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Job 6:14-17

Context
Disappointing Friends

6:14 “To the one in despair, kindness 1  should come from his friend 2 

even if 3  he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.

6:15 My brothers 4  have been as treacherous 5  as a seasonal stream, 6 

and as the riverbeds of the intermittent streams 7 

that flow away. 8 

6:16 They 9  are dark 10  because of ice;

snow is piled 11  up over them. 12 

6:17 When they are scorched, 13  they dry up,

when it is hot, they vanish 14  from their place.

1 tn In this context חֶסֶד (khesed) could be taken as “loyalty” (“loyalty should be shown by his friend”).

2 tn The Hebrew of this verse is extremely difficult, and while there are many suggestions, none of them has gained a consensus. The first colon simply has “to the despairing // from his friend // kindness.” Several commentators prefer to change the first word לַמָּס (lammas, “to the one in despair”) to some sort of verb; several adopt the reading “the one who withholds/he withholds mercy from his friend forsakes….” The point of the first half of the verse seems to be that one should expect kindness (or loyalty) from a friend in times of suffering.

3 tn The relationship of the second colon to the first is difficult. The line just reads literally “and the fear of the Almighty he forsakes.” The ו (vav) could be interpreted in several different ways: “else he will forsake…,” “although he forsakes…,” “even the one who forsakes…,” or “even if he forsakes…” – the reading adopted here. If the first colon receives the reading “His friend has scorned compassion,” then this clause would be simply coordinated with “and forsakes the fear of the Almighty.” The sense of the verse seems to say that kindness/loyalty should be shown to the despairing, even to the one who is forsaking the fear of the Lord, meaning, saying outrageous things, like Job has been doing.

4 sn Here the brothers are all his relatives as well as these intimate friends of Job. In contrast to what a friend should do (show kindness/loyalty), these friends have provided no support whatsoever.

5 tn The verb בָּגְדוּ (bagÿdu, “dealt treacherously) has been translated “dealt deceitfully,” but it is a very strong word. It means “to act treacherously [or deceitfully].” The deception is the treachery, because the deception is not innocent – it is in the place of a great need. The imagery will compare it to the brook that may or may not have water. If one finds no water when one expected it and needed it, there is deception and treachery. The LXX softens it considerably: “have not regarded me.”

6 tn The Hebrew term used here is נָחַל (nakhal); this word differs from words for rivers or streams in that it describes a brook with an intermittent flow of water. A brook where the waters are not flowing is called a deceitful brook (Jer 15:18; Mic 1:14); one where the waters flow is called faithful (Isa 33:16).

7 tn Heb “and as a stream bed of brooks/torrents.” The word אָפִיק (’afiq) is the river bed or stream bed where the water flows. What is more disconcerting than finding a well-known torrent whose bed is dry when one expects it to be gushing with water (E. Dhorme, Job, 86)?

8 tn The verb is rather simple – יַעֲבֹרוּ (yaavoru). But some translate it “pass away” or “flow away,” and others “overflow.” In the rainy season they are deep and flowing, or “overflow” their banks. This is a natural sense to the verb, and since the next verse focuses on this, some follow this interpretation (H. H. Rowley, Job [NCBC], 15). But this idea does not parallel the first part of v. 15. So it makes better sense to render it “flow away” and see the reference to the summer dry spells when one wants the water but is disappointed.

9 tn The article on the participle joins this statement to the preceding noun; it can have the sense of “they” or “which.” The parallel sense then can be continued with a finite verb (see GKC 404 §126.b).

10 tn The participle הַקֹּדְרים (haqqodÿrim), often rendered “which are black,” would better be translated “dark,” for it refers to the turbid waters filled with melting ice or melting snow, or to the frozen surface of the water, but not waters that are muddied. The versions failed to note that this referred to the waters introduced in v. 15.

11 tn The verb יִתְעַלֶּם (yitallem) has been translated “is hid” or “hides itself.” But this does not work easily in the sentence with the preposition “upon them.” Torczyner suggested “pile up” from an Aramaic root עֲלַם (’alam), and E. Dhorme (Job, 87) defends it without changing the text, contending that the form we have was chosen for alliterative value with the prepositional phrase before it.

12 tn The LXX paraphrases the whole verse: “They who used to reverence me now come against me like snow or congealed ice.”

13 tn The verb יְזֹרְבוּ (yÿzorÿvu, “burnt, scorched”) occurs only here. A good number of interpretations take the root as a by-form of צָרַב (tsarav) which means in the Niphal “to be burnt” (Ezek 21:3). The expression then would mean “in the time they are burnt,” a reference to the scorching heat of the summer (“when the great heat comes”) and the rivers dry up. Qimchi connected it to the Arabic “canal,” and this has led to the suggestion by E. Dhorme (Job, 88) that the root זָרַב (zarav) would mean “to flow.” In the Piel it would be “to cause to flow,” and in the passive “to be made to flow,” or “melt.” This is attractive, but it does require the understanding (or supplying) of “ice/snow” as the subject. G. R. Driver took the same meaning but translated it “when they (the streams) pour down in torrents, they (straightway) die down” (ZAW 65 [1953]: 216-17). Both interpretations capture the sense of the brooks drying up.

14 tn The verb נִדְעֲכוּ (nidakhu) literally means “they are extinguished” or “they vanish” (cf. 18:5-6; 21:17). The LXX, perhaps confusing the word with the verb יָדַע (yada’, “to know”) has “and it is not known what it was.”



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