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The Job debate;- God in the voice of Elihu

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posted on Dec, 1 2017 @ 05:02 PM
On the face of it, the book of Job is about the troubles of one man.
Of course we understand him as a representative. We regard the story as a debate about the origins of human troubles.
Strictly speaking, why bad things happen to good people instead of being limited to bad people.
Job feels a sense of grievance, arising out of his troubles, which develops into what amounts to a lawsuit against God.
Since God was not offering an immediate response, the “comforters” who are sitting with Job began putting forward their own counter-arguments.

Elihu drops into the discussion “out of the blue” (ch32).
Up to this point, the narrative took no notice of his presence.
He identifies himself as “young in years”, too diffident to come forward while the older and supposedly wiser men were holding forth.
He belongs to the family of Ram, which seems to attach him to the tribe of Judah.
His name means “He is God himself”, and we might take that as “My God is the true God”.
So it looks as though Elihu is meant to represent the viewpoint of those who know God more closely than the outsiders who have been dominating the discussion.
His understanding does not come from “the wisdom of the ages”, but direct from “the breath of the Almighty” (v8).

He is angry with both sides of the debate. He is angry with Job, because Job is justifying himself rather than God. He is also angry with the three comforters, because they recognise that Job is wrong, but don’t answer him in the right way.
Therefore he sets out to correct them both,

Elihu presents his credentials to Job;
“The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (ch33 v4).
Job had appealed to God to put aside his “terrors”, so that the two of them could debate on equal terms.
His request has now been granted.
“I too was formed as a piece of clay.
Behold, no fear of me need terrify you; my pressure will not be heavy upon you” (vv6-7).
Job is now being addressed, in God’s name, in the voice of one who was made human flesh like himself.

Job’s fundamental false claim is “I am clean, without transgression… there is no iniquity in me” (v9).
To which the fundamental answer is “God is greater than man” (v12).

Job complains that God does not answer him.
On the contrary, God talks to men in a number of ways.
There are dreams and visions of the night, given as warnings to turn men away from pride and evil actions.
If a man listens, “he keeps back his soul from the Pit” (vv14-18).
God also works through the sickness which causes a man to waste away, so that his soul “draws near to the Pit”.
Then he speaks through an angel, a mediator, who will “declare to man what is right for him”.
If the man listens to the mediator and responds, then God is gracious to him and says “Deliver him from going down into the Pit, I have found a ransom”. That is, God has received an equivalent for the sum paid in exchange for life (vv19-24)
Then God allows the man to regain his strength, and listen to him when he prays.
The man will then be able to testify to his fellows;
“I sinned and perverted what was right… [but] he has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and my life shall see the light” (v24).
And this kind of testimony is another way that God speaks to men.

Coming back to the main issue;
Job says “I am innocent, and God has taken away my right… though I am without transgression” (ch34 vv5-6).
By saying this, he associates himself with the company of scoffers and evildoers, because his implied conclusion is the same as theirs;
“It profits a man nothing that he should take delight in God” (v9).

Elihu’s answer starts from the nature of God.
The first point is God’s own righteousness;
“Far be it from God that he should do wickedness” (v10).
So questioning the righteousness of God, as Job has done, is a sin in itself.
Such a God will not pervert justice, but will truly requite a man “according to his ways”.
God cannot be called to account as though the world had been delivered to him on trust; on the contrary, if he should retract the life he has given the world would cease to exist.

He judges kings and nobles. He shows no partiality to princes, and does not regard the rich more than the poor (vv17-20).
He sees everything that men do, and there is no place for evildoers to hide themselves (vv21-24).
So the right response is that men should say “I have borne chastisement; I will not offend any more; teach me what I do not see” (v31).
God is not going to change the way that he works just because Job does not like it; the only effect of Job’s words is that he is adding rebellion to his other sins (vv33-37).

