In the book of Job, his own complaints and arguments, are categorized, by God, as “words without knowledge.” Also, all of the speeches that his three friends made, God condemned as folly. In contrast, the reason that Elihu’s words are recorded in Scripture, is because he was a prophet of God. It seems that God inspired Elihu to make the introductory speech in preparation for God Himself to arrive and say what no human preacher could say.

The unnamed narrator of the book of Job is also a prophet inspired of God. In the narration, the reasons for Elihu’s admonition are introduced. In both the narration, and during Elihu’s speech, it is pointed out that Elihu honoured his elders.

Job 32:6-7
6 And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I [am] young, and ye [are] very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not show you mine opinion.
7 I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.

Here we have a rare situation. A prophet of God, who is not an elder, is in a position where his honour for his elders is tested and exercised. His response is approved as inspired of God, as an installment to God’s Holy Word. By examining the Scriptures, and using Elihu as a godly example, we can hope to get a better understanding of what it means to honour our elders in a Biblical way. We can even learn of some things it does not mean to honour our elders.

Similar to Timothy and Jeremiah, we find that Elihu had a ministry, even though he was not an elder.

1 Timothy 4:11-14
11 These things command and teach.
12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.

Thus, from these biblical examples, we can see that honouring our elders does not mean that we are to leave all of the work of ministry to the elders. It may seem like we are being humble by deferring these hallowed roles to those with more experience, but that is not God’s design that He has patterned for us in His Word. Yes, there are some ministry roles that the Holy Bible directs to be filled by elders, just not all of them.

Another aspect that is not included in biblically honouring our elders, is that they are always to be deemed as correct, when there is a disagreement, just because they are older. Elihu made it very clear that his elders, Job, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar were wrong. This was not just a difference of opinion between Elihu and the four. Elihu found the four to be in error, compared to Truth Itself.

Job 32
2 … against Job … because he justified himself rather than God.
3 Also against his three friends … because they had found no answer, and [yet] had condemned Job.

Job, as an elder, was to be admonished for his poor treatment of God’s glory. Job’s three friends, as elders, were to be admonished for publicly condemning Job because they assumed he was guilty, not because they knew he was guilty.

It was not as though Elihu considered his preferences to be more important than others’. He did not even take credit for his own point of view. He acknowledged that the wisdom that he had been taught came as a gift from God.

Job 36:3 I will fetch my knowledge from afar, and will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.

Job 32:8 But [there is] a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.

There are some that consider flattering titles to be required in the honour that is to be given to elders. The Bible says just the opposite when Elihu says,

Job 32:21-22
21 Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man.
22 For I know not to give flattering titles; [in so doing] my maker would soon take me away.

This agrees with what Jesus said also.

Matthew 23
Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees … love … to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, [even] Christ; and all ye are brethren.

OK, admittedly, most of this article is talking about what honouring elders is not. Now what does the Bible say Elihu did as an expression of honour to these elders?

Elihu waited until his elders were done talking.

Job 32:4 Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken, because they [were] elder than he.

Also, he didn’t just wait, he was attentively listening to his elders.

Job 32:11-12a
11 Behold, I waited for your words; I gave ear to your reasons, whilst ye searched out what to say.
12 Yea, I attended unto you, …

We can also see that Elihu was attentive, since he quotes Job multiple times. Also, he tells the three friends that he will not be using any of their speeches. Elihu was not just waiting for them to shut up, so he could talk, he was testing these teachings, compared to God’s Word, as he listened.

Further, he didn’t just wait, he didn’t even start until they were done talking.

Job 31:40b … The words of Job are ended.

Job 32:1a So these three men ceased to answer Job …

Job 32:16 When I had waited, (for they spake not, but stood still, [and] answered no more;)

Considering the context, we would not propose that this is a doctrine that must be strictly followed in this specific method for every occasion. The spirit of the principle is to hear them out. To honour our elders, we let them have their say in the matter. In this case, there were already elders rebuking each other, so Elihu was probably giving them space to sort it out themselves.

Another honour that Elihu bestowed upon these elders is to treat them with dignity, as astute men of wisdom. Several times, as he reasons with them, he either states or implies that they are men of understanding and prudence, so they are quite capable of grasping the truth of what God has revealed.

Elihu did not admonish these elders just because they were wrong, but to defend God’s glory and holiness. So, we will conclude this article with some samples of the same.

Job 33:12 Behold, [in] this thou art not just: I will answer thee, that God is greater than man.

Job 34:10 Therefore hearken unto me, ye men of understanding: far be it from God, [that he should do] wickedness; and [from] the Almighty, [that he should commit] iniquity.

Job 34:12 Yea, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment.

Job 36:2-3
2 Suffer me a little, and I will show thee that [I have] yet to speak on God’s behalf.
3 I will fetch my knowledge from afar, and will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.

Job 36:5 Behold, God [is] mighty, and despiseth not [any: he is] mighty in strength [and] wisdom.

Job 36:22-26
22 Behold, God exalteth by his power: who teacheth like him?
23 Who hath enjoined him his way? or who can say, Thou hast wrought iniquity?
24 Remember that thou magnify his work, which men behold.
25 Every man may see it; man may behold [it] afar off.
26 Behold, God [is] great, and we know [him] not, neither can the number of his years be searched out.

Job 37:2-5
2 Hear attentively the noise of his voice, and the sound [that] goeth out of his mouth.
3 He directeth it under the whole heaven, and his lightning unto the ends of the earth.
4 After it a voice roareth: he thundereth with the voice of his excellency; and he will not stay them when his voice is heard.
5 God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend.

Job 37:23-24
23 [Touching] the Almighty, we cannot find him out: [he is] excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice: he will not afflict.
24 Men do therefore fear him: he respecteth not any [that are] wise of heart.

Job 37:14 Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God.

Want to hear more?