Elihu Declares His Opinion, Part 2 of 5 & The Babylonian Theodicy

Since Elihu thinks that everyone was wrong in their conclusions of Job’s situation, I’m anxious to hear what he thinks the correct answer is.

Elihu Declares His Opinion
Part 2 of 5

This clay tablet lists the victories of Rimush, king of Akkad, upon Abalgamash, king of Marhashi, and upon Elamitemonumental inscription, ca. 2270 BC.

n the Ancient Near East, clay tablets were used as a writing medium, especially for writing in cuneiform, throughout the Bronze Age and well into the Iron Age.

Cuneiform characters were imprinted on a wet clay tablet with a stylus often made of reed (reed pen). Once written upon, many tablets were dried in the sun or air, remaining fragile. Later, these unfired clay tablets could be soaked in water and recycled into new clean tablets.

Other tablets, once written, were fired in hot kilns (or inadvertently, when buildings were burnt down by accident or during conflict) making them hard and durable. Collections of these clay documents made up the very first archives. They were at the root of first libraries. Tens of thousands of written tablets, including many fragments, have been found in the Middle East

Elihu turns to Job and speaks directly to him.  Unlike the three friends, he addresses Job by name.

‘Wherefore, Job, I pray thee, hear my speeches, and hearken to all my words” (Job 33:1).

hear my speeches – He is thoroughly convinced of the importance and wisdom of the advice he’s about to give).

“Behold, now I have opened my mouth, my tongue hath spoken in my mouth.

My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart: and my lips shall utter knowledge clearly.

The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.

If thou canst answer me, set thy words in order before me, stand up” (Job 33:2-5).

If thou canst, answer me – He opens and closes his speech with the same plea to refute any flaws in his thinking.  His attitude of superiority shows through.

“Behold, I am according to thy wish in God’s stead: I also am formed out of the clay” (Job 33:6).

I am according to thy wish…stead – Lit. I am like your mouth before God.  My words carry just as much weight with God as yours.

“Behold, my terror shall not make thee afraid, neither shall my hand be heavy upon thee” (Job 33:7).

shall my hand be heavy upon thee – The idiom is elsewhere used only of God (see 23:2).

“Surely thou hast spoken in mine hearing, and I have heard the voice of thy words, saying” (Job 33:8).

Surely thou hast spoken – Elihu’s method is to quote Job (vv 9-11; 34:5-6, 9; 35:2-3) and then show him where and how he’s wrong.  The quotations aren’t always verbatim, which indicates that Elihu is content simply to repeat the substance of Job’s arguments.

“I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me.

Behold, he findeth occasions against me, he counteth me for his enemy,

He putteth my feet in the stocks, he marketh all my paths.

Behold, in this thou art not just: I will answer thee, that God is greater than man” (Job 33:9-12).

The Babylonian Map of the World is a diagrammatic labeled depiction of the known world from the perspective of Babylonia.

The map is incised on a clay tablet, showing Babylon somewhat to the north of its center; the clay tablet is damaged, and also contains a section of cuneiform text.

It is usually dated to the 5th century B.C.

It was discovered at Sippar, southern Iraq, 60 miles (97 km) north of Babylon on the east bank of the Euphrates River, and published in 1899.

The clay tablet resides at the British Museum (BM 92687).

It is conjectured that the island locations, though possibly referring to real areas, may also represent a mythological interpretation of the world.

Description of the mapped areas

The map is circular with two outer defined circles.

Cuneiform script labels all locations inside the circular map, as well as a few regions outside.

The two outer circles represent water in between and is labelled as “‘river’ of ‘bitter’ water”, the salt sea.

Babylon is in the center of the map; parallel lines at the bottom seem to represent the southern marshes, and a curved line coming from the north, northeast appear to represent the Zagros Mountains.

There are seven small interior circles at the perimeter areas within the circle, and they appear to represent seven cities.

Seven triangular sections on the external circle (water perimeter), represent named islands, but the damaged clay tablet has lost the three islands on the tablet’s lower edge.

thou art not just – Elihu feels that Job needs to be corrected.  Certainly Job’s perception of God as his enemy is wrong, but Elihu is also offended by what he considers Job’s claim to purity.

Job, however, had never claimed to be clean without transgression, though some of his words were also understood that way by Eliphaz.  Job admits being a sinner (7:21; 13:26) but disclaims the outrageous sins for which he things he’s being punished.

His complaints about God’s silence are also an offense to Elihu.  But he imputes to Job the blanket statement that God never speaks to man, whereas Job’s point is that God is silent in his present experience.

Valley of Hinnom (or Gehenna), c. 1900.
The former site of child-sacrifice and a dumping-ground for the bodies of executed criminals, Jeremiah prophesied that it would become a “valley of slaughter” and burial place; in later literature it thus became identified with a new idea of Hell as a place where the wicked would be punished.

“Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters.

For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.

In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed;

Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction,

That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man” (Job 33:13-17).

withdraw man from his purpose – God speaks to men in order to deter them from their sinful intentions.

“He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword” (Job 33:18).

from the pit…by the sword – Listening to God’s warnings will protect against an early death.

“He is chastened also with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones with strong pain” (Job 33:19).

He is chastened also with pain upon his bed – Dreams and visions are not the only ways that God speaks.  He can talk to us in ways we don’t perceive (v 14).  Elihu rightly states that God speaks to man in order to turn him from sin.  But he overlooks Job’s reason for wanting an audience with God: to find out what sins he is being accused of.

The Babylonian Theodicy is a lengthy dialogue between two learned men, the “Sufferer” and the “Friend,” taking the form of an acrostic poem divided into 27 stanzas.

Each stanza is exactly 11 lines long and represents a speech by one of the two speakers mainly on social injustice and piety, those of the Sufferer alternating with counterarguments of the Friend.

The text unquestionably is a literary masterpiece and, as one of the most important pieces of Mesopotamian wisdom literature, a must for every aspiring Assyriologist.

Because of its many affinities with the biblical book of Job, it also is of obvious interest to biblical scholars, theologians, and students of Ancient Near Eastern religions.

“So that his life abhorreth bread, and his soul dainty meat.

His flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen; and his bones that were not seen stick out.

Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers” (Job 33:20-22).

The Babylonian Theodicy

An Akkadian text from approximately 1000 B.C. has striking similarities to the book of Job.  Commonly called the “Babylonian Theodicy,” it is a dialogue between a sufferer and his friend.  In this text a hurting individual bemoans his fate and the treatment he has received at the hands of the gods.

Like Job, he had been generous and devout, but now he is driven about in destitution, like a beggar (see Job 30:1-11).  He complains that the wicked strut around, secure in their wealth (see Job 21:1-21).

A friend responds that the sufferer doesn’t fully understand the ways of the gods.  He doesn’t accuse the man of grievous sin in the manner of Job’s friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar (e.g., Job 22:4-5).

However, in much the same vein as Eilhu in Job 33, he concedes that the ways of the gods are mysterious.

The Babylonian Theodicy doesn’t wrestle with questions of God and evil as profoundly as does the book of Job, but it does demonstrate again that this kind of literature had parallels elsewhere in the ancient Near East.

The date of the Babylonian Theodicy isn’t far removed from the golden age of wisdom under Solomon (latter tenth century B.C.), and the similarities in genre suggest that Job may have been written at about the same time.