Job 32 – “Elihu’s First Speech – Part I”

WineBarrels300Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
A fourth friend named Elihu is introduced. Elihu has been listening to the friends’ speeches without taking part, and he tells them he is ready to speak up.

II. Photo
Elihu is eager to speak: “For I am full of words; The wind in my belly presses me. My belly is like wine not yet opened, Like jugs of new wine ready to burst. Let me speak, then, and get relief; Let me open my lips and reply.” (vv. 18-20)

III. Important Verses
vv. 2-3: Then Elihu son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, was angry — angry at Job because he thought himself right against God. He was angry as well at his three friends, because they found no reply, but merely condemned Job.
vv. 7-10: I thought, “Let age speak; Let advanced years declare wise things.” But truly it is the spirit in men, The breath of Shaddai, that gives them understanding. It is not the aged who are wise, The elders, who understand how to judge. Therefore I say, “Listen to me; I too would hold forth.”
v. 13: I fear you will say, “We have found the wise course; God will defeat him, not man.”
vv. 21-22:  I would not show regard for any man, Or temper my speech for anyone’s sake; For I do not know how to temper my speech — My Maker would soon carry me off!

IV. Outline
1-6a. Introduction
6b-14. Elihu’s addresses the friends
15-22. Elihu addresses Job

V. Comment
The reader is introduced to Elihu in ch. 32 (vv. 1-5). Elihu tells his friends that he has remained silent out of deference to their age, but it has come time for him to speak up (vv. 6-14). He then introduces himself to Job (vv. 15-22). In terms of structure, the prose introduction in vv. 1-5 is similar to that of 2:11-13: both introductions describe the speakers’ family descent (cf. 32:2, 2:11), a preliminary state of silence (cf. 32:4, 2:13), the reason for that silence (cf. 32:4, 2:13), and the reason for breaking that silence (cf. 32:2-3, 2:12). Also, Elihu’s speech is similar to others in that he begins by mentioning the words/speech of his predecessors (vv. 7, 11-12, 16). For similar verses, see 4:2, 8:2, 9:2, 11:2–3, 15:2–3, 16:2–3, 18:2, 20:2, 21:2, 34:2, 36:2, and 38:2.

In v. 2 we are introduced to Elihu as “Elihu son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram.” The name Elihu belongs to four other characters in Tanakh (cf. 1 Sam 1:1, 1 Chr. 27:18, 1 Chr. 12:21, 1 Chr. 26:7). While many commentators try to find a hidden meaning in Elihu’s name, his location is much more important. In the comment to chapter 1 it was pointed out that Job and the three friends probably lived in Edom. Elihu, who comes from Buz, is no exception. The city of Buz is mentioned in Jer. 25:23, a passage about the people of Edom, Ammon, and Moab: “Dedan, Tema, and Buz, and all those who have their hair clipped.” Both Dedan and Tema were towns in Edom, and it seems that Elihu was an Edomite.

Crenshaw writes that, “More critical problems surround the book of Job than perhaps any other book of the [Hebrew Bible]. Many of these problems relate to the structure of the book itself.” (“Job, the Book of” in Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. III, pp. 858-868) Many critical issues arose in the past few chapters (cf. the comment to chaps. 24, 26, 27, 28), and the Elihu speeches are no exception. Crenshaw writes, “The nature and function of the Elihu speeches (chaps. 32–37) are problematic. Are these speeches secondary or original? Most scholars opt for the former, pointing out that their appearance breaks an otherwise clear pattern: Job never replies to Elihu, and in the epilogue neither God nor the narrator acknowledges his presence and participation in the dialogue (as they do Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar; 42:7–9). Indeed, the speeches seem intrusive—something even Elihu must apologetically admit (32:6–22): they delay the smooth movement from Job’s plea that God appear and respond (chap. 31) to God’s actual appearance and response (chap. 38).”

Yet, scholars such as Clines and Hakham do not view Elihu’s speeches to be a later edition. Clines makes two important points (p. 709): “(1) an editor capable of inserting the Elihu speeches in an existing book of Job would be capable also of making minimal adjustments to prologue and epilogue to incorporate his character with the framework of the book. The absence of Elihu from the framework is a problem for any view of the composition of the book. (2) A judgement of the dramatic dynamics of the book is a matter of opinion. Many have found the delay between Job’s final speech and the reply of [God] from the tempest exceedingly effective and tantalizing….” Clines ends firmly, stating that “debate over authorship seems rather futile.”

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Clines, Job 21-37 (Word Biblical Commentary)
Hakham, Sefer Iyov (Daat Mikra [Hebrew])
Crenshaw, “Job, the Book of” (Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. III, pp. 858-868)
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