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Job 16:18-21

Context
An Appeal to God as Witness

16:18 “O earth, do not cover my blood, 1 

nor let there be a secret 2  place for my cry.

16:19 Even now my witness 3  is in heaven;

my advocate 4  is on high.

16:20 My intercessor is my friend 5 

as my eyes pour out 6  tears to God;

16:21 and 7  he contends with God on behalf of man

as a man 8  pleads 9  for his friend.

1 sn Job knows that he will die, and that his death, signified here by blood on the ground, will cry out for vindication.

2 tn The word is simply “a place,” but in the context it surely means a hidden place, a secret place that would never be discovered (see 18:21).

3 sn The witness in heaven must be God, to whom the cries and prayers come. Job’s dilemma is serious, but common to the human experience: the hostility of God toward him is baffling, but he is conscious of his innocence and can call on God to be his witness.

4 tn The parallelism now uses the Aramaic word “my advocate” – the one who testifies on my behalf. The word again appears in Gen 31:47 for Laban’s naming of the “heap of witness” in Aramaic – “Sahadutha.”

5 tn The first two words of this verse are problematic: מְלִיצַי רֵעָי (mÿlitsay reay, “my scorners are my friends”). The word מֵלִיץ (melits), from or related to the word for “scorner” (לִיץ, lits) in wisdom literature especially, can also mean “mediator” (Job 33:23), “interpreter” (Gen 42:23). This gives the idea that “scorn” has to do with the way words are used. It may be that the word here should have the singular suffix and be taken as “my spokesman.” This may not be from the same root as “scorn” (see N. H. Richardson, “Some Notes on lis and Its Derivatives,” VT 5 [1955]: 434-36). This is the view of the NIV, NJPS, JB, NAB, as well as a number of commentators. The idea of “my friends are scorners” is out of place in this section, unless taken as a parenthesis. Other suggestions are not convincing. The LXX has “May my prayer come to the Lord, and before him may my eye shed tears.” Some have tried to change the Hebrew to fit this. The word “my friends” also calls for some attention. Instead of a plural noun suffix, most would see it as a singular, a slight vocalic change. But others think it is not the word “friend.” D. J. A. Clines accepts the view that it is not “friends” but “thoughts” (רֵעַ, rea’). E. Dhorme takes it as “clamor,” from רוּעַ (rua’) and so interprets “my claimant word has reached God.” J. B. Curtis tries “My intercessor is my shepherd,” from רֹעִי (roi). See “On Job’s Witness in Heaven,” JBL 102 [1983]: 549-62.

6 tn The Hebrew verb means “to drip; to stream; to flow”; the expression is cryptic, but understandable: “my eye flows [with tears as I cry out] to God.” But many suggestions have been made for this line too. Driver suggested in connection with cognate words that it be given the meaning “sleepless” (JTS 34 [1933]: 375-85), but this would also require additional words for a smooth reading. See also E. A. Speiser, “The Semantic Range of dalapu,JCS 5 (1951): 64-66, for the Akkadian connection. But for the retention of “dripping eyes” based on the Talmudic use, see J. C. Greenfield, “Lexicographical Notes I,” HUCA 29 (1958): 203-28.

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

8 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.

9 tn The verb is supplied from the parallel clause.



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