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Elihu seems to be a surprise character in the book of Job. He is not introduced in the prologue:

Job 2:11 When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.

Job didn't seem to know Elihu. He never mentions him in his speeches. There is a dialogue going on with Job and his 3 friends. Elihu's speech seems like a monologue. Is there any evidence that Job and his 3 friends actually know this guy Elihu?

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  • There are clues. His name. His youth. The content of his discourses. And what happens after he speaks. +1.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 31, 2020 at 16:07
  • Not the type of friend you would want: "Would that Job were tried to the end..." (34:36) Aug 31, 2020 at 20:50
  • Elihu was sent by God to rescue Job from the growing self justification, which his 3 "friends" were helping him to foster. It is only after Elihu's rebuke that Job hears from God. Jun 17, 2021 at 12:08

3 Answers 3

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There is nothing in the text that would indicate that Job either knew or did not know Elihu prior to Elihu’s speech toward the end of the book. Elihu’s appears abruptly and disappears abruptly. Many people, including myself, see Elihu as a prophet who prepares the way for the Lord. In the book of Job, Elihu speaks because Job “justified himself rather than God.” (Job 32:2) If you read through, you’ll notice Elihu introduces some of the same themes that God raises in His speech to Job. Both Elihu and God address Job’s core issue, his self righteousness.

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As alb already mentioned, there is nothing in the text that would indicate whether Elihu was Job's friend or not. Here's some quotes from John Walton's NIV Application Commentary on Job (2012):

Elihu's Identity and Status (32:1-5)

WHO IS ELIHU? HE does not come among the three friends introduced in 2:11. His pedigree is longer than any other in the book, and all the names would be appropriate Hebrew eponyms. This leads Hartley to identify him as Israelite, an opinion that, while attractive, does not account for the fact that he is identified as a Buzite. Buz was a brother of Uz in Genesis 22:20–21, and thus Elihu is related to Israelites as part of the international family of Abram. Territorially, Jeremiah 25:23 locates the clan in Edom. Despite the ethnic relationship and territorial proximity, such identification still distances Elihu from national Israelites.

Nevertheless, the meaning of his name (“He is my God”) draws him nearer and the position he adopts is one that a right-thinking Israelite could maintain. In this way, I might suggest that just as the friends represented the common logic of the ancient Near East, Elihu represents a more theologically sophisticated and nuanced opinion that might have predominated among the Israelites. Those Israelites who would have scoffed at the blatant attempts of the friends to prompt Job to action in order to restore his prosperity and favor with God would likely find Elihu’s thinking more persuasive.

Elihu’s character has been heavily criticized. Though descriptions of him as insufferably pompous are perhaps accurate, they should not lead to a dismissal of him as a buffoon (as some interpreters do). The other friends were also arrogant and insensitive, as people can be when they are not the ones in the difficult situation.

More than any other quality trait, however, Elihu is seen as a raging, angry young man. The narrator indicates this four times in the text itself (32:2 [2x], 3, 5). He directs his anger against Job because of Job’s self-righteous attitude (32:2) and against the three friends because of their philosophical incompetence (32:3, 5). The text is clear that this anger is not just because Job considers himself righteous, for Job’s righteousness has been repeatedly affirmed and Elihu would have no reason to be angry with that which is patently true. More specifically, Elihu is angry because Job regards his own righteousness more highly than he regards God’s. This is the same accusation God will make in Job 40:8, so his anger on this point is justifiable.

Elihu directs his anger against the incompetence of the friends on two counts: (1) They have condemned Job without having found fault, and (2) they had run out of arguments without having succeeded. The first of these has constituted the core of the book’s message: Elihu’s condemnation of the friends is nothing less than a condemnation of the Great Symbiosis in general and the traditional formulation of the RP [Retribution Principle] in particular. They have functioned as unwitting agents of the Challenger by means of representing that philosophy in their arguments. The second count of his anger expresses his disappointment that they could not move beyond their simplistic paradigms to address what Elihu considers the real issues. Those issues are the ones to which he turns his attention.

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It is interesting that after acknowledging that he is young and should not presumptuously judge one of his elders, Elihu jumps in and does just that. It's also interesting that Job does not answer Elihu. Neither does God. It seems to me that the 'ignore' treatment is a devastating way of putting an impudent young man in his place. He is irrelevant. He may or may not be speaking truth, but he has no place to speak in judgment of a man his elder and his superior in every way. Even if everything he says is true, he has not earned the right to speak condemnation or correction to Job, because he has never proved himself in his own character or righteous actions, neither has he suffered as Job. Moreover, he has no authority to speak in anger against these men, his elders.

We can safely assume that Job's friends were counted as friends and equals by him. Job knew many people and was good to all, but not a friend of all. To be a man's friend, one must be his equal. His friends had a right to try to help Job sort out theologically why these things were happening to him. The fact that they assumed he must have sinned simply reflects the theology they all believed at that time. Job, himself, couldn't understand precisely because he, too, believed that God, being righteous, rewarded good and punished evil. Yet one thing he did know, he had no guilty conscience about anything he had done. He was trying to re-think his understanding about God's ways, because nothing added up. His friends, however, had no such assurance about Job's sinlessness, despite his steadfast claims. Their lack of compassion for Job, as he bitterly reflected, made them miserable friends.

It is interesting that Job's final response to God was, in effect, saying, "I need to forget about being entitled to Your kindness and rewards because now I have seen You, I realise I am of no account. I deeply regret being so presumptuous to speak." Yet he never conceded he had sinned in any way. His own righteousness had just become irrelevant in light of the magnificence of God.

Two other points are interesting. Firstly, God decreed that it was Job who had spoken rightly of God, while his friends hadn't (and God was angry with them and was prepared to deal harshly with them if Job didn't intercede for them). We need to think about that point. And finally, God, speaking through the prophet Ezekiel hundreds of years later, specified only three men righteous enough to be excluded from God's wrath in a time of judgment - Noah, Daniel and Job (Ezekiel 14: 14, 16, 18, 20). If Job had sinned at any stage during his time of testing, God would not have confirmed his righteousness.

Certainly, Elihu, together with Job's three friends, was incorrect in any accusation against Job. God rebuked Job's friends, but totally ignored Elihu.

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