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Job 23:8-17

The Inaccessibility and Power of God

23:8 “If I go to the east, he is not there,

and to the west, yet I do not perceive him.

23:9 In the north 1  when he is at work, 2 

I do not see him; 3 

when he turns 4  to the south,

I see no trace of him.

23:10 But he knows the pathway that I take; 5 

if he tested me, I would come forth like gold. 6 

23:11 My feet 7  have followed 8  his steps closely;

I have kept to his way and have not turned aside. 9 

23:12 I have not departed from the commands of his lips;

I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my allotted portion. 10 

23:13 But he is unchangeable, 11  and who can change 12  him?

Whatever he 13  has desired, he does.

23:14 For he fulfills his decree against me, 14 

and many such things are his plans. 15 

23:15 That is why I am terrified in his presence;

when I consider, I am afraid because of him.

23:16 Indeed, God has made my heart faint; 16 

the Almighty has terrified me.

23:17 Yet I have not been silent because of the darkness,

because of the thick darkness

that covered my face. 17 

1 sn The text has “the left hand,” the Semitic idiom for directions. One faces the rising sun, and so left is north, right is south.

2 tc The form בַּעֲשֹׂתוֹ (baasoto) would be the temporal clause using the infinitive construct with a pronoun (subject genitive). This would be “when he works.” Several follow the Syriac with “I seek him.” The LXX has “[when] he turns.” R. Gordis (Job, 261) notes that there is no need to emend the text; he shows a link to the Arabic cognate ghasa, “to cover.” To him this is a perfect parallel to יַעְטֹף (yatof, “covers himself”).

3 tn The verb is the apocopated form of the imperfect. The object is supplied.

4 tn The MT has “he turns,” but the Syriac and Vulgate have “I turn.”

5 tn The expression דֶּרֶךְ עִמָּדִי (derekhimmadi) means “the way with me,” i.e., “the way that I take.” The Syriac has “my way and my standing.” Several commentators prefer “the way of my standing,” meaning where to look for me. J. Reider offers “the way of my life” (“Some notes to the text of the scriptures,” HUCA 3 [1926]: 115). Whatever the precise wording, Job knows that God can always find him.

6 tn There is a perfect verb followed by an imperfect in this clause with the protasis and apodosis relationship (see GKC 493 §159.b).

7 tn Heb “my foot.”

8 tn Heb “held fast.”

9 tn The last clause, “and I have not turned aside,” functions adverbially in the sentence. The form אָט (’at) is a pausal form of אַתֶּה (’atteh), the Hiphil of נָטָה (natah, “stretch out”).

10 tc The form in the MT (מֵחֻקִּי, mekhuqqi) means “more than my portion” or “more than my law.” An expanded meaning results in “more than my necessary food” (see Ps 119:11; cf. KJV, NASB, ESV). HALOT 346 s.v. חֹק 1 indicates that חֹק (khoq) has the meaning of “portion” and is here a reference to “what is appointed for me.” The LXX and the Latin versions, along with many commentators, have בְּחֵקִי (bÿkheqi, “in my bosom”).

11 tc The MT has “But he [is] in one.” Many add the word “mind” to capture the point that God is resolute and unchanging. Some commentators find this too difficult, and so change the text from בְאֶחָד (bÿekhad, here “unchangeable”) to בָחָר (bakhar, “he has chosen”). The wording in the text is idiomatic and should be retained. R. Gordis (Job, 262) translates it “he is one, i.e., unchangeable, fixed, determined.” The preposition בּ (bet) is a bet essentiae – “and he [is] as one,” or “he is one” (see GKC 379 §119.i).

12 tn Heb “cause him to return.”

13 tn Or “his soul.”

14 tn The text has “my decree,” which means “the decree [plan] for/against me.” The suffix is objective, equivalent to a dative of disadvantage. The Syriac and the Vulgate actually have “his decree.” R. Gordis (Job, 262) suggests taking it in the same sense as in Job 14:5: “my limit.”.

15 tn Heb “and many such [things] are with him.”

sn The text is saying that many similar situations are under God’s rule of the world – his plans are infinite.

16 tn The verb הֵרַךְ (kherakh) means “to be tender”; in the Piel it would have the meaning “to soften.” The word is used in parallel constructions with the verbs for “fear.” The implication is that God has made Job fearful.

17 tn This is a very difficult verse. The Hebrew text literally says: “for I have not been destroyed because of darkness, and because of my face [which] gloom has covered.” Most commentators omit the negative adverb, which gives the meaning that Job is enveloped in darkness and reduced to terror. The verb נִצְמַתִּי (nitsmatti) means “I have been silent” (as in Arabic and Aramaic), and so obviously the negative must be retained – he has not been silent.

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