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JOB 32


Elihu In Anger Rebukes Job Elihu Contradicts Job's Friends Discourses of Elihu
Speeches of Elihu
Elihu Joins the Discussion
32:1-5 32:1-3 32:1-5 32:1-6a 32:1-6a
  Elihu Prologue

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. This begins a literary context (Job 32:1-37:24) where a young bystander, hearing the conversation between Job and his three comforters, finally speaks because the three comforters have no more to say.


B. Some scholars suggest this was not an original part of the book (though there are no Hebrew MSS where it is missing or located in a different place).

1. use of new roots (i.e., Arabic and Aramaic)

2. use of a different literary style

3. part prose, not all poetry

4. Elihu not mentioned in the close of the book (Job 42:7-17)

5. Elihu seems to allude to things said in the previous cycles of dialogues

6. Job does not respond to Elihu and God never mentions him or affirms his words


C. It may be that Elihu's speeches are a way to highlight Job's theological error (i.e., willing to depreciate God's goodness and justice, cf. Job 9:20-22; 27:2; 31:6) to maintain his innocence (cf. Job 32:1-2; 10:7; 13:18)

However, it is also possible that Elihu is depicted purposefully by the author of Job (a Judean sage) as another attempt by a "know-it-all" religionist (cf. Job 33:1-7) to refute Job's integrity. Elihu appears suddenly and is not mentioned again. He is not addressed by Job or God! His words are almost as long as the dialogues but nothing new is added. What may be "new" is his claim to special revelation (although Eliphaz also claimed revelation in a dream). The three friends highlight "traditional wisdom" and "aged wisdom," while Elihu seems to highlight a "spiritual" dimension (see Tremper Longman III, Job, p. 368).


 1Then these three men ceased answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. 2But the anger of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram burned; against Job his anger burned because he justified himself before God. 3And his anger burned against his three friends because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job. 4Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were years older than he. 5And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of the three men his anger burned.
 6So Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite spoke out and said,
 "I am young in years and you are old;
 Therefore I was shy and afraid to tell you what I think.
 7I thought age should speak,
 And increased years should teach wisdom.
 8But it is a spirit in man,
 And the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding.
 9The abundant in years may not be wise,
 Nor may elders understand justice.
 10So I say, ‘Listen to me,
 I too will tell what I think.'"

32:1-5 Job 32:1-6a is in prose, like 31:40c.

32:1 "answering" The verb (BDB 772 I, KB 851) is the standard way in the book to introduce a response by another person. Notice it appears in Job 32:1,6,12,15,16,17,20.

▣ "because he was righteous in his own eyes" See note in Contextual Insights, C.

This is the major theological problem in Job's speeches. He truly felt he was innocent and did not deserve the terrible things that happened to him. He saw the problems:

1. "the two ways" do not apply to all suffering and problems

2. God was unjust and cruel

a. He sent these problems (i.e., God in control of all things, no secondary causes, cf. Isa. 45:7; Amos 3:6)

b. He did not respond to Job's repeated prayers

c. He allowed the wicked to continue


32:2 "the anger" This term (BDB 354, KB 351, in Qal) is used several times.

1. Elihu is angry (lit. "burned") at Job, Job 32:2 (twice)

2. Elihu is angry at Job's three comforters, Job 32:3,5

Elihu's anger is based on his deep theological disagreement with Job and his three comforters. Elihu defends God and His ways with humans.

▣ "the Buzite" The root buz (BDB 100) may refer to Abraham's brother's (Nahor) son (cf. Gen. 22:21), if Job relates historically to Abraham's day.

The basic Hebrew root means

1. contempt – BDB 100 II

2. despise – BDB 100 I

The New Oxford Annotated Bible suggests he was an Aramean, living near Edom (p. 660). This seems to be confirmed in Jer. 25:23.

▣ "Ram" This name (BDB 928) is found several times in the OT.

1. ancestor of David – Ruth 4:19; 1 Chr. 2:9-10

2. a family mentioned in 1 Chr. 2:25,27

3. here


▣ "he justified himself" This root (noun, BDB 481, KB 1002; verb, BDB 842, KB 1003, here a Piel infinitive construct) is the important theological term translated:

1. right

2. righteous

3. righteousness

4. just

5. justified

See SPECIAL TOPIC: RIGHTEOUSNESS. Elihu is especially interested in being "right" with a "righteous" God. He uses the root 13 times in his speeches (Job 32-37). But notice it is not related to the Mosaic covenant (i.e., setting is Edom, not Israel, although I think the author is a Judean court sage) but to the fair treatment of other humans.

