of their ancestors; 4
since our days on earth are but a shadow. 6
and bring forth words 9
from their understanding? 10
Can reeds flourish 12 without water?
and not ripe for cutting, 14
they can wither away 15
the hope of the godless 19 perishes,
whose security is a spider’s web. 23
he takes hold 25 of it but it does not stand.
‘I have never seen you!’
1 sn Bildad is not calling for Job to trace through the learning of antiquity, but of the most recent former generation. Hebrews were fond of recalling what the “fathers” had taught, for each generation recalled what their fathers had taught.
2 tn The verb כוֹנֵן (khonen, from כּוּן, kun) normally would indicate “prepare yourself” or “fix” one’s heart on something, i.e., give attention to it. The verb with the ל (lamed) preposition after it does mean “to think on” or “to meditate” (Isa 51:13). But some commentators wish to change the כּ (kaf) to a בּ (bet) in the verb to get “to consider” (from בִּין, bin). However, M. Dahood shows a connection between כּנן (knn) and שׁאל (sh’l) in Ugaritic (“Hebrew-Ugaritic Lexicography,” Bib 46 : 329).
3 tn The Hebrew has “the search of their fathers,” but the word is probably intended to mean what that observation or search yielded (so “search” is a metonymy of cause).
4 tn Heb “fathers.”
5 tn The Hebrew has “we are of yesterday,” the adverb functioning as a predicate. Bildad’s point is that they have not had time to acquire great knowledge because they are recent.
7 tn The sentence begins emphatically: “Is it not they.”
8 tn The “and” is not present in the line. The second clause seems to be in apposition to the first, explaining it more thoroughly: “Is it not they [who] will instruct you, [who] will speak to you.”
9 tn The noun may have been left indeterminate for the sake of emphasis (GKC 401-2 §125.c), meaning “important words.”
10 tn Heb “from their heart.”
11 sn H. H. Rowley observes the use of the words for plants that grow in Egypt and suspects that Bildad either knew Egypt or knew that much wisdom came from Egypt. The first word refers to papyrus, which grows to a height of six feet (so the verb means “to grow tall; to grow high”). The second word refers to the reed grass that grows on the banks of the river (see Gen 41:2, 18).
12 tn The two verbs, גָּאָה (ga’ah) and שָׂגָה (sagah), have almost the same meanings of “flourish, grow, become tall.”
13 tn The word has been traditionally translated “greenness” (so KJV, ASV), but some modern commentators argue for “in flower.” The word is found only in Song 6:11 (where it may be translated “blossoms”). From the same root is אָבִיב (’aviv, “fresh young ears of barley”). Here the word refers to the plant that is still in its early stages of flowering. It should not be translated to suggest the plant is flowering (cf. NRSV), but translating as if the plant is green (so NASB) is also problematic.
14 sn The idea is that as the plant begins to flower, but before it is to be cut down, there is no sign of withering or decay in it. But if the water is withdrawn, it will wither sooner than any other herb. The point Bildad will make of this is that when people rebel against God and his grace is withheld, they perish more swiftly than the water reed.
15 tn The imperfect verb here is the modal use of potential, “can wither away” if the water is not there.
16 tn Heb “before.”
17 tn The LXX interprets the line: “does not any herb wither before it has received moisture?”
18 tn The word אָרְחוֹת (’orkhot) means “ways” or “paths” in the sense of tracks of destiny or fate. The word דֶּרֶךְ (derekh, “way, road, path”) is used in a similar way (Isa 40:27; Ps 37:5). However, many commentators emend the text to read אַחֲרִית (’akharit, “end”) in harmony with the LXX. But Prov 1:19 (if not emended as well) confirms the primary meaning here without changing the text (see D. J. A. Clines, Job [WBC], 199).
19 tn The word חָנֵף (khanef) is often translated “hypocrite.” But the root verb means “to be profane,” and this would be done by idolatry or bloodshed. It describes an irreligious person, a godless person. In Dan 11:32 the word seems to mean “make someone pagan.” The word in this verse is parallel to “those who forget God.”
20 tn The relative pronoun introduces the verse as a relative clause, working with the “godless person” of the preceding verse. The relative pronoun is joined to the resumptive pronoun in the translation: “who + his trust” = “whose trust.”
22 tn The word יָקוֹט (yaqot) is not known anywhere else; here it looks like it should be a noun to parallel “spider’s house” in the next colon. But scholars have tried to identify it as a verb, perhaps an imperfect of קוֹט (qot, BDB 876 s.v.), or related to an Arabic qatta, “to cut.” Some versions have “break in sunder” (KJV, RV); others “cut off” (RSV). Apart from verbs, some commentators follow Sa`adia’s Arabic translation “sun cords,” meaning “gossamer.” Accordingly, there are emendations like “threads,” “threads of summer,” “spider threads,” and the like. D. J. A. Clines agrees with those who conclude that emendations based on Sa`adia’s translation lack a sound philological basis. E. Dhorme “somewhat timidly” suggests יַלְקוּט (yalqut), the shepherd’s bag or scrip (1 Sam 17:40). He suggests that an empty bag would be a symbol of something unstable and futile. It seems impossible to determine exactly what the word meant. One can only conclude that it means something like “fragile” or “futile.” The LXX is of no help: “for his house shall be without inhabitants.”
