BIBLIOTHECA SACRA 156 (January-March 1999): 28-41
Copyright © 1999
THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE
ELIHU SPEECHES IN JOB 32-37
Larry J. Waters
A unique perspective on the dilemma and suffering of Job
is presented in Job 32-37 by a man named Elihu.1 These six
chapters, covering five separate speeches2 attributed to this young
"wise man," seem to hold an exceptionally important position in
the overall argument of the book, specifically in understanding ~
Job's struggle with undeserved suffering. If the speeches in these
six chapters are not deemed authentic, their contribution to the
subject of Job's suffering and the overall argument of the book is
However, if it can be demonstrated that Elihu's speeches are
genuine and that their place in the Book of Job is integral, then the
reader may confidently conclude that the message Elihu offered
is applicable to the purpose and argument of the book. It is impor-
tant to deal with the question of the genuineness of Elihu's -
speeches because of (a) the extent of the textual material that is ")
Larry J. Waters is Professor of Bible Exposition, International School of Theology-
1 The proper name xUhylix< means "He is my God" or "My God is He." The latter is
adopted by E. W. Bullinger (The Book of Job [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1990], 161).
Elihu is similar to the name Elijah, "Yahweh is my God." Elihu's name bears wit-
ness to lxe as the highest God. Elihu's name may even be "an expression of his theo-
logical program": It is Yahweh who speaks through his speeches. Wisdom says that
as it turned out, "the message epitomized in his name became an integral part of
Elihu's message to Job (e.g., 33:12-13; 34:18-19, 23,31-32; 35:2-11; 36:26; 37:22-24)"
(Thurman Wisdom, "The Message of Elihu: Job 32-37," Biblical Viewpoint 21 :
29). Elihu's identity is also connected with three other names, Barachel, Buz, and
Ram. Elihu is therefore the only character in the book with a recorded genealogy,
which "may point to his aristocratic heritage" (Robert L. Alden, Job, New American
2 Job 32:6-22; 33:1-33; 34:2-37; 35:2-16; 36:2-37:24. Scholars differ in their opinion
on the division of the speeches. For a detailed representation of this five-part divi-
sion see David Allen Diewert, "The Composition of the Elihu Speeches: A Poetic
and Structural Analysis" (Ph.D. diss., University of Toronto, 1991), 576-79.
The Authenticity of the Elihu Speeches in Job 32-37 29
allotted to Elihu (in comparison to the four chapters assigned to
Eliphaz, the three to Bildad, and the two to Zophar), (b) the
placement of the Elihu speeches in the book, and (c) the reaction
the speeches have drawn from critical circles on the question of
OPPONENTS OF ELIHU'S AUTHENTICITY
Before the nineteenth century both Jewish and Christian scholars
held a number of differing opinions on the Elihu speeches.3 The
negative opinions suggested that Elihu was a figure inspired by
Satan,4 or that he was a false prophet like Balaam.5 By the end of
the eighteenth century the structure and authenticity of the Elihu
speeches were still the focus of diverse opinions. Elihu, his
speeches, and his importance suffered severely at the hands of
critics.6 In the nineteenth century Stuhlmann, whose evaluation
was based on the sudden appearance and subsequent disappear-
ance of Elihu in the book, was the first to suggest that the speeches
of Elihu were a later addition.7 He was followed by Ewald in 1836
and a considerable number of scholars after him.8 Stuhlmann,
however, set the stage for research that culminated with a thor-
ough and influential critical analysis by Nichols in 1911.
Nichols approached the Elihu speeches largely from the
standpoint of authenticity. She cited over forty authors from
Stuhlmann to Peake, who considered them secondary additions,
and twenty-seven others from Jahn to Posselt, who defended the
3 Although a full examination of this question cannot be presented beyond the
needs of the topic here, three thorough investigations have been made: Robert V.
McCabe Jr., "The Significance of the Elihu Speeches in the Context of the Book of
Job" (Th.D. diss., Grace Theological Seminary, 1985), 1-36; David Arvid Johns, "The
Literary and Theological Function of the Elihu Speeches in the Book of Job" (Ph.D.
.Elihu Speeches: A Poetic and Structural Analysis," 1-23). Also see Helen Hawley
Nichols, "The Composition of the Elihu Speeches (Job Chaps. 32-37)," American
Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures 27 (January 1911): 97-186.
4 Testament of Job 41:5; 42:2; 43:4-17. See R. P. Spittler, "Testament of Job," in The
at Old Testament Pseudepigrapha,
ed. James H. Charlesworth (
of Doubleday, 1983), 1:861-63.
5 Otto Zockler, "The Book of Job," in Commentary on the Holy Scrcptures, ed.
John Peter Lange (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1960), 562-63.
For example J. G. Eichhorn, Einleitung in das Alte
Rosenbusch, 1780-1783), 3:630.
7 Matthias H. Stuhlmann, Hiob, ein religioses Gedicht aus dem Hebraischen
neu ubersetzt, gepruft und erlautert (Hamburg: Friedrich Perthes, 1804),14-24, 40-
on the Book of Job, trans. J. Smith (
Williams and Norgate, 1882).
