Job 7:17-21

Insignificance of Humans

7:17 “What is mankind that you make so much of them,

and that you pay attention to them?

7:18 And that you visit them every morning,

and try them every moment?

7:19 Will you never look away from me,

will you not let me alone

long enough to swallow my spittle?

7:20 If 10  I have sinned – what have I done to you, 11 

O watcher of men? 12 

Why have you set me as your target? 13 

Have I become a burden to you? 14 

7:21 And why do you not pardon my transgression,

and take away my iniquity?

For now I will lie down in the dust, 15 

and you will seek me diligently, 16 

but I will be gone.”

tn The verse is a rhetorical question; it is intended to mean that man is too little for God to be making so much over him in all this.

tn The Piel verb is a factitive meaning “to magnify.” The English word “magnify” might not be the best translation here, for God, according to Job, is focusing inordinately on him. It means to magnify in thought, appreciate, think highly of. God, Job argues, is making too much of mankind by devoting so much bad attention on them.

tn The expression “set your heart on” means “concentrate your mind on” or “pay attention to.”

tn The verb פָּקַד (paqad) is a very common one in the Bible; while it is frequently translated “visit,” the “visit” is never comparable to a social call. When God “visits” people it always means a divine intervention for blessing or cursing – but the visit always changes the destiny of the one visited. Here Job is amazed that God Almighty would be so involved in the life of mere human beings.

tn Now the verb “to test” is introduced and gives further explanation to the purpose of the “visit” in the parallel line (see the same parallelism in Ps 17:3). The verb בָּחַן (bakhan) has to do with passing things through the fire or the crucible to purify the metal (see Job 23:10; Zech 13:3); metaphorically it means “to examine carefully” and “to purify by testing.”

sn The amazing thing is the regularity of the testing. Job is at first amazed that God would visit him; but even more is he amazed that God is testing him every moment. The employment of a chiasm with the two temporal adverbial phrases as the central elements emphasizes the regularity.

tn Heb “according to what [= how long] will you not look away from me.”

tn The verb שָׁעָה (shaah, “to look”) with the preposition מִן (min) means “to look away from; to avert one’s gaze.” Job wonders if God would not look away from him even briefly, for the constant vigilance is killing him.

tn The Hiphil of רָפָה (rafah) means “to leave someone alone.”

10 tn The simple perfect verb can be used in a conditional sentence without a conditional particle present (see GKC 494 §159.h).

11 sn Job is not here saying that he has sinned; rather, he is posing the hypothetical condition – if he had sinned, what would that do to God? In other words, he has not really injured God.

12 sn In the Bible God is often described as watching over people to protect them from danger (see Deut 32:10; Ps 31:23). However, here it is a hostile sense, for God may detect sin and bring it to judgment.

13 tn This word is a hapax legomenon from the verb פָּגָע (paga’, “meet, encounter”); it would describe what is hit or struck (as nouns of this pattern can indicate the place of the action) – the target.

14 tn In the prepositional phrase עָלַי (’alay) the results of a scribal change is found (these changes were called tiqqune sopherim, “corrections of the scribes” made to avoid using improper language about God). The prepositional phrase would have been עָלֶךָ (’alekha, “to you,” as in the LXX). But it offended the Jews to think of Job’s being burdensome to God. Job’s sin could have repercussions on him, but not on God.

15 tn The LXX has, “for now I will depart to the earth.”

16 tn The verb שָׁחַר (shakhar) in the Piel has been translated “to seek early in the morning” because of the possible link with the word “dawn.” But the verb more properly means “to seek diligently” (by implication).