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Job 3:11-12

Context
Job Wishes He Had Died at Birth 1 

3:11 “Why did I not 2  die 3  at birth, 4 

and why did I not expire

as 5  I came out of the womb?

3:12 Why did the knees welcome me, 6 

and why were there 7  two breasts 8 

that I might nurse at them? 9 

Job 3:16

Context

3:16 Or why 10  was 11  I not buried 12 

like a stillborn infant, 13 

like infants 14  who have never seen the light? 15 

1 sn Job follows his initial cry with a series of rhetorical questions. His argument runs along these lines: since he was born (v. 10), the next chance he had of escaping this life of misery would have been to be still born (vv. 11-12, 16). In vv. 13-19 Job considers death as falling into a peaceful sleep in a place where there is no trouble. The high frequency of rhetorical questions in series is a characteristic of the Book of Job that sets it off from all other portions of the OT. The effect is primarily dramatic, creating a tension that requires resolution. See W. Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry, 340-41.

2 tn The negative only occurs with the first clause, but it extends its influence to the parallel second clause (GKC 483 §152.z).

3 tn The two verbs in this verse are both prefix conjugations; they are clearly referring to the past and should be classified as preterites. E. Dhorme (Job, 32) notes that the verb “I came out” is in the perfect to mark its priority in time in relation to the other verbs.

4 tn The translation “at birth” is very smooth, but catches the meaning and avoids the tautology in the verse. The line literally reads “from the womb.” The second half of the verse has the verb “I came out/forth” which does double duty for both parallel lines. The second half uses “belly” for the womb.

5 tn The two halves of the verse use the prepositional phrases (“from the womb” and “from the belly I went out”) in the temporal sense of “on emerging from the womb.”

6 tn The verb קִדְּמוּנִי (qiddÿmuni) is the Piel from קָדַם (qadam), meaning “to come before; to meet; to prevent.” Here it has the idea of going to meet or welcome someone. In spite of various attempts to connect the idea to the father or to adoption rites, it probably simply means the mother’s knees that welcome the child for nursing. See R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 42.

sn The sufferer is looking back over all the possible chances of death, including when he was brought forth, placed on the knees or lap, and breastfed.

7 tn There is no verb in the second half of the verse. The idea simply has, “and why breasts that I might suck?”

8 sn The commentaries mention the parallel construction in the writings of Ashurbanipal: “You were weak, Ashurbanipal, you who sat on the knees of the goddess, queen of Nineveh; of the four teats that were placed near to your mouth, you sucked two and you hid your face in the others” (M. Streck, Assurbanipal [VAB], 348).

9 tn Heb “that I might suckle.” The verb is the Qal imperfect of יָנַק (yanaq, “suckle”). Here the clause is subordinated to the preceding question and so function as a final imperfect.

10 tn The verb is governed by the interrogative of v. 12 that introduces this series of rhetorical questions.

11 tn The verb is again the prefix conjugation, but the narrative requires a past tense, or preterite.

12 tn Heb “hidden.” The LXX paraphrases: “an untimely birth, proceeding from his mother’s womb.”

13 tn The noun נֵפֶל (nefel, “miscarriage”) is the abortive thing that falls (hence the verb) from the womb before the time is ripe (Ps 58:9). The idiom using the verb “to fall” from the womb means to come into the world (Isa 26:18). The epithet טָמוּן (tamun, “hidden”) is appropriate to the verse. The child comes in vain, and disappears into the darkness – it is hidden forever.

14 tn The word עֹלְלִים (’olÿlim) normally refers to “nurslings.” Here it must refer to infants in general since it refers to a stillborn child.

15 tn The relative clause does not have the relative pronoun; the simple juxtaposition of words indicates that it is modifying the infants.



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