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Job 20:5-29

Context

20:5 that the elation of the wicked is brief, 1 

the joy of the godless 2  lasts but a moment. 3 

20:6 Even though his stature 4  reaches to the heavens

and his head touches the clouds,

20:7 he will perish forever, like his own excrement; 5 

those who used to see him will say, ‘Where is he?’

20:8 Like a dream he flies away, never again to be found, 6 

and like a vision of the night he is put to flight.

20:9 People 7  who had seen him will not see him again,

and the place where he was

will recognize him no longer.

20:10 His sons must recompense 8  the poor;

his own hands 9  must return his wealth.

20:11 His bones 10  were full of his youthful vigor, 11 

but that vigor will lie down with him in the dust.

20:12 “If 12  evil is sweet in his mouth

and he hides it under his tongue, 13 

20:13 if he retains it for himself

and does not let it go,

and holds it fast in his mouth, 14 

20:14 his food is turned sour 15  in his stomach; 16 

it becomes the venom of serpents 17  within him.

20:15 The wealth that he consumed 18  he vomits up,

God will make him throw it out 19  of his stomach.

20:16 He sucks the poison 20  of serpents; 21 

the fangs 22  of a viper 23  kill him.

20:17 He will not look on the streams, 24 

the rivers, which are the torrents 25 

of honey and butter. 26 

20:18 He gives back the ill-gotten gain 27 

without assimilating it; 28 

he will not enjoy the wealth from his commerce. 29 

20:19 For he has oppressed the poor and abandoned them; 30 

he has seized a house which he did not build. 31 

20:20 For he knows no satisfaction in his appetite; 32 

he does not let anything he desires 33  escape. 34 

20:21 “Nothing is left for him to devour; 35 

that is why his prosperity does not last. 36 

20:22 In the fullness of his sufficiency, 37 

distress 38  overtakes him.

the full force of misery will come upon him. 39 

20:23 “While he is 40  filling his belly,

God 41  sends his burning anger 42  against him,

and rains down his blows upon him. 43 

20:24 If he flees from an iron weapon,

then an arrow 44  from a bronze bow pierces him.

20:25 When he pulls it out 45  and it comes out of his back,

the gleaming point 46  out of his liver,

terrors come over him.

20:26 Total darkness waits to receive his treasures; 47 

a fire which has not been kindled 48 

will consume him

and devour what is left in his tent.

20:27 The heavens reveal his iniquity;

the earth rises up against him.

20:28 A flood will carry off his house,

rushing waters on the day of God’s wrath.

20:29 Such is the lot God allots the wicked,

and the heritage of his appointment 49  from God.”

1 tn The expression in the text is “quite near.” This indicates that it is easily attained, and that its end is near.

2 tn For the discussion of חָנֵף (khanef, “godless”) see Job 8:13.

3 tn The phrase is “until a moment,” meaning it is short-lived. But see J. Barr, “Hebrew ’ad, especially at Job 1:18 and Neh 7:3,” JSS 27 (1982): 177-88.

4 tn The word שִׂיא (si’) has been connected with the verb נָשָׂא (nasa’, “to lift up”), and so interpreted here as “pride.” The form is parallel to “head” in the next part, and so here it refers to his stature, the part that rises up and is crowned. But the verse does describe the pride of such a person, with his head in the heavens.

5 tn There have been attempts to change the word here to “like a whirlwind,” or something similar. But many argue that there is no reason to remove a coarse expression from Zophar.

6 tn Heb “and they do not find him.” The verb has no expressed subject, and so here is equivalent to a passive. The clause itself is taken adverbially in the sentence.

7 tn Heb “the eye that had seen him.” Here a part of the person (the eye, the instrument of vision) is put by metonymy for the entire person.

8 tn The early versions confused the root of this verb, taking it from רָצַץ (ratsats, “mistreat”) and not from רָצָה (ratsah, “be please with”). So it was taken to mean, “Let inferiors destroy his children.” But the verb is רָצָה (ratsah). This has been taken to mean “his sons will seek the favor of the poor.” This would mean that they would be reduced to poverty and need help from even the poor. Some commentators see this as another root רָצָה (ratsah) meaning “to compensate; to restore” wealth their father had gained by impoverishing others. This fits the parallelism well, but not the whole context that well.

