaz, 22:4–11). He presents God as a merciful teacher (33:23–28; 36:22–26). Suffering is disciplinary (33:19–22), not just judgmental. The counselors glorified God with their hymns but remained cold and detached. Elihu has a warmer personal response to the greatness of God (37:1–2). He includes himself as one who should be hushed in awe before God. Elihu says God reveals both his justice and his covenantal love in his sovereign control of the world (37:13, 23); this is the reason the wise of heart should worship him. That is a fitting note of introduction for Yahweh’s appearance.
I. (:1-5) IMPASSIONED BY ANGER AND IMPATIENT TO SPEAK
Tremper Longman: Elihu’s speech, which like the preceding debate between Job and his friends is in poetic format, is prefaced by a prose introduction (32:1–5). Though the three friends stopped talking several chapters ago, we learn for the first time why. They grew silent because Job thought he was right. They were unable to convince him of his culpability.
Elmer Smick: Job closed his peroration with a final flourish of bravado. He was so certain of his blameless life that he would be willing to march like a prince into the presence of God and give an account of his every step. The attempts of his friends to convince him of his sinfulness have failed. Job could have no more to say, having challenged God. The friends have no more to say because they consider him a hopeless hypocrite (v.1; 22:4–5).
The book at this point introduces Elihu, a young man who in deference to age has waited with increasing impatience for the opportunity to speak (vv.2–4). Four times in the Hebrew text we are told he is angry. First at Job (v.2 [2x]) for justifying himself rather than God and then at the friends because of their inability to refute Job (v.3; cf. v.5).
David Clines: The primary function of these verses is to explain the intrusion of a new speaker into the dialogue. Elihu’s intervention is accounted for as irresistible: he has listened to the speeches both of Job and of the friends with mounting anger, and he is unable to contain himself any longer. Without question, this introduction of a new character into the book gives the narrative an unexpected dramatic twist, for which the reader has been wholly unprepared.
A. (:1) Occasion for the Display of Elihu’s Anger
“Then these three men ceased answering Job,
because he was righteous in his own eyes.”
B. (:2-3) Objects of Elihu’s Anger
1. (:2) Anger against Job
“But the anger of Elihu
the son of Barachel the Buzite,
of the family of Ram burned;
against Job his anger burned,
because he justified himself before God.”
Thomas Constable: Elihu (“He is My God”) may have been a relative of Abraham, since a man named Buz was a descendant of Nahor, Abraham’s brother (Gen. 22:20- 21), and Elihu was a Buzite (cf. Jer. 25:23). A man named Ram (v. 2) was an ancestor of David (Ruth 4:19-22). Delitzsch believed that Elihu was an Aramean Arab. Clines favored his being an Edomite. Elihu is the only friend of Job’s whose family lineage is given, suggesting that he was important for some reason. The name of Elihu’s father Barachel means “God Blesses” or “May God Bless.”
David Thompson: Elihu is angry with Job because he believes that Job has actually elevated himself or put himself above God. This is what made him mad. Elihu was not mad at Job’s defense, he was mad because he saw in his defense an elevation of himself in a way that de-elevated God.
David Clines: If there is any significance in the names themselves, it may be that Elihu, “he is God,” could suggest that this speaker will be the one who best upholds the divine honor, the wisdom equivalent perhaps of his near prophetic namesake Elijah, “Yahweh is God.” His father’s name Barachel may suggest “God blesses” or “may God bless!” perhaps an implicit denial of the cruel and unjust character of the God whom Job has been depicting. His clan name Ram suggests “high,” perhaps meaning that Elihu’s high birth entitles him to speak despite his youth. But his place Buz can only suggest “disgrace” or “despising” (cf. the verb “despise”), and it would be straining things to see in that a sign of the apparently unimpressive arguments of a young man. In fact, the “meanings” conjured up by all the proper names are of such generality that it is hard to think that they have been chosen designedly (against Fohrer).
2. (:3) Anger against Job’s Three Counsellors
“And his anger burned against his three friends
because they had found no answer,
and yet had condemned Job.”