30 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January-March 1999
speeches as part of the original work.9 Even Nichols, who did not
accept the Elihu speeches as original to the poem, admitted that
"those who have defended Elihu in the critical debate have
usually found in his words the positive solution of the problem [of
Job's suffering], which the poem without them fails to give, and a
preparation for the Theophany."10 In regard to recent investiga-
tions "it would be fair to say that the studies of Job 32-37 since
Nichols have also been chiefly dominated by this issue of their re-
lationship to the rest of the book."11
Janzen lists four objections to the authenticity of the speeches.
"(1) Elihu is mentioned nowhere else, not even in the epilogue, his
long speeches interrupt the continuity between chapters 31 and 38,
and he contributes little if anything to the content or dramatic
movement of the book; (2) the literary style is diffuse and preten-
tious, inferior to that of the rest of the book; (3) the linguistic usage
differs from that in the rest of the poetry; and (4) the speeches offer
an alternative resolution to Job's problem from that of the
(baffling) divine speeches."12
Although Janzen views the speeches of Elihu as taxing on the
reader, he states that "the Elihu speeches present no critical prob-
lem," and he sees "no cogent reason to view them as other than
integral to the book."13 In addition to the objections summarized
9 Nichols, "The Composition of the Elihu Speeches (Job Chaps. 32-37)," 99-103.
Also see Arthur s. Peake, Job: Introduction, Revised Version with Notes and In-
dex, Century Bible (Edinburgh: Clark and Jack, 1904); Johann Jahn, Einleitung in
das Alte Testament (n.p., n.d., cited in Nichols, "The Composition of the Elihu
Speeches (Job Chaps. 32-37)," 99; and Wenzel Posse It, "Der Verfasser der Elihu-
Reden," Biblische Studien (FreiburgJ 14 (1909): 1-111.
10 Nichols, "The Composition of the Elihu Speeches (Job Chaps. 32-37)," 101.
11 Diewert, "The Composition of the Elihu Speeches: A Poetic and Structural
Analysis," 4. Also see McCabe, "The Significance of the Elihu Speeches in the Con-
text of the Book of Job," 1-36; Nonnan C. Habel, "The Role of Elihu in the Design of
the Book of Job," in In the Shelter of Elyon, ed. W. Boyd Barrick and John R.
Spencer (Sheffield: JSOT, 1984); and Johns, "The Literary and Theological Function
of the Elihu Speeches in the Book of Job," 7-9.
12 J. Gerald Janzen, Job, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and
Preaching (Atlanta: Knox, 1985), 217-18. Cf. Johns, "The Literary and Theological
Function of the Elihu Speeches in the Book of Job," 2. William T. Davidson gives
three similar reasons why many commentators reject Job 32-37 as original to the
text of Job and he also states that the Elihu speeches confuse rather than clarify
the poem (The Wisdom-Literature of the Old Testament [London: Kelly, 1900],52).
Also see John Briggs Curtis, "Why Were the Elihu Speeches Added to the Book of
Job?' Proceedings 8 (1988): 93-99; and Robert Gordis, "Elihu the Intruder," in Bibli-
cal and Other Studies, ed. Alexander Altmann
sity Press, 1963),60-78. Zockler, after citing nine different arguments, which he at-
tempted to refute, finally accepted the Elihu speeches as secondary, describing the
linguistic argument as "the most weighty of all" ("The Book of Job," 272).
13 Janzen, Job, 218.
The Authenticity of the Elihu Speeches in Job 32-37 31
by Janzen, other scholars maintain an intermediate position by
holding to one original author who made an addition to his book
in later life.14 Others do not reject the authenticity of the Elihu
speeches but simply maintain either that they are a later addition
by an unknown author,15 or that they are a compilation by a later
author, editor, or series of editors.16
Once the authenticity or position of the speeches of Elihu was
doubted, it seemed only logical that the next critical step was to
dissect them,17 rearrange their position, 18 or reject all or portions
14 Diewert, "The Composition of the Elihu Speeches: A Poetic and Structural
Analysis," 4. This intermediate position has been recently advocated by Norman H.
Snaith (The Book of Job: Its Origin and Purpose, Studies in Biblical Theology
gests that the original author/poet added Elihu and his insight on moral discipline
as one solution to the problem of suffering (The Book of God and Man: A Study of
15 See comments by Johns, "The Literary and Theological Function of the Elihu
Speeches in the Book of Job," 4-5.
