Reading through the Bible together
When Job stopped to talk in the previous chapter, the last verse was written by Moses as narrator who wrote this line by himself giving us an eagle’s perspective of the relationship between Job and his three friends. And as the first verse in this chapter says, “So these three men ceased speaking with Job because he is righteous in his eyes.”
These three friends were older than Elihu who is the next speaker. He was probably older than 30 since one could not speak in public younger than 30. Moses said that Elihu “burned with anger” (verse 2). “He burned with anger because of Job’s supposed righteousness [separated] from God.” Elihu burned with anger against his three friends because they did not find an answer and declared Job guilty” (verse 3).
Moses explains that Elihu was previously silent since he was younger (verse 4). Finally, after a long period of silence, Elihu burned his anger (verse 5).
In typical Asian style, the young man kept quiet since he knew he was younger and older people has primacy (verse 6). Elihu thought that experience is wisdom so he let the older ones speak (verse 7). He thought that there is a spirit of insight in man because the Almighty permits them to understand (verse 8). Elihu also knows that great men do not always become wise and elders do not always understand judgment (verse 9). It may be that Elihu served in public office for the first time. If you attend long enough meetings like this, it becomes obvious that their rowing back and forth without navigation with lots of motion but without movement.
So Elihu felt that he has to speak (verse 10). He has waited for their words, listened unto their reasons, searching of words (verse 11). When people start searching for words the conversation is near the end. Moses had to sit many times in meetings in the palace of Hatshepsut and knew very well that when a person of importance speaks everyone is quiet and the he speaks with vigor but at a certain point the battery is down and word-searching signals the end of the speech.
Eihu says to his friends, “Unto you was the understanding [Elihu’s focused attention was on them] and look there is no one from you who refuted Job to answer his words” (verse 12). “Before you say ‘We have found wisdom [that] God will crush him not a man’” (verse 13). Also Elihu felt that Job did not direct his answers to him, only to them (verse 14). His friends were dumb-stricken (verse 15). Elihu was waiting for replies but they kept quiet (verse 16). He announces his agenda that he will also speak (verse 17). He is full of words and his stomach cramps nervously (verse 18). He cannot restrain himself. Elihu said that the words in his stomach are like wine that is not opened, like new wineskins, which will burst.
Moses and Job knew the Ancient Near Eastern drinking culture well but did not drink themselves. Elihu mentions the fermenting action in wineskin filled with grape-juice. They used ice-packed holes or buried the jars in the ground to keep the wine cool. They knew the importance of keeping food-stuffs stored in a cool area. (According to research regarding the Middle East and Mari, Mount Hermon supplied them ice.)
Elihu is asking for permission to speak (verse 20). He also asks for permission not to respect any person and not from them to expect that he has to flatter all the time (verse 21). Inexperienced, he does not know yet how to speak gracefully and yet not flatter them. If he did so, “his Maker would take him away” (verse 22), meaning that God will still have to teach him many things and through experience help him to follow the speaking protocols better.
We are sometimes in meetings where we have to listen to long chattering sometimes in Your name. There are Elihu’s in every meeting that burn to say something for the first time. Still, meetings are Your ways of resolving problems and not a fast bulldozing one-man show, so give us the patience to accept what we cannot change. Amen
Koot van Wyk
Kyungpook National University
Sangju, South Korea