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Job 21:7-34

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?

21:18 How often 28  are they like straw before the wind,

and like chaff swept away 29  by a whirlwind?

21:19 You may say, 30  ‘God stores up a man’s 31  punishment for his children!’ 32 

Instead let him repay 33  the man himself 34 

so that 35  he may know it!

21:20 Let his own eyes see his destruction; 36 

let him drink of the anger of the Almighty.

21:21 For what is his interest 37  in his home

after his death, 38 

when the number of his months

has been broken off? 39 

21:22 Can anyone teach 40  God knowledge,

since 41  he judges those that are on high? 42 

Death Levels Everything

21:23 “One man dies in his full vigor, 43 

completely secure and prosperous,

21:24 his body 44  well nourished, 45 

and the marrow of his bones moist. 46 

21:25 And another man 47  dies in bitterness of soul, 48 

never having tasted 49  anything good.

21:26 Together they lie down in the dust,

and worms cover over them both.

Futile Words, Deceptive Answers

21:27 “Yes, I know what you are thinking, 50 

the schemes 51  by which you would wrong me. 52 

21:28 For you say,

‘Where now is the nobleman’s house, 53 

and where are the tents in which the wicked lived?’ 54 

21:29 Have you never questioned those who travel the roads?

Do you not recognize their accounts 55 

21:30 that the evil man is spared

from the day of his misfortune,

that he is delivered 56 

from the day of God’s wrath?

21:31 No one denounces his conduct to his face;

no one repays him for what 57  he has done. 58 

21:32 And when he is carried to the tombs,

and watch is kept 59  over the funeral mound, 60 

21:33 The clods of the torrent valley 61  are sweet to him;

behind him everybody follows in procession,

and before him goes a countless throng.

21:34 So how can you console me with your futile words?

Nothing is left of your answers but deception!” 62 

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.

28 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.

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

30 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).

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

32 tn Heb “his sons.”

33 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.

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

35 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].”

36 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.

37 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).

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

39 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.

40 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.

41 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.

42 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?”

43 tn The line has “in the bone of his perfection.” The word עֶצֶם (’etsem), which means “bone,” is used pronominally to express “the same, very”; here it is “in the very fullness of his strength” (see GKC 449 §139.g). The abstract תֹּם (tom) is used here in the sense of physical perfection and strengths.

44 tn The verb עָטַן (’atan) has the precise meaning of “press olives.” But because here it says “full of milk,” the derived meaning for the noun has been made to mean “breasts” or “pails” (although in later Hebrew this word occurs – but with olives, not with milk). Dhorme takes it to refer to “his sides,” and repoints the word for “milk” (חָלָב, khalav) to get “fat” (חֶלֶב, khelev) – “his sides are full of fat,” a rendering followed by NASB. However, this weakens the parallelism.

45 tn This interpretation, adopted by several commentaries and modern translations (cf. NAB, NIV), is a general rendering to capture the sense of the line.

46 tn The verb שָׁקָה (shaqah) means “to water” and here “to be watered thoroughly.” The picture in the line is that of health and vigor.

47 tn The expression “this (v. 23)…and this” (v. 25) means “one…the other.”

48 tn The text literally has “and this [man] dies in soul of bitterness.” Some simply reverse it and translate “in the bitterness of soul.” The genitive “bitterness” may be an attribute adjective, “with a bitter soul.”

49 tn Heb “eaten what is good.” It means he died without having enjoyed the good life.

50 tn The word is “your thoughts.” The word for “thoughts” (from חָצַב [khatsav, “to think; to reckon; to plan”]) has more to do with their intent than their general thoughts. He knows that when they talked about the fate of the wicked they really were talking about him.

51 tn For the meaning of this word, and its root זָמַם (zamam), see Job 17:11. It usually means the “plans” or “schemes” that are concocted against someone.

52 tn E. Dhorme (Job, 321) distinguishes the verb חָמַס (khamas) from the noun for “violence.” He proposes a meaning of “think, imagine”: “and the ideas you imagined about me.”

53 sn The question implies the answer will be “vanished” or “gone.”

54 tn Heb “And where is the tent, the dwellings of the wicked.” The word “dwellings of the wicked” is in apposition to “tent.” A relative pronoun must be supplied in the translation.

55 tc The LXX reads, “Ask those who go by the way, and do not disown their signs.”

tn The idea is that the merchants who travel widely will talk about what they have seen and heard. These travelers give a different account of the wicked; they tell how he is spared. E. Dhorme (Job, 322) interprets “signs” concretely: “Their custom was to write their names and their thoughts somewhere at the main cross-roads. The main roads of Sinai are dotted with these scribblings made by such passers of a day.”

56 tn The verb means “to be led forth.” To be “led forth in the day of trouble” means to be delivered.

57 tn The expression “and he has done” is taken here to mean “what he has done.”

58 tn Heb “Who declares his way to his face? // Who repays him for what he has done?” These rhetorical questions, which expect a negative answer (“No one!”) have been translated as indicative statements to bring out their force clearly.

59 tn The verb says “he will watch.” The subject is unspecified, so the translation is passive.

60 tn The Hebrew word refers to the tumulus, the burial mound that is erected on the spot where the person is buried.

61 tn The clods are those that are used to make a mound over the body. And, for a burial in the valley, see Deut 34:6. The verse here sees him as participating in his funeral and enjoying it. Nothing seems to go wrong with the wicked.

62 tn The word מָעַל (maal) is used for “treachery; deception; fraud.” Here Job is saying that their way of interpreting reality is dangerously unfaithful.



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