Job 21:17-22

How Often Do the Wicked Suffer?

21:17 “How often is the lamp of the wicked extinguished?

How often does their misfortune come upon them?

How often does God apportion pain to them in his anger?

21:18 How often are they like straw before the wind,

and like chaff swept away by a whirlwind?

21:19 You may say, ‘God stores up a man’s punishment for his children!’

Instead let him repay 10  the man himself 11 

so that 12  he may know it!

21:20 Let his own eyes see his destruction; 13 

let him drink of the anger of the Almighty.

21:21 For what is his interest 14  in his home

after his death, 15 

when the number of his months

has been broken off? 16 

21:22 Can anyone teach 17  God knowledge,

since 18  he judges those that are on high? 19 

tn The interrogative “How often” occurs only with the first colon; it is supplied for smoother reading in the next two.

tn The pronominal suffix is objective; it re-enforces the object of the preposition, “upon them.” The verb in the clause is בּוֹא (bo’) followed by עַל (’al), “come upon [or against],” may be interpreted as meaning attack or strike.

tn חֲבָלִים (khavalim) can mean “ropes” or “cords,” but that would not go with the verb “apportion” in this line. The meaning of “pangs (as in “birth-pangs”) seems to fit best here. The wider meaning would be “physical agony.”

tn The phrase “to them” is understood and thus is supplied in the translation for clarification.

tn To retain the sense that the wicked do not suffer as others, this verse must either be taken as a question or a continuation of the question in v. 17.

tn The verb used actually means “rob.” It is appropriate to the image of a whirlwind suddenly taking away the wisp of straw.

tn These words are supplied. The verse records an idea that Job suspected they might have, namely, that if the wicked die well God will make their children pay for the sins (see Job 5:4; 20:10; as well as Exod 20:5).

tn The text simply has אוֹנוֹ (’ono, “his iniquity”), but by usage, “the punishment for the iniquity.”

tn Heb “his sons.”

10 tn The verb שָׁלַם (shalam) in the Piel has the meaning of restoring things to their normal, making whole, and so reward, repay (if for sins), or recompense in general.

11 tn The text simply has “let him repay [to] him.”

12 tn The imperfect verb after the jussive carries the meaning of a purpose clause, and so taken as a final imperfect: “in order that he may know [or realize].”

13 tc This word occurs only here. The word כִּיד (kid) was connected to Arabic kaid, “fraud, trickery,” or “warfare.” The word is emended by the commentators to other ideas, such as פִּיד (pid, “[his] calamity”). Dahood and others alter it to “cup”; Wright to “weapons.” A. F. L. Beeston argues for a meaning “condemnation” for the MT form, and so makes no change in the text (Mus 67 [1954]: 315-16). If the connection to Arabic “warfare” is sustained, or if such explanations of the existing MT can be sustained, then the text need not be emended. In any case, the sense of the line is clear.

14 tn Heb “his desire.” The meaning is that after he is gone he does not care about what happens to his household (“house” meaning “family” here).

15 tn Heb “after him,” but clearly the meaning is “after he is gone.”

16 tc The rare word חֻצָּצוּ (khutsatsu) is probably a cognate of hassa in Arabic, meaning “to cut off.” There is also an Akkadian word “to cut in two” and “to break.” These fit the context here rather well. The other Hebrew words that are connected to the root חָצַצ (khatsats) do not offer any help.

17 tn The imperfect verb in this question should be given the modal nuance of potential imperfect. The question is rhetorical – it is affirming that no one can teach God.

18 tn The clause begins with the disjunctive vav (ו) and the pronoun, “and he.” This is to be subordinated as a circumstantial clause. See GKC 456 §142.d.

19 tc The Hebrew has רָמִים (ramim), a plural masculine participle of רוּם (rum, “to be high; to be exalted”). This is probably a reference to the angels. But M. Dahood restores an older interpretation that it refers to “the Most High” (“Some Northwest Semitic words in Job,”Bib 38 [1957]: 316-17). He would take the word as a singular form with an enclitic mem (ם). He reads the verse, “will he judge the Most High?”