John T. Willis

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Elihu--Part 1 [Introductory Considerations]

A new personality suddenly bursts on the scene in the Book of Job--a man named Elihu. Job 32-37 [six chapters] deal with Elihu and his speeches. There is no mention of Elihu earlier in this book [chapters 1-31], and there is no mention of Elihu later in this book [chapters 38-42]. Hence, many scholars think Job 32-37 are a later addition to the book, and think that Elihu's speeches are irrelevant to the issue in the Book of Job.

In next few blogs, we will work through Job 32-27, the speeches of Elihu. In this first blog, we will deal with a few introductory matters concerning Elihu.

I. The man Elihu. The Bible says almost nothing about Elihu.
a. Job 32:2, 6 says Elihu's father was Barachel, but the Bible never refers to this person elsewhere in scripture.
b. Job 32:2 says Barachel was a Buzite. Genesis 22:20-21 identifies Buz as a nephew of Abraham, and Buz had a brother named Uz, which might be related to the land of Uz, in which Job lived--see Job 1:1.
c. Job 32:2 says Elihu was "of the family of Ram." 1 Chronicles 2:9, 25, 27; Ruth 4:19 suggests connections of Ram with the tribe of Judah.
d. SO, there is so little information, it is impossible to determine who this person was. Evidently, this is not important, especially in the story of the Book of Job.

II. The Genuineness or Authenticity of the Speeches of Elihu--Job 32-37. Put another way: Were Job 32-37 original in the Story or Book of Job? As one might suppose, there are two major views.
A. Many scholars argue that Job 32-37 are a later insertion into the Book of Job. They defend this view based on five arguments.
1. The rest of the book of Job never mentions Elihu, and it is particularly important that Yahweh never refers to Elihu at the end of the book in Job 42:7-17.
2. The style of the introduction to Elihu in Job 32:1-5 has a ponderous, redundant, and obviously scribal style.
3. Job's challenge to meet God in a fair court trial in Job 31:35-37 calls for the response of God in Job 38:1ff, not for Elihu's interruption in Job 32-37.
4. Unlike Job's three friends--Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar--, Elihu quote Job verbatim several times, and addresses Job name several times. Elihu's speeches give the impression of being carefully studied and formally presented.
5. Several terms in Job 32-37 are in Aramaic, not in Hebrew.
*OKAY--I know this view very well, and I fully understand the arguments. BUT, I am far from convinced. I believe that the biblical text makes it quite clear that Job 32-37 belongs meaningfully in the Book of Job. The Hebrew text and all the ancient versions include these chapters. There is no reason to deny them, or assign them to a later hand.

B. Many scholars think that Job 32-37 belongs to the Book of Job. Here are at least SOME of the arguments which I suggest to support this view.
1. Often in scripture, the biblical composer or author introduces a person without preparation "out of the blue." One example is the prophet Nathan. The reader works through 1 Samuel 1-2 Samuel 6, and has no clue that a person named Nathan might belong to the books of 1-2 Samuel. "Out of the blue," the author of the Books of Samuel suddenly presents Nathan the prophet without any warning or introduction in 2 Samuel 7. Nathan appears further in 2 Samuel 12 and 1 Kings 1.
2. The flow of the text of the Book of Job fits in well in Job 32-37. Job and his friends had spoken many words, but had gotten nowhere. Even the reader of the book just cannot wait to jump into this discussion. SO, it makes all the sense in the world for another person to "chime in" to shed light on the issues of this book.
3. Job is "angry" and "young" (Job 32:2, 3, 5, 6), but this does not make him wrong. Jesus was in his early thirties--was Jesus wrong? Timothy was young when Paul converted him and worked with him in his missionaries activities--was Timothy wrong? I am quite old, but daily I learn much from young people, and I hold them in the highest regard.
4. Elihu repeatedly invites Job to interrupt Elihu at any time and show that Elihu is wrong (Job 33:5-7, 32-33), but Job never responds. Either Job ignores Elihu or thinks Elihu has nothing to say, or Elihu is beginning to "get through" and "touching" Job's heart. In my opinion, the flow of the text suggests this last option is correct.
5. If Elihu is proclaiming a message which is correct, there is no reason why God should respond to Elihu. Elihu is preparing Job to listen to God. Elihu stands in the anteroom or waiting room or lounge preparing Job to enter into the presence of God. As we will see, Elihu's ideas are very much like God's ideas as stated in Job 38:1-42:6.
6. The attitude of Job's three friends--Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar--is to defend their own traditions and attempt to defeat Job in this debate. They are cold to any feeling toward Job as a human being deeply suffering and disturbed. In contrast, Elihu is very understanding and compassionate toward Job. Elihu sincerely desires to "comfort" Job and try to help Job in Job's great distress.

III. The Introduction in Job 32:1-5 set the stage for Elihu's speeches. This introduction is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT here and in the entire Book of Job.
A. Verse 1 gives the REASON Job's three friends stopped speaking in the debate. This verse explains why Bildad's speech was extremely short--recorded in Job 25:1-6, and Zophar does not speak at all when his turn to speak for his THIRD SPEECH. Job's three friends quit speaking because "Job was righteous in his own eyes." Anyone who has studied the speeches in Job 4-31 must agree that this is undoubtedly correct. Job was righteous in his own eyes--and dared to challenge God to meet him in a fair court trial.
B. Verse 2 explains the REASON Elihu became angry. First, Elihu became angry because "Job justified himself rather than God." Again, this is undoubtedly correct. Hence, Elihu was justified in being angry.
C. Verse 3 explains Second, Elihu became angry because Job's three friends "found no answer" in response to Job's arguments, and yet they "declared that Job is in the wrong." Elihu is quite correct. The arguments of Job's three friends are baseless. I think Job himself was wrong. BUT, certainly Job's three friends were also wrong. And YET, they insisted that Job is "wrong." It is very easy to accuse another person to be "wrong," but often a person cannot show WHY that person is wrong. NOW, Elihu will suggest another way to deal with Job's view.
D. Elihu wanted to interrupt Job and his friends earlier, but he restrained himself BECAUSE "they were older than he," and thus wanted to be respectful. Verses 4-5.
It is always good for a person to be quiet and let others speak fully and completely. "Speech is silver; silence is gold." But when the debaters run completely out of arguments and thoughts, it may be time for someone else to offer another approach to the problem. Elihu does this, and this changes Job's heart and life, as we will see.

This is quite enough here. Think through these introductory thoughts. Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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