Vulgate"before God"
NRSV"rather than God"
TEV"blaming God"
NJB"God was wrong"
JPSOA"against God"
Peshitta"more than God"

The MT has a preposition, either

1. מה (BDB 552)

2. מן (BDB 577), which is more probable and has a wide semantic field

The context seems to denote a contrast but the same preposition means "before" or "in the presence of" in Job 4:17. So the interpretive question is, "Does the phrase denote

1. Job in court before God

2. Job justifying himself at God's expense?"

Both fit the book.

32:3 The last line of the MT of Job 32:3 has "God" instead of "Job." This is one of the eighteen changes in the MT made by sopherim (Jewish scholars) because they thought the original reading was blasphemous. The TEV, NJB, REB retain "God."

If the last line should have "Job," then Elihu is accusing the three comforters of falsely accusing Job of sin with no evidence.

If the last line should have "God," then it refers to Job's accusations of God's unfairness and injustices.

This lists two reasons why Elihu was angry at the three comforters.

1. they could not answer Job (cf. Job 32:5,7)

2. still they accused Job of hidden sin (lit. "condemned him of evil," BDB 957, KB 1294, Hiphil imperfect with waw)


32:4-6 Elihu lists several reasons why he waited to give his comments.

1. he thought the older (i.e., wiser) comforters would handle this issue, Job 32:4,9

2. he was young and in the ANE age had honor and deference (cf. Job 29:8), Job 32:4,6,7

3. he was shy and afraid, Job 32:6


32:4 Elihu had waited patiently to respond to Job because

1. he hoped the three friends could convince him of his errors, Job 32:5

2. he was younger than they, Job 32:4



NASB, NJB"shy"

This verb (BDB 267 II, KB 267, Qal perfect from an Aramaic root) occurs only here in the OT. It is parallel with "afraid" (BDB 431, KB 432).

32:7 The NRSV translates this verse as two imperfects used in a jussive sense ("lest. . .").

32:8 "a spirit in man" This is the Hebrew term ruah (BDB 924). See SPECIAL TOPIC: BREATH, WIND, SPIRIT (OT).

The term "man" is enosh (BDB 60), cf. Job 32:1,5,8; 33:12,15,16,26,27, etc.). The term "Adam" (BDB 9) is used in Job 32:13. It is always a question if these terms are synonymous or are meant to draw a distinction. I think here they denote their semantic overlap. If so, it denotes frail, fallen humanity.


▣ "the breath of the Almighty" Some commentators refer this specifically to Gen. 2:7, but I think it is parallel with "a spirit in man" and refers to the life of a person energized by God's Spirit. In a sense Elihu is claiming divine inspiration (cf. Job 33:4).

For "Almighty" see SPECIAL TOPIC: The Almighty (Shaddai).

▣ "understanding" The Hebrew verb (BDB 106, KB 122, Hiphil imperfect) means "give understanding." Elihu is claiming a special wisdom from God (cf. Job 38:26). Remember, one of the issues of the book is "who has God's wisdom?"

1. Job

2. three comforters

3. Elihu

4. no one but God Himself



NASB"the abundant in years"
NKJV"great men"
Vulgate"the old"
NJB"great age"
JPSOA"the aged"

The MT has "it is not the many." The adjective (BDB 912 I) can mean "many" or "great." It is the LXX that has "aged," probably because of the intended parallelism with "elders" in Job 32:9b.

32:10 "Listen to me" This is a literary imperative (BDB 1033, KB 1570), used so often

1. by Job to his three comforters

a. Job 13:6 – Hiphil imperative

b. Job 13:17 – infinitive absolute and Qal imperative of the same root

c. Job 21:2 (same form as b. above)

2. by Eliphaz – Job 15:17; Qal imperative

3. by Elihu

a. Job 32:10; 33:1,31,33 – Qal imperative

b. Job 33:1,31 – Hiphil imperatives (synonyms, BDB 24, KB 27 and BDB 904, KB 1151)

c. Job 34:2,10 – Qal imperative

d. Job 37:2 – Qal imperative

4. Job to God (entreaty) – Job 42:4, Qal imperative

Probably it connotes the idea that the recipients were not listening carefully.