23 sn The second half of the verse is very clear. What the godless person relies on for security is as fragile as a spider’s web – he may as well have nothing. The people of the Middle East view the spider’s web as the frailest of all “houses.”
24 tn The verb עָמַד (’amad, “to stand”) is almost synonymous with the parallel קוּם (qum, “to rise; to stand”). The distinction is that the former means “to remain standing” (so it is translated here “hold up”), and the latter “rise, stand up.”
25 sn The idea is that he grabs hold of the house, not to hold it up, but to hold himself up or support himself. But it cannot support him. This idea applies to both the spider’s web and the false security of the pagan.
26 tn The figure now changes to a plant that is flourishing and spreading and then suddenly cut off. The word רָטַב (ratav) means “to be moist; to be watered.” The word occurs in Arabic, Aramaic, and Akkadian, but only twice in the Bible: here as the adjective and in 24:8 as the verb.
27 tn The Hebrew is לִפְנֵי (lifne, “before”). Does this mean “in the presence of the sun,” i.e., under a sweltering sun, or “before” the sun rises? It seems more natural to take לִפְנֵי (lifne) as “in the presence of” or “under.”
28 tn Heb “its shoot goes out.”
29 tc Some have emended this phrase to obtain “over the roofs.” The LXX has “out of his corruption.” H. M. Orlinsky has shown that this reading arose from an internal LXX change, saprias having replaced prasias, “garden” (JQR 26 [1935/36]: 134-35).
30 tn Cheyne reads “spring” or “well” rather than “heap.” However, this does not fit the parallelism very well, and so he emends the second half as well. Nevertheless the Hebrew text needs no emending here.
31 tn The expression “of stones” is added for clarification of what the heap would be. It refers to the object around which the roots would grow. The parallelism with “house of stones” makes this reading highly probable.
32 tn The idea is that the plant grows, looking for a place to grow among the stones. Some trees grow so tightly around the rocks and stones that they are impossible to uproot. The rocky ground where it grows forms “a house of stones.” The LXX supports an emendation from יְחֱזֶה (yÿkhezeh, “it looks”) to יִחְיֶה (yikhyeh, “it lives”). Others have tried to emend the text in a variety of ways: “pushes” (Budde), “cleave” (Gordis), “was opposite” (Driver), or “run against” (NEB, probably based on G. R. Driver). If one were to make a change, the reading with the LXX would be the easiest to defend, but there is no substantial reason to do that. The meaning is about the same without such a change.
33 sn The idea seems to be that the stones around which the roots of the tree wrap themselves suggest strength and security for the tree, but uprooting comes to it nevertheless (v. 18). The point is that the wicked may appear to be living in security and flourishing, yet can be quickly destroyed (H. H. Rowley, Job [NCBC], 74).
34 tc Ball reads אֵל (’el, “God”) instead of אִם (’im, “if”): “God destroys it” – but there is no reason for this. The idea would be implied in the context. A. B. Davidson rightly points out that who destroys it is not important, but the fact that it is destroyed.
tn The Hebrew has “if one destroys it”; the indefinite subject allows for a passive interpretation. The verb means “swallow” in the Qal, but in the Piel it means “to engulf; to destroy; to ruin” (2:3; 10:8). It could here be rendered “removed from its place” (the place where it is rooted); since the picture is that of complete destruction, “uprooted” would be a good rendering.
35 tn Heb “it”; the referent (“his place” in the preceding line) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
sn The place where the plant once grew will deny ever knowing it. Such is the completeness of the uprooting that there is not a trace left.
36 tn Here “saying” is supplied in the translation.
37 tn This line is difficult. If the MT stands as it is, the expression must be ironic. It would be saying that the joy (all the security and prosperity) of its way (its life) is short-lived – that is the way its joy goes. Most commentators are not satisfied with this. Dhorme, for one, changes מְשׂוֹשׂ (mÿsos, “joy”) to מְסוֹס (mÿsos, “rotting”), and gets “behold him lie rotting on the path.” The sibilants can interchange this way. But Dhorme thinks the MT was written the way it was because the word was thought to be “joy,” when it should have been the other way. The word “way” then becomes an accusative of place. The suggestion is rather compelling and would certainly fit the context. The difficulty is that a root סוּס (sus, “to rot”) has to be proposed. E. Dhorme does this by drawing on Arabic sas, “to be eaten by moths or worms,” thus “worm-eaten; decaying; rotting.” Cf. NIV “its life withers away”; also NAB “there he lies rotting beside the road.”
38 tn Heb “dust.”
39 sn As with the tree, so with the godless man – his place will soon be taken by another.