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336. Job 33:8-11, Elihu’s Statement of Job’s Case

 

8 “Surely you have spoken in my hearing,

And I have heard the sound of your words:

9 ‘I am pure, without transgression;

I am innocent and there is no guilt in me.

10 Behold, He invents pretexts against me;

He counts me as His enemy.

11 He puts my feet in the stocks;

He watches all my paths.’

 

Now, finally, we reach the good stuff!  After several verses of circling the runway Elihu comes in for his landing. He begins with a statement telling us that he has heard Job’s words, suggesting that he has been a silent participant in the discussion all along, and then he continues with three powerful verses summarizing Job’s claims. While some scholars belittle Elihu’s effort in so doing, some even accusing Elihu of perverting or misrepresenting Job, the current trend in scholarship is to see Elihu actually giving a fair, though brief, summary of Job’s words.

 

Upon reading verse 8, our fears actually rise at first. Fears rise not because we think Elihu is descending into obscurity but because we fear he may just keep speaking in generalities about opening his mouth or about all humans being made of a common clay. That verse 8 is only an introduction to a very specific set of statements isn’t immediately clear:

 

    “Certainly you have spoken in my hearing (ozen); I have heard the sound/voice of your words

     (millah).”

 

This verse is no doubt inserted to justify the precision that follows in verses 9-11. That is, Elihu actually will narrate the specifics of Job’s claims in verses 9-11. Since there is nothing in the narrative from Job 2 or the poetry from Job 3-31 to lead us to believe that a companion apart from Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar was with Job, we need a statement saying that Elihu was there all along. He has heard and digested Job’s case and now can respond to him. Verse 8 functions to let us know that Elihu is in a position to do this.

 

Elihu chooses unexceptional words to indicate his presence throughout the debate.  The verb “to hear/listen” (azan, 42x) appears 5x on Elihu’s lips; here the noun “hearing/ear” appears (ozen, 187x; Job had used it in 29:11).  Elihu has been listening.  He has been listening to the millah, that Job-specific term for “words” (34/38x in Job; we have already seen dabar, emer to capture the concept).