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Job 21:7-17

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.

21:13 They live out 14  their years in prosperity

and go down 15  to the grave 16  in peace.

21:14 So they say to God, ‘Turn away from us!

We do not want to 17  know your ways. 18 

21:15 Who is the Almighty, that 19  we should serve him?

What would we gain

if we were to pray 20  to him?’ 21 

21:16 But their prosperity is not their own doing. 22 

The counsel of the wicked is far from me! 23 

How Often Do the Wicked Suffer?

21:17 “How often 24  is the lamp of the wicked extinguished?

How often does their 25  misfortune come upon them?

How often does God apportion pain 26  to them 27  in his anger?

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.”

14 tc The Kethib has “they wear out” but the Qere and the versions have יְכַלּוּ (yÿkhallu, “bring to an end”). The verb כָּלָה (kalah) means “to finish; to complete,” and here with the object “their days,” it means that they bring their life to a (successful) conclusion. Both readings are acceptable in the context, with very little difference in the overall meaning (which according to Gordis is proof the Qere does not always correct the Kethib).

15 tc The MT has יֵחָתּוּ (yekhattu, “they are frightened [or broken]”), taking the verb from חָתַת (khatat, “be terrified”). But most would slightly repoint it to יֵחָתוּ (yekhatu), an Aramaism, “they go down,” from נָחַת (nakhat, “go down”). See Job 17:16.

16 tn The word רֶגַע (rega’) has been interpreted as “in a moment” or “in peace” (on the basis of Arabic raja`a, “return to rest”). Gordis thinks this is a case of talhin – both meanings present in the mind of the writer.

17 tn The absence of the preposition before the complement adds greater vividness to the statement: “and knowing your ways – we do not desire.”

18 sn Contrast Ps 25:4, which affirms that walking in God’s ways means to obey God’s will – the Torah.

19 tn The interrogative clause is followed by ki, similar to Exod 5:2, “Who is Yahweh, that I should obey him?”

20 tn The verb פָּגַע (paga’) means “to encounter; to meet,” but also “to meet with request; to intercede; to interpose.” The latter meaning is a derived meaning by usage.

21 tn The verse is not present in the LXX. It may be that it was considered too blasphemous and therefore omitted.

22 tn Heb “is not in their hand.”

sn The implication of this statement is that their well-being is from God, which is the problem Job is raising in the chapter. A number of commentators make it a question, interpreting it to mean that the wicked enjoy prosperity as if it is their right. Some emend the text to say “his hands” – Gordis reads it, “Indeed, our prosperity is not in his hands.”

23 sn Even though their life seems so good in contrast to his own plight, Job cannot and will not embrace their principles – “far be from me their counsel.”

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

25 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.

26 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.”

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



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