1 So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. 2 Then Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. 3 He burned with anger also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong. 4 Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. 5 And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger.
6 And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said:
“I am young in years,
and you are aged;
therefore I was timid and afraid
to declare my opinion to you.
7 I said, ‘Let days speak,
and many years teach wisdom.’
8 But it is the spirit in man,
the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.
9 It is not the old who are wise,
nor the aged who understand what is right.
10 Therefore I say, ‘Listen to me;
let me also declare my opinion.’
11 “Behold, I waited for your words,
I listened for your wise sayings,
while you searched out what to say.
12 I gave you my attention,
and, behold, there was none among you who refuted Job
or who answered his words.
13 Beware lest you say, ‘We have found wisdom;
God may vanquish him, not a man.’
14 He has not directed his words against me,
and I will not answer him with your speeches.
15 “They are dismayed; they answer no more;
they have not a word to say.
16 And shall I wait, because they do not speak,
because they stand there, and answer no more?
17 I also will answer with my share;
I also will declare my opinion.
18 For I am full of words;
the spirit within me constrains me.
19 Behold, my belly is like wine that has no vent;
like new wineskins ready to burst.
20 I must speak, that I may find relief;
I must open my lips and answer.
21 I will not show partiality to any man
or use flattery toward any person.
22 For I do not know how to flatter,
else my Maker would soon take me away.” – Job 32:1-22 ESV
Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar have given up. After a lengthy series of heated debates with Job, these three men have decided to abandon their quest to convict him of sin. He has stubbornly maintained his innocence and refuses to admit to any wrongdoing. His problem, as they see it, was that “he was righteous in his own eyes” (Job 32:1 ESV). They didn’t agree with Job’s assessment, but they were done trying to convince him otherwise. He had proven to be too tough a nut to crack and they were exhausted from the effort.
But just as Job was about to get some much-needed relief, the cavalry shows up in the form of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite. This young man had been waiting in the wings, biding his time and biting his tongue as he let his three older companions handle the interrogation of Job. After all, they were his seniors and should have had the years of experience and wisdom that comes with age. But their performance had left Elihu more than disappointed; he was furious. Not only was he angry with Job for his refusal to confess his sins but he was livid with his three older companions because they had given up so easily.
He was also angry with Job’s three friends, for they made God appear to be wrong by their inability to answer Job’s arguments. – Job 32:3 NLT
His frustration loosened his tongue and emboldened him to speak his mind, and his first words were addressed to his older and supposedly wiser companions.
“It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right. Therefore I say: Listen to me; I too will tell you what I know.“ – Job 32:9-10 NIV
Elihu has patiently waited for his older and wiser friends to speak up and force Job to shut up. But, from his estimation, they have failed miserably. According to him, all they had managed to do was make God look bad. So, when he finally decided to speak up, he aimed his first volley of invective at the three unsuccessful sages.
First, he questions their intellect, insinuating that old age is no guarantee of wisdom.
“…there is a spirit within people,
the breath of the Almighty within them,
that makes them intelligent.” – Job 32:8 NLT
And just to make sure they didn’t miss what he was saying, Elihu puts it in black and white.
“Sometimes the elders are not wise.
Sometimes the aged do not understand justice.” – Job 32:9 NLT
To say that Elihu suffers from overconfidence would be an understatement. This young man, full of vitality and energy, has been waiting for a chance to speak his mind, and once he opens his mouth what comes out is not exactly flattering.
Like Job’s three other friends, Elihu is well-intended but poorly informed. He is so ready to share his vast reservoir of wisdom that he is about to explode.
“I am like a wine cask without a vent. My words are ready to burst out! I must speak to find relief, so let me give my answers.” – Job 32:19-20 NLT
Elihu was like a volcano that has lain dormant for a long time and has now awakened and ready to erupt. He should have recognized that as the first sign that he should take a deep breath and consider his words carefully. His unbridled enthusiasm coupled with his seething rage was going to produce some unpleasant statements that he would eventually regret. Elihu was mistaking passion for wisdom. He was confusing opinion with understanding. His own words reveal his prideful arrogance.
