1 “But now, hear my speech, O Job,
and listen to all my words.
2 Behold, I open my mouth;
the tongue in my mouth speaks.
3 My words declare the uprightness of my heart,
and what my lips know they speak sincerely.
4 The Spirit of God has made me,
and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
5 Answer me, if you can;
set your words in order before me; take your stand.
6 Behold, I am toward God as you are;
I too was pinched off from a piece of clay.
7 Behold, no fear of me need terrify you;
my pressure will not be heavy upon you.
8 “Surely you have spoken in my ears,
and I have heard the sound of your words.
9 You say, ‘I am pure, without transgression;
I am clean, and there is no iniquity in me.
10 Behold, he finds occasions against me,
he counts me as his enemy,
11 he puts my feet in the stocks
and watches all my paths.’
12 “Behold, in this you are not right. I will answer you,
for God is greater than man.
13 Why do you contend against him,
saying, ‘He will answer none of man’s words’?
14 For God speaks in one way,
and in two, though man does not perceive it.
15 In a dream, in a vision of the night,
when deep sleep falls on men,
while they slumber on their beds,
16 then he opens the ears of men
and terrifies them with warnings,
17 that he may turn man aside from his deed
and conceal pride from a man;
18 he keeps back his soul from the pit,
his life from perishing by the sword.
19 “Or God disciplines people with pain on their sickbeds,
with ceaseless aching in their bones.
20 They lose their appetite
for even the most delicious food.
21 Their flesh wastes away,
and their bones stick out.
22 They are at death’s door;
the angels of death wait for them.” – Job 33:1-22 ESV
Whatever credibility Elihu may lack due to his young age, he more than makes up for in swagger. He is an extremely confident individual who believes he has a divine calling to shed light on Job’s situation.
“I speak with all sincerity;
I speak the truth.
For the Spirit of God has made me,
and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” – Job 33:4 NLT
Yet, Elihu tries to win Job over by emphasizing their commonality. Both of them, he points out, are products of God’s creation, having been “formed from clay” (Job 33:6 NLT). Since they are mere men who have been created by and belong to God, there is no reason that Job should refuse to listen to what Elihu has to say. He insists that he is no threat to Job.
“So you don’t need to be afraid of me.
I won’t come down hard on you.” – Job 33:7 NLT
Having tried to placate Job by stressing their similarities, Elihu shifts gears and begins to address where he and Job disagree. He starts by condensing all of Job’s complaints down to one simple sentence.
“You said, ‘I am pure; I am without sin;
I am innocent; I have no guilt.
God is picking a quarrel with me,
and he considers me his enemy.
He puts my feet in the stocks
and watches my every move.’” – Job 33:9-11 NLT
This is an unfair and over-simplistic assessment of Job’s lengthy responses to Bildad, Eliphaz, and Bildad. In his desire to point out the flaws in Job’s arguments, Elihu resorts to reductionism, “the practice of simplifying a complex idea, issue, condition, or the like, esp. to the point of minimizing, obscuring, or distorting it” (collinsdictionary.com).
A quick review of Job’s earlier speeches confirms that he believed himself to be innocent of all charges leveled against him by his three friends, but at no time did Job ever declare himself to be sin-free. His only point was that he was not guilty of anything worthy of the kind of suffering he had endured. He had done nothing to deserve the collapse of his entire fortune, the deaths of his children, or the loss of his health. And because Job believed God to be sovereign over all things, the only conclusion he could reach was that God was behind it all. In Job’s mind, either God caused his suffering or, for some reason, refused to prevent it.
But Elihu takes issue with Job’s conclusion, and rebukes him for his arrogant and disrespectful view of God.
“you are wrong, and I will show you why.
For God is greater than any human being.
So why are you bringing a charge against him?” – Job 33:12-13 NLT
Elihu had not been listening. He heard the words that came out of Job’s mouth but he was oblivious to the state of Job’s heart. Rather than probe behind all the impassioned rhetoric of his suffering friend, Elihu placed himself in the position of being the thought police. He was so busy monitoring Job’s use of words that he was unable to hear what Job was trying to say. Job wasn’t attacking God; he was simply trying to make sense of his ongoing pain and suffering. Job wasn’t blaming God either. All he was asking for was an explanation and the hope of vindication.
But Elihu heard what he wanted to hear, and in his mind, Job was nothing less than a blasphemer. As he had sat listening to Job’s responses to the other three interrogators, Elihu had deduced that Job was disparaging the Almighty. This made Job an enemy of God. Elihu heard Job repeatedly declare that all he wanted was a response from God. Job was demanding that God give him an audience and provide him with answers. But Elihu suggests that God had already spoken but Job was not listening.
“God speaks again and again,
though people do not recognize it.
He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night…” – Job 33:14-15 NLT
Elihu asserts that Job had probably received word from God in the form of a dream but he refused to listen to what God to say. Without any evidence to back up his assertion, Elihu claims that Job had been warned by God but didn’t take the warning seriously. According to Elihu’s assessment, God had already revealed to Job the cause of his suffering. He had visited Job in a dream and warned him to repent or suffer the consequences.
“He whispers in their ears
and terrifies them with warnings.
He makes them turn from doing wrong;
he keeps them from pride.” – Job 33:16-17 NLT
Elihu’s conclusion was that Job could have escaped all his pain and suffering if he had only listened to God. Therefore, he was responsible for his own undoing. And, to make matters worse, Elihu suggests that God was still trying to speak to Job through his pain.
“God disciplines people with pain on their sickbeds,
with ceaseless aching in their bones.” – Job 33:19 NLT
It was all so clear to the overconfident Elihu. Job had lost everything because he refused to heed the warnings of God, and his continued suffering was a sign of God’s ongoing discipline. It was as simple as that.
Elihu shows little or no compassion. He exhibits no empathy for his older friend because he has no personal experience with such matters. It is unlikely that Elihu has ever lost all that he holds dear. His has no concept of what Job has suffered. He has no basis for understanding the pain behind Job’s words. So, he resorts to simplistic deductions that paint Job as a stubborn and unrepentant sinner who is getting exactly what he deserves.
Like his three companions, Elihu meant well. He is not an evil man who is guilty of kicking his brother while he is down. He sincerely believes that he is in the right and has the solution to Job’s problem. But in his haste to be the bearer of “good news,” Elihu ends up being the harbinger of doom and gloom. His words bring little comfort to Job. Instead, they are condemning and rather condescending, treating Job like he is nothing more than a stubborn child in need of a spanking or a time-out.
Elihu will attempt to shine a dim glimmer of hope on Job’s darkened world, but it will be well outside of Job’s control. God will not listen to Job, Elihu asserts, but He may be open to “a special messenger to intercede for a person and declare that he is upright” (Job 33:23 NLT). So, in effect, all Job can do is sit in silence and hope for the best.
Both men agree that God is in control, but Elihu suggests that Job has no right to demand an audience with the Almighty. He totally rejects Job’s suggestion that God owes Him an answer and just might acquit him of any wrongdoing. For Elihu, that kind of thinking was ungodly and out of bounds for any faithful God-follower. But the young and inexperienced Elihu had a lot to learn. In time, he would discover the truth behind God’s words.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.