The Mystery Man of the Book of Job

Posted on May 13, 2021


By David Ettinger

Who Is This Guy?
If you have read the Book of Job, when you came to Chapter 32, you may well have found yourself wondering, “Elihu? Where did he come from?”

The first 31 chapters of this fascinating book chronicles God’s two meetings with Satan regarding Job, and the latter’s contentious discussion with his three friends: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. The four go back and forth in disagreement until 31:40: “The words of Job are ended.” Similarly, we read in 32:1: “Then these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.”

Then comes the zinger: “But the anger of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, burned against Job … because he justified himself before God” (32:2).

There had been no mention of Elihu before this, and he is given no introduction other than what we just read – which indicates he was there the entire time. Apparently, he was and is familiar with the arguments, but this is the first we hear of him.

So let’s take a short look at this youngest of the five personalities and see what we can glean.

His Origin
As mentioned, we are told that Elihu is “the son of Barachel the Buzite.” This is all we have to go by, and the conclusion drawn by it is speculative at best.

In Genesis 21:22 we learn that Abraham’s brother Nahor had two sons, Uz and Buz. It’s possible that Elihu’s father Barachel the Buzite descended from that Buz. If so, Elihu was a distant relative of Abraham, though this is uncertain.

Major Objections
Several scholars believe Elihu was an addition to the Book of Job many years later, and they offer four specific reasons:

1. Elihu is not mentioned anywhere else in the book.

2. His style and language differ from the rest of the book.

3. His views add nothing to the basic premise of the book.

4. No one in the book answers or acknowledges him.

Scholars who accept Elihu’s legitimacy answer these objections:

1. Elihu is not involved in the earlier arguments, and therefore there is no need to mention him. Following God’s rebuttal to Job, Elihu is not condemned by the Lord as are the others, and therefore, again, no need to mention him.

2. Elihu’s literary style is much different, but this could be attributed to education and upbringing.

3. On the contrary, Elihu’s arguments do add something to the basic premise of the book. He views suffering differently than the others. The friends, and even Job, see suffering as punishment for sin. Elihu sees suffering as something God uses to benefit people.

4. True, no one addresses or acknowledges Elihu, but this could be because his arguments silence them.

Author of Job?
Contrary to the skeptics, there are those who believe Elihu authored the Book of Job! Says one scholar:

“It would be a most gratifying guess that it is Elihu … who is the enigmatic author of Job. … Elihu is the only one of all the main characters called by a full name; his speeches tie together the different parts of the book into one organic entity that gives it a distinct expression to one of the main themes in the book of Job – to suffer for the sake of purification” (Shimon Bakon, “The Enigma of Elihu,” Dor le Dor 12 [1984]: 228).

Elihu’s contribution to the Book of Job is invaluable as he offers a counter-argument to that of the three friends, as well as confronts Job’s self-righteousness. He also has a heart for God, seeking to justify the Lord in the face of Job’s accusations against Him, as well as the friends’ errant characterization of the Almighty.

Also, don’t forget, ALL of Scripture – both the Old and New Testaments – are “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), and therefore have come to us as God has intended.

Therefore, the evidence leads us to conclude that Elihu is not a later addition to the account, but part of it precisely as we read in our Bibles. For many, Elihu might seem like a mystery man in the Book of Job, but upon closer investigation, he fits quite nicely, and even adds much to the depth and impact of this unique and powerful narrative!