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Bible: What Does Job 32-34 Teach Us About Man's Wisdom and God's Sovereignty?

Updated on May 26, 2016

Elihu: The Angry, Youthful Instructor of the Wise


Elihu Speaks

Job 32

Blaming Job's stubborn self-righteousness for their failure to shame him into repentance, the three friends finally relent (v. 1).

Then Elihu, a younger observer (vv. 4, 6), rages against Job for his misplaced justification of himself (v. 2); he also criticizes the others for their unsubstantiated condemnation of the old saint (vv. 3, 5).

[Notice the emphasis on his aroused anger (vv. 2, 3, 5)].

Elihu fearfully hesitated to instruct his elders (vv. 6, 7), but then he realizes that the old and the great are not necessarily always wise and understanding (vv. 8-9).

(What a valuable lesson to learn!)

Addressing the friends first, the young man asserts two points:

(1) You failed to refute Job's arguments (vv. 10-12), and

(2) you shouldn't cover up your ignorance with false piety (v. 13).

Verse 14 avers that “It's a whole new ballgame,” because Elihu will introduce another line of reasoning.

Since the friends have had their say, the young fellow no longer waits to speak, especially since he is about to "explode" (vv. 15-20).

He promises to be impartial in his judgments and to avoid flattery in his exhortations (vv. 21-22).

[Elihu took a risk in correcting his seniors.

His boldness appears rooted in setting forth justice and not in self-exaltation].

God is The Transcendent Creator


God's Sovereign Transcendence

Job 33

Claiming to speak "pure knowledge" as one under the Spirit's control, Elihu addresses Job next (vv. 1-4), and challenges his elder to refute his view if he can (v. 5).

Yet he does not speak arrogantly, realizing that he, like Job, is also "cut out of clay" (v. 6).

Neither does Elihu seek to intimidate or press his suffering friend (v. 7).

After recounting Job's profession of innocence (vv. 8-9) and his assigning all blame to God (vv. 10-11), Elihu exposes his error by appealing to God's transcendence (v. 12).

Job is arrogant, he says, to insist that God give an account of all of His heart (v. 13).

God does speak, but mankind does not perceive His wisdom (v. 14).

Through dreams and visions, He instructs him to change his ways and so preserve himself from death (vv. 15-18).

God also teaches man through painful chastening, causing him to hate food (vv. 19-20), lose weight (v. 21), and approach death (v. 22).

By God's grace, an angelic mediator may rarely deliver man's soul through a ransom (vv. 23-24).

[What does this mean?]

When this happens, man recovers his health (v. 25a), is invigorated (v. 25b), and God favors him again (v. 26).

In turn, the restored one confesses his sin to other men and testifies of God's redemption (vv. 27-28).

God is constantly seeking to save mankind from death (vv. 29-30).

Elihu again addresses Job, directing him to listen first (v. 31) and then respond; his only desire is to get Job "off the hook" (v. 32).

However, if the latter chooses to remain silent, Elihu is content to be the teacher (v. 33).

[Perhaps Elihu's assertion about God's sovereign transcendence is his strongest point].

God is the Potter; We are the Clay


Elihu's Instruction

Does Elihu's instruction differ at all from that of the three friends of Job?

See results

Elihu: Right or Wrong?

Do you believe Elihu rightly corrected the four old men?

See results

Elihu's Theodicy Continued

Job 34

Next, Elihu directs his remarks to all four men of wisdom, asking them to join him in deciding what is good (vv. 1-4).

He first considers Job's position: God has denied him justice (v. 5), and man has called him a liar, though he is right (v. 6a).

[Or he's not going to lie, telling people he's been wrong when he's innocent].

He suffers, but not for sin (v. 6b).

Elihu acknowledges the uniqueness of Job in that he, a supposedly righteous man, continually endures contempt (v. 7), companies with evildoers (v. 8), and speaks discouragingly about the value of godliness (v. 9).

In light of Job's view, his current lifestyle, and his faithless words, Elihu defends God's righteousness, asserting the impossibility of His doing wrong (v. 10).

He is perfectly just in giving man what he deserves (vv. 11-12).

Verse 13's questions expect a negative answer, implying that God is absolutely sovereign.

If He wished, He could end mankind's existence by withdrawing His Spirit (vv. 14-15).

Elihu seeks their attention again (v. 16), instructing them with questions that maintain God's fitness to rule.

It would not be right to approve as ruler someone who hates justice (v. 17a); nor would it be good to disapprove of a righteous God (v. 17b) who is impartial (v. 19a, b), and has the authority to rebuke the immorality of the mighty (v. 18), whom He has created (v. 19c) and whom He can destroy in a moment (v. 20).

Elihu discusses the LORD’s omnipresence (vv. 21-22), omniscience (vv. 23, 25), and role as sovereign Judge, publicly condemning mankind's wicked rebellion (vv. 24, 25b, 26-28).

If He chooses not to act but stay hidden, no man or nation can condemn or see Him (v. 29).

Still His presence prevents a godless takeover and exploitation (v. 30).

The speaker repudiates the view that God should administer rewards on man's terms, that is, without human repentance.

If Job desires restoration, he must come to God on His terms (vv. 31-33).

Elihu relates that wise men have told him that Job speaks ignorantly (vv. 34-35).

According to NIV and NKJV, verses 36-37 record Elihu's desire that Job be tried to the utmost, because he speaks wickedly (v. 36), acts rebelliously (v. 37), and complains incessantly (v. 37).

[NASB interprets these words as those of other, wise men, and seems to make better sense].

© 2014 glynch1


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