Elihu: An Exhibition in Youthful Zeal (Job 32)

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Scripture reading – Job 32

Job 31 recorded Job’s final reply to the allegation that his troubles were those prescribed to wicked men. When Job finished his retort, his friends were silent, and “ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes” (32:1). In chapter 32, we learned there was a younger man who had listened to the dispute between Job and his friends.

“Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram” (32:2b), had deferred to his elders. Finally, the silence of Job’s “friends” stirred him to no longer hold his tongue. Exhibiting the zeal of youth, he confessed he was stirred to indignation, not only by Job, whom he observed, “justified himself rather than God” (32:2c), but “also against his three friends…because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job” (32:3).

Seeing the conversation between Job and his friends ended with no resolution, Elihu determined he would no longer be silent (32:4-8). He observed a profound and enduring truth: “Great men are not always wise: Neither do the aged understand judgment” (32:9). Then, he demanded his elders would listen and weigh his opinion in the matter of Job and his afflictions (32:10).

Elihu’s words were lofty, but his spirit was negative (32:12). Though young, he boasted he had discernment in the matter of Job’s afflictions that was not yet expressed (32:14-17). Elihu spoke allegorically in terms every man would understand. His enthusiasm, coupled with likening his spirit to a new wine skin that was ready to burst (32:18-19), resulted in boasting when he proclaimed, “For I am full of matter [words], The spirit within me constraineth [compels] me. 19Behold, my belly is as wine which hath no vent; It is ready to burst like new bottles” (Job 32:18–19).

Unable to contain himself any longer, Elihu asserted: “20I will speak, that I may be refreshed [relieved]: I will open my lips and answer. 21Let me not, I pray you, accept [favor] any man’s person, Neither let me give flattering titles unto man. 22For I know not to give flattering titles [puff up others]; In so doing my maker [Creator] would soon take me away [seize by force]” (Job 32:20–22).

Though the youngest of the men, Elihu’s youthful zeal demanded a hearing. Although young, he was wise in much he observed. He then began a monologue of judgment and condemnation that would last for six of the remaining chapters in the Book of Job. Yet, as we will see, when the LORD addressed the contention between Job and his “friends,” He will disregard everything Elihu said.

Closing thoughts – Elihu’s assessment was correct when he said, old age is not indicative of spiritual maturity, wisdom, or understanding. However, let us also observe how religious zeal, without godly wisdom and understanding is injurious. I close with Solomon’s challenge that all believers would be wise to heed:

Proverbs 4:77Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: And with all thy getting get understanding.”

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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