Elihu Goes Too Far

He starts talking through his hat.

Job 34:21-37 (ESV)

“For his eyes are on the ways of a man, and he sees all his steps. There is no gloom or deep darkness where evildoers may hide themselves. For God has no need to consider a man further, that he should go before God in judgment. He shatters the mighty without investigation and sets others in their place. Thus, knowing their works, he overturns them in the night, and they are crushed. He strikes them for their wickedness in a place for all to see, because they turned aside from following him and had no regard for any of his ways, so that they caused the cry of the poor to come to him, and he heard the cry of the afflicted— When he is quiet, who can condemn? When he hides his face, who can behold him, whether it be a nation or a man?— that a godless man should not reign, that he should not ensnare the people.

“For has anyone said to God, ‘I have borne punishment; I will not offend any more; teach me what I do not see; if I have done iniquity, I will do it no more’? Will he then make repayment to suit you, because you reject it? For you must choose, and not I; therefore declare what you know. Men of understanding will say to me, and the wise man who hears me will say: ‘Job speaks without knowledge; his words are without insight.’ Would that Job were tried to the end, because he answers like wicked men. For he adds rebellion to his sin; he claps his hands among us and multiplies his words against God.”

Elihu paints a wonderful portrait of God’s omnipresence and omniscience. There’s nowhere to hide. There is no gloom or deep darkness where evildoers may hide themselves. There’s nothing He needs to learn. For God has no need to consider a man further, that he should go before God in judgment. He judges effortlessly. He shatters the mighty without investigation and sets others in their place. Thus, knowing their works, he overturns them in the night, and they are crushed.

Oops. Elihu was doing just fine up until those last two sentences. Now he’s talking through his hat. He doesn’t actually know that God overturns them in the night. He gets so wrapped up in his poetry that he just starts saying stuff that sounds good.

This isn’t merely mistakenly assuming that God always judges man in this life. Now Elihu is describing exactly how God judges man – describing things he has not seen.


What Elihu is doing is completely normal. We all do it. It’s so deeply ingrained in our behavior that we rarely notice it. The word for this is “embellishment.” We don’t normally talk as if we’re testifying in court. We exaggerate, use metaphors, and generally over dramatize things. It makes our speech more entertaining, and often adds comic relief, but it’s not literal.

OK, so were not literal. What’s the big deal? The big deal is that we create a smooth continuum between truth and falsehood. By blurring the distinction, we impair our ability to tell the difference.

Then lies don’t jump out as being all that different – because they aren’t all that different.


The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

Today's ReVision

The Vanity of Politics

Politics is a great leveler.

Join the Ailbe Community

The Fellowship of Ailbe Newsletters