Now, Elihu tells Job to hear his speech; his words will demonstrate his uprightness. The spirit of God compels him to speak, and Job must answer him if he can. Elihu summarizes Job’s claim to be sinless and unjustly persecuted by God. He then asserts that Job’s argument isn’t right. God, he says, is greater than mortals, and it isn’t right to argue with him.
Elihu appears to think that he can add wisdom to the conversation (prompted by God’s spirit, no less), which Job’s friends have failed to supply. He also rather glibly dismisses Job’s claims about himself and purports to solve the mystery of God’s apparent silence toward Job.
Elihu continues that God speaks to humans in two special ways, though people don’t usually perceive it. The first is through terrifying dreams that are meant to warn people away from their sins. The second is through the chastening of bodily pain, drawing a person’s soul close to death. In such a case, if a mediator graciously prays on the person’s behalf, declaring the person righteous, then God might spare the person’s life. When this happens, the person will sing to others of God’s redemption. Elihu concludes that these are the ways God brings people’s souls back from “the Pit.” He tells Job to speak if he has anything to say in response, or if not, to be silent so that Elihu can teach him wisdom.
Elihu’s argument rests on the idea that suffering is God’s way of communicating with people. In particular, it’s God’s way of rescuing a person’s soul from sin, by prompting a person to recognize their wrongdoing and turn away from it. Though he doesn’t explicitly say so, Elihu implies that the second scenario—bodily suffering—applies to Job, and that if Job understands what’s best for him, he’ll heed the message; then God will deliver him from “the Pit,” or death. In saying all this, Elihu continues to sound quite presumptuous.