The Word Made Fresh
1So, the three men stopped answering Job because they could see that he was innocent in his own eyes.
2Then Elihu son of Barachel the Buzite of the Ram family group became angry. He was angry with Job for declaring that he himself instead of God was in the right. 3He was also outdone with Job’s three friends because they could not prove Job’s guilt, which implied that God was wrong for punishing him. 4But because they were his elders, he had patiently waited his turn to speak to Job. 5So, when he saw they had no answers he was angry, 6and began to speak.
He said, “You are my elders and that is why I was afraid to tell you what I think. 7I told myself I should let you speak, for you are older and wiser. 8But the truth is that it is really the inspiration of the Almighty that gives wisdom. 9Understanding what is right has nothing to do with how old you are. 10So, listen to me and let me tell you what I think of the matter.
11“You see, I waited while you spoke and listened for your wisdom and heard you struggling to know what to say. 12I paid close attention to you, but in fact none of you proved Job to be wrong. 13None of you had the wisdom to say only God could refute Job. 14But Job wasn’t speaking to me, so I won’t answer him with your opinions.
15“When I realized you three were discouraged and had no more to say, 16I waited to make sure you would not speak again and saw that you were just standing there with nothing more to say. 17So, I am going to speak now and give you my opinion. 18I have a lot to say, because I waited while the impulse inside me held me back. 19Now my heart is like wine that has been kept tight in the wineskin until it is ready to burst. 20I have to speak now and open my mouth to answer you with my opinions on the matter.
21“I’m not going to be partial to any of you, or flatter anybody. 22I don’t know how to flatter anyway; if I did my Maker would soon put an end to me!”
1-5: The three friends (who are now referred to as “the three men” – are they now no longer Job’s friends?) fall silent in the face of Job’s stubborn insistence that he does not deserve his fate. Suddenly we meet a new character, Elihu. His presence is a surprise and gives us the impression that perhaps there have been other onlookers the whole time the three men have been arguing with Job. His introduction is longer than any of the three. His name is the only Hebrew name in the book (it means, “El is my God”). His speech is the longest of them all (32:6-37:24), and he quotes portions of the others’ speeches as well as anticipates parts of God’s speech which come afterward. He is the only one who addresses Job by name. Many scholars believe his speech is a later addition to the story.
Elihu is angry with Job for the same reason that made the three friends fall silent – Job has insisted on his innocence, thus justifying himself rather than God. He is angry as well at the three friends because they haven’t been able to “get through” to Job. He has been patiently waiting to speak out of respect for them because they are his elders.
6-10: The first part of Elihu’s speech gives his reasons for speaking. He has been listening to them out of respect for their age, but surely age is not the only requirement for wisdom.
11-14: He has waited for them to refute Job’s declarations of innocence, but they have failed.
15-22: Since they have nothing more to add to the discussion, Elihu ventures to offer his observations. He can’t hold back any longer. He is ready to explode with the thoughts roiling about in his mind, swelling like fermenting grapes in a wineskin.
To be honest, I haven’t been satisfied with their conversation, either. Job and his friends simply haven’t come close to answering the age-old question of why bad things sometimes happen to good people. We’ll see if Elihu can answer it satisfactorily.