Job’s undeserved suffering had not been aided by three of his would-be comforters Zophar, Bildad and Eliphaz. Their line was that his suffering must be due to his own sin for God would only permit suffering to those who deserved it. Once Job had convinced them of his integrity they gave up the argument concluding effectively that God must be in the wrong. Elihu on the hand would have none of it. He identifies the fact that God sometime brings suffering to individuals for their own good (33:18), using every means possible to enlighten and show mercy to as many as will receive it (33:29,30). He concludes with a hymn of praise to God – mysterious in His ways yet One whose nature accords with the thoroughly intelligible “divine theology” referred to in my earlier post:
“God is clothed in fearful splendour; El Shaddai is far beyond our reach. Supreme in power, in fairness, excelling in righteousness, yet never the Oppressor – no wonder that people fear Him: every thoughtful person holds Him in awe” (37:22-24).
That paved the way for the assessment that really mattered, the Creator’s Himself. He firstly chides Job for effectively impugning His justice. His ways are not man’s ways and Job should bow to His infinitely superior wisdom. There then follows a remarkably prolonged monologue in which God in reminding Job of His greatness exhibits the greatest delight in His own earthly creation, especially the manifold splendour of the animal kingdom and His providence towards it (38:36-41:26).
Our God who is spirit delights in His majestic, material Earth, and why not indeed? As for Job’s three would-be comforters, there is a satisfying twist in which having called on Job to repent they are rebuked for misrepresenting God’s character as much as Job’s (42:7) and are required to provide a burnt offering for themselves by which they would be forgiven through Job’s prayerful intercession. Elihu however was not so rebuked and his very name (meaning “He is my God”) further suggests that his words were wise and truly inspired, just as he had claimed (32:8,18,19).