Thomas Constable: Elihu was angry. The writer mentioned his burning anger four times in these verses (vv. 2 [twice], 3, 5). He was angry with Job because Job considered himself right and God wrong. This is the meaning of “he justified himself before God” (v. 2). Furthermore, he was angry with Job’s three companions because they had failed to prove Job worthy of God’s punishment (v. 3).
David Thompson: Elihu was really angry with Job’s supposed three friends. They had pointed their fingers at Job without any proof or evidence. They had verbally ripped him to shreds and condemned him, yet they could not offer one shred of true evidence and Elihu was hot that they had done this.
Derek Kidner: Elihu is also angry with Job’s three counsellors. He is angry with them because they have singularly failed in convincing Job that God was not in the wrong. They have, by now, fallen silent, partly because they are disgusted that Job seems to be justifying himself (32:1), and partly because there is no more to be said. It is interesting to note that they are no longer called “friends” (as in 2:11; 19:21; 42:10), but “three men” (32:1). None of them has answered Job’s fundamental question as to why he was suffering. All three, in varying degrees, have been intent on finding the reason for Job’s suffering in his sinful rebellion towards God. The remedy, as far as they are concerned, lies in Job’s immediate repentance.
David Clines: By failing to refute Job’s claims to innocence and by failing to show that he has in fact been a sinner, they give the impression (however unintentionally) that Job is in the right and that therefore God, his opponent, is in the wrong.
C. (:4) Outburst of Elihu’s Anger (Impatient to speak after pent up containment)
“Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job
because they were years older than he.”
Elmer Smick: Verses 4–5 reveal clearly that Elihu’s major target is Job. He “waited before speaking to Job.” Elihu’s reply to the counselors is secondary, as is evident in his speeches.
D. (:5) Origin and Obsession of Elihu’s Anger
“And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of the three men
his anger burned.”
John Hartley: His anger, however, had been slowly simmering. Since it has now reached the boiling point, Elihu feels that he must vent it by speaking.
II. (:6-22) IMPELLED TO SPEAK – 4 MOTIVATIONS
A. (:6-10) Impelled to Speak Due to the Possession of Wisdom —
Older Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Wiser – Inspiration from God is Key
1. (:6-7) Initial Deference Given to the Older Counsellors
“So Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite spoke out and said,
‘I am young in years and you are old;
Therefore I was shy and afraid to tell you what I think.
7 I thought age should speak,
And increased years should teach wisdom.’”
John MacArthur: Elihu may have called his words “what I think” (vv. 6, 10, 17), but he claimed it had come by inspiration from God (v. 8; cf. 33:6, 33).
Albert Barnes: The whole of the discourses of the friends of Job seem to imply that they were aged men. They laid claim to great experience, and professed to have had opportunities of long observation, and it is probable that they were regarded as sages, who, by the long observation of events, had acquired the reputation of great wisdom.
2. (:8) Inspiration from God is the Key Qualifier for Wisdom
“But it is a spirit in man,
And the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding.”
Poole: So the sense of the place is, Every man, as a man, whether old or young, hath a reasonable soul, by which he is able in some measure to discern between good and evil, and to judge of men’s opinions and discourses; and therefore I also may venture to deliver my opinion.
David Thompson: It was now time for Elihu to speak and there are three reasons why:
1) Wisdom is in a man, not in age (32:8a);
2) Wisdom comes from God, regardless of age (32:8b) and
3) Older people may not have a grasp of God’s wisdom (32:9).
John Hartley: The spirit in a human being is an essential source of insight, for it searches one’s deepest thinking (cf. 1 Cor. 2:10-16). It is the seat of a person’s reflective thought. The spirit enables one to evaluate ideas and actions and to discern attitudes. Moreover, the Spirit of God may endow the spirit of a particular human being with a special wisdom, e.g., skill in artisan’s work (Exod. 31:2-5; 35:30 – 36:1) or the art of administering justly and with the fear of the Lord (cf. Isa. 11:2-4). Thus Elihu seems to be asserting that having been inspired by the Spirit of God (cf. 1 K. 3:9, 12; 5:9 [Eng. 4:29]) he has insight that may be trusted despite his youth. No wonder he will go on to argue in a few verses that he can no longer restrain his own spirit from speaking (vv. 18-20).
