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Job 23:1-7

Job’s Reply to Eliphaz 1 

23:1 Then Job answered:

23:2 “Even today my complaint is still bitter; 2 

his 3  hand is heavy despite 4  my groaning.

23:3 O that I knew 5  where I might find him, 6 

that I could come 7  to his place of residence! 8 

23:4 I would lay out my case 9  before him

and fill my mouth with arguments.

23:5 I would know with what words 10  he would answer me,

and understand what he would say to me.

23:6 Would he contend 11  with me with great power?

No, he would only pay attention to me. 12 

23:7 There 13  an upright person

could present his case 14  before him,

and I would be delivered forever from my judge.

1 sn Job answers Eliphaz, but not until he introduces new ideas for his own case with God. His speech unfolds in three parts: Job’s longing to meet God (23:2-7), the inaccessibility and power of God (23:8-17), the indifference of God (24:1-25).

2 tc The MT reads here מְרִי (mÿri, “rebellious”). The word is related to the verb מָרָה (marah, “to revolt”). Many commentators follow the Vulgate, Targum Job, and the Syriac to read מַר (mar, “bitter”). The LXX offers no help here.

3 tc The MT (followed by the Vulgate and Targum) has “my hand is heavy on my groaning.” This would mean “my stroke is heavier than my groaning” (an improbable view from Targum Job). A better suggestion is that the meaning would be that Job tries to suppress his groans but the hand with which he suppresses them is too heavy (H. H. Rowley, Job [NCBC], 159). Budde, E. Dhorme, J. E. Hartley, and F. I. Andersen all maintain the MT as the more difficult reading. F. I. Andersen (Job [TOTC], 208) indicates that the ִי(i) suffix could be an example of an unusual third masculine singular. Both the LXX and the Syriac versions have “his hand,” and many modern commentators follow this, along with the present translation. In this case the referent of “his” would be God, whose hand is heavy upon Job in spite of Job’s groaning.

4 tn The preposition can take this meaning; it could be also translated simply “upon.” R. Gordis (Job, 260) reads the preposition “more than,” saying that Job had been defiant (he takes that view) but God’s hand had been far worse.

5 tn The optative here is again expressed with the verbal clause, “who will give [that] I knew….”

6 tn The form in Hebrew is וְאֶמְצָאֵהוּ (vÿemtsaehu), simply “and I will find him.” But in the optative clause this verb is subordinated to the preceding verb: “O that I knew where [and] I might find him.” It is not unusual to have the perfect verb followed by the imperfect in such coordinate clauses (see GKC 386 §120.e). This could also be translated making the second verb a complementary infinitive: “knew how to find him.”

sn H. H. Rowley (Job [NCBC], 159) quotes Strahan without reference: “It is the chief distinction between Job and his friends that he desires to meet God and they do not.”

7 tn This verb also depends on מִי־יִתֵּן (mi-yitten, “who will give”) of the first part, forming an additional clause in the wish formula.

8 tn Or “his place of judgment.” The word is from כּוּן (kun, “to prepare; to arrange”) in the Polel and the Hiphil conjugations. The noun refers to a prepared place, a throne, a seat, or a sanctuary. A. B. Davidson (Job, 169) and others take the word to mean “judgment seat” or “tribunal” in this context.

9 tn The word מִשְׁפָּט (mishpat) is normally “judgment; decision.” But in these contexts it refers to the legal case that Job will bring before God. With the verb עָרַךְ (’arakh, “to set in order; to lay out”) the whole image of drawing up a lawsuit is complete.

10 tn Heb “the words he would answer me.”

11 tn The verb is now רִיב (riv) and not יָכַח (yakhakh, “contend”); רִיב (riv) means “to quarrel; to dispute; to contend,” often in a legal context. Here it is still part of Job’s questioning about this hypothetical meeting – would God contend with all his power?

12 tn The verbal clause יָשִׂם בִּי (yasim bi) has been translated “he would pay [attention] to me.” Job is saying that God will not need all his power – he will just have pay attention to Job’s complaint. Job does not need the display of power – he just wants a hearing.

13 tn The adverb “there” has the sense of “then” – there in the future.

14 tn The form of the verb is the Niphal נוֹכָח (nokkakh, “argue, present a case”). E. Dhorme (Job, 346) is troubled by this verbal form and so changes it and other things in the line to say, “he would observe the upright man who argues with him.” The Niphal is used for “engaging discussion,” “arguing a case,” and “settling a dispute.”

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