Job 32 Commentary: I think that many of us have found ourselves in situations in which two people are arguing. And they battle it out for a while. But finally, they’re done and they have nothing left to say.
But you do have something to say. And you really want to say it.
Well, that’s the situation that the biblical character Elihu finds himself in – in the 32nd chapter of the book of Job. So, let’s turn our attention there – to Job, chapter 32.
We recall from our last message in Job that Job 31 – the chapter that precedes this one – ends with a statement to the effect that “the words of Job have ended.”
And so, Job 32 picks right up from there.
Job 32 Commentary Verse 1
And the author informs us that as Job finishes his last speech, so too do his friends. They stop talking as well.
KJV Job 32:1 [So/Then] these three men [ceased/refused] [to answer/answering/to answer further] Job,
because he was righteous in his own eyes.
Now, there’s a sense in which being righteous in one’s own eyes is roundly condemned in Scripture.
But for Job here, this seems to be saying that he simply is viewing himself as God was viewing him. He didn’t commit any sin worthy of the suffering that he’s receiving. That’s not why he was suffering – because of his sin. He’s righteous.
Job 32 Commentary Verse 2
But even though Job is viewing himself as righteous – that doesn’t settle anything. We still have an innocent man suffering and his friends still thinking that he is secretly wicked and Job himself thinking in one way or another that God is misinformed about the situation.
But Job is done talking and so are the friends. And that’s why Elihu enters the picture and is angry with Job and his three friends.
2 [Then/But] [was kindled the wrath of/the anger of … burned/became very angry] Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the [kindred/family] of Ram:
Now, we’re given a short genealogy of this man. He’s a Buzite. Buz was a son of Abraham’s brother. And probably because of that, there was a land located in the desert near Edom with that name – probably named after this man.
The rest I don’t know anything about. But this information makes it possible that Job’s story took place even within the life of Abraham or shortly thereafter. And it likely took place around Edom – outside of and to the southeast of Israel.
So, that’s a little information on where Elihu comes from.
But now here’s whom Elihu is angry with.
against Job [was his wrath kindled/his anger burned/he was angry with],
[because/for] [he justified/justifying] himself [rather than/before] God.
Now, it can be difficult to know who’s right in the book of Job. But here’s one thing we know – that the narrator is always right. That’s how stories work – the one telling them is never wrong.
And in this case, the narrator is ultimately God. Whoever may have written the book of Job – perhaps Solomon – the doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture teaches us that ultimately it was the Spirit of God who worked through the authors of Scripture to pen exactly what God wanted to be communicated.
So, God ultimately is the narrator of this story. And what the narrator says is unquestionably right.
So, what is the narrator saying made Elihu angry with Job? That Job justified himself rather than God.
And we’ve witnessed that. Job has been justifying himself – proclaiming that he’s not guilty of any sort of crime that would call for the punishment that he’s been experiencing. And in the process, he’s sort of called into question God’s rightness in his situation.
And as that’s been happening – who’s coming out of it looking good? Is it God – who is almost senselessly – probably even incorrectly – bringing suffering into Job’s life? Or is it the innocent suffering Job that comes out of this looking good?
So, the net effect of Job’s speeches has been to make himself look good – and that basically leaves God looking bad.
And that makes Elihu angry.
And to apply this to our lives, I think we need to note that what we say and how we behave during our times of suffering can reflect poorly on our God. When we experience things that make no sense to us and that are painful and irritating – our response to that suffering can reflect poorly on the God who is wisely bringing the suffering into our life. There’s a way to respond to suffering that might make people feel sorry for you – but think wrong thoughts of your God.
And if those around you are thinking right – that kind of behavior might make them angry – like Elihu.
And so, Elihu is rightfully angry at Job.
Job 32 Commentary Verse 3
But it’s not just Job with whom Elihu is angry. He’s also angry with Job’s friends.
3 Also against [his/Job’s] three friends [was his wrath kindled/his anger burned/he was angry],
because they [had found no/could not find an] answer,
and [yet/so] [had condemned/declared … guilty] Job.
And this is what we experienced Job’s friends doing. They couldn’t figure out God’s ways. They couldn’t spell out for Job why God was bringing suffering into his life.
And so, they had declared him guilty – with no evidence that would lead to that verdict. They were leveling false accusations against a man that they knew to be righteous.
