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Job 31:16-23

Context

31:16 If I have refused to give the poor what they desired, 1 

or caused the eyes of the widow to fail,

31:17 If I ate my morsel of bread myself,

and did not share any of it with orphans 2 

31:18 but from my youth I raised the orphan 3  like a father,

and from my mother’s womb 4 

I guided the widow! 5 

31:19 If I have seen anyone about to perish for lack of clothing,

or a poor man without a coat,

31:20 whose heart did not bless me 6 

as he warmed himself with the fleece of my sheep, 7 

31:21 if I have raised my hand 8  to vote against the orphan,

when I saw my support in the court, 9 

31:22 then 10  let my arm fall from the shoulder, 11 

let my arm be broken off at the socket. 12 

31:23 For the calamity from God was a terror to me, 13 

and by reason of his majesty 14  I was powerless.

1 tn Heb “kept the poor from [their] desire.”

2 tn Heb “and an orphan did not eat from it.”

3 tn Heb “he grew up with me.” Several commentators have decided to change the pronoun to “I,” and make it causative.

4 tn The expression “from my mother’s womb” is obviously hyperbolic. It is a way of saying “all his life.”

5 tn Heb “I guided her,” referring to the widow mentioned in v. 16.

6 tn The MT has simply “if his loins did not bless me.” In the conditional clause this is another protasis. It means, “if I saw someone dying and if he did not thank me for clothing them.” It is Job’s way of saying that whenever he saw a need he met it, and he received his share of thanks – which prove his kindness. G. R. Driver has it “without his loins having blessed me,” taking “If…not” as an Aramaism, meaning “except” (AJSL 52 [1935/36]: 164f.).

7 tn This clause is interpreted here as a subordinate clause to the first half of the verse. It could also be a separate clause: “was he not warmed…?”

8 tn The expression “raised my hand” refers to a threatening manner or gesture in the court rather than a threat of physical violence in the street. Thus the words “to vote” are supplied in the translation to indicate the setting.

9 tn Heb “gate,” referring to the city gate where judicial decisions were rendered in the culture of the time. The translation uses the word “court” to indicate this to the modern reader, who might not associate a city gate complex with judicial functions.

10 sn Here is the apodosis, the imprecation Job pronounces on himself if he has done any of these things just listed.

11 tn The point is that if he has raised his arm against the oppressed it should be ripped off at the joint. The MT has “let fall my shoulder [כְּתֵפִי, kÿtefi] from the nape of the neck [or shoulder blade (מִשִּׁכְמָה, mishikhmah)].”

12 tn The word קָנֶה (qaneh) is “reed; shaft; beam,” and here “shoulder joint.” All the commentaries try to explain how “reed” became “socket; joint.” This is the only place that it is used in such a sense. Whatever the exact explanation – and there seems to be no convincing view – the point of the verse is nonetheless clear.

13 tc The LXX has “For the terror of God restrained me.” Several commentators changed it to “came upon me.” Driver had “The fear of God was burdensome.” I. Eitan suggested “The terror of God was mighty upon me” (“Two unknown verbs: etymological studies,” JBL 42 [1923]: 22-28). But the MT makes clear sense as it stands.

14 tn The form is וּמִשְּׂאֵתוֹ (umissÿeto); the preposition is causal. The form, from the verb נָשָׂא (nasa’, “to raise; to lift high”), refers to God’s exalted person, his majesty (see Job 13:11).



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