Elihu was one of Job’s friends—not one of the three who had come to comfort Job at the beginning of the book, but one who arrives later and offers the last and longest single speech to Job. Elihu is identified only as the “son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram” (Job 32:2). In Job 32—37 Elihu offers a response to Job that lifts up the Lord, condemns Job’s three friends, and rightly confronts Job.
In Job 32 Elihu focuses his response on rebuking Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. In verse 12 he notes, “I gave you my full attention. / But not one of you has proved Job wrong; / none of you has answered his arguments.” Because Elihu was younger than the other friends of Job, he had held his peace during their conversation to that point (Job 32:4–7). But he could finally take no more. Elihu speaks up because he is “very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God” and with Job’s three friends, “because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him” (Job 32:2–3).
In Job 33 Elihu turns his attention to Job. He declares Job wrong in saying he was without any sin and that God would not answer. Elihu says, “But I tell you, in this you are not right, / for God is greater than any mortal” (Job 33:12).
In Job 34 Elihu shifts to declaring God’s justice. Verse 12 specifically states, “It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, / that the Almighty would pervert justice.”
In Job 35 Elihu turns again to Job in condemnation. In verses 13–14 Elihu says, “Indeed, God does not listen to [the arrogant person’s] empty plea; / the Almighty pays no attention to it. / How much less, then, will he listen / when you say that you do not see him, / that your case is before him / and you must wait for him.”
In Job 36—37 Elihu highlights God’s greatness. This lengthy portion declares many of God’s attributes. In Job 36:26 Elihu states, “How great is God—beyond our understanding! / The number of his years is past finding out.” Elihu rightly points Job to God’s might, saying, “Listen to this, Job; / stop and consider God’s wonders” (Job 37:14).
In short, Elihu condemns Job’s friends and Job’s claim of being without sin, declares God’s justice, condemns Job’s attitude toward God, and exalts God’s greatness. Elihu’s four-part speech is followed by God breaking His silence to directly answer Job. In Job 42:7 the Lord condemns Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Elihu is not mentioned again after he finishes his speech, but, significantly, he is not rebuked by God.
Elihu’s life and speech offer many insights for today. First, he dealt with the real issues of the situation rather than looking at the situation from a human perspective. Second, he emphasized God and His greatness rather than focus on a human response to problems. Third, he responded with respect, allowing others to speak first before offering his own response. These traits can help us today as we seek to understand why God allows suffering and as we attempt to help others who face suffering.