And that kind of behavior – as Elihu sat and observed it alongside of us – that made him angry.
Job 32 Commentary Verse 4
And yet, despite his persistent anger, Elihu respectfully waited to speak until Job and his friends had taken their turns speaking.
4 Now Elihu [had waited/waited] [till Job had spoken/to speak to Job/before speaking to Job],
because [they/the others] were [elder/years older/older] than he.
So, as we’re trying to figure out what to make of this new character, we need to note that his motives are described in positive terms. It’s a good thing that Elihu wanted to wait for the older men to speak before speaking himself.
Job 32 Commentary Verse 5-6
And yet, the time has come for Elihu to speak. He waited for his elders to give their wisdom – but seeing that they are displaying a serious lack of it, it’s now his turn to talk.
5 [When/And when/But when] Elihu saw that [there was no answer in the mouth of these three men/these three men had no further reply],
[then his wrath was kindled/his anger burned/he became very angry].
6 ¶ [And/So] Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite [answered and said/spoke out and said/spoke up],
And so, this is now where the narrator hands it off to Elihu. We’ve had the narrator’s infallible perspective on Elihu. Now the man himself will speak.
I am young [in years…],
[and/but] ye are [very old/elderly];
[wherefore/therefore/that is why] I was [afraid/shy/fearful],
and [durst not/afraid to] [shew/tell/explain to] you [mine opinion/what I think/what I know].
So, again, Elihu is communicating a modesty and great deal of restraint about his approach to this situation.
Job 32 Commentary Verse 7
And this is why he took that posture…
7 I [said/thought/said to myself],
[Days/age] should speak,
and [multitude of years/increased years/length of years] should [teach/make … known] wisdom.
So, the normal order of things is that those who are older should know more. And from that position of knowing more factually, a person should be able to apply that knowledge to life. That’s wisdom.
And – all else being equal – we’d all like to think that those who are older should have more of it. More years = more wisdom, or at least it should.
Job 32 Commentary Verse 8
But Elihu is now coming to find out that it’s not just the age of a person that makes him wise. No – a person needs God’s spirit for wisdom.
8 But [there/it] is a spirit in [man/people]:
[and the/the] [inspiration/breath] of the Almighty [giveth/that makes] them [understanding/understand].
OK, so your wisdom is not just a natural thing. It’s not a given that the older you are, the wiser you just naturally are. No. God is the one who grants wisdom and understanding by his spirit.
Job 32 Commentary Verse 9
And so, that leads Elihu to acknowledge now that the older among us are not always the wisest.
9 [Great men/The abundant in years/It is … the aged who] [are not always/may not be] wise:
[neither/nor] [do/may] [the aged/elders/old men] understand [judgment/justice/what is right].
And of course, this would have been insulting to these men who have just been trying to understand God’s ways and have failed miserably at it.
But I don’t think that Elihu is trying to be insulting. He’s simply speaking truth as he sees it. And what these men have demonstrated is that even though they are the oldest – they are not the wisest.
Job 32 Commentary Verse 10
And since the aged have not come up with wisdom, Elihu is going to give it a shot himself.
10 [Therefore/So] I [said/say],
[Hearken/Listen] to me;
I [also/too/, even I,] will [shew/tell/explain] [mine opinion/what I think/what I know].
Because that’s all that these guys have been giving each other – their opinions. What they think. And Elihu can do at least that much.
Job 32 Commentary Verse 11-12a
But it’s as if Elihu’s boldness in telling these older men that he’s now going to speak causes him to once again defend his doing this.
Why does Elihu feel the boldness to speak out in the presence of men who are so much older than he is?
11 [Behold/Look], I waited for [your words/you to speak];
I [gave ear/listened/listened closely] to your [reasons/reasonings/wise thoughts],
[whilst ye searched out/while you pondered/while you were searching for] [what to say/words].
12 [Yea, I/I even/Now I was] [attended/paid close attention/was paying close attention] unto you,
And so, Elihu listened and listened and listened. Just like we have over the past several months! We’ve listened to the arguments of all of these men.
Job 32 Commentary Verse 12b
And here’s what both Elihu and we have experienced.
[and, behold,/Indeed/yet] there was [none of you/no one] [that convinced/who refuted/proving … wrong] Job,
[or/Not one of you] [that answered/was answering] his [words/statements]:
But actually literally these older men had answered Job. They had given him their answers.