Job asks “What advantage have I? How am I better off [being righteous] than if I had sinned?” (ch35 v3).
Elihu turns the question round; what does God gain from Job’s righteousness, or lose from his transgressions? Does Job think he can earn rewards for his merits?
The significance of Job’s wickedness and righteousness lies in their impact on other people (vv3-8).
Part of the problem is that men are looking for retribution rather than wisdom.
They do not ask “Where is God my maker, who gives songs in the night, who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth?” (v10)
Instead, they are calling out over the oppressions they experience, and God does not “regard” the cry because it is filled with pride.
That is certainly true about Job, when he pridefully tries to summon God into court and deal with him on equal terms, because he finds fault in God’s punishment of transgressions (vv13-16).

God’s might is an important factor in his justice;
“He is mighty in strength of understanding” (ch36 v5).
So he does not withdraw his eyes from the righteous, but he exalts them and supervises them as if they were kings upon a throne.
If they are caught up in his chastisements, he shows them the way out;
“He declares to them their work and their transgressions, that they are behaving arrogantly.
He opens their ears to instruction and commands that they return from iniquity”.
And if they listen, they will be restored to prosperity and pleasantness (vv7-12).
That is how God works; “He delivers the afflicted by their affliction, and opens their ear by adversity” (v15)
This contrasts with the fate of the “godless in heart”, who cherish anger instead of appealing for help.

Job’s own anger puts him in the latter category;
“You are full of the judgement on the wicked” (v17).
As Elihu has already warned him, Job thus finds himself keeping company with the scoffers and evildoers, sharing the same opinion of God;
“Beware lest wrath entice you into scoffing”.
And Job’s incessant longing for darkness is also the equivalent of turning to iniquity (vv20-21).

Job’s mistake is that he underestimates the power and wisdom of God, which belong together.
“Behold, God is exalted in his power; who is a teacher like him?
Who has prescribed for him his way, or who can say ‘Thou hast done wrong’?” (vv22-23).

The remainder of the speech is correcting this mistake by extolling the greatness of the power of God.
The number of his years is unsearchable.
He controls the heavens, drawing up the waters spreading out the clouds, and sending down lightning. That is how he speaks to us.
Therefore Job should “stop and consider the wondrous works of God” (ch37 v14).
He is great beyond our understanding in power and justice.
So “he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit”, which is where Job finds himself (v24).

edit on 1-12-2017 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 1 2017 @ 05:03 PM
How is Elihu different?

The purpose of Elihu’s intervention is to demonstrate that both sides of the debate have been wrong, up to that point.
So what makes his approach different?

The problem is that both parties have been starting from the wrong end of the relationship between God and man. They take the circumstances of Job, and make deductions from them about what God has been doing or should have been doing.

Job’s case begins with his own righteousness.
On that basis, he complains that God has been treating him unjustly.

The case of the companions begins with the sufferings of Job.
On that basis, they assert that Job has been punished on account of his own sins.

The case laid out by Elihu begins with the nature of God, and in particular his power and his wisdom.
On that basis, he answers Job by affirming that the nature of God puts him above acting unjustly.

He agrees with Job’s companions, up to a point. Thus he rejects Job’s contention that he is clean and free from transgression, and he implicitly accepts their view that no man can make that claim.
They suggested that Job would be restored if he repented. Elihu confirms that God may work in this way, chastising the wicked in order to persuade them back to righteousness.
However, he does not endorse their confident assertion that this is the true explanation of Job’s own case.
Instead, the real reason for God’s treatment of Job is left as an open question.

On the one hand, in short, Elihu agrees with the companions, and disagrees with Job, when he affirms that Job can suffer at God’s hands without being unjustly treated.
On the other hand, he agrees with Job, and disagrees with his companions, by refusing to link this case of suffering to the specific sins of Job.
This conclusion is in keeping with the story we read in the first chapter, describing how disaster fell upon Job without reference to any sin which had been found in him.

