Elihu (Job)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Elihu (Hebrew: אֱלִיהוּא‎‎ ’Ělîhū) is a man in the Hebrew Bible's Book of Job. He is said to have descended from Buz who may be from the line of Abraham (Genesis 22:20-21 mentions Buz as a nephew of Abraham).

Synopsis of Elihu's Monologues[edit]

He is mentioned late in the text, Chapter 32, and opens his discourse with more modesty than displayed by the other antagonists. Elihu differs from the other antagonists in that his monologues discuss divine providence, which he insists are full of wisdom and mercy, that the righteous have their share of prosperity in this life, no less than the wicked, that God is supreme and that it becomes us to acknowledge and submit to that supremacy since "the Creator wisely rules the world he made". He draws instances of benignity from, for example, the constant wonders of creation and of the seasons. Chapters 32 through 37 of the Book of Job consist entirely of Elihu's speech to Job. He is never mentioned again after the end of this speech.

Possible pseudonymity of the character[edit]

The speeches of Elihu (who is not mentioned in the prologue) contradict the fundamental opinions expressed by the 'friendly accusers' in the central body of the text, that it is impossible that the righteous should suffer, all pain being a punishment for some sin. Elihu states that suffering may be decreed for the righteous as a protection against greater sin, for moral betterment and warning, and to elicit greater trust and dependence on a merciful, compassionate God in the midst of adversity.

Some question the status of Elihu's interruption and didactic sermon because of his sudden appearance and disappearance from the text.[1] Even scholars who regard the book of Job as a literary composition by a single author tend to see in Elihu’s speeches an early addition or commentary to the original book. He is not mentioned in Job 2:11, in which Job's friends are introduced, nor is he mentioned at all in the epilogue, 42:7-10, in which God expresses anger at Job's friends, he does not say anything that is not said more succinctly by the three original friends or by God, and his speech contains more Aramaisms than the rest of the book.

Elihu's speech finishes abruptly at the end of Chapter 37. Chapter 38, Verse 1-4: "Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, "Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding.[2]" For the next 66 verses, the LORD questions Job mercilessly, ending the tirade in Chapter 40, Verse 2 by saying: "Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? He that reproveth of God, let him answer." Job answers the LORD in Verse 4, saying: "Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.[3]" In Verse 7, the LORD tells (presumably) Job "gird up thy loins now like a man," and tirades against Job for another 51 verses. Chapter 42, the final chapter of the Book of Job, begins with Job verbally prostrating in the presence of the LORD. In Verse 7, as mentioned above, the LORD turns up the heat on Job's three amigos: Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. Because the three amigos "have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath,[4]" (Verse 7) the LORD instructs them to get 7 bulls and 7 rams (maybe each) and burn them as a sacrifice in Verse 8. They do this, and then Job gets his happy ending in the form of: 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 2,000 ("a thousand yoke of oxen" (Verse 12) 1 yoke = 2 oxen) oxen, 1,000 female donkeys, 7 sons and 3 daughters. Job also lived to be 140 years old.

On a more contemporary note, "Saint Elihu" is mentioned in a StackExchange[5] discussion on the famous Humphrey Bogart quote from Casablanca, "Here's looking at you, kid," which appears to be a saying that is exchanged when something bitter (like liquor, or truth) is to be swallowed.

Elihu's preface in chapter 32 indicates that he has been listening intently to the conversation between Job and the other three men. He also admits his status as one who is not an elder (32:6-7.) As Elihu's monologue reveals, his anger against the three older men was so strong he could not contain himself (32:2-4.)

References[edit]