9 tn Some commentators are surprised to see “his hands” here, thinking the passage talks about his death. Budde changed it to “his children,” by altering one letter. R. Gordis argued that “hand” can mean offspring, and so translated it that way without changing anything in the text (“A note on YAD,” JBL 62 [1943]: 343).

10 tn “Bones” is often used metonymically for the whole person, the bones being the framework, meaning everything inside, as well as the body itself.

11 sn This line means that he dies prematurely – at the height of his youthful vigor.

12 tn The conjunction אִם (’im) introduces clauses that are conditional or concessive. With the imperfect verb in the protasis it indicates what is possible in the present or future. See GKC 496 §159.q).

13 sn The wicked person holds on to evil as long as he can, savoring the taste or the pleasure of it.

14 tn Heb “in the middle of his palate.”

15 tn The perfect verb in the apodosis might express the suddenness of the change (see S. R. Driver, Tenses in Hebrew, 204), or it might be a constative perfect looking at the action as a whole without reference to inception, progress, or completion (see IBHS 480-81 §30.1d). The Niphal perfect simply means “is turned” or “turns”; “sour is supplied in the translation to clarify what is meant.

16 tn The word is “in his loins” or “within him.” Some translate more specifically “bowels.”

17 sn Some commentators suggest that the ancients believed that serpents secreted poison in the gall bladder, or that the poison came from the gall bladder of serpents. In any case, there is poison (from the root “bitter”) in the system of the wicked person; it may simply be saying it is that type of poison.

18 tn Heb “swallowed.”

19 tn The choice of words is excellent. The verb יָרַשׁ (yarash) means either “to inherit” or “to disinherit; to dispossess.” The context makes the figure clear that God is administering the emetic to make the wicked throw up the wealth (thus, “God will make him throw it out…”); but since wealth is the subject there is a disinheritance meant here.

20 tn The word is a homonym for the word for “head,” which has led to some confusion in the early versions.

21 sn To take the possessions of another person is hereby compared to sucking poison from a serpent – it will kill eventually.

22 tn Heb “tongue.”

23 tn Some have thought this verse is a gloss on v. 14 and should be deleted. But the word for “viper” (אֶפְעֶה, ’efeh) is a rare word, occurring only here and in Isa 30:6 and 59:5. It is unlikely that a rarer word would be used in a gloss. But the point is similar to v. 14 – the wealth that was greedily sucked in by the wicked proves to be their undoing. Either this is totally irrelevant to Job’s case, a general discussion, or the man is raising questions about how Job got his wealth.

24 tn The word פְּלַגּוֹת (pÿlaggot) simply means “streams” or “channels.” Because the word is used elsewhere for “streams of oil” (cf. 29:6), and that makes a good parallelism here, some supply “oil” (cf. NAB, NLT). But the second colon of the verse is probably in apposition to the first. The verb “see” followed by the preposition bet, “to look on; to look over,” means “to enjoy as a possession,” an activity of the victor.

25 tn The construct nouns here have caused a certain amount of revision. It says “rivers of, torrents of.” The first has been emended by Klostermann to יִצְהָר (yitshar, “oil”) and connected to the first colon. Older editors argued for a נָהָר (nahar) that meant “oil” but that was not convincing. On the other hand, there is support for having more than one construct together serving as apposition (see GKC 422 §130.e). If the word “streams” in the last colon is a construct, that would mean three of them; but that one need not be construct. The reading would be “He will not see the streams, [that is] the rivers [which are] the torrents of honey and butter.” It is unusual, but workable.

26 sn This word is often translated “curds.” It is curdled milk, possibly a type of butter.

27 tn The idea is the fruit of his evil work. The word יָגָע (yaga’) occurs only here; it must mean ill-gotten gains. The verb is in 10:3.

28 tn Heb “and he does not swallow.” In the context this means “consume” for his own pleasure and prosperity. The verbal clause is here taken adverbially.

29 sn The expression is “according to the wealth of his exchange.” This means he cannot enjoy whatever he gained in his business deals. Some mss have בּ (bet) preposition, making the translation easier; but this is evidence of a scribal correction.

30 tc The verb indicates that after he oppressed the poor he abandoned them to their fate. But there have been several attempts to improve on the text. Several have repointed the text to get a word parallel to “house.” Ehrlich came up with עֹזֵב (’ozev, “mud hut”), Kissane had “hovel” (similar to Neh 3:8). M. Dahood did the same (“The Root ’zb II in Job,” JBL 78 [1959]: 306-7). J. Reider came up with עֶזֶב (’ezev, the “leavings”), what the rich were to leave for the poor (“Contributions to the Scriptural text,” HUCA 24 [1952/53]: 103-6). But an additional root עָזַב (’azav) is questionable. And while the text as it stands is general and not very striking, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Dhorme reverses the letters to gain בְּעֹז (bÿoz, “with force [or violence]”).

