Elihu – The Seminarian
Elihu is the fourth friend of Job who appears on stage toward the end of the drama. Many scholars see the speeches of Elihu as added late in the evolution of the book of Job. In this section of the text, notice that Job does not engage Elihu in conversation like he does with Bildad, Zophar and Eliphaz, nor does God rebuke him like He does the others in the end. Those who believe that the book was a ‘work in progress’ taking generations to come to its’ current form, see Elihu as a narrative bridge which was added later that leads up to the climatic appearance of God. Literarily, the speeches of Elihu give us a good summation of the doctrine of depravity, the concept of divine retribution and the Deuteronomic Formula just before God intervenes.
Despite authorship issues, in this monologue with Elihu, we learn that he has remained silent and speaks last out of respect for his elders, since he is much younger than the other three friends. He says that age, however, should not make a difference when it comes to wisdom and understanding (Job 32:6-10), implying that they should pay attention and give heed to what he is about to say. With much boldness, this brash, opinionated and eager young man reminds me of pastors who start ministry straight out of seminary, full of naive visions of what caring for people should be like. One of my favorite quotes I have heard while counseling people was, “You just need to get over it!”
There are three qualities of Elihu that are quite obvious: He is young (Job 32:6), angry (32:2-5) and full of words (32:18). The last two qualities are very poor characteristics for a counselor. You may have heard the saying, “It could be that the purpose of your life is not to be an example for others to follow, but to be a warning for others to avoid.” That could be why Elihu appears here at the end just before God shows up. He serves as an extreme case of someone who has a great deal of knowledge in the head, but is deficient in compassion from the heart.
In his speeches, we find that there are some redeemable qualities in Elihu. The first is that he quotes what Job had to say to the other three, meaning that he was actually listening. This is a good quality for a counselor. Secondly, the main point Elihu tries to make is that God is trying to get Job’s attention. He states that God communicates with His creation in three ways – visions, physical pain and through a mediator (Job 33:14-25). In many ways, Elihu clears the stage for the Lord to enter and prepares the audience to see things from a different perspective.
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