Before we focus on God’s response, let’s spend a bit of time with Elihu. I am a bit hard-pressed as to what to do with him. He spoke as he “burned with anger” (Job 32:5, ESV). We can listen to Elihu speak in chapters 32-37. He directed his first rebuke to the three “friends”. Let’s pick up in Job 32: “So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. 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. 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. Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger”, (vs. 3-5, ESV).
He, being the youngest, sat patiently listening to Job, Bildad, Zophar, and Eliphaz. He observed, he listened, and when silence and opportunity presented, he spoke: “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. I said, let days speak, and many years teach wisdom. But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right. Therefore I say, listen to me; let me also declare my opinion. Behold, I waited for your words, I listened for your wise sayings, while you searched out what to say. I gave you my attention, and, behold, there was none among you who refuted Job or who answered his words. Beware lest you say, ‘We have found wisdom; God may vanquish him, not a man.’ He has not directed his words against me, and I will not answer him with your speeches. They are dismayed; they answer no more; they have not a word to say. And shall I wait, because they do not speak, because they stand there, and answer no more? I also will answer with my share; I also will declare my opinion. For I am full of words; the spirit within me constrains me. Behold, my belly is like wine that has no vent; like new wineskins ready to burst. I must speak, that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer. I will not show partiality to any man or use flattery toward any person. For I do not know how to flatter, else my Maker would soon take me away’”, (Job 32:6-22, ESV).
As a younger man, he would not have wanted to butt-in. But, once Job and his three “friends” stopped speaking, Elihu spoke. And, when he spoke, it was with a tremendous amount of energy and (in my humble opinion) not a small degree of impetuousness. Yet, he never accused Job of horrific wrongdoing as the others had. In addressing Job, he prefaced it by acknowledging he was not superior to Job. I love the image he used: “Behold, I am toward God as you are; I too was pinched off from a piece of clay”, (Job 33:6, ESV). A model for me to remember. I, too, am but a “pinch” off a piece of clay. In fact, we are all “pinched” from a piece of clay! Note to self: I must balance my sense of self-importance with that awareness and be humbled!
Elihu did not condemn Job as the other three “friends”, but to share his “wisdom”. To me, He sounds “ballsy’ and “salty”. But, he was not rebuked by God as Bildad, Zophar, and Eliphaz were. Elihu referenced Job’s words, but not to accuse him. Rather, Elihu defended God’s sovereignty, justice, and greatness. Though Elihu speaks with some condescension, there seems to be some empathy, too. He seems to stress the disciplinary and redemptive roles of suffering. He may also have concluded, that due to his suffering, Job was in no frame of mind to listen to anyone. I, too, must be careful not to condemn. Rather, I should listen and remember that I am but just a “pinch” of clay, as are you.