Job 9:2-3

9:2 “Truly, I know that this is so.

But how can a human be just before God?

9:3 If someone wishes to contend with him,

he cannot answer him one time in a thousand.

Job 16:21

16:21 and he contends with God on behalf of man

as a man 10  pleads 11  for his friend.

tn The adverb אָמְנָם (’omnam, “in truth”) is characteristic of the Book of Job (12:2; 19:4; 34:12; 36:4). The friends make commonplace statements, general truths, and Job responds with “truly I know this is so.” Job knows as much about these themes as his friends do.

sn The interrogative is used to express what is an impossibility.

tn The attempt to define אֱנוֹשׁ (’enosh) as “weak” or “mortal” man is not compelling. Such interpretations are based on etymological links without the clear support of usage (an issue discussed by J. Barr, Comparative Philology and the Text of the Old Testament). This seems to be a poetic word for “human” (the only nonpoetic use is in 2 Chr 14:10).

tn The preposition is אִם (’im, “with, before, in the presence of”). This is more specific than מִן (min) in 4:17.

sn The point of Job’s rhetorical question is that man cannot be justified as against God, because God is too powerful and too clever – he controls the universe. He is discussing now the question that Eliphaz raised in 4:17. Peake observes that Job is raising the question of whether something is right because God says it is right, or that God declares it right because it is right.

tn Some commentators take God to be the subject of this verb, but it is more likely that it refers to the mortal who tries to challenge God in a controversy. The verb is used of Job in 13:3.

tn The verb רִיב (riv) is a common one; it has the idea of “contention; dispute; legal dispute or controversy; go to law.” With the preposition אִם (’im) the idea must be “to contend with” or “to dispute with.” The preposition reflects the prepositional phrase “with God” in v. 2, supporting the view that man is the subject.

tn This use of the imperfect as potential imperfect assumes that the human is the subject, that in a dispute with God he could not answer one of God’s questions (for which see the conclusion of the book when God questions Job). On the other hand, if the interpretation were that God does not answer the demands of mortals, then a simple progressive imperfect would be required. In support of this is the frustration of Job that God does not answer him.

tn E. Dhorme (Job, 240) alters this slightly to read “Would that” or “Ah! if only.”

10 tn This is the simple translation of the expression “son of man” in Job. But some commentators wish to change the word בֵּן (ben, “son”) to בֵּין (ben, “between”). It would then be “[as] between a man and [for] his friend.” Even though a few mss have this reading, it is to be rejected. But see J. Barr, “Some Notes on ‘ben’ in Classical Hebrew,” JSS 23 (1978): 1-22.

11 tn The verb is supplied from the parallel clause.