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Job 29:7-25

Context

29:7 When I went out to the city gate

and secured my seat in the public square, 1 

29:8 the young men would see me and step aside, 2 

and the old men would get up and remain standing;

29:9 the chief men refrained from talking

and covered their mouths with their hands;

29:10 the voices of the nobles fell silent, 3 

and their tongues stuck to the roof of their mouths.

Job’s Benevolence

29:11 “As soon as the ear heard these things, 4  it blessed me, 5 

and when the eye saw them, it bore witness to me,

29:12 for I rescued the poor who cried out for help,

and the orphan who 6  had no one to assist him;

29:13 the blessing of the dying man descended on me, 7 

and I made the widow’s heart rejoice; 8 

29:14 I put on righteousness and it clothed me, 9 

my just dealing 10  was like a robe and a turban;

29:15 I was eyes for the blind

and feet for the lame;

29:16 I was a father 11  to the needy,

and I investigated the case of the person I did not know;

29:17 I broke the fangs 12  of the wicked,

and made him drop 13  his prey from his teeth.

Job’s Confidence

29:18 “Then I thought, ‘I will die in my own home, 14 

my days as numerous as the grains of sand. 15 

29:19 My roots reach the water,

and the dew lies on my branches all night long.

29:20 My glory 16  will always be fresh 17  in me,

and my bow ever new in my hand.’

Job’s Reputation

29:21 “People 18  listened to me and waited silently; 19 

they kept silent for my advice.

29:22 After I had spoken, they did not respond;

my words fell on them drop by drop. 20 

29:23 They waited for me as people wait 21  for the rain,

and they opened their mouths 22 

as for 23  the spring rains.

29:24 If I smiled at them, they hardly believed it; 24 

and they did not cause the light of my face to darken. 25 

29:25 I chose 26  the way for them 27 

and sat as their chief; 28 

I lived like a king among his troops;

I was like one who comforts mourners. 29 

1 sn In the public square. The area referred to here should not be thought of in terms of modern western dimensions. The wide space, plaza, or public square mentioned here is the open area in the gate complex where legal and business matters were conducted. The area could be as small as a few hundred square feet.

2 tn The verb means “to hide; to withdraw.” The young men out of respect would withdraw or yield the place of leadership to Job (thus the translation “step aside”). The old men would rise and remain standing until Job took his seat – a sign of respect.

3 tn The verb here is “hidden” as well as in v. 8. But this is a strange expression for voices. Several argue that the word was erroneously inserted from 8a and needs to be emended. But the word “hide” can have extended meanings of “withdraw; be quiet; silent” (see Gen 31:27). A. Guillaume relates the Arabic habia, “the fire dies out,” applying the idea of “silent” only to v. 10 (it is a form of repetition of words with different senses, called jinas). The point here is that whatever conversation was going on would become silent or hushed to hear what Job had to say.

4 tn The words “these things” and “them” in the next colon are not in the Hebrew text, but have been supplied in the translation for clarity.

5 tn The main clause is introduced by the preterite with the vav (ו) consecutive (see GKC 327 §111.h); the clause before it is therefore temporal and circumstantial to the main clause.

6 tn The negative introduces a clause that serves as a negative attribute; literally the following clause says, “and had no helper” (see GKC 482 §152.u).

7 tn The verb is simply בּוֹא (bo’, “to come; to enter”). With the preposition עַל (’al, “upon”) it could mean “came to me,” or “came upon me,” i.e., descended (see R. Gordis, Job, 320).

8 tn The verb אַרְנִן (’arnin) is from רָנַן (ranan, “to give a ringing cry”) but here “cause to give a ringing cry,” i.e., shout of joy. The rejoicing envisioned in this word is far greater than what the words “sing” or “rejoice” suggest.

9 tn Both verbs in this first half-verse are from לָבַשׁ (lavash, “to clothe; to put on clothing”). P. Joüon changed the vowels to get a verb “it adorned me” instead of “it clothed me” (Bib 11 [1930]: 324). The figure of clothing is used for the character of the person: to wear righteousness is to be righteous.

10 tn The word מִשְׁפָּטִי (mishpati) is simply “my justice” or “my judgment.” It refers to the decisions he made in settling issues, how he dealt with other people justly.

11 sn The word “father” does not have a wide range of meanings in the OT. But there are places that it is metaphorical, especially in a legal setting like this where the poor need aid.

12 tn The word rendered “fangs” actually means “teeth,” i.e., the molars probably; it is used frequently of the teeth of wild beasts. Of course, the language is here figurative, comparing the oppressing enemy to a preying animal.

