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The Speeches of Elihu
It is the view of almost all scholars that the speeches of Elihu are a later addition. The grounds for this view are the following. His presence comes upon the reader with surprise, he is not mentioned with the other friends in the Prologue, and we have had no intimation that he has all the while been listening to the debate. It is still more remarkable that he is not mentioned at the close. Here God passes judgment on Job and the friends, and it is strange that Elihu is ignored. If the author intended Elihu to represent the true view, why did he not represent God as praising him, if not, why is he not condemned with the friends? This silence is the more surprising in view of the contents of the speeches. Elihu blames the friends for the ineffectiveness of their attack, yet he adopts somewhat the same attitude and repeats their arguments, though passing, to some extent, beyond them. He elaborates the thought that suffering is discipline, and may actually be an expression of the goodness of God. He works out this vein of argument more fully than the three friends. Still it is difficult to think that, after the debate between Job and the friends had been exhausted, the poet should have introduced a new speaker unless he had something better to say, unless, in fact, he could sum up the case and decide between the disputants. Job could have met the arguments of Elihu as easily as those of the friends. We may be well assured that the author who made him triumph over them would never have let him be silenced by the similar contentions of Elihu. It is also noteworthy that Elihu in his description of celestial marvels to some extent anticipates the speech of God which is to follow, and thus robs it of some of its effect. The style of the speeches is throughout on a much lower level, they are prolix and hard to understand, and the language is more coloured by Aramaic influences. It is also noteworthy that the opening words in Jehovah’s speech, ’Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?’, which refer to Job, do not well admit the view that another speaker has made a lengthy speech since Job finished speaking. There are minor arguments that need not be mentioned here.
A few scholars, however, still regard the speeches as part of the original poem. It is argued that the function of Elihu is to exhibit and correct the spiritual pride of Job, which he had himself failed to detect and overcome. Elihu brings home his fault to him, and shows how the discipline through which God has brought him was designed to purify him of his unsuspected sin and raise him to a loftier spiritual eminence. In spite of the subtle arguments urged in favour of this view it must be dismissed as very unlikely. The main lesson of the book on this theory nowhere finds clear expression, while the debate is largely irrelevant. The representation of the design of God does not harmonise with that in the Prologue, and the Divine speeches lose much of their significance. Moreover, according to the Prologue, which represents the author’s view, Job is a truly blameless man, acknowledged as such by God Himself. With this Elihu does not agree, hence it was not the original author who introduced him into the book. Nor is it the fact that Elihu convicts Job, it is the vision of God that brings him to contrition.
The reasons for the insertion of these speeches lie on the surface. The author wished to reassert the doctrine held by the friends, but also to develop aspects of it which had not received due weight. He dwells on the value of affliction for discipline, and lays much stress on the goodness of God. He also wished to rebuke Job for his unbecoming words about God. And he seems to have dissented from the poet, to whom we owe the rest of the book, in his representation of Job’s character before his trial, while he also thought it an impropriety to represent God as condescending to debate with Job.
The Speeches of Elihu (concluded)
2. The thunder is frequently called the voice of God: cp. Psalms 29. Sound] RM ’muttering.’
4. Them] the flashes and thunderclaps.
6c. RV ’And to the showers of his mighty rain.’
7b. RV ’That all men whom he hath made may know it.’The suspension of work by storms shows men that they are subject to a higher Power.
9. Render, ’The whirlwind comes from its chamber, and cold from the scatterers,’ i.e. from the winds (so RM), which scatter the clouds. But we should probably read, ’from its storehouses,’ with a trifling change.
10. Straitened] RM ’congealed.’
11. RV ’Yea, he ladeth the thick cloud with moisture: he spreadeth abroad the cloud of his lightning.’
12. The lightning flashes and falls in obedience to the behest of God.
13. Probably the first line should run, ’Whether it be for correction for his land.’ The word translated ’or’ has been repeated by mistake.
14-24. A series of questions to Job, intended, to produce submission and belief in God’s providence.
15. Dost thou know?] can you explain?
16. The balancing of the clouds] the way in which they are poised.
17. Render, ’When thy clothes are hot, and the earth still by reason of the south wind.’ Job 37:17-18 refer to the sultry weather and sky of brass before the storm breaks.
18. Looking glass] RV ’mirror’ (of metal).
19-20. Elihu shrinks from the presumptuous thought of contending with the Almighty, such as Job had uttered.
20b. RV ’Or should a man wish that he were swallowed up.’
21. RM ’And now men cannot look on the light when it is bright in the skies, when the wind hath passed and chased them.’
22. Fair weather is literally ’gold.’ The author probably intended ’brightness,’ for which he may have used a different word. The reference may be to the Northern Lights.
23, 24. Elihu concludes by summing up the character of God as He manifests Himself to man. Though His dealings may be beyond man’s comprehension, yet He is just as well as mighty, and will not afflict unjustly. But He expects humility, not presumption from His creatures.
24. Respecteth] RV ’regardeth.’ Wise of heart] i.e. confident in their own wisdom, as Job was in Elihu’s opinion.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Job 37". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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