31 tn The last clause says, “and he did not build it.” This can be understood in an adverbial sense, supplying the relative pronoun to the translation.

32 tn Heb “belly,” which represents his cravings, his desires and appetites. The “satisfaction” is actually the word for “quiet; peace; calmness; ease.” He was driven by greedy desires, or he felt and displayed an insatiable greed.

33 tn The verb is the passive participle of the verb חָמַד (khamad) which is one of the words for “covet; desire.” This person is controlled by his desires; there is no escape. He is a slave.

34 tn The verb is difficult to translate in this line. It basically means “to cause to escape; to rescue.” Some translate this verb as “it is impossible to escape”; this may work, but is uncertain. Others translate the verb in the sense of saving something else: N. Sarna says, “Of his most cherished possessions he shall save nothing” (“The Interchange of the Preposition bet and min in Biblical Hebrew,” JBL 78 [1959]: 315-16). The RSV has “he will save nothing in which he delights”; NIV has “he cannot save himself by his treasure.”

35 tn Heb “for his eating,” which is frequently rendered “for his gluttony.” It refers, of course, to all the desires he has to take things from other people.

36 sn The point throughout is that insatiable greed and ruthless plundering to satisfy it will be recompensed with utter and complete loss.

37 tn The word שָׂפַק (safaq) occurs only here; it means “sufficiency; wealth; abundance (see D. W. Thomas, “The Text of Jesaia 2:6 and the Word sapaq,ZAW 75 [1963]: 88-90).

38 tn Heb “there is straightness for him.” The root צָרַר (tsarar) means “to be narrowed in straits, to be in a bind.” The word here would have the idea of pressure, stress, trouble. One could say he is in a bind.

39 tn Heb “every hand of trouble comes to him.” The pointing of עָמֵל (’amel) indicates it would refer to one who brings trouble; LXX and Latin read an abstract noun עָמָל (’amal, “trouble”) here.

40 tn D. J. A. Clines observes that to do justice to the three jussives in the verse, one would have to translate “May it be, to fill his belly to the full, that God should send…and rain” (Job [WBC], 477). The jussive form of the verb at the beginning of the verse could also simply introduce a protasis of a conditional clause (see GKC 323 §109.h, i). This would mean, “if he [God] is about to fill his [the wicked’s] belly to the full, he will send….” The NIV reads “when he has filled his belly.” These fit better, because the context is talking about the wicked in his evil pursuit being cut down.

41 tn “God” is understood as the subject of the judgment.

42 tn Heb “the anger of his wrath.”

43 tn Heb “rain down upon him, on his flesh.” Dhorme changes עָלֵימוֹ (’alemo, “upon him”) to “his arrows”; he translates the line as “he rains his arrows upon his flesh.” The word בִּלְחוּמוֹ (bilkhumo,“his flesh”) has been given a wide variety of translations: “as his food,” “on his flesh,” “upon him, his anger,” or “missiles or weapons of war.”

44 tn Heb “a bronze bow pierces him.” The words “an arrow from” are implied and are supplied in the translation; cf. “pulls it out” in the following verse.

45 tn The MT has “he draws out [or as a passive, “it is drawn out/forth”] and comes [or goes] out of his back.” For the first verb שָׁלַף (shalaf, “pull, draw”), many commentators follow the LXX and use שֶׁלַח (shelakh, “a spear”). It then reads “and a shaft comes out of his back,” a sword flash comes out of his liver.” But the verse could also be a continuation of the preceding.

46 tn Possibly a reference to lightnings.

47 tn Heb “all darkness is hidden for his laid up things.” “All darkness” refers to the misfortunes and afflictions that await. The verb “hidden” means “is destined for.”

48 tn Heb “not blown upon,” i.e., not kindled by man. But G. R. Driver reads “unquenched” (“Hebrew notes on the ‘Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach’,” JBL 53 [1934]: 289).

49 tn For the word אִמְרוֹ (’imro) some propose reading “his appointment,” and the others, “his word.” Driver shows that “the heritage of his appointment” means “his appointed heritage” (see GKC 440 §135.n).



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