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Job 1:20-21

Context

1:20 Then Job got up 1  and tore his robe. 2  He shaved his head, 3  and then he threw himself down with his face to the ground. 4  1:21 He said, “Naked 5  I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return there. 6  The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. 7  May the name of the Lord 8  be blessed!”

1 tn The verb וַיָּקָם (vayyaqom, “and he arose”) indicates the intentionality and the rapidity of the actions to follow. It signals the beginning of his response to the terrible news. Therefore, the sentence could be translated, “Then Job immediately began to tear his robe.”

2 sn It was the custom to tear the robe in a time of mourning, to indicate that the heart was torn (Joel 2:13). The “garment, mantel” here is the outer garment frequently worn over the basic tunic. See further D. R. Ap-Thomas, “Notes on Some Terms Relating to Prayer,” VT 6 (1956): 220-24.

3 sn In mourning one normally put off every adornment that enhanced or embellished the person, including that which nature provided (Jer 7:29; Mic 1:16).

4 tn This last verb is the Hishtaphel of the word חָוָה (khavah; BDB 1005 s.v. שָׁחָה); it means “to prostrate oneself, to cause oneself to be low to the ground.” In the OT it is frequently translated “to worship” because that is usually why the individual would kneel down and then put his or her forehead to the ground at the knees. But the word essentially means “to bow down to the ground.” Here “worship” (although employed by several English translations, cf. KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, CEV) conveys more than what is taking place – although Job’s response is certainly worshipful. See G. I. Davies, “A Note on the Etymology of histahawah,VT 29 (1979): 493-95; and J. A. Emerton, “The Etymology of histahawah,” OTS (1977): 41-55.

5 tn The adjective “naked” is functioning here as an adverbial accusative of state, explicative of the state of the subject. While it does include the literal sense of nakedness at birth, Job is also using it symbolically to mean “without possessions.”

6 sn While the first half of the couplet is to be taken literally as referring to his coming into this life, this second part must be interpreted only generally to refer to his departure from this life. It is parallel to 1 Tim 6:7, “For we have brought nothing into this world and so we cannot take a single thing out either.”

7 tn The two verbs are simple perfects. (1) They can be given the nuance of gnomic imperfect, expressing what the sovereign God always does. This is the approach taken in the present translation. Alternatively (2) they could be referring specifically to Job’s own experience: “Yahweh gave [definite past, referring to his coming into this good life] and Yahweh has taken away” [present perfect, referring to his great losses]. Many English versions follow the second alternative.

8 sn Some commentators are troubled by the appearance of the word “Yahweh” on the lips of Job, assuming that the narrator inserted his own name for God into the story-telling. Such thinking is based on the assumption that Yahweh was only a national god of Israel, unknown to anyone else in the ancient world. But here is a clear indication that a non-Israelite, Job, knew and believed in Yahweh.



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