The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part VI   1 comment

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Job 36:1-23

Psalm 61

Matthew 13:53-58

2 Peter 3:1-7 (8-14) 15-18

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Elihu went on speaking.

–Job 36:1a, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

I read those words and thought,

Unfortunately.

“Elihu” means “He is my God.”  Elihu mounts a full-throated theodicy; he seeks to prove that God is just.  (God needs no human defense, of course.)  In the process Elihu accuses Job falsely of having been an agent of economic injustice and states that this alleged sin of Job is the reason for the main character’s sufferings.  All of this contradicts Job 1 and 2, as a reader of the text is supposed to know.  Elihu, who is falsely confident that he is correct, is blaming the victim.

Later in the Book of Job, a text with layers of authorship, we read two very different answers from God.  In Chapters 38-41 God gives Job the “I am God and you are not” speeches.  In the prose epilogue, in Chapter 42, however, God speaks briefly to Eliphaz the Temanite, saying:

I burn with anger against you and your two friends for not speaking truthfully about me as my servant Job has done….

–Verse 7b, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

There is no mention of Elihu after Chapter 37.  I suppose that this is because the composition of Chapters 32-37 postdates that of the epilogue, but, given that the Elihu material is similar in content to the speeches of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, he would have met with divine disapproval also, had the Elihu cycle existed at the time of the composition of the epilogue.

In contrast to the arrogance of Elihu (Job 36:4) one finds humility before God in Psalm 61 and 2 Peter 3:14.  Divine patience is, in the words of 2 Peter 3:15, an

opportunity for salvation,

but divine judgment and mercy exist in a balance which only God understands fully.  May we accept this opportunity for salvation, not imagine that we are enlightened and that our words contain no fallacies.  And may we avoid committing the error of people of Nazareth in Matthew 13:53-58, that is, permitting familiarity to blind us to the fact that we do not know as much as we think we do.  This is an especially helpful caution regarding passages of scripture with which we are familiar; they retain the ability to contradict our false assumptions and surprise–even scandalize–us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SALVIUS OF ALBI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF MORDECAI JOHNSON, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT NEMESIAN OF SIGUM AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/09/10/devotion-for-the-eighth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d/

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One response to “The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part VI

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  1. Pingback: Devotion for the Eighth Sunday After the Epiphany (Year D) | ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS

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