16 Rowley sees the Book of Job as canonical without the Elihu speeches (H. H.
The Book of Job, New Century Bible
mans, 1976], 13:206). Nichols says two authors were involved in the Elihu speeches
("The Composition of the Elihu Speeches [Job Chaps. 32-37]," 116-22). Nichols's in-
quiry into the "composition" of the Elihu speeches is primarily a source-critical
analysis, and in this she stands in the tradition of Julius Wellhausen. According to
Diewert, Nichols's main theory is that the speeches, as they presently exist, are two
different works, each constituting reactions to Job and his theology. Nichols's faith
in the testimony of the Septuagint is the basis for her theory (Diewert, "The
Composition of the Elihu Speeches: A Poetic and Structural Analysis," 19). Jastrow
and Irwin see four authors at work in the Book of Job (Morris Jastrow, The Book of
Job: Its Origin, Growth
William A. Irwin, "The Elihu Speeches in the Criticism of the Book of Job," Jour-
nal of Religion 17 [January 1937]: 37-47). Samuel Terrien holds that the Elihu sec-
tion was written by a different author. But unlike those above, Terrien says Elihu
is essential to the book and is beneficial as a contribution to an understanding of
Job's suffering; he says it is an "educational and revelatory process." He also sees
Elihu as preparatory to the Yahweh speeches (Job: Poet of Existence [
Bobbs-Merrill, 1957], 189-90). See also Westermann, The Structure of the Book of
Job: A Form-Critical Analysis (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981), 139.
17 Moses Buttenwieser, The Book of Job (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1922),
77-86, 162-67,347-57. For instance Buttenwieser reduced the Elihu speeches from
165 to 72 verses, half of which contain Elihu's self-introduction.
18 David Noel Freedman suggests that Elihu's speeches were added to "refute or
counterbalance a speech or assertion of Job, and to be placed in juxaposition with
it” ("The Elihu Speeches m the Book of Job: A Hypothetical Episode m the Literary
History of the Work," Harvard Theological Review 61 [January 1968]: 52-59). In
other words Freedman proposes that the speeches of Elihu were originally in-
tended to be inserted at various points in the earlier dialogue to refute a specific
discourse or assertion of Job, but somehow failed to be inserted. Gary W. Martin,
who accepts Freedman's basic thesis, gives a "Table of Proposed Reconstruction of
Elihu's Responses to the Three Cycles of Discourse" and says the speeches need to
32 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January-March 1999
of the speeches outright.19 Form-critical studies often involve a
reorganization of the text to conform to a particular subjective and
reasonably consistent structural pattern. The result is that insuf-
ficient attention is given to the uniqueness of Elihu's individual
speeches and their importance to the theological argument of the
book especially in regard to suffering. In fact, the critical ap-
proach seems to neglect the positive contributions of stylistic and
poetic analysis in marking structural patterns within Elihu's
speeches.20 For instance Buttenwieser,21 Pope,22 Stier ,23 and
Nairne24 hold that the speeches are identical or similar to the
views of the three antagonists, adding little or nothing to the ar-
gument regarding Job's suffering. Nichols and Rowley suggest
that Elihu offered a solution for suffering that is irrelevant to
Job's relationship with God and that does not address the initial
cause for Job's suffering.25
be rearranged ("Elihu and the Third Cycle in the Book of Job" [Ph.D. diss., Prince-
various proposals for dissecting and rearranging the first thirty-one chapters of
the Book of Job. Most of his efforts focus on placing thirteen "fragments" from
chapters 24-27 into chapters 32-37 and seeking to determine the original order of
the speeches. Smick points out that Pope holds to a theory that the author deliber-
ately scrambled the material to confuse the picture (Elmer B. Smick, "Job," in The
Job, Anchor Bible [
19 Some writers simply regard Job 32-37 as insignificant and counterfeit and do
not accept them as part of the original text. Examples include Archibald MacLeish,-
J. B. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986); Stephen Mitchell, The Book of Job (New
ing of the Book of Job," Semeia 7 (1977): 45-61. Schokel eliminates the Elihu section
20 Diewert observes that "inevitably the monologue is reduced to or at least lim-
ited to those passages where Elihu seems to be saying something novel, while the
majority of the discourse is passed over as a virtual restatement of the position of
the friends. There have been very few serious students of these speeches which
treat them as a whole and deal with their content evenly throughout, paying atten-
tion to the argument in its entirety. Judgments concerning the contribution of ES
[Elihu's Speeches] to the Joban poem can only carry weight when they take into ac-
count every element of Elihu's monologue and the function of each part in the ar-
gument as a whole" (Diewert, "The Composition of the Elihu Speeches: A Poetic and
Structural Analysis," 18).
21 Buttenwieser, The Book of Job, 85.
22 Pope, Job, xxvi.
23 Fridolin Stier, Das Buch [job hebriiisch und deutsch (Munich: Kosel, 1954),
24 Alexander Nairne, The Book of Job, Edited with an Introduction (
Cambridge University Press, 1935), xv.
25 See Nichols, "The Composition of the Elihu Speeches (Job Chaps. 32-37)," 108;
and Rowley, The Book of Job, 206.