13 tn “I made [him] drop.” The verb means “to throw; to cast,” throw in the sense of “to throw away.” But in the context with the figure of the beast with prey in its mouth, “drop” or “cast away” is the idea. Driver finds another cognate meaning “rescue” (see AJSL 52 [1935/36]: 163).

14 tc The expression in the MT is “with my nest.” The figure is satisfactory for the context – a home with all the young together, a picture of unity and safety. In Isa 16:2 the word can mean “nestlings,” and with the preposition “with” that might be the meaning here, except that his children had grown up and lived in their own homes. The figure cannot be pushed too far. But the verse apparently has caused enormous problems, because the versions offer a variety of readings and free paraphrases. The LXX has “My age shall grow old as the stem of a palm tree, I shall live a long time.” The Vulgate has, “In my nest I shall die and like the palm tree increase my days.” G. R. Driver found an Egyptian word meaning “strength” (“Birds in the Old Testament,” PEQ 87 [1955]: 138-39). Several read “in a ripe old age” instead of “in my nest” (Pope, Dhorme; see P. P. Saydon, “Philological and Textual Notes to the Maltese Translation of the Old Testament,” CBQ 23 [1961]: 252). This requires the verb זָקַן (zaqan, “be old”), i.e., בִּזְקוּנַי (bizqunay, “in my old age”) instead of קִנִּי (qinni, “my nest”). It has support from the LXX.

15 tc For חוֹל (khol, “sand”) the LXX has a word that is “like the palm tree,” but which could also be translated “like the phoenix” (cf. NAB, NRSV). This latter idea was developed further in rabbinical teaching (see R. Gordis, Job, 321). See also M. Dahood, “Nest and phoenix in Job 29:18,” Bib 48 (1967): 542-44. But the MT yields an acceptable sense here.

16 tn The word is “my glory,” meaning his high respect and his honor. Hoffmann proposed to read כִּידוֹן (kidon) instead, meaning “javelin” (as in 1 Sam 17:6), to match the parallelism (RQ 3 [1961/62]: 388). But the parallelism does not need to be so tight.

17 tn Heb “new.”

18 tn “People” is supplied; the verb is plural.

19 tc The last verb of the first half, “wait, hope,” and the first verb in the second colon, “be silent,” are usually reversed by the commentators (see G. R. Driver, “Problems in the Hebrew text of Job,” VTSup 3 [1955]: 86). But if “wait” has the idea of being silent as they wait for him to speak, then the second line would say they were silent for the reason of his advice. The reading of the MT is not impossible.

20 tn The verb simply means “dropped,” but this means like the rain. So the picture of his words falling on them like the gentle rain, drop by drop, is what is intended (see Deut 32:2).

21 tn The phrase “people wait for” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation.

22 sn The analogy is that they received his words eagerly as the dry ground opens to receive the rains.

23 tn The כּ (kaf) preposition is to be supplied by analogy with the preceding phrase. This leaves a double proposition, “as for” (but see Job 29:2).

24 tn The connection of this clause with the verse is difficult. The line simply reads: “[if] I would smile at them, they would not believe.” Obviously something has to be supplied to make sense out of this. The view adopted here makes the most sense, namely, that when he smiled at people, they could hardly believe their good fortune. Other interpretations are strained, such as Kissane’s, “If I laughed at them, they believed not,” meaning, people rejected the views that Job laughed at.

25 tn The meaning, according to Gordis, is that they did nothing to provoke Job’s displeasure.

26 tn All of these imperfects describe what Job used to do, and so they all fit the category of customary imperfect.

27 tn Heb “their way.”

28 tn The text simply has “and I sat [as their] head.” The adverbial accusative explains his role, especially under the image of being seated. He directed the deliberations as a king directs an army.

29 tc Most commentators think this last phrase is odd here, and so they either delete it altogether, or emend it to fit the idea of the verse. Ewald, however, thought it appropriate as a transition to the next section, reminding his friends that unlike him, they were miserable comforters. Herz made the few changes in the text to get the reading “where I led them, they were willing to go” (ZAW 20 [1900]: 163). The two key words in the MT are אֲבֵלִים יְנַחֵם (’avelim yÿnakhem, “he [one who] comforts mourners”). Following Herz, E. Dhorme (Job, 422) has these changed to אוֹבִילֵם יִנַּחוּ (’ovilem yinnakhu). R. Gordis has “like one leading a camel train” (Job, 324). But Kissane also retains the line as a summary of the chapter, noting its presence in the versions.



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