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Job 21:7-12

Context
The Wicked Prosper

21:7 “Why do the wicked go on living, 1 

grow old, 2  even increase in power?

21:8 Their children 3  are firmly established

in their presence, 4 

their offspring before their eyes.

21:9 Their houses are safe 5  and without fear; 6 

and no rod of punishment 7  from God is upon them. 8 

21:10 Their bulls 9  breed 10  without fail; 11 

their cows calve and do not miscarry.

21:11 They allow their children to run 12  like a flock;

their little ones dance about.

21:12 They sing 13  to the accompaniment of tambourine and harp,

and make merry to the sound of the flute.

1 sn A. B. Davidson (Job, 154) clarifies that Job’s question is of a universal scope. In the government of God, why do the wicked exist at all? The verb could be translated “continue to live.”

2 tn The verb עָתַק (’ataq) means “to move; to proceed; to advance.” Here it is “to advance in years” or “to grow old.” This clause could serve as an independent clause, a separate sentence; but it more likely continues the question of the first colon and is parallel to the verb “live.”

3 tn Heb “their seed.”

4 tn The text uses לִפְנֵיהֶם עִמָּם (lifnehemimmam, “before them, with them”). Many editors think that these were alternative readings, and so omit one or the other. Dhorme moved עִמָּם (’immam) to the second half of the verse and emended it to read עֹמְדִים (’omÿdim, “abide”). Kissane and Gordis changed only the vowels and came up with עַמָּם (’ammam, “their kinfolk”). But Gordis thinks the presence of both of them in the line is evidence of a conflated reading (p. 229).

5 tn The word שָׁלוֹם (shalom, “peace, safety”) is here a substantive after a plural subject (see GKC 452 §141.c, n. 3).

6 tn The form מִפָּחַד (mippakhad) is translated “without fear,” literally “from fear”; the preposition is similar to the alpha privative in Greek. The word “fear, dread” means nothing that causes fear or dread – they are peaceful, secure. See GKC 382 §119.w.

7 tn Heb “no rod of God.” The words “punishment from” have been supplied in the translation to make the metaphor understandable for the modern reader by stating the purpose of the rod.

8 sn In 9:34 Job was complaining that there was no umpire to remove God’s rod from him, but here he observes no such rod is on the wicked.

9 tn Heb “his bull,” but it is meant to signify the bulls of the wicked.

10 tn The verb used here means “to impregnate,” and not to be confused with the verb עָבַר (’avar, “to pass over”).

11 tn The use of the verb גָּעַר (gaar) in this place is interesting. It means “to rebuke; to abhor; to loathe.” In the causative stem it means “to occasion impurity” or “to reject as loathsome.” The rabbinic interpretation is that it does not emit semen in vain, and so the meaning is it does not fail to breed (see E. Dhorme, Job, 311; R. Gordis, Job, 229).

12 tn The verb שָׁלַח (shalakh) means “to send forth,” but in the Piel “to release; to allow to run free.” The picture of children frolicking in the fields and singing and dancing is symbolic of peaceful, prosperous times.

13 tn The verb is simply “they take up [or lift up],” but the understood object is “their voices,” and so it means “they sing.”



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