The Authenticity of the Elihu Speeches in Job 32-37 33
ADVOCATES OF ELIHU'S AUTHENTICITY
A number of scholars defend the speeches of Elihu as an original
part of the composition of the Book of Job. Early positive opinions
considered Elihu as exalted above Job and his friends, or the rep-
resentative of the authentic Jewish view of providence,26 or as an
antitype of Christ.27 Early church historians and the Reformers
generally accepted the authenticity of Elihu's speeches.28 John
Calvin was extremely complimentary toward Elihu for "there are
few people in the Bible Calvin admires more."29 In reaction to the
early nineteenth century opposition, Rosenmtiller and Umbreit,
as well as other early conservatives like Stickel30 and Deutsch,31
were among the first to maintain Elihu's authenticity.32 Cornill
refers to the Elihu speeches as "the summit and crown of the Book
of Job, and says they provide the only solution to the problem of
suffering.33 Godet calls the speeches "an indispensable feature"
26 Moses Maimonides, Guide to
the Perplexed, trans. M. Friedlander (
the view of Abraham ibn Ezra. Also see a similar view in Jacob S. Lavinger,
"Maimonides' Exegesis of the Book of Job," in Creative Biblical Exegesis: Chris-
tian and Jewish Hermeneutics through the Centuries, ed. Benjamin Uffenheimer
and Henning G. Reventlow, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement
Series 59 (Sheffield: JSOT, 1988),81-88. See also Israel J. Gerber, Job on Trial: A
Book for Our Time (Gastonia, NC: E. P. Press, 1982), 104-39; Diewert, "The Composi-
tion of the Elihu Speeches: A Poetic and Structural Analysis," 3; and Shimon
Bakon, "The Enigma of Elihu," Dor le Dor 12 (1984): 221.
27 Diewert simply states this as one view ("The Composition of the Elihu
Speeches: A Poetic and Structural Analysis," 3).
28 Although they accepted his authenticity, they were not always complimentary
to Elihu. Gregory, for instance, argued that Elihu was orthodox in his teaching but
guilty of pride. Thomas Aquinas believed that Elihu's knowledge was superior to
the opinion of the other friends but that he was moved by "vainglory" so that he mis-
interpreted Job's words and did not express the whole truth. Calvin, on the other
hand, would not accept this criticism (Susan E. Schreiner, Where Shall Wisdom
Be Found? Calvin's Exegesis of Job from Medieval and Modern Perspectives
29 Ibid., 131. For Calvin, Elihu's teaching was essentially the same truth declared
nd in God's whirlwind speeches.
30 Johann Gustav Stickel, Das Buch Hiob rhythmisch gegliedert und ubersetzt
mit exegetischen und kritischen Bemerkungen (
handlung, 1842), 195-219.
31 Cited in Nichols, "The Composition of the Elihu Speeches (Job Chaps. 32-37),"
32 Earnest Rosenmtiller, Iobus latine vertit et annotatione perpetua, 765, quoted
in Rowley, Job, 13; and Friedrich Carl Umbreit, Das Buch Hiob: Uebersetzung und
Auslegung (Heidelberg: Mohr, 1832), xxvi-xxvii.
33 Carl Cornill, Introduction to the Canonical Books of the Old Testament, trans.
108; G. H. Box, Theological Translation Library, vol. 23 (New York: Putnam's Sons, 1907),
34 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January-March 1999
of the book,34 and
higher plane than the dialogue."35 More recent conservative ad-
vocates of the authenticity of the Elihu speeches include Young,36
Harrison,37 Bullock,38 Archer ,39 and Zuck.40 These are joined by
other scholars who defend Elihu's authenticity, viewing his
speeches as primary to the Book of Job and to a proper understand-
ing of the problem of suffering.41 These scholars also include
F. Godet, "The Book of Job," in Biblical Studies on
the Old Testament (
35 John T. Marshall, Job and His Comforters: Studies in Theology of the Book of
Job (London: Kingsgate, 1905), 6.
36 Edward J. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament (
mans, 1964), 329-30.
37 R. K. Harrison, An Introduction to the Old Testament (
mans, 1969), 1034-35.
38 C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament Poetic Books: The
Wisdom and Songs of
39 Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of the Old Testament: Introduction, rev. ed.
(Chicago: Moody, 1994),513-14.
40 luck offers four answers to the major critical objections stated above. "(1) Elihu
need not have been mentioned earlier in the book since he was a silent onlooker not
yet involved in the disputation. And Elihu was not condemned by God in 42:7-8
along with Eliphaz and his two companions probably because Elihu was closer to
the truth than were the three. (2) Admittedly Elihu's style differed from that of the
other four debaters. He used 'el for God more than did the others (his 19 uses of 'el
compare with Job's 17, Eliphaz's 8, Bildad's 6, and Zophar's 2). . . . Elihu also used a
number of Aramaic words more than the three counselors did. . . .These differ-
ences, however, simply point to his distinctive character. (3) Elihu's view of suffer-
ing differed from that of the three. They had claimed that Job was suffering because
he was sinning (in an attitude of pride) but Elihu said Job was sinning because he
was suffering. Elihu pointed out that God can use suffering to benefit people (33:17,
28, 30; 36:16). Elihu put his finger on Job's wrong attitude of complaining against
God (33:13; 34:17) and suggested that Job humble himself before God (33:27; 36:21;
37:24). (4) True, Job did not answer Elihu. But this may be because Elihu silenced
him. . . . Elihu's orations provided a bridge from Job's insistence for vindication
(chap. 31) to God's speeches. If the Elihu portion is not original, then God re-
sponded immediately to Job's demand, an action which is inconsistent with God.