But what Elihu is saying is that these men did not find the right answers to Job’s objections. All of them tried to prove Job wrong but none was able to do it convincingly.
Job 32 Commentary Verse 13
And so, Elihu is afraid that these friends were planning to abdicate what he views to be their responsibility to answer Job. Elihu is afraid that they’ll just let God do what in his mind they should actually be doing.
13 [Lest ye should/Do not/So do not] say,
We have [found out/found] wisdom:
God [thrusteth him down/will rout him/will refute him], not man.
So, it seems that Elihu is fearful that these men have come to the conclusion that they can be absolved of any responsibility to answer Job by just shifting the responsibility for that to God. And as they do that they’ll pat themselves on the back for finding this wise way of handling the situation.
And it’s interesting that even though Elihu seems to be wanting to stop this from happening – yet, God is going to come and – not necessarily thrust Job down – but he’s definitely going to come and answer Job as neither the friends – nor ultimately Elihu – can do.
Job 32 Commentary Verse 14
So, Elihu goes on to state that he’s not going to give the same answers to Job as these friends have done.
14 [Now he hath not directed/For he has not arranged/Job has not directed] his words [against/to] me:
[neither/nor/and so … not] will I [answer/reply to] him with your [speeches/arguments].
So, this verse gives us some hope that what we’ll be hearing from Elihu in the next several chapters is going to be different from what we’ve already heard from these friends.
Job 32 Commentary Verse 15
Then Elihu is going to rehearse what we heard at the beginning of this chapter – that the friends couldn’t find an answer for Job and so they stopped talking.
15 They [were amazed/are dismayed],
they [answered/answer] [no more/no longer/cannot … any more]:
[they left off speaking/words fail them/they have nothing left to say].
And I’m not sure who Elihu is addressing this to. Maybe he spoke verse 15 directly to Job. Otherwise, if he’s speaking to the friends, it’s a little strange to have a person speak of you in the third person when you’re standing right in front of him.
Job 32 Commentary Verse 16-17
Then Elihu is going to once more explain how the silence of these men encouraged him to speak.
16 [When/And] I [had/have] waited, [shall I wait?…]
([for/because/but because] they [spake not/do not speak],
[but stood still/because they stop/because they stand there],
and [answered/answer] no more[;)/?/,]
17 I said,
I will answer [also/too] my [part/share],
I [also/too] will [shew/tell/explain] [mine opinion/what I know].
And that’s the third and last time that Elihu is going to speak of his “opinion” in this chapter. So, he’s going to talk – and speak of what he knows – because of the silence of these men.
Job 32 Commentary Verse 18-20
And when it comes down to it, Elihu is full of things to say!
18 For I am full of [matter/words],
the spirit within me constraineth me.
19 Behold, [my belly is/inside I am] as wine which hath no [vent/outlet];
it is ready to burst like new [bottles/wineskins].
20 I will speak, that I may [be refreshed/find relief]:
I will open my lips [and/so that I may] answer.
So, Elihu portrays himself as one who is just bursting to speak and say what he thinks and what he knows. And he’s planning to find relief by opening his mouth and letting out all of the thoughts that he thinks will be helpful for the situation.
Now, just like the three friends, if what Elihu thinks is not what God thinks, then it’s ultimately not going to be helpful. So, it will be interesting to hear what he actually has to say.
But for now in this chapter we don’t actually hear what his argument is. We just hear his getting us ready for his argument.
Job 32 Commentary Verse 21-22
But Elihu wants to assure his audience that when he does speak – he’s not going to be partial to anyone.
21 [Let me not, I pray you,/I will not] [accept any man's person/show partiality to anyone],
[neither let me/nor will I] [give flattering titles/confer a title] [unto/on any] man. [and thereby flatter him…]
22 For I know not to give [flattering/honorary] titles;
[in so doing/if I did] my maker would [soon/quickly] [take me away/do away with me].
So, Elihu assures us all that what he says is not motivated by his favoritism toward Job to the detriment of his friends or vice versa. Elihu is going speak what he believes to be true and he doesn’t care whom he offends by it.
So, it will be very interesting to do just like we’ve done with Job and his friends – to evaluate what Elihu says and see how true and factual and helpful it is.
And so, we’ll embark on that task next time.