Albert Barnes: He now finds that wisdom is not the attribute of rank or station, but that it is the gift of God, and therefore it may be found in a youth. All true wisdom, is the sentiment, is from above; and where the inspiration of the Almighty is, no matter whether with the aged or the young, there is understanding. Elihu undoubtedly means to say, that though he was much younger than they were, and though, according to the common estimate in which the aged and the young were held, he might be supposed to have much less acquaintance with the subjects under consideration, yet, as all true wisdom came from above, he might be qualified to speak. The word “spirit” here, therefore, refers to the spirit which God gives. . .
3. (:9) Inability of Age to Guarantee Wisdom
“The abundant in years may not be wise,
Nor may elders understand justice.”
4. (:10) Introduction of New Counsel that Merits a Hearing
“So I say, ‘Listen to me,
I too will tell what I think.’”
B. (:11-14) Impelled to Speak Due to the Inadequacy of Earlier Arguments –
Elihu Could Make a Better Case
1. (:11-12) Earlier Arguments Failed to Refute Job
“Behold, I waited for your words,
I listened to your reasonings,
While you pondered what to say.
12 I even paid close attention to you,
Indeed, there was no one who refuted Job,
Not one of you who answered his words.”
David Clines: vv. 11-14 — Elihu’s first motivation for intervening in the debate was that he felt he had something of his own to say despite his comparative youth (vv 6–10). His second reason, in these verses, is that the three friends have in his eyes failed to confute Job and his position. He agrees essentially with the views of the friends and is angry with them only because they have not succeeded against Job; their cause is better than their advocacy of it (Davidson).
2. (:13-14) Elihu Not Defeated Because He Offers New Arguments
“Do not say, ‘We have found wisdom;
God will rout him, not man.’
14 For he has not arranged his words against me;
Nor will I reply to him with your arguments.”
John MacArthur: Job had complained that God did not speak to him. Elihu reminded Job that God didn’t have to defend His will and actions to anyone.
C. (:15-20) Impelled to Speak Due to His Pent Up Words
1. (:15-17) The Other Counsellors Are Out of Words
“They are dismayed,
they answer no more;
Words have failed them.
16 And shall I wait, because they do not speak,
Because they stop and answer no more?
17 I too will answer my share,
I also will tell my opinion.”
2. (:18-20) Elihu is Full of Words and Bursting at the Seams to Speak
“For I am full of words;
The spirit within me constrains me.
19 Behold, my belly is like unvented wine,
Like new wineskins it is about to burst.
20 Let me speak that I may get relief;
Let me open my lips and answer.”
D. (:21-22) Impelled to Speak Due to His Impartiality and Objectivity
“Let me now be partial to no one;
Nor flatter any man.
22 For I do not know how to flatter,
Else my Maker would soon take me away.”
Roy Zuck: Elihu felt compelled to speak, to reply to the three and to Job. Yet in his responses he would not take sides (he disagreed with both sides) nor would he flatter either party in an effort to win its favor. He said that to be guilty of flattery, an unfair tactic, would mean God, who gave him life (my Maker; cf. 4:17; 9:9; 35:10; 36:3; 40:19), would take it away.
John Hartley: Elihu affirms emphatically that he will speak the truth without being partial or showing favoritism to anyone. On the one hand, in his apology Elihu argues that in wisdom he is on a par with his elders. On the other hand, he is saying that he will not cloud the issue with the use of titles or with flattery (kinna, vv. 21b and 22a). The use of titles is proper, unless intended to influence a person to a favorable bearing; then their use is a kind of bribery. Elihu, though, will speak his convictions plainly and boldly regardless of how his words might offend either Job or the comforters. In fact, he declares I do not know how to flatter. He believes that accommodating himself to others would prompt God, his Maker, to carry him away, possibly by a storm (cf. 27:21). He thus claims unwavering allegiance to God, an allegiance that will not be altered by the prestige or persuasion of anybody.