Job 32-37: Elihu Intervenes
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Job 32-37: Elihu Intervenes

Original Publication Date
June 3, 2017
Updated
Aug 12, 2023 12:39 PM
Tags
JobChapter StudyScienceWaterPrideWisdom
Bible References
Job 32-37
Status
Done
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Table of Contents
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This page was originally posted on my Blogger version of the blog on June 3, 2017 The content below has a few minor tweaks for clarity, and additional references, and some updated information.

Introduction

Elihu was younger than Job and his friends, and not quite invited into the circle of conversation. Nonetheless, he had been listening to their conversation. Now that their conversation was over, he choses to respectfully interject his perception of what has happened. Elihu's perception is a breath of fresh air, bringing us solid theology for the first time in the book.

Elihu

Elihu is introduced as the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram. Abraham's brother Nahor has a son named Buz (Genesis 22:21). It is unclear if this is from whom Elihu is descended.

We aren't told how much younger Elihu is compared to Job and and his friends, but the fact that he patiently waits for them to finish before interrupting suggests that it was at least a few years. We actually aren't told the ages of any of the men but the dynamic leads me to picture Job and his friends in their late 30s with Elihu in his early to mid 20s. I estimate Job's friends to be similar in age to Job.

Since Job had 10 children when this began, he has to have been married and able to produce heirs for at least 10 years (assuming the children are as close together in age as possible). While women were usually married off as soon as they were able to reproduce, men generally didn't marry until they could provide for their wives, which is why marriages of old tended to take place between older men and younger women. Job probably would have gotten married in his early to mid 20s. 10 years later would place him in his early to mid 30s. Job 1:13 says that Job's eldest son had a house of his own, which means he had to have been at least in his mid to late teens at the youngest. Thus I estimate that Job must have been in his mid to late 30s at the youngest when all of this occurred.

If Elihu was so significantly younger than Job that he was considered a child, I doubt he would have been allowed to eavesdrop, let along join the conversation at all. Elihu waits patiently to join, but speaks as though he is on near-equal footing with Job and his friends. This reminds me of how high school students might view college students. This is why I envision Elihu being less than 10 years younger than Job and his friends. Of course, as I said earlier, this is all speculation since no age is given for anyone mentioned in the book.

Elihu's Stance

Elihu is clearly bothered by the lack of what he hears from the group of older men. He expects them to be wise because of their age, but is surprised to see that he possesses more wisdom than them. Elihu's wrath is not contained to one side of the story; he sees fault in both.

Elihu is angry with Job's friends because they are making accusations without proof and providing no guidance for Job. Just as Job has complained, their words are useless.

However, as the others have pointed out, Job is declaring himself blameless and essentially asserting that God is in the wrong. This is why Elihu is angry with Job. Where Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar argued that Job must be lying, Elihu focuses on the fact that God cannot be wrong. In Job 33:12, Elihu explicitly reminds Job that God is greater than man, we cannot be just in claiming God to be in the wrong. The major difference between Elihu's stand point and that of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, is what Job's actual sin is. Job's friends are suggesting that everything has happened because he has previously sinned. While they take the same stance as Elihu that God cannot be wrong, they view Job's assertion as a denial of his previously committed sin rather than the sin itself. Elihu is spot on in suggesting that in the aftermath, what has kept Job from reconnecting to God is his prideful insistence that God is in the wrong.

Job has spent the entirety of the conversation wishing he could plead His case before God as though a mere mortal could place the Almighty on trial. Elihu takes the position of representing God, and suggests that neither of them have the right to put God on trial. Elihu emphasizes that God already knows everything, therefore there is no need to plead a case before Him. What Job really needed was to listen to God's judgment. While Job had been complaining that God had not spoken to him, Elihu contends that Job simply hasn't been listening.

