Elihu and Moses (the Book of Job and Genesis)

Starting in Job 33, Elihu, the youngest of Job’s friends, addresses Job, Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad regarding their erroneous views about God’s character and Job’s problems. As he makes his case, Elihu expresses himself with words and phrases, concepts and imagery that appear to echo the early chapters of Genesis. If the Book of Job was written close to the time of the events it depicts, it comes from the era of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), 2100-1800 B.C. That placement means that the Book of Job predates Moses’ writing of Genesis (1445-1400 B.C.). Elihu’s echoes of the early chapters of Genesis might testify to a pre-Mosaic oral tradition or perhaps the existence in the patriarchal period of a written text of at least the creation narrative, if not all of Genesis 1-11. Moses might have used that document to compile his book, in much the same way that Luke used extant written and oral sources to compile his gospel.

Let’s look at some of the parallels between Elihu and Genesis in order to examine the nature of these echoes:

  • Job 33:4 (“the breath of the Almighty gives me life” NASU) and Genesis 2:7 (“breathed into his nostrils the breath of life”) — Both speak of the “breath” (נשמה, nśmh) of God producing life for a human being.
  • Job 33:6 (“I too have been formed [קרץ, qrṣ] out of the clay [חמר, ḥmr]”) and Genesis 2:7 (“Then the Lord God formed [ישר, yṣr] man of dust [עפר, ʽpr] of the ground”) — Different vocabulary, but identical imagery.
  • Job 34:13 (“the whole world”) and Genesis 1:1 — Psalm 19:4[Heb. 5] uses the same word for “world” (תבל, tbl) and the same verb “placed” (שים, śym) for placing the sun in the created order of the universe. We might also compare the vocabulary and imagery of Proverbs 8:26.
  • Job 34:14–15 and Genesis 2:7 and 3:19—Again, the topic is God’s “breath” (נשמה, nśmh) and the creation of human life. This time, however, the phraseology is very striking in a seemingly direct allusion to Genesis 3:19:

              Job 34:15   “And man would return to dust” –  ואדם על¯עפר ישוב  w’dm ‘l-‘pr yšwb

              Gen 3:19    “And to dust you shall return”      –  ואל¯עפר שובת      – w’l-‘pr šwbt

These types of parallels or echoes occur outside Elihu’s speech in other Joban texts–especially in the speech of God reporting His appearance (theophany) in chapters 38-41. Such echoes demonstrate:

  1. The unity of biblical revelation regarding creation.
  2. The biblical writers’ and speakers’ literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3.
  3. The ancientness of the revelation concerning creation–most likely predating Moses’ penning of Genesis.
Scroll to Top