“…listen to me,
and let me tell you what I think.” – Job 32:10 NLT
“If Job had been arguing with me,
I would not answer with your kind of logic!” – Job 32:14 NLT
“I will say my piece.
I will speak my mind.
For I am full of pent-up words,
and the spirit within me urges me on.” – Job 32:17-18 NLT
Elihu would have used the wise words of James.
My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. – James 1:19 NLT
The Proverbs have a lot to say about choosing our words carefully and using them sparingly.
When words are many, sin is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise. – Proverbs 10:19 BSB
A man of knowledge restrains his words, and a man of understanding maintains a calm spirit. – Proverbs 17:27 BSB
Elihu wrestles with restraint and exhibits an oversized ego. It is amazing how often he speaks of himself. His more than 40 uses of personal pronouns must have set a world record. Elihu comes across as an arrogant and prideful young man who appears woefully lacking in discernment. He exhibits many of the characteristics of the fool as described in the Book of Proverbs:
The wise are glad to be instructed,
but babbling fools fall flat on their faces. – Proverbs 10:8 NLT
Wise people treasure knowledge,
but the babbling of a fool invites disaster. – Proverbs 10:14 NLT
The words of the godly encourage many,
but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense. – Proverbs 10:21 NLT
Elihu seems to believe that because he was made by God, he was qualified to speak for God. In chapter 33, which chronicles the second half of his lengthy diatribe, Elihu confidently boasts, “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 33:3-4 NLT).
That is a dangerous assumption for anyone to make. Sincerity is not a guarantee of accuracy or spiritual insight. One can speak sincerely and be sincerely wrong. Saying what you believe to be the truth can be a dangerous and deadly exercise because words carry weight and produce consequences. Thinking you are right is not enough. Believing you have all the answers is not a sign of wisdom; it is evidence of pride.
As Elihu sat back and listened to the conversations between his three friends and Job, he became increasingly agitated and anxious to set the record straight. He knew he had the answer and couldn’t wait to inform his less-enlightened colleagues. It was his time to shine and he couldn’t contain himself.
“I must speak to find relief,
so let me give my answers.” – Job 32:20 NLT
Elihu could have used the old adage, “Silence is golden.” But he was driven by the desire to hear the sound of his own voice. He wanted everyone to listen to what he had to say because he was convinced that he was right and they were wrong. Yet his motivation was purely selfish and self-centered. It was all about Elihu, not Job. He was less interested in Job’s repentance and restoration than he was in elevating his own reputation as being wise beyond his years.
But in his zeal to be right and respected, Elihu violated the very wisdom of God.
The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing,
but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness. – Proverbs 15:2 NLT
Patience can persuade a prince,
and soft speech can break bones. – Proverbs 25:15 NLT
Elihu will reveal the extent of his pride in the closing verses of chapter 33, which contains the second half of his ego-driven speech.
“Pay attention, O Job, listen to me; Keep silent, and let me speak. Then if you have anything to say, answer me; Speak, for I desire to justify you. If not, listen to me; Keep silent, and I will teach you wisdom.” – Job 33:31-33 NASB
The arrogance of Elihu is amazing. One can’t help but feel a sense of embarrassment just reading his words. They come across as so pompous and arrogant that it’s difficult to believe that Elihu managed to get them out of his mouth.
But Elihu is not alone in his penchant for claiming the moral high ground. We all have a bit of Elihu inside us and it tends to reveal itself at the most inopportune moments. The temptation to speak our minds is strong and difficult to control. As Yoda said of Luke Skywalker, “The force is strong in this one.” So, we have to be careful how we use our words. We must be mindful that our passion to be heard and to be right can sometimes be so incredibly wrong.
Elihu was right in one respect, wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age; it comes from God, and it begins with a fear of God.
Fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. Only fools despise wisdom and discipline. – Proverbs 1:7 NLT
As we grow in our knowledge of God, we increase in wisdom and discernment. Our limited human understanding gets imbued with His divine knowledge and discretion. I We will become wise, but not just in our own eyes. We will find joy in being righteous, not just right. We will learn what it means to speak words of comfort, not just correction. And we will find joy in displaying the heart of God, not just parroting the words of God.
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.