▣ "what I think" This is literally the masculine noun (BDB 395, KB 228) meaning "knowledge" or "opinion," cf. Job 32:6,10,17. The root is used again in Job 36:3 and 37:16, but it is found in only five places in Job and nowhere else in the OT. The feminine form is common in Job and used often in the OT.

 11"Behold, I waited for your words,
 I listened to your reasonings,
 While you pondered what to say.
 12I even paid close attention to you;
 Indeed, there was no one who refuted Job,
 Not one of you who answered his words.
 13Do not say, 
 ‘We have found wisdom;
 God will rout him, not man.'
 14For he has not arranged his words against me,
 Nor will I reply to him with your arguments."

32:11-14 Elihu addresses the three comforters.

Their final answer was to say, "God (El), not any human being, will deal with Job" (Job 32:13). Some grammarians see the verb (BDB 623, KB 674, Qal imperfect), "drive him away," used in a jussive sense (i.e., "Let God drive him away").

They were trying to make excuses for their failure to convince Job of his sin.

Elihu, in Job 32:14, asserts he will not address Job with the same argument as the three friends.


NASB"do not say"
NKJV, LXX"lest you say"
NRSV"yet do not say"
TEV"how can you claim"
NJB"so do not say"
JPSOA"I fear you will say"
REB"see then that you do not claim"
Peshitta"so that you could not say"

The MT has a conjunction (BDB 814) and a Qal imperfect verb (BDB 55, KB 65). The combination suggests a warning (i.e., "beware"). Elihu warns the three comforters not to try to explain away their failed efforts by asserting God will deal with an unrepentant Job.

NASB"God will rout him, not man"
NRSV"God will vanquish him, not man"
NJB, TEV"our teaching is divine and not human"

The UBS Text Project (p. 106) gives the MT reading (NASB, NKJV, NRSV) a "C" rating (considerable doubt). It mentions an emendation of one consonant that is followed by TEV, NJB.

1. ידפנו – BDB 623, KB 674, Qal imperfect (נדף)

2. ילפנו – BDB 48 I, KB 59 I, Piel imperfect (אלף); the root is also found in Job 15:5; 32:33; 35:11


 15"They are dismayed, they no longer answer;
 Words have failed them.
 16Shall I wait, because they do not speak,
 Because they stop and no longer answer?
 17I too will answer my share,
 I also will tell my opinion.
 18For I am full of words;
 The spirit within me constrains me.
 19Behold, my belly is like unvented wine,
 Like new wineskins it is about to burst.
 20Let me speak that I may get relief;
 Let me open my lips and answer.
 21Let me now be partial to no one,
 Nor flatter any man.
 22For I do not know how to flatter,
 Else my Maker would soon take me away."

32:15-16 These verses describe the three friends' speeches to Job. They failed to convince him or convict him, so the three friends fell silent. But now Elihu must speak (Job 32:18-20a).


REB"new wineskins"
LXX, NEB"bellows of a blacksmith"

Most English translations follow the MT but UBS Text Project (p. 108) gives the LXX option a "C" rating (considerable doubt).

Job 32:19 is a hyperbolic example. Usually new wineskins (normally sheep stomachs or sheep skins) were used to store new wine because they were elastic and could stand the rapid/violent fermentation process. Jesus used similar imagery but spoke of "old wineskins" (i.e. Matt. 9:17).

32:20-21 The verbs are all imperfect. The NASB translates them as jussives ("let. . ."). The MT's first verb (BDB 180, KB 210, Piel) is a cohortative, which may influence the other verbs in this context (i.e., Qal imperfects used in a cohortative sense).

32:21 "be partial" This is literally "lift the face," which was a judicial idiom for fairness and impartiality. Plaintiffs before judges always kept their heads bowed in court. The judge should not lift the chin up so as to recognize the person he was judging lest he knew him and became biased.

32:22 This verse also reflects the "two ways" theology. It used hyperbolic Semitic imagery to make a point (the Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 1002, sees Job 13:8-9 as similar hyperbolic imagery).

▣ "my Maker" This (BDB 793, KB 889, Qal active participle) refers to the Creator God (cf. Job 10:3,8; 14:15; 31:15; 35:10; Ps. 95:6; 100:3; 149:2).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why do many scholars think Job 32-37, Elihu's speech, was a later editorial addition?

2. How is Elihu different and/or similar to the three comforters?

3. Is he a Hebrew or an Edomite?

4. Is Job 32:8 a claim to special revelation? (cf. Job 33:4)

5. What was Elihu's major complaint against Job?


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