Also the Elihu speeches create an added element of suspense, as the reader awaits
God's answer" (Roy B. Zuck, "Job," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Tes-
tament, ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. luck [
Zuck points to Dhorme in support of his second point (Edouard Dhorme, A
Commentary on the Book
Aramaic words used by Elihu in relation to the three counselors originates from a
study done by Samuel Rolles Driver and George Buchanan Gray (A Critical and
Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Job, International Critical Commentary
words were contested by Snaith, who concludes that the numbers are not convinc-
ing enough to warrant two authors.
41 For instance see Dhonne, A Commentary on the Book of Job, liv-lvii; ciii, who
treats the Elihu speeches as genuine, but sees a later hand in the writing. This is
also the basic stance of Tate, who argues that the normal critical objections are not
The Authenticity of the Elihu Speeches in Job 32-37 35
McKay who sees the Elihu speeches as pivotal to the other chapters
of the Book of Job, providing a bridge between Job's conversations
and God's speeches.42 As noted earlier, both Diewert43 and
Bakon44 hold to the importance and integrity of the speeches.
Beeby argues for authenticity and sees Elihu as a mediator whose
main function was prophetic, much like that of Moses, Joshua,
Samuel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah.45 Carstensen also argues that
Elihu is important in that he exercised a mediatorial function in
his approach to Job (33:23; cf. 33:7, 31-33; 36:2).46 Johns has made
convincing (Marvin Tate, "The Speeches of Elihu," Review and Expositor [Fall
1971]: 487-95). Also see Robert L. Alden, who simply assumes the genuineness of
the Elihu chapters (Job, 23-24, 314-15). Budde, Snaith, and Gordis consider the
speeches to be from a later author or period, but argue for their authenticity (Karl
Budde, Das Buch Hiob, Handbuch
zum Alten Testament [
& Ruprecht, 1896]; Snaith, The Book of Job: Its Origin and Purpose, 72-91; and
Gordis, The Book of God and Man, 104-16). Snaith carefully compared the alleged
differences in vocabulary between the Elihu speeches and the other major sections
of the book. He did not find the variations significant and he concluded that it is
not necessary to postulate that another author wrote the section (The Book of Job:
Its Origin and Purpose, 77). Zuck argues for the authenticity, originality, and
placement in the text ("Job," 140-42), as does Hartley (John E. Hartley, The Book of
New International Commentary on the Old Testament [
mans, 1988],28-30). Answers to the four objections summarized by Janzen are ar-
gued by Hartley, who concludes that "the Elihu speeches are an integral part of the
final edition of the work. It is improper to judge them as a clumsy later addition or
a sanctification of the heretical ideas that Job has entertained" (ibid., 29). Still,
Hartley struggles with the speeches being a part of the original composition and
speculates that the author of Job could have added them later to the final. edition or
that one of his students, possibly a redactor, inserted them where his teacher
a might have suggested they belonged.
42 John W. McKay, "Elihu: A Proto-Charismatic?" Expository Times 90 (March 1979): 167-71.
43 Diewert, "The Composition of the Elihu Speeches: A Poetic and Structural Analysis," 1-23.
44 Bakon says Elihu offered a unique contribution to the problem of suffering
ed ("The Enigma of Elihu," 217-28).
45 H. D. Beeby, "Elihu-Job's Mediator?" Southeast Asian Journal of Theology 7
(October 1969): 33-54. Beeby mentions five objections to the authenticity of Elihu's
speeches and answers each one satisfactorily (ibid., 48-50). He concludes that
"there is a unity throughout the book as we have it now, no matter when the various
parts originated or when they were assembled. Second, that within this unity the
figure of Elihu plays a necessary part, justifying Job's earlier faith in an 'umpire'
and being the instrument of Job's eventual justification by heralding the 'theo-
phany.' Finally, that after an examination of Elihu's contribution and in the light of
the similarities with earlier covenantal formulations, we conclude that Elihu was a
man with divine gifts, who can only be described as a covenant mediator, trans-
formed to accord with the Wisdom literature and the book's dominant question of
'how the good non-Israelite can stand before
berg presents his arguments in the form of a dramatic play and identifies Elihu as
an "advocate" ("Elihu the Theologian," in The Dimensions of Job: A Study and Se-
lected Readings, ed. Nahum N. Glatzer
46 Roger N. Carstensen, "The Persistence of the 'Elihu' Tradition in Later Jewish
36 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January-March 1999
a well-supported investigation, concluding that "Elihu does play
significant literary and theological roles" in the Book of Job.47
Also Hofman demonstrates that in the "present text of Job two
artistic features are so clearly and persistently manifested, that
there can be no doubt as to their immanency and authenticity."48
Miller insists that Elihu "does indeed carry the insights of the
book above that of the dialogue."49 Interestingly a counselor and
an educator both accept the authenticity of the Elihu speeches and
find great value in their pastoral significance and guidelines for
theological teaching.50 Steinmann inadvertently makes a case
for chapters 32-37 being authentic and an original part of the text
by comparing the four numerical sayings in the Book of Job, two
of which are found in the Elihu speeches (33:14, 29).51
Posselt, Gray, and Staples made independent studies of the
language especially in vocabulary, names of God, and Ara-
maisms in Job.52 Snaith answers these with his own investiga-
tion. His study criticized Gray's conclusions concerning the five
areas Gray suggested are noticeable differences between the
Elihu speeches and the rest of the book: (a) unusual prepositions
and suffixes, (b) the use of the divine names, (c) first-person pro-
47 Johns, The Literary and Theological Function of the Elihu Speeches in the
Book of Job, 1,2-12.
