Job 32:1-33:33 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

Note: For more information relevant to this present passage of Job thirty-two and thirty-three, see the accompanying Appendix (PDF download) that deals with the following topic: The Person and Role of Elihu in the Book of Job.

1. What has caused Elihu to become angry? See chapter 32 verses 1-3 (printed below)

Then these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. (2) But Elihu, son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. (3) He also became angry with Job’s three friends, because they could not refute Job, and yet they had condemned him. (Job 32:1-3)

Elihu’s anger is aroused against Job for justifying himself rather than God (32:2). Note: the Lord Himself will bring the same charge against Job. In chapter 40:8b, the Lord will inquire of Job, “Would you condemn me so that you might be justified?” Out of genuine concern for Job’s spiritual welfare, Elihu cautions Job with regard to his attitude: Job must not become like the arrogant scoffer who assumes for himself the role of judge and charges God with wrongdoing. Note that at the outset, Job was commended for not taking the role of the scoffer and charging God with wrongdoing, “In all this, Job did not sin by foolishly accusing God of wrongdoing.”(1:22) But now he is in danger of adopting that sinful attitude.

2. Why has Elihu remained silent until now, and why does he now speak? See chapter 32 verses 6-14 (printed below)

Then Elihu, son of Barachel the Buzite, spoke: I am young in years and you are aged; therefore I was timid and afraid to offer my view to you. (7) I thought, “Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.” (8) But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him insight. (9) It is not necessarily the old that are wise, and the aged may not understand justice. (10) Therefore I say, Listen to me; I, even I, will offer my view. (11) I waited while you spoke; I listened to your reasoning, as you pondered what to say. (12) I paid close attention to you, but not one of you has been able to refute Job; none of you has answered his arguments. (13) Do not say, “We possess wisdom, regardless of what he says. Let God refute him, not man.” (14) He has not marshaled his arguments against me, and I will not respond to him with your replies. (Job 32:6-14)

Elihu explains that he has restrained himself up to now in deference to the age of the three friends; expecting that his elders would evidence a greater wisdom in addressing Job (32:6-7). But Elihu testifies that he can no longer restrain himself because “it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him insight” (32:8). Here Elihu seems to be claiming some sort of divine inspiration that supplies a wisdom and understanding superior to that of natural man regardless of age and experience. Up to this point he has humbly restrained himself in deference to his elders (32:11). But it has become evident that they are unable to answer Job with a convincing rebuttal (32:12). Elihu charges that the three friends have been discredited, they can make no claim to wisdom; and, therefore, Elihu will not resort to their arguments in addressing Job (32:13-14).

3. What rebuke does Elihu give Job in chapter 33 verses 8-13 (printed below?)

Without dispute, you have said in my hearing—I heard your very words—(9) “I am pure, without rebellion; I am innocent and without iniquity. (10) Yet God has found fault with me; he considers me his enemy. (11) He fastens my feet in shackles; he keeps close watch over all my paths so that I cannot escape.” (12) Listen; I must tell you, in saying this you are not right, for God is greater than man. (13) Why do you complain to him that he does not give an account of any of his actions? (Job 33:8-13)

Job has maintained, “I am pure, without rebellion; I am innocent and without iniquity” (33:9). Yet, despite his innocence, Job protests that “God has found fault with me; he considers me his enemy” (33:10-11). Elihu now confronts Job with the solemn words, “Listen; I must tell you, in saying this you are not right, for God is greater than man” (33:12). Elihu warns Job that he is in danger of charging God with capriciousness and reminds Job that God is not a man—it is man who is characterized by capriciousness (cp. Number 23:19). Indeed, “God is greater than man” (33:12b), i.e., God’s ways are above the ways of man. Although Job may not as yet understand God’s dealings with him, he can be assured that there is a divine purpose—God is not capricious. Because God has not seen fit to inform Job of His purposes, this does not give Job the right to complain against Him (33:13), i.e., to accuse God of injustice or capriciousness.

4. How does Elihu respond to Job’s charge that God has been silent and unresponsive to him? See chapter 33 verses 14-18 (printed below)

God does speak, (now in one way, then in another), although man may not take notice of it. (15) In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, as they slumber on their beds, (16) then he opens men’s ears and frightens them with visions, (17) in order to turn man from his sinful conduct and to keep him from pride. (18) So he preserves man’s soul from the pit, his life from passing over into Sheol. (Job 33:14-18)

Elihu maintains that it is not true that God has been silent and unresponsive to Job; on the contrary, “God does speak, (now in one way, then in another), although man may not take notice of it” (33:14). For example, God communicates with men by means of “a dream…a vision of the night” (33:15). God’s purpose is two-fold: “to turn man from his sinful conduct” (33:17a), i.e., God may intervene when a man goes astray so as to re-direct him into the paths of righteousness, and “to keep him from pride” (33:17b), by mysteriously coming to man in the visions of the night rather than by means of a direct encounter, God guards man from becoming puffed up with pride (cp. 2 Corinthians 12:7.)

5. Besides a difference in age, in what other ways is Elihu different from Job’s three friends?

Unlike Job’s three friends, Elihu does not charge that Job is suffering because of some unrepented sin he has committed; rather, Elihu is warning Job to beware that he does not allow himself to respond to his suffering in a sinful way. Job is especially in danger of putting greater trust in his own righteousness than in the Lord and thereby developing an attitude of self-righteousness by which Job views himself as being more righteous than God. Furthermore, whereas Job’s three friends tend to offer the wisdom of the elders, Elihu seems to claim some sort of divine inspiration (cp. Job 32:8 and 32:18). Notice, too, that Job offers no rebuttal to Elihu’s speeches, neither disparaging his counsel nor re-asserting his innocence. Elihu serves the function of preparing Job to meet God; he is a sort of Elijah who prepares the way of the Lord (cp. Malachi 3:13-18; 4:5). Indeed, immediately following Elihu’s speeches, the Lord Himself suddenly appears (38:1.)