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Friday, June 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Job 32

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



There is a dramatic interruption in the Book of Job at this spot; and, of course, many modern scholars explain Elihu’s speech variously as, “the work of another author,”(F1) “a later addition,”(F2) and as, “speeches (of Elihu) that violently disturb the original structure of the book.”(F3) This writer is unwilling to accept such interpretations of the speeches of Elihu (Job 32-37) for the following reasons.

(1) The ancient versions of the Bible contain all of these chapters exactly where they are in our text. “They are found in the Septuagint, the Syriac, the Chaldee, the Arabic, the Ethiopic, the Vulgate, etc.”(F4) Unless we are willing for present-day unbelievers to rewrite the Holy Bible, we should retain these chapters exactly where they are.

(2) “Many great scholars have argued for the placement of these speeches by Elihu in Job as originally written, including: Budde, Cornill, Kamphausen, Wildeboer, Sellin, Baur, and Peters.”(F5)

(3) Practically all of the arguments against Elihu’s words being part of the original book are based on modern views of literary structure, etc. “And all such considerations are, in the end, matters of taste; and we must hesitate about imposing standards of taste, especially modern ones, upon the creations of antiquity.”(F6)

(4) Then, there is the fact that there is no consensus whatever among critical scholars regarding this question. “It is astonishing how divided the scholars are concerning the arguments about this. Opinions are so diverse that they cancel each other out.. We do not have the space to line up the names of the scholars on this side or that side of the question.”(F7)

Verses 1-5


“So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram: against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God. Also against his three friends was his wrath kindled, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job. Now Elihu had waited to speak unto Job, because they were older than he. And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, his wrath was kindled.”

“Elihu the son of Barachel, the Buzite” “This name Elihu (or Eliab) was fairly common in the times of David, four persons of that name being mentioned, including a brother of David (1 Chronicles 27:8).”(F8) “The name means, `He is my God’; and Barachel means, `Bless, O God,’ or `God will bless.’ Both names imply that Elihu came of a family of monotheists.”(F9) David’s brother was named Eliab, a variant of the name Elihu.

“They had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job” Andersen gave the meaning here as, “They didn’t find an answer, and they didn’t prove Job wrong.”(F10) The same scholar also referred to Elihu’s speech here as, “quite a rigmarole.”(F11) We do not reject that evaluation of Elihu’s words, because God Himself, when he finally interrupted his long tirade, asked, “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? (Job 38:2); and, although God was speaking directly to Job, there is no way to avoid the application of his words to the speech of Elihu.

Verses 6-10

“And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I am young, and ye are very old; Wherefore I held back, and durst not show you mine opinion. I said, Days should speak, And multitude of years should teach wisdom. But there is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty giveth them understanding. It is not the great that are wise, Nor the aged that understand justice. Therefore I said, Hearken to me; I also will show mine opinion.”

“The breath of the Almighty giveth them understanding” “This is Elihu’s claim that his `understanding’ comes from God Himself.”(F12) A little later, “He would also refer to a dream revelation (Job 33:14 f) rather similar to that of Eliphaz in Job 4:12 ff.”(F13) He seems to have been cocksure enough about his `wisdom.’ Elihu was correct in his conviction that age and worldly authority are not sure signs of wisdom. Rawlinson mentioned the ancient proverb, “With how little wisdom the world is governed.”(F14) But he also overlooked the fact that every young smart aleck who thinks he is wise or inspired is no sure source of wisdom either!

Verses 11-14

“Behold, I waited for your words, I listened to your reasonings, Whilst ye searched out what to say. Yea, I attended unto you, And, behold, there was none that convinced Job, Or that answered his words among you. Beware lest ye say, We have found wisdom; God may vanquish him, not man: For he hath not directed his words against me; Neither will I answer him with your speeches.”

“God may vanquish him, not man” Contrary to what Elihu seems to imply here, “Job’s friends did not come to a conclusion that Job had a wisdom that only God could handle.”(F15)

This verse is disputed, as regards its exact meaning; but Elihu apparently is saying here that, “God (speaking through Elihu) will drive him away, not man”;(F16) and again we have a suggestion that Elihu thought

“Neither will I answer him with your speeches” “The irony of this is that Elihu’s position was much the same as that of the three friends.”(F17)

Verses 15-22


“They are amazed, they answer no more: They have not a word to say. And shall I wait, because they speak not, Because they stand still, and answer no more? I also will answer my part, I also will show mine opinion. For I am full of words; The spirit within me constraineth me. Behold, my breast is as wine that hath no vent; Like new wine-skins it is ready to burst. I will speak, that I may be refreshed; I will open my lips and answer. Let me not, I pray you, respect any man’s person; Neither will I give flattering titles to any man. For I know not to give flattering titles; Else would my Maker soon take me away.”

“They answer no more… they speak not” This refers, of course, to the fact that Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, being utterly unable to refute Job’s arguments, had at last, by their silence, acknowledged their defeat.

“I also will answer my part” A suggested meaning here is, “I will offer in reply the portion of knowledge that has fallen to me from God, and that portion will constitute a complete answer.”(F18) Elihu is convinced that he has the complete answer, but see Job 32:22, below.

“I am full of words” “None would dispute this.”(F19) In fact, Rowley wrote, that, “However these six chapters may have come to be incorporated into Job, these six chapters are intended to make Elihu look somewhat ridiculous, because he is so wordy, so self-important, and so unoriginal.”(F20)

“My spirit within me constraineth me” In context, the term “constraineth” is used in the sense of “compelleth”.

“My breast is… like new wine-skins which are ready to burst” We have used the alternative reading here from the margin of the American Standard Version. This passage also reveals the ignorance of Elihu and denies that he is, in any sense, `inspired of God.’ The simile Elihu is using here compares his words to `wine’ and his `belly’ to new wine-skins that are ready to burst from the fermenting wine. However, it is not the new wine-skins that burst from fermenting wine, but old wine-skins, as Jesus Christ himself stated in (Matthew 9:17).

“Let me not… respect any man’s person” In this, Elihu gives himself another certificate, this time, for impartiality.”(F21) In the next verse he also claims that he does not flatter people with titles.

“I know not to give flattering titles; else would my Maker soon take me away” In this Elihu reveals that his theological position on sin and suffering is exactly that of the three friends who have been silenced. He believes that if he should sin in flattering people God would immediately (soon), in this present life, punish him by taking him away from the earth. This is exactly the same error that caused Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar to brand Job as a gross sinner.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Job 32". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/job-32.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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