48 The two features Hofman incorporates to answer the critical activity surround-
ing Job are (a) a very difficult and obscure language and (b) a strong artistic sense
of fonn, structure, and symmetry. The vague language is for the purpose of obscur-
ing the possible misunderstanding of the "heretical potential of the theological im-
plications of his work." Hofman's summary includes five statements that support
the authenticity and integral nature of the Book of Job. He also gives five guide-
lines for handling criticism, which include reasons for not rearranging the
speeches in order to make them more coherent (Yair Hofman, "Ancient Near East-
ern Literary Conventions and the Restoration of the Book of Job," Zeitschrift fur
die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 103 : 399-411).
49 Ward S. Miller,
"Job: Creator's Apprentice,"
50 Kathleen Rusnak, "The Pastor as Enabler," Pastoral Psychology 28 (1979): 53-61;
and Alfred von Rohr Sauer, "Salvation by Grace: The Heart of Job's Theology," Con-
cordia Theological Monthly 37 (1966): 259-70.
51 Andrew E. Steinmann, "The Graded Numerical Sayings in Job," in Fortunate
the Eyes That See, ed. Astrid B. Beck et al. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 288-
97. Two of the four numerical sayings are found in the Elihu speeches. This would
tend to argue for agreement with the two other sayings found in different sections
of the book, and therefore could be construed as support for one author. The four
numerical sayings are (1) Job 5:17-27 (v. 19); (2) and (3) 33:13-30 (vv. 14,29); and (4)
40:3-5 (v. 5).
52 Posselt, Gray, and Staples all concluded that the Elihu speeches were from a
different author (Posselt, "Der Verfasser der Elihu-Reden," 1-111; Driver and
Gray, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Job, xli-xlvii; and
E. Staples, The Speeches of Elihu,
logical Series no. 8 [
The Authenticity of the Elihu Speeches in Job 32-37 37
nouns, (d) Aramaisms, and (e) unique expressions.53 Regarding
Aramaisms, which are often a major focus of opposition to the au-
thenticity of Job 32-37, Snaith concludes that the book contains
virtually no true Aramaisms. Furthermore he sees no signifi-
cant degree of variation in prepositions and suffixes, the use of
divine names, first-person pronouns, or unique expressions in
the Elihu speeches to support the theory of a separate author for
Also Gordis is an advocate of the unity of the book.55 He ac-
cepts a single author for the book, although he says the original
author wrote the Elihu section "at a later period in his life."56
Gordis asserts that the Elihu speeches are similar in style to the
dialogue and that the different names of God, the pronouns, the
grammatical forms, and other elements in the speeches are not
out of proportion with the rest of the book. He agrees with Snaith
that they do not contain an excessive number of Aramaisms or
rare words.57 He finds fewer here than in other sections of the
book. He also views the citation by Elihu of arguments already
expressed by Job's friends as further support for the authenticity of
this section, since the use of quotations is common practice in
wisdom literature. Gordis concludes that the Elihu speeches
make a significant contribution to the essence of the book,58 and
he provides support for the view that the speeches were composed by
the book's original author.
Several authors also maintain that the Elihu speeches add to
the argument of the book in regard to Job's suffering. Budde,
Cornill, and Dubarle see Elihu's view of suffering as central to
the book, pointing out that suffering warns a person of the hidden ,
sin of pride.59 Posselt suggests that Elihu offers a theological
53 Snaith, The Book of Job: Its Origin and Purpose, 75-85.
54 Ibid. Harris provides a convincing study on the language of Job (R. Laird
Harris, "The Doctrine of God in the Book of Job," in Sitting with Job: Selected
Studies on the Book of
ed. Roy B. Zuck [
55 Gordis is considered by many as making the most succinct and beneficial con-
tribution to the Elihu speeches' authenticity in recent years ("Elihu the Intruder,"
56 Ibid., 72.
57 Ibid., 681.
58 Ibid., 74-75. Also see comments on Gordis's article in Gerber, Job on Trial: A
Book for Our Time, 161-62.
59 See Budde, Das Buch Hiob, xlv-xlviii; Cornill, Introduction to the Canonical
Books of the Old Testament, 425-31; and Andre M. Dubarle, Les Sages d'Israel
(Paris: du Cerf, 1946), 86-88.
