('elihu, 'elihu', "He is (my) God"; Elious):
One of the disputants in the Book of Job; a young man who, having listened in silence to the arguments of Job and his friends, is moved to prolong the discussion and from his more just views of truth set both parties right. He is of the tribe of Buz (compare Genesis 22:21), a brother-tribe to that of Uz, and of the family of Ram, or Aram, that is, an Aramean. He is not mentioned as one of the characters of the story until chapter 32; and then, as the friends are silenced and Job's words are ended, Elihu has the whole field to himself, until theophany of the whirlwind proves too portentous for him to bear. His four speeches take up chapters 32-37. Some critics have considered that the Elihu portion of the Book of Job was added by a later hand, and urge obscurities and prolixities, as well as a different style, to prove that it was the work of an inferior writer. This estimate seems, however, to take into account only the part it plays in a didactic treatise, or a theological debate. It looks quite different when we read it as a real dramatic element in a story; in other words, when we realize that the prevailing interest of the Book of Job is not dialectic but narrative.
Thus viewed, the Elihu episode is a skillfully managed agency in preparing the denouncement. Consider the situation at the end of Job's words (Job 31:40). Job has vindicated his integrity and stands ready to present his cause to God (Job 31:35-37). The friends, however, have exhausted their resources, and through three discourses have been silent, as it were, snuffed out of existence. It is at this point, then, that Elihu is introduced, to renew their contention with young constructive blood, and represent their cause (as he deems) better than they can themselves. He is essentially at one with them in condemning Job (Job 34:34-37); his only quarrel with them is on the score of the inconclusiveness of their arguments (32:3,1). His self-portrayal is conceived in a decided spirit of satire on the part of the writer, not unmingled with a sardonic humor. He is very egotistic, very sure of the value of his ideas; much of his alleged prolixity is due to that voluble self-deprecation which betrays an inordinate opinion of oneself (compare Job 32:6-22). This, whether inferior composition or not, admirably adapts his words to his character. For substance of discourse he adds materially to what the friends have said, but in a more rationalistic vein; speaks edifyingly, as the friends have not done, of the disciplinary value of affliction, and of God's means of revelation by dreams and visions and the interpreting of an intercessory friend (Job 33:13-28).
Very evidently, however, his ego is the center of his system; it is he who sets up as Job's mediator (Job 33:5-7; compare Job 9:32-35), and his sage remarks on God's power and wisdom in Nature are full of self-importance. All this seems designed to accentuate the almost ludicrous humiliation of his collapse when from a natural phenomenon the oncoming tempest shows unusual and supernatural signs. His words become disjointed and incoherent, and cease with a kind of attempt to recant his pretensions. And the verdict from the whirlwind is:
"darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge." Elihu thus has a real function in the story, as honorable as overweening self-confidence is apt to be.
John Franklin Genung