The moral is that God has a freedom to act which rests on his greatness rather than his justice.
Therefore anyone who questions his justice is really challenging his greatness.

We find a similar balance in the teaching of Jesus.
He affirms that the Galileans killed by Pilate, and the men killed by the falling tower of Siloam, were not necessarily worse offenders than the rest of Galilee and Jerusalem. His inference, though, is that the rest of Galilee and Jerusalem might expect to perish in the same way if they do not repent (Luke ch13 vv1-5). To that extent, he confirms the chastisement theory.

On the other hand, he does not confirm the view that chastisement is the only cause of suffering.
“Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
His reply is that neither set of sins was the cause of this particular affliction, which had a different purpose altogether; “… that the works of God might be made manifest in him” (John ch9 vv2-3)

So the teaching is that suffering may be the consequence of specific sin, but that we cannot always assume a direct connection.

posted on Dec, 1 2017 @ 05:03 PM
Who is Elihu

When this book was discussed amongst Evangelical friends, I noticed a tendency to disparage the contribution of Elihu.
Their attitude seemed to be based on the axiom that the Book of Job is demonstrating the falsity of human judgement; since Elihu is “only” human, he gets dismissed as another of the false comforters.

I think this neglect is a mistake, a failure to notice important features in the appearance of Elihu.

Firstly, that he is different from the other comforters.
He was not listed amongst them when they were first noticed in the second chapter.

That Elihu’s family names associate him with the genealogies of Israel, suggesting that he represents those who truly know God and are in a better position to understand him.

That Elihu’s argument is continued in the words of the Lord himself. The transition between “he made the world” in ch37 and “I made the world” in ch38 is almost seamless. Job would have noticed the voice getting louder, that is all.

That Elihu is the only speaker in this debate who is NOT obliged to repent his words in the last chapter. When God says to the first three comforters “My wrath is kindled against you.. for you have not spoken of me what is right”, Elihu’s name is not mentioned (ch42 v7).
The implication is that Elihu HAS spoken “what is right”.

That Elihu announced himself, in effect, as the response to Job’s demand that God should speak with him on equal terms, setting aside the panoply of terror.

Finally, that Elhu’s name has potential double meanings which are worth investigating
“He is God himself”.
We may take this as a standard theophoric name, a statement about the God who claims Elihu’s allegiance. This was common practice in Israel (“God is my father”, “God is my brother”), so it helps to identify Elihu as one of God’s people.
But we might also take it as a statement about Elihu, identifying him as God in person.
In that case, the voice of Elihu is presenting the voice of God himself as a human individual..
In other words, this is as close as the Old Testament gets to the concept of Incarnation, God offering himself to our understanding in human form.

Christian teaching has long recognised a number of “types” of Christ in the Old Testament, including David and Melchizedek.
I am suggesting here that the name of Elihu should be counted amongst them.

posted on Dec, 2 2017 @ 10:58 AM
a reply to: DISRAELI

Uh, o.k. then. I had to read through this 3 times to near absorb it. Very well done. Food for thought.

I read somewhere that the Triune God may be thought of as:
God the Father: Judgement
God the Son: Mercy
God the Holy Spirit: Wisdom

I'd be inclined to believe that Elihu is God the Son.

All of this will, of course be dismissed as drivel by the Pagans.

posted on Dec, 2 2017 @ 11:50 AM
a reply to: TonyS
At least nobody can complain that I give short measure.
That is certainly one way of looking at the Trinity (though, technically, most of the attributes belong to all three of them).

posted on Dec, 2 2017 @ 12:52 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

I just came across a YT channel called the Bible Project that has created some very good vids on the Bible . I have watched a few on NT books and found them very good . I haven't watched the one on Job yet but thought putting it in your thread might help ...

posted on Dec, 2 2017 @ 01:11 PM
a reply to: the2ofusr1
Thank you for that contribution. It all adds to the debate.

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