38 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January-March 1999
solution to suffering, namely, purification.60 Snaith says Elihu's
concept of a gracious, compassionate intercessor is a contribution
to the problem of suffering.61 Peters and Dennefeld both recognize
Elihu's observation that Job was guilty of presumptuous speech
and lack of humility, while Dubarle and Staples both say Elihu
pointed to Job's wrong attitude, but did not condemn him for any
specific acts of evil, as did the three antagonists.62
ANSWERS TO OBJECTIONS TO THE AUTHENTICITY
OF THE ELUHU SPEECHES
Regarding the criticisms that Elihu is mentioned nowhere else in
Ithe Book of Job, not even in the epilogue, that his long speeches
seem to interrupt the continuity between chapters 31 and 38, and
that he seems to have contributed little if anything to the content or
dramatic movement of the book, this investigation counters with
the following observations.
First, it would seem unlikely that Elihu would be mentioned
in the prologue (chaps. 1-2) since Yahweh, Satan, and Job are the
major focus of those chapters. Neither the wife nor the three coun-
selors are mentioned until chapter 2.
Second, it would also seem unlikely that a young bystander
would interrupt the serious discussions found in the dialogue
(chaps. 3-31) between three elderly "wise men" and a prominent
Near Eastern sovereign. Elihu was led into the conversation by
his frustration with the inadequate answers offered by the three
spokesmen to Job's dilemma and was constrained to speak, as the
text suggests, by the Spirit (33:4).
Third, neither the three friends, the wife, Satan, nor Elihu is
mentioned in chapters 38-41 since God and Job are the focus.63
Fourth, the epilogue is reserved primarily for Job's response
to the speeches of Yahweh and to Yahweh's response to Job's repen-
tance. The epilogue also voices a condemnation of the false repre-
60 Posselt, "Der Verfasser der Elihu-Reden," 49-50.
61 Snaith says the Septuagint of 33:23 refers to the "death angel" who intercedes on
behalf of the sufferer, and that Elihu was teaching the necessity and role of an in-
tercessor (The Book of Job: Its Origin and Purpose, 88-90).
62 See Norbert Peters, Das Buch Job ubersetzt und erklart, Exegetisches Hand-
buch zum Alten Testament (Munster: AschendortT, 1928), 26; Louis Dennefeld, "Les
discours d'Elihu (Job xxxii-xxxvii)," Revue biblique 48 (1939): 163-80; Dubarle, Les
Sages d'Israel, 87-88; and Staples, who sees Job's sin as ignorance of the true rea-
son for his suffering (The Speeches of Elihu, 14-16).
63 Objections to the originality and authenticity of chapters 38-41 essentially fol-
low the same pattern as those suggested for chapters 32-37.
The Authenticity of the Elihu Speeches in Job 32-37 39
sentation of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Elihu's absence from
the condemnation can be explained by Yahweh's own words,
"After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the
Temanite, 'I am angry with you and your two friends, because
you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has' "
(42:7, NIV). Yahweh's anger was not extended to Elihu, and al-
though it is an argument from silence, the implication is that if
Elihu had been in full agreement with the three, then he would
have been equally condemned. Elihu claimed to give a different
message from that of the three and either he did or he did not
(32:14). The implication from God's silence concerning Elihu is
that he did. Therefore there is no need for Job to have offered sac-
rifices on Elihu's behalf as he did for the three, for Elihu had not
Furthermore it was not necessary for Yahweh to praise
Elihu,64 because the speeches of Yahweh, the response of Job, and
the correction of the three suggest strongly that Elihu was correct
and that his speeches were compatible with those of Yahweh. It is
therefore not surprising that God was silent with regard to Elihu.
It might also be noted that Job's wife and Satan are absent from the
epilogue. Since the wife's statement was countered originally
and finally by Job's faith, and since Satan's accusation was
proved invalid by Job's response in 42:1-6, there seems to be no
reason for further mention of either Job's wife or Satan.
Concerning the second criticism-that the literary style65 is
diffuse and pretentious, inferior66 to that of the rest of the book-it
can be demonstrated that the basis for this criticism sometimes
rests in the presuppositions the reader brings to the text. For in-
stance a modern reading of Job 32-33 is that these are the preten-
64 Dhorme asks, "If it is Elihu who expounds the author's thesis, why is it that
Job, who is constantly rebuked by Elihu, should receive the praises of the Epi-
logue" (Dhorme, A Commentary on Job, cviii). However, it should be remembered
that Job was rebuked by Yahweh in chapter 38 and that Job expressed initial repen-
tance in chapter 40 and final repentance in 42, which preceded any praises on the
part of Yahweh. That is, Job was rebuked, he repented, and then he was praised. It
would seem logical to conclude that Elihu had no need to repent because he was not
rebuked by the Lord.
