Elihu Denounces Job
Then Elihu said:
He again inaccurately summarizes Job’s argument:
2 “Listen to me, you wise men.
Pay attention, you who have knowledge.
3 Job said, ‘The ear tests the words it hears
just as the mouth distinguishes between foods.’
4 So let us discern for ourselves what is right;
let us learn together what is good.
5 For Job also said, ‘I am innocent,
but God has taken away my rights.
6 I am innocent, but they call me a liar.
My suffering is incurable, though I have not sinned.’
Job never claimed to be sinless. He only claimed that there was not some special sin that made him the target of this special catastrophe.
7 “Tell me, has there ever been a man like Job,
with his thirst for irreverent talk?
“What most alarmed Elihu about Job was that somehow this man had the cheek to blame God for his problems, and yet still to consider himself righteous and faithful.”
8 He chooses evil people as companions.
He spends his time with wicked men.
9 He has even said, ‘Why waste time
trying to please God?’
Elihu describes the righteousness of God and His moral order:
10 “Listen to me, you who have understanding.
Everyone knows that God doesn’t sin!
The Almighty can do no wrong.
11 He repays people according to their deeds.
He treats people as they deserve.
Many people today believe the idea of Elihu (and Eliphaz), and believe it as an absolute spiritual law instead of a general principle. Some take the passage from Galatians 6:7: Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. Yet it is important to understand the context of Paul’s statement, which was encouragement and exhortation for Christians to give materially for the support of their ministers. It is true that the principle of Galatians 6:7 has application beyond giving and supporting teachers and ministers. It has a general application in life; what we get out is often what we put in. Yet Paul did not promote some law of spiritual karma that ensures we will get good when we do good things or always get bad when we do bad things. If there were such an absolute spiritual law it would surely damn us all. Instead, Paul simply related the principle of sowing and reaping to the way we manage our resources before the Lord. He used the same picture in 1 Corinthians 9:11 and 2 Corinthians 9:6-10.
12 Truly, God will not do wrong.
The Almighty will not twist justice.
Elihu was correct, and this was an idea agreed upon by Job and his three friends. Yet the problem was that Elihu and Job’s three friends also seemed to assume that God would never do mysteriously, and were too confident in their ability to understand God and His ways.
13 Did someone else put the world in his care?
Who set the whole world in place?
14 If God were to take back his spirit
and withdraw his breath,
15 all life would cease,
and humanity would turn again to dust.
God preserves His moral order:
16 “Now listen to me if you are wise.
Pay attention to what I say.
17 Could God govern if he hated justice?
Are you going to condemn the almighty judge?
Elihu has confused two kinds of cries. Job is not condemning God. Rather, he is calling out in agony to God, asking to see the love and justice that Job knows are an integral part of God.
18 For he says to kings, ‘You are wicked,’
and to nobles, ‘You are unjust.’
19 He doesn’t care how great a person may be,
and he pays no more attention to the rich than to the poor.
He made them all.
20 In a moment they die.
In the middle of the night they pass away;
the mighty are removed without human hand.
The perfection of God’s judgments:
21 “For God watches how people live;
he sees everything they do.
22 No darkness is thick enough
to hide the wicked from his eyes.
23 We don’t set the time
when we will come before God in judgment.
24 He brings the mighty to ruin without asking anyone,
and he sets up others in their place.
25 He knows what they do,
and in the night he overturns and destroys them.
26 He strikes them down because they are wicked,
doing it openly for all to see.
27 For they turned away from following him.
They have no respect for any of his ways.
28 They cause the poor to cry out, catching God’s attention.
He hears the cries of the needy.
Adam Clarke had an interesting story to tell on the observation of Elihu that God would avenge the cry of the poor to come to Him when the rich and influence oppressed them:
“In times of little liberality, when some men thought they did God service by persecuting those who did not exactly receive their creed, nor worship God in their way, a certain great man in Scotland grievously persecuted his tenants, because they had religious meetings in private houses out of the order of the establishment; though he never molested them when they spent their time and their money in the alehouse.
A holy, simple woman, one of those people, went one morning to the house of the great persecutor, and desired to speak with him. The servant desired to know her message, and he would deliver it, for she could not be admitted. She told him she could deliver her message to none but his master; said it was a matter of great importance, and concerned himself intimately, and alone. The servant having delivered this message, and stated that the woman appeared to have something particular on her mind, his worship condescended to see her.
‘What is your business with me?’ said he, in a haughty, overbearing tone.
To which she answered, ‘Sir, we are a hantle o’ puir folk at—, who are strivin’ to sairve God accordin’ to our ain conscience, and to get our sauls sav’d: yee persecute us; and I am come to beg yee to let us alane; and in ye dinna, we’ll pray yee dead.’
This rhetoric was irresistible, His lordship did not know what influence such people might have in heaven; he did not like to put such prayers to the proof; wisely took the old woman’s advice, and e’en let them alane. He was safe; they were satisfied; and God had the glory. When the poor refer their cause to God, he is a terrible avenger. Let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth, but woe to the man that contendeth with his Maker.”
29 But if he chooses to remain quiet,
who can criticize him?
When he hides his face, no one can find him,
whether an individual or a nation.
30 He prevents the godless from ruling
so they cannot be a snare to the people.
Elihu thought it was important to emphasize these points because without them, the moral order of society would be overturned. If these things were shaken, then the hypocrite would reign and the common people would be ensnared.
The message of Elihu to Job was clear: God always does right. Yet the way he developed and applied that thought to Job’s situation was wrong and even dangerous. “If everything God does is right, by definition, and if, because He is Sovereign, God does everything that happens, it follows that everything that happens is right, and the category of evil disappears.”
–Francis I. Andersen
Elihu advises Job on what he should have said:
31 “Why don’t people say to God, ‘I have sinned,
but I will sin no more’?
32 Or ‘I don’t know what evil I have done—tell me.
If I have done wrong, I will stop at once’?
33 “Must God tailor his justice to your demands?
But you have rejected him!
The choice is yours, not mine.
Go ahead, share your wisdom with us.
34 After all, bright people will tell me,
and wise people will hear me say,
35 ‘Job speaks out of ignorance;
his words lack insight.’
36 Job, you deserve the maximum penalty
for the wicked way you have talked.
37 For you have added rebellion to your sin;
you show no respect,
and you speak many angry words against God.”
Ouch! That is a blunt accusation! Where is any kindness and compassion for a man who has suffered greatly? Adam Clarke wrote: “This is a very harsh wish: but the whole chapter is in the same spirit; nearly destitute of mildness and compassion. Who could suppose that such arguings could come out of the mouth of the loving Saviour of mankind?”
What we fail to realize is how desperately we want and need a judge, because without judgment — without someone establishing an authoritative standard, then evil and injustice never get answered. And all the things in this life that have been unjust — all the greed, all the human suffering and poverty, all the evil that has been visited upon us in a variety of ways — it runs on forever, unchecked, as if it does not matter — no one ever stops it — no one ever steps in and demands restitution. God’s standard of holiness expressed in His Word does two things: it stops evil in its tracks and demands consequences — and then it provides for us the very thing it demands.
Elihu is right. I have often rejected God, I regret to say, and have acted in ways contrary to his love. But in Jesus, my sins are washed away and I am forgiven. God is the perfect combination of justice and mercy, for me and for the whole world. HERE is “Wonderful, Merciful Savior” sung by Selah.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.