Lessons From the Book of Job: Elihu—Friend or Foe? by James Rafferty

Lessons From the Book of Job: Elihu—Friend or Foe?

by James Rafferty  |  December 2, 2016

Elihu exemplifies one of the major reasons why we might not listen to what someone has to say about God. Young and obscure, Elihu presents a testimony that carries little weight among many intellectual greats. This may be one reason why God has employed farmers, shepherds, fishermen and even children (the child Samuel) as messengers of inspired truth. Heaven has a way of placing truth beyond the ken of intellectual pride.

Yet even if God speaks to us through a little child, or perhaps a donkey, He always gives us enough evidence to discern His voice. In the case of Elihu there is more than enough evidence to recognize this young man as heaven sent.

Elihu is not out to terrorize Job or overwhelm him with guilt. He assures Job that he, too, is only a vessel of clay (Job 33:6-7).

Instead of condemning Job, he desires to justify or clear him (Job 33:32).

He always gives us enough evidence to discern His voice.

He does not use the same words Job’s three friends did; accusing Job of secret sins or assuming that Job’s suffering proves his guilt (Job 32:14).

Elihu’s approach is identical to God’s. They both assert that, at times, Job had spoken without wisdom and knowledge (Job 34:35, 35:16, 38:2). Both affirm that Job has sought to “rebuke God,” “annul His judgment” and “condemn” Him; that Job had “justified himself rather than God” (Job 32:2, 40:2, 8).

Elihu also introduces, in chapter 37, the same mysteries that God picks up with in chapter 38, the marvels of creation.

We should also remember that while God rebukes Job’s three friends, He does not rebuke Elihu or group him with the other three (Job 42:7).

Elihu claims to be filled with the spirit of God and to speak on God’s behalf, which is proved true when we compare his words with God’s as noted in the previous references (Job 32:8, 36:2-3).

Elihu is also never rebuked by Job, like his three friends were. Even when Job is given opportunity to speak, Elihu does not hear a cross word from him (Job 33:5, 32, 33).

In addition, Job repents of the very mistake both Elihu and God had brought to his attention—speaking words without knowledge (Job 42:3).

Elihu’s picture of God is definitely different from the three friends.

A final indication that Elihu is speaking for God is his theology, which is extraordinary, especially as it unfolds in chapters 34 and 35.

Job himself seems impressed with the compassionate entreaty of this young man, for he does not answer him. The empathy and sincerity of Elihu, his words of correction mingled with love, were perhaps a balm to Job compared to the accusations of the others. Some of this young man’s thoughts may even remind Job of his own arguments and the light that had brought hope to his own soul. Elihu’s picture of God is definitely different from the three friends.

If we have a problem some of the words Elihu spoke to Job, we may need to reconsider what God said to Job:

“Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: ‘Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge?’ Moreover the LORD answered Job, and said: ‘Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it. Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?'” (Job 38:1-2, 40:1-2, 8).

How does Job respond to the stern rebukes from God? He repents, affirming not only the words of God and Elihu, but also reminding us why Job was called a “blameless” man in the first place (Job 1:1).

James Rafferty Co-Director
Light Bearers
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  • Andrew Whitaker

    Can you keep this article online. I’m trying to teach Sabbath School better than I ever have before n need deeper light on Job. Thanks for the article.

  • James Rafferty

    Also go to my Facebook page for a follow-up article on Elihu that may be helpful.
    https://www.facebook.com/james.rafferty.5059/posts/1560576780623009?pnref=story

  • Natalie

    I’m so glad I found your article on Elihu. I read the book of Job in one sitting and Elihu really stood out to me as a messenger to speak as the forerunner of God. I wasn’t sure about my interpretation as when I skipped ahead in the lesson (SDA Quarterly) to see what it said they basically grouped him with the friends. I was beginning to think perhaps my understanding was wrong, however it is nice to see that others share the same view of Elihu as I do. Thank you so much for sharing your biblical interpretation! I found Elihu was a surprise to me as I never really had heard of him before as I’ve never studied Job in great detail. It actually showed me that I need to be studying my bible in greater detail than just thinking I already know the story. What a blessing I have found the book of Job to be!