Listening For God

When God speaks to Elijah on the mountain, He comes by way of a still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13). First, there was an earthquake, and then a fire, but it was only the still small voice that contained the presence of God. God does not yell at us the way our parents do. Instead, His voice is soft and subtle. We have to really be paying attention to catch Him speaking to us. This is something that I think happens to us quite often today. For starters, we often have a preconceived notion for what we want God to say. In Job's case, it seemed like he wanted God to apologize or concede that Job was right. We often pray for something particular and wait for God to give us that blessing, but we forget to listen for him telling us we can't have that or that now isn't the time. When we don't get our way, we fume that God has not answered us, when in actuality, God has been trying to point us in another direction the whole time. It is important for us to push our own thoughts and desires to the side when we pray and listened intently for His voice.

Behavioral Rewards

People are a bit like dogs. We often do things to be rewarded and refrain from doing other things to avoid punishment. When you talk to believers and non-believers alike, this becomes very apparent. Job's friends spent the entire conversation convinced that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. Job countered their position, arguing that good things were happening to bad people too. Job took the position that it didn't matter what a person did. This is much like the principle of luck and coincidence. Elihu takes issue with both stances.

In his speech, Elihu enlightens the men that God deals out what is fair. Since no one is 100% good, that means bad may happen to good people, and since no one is 100% evil, good may happen to bad people.

Indifference

Elihu also reminds us that it doesn't serve God's interest either way. The devil gains a sense of victory when we act out against God. My advisor gains publications and notoriety when his students are successful. God on the other hand neither loses nor gains anything based on our behavior. He will win the battle with the devil whether we choose Him or not. He is the Creator whether we acknowledge Him or not. Therefore, God doesn't gain anything by unjustly punishing or rewarding us. This is why He is able to judge fairly among our actions.

We Aren't Always the Main Character

Elihu reminds Job of what I call the side character effect. We experience life as though we are the main character, but really, we're just living in a world God created. Elihu points our that this alters our perception greatly. Take rain, for instance. God may send a great rain to punish people for evil deeds, but He might also send a great rain to water the plants and replenish the lakes for the fish. It isn't always about us. Sometimes we may perceive and act as open hostility toward us, but it has absolutely nothing to do with us. Job's situation was actually an example for us and for the devil; the hardships had nothing to do with punishing Job.

Science

Within Elihu's speech are several references people argue are of evidence of scientific knowledge and thus valuable. Most people who discus the scientific value of these passages do so to back their claim that only the all-knowing God could have given the authors this information (since no one else knew the information). Despite being a believer, I disagree with this assertion, in general.

Both Biblically and secularly, we have evidence that ancient people knew a lot more than we give them credit for. One of mankind's biggest problems is that we want to be special—we want to be the smartest. Think about it, if scientists were to claim that people were stagnant in intelligence, it would throw a monkey wrench in a lot of theories. Similarly, the Bible tells us that knowledge will be increased just before Jesus returns, so there must have been a period of lesser knowledge, right?

From the pyramids to the ability to navigate by the stars, from Noah's Ark to the tower of Babel, we already know that the ancients weren't idiots. Furthermore, the increasing of knowledge the New Testament speaks on, doesn't mean new knowledge. My high school band started out with a huge gap between the best musicians and the worst musicians. By my senior year, that gap was much smaller, but our best musicians weren't better. I use this example to say that although the knowledge of music increased greatly within our band, there were still people who had that knowledge beforehand.

I believe that God gives us knowledge, and that it stands to reason that His prophets will be more knowledgeable than most, but that doesn't mean that no one during their time knew the the information. None the less, it should be solid information, so let's look at the science most often pointed out in Job 32-37.

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Composition of the Human Body

Genesis tells us that we were created from the dust of the Earth. Job 33:6 reiterates that man was made of clay. The elements that make up our body mimic the elements that make up the crust of the Earth.[1][2] Many assert that this is evidence of knowledge about the composition of the human body.

I've always found the Bible's statement that we were formed from the dust of the Earth to be quite interesting. As mentioned above, we really are made of the same materials. Job and Moses could have claimed we were sculpted from water or that we were created from nothing; the possibilities are actually quite large, yet they settled on the one that scientifically, makes the most sense. What's more, is that this covers our skin tones as well. Sand, soil, and dirt exist in the same spectrum of color as the human flesh. While there are beaches with multicolored sand, the dirt in these locations are mixed with other elements to create that color.[10]

I don't necessarily think Elihu's point was to educate us on the physiology of the human body, however. Elihu brought up this point to convince Job and his friends that they were the same—we are made of the same thing. The context of the verse is less about how humans were formed (though it may provide clues), and more about Elihu's statement to the other men that he was not declaring himself greater.

