There Were Four, Not Three

by DanWolgemuth on June 20, 2014

Often, when asked about the “friends of Job” in the Old Testament account of bad advice giving and gridlock, there are three names mentioned.  I confess that under the pressure of a million dollar question on Jeopardy I would have answered incorrectly.  “Three!”

In Chapter 32 of the book, we’re introduced to a new character.  A previously unmentioned name.  Elihu.

We don’t know much about him, either by introduction or by reprise.  It appears from the biblical exchange that this man has been close to the action.  He’s watched and listened to the more prominently chronicled interaction between Job and his advisors.

You’ll remember, it didn’t go well.

Enter Elihu.  Late in Act 2.  Just before the entrance of the Almighty in Chapter 38.

Elihu had waited… out of respect to these elders, and out of reverence to his God.  But he was done.  Fed up.  Bursting.

When Job’s friends realized that silence was the only thing left to say, Elihu entered.

And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said: “I am young in years, and you are aged; therefore I was timid and afraid to declare my opinion to you.” (Job 32:6)

“Enough!  Stop this!  You are misrepresenting my God.”

This is the gist of Elihu’s expression.  For the next six chapters he rants – with courage and wisdom and conviction and honor.  It is Elihu who is the warmup act for the voice of God.  It is Elihu that shifts the momentum of the sweeping river of judgment to the awe-filled recognition of God.

In his powerful commentary on the passage Matthew Henry makes the following observations:

  • Those that have heard may speak, and those that have learned may teach.
  • Though he had so much respect to his friends as not to interrupt them with his speaking, yet he had so much regard to truth and justice as not to betray them by his silence.
  • We must often be willing to hear what we do not like; else we cannot prove all things.

From the back of the room; without the microphone in his hand; while the spotlight is on somebody else… words from the fourth advisor.  Words that open the door to the voice of God.

The lessons of Elihu.  Neither commended nor condemned by God.  Nearly invisible.  But not to my soul and to the tendency to speak before I’ve listened.  To judge before I’ve considered.

To quote the man… “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

And again:

“Behold, God is mighty, and does not despise any; he is mighty in strength of understanding.”

From the heart first, and then from his lips.  The fourth advisor.  The friend of Job.  The friend of God.

Teach me.

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