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The DEEP

I Have Yet Something to Say on God's Behalf

Who does Elihu think he is anyway?

Job 36:1-16 (ESV)

And Elihu continued, and said:

“Bear with me a little, and I will show you, for I have yet something to say on God's behalf. I will get my knowledge from afar and ascribe righteousness to my Maker. For truly my words are not false; one who is perfect in knowledge is with you.

“Behold, God is mighty, and does not despise any; he is mighty in strength of understanding. He does not keep the wicked alive, but gives the afflicted their right. He does not withdraw his eyes from the righteous, but with kings on the throne he sets them forever, and they are exalted. And if they are bound in chains and caught in the cords of affliction, then he declares to them their work and their transgressions, that they are behaving arrogantly. He opens their ears to instruction and commands that they return from iniquity. If they listen and serve him, they complete their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasantness. But if they do not listen, they perish by the sword and die without knowledge.

“The godless in heart cherish anger; they do not cry for help when he binds them. They die in youth, and their life ends among the cult prostitutes. He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity. He also allured you out of distress into a broad place where there was no cramping, and what was set on your table was full of fatness.”

Elihu starts off on a really bad foot here with, “I have yet something to say on God's behalf. I will get my knowledge from afar and ascribe righteousness to my Maker. For truly my words are not false; one who is perfect in knowledge is with you.

Good grief, who does he think he is anyway? More to the point, who is he? Some commentators wonder if Elihu might be more than just some young guy. Is he an angel or something?

What he says next confirms that he’s human. He repeats the basic error of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar when he says, “If they listen and serve him, they complete their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasantness. But if they do not listen, they perish by the sword and die without knowledge.

Elihu is young. In that primitive age, he might have only met a few dozen people in his entire life. At most, he has met a few hundred. Life back then was incredibly local; that’s why the phrase, “knowledge from afar” is supposed to be impressive. Elihu doesn’t know enough people, and hasn’t been around long enough, to witness how things end for various types of folks.

He’s just repeating what he’s been taught.


Yet God will give Elihu a pass. He’ll call out Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar but not Elihu. Why?

This looks like simple grace. Elihu is young, and didn’t instigate the argument anyway. So, God lets him go. Elihu will learn enough just from watching what happens to Job and his friends.

There’s a great lesson in this. You can avoid learning things “the hard way” by paying attention to what happens to other people.


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.

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