Evaporation and Precipitation Cycle

Learning the water cycle in grade school was quite fun. Not only did the teacher draw plenty of pictures, we got to draw pictures too. Job 36:27, 28 shows us that Elihu had knowledge of this process way back in his day. It seems obvious enough that the water falling from the clouds is the same as the water contained within the clouds, but that requires knowing that the clouds actually contain water. It would be just as easy to assume the clouds were merely a veil God placed over the sky to hide the mechanism from where the water came. They could have been filters, like a strainer, and used to control the flow of the water. Elihu tells us that the water in clouds is the same as the water that pools on the ground. This implies that he understood at least part of the water cycle.

Elihu doesn't actually say that the water on Earth rises to the clouds, which probably gives many people pause about attributing knowledge of the water cycle to Elihu. However, I think it is possible that he did have that knowledge. Elihu says that God creates the drop of water, which begs the question: does He create them on the fly, or are they created from the water sources He already created (i.e., lakes, rivers, etc.). Many translations, such as the NIV and NKJV use the phrase "He draws up drops" as opposed to the KJV's "He maketh drops." To draw up heavily implies knowledge that the water is brought up into the sky then rains down, just as the water cycle claims.

The original Hebrew word that appears there is יְגָרַ֣ע (yəḡāra); it only appears once in the Bible. However, related words do appear throughout the text.[3][4][5] One of these root or related words means to diminish or make small by removing from something. Given this information, I think it's safe to say that Elihu's statement means God makes the water drops small by removing them from existing bodies of water on Earth.[5] This is exactly what is described in the water cycle![6]

Wind and Weather Direction

Job 37:9, 17 discusses weather direction. I remember as a kid, my grandmother used to tell me if a storm came from a particular direction, it would be worse than if it came from the other. Her rationale wasn't from divine knowledge, however, it was from observation. Of course, we could always argue that God gave her the ability to recognize such an observation... Nonetheless, Elihu informs Job that cold comes from the north, while whirlwinds and warmth come from the south. I am not a weather expert, but having grown up on the coast of the Southeastern United States my whole life, this sounds like a solid observation.

Personally, I don't find this passage to be earth shaking, but I have seen it listed on other sites and in commentaries as being of importance, so I thought I'd cover it.

Clouds and Lightning Relationship

Believer's Bible Commentary lists Job 37:11 as knowledge of the cloud-lightning relationship. The commentary doesn't explain why, and after reading the verse, I still didn't understand why. There are two types of lightning that can occur during a storm. One form is the kind that goes from the ground to the sky; this is the kind we generally worry about. However, lightening can also strike between the clouds. "Bright cloud" does not have to be a reference to lightning, however. This interpretation comes from the original Hebrew.[7][8][9] Nonetheless, it seems to me more of an observation of God's wonder than a statement of any sort.

References and Footnotes

  1. Ginger Allen. "From Dust to Dust". Answers In Genesis. February 15, 2012
  2. Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. "Elemental Composition of the Human Body. Thoughtco. March 15, 2017
  3. "Job 36:27. Bible Hub; visited June 1027
  4. "Yegara". Bible Hub; visited June 2017
  5. "Bible Lexicons: Old Testament Hebrew Lexical Dictionary: Entry for Strong's #1639". Studylight; visited June 2017
  6. Peter Jaeger. "The Water Cycle: Precipitation Condensation, and Evaporation". Study.com; visited June 2017
  7. "Job 37:11". Bible Hub; visited June 2017
  8. "Strong's 6051. anan". Bible Hub; visited June 2017
  9. Strong's 216. or". Bible Hub; visited June 2017
  10. Talia Avakian. "15 gorgeous colored-sand beaches around the world ". Business Insider. July 6, 2015

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