65 Janzen admits that "the argument from style is difficult to control" (Janzen,
Job, 218). Andersen observes that the author may be deliberately portraying Elihu
in a light best suited to his argument (Francis I. Andersen, Job: An Introduction
and Commentary, Tyndale Old
Testament Commentaries [
66 Nichols is very critical of the composition ("The Composition of the Elihu
Speeches [Job Chaps. 32-37]," 97-99). John Briggs Curtis, who is not necessarily
complimentary to Elihu, does not accept his speeches as part of the original text of
Job; yet he refutes the allegation of artistic inferiority in the Elihu material ("Word
Play in the Speeches of Elihu [Job 32-37]," Proceedings 12 : 23-30).
40 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January-March 1999
tious words of an arrogant young fool.67 Yet Elihu approached Job
and the three antagonists in the manner required by ancient
Near Eastern custom. As to the literary style of the Elihu
speeches, Budde, Gordis, Snaith, Zuck, and others present ade-
quate explanations. Basically they conclude that a change in au-
thors is not a definitive answer to Elihu's vocabulary and other
literary differences in his speeches. Furthermore, if Elihu is a
new character with a youthful personality, different vocabulary
would naturally be expected. The wide and varied critical theo-
ries mentioned above seem subjective;68 they are not a convinc-
ing argument for a change of authorship nor for the manipulation
or mutilation of the existing text.
With regard to the observation that linguistic usage seems to
differ greatly from that of the rest of the poetry of the book, recent
studies have demonstrated that these differences are not as exten-
sive as previously thought. Diewert, Gordis, Johns, McCabe,
Snaith, and others have suggested equally compelling arguments
that support strong similarities in form throughout the existing
text. In addition, Elihu's speeches contain interaction with and
deductions from the quotations of Job's statements (33:8-11, 13;
34:5-6, 9; 35:2-3). Elihu used summaries and quotations to refute
several of Job's claims; therefore a new methodology is intro-
duced: quotation, refutation, and defense. This means that much
of what Elihu said corresponds to the words of Job in the preceding
chapters.69 Elihu also dealt with the same subjects and addressed
the same issues as Job and the three counselors, but he stressed
God's majesty and justice more than any of them. This could ex-
plain Elihu's frequent use of lxe.
The charge that the speeches seem "to offer an alternative
resolution to Job's problem from that of the (baffling) divine
speeches"70 begs the question. This statement assumes that there
67 Habel, "The Role of Elihu in the Design of the Book of Job," 87. Although Habel
regards Elihu as an arrogant fool, he states that "Elihu's speeches are . . . both logi-
cal and significant in the sequence of the Joban story." Donald E. Gowan refers to
Elihu as a "buffoon," and "a brilliant young fool," but he contends that it was
"normal to expect Elihu to come on the scene and give the ultimate answer to the
dilemma and problem of suffering" ("Reading Job as a 'Wisdom Script,' " Journal
for the Study of the Old Testament 55 : 94-95). Skehan argues that "the long-
winded introduction of Elihu is a deliberate and a formal rhetorical device for em-
phasis" (Patrick William Skehan, "I Will Speak Up! Job 32," Catholic Biblical
Quarterly 31 [July 1969]: 380-82).
68 Andersen states that "style is also a quality whose assessment can be highly
subjective" (Job: An Introduction and Commentary, 51).
69 Freedman, "The Elihu Speeches in the Book of Job," 51-59.
70 Janzen, Job, 218.
The Authenticity of the Elihu Speeches in Job 32-37 41
is a wide difference between the resolution offered by Elihu and
that offered by Yahweh. Actually several similarities exist be-
tween the speeches by Elihu and those by God.71
Possibly the most judicious of the arguments in favor of the
authenticity of the Elihu speeches is suggested by
posits that breaking the book up, as "such source theories [suggest],
even if right, [does] not solve the theological problem: the book as
we have it stands or falls as a literary whole, for that is the only
form in which it has come down to us."72 This is supported by
Michel, who states that "the tradition has never known a book of
Job without the Elihu speeches."73 Also Smick concludes that "it is
just as satisfactory to work with the text as it is" for "there is as
much reason to believe that the book, substantially as we have it,
was the work of a single literary and theological genius as it is to
assume it is the product of numerous hands often with contrary
Having demonstrated that the major objections to the Elihu
speeches' authenticity can be positively answered, confidence in
his contribution to the argument of the book can be established.
Therefore one can assume not only that chapters 32-37 of the Book
of Job are structurally, theologically, stylistically, and linguisti-
cally an original, genuine part of the text, but also that they play a
significant interpretive, explanatory, and theological role in
understanding Job's suffering and his relationship with Yah-
71 For example see (a) 36:25-26; 37:5, 23 and 38:4, 33; (b) 33:8-11; 34:5-6, 9; 35:2-3 and
38:2; 40:2; 4.1:11; (c) 32:14, 34:10-12; 35:4-8, 36:31 and 41:10b-11; (d) 37:1-13 and 38:26-
27; (e) 34:10-12; 36:5; 37:23 and 40:2; (f) 37:6, 9-10, 15-16 and 38:25--30.
72 D. A.
Rapids: Baker, 1990), 156.
73 Walter L. Michel, "Job's Real Friend: Elihu," Criterion 21 (Spring 1982): 29-32.
74 Smick, "Job," 846-47.
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