When we concluded our readings on the Book of Job in The Bible Meditator, we wondered about the messages of Elihu, the young man who listened to the debate between Job and his friends. Elihu concluded that the friends had condemned Job without finding an answer for him and Elihu was angered against Job for justifying himself rather than God (Job 32.1–5).
Recently, I read through the Book of Job again and saw some things in Elihu’s speech that I had not noticed before, which I believe provide insight into whether he was a John-the-Baptist-like figure or not, as some scholars think, preparing the heart of Job for an appearance from God.
The problem arises from the fact that God said nothing to Elihu, as God did to Job and his friends. That leaves us wondering where Elihu stands with God. However, the fact that God did not address Elihu, nor say anything about him, probably clues us into the fact that Elihu did speak for God, preparing Job to meet God, although Elihu may not have realized to what extent God used him. Elihu did seem to think he represented God.
“Truly I am as your spokesman before God;
I also have been formed out of clay.”
“Bear with me a little, and I will show you
That there are yet words to speak on God’s behalf.”
As I read chapter 37 recently, I noticed two things that Elihu said at the end of his speeches that made me think God used the young man as a forerunner.
First, as I read chapter 37, I saw Elihu’s constant references to the wind or something similar and remembered how God appeared to Job, “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said…” (Job 38.1).
What is a whirlwind? It is the result of two wind currents from opposing directions meeting. Do you not think that was appropriate for the debate in the Book of Job? Job and his friends came from different directions. Job and God came from opposing points of view.
God shows Himself in both the whirlwind and the storm elsewhere in Scripture,
The LORD is slow to anger and great in power,
And will not at all acquit the wicked.
The LORD has His way
In the whirlwind and in the storm,
And the clouds are the dust of His feet.
Therefore, in the context of what Job and his friends have said, the whirlwind displayed the power of God perfectly for what they had discussed. Remember that a wind killed Job’s children.
Job confessed that his words were as wind (6.26).
Bildad referred to Job’s words as strong wind (8.2).
Job fired back that the words of his friends were words of wind (16.3).
Job said that God establishes a weight for the wind (28.25).
Job also compared the mockery of the children of his dead workers to the storm and wind (30.14, 15).
He even spoke to God, saying that He caused Job to ride on the wind and ruined his success (30.22).
Elihu used the wind and storm in this manner,
Job 35.5 Look to the heavens and see;
And behold the clouds—
They are higher than you.
Job 36.28, 29 Which the clouds drop down
And pour abundantly on man.
Indeed, can anyone understand the spreading of clouds,
The thunder from His canopy?
Job 36.33 His thunder declares it,
The cattle also, concerning the rising storm.
Job 37.9 From the chamber of the south comes the whirlwind,
And cold from the scattering winds of the north.
Job 37.11, 12 Also with moisture He saturates the thick clouds;
He scatters His bright clouds.
And they swirl about, being turned by His guidance,
That they may do whatever He commands them
On the face of the whole earth.
Job 37.15–17 Do you know when God dispatches them,
And causes the light of His cloud to shine?
Do you know how the clouds are balanced,
Those wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge?
Why are your garments hot,
When He quiets the earth by the south wind?
Job 37.21 Even now men cannot look at the light when it is bright in the skies,
When the wind has passed and cleared them.
Then when God suddenly appeared in the whirlwind, it makes us think that Elihu prepared the scene for God’s arrival and speech. Elihu kept talking about the wind, the storm, and the whirlwind, as though they could all see those things close by, not knowing that God was in the whirlwind, until He started to speak.
Elihu’s Last Words and God’s First Words
Listen carefully to Elihu’s last words, for they sound as though he knew he was to introduce God,
“Teach us what we should say to Him,
For we can prepare nothing because of the darkness.
Should He be told that I wish to speak?
If a man were to speak, surely he would be swallowed up.
Even now men cannot look at the light when it is bright in the skies,
When the wind has passed and cleared them.
He comes from the north as golden splendor;
With God is awesome majesty. As for the Almighty, we cannot find Him;
He is excellent in power,
In judgment and abundant justice;
He does not oppress.
Therefore men fear Him;
He shows no partiality to any who are wise of heart.”
Do not the words of verses 19 and 20 sound as though God was ready to speak and that Elihu wanted Job to think about what to say to God? In verse 19, Elihu referred to the darkness that must have been coming upon them as they spoke, but not the darkness of night, rather the darkness of a storm, the darkness created by the whirlwind. In verse 21, the young man said that men cannot look at the bright light in the sky, which we would understand to be the sun, when the wind has cleared the skies, so then, men cannot look upon God. Listen to verse 22. Does not Elihu sound like he announced the arrival of God? The storm or whirlwind that was going on pictured His majesty. In the last two verses, Elihu hinted that God was greater than all those storm images. Elihu concluded that while God could not be found, He did not oppress men. Therefore, men feared God for His unmatchable greatness, which means that He does not need to show partiality even to the wise. With the imagery of the darkness of the storm, and man’s inability to prepare something to say to God, and His lack of partiality to the wise of heart, see and hear what happened next,
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:
“Who is this who darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
Now prepare yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer Me.”
Suddenly, out of the whirlwind they had seen, Job heard the voice of God. What did God say for His first words to Job? Job darkened counsel with ignorant words, not preparing himself to speak to God properly, just as Elihu had said (37.19, 20). Job had darkened counsel even as the whirlwind darkened the sun, just as Elihu had said (37.21). Therefore, Job had to prepare himself like a man and God would do the questioning and Job would do the answering, because God is awesome in majesty with golden splendor (37.22), and He is excellent in judgment and justice (37.23), and He would not show partiality to Job because he was wise (37.24).
This convinces me that Elihu did prepare the way of God before Job.
Therefore, we should be careful of what we say, how we speak to people, how we speak of God, and that we should also listen to others, regardless of their age and experience, for God might be using that person to teach us something.
- What Can We Learn From the Book of Job? (thebiblemeditator.wordpress.com)