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Job 31:38-40

Context
Job’s Final Solemn Oath 1 

31:38 “If my land cried out against me 2 

and all its furrows wept together,

31:39 if I have eaten its produce without paying, 3 

or caused the death 4  of its owners, 5 

31:40 then let thorns sprout up in place of wheat,

and in place of barley, weeds!” 6 

The words of Job are ended.

1 sn Many commentators place vv. 38-40b at the end of v. 34, so that there is no return to these conditional clauses after his final appeal.

2 sn Some commentators have suggested that the meaning behind this is that Job might not have kept the year of release (Deut 15:1), and the law against mixing seed (Lev 19:19). But the context will make clear that the case considered is obtaining the land without paying for it and causing the death of its lawful owner (see H. H. Rowley, Job [NCBC], 206). Similar to this would be the case of Naboth’s vineyard.

3 tn Heb “without silver.”

4 tc The versions have the verb “grieved” here. The Hebrew verb means “to breathe,” but the form is Hiphil. This verb in that stem could mean something of a contemptuous gesture, like “sniff” in Mal 1:13. But with נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) in Job 11:20 it means “to cause death,” i.e., “to cause to breathe out; to expire.” This is likely the meaning here, although it is possible that it only meant “to cause suffering” to the people.

5 tn There is some debate over the meaning of בְּעָלֶיהָ (bÿaleyha), usually translated “its owners.” Dahood, following others (although without their emendations), thought it referred to “laborers” (see M. Dahood, Bib 41 [1960]: 303; idem, Bib 43 [1962]: 362).

6 tn The word בָּאְשָׁה (boshah, from בָּאַשׁ [baas, “to have a foul smell”]) must refer to foul smelling weeds.



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