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Job 9:25-31

Context
Renewed Complaint

9:25 “My days 1  are swifter than a runner, 2 

they speed by without seeing happiness.

9:26 They glide by 3  like reed 4  boats,

like an eagle that swoops 5  down on its prey. 6 

9:27 If I say, 7  ‘I will 8  forget my complaint,

I will change my expression 9  and be cheerful,’ 10 

9:28 I dread 11  all my sufferings, 12 

for 13  I know that you do not hold me blameless. 14 

9:29 If I am guilty, 15 

why then 16  weary myself 17  in vain? 18 

9:30 If I wash myself with snow water, 19 

and make my hands clean with lye, 20 

9:31 then you plunge me into a slimy pit 21 

and my own clothes abhor me.

1 tn The text has “and my days” following the thoughts in the previous section.

2 sn Job returns to the thought of the brevity of his life (7:6). But now the figure is the swift runner instead of the weaver’s shuttle.

3 tn Heb “they flee.”

4 tn The word אֵבֶה (’eveh) means “reed, papyrus,” but it is a different word than was in 8:11. What is in view here is a light boat made from bundles of papyrus that glides swiftly along the Nile (cf. Isa 18:2 where papyrus vessels and swiftness are associated).

5 tn The verb יָטוּשׂ (yatus) is also a hapax legomenon; the Aramaic cognate means “to soar; to hover in flight.” The sentence here requires the idea of swooping down while in flight.

6 tn Heb “food.”

7 tn The construction here uses the infinitive construct with a pronominal suffix – “if my saying” is this, or “if I say.” For the conditional clause using אִם (’im) with a noun clause, see GKC 496 §159.u.

8 tn The verbal form is a cohortative of resolve: “I will forget” or “I am determined to forget.” The same will be used in the second colon of the verse.

9 tn Heb “I will abandon my face,” i.e., change my expression. The construction here is unusual; G. R. Driver connected it to an Arabic word ‘adaba, “made agreeable” (IV), and so interpreted this line to mean “make my countenance pleasant” (“Problems in the Hebrew text of Job,” VTSup 3 [1955]: 76). M. Dahood found a Ugaritic root meaning “make, arrange” (“The Root ’zb II in Job,” JBL 78 [1959]: 303-9), and said, “I will arrange my face.” But see H. G. Williamson, “A Reconsideration of `azab II in Ugaritic,” ZAW 87 (1985): 74-85; Williamson shows it is probably not a legitimate cognate. D. J. A. Clines (Job [WBC], 219) observes that with all these suggestions there are too many homonyms for the root. The MT construction is still plausible.

10 tn In the Hiphil of בָּלַג (balag) corresponds to Arabic balija which means “to shine” and “to be merry.” The shining face would signify cheerfulness and smiling. It could be translated “and brighten [my face].”

11 tn The word was used in Job 3:25; it has the idea of “dread, fear, tremble at.” The point here is that even if Job changes his appearance, he still dreads the sufferings, because he knows that God is treating him as a criminal.

12 sn See Job 7:15; see also the translation by G. Perles, “I tremble in every nerve” (“The Fourteenth Edition of Gesenius-Buhl’s Dictionary,” JQR 18 [1905/06]: 383-90).

13 tn The conjunction “for” is supplied in the translation.

14 sn A. B. Davidson (Job, 73) appropriately notes that Job’s afflictions were the proof of his guilt in the estimation of God. If God held him innocent, he would remove the afflictions.

15 tn The clause simply has “I am guilty.” It is the same type of construction found in v. 24. It is also the opposite of that in v. 20. GKC 317 §107.n lists this as an example of the use of the imperfect to express an obligation or necessity according to the judgment of others; it would therefore mean “if I am to be guilty.”

16 tn The demonstrative pronoun is included to bring particular emphasis to the question, as if to say, “Why in the world…” (see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 24, §118).

17 tn The verb means “tire oneself”; see 3:17.

18 tn Here הֶבֶל (hevel, “breath, vapor, vanity”) is used as an adverb (adverbial accusative).

19 tn The Syriac and Targum Job read with the Qere “with water of [בְמֵי, bÿme] snow.” The Kethib simply has “in [בְמוֹ, bÿmo] snow.” In Ps 51:9 and Isa 1:18 snow forms a simile for purification. Some protest that snow water is not necessarily clean; but if fresh melting snow is meant, then the runoff would be very clear. The image would work well here. Nevertheless, others have followed the later Hebrew meaning for שֶׁלֶג (sheleg) – “soap” (so NIV, NRSV, NLT). Even though that makes a nice parallelism, it is uncertain whether that meaning was in use at the time this text was written.

20 tn The word בֹּר (bor, “lye, potash”) does not refer to purity (Syriac, KJV, ASV), but refers to the ingredient used to make the hands pure or clean. It has the same meaning as בֹּרִית (borit), the alkali or soda made from the ashes of certain plants.

21 tn The pointing in the MT gives the meaning “pit” or “ditch.” A number of expositors change the pointing to שֻׁחוֹת (shukhot) to obtain the equivalent of שֻׂחוֹת (sukhot) / סֻחוֹת (sukhot): “filth” (Isa 5:25). This would make the contrast vivid – Job has just washed with pure water and soap, and now God plunges him into filth. M. H. Pope argues convincingly that the word “pit” in the MT includes the idea of “filth,” making the emendation unnecessary (“The Word sahat in Job 9:31,” JBL 83 [1964]: 269-78).



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