Who was Elihu?

Von

Puritan Board Sophomore
Who was the man that is introduced in Job 32? He is not mentioned being together with Job's friends when they come to visit. I have always thought that Elihu was a slave (most likely the one that brought the news of the children's death). He was sitting and listening attentively until he couldn't take it anymore.
Any thoughts, other options?
PS: It's a cop-out to say that he was the writer.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Elihu occupies the role of prophet in the story. He is younger than the others, 32:4, and respectful up to a point, 32:16ff; but his youth or status is not what marks him, or what ought to mark him, cf. 1Tim.4:12. But zeal for the truth motivates him, 32:2-3, 21-22

He declares the word of the Spirit in him, 32:8; 33:4, the understanding of the Almighty; he cannot keep silent, 32:18-20, cf. Jer.20:9. He speaks because the others have failed in their task (whether assumed because of their positions, or self appointed), neither saying anything truly helpful to Job (whether positive or negative), nor saying a clear and true word about God. He presents himself as a fellow man, a human mediator (33:6-7; cf. Dt.5:5).

In all he says, chs 32-37, Elihu prepares Job for his personal, less mediated (not entirely unmediated) encounter with God.

A helpful presentation of Job may be discovered in, The Argument of the Book of Job Unfolded, by William Henry Green, 1874 (there's a republication by Banner of Truth, retitled Conflict and Triumph). Others have undertaken modern edits, to make the style more modern and accessible. Available online at https://archive.org/details/argumentbookjob00greegoog

But whatever the format, WHG's study is worth your effort. His analytic outline at the end of the book may be worth your time if nothing else.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Snowflake
What Bruce points out is true and accurate. It is worth noting that Elihu is the only Semitic person (or at least, the only person with a Semitic name) in the book. Thus, though a real person, he appears to be a representative of the Hebraic wisdom tradition.
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
Elihu occupies the role of prophet in the story. He is younger than the others, 32:4, and respectful up to a point, 32:16ff; but his youth or status is not what marks him, or what ought to mark him, cf. 1Tim.4:12. But zeal for the truth motivates him, 32:2-3, 21-22

He declares the word of the Spirit in him, 32:8; 33:4, the understanding of the Almighty; he cannot keep silent, 32:18-20, cf. Jer.20:9. He speaks because the others have failed in their task (whether assumed because of their positions, or self appointed), neither saying anything truly helpful to Job (whether positive or negative), nor saying a clear and true word about God. He presents himself as a fellow man, a human mediator (33:6-7; cf. Dt.5:5).

In all he says, chs 32-37, Elihu prepares Job for his personal, less mediated (not entirely unmediated) encounter with God.

A helpful presentation of Job may be discovered in, The Argument of the Book of Job Unfolded, by William Henry Green, 1874 (there's a republication by Banner of Truth, retitled Conflict and Triumph). Others have undertaken modern edits, to make the style more modern and accessible. Available online at https://archive.org/details/argumentbookjob00greegoog

But whatever the format, WHG's study is worth your effort. His analytic outline at the end of the book may be worth your time if nothing else.
It seems most commentaries are critical or dismissing of Elihu, but I’ve often viewed him more favorably (albeit overly zealous). I think the key text is Job 42:7 where God rebukes Eliphaz and his two friends, but does not mention Elihu. Is it proper to take this omission as Gods consent to his message?
 

SeanPatrickCornell

Puritan Board Sophomore
It seems most commentaries are critical or dismissing of Elihu, but I’ve often viewed him more favorably (albeit overly zealous). I think the key text is Job 42:7 where God rebukes Eliphaz and his two friends, but does not mention Elihu. Is it proper to take this omission as Gods consent to his message?
That's the way I've always taken it.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
It seems most commentaries are critical or dismissing of Elihu, but I’ve often viewed him more favorably (albeit overly zealous). I think the key text is Job 42:7 where God rebukes Eliphaz and his two friends, but does not mention Elihu. Is it proper to take this omission as Gods consent to his message?
I think it's a fair conclusion.

In interpreting Job as literature, one should step back and look at the whole. Job is a drama. I'm not saying he was not an historic person, see Ezk.14:14. I'm saying the book presents Job in the form of a drama.

This means that the figure of Elihu has a role in the story. Again, I'm not saying that he's merely a character, a part that was written for a needed element in the construction of the drama. He comes to the fore between the cycles of Job and his three friends, and the appearance of God.

So, what does he accomplish there? If he's worthy of dismissal, I guess he's just comic relief? Or is he some other "fool" character, just not so bad as to deserve a rebuke with the other errorists, or so bad he's not worth rebuking? Or is his speech just filler, something to entertain the folks who don't take a bathroom break at the intermission before the final act?

None of those suggestions comport with the seriousness of divine revelation. None of them fit with the progress of the drama, or where Job has arrived in terms of his character development. But, as Green so aptly puts it, having come to the spiritual point he has, Job still needs a resolution of some kind; but he is not capable of finding it himself. He needs help; he needs a mediated word from God that will prepare him for the closer and more direct revelation that is coming. Between Elihu's reorienting speech, and God's own Voice that speaks to Job out of the whirlwind, Job obtains--not what he asked for during the cycles of previous speeches, but something better, something he needed more. And with his blessing, we also are blessed.
 
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