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Job 4:7-21

Context

4:7 Call to mind now: 1 

Who, 2  being innocent, ever perished? 3 

And where were upright people 4  ever destroyed? 5 

4:8 Even as I have seen, 6  those who plow 7  iniquity 8 

and those who sow trouble reap the same. 9 

4:9 By the breath 10  of God they perish, 11 

and by the blast 12  of his anger they are consumed.

4:10 There is 13  the roaring of the lion 14 

and the growling 15  of the young lion,

but the teeth of the young lions are broken. 16 

4:11 The mighty lion 17  perishes 18  for lack of prey,

and the cubs of the lioness 19  are scattered.

Ungodly Complainers Provoke God’s Wrath

4:12 “Now a word was secretly 20  brought 21  to me,

and my ear caught 22  a whisper 23  of it.

4:13 In the troubling thoughts 24  of the dreams 25  in the night

when a deep sleep 26  falls on men,

4:14 a trembling 27  gripped me – and a terror! –

and made all my bones shake. 28 

4:15 Then a breath of air 29  passes 30  by my face;

it makes 31  the hair of my flesh stand up.

4:16 It stands still, 32 

but I cannot recognize 33  its appearance;

an image is before my eyes,

and I hear a murmuring voice: 34 

4:17 “Is 35  a mortal man 36  righteous 37  before 38  God?

Or a man pure 39  before his Creator? 40 

4:18 If 41  God 42  puts no trust in 43  his servants 44 

and attributes 45  folly 46  to his angels,

4:19 how much more to those who live in houses of clay, 47 

whose foundation is in the dust,

who are crushed 48  like 49  a moth?

4:20 They are destroyed 50  between morning and evening; 51 

they perish forever 52  without anyone regarding it. 53 

4:21 Is not their excess wealth 54  taken away from them? 55 

They die, 56  yet without attaining wisdom. 57 

1 sn Eliphaz will put his thesis forward first negatively and then positively (vv. 8ff). He will argue that the suffering of the righteous is disciplinary and not for their destruction. He next will argue that it is the wicked who deserve judgment.

2 tn The use of the independent personal pronoun is emphatic, almost as an enclitic to emphasize interrogatives: “who indeed….” (GKC 442 §136.c).

3 tn The perfect verb in this line has the nuance of the past tense to express the unique past – the uniqueness of the action is expressed with “ever” (“who has ever perished”).

4 tn The adjective is used here substantivally. Without the article the word stresses the meaning of “uprightness.” Job will use “innocent” and “upright” together in 17:8.

5 tn The Niphal means “to be hidden” (see the Piel in 6:10; 15:18; and 27:11); the connotation here is “destroyed” or “annihilated.”

6 tn The perfect verb here represents the indefinite past. It has no specific sighting in mind, but refers to each time he has seen the wicked do this.

7 sn The figure is an implied metaphor. Plowing suggests the idea of deliberately preparing (or cultivating) life for evil. This describes those who are fundamentally wicked.

8 tn The LXX renders this with a plural “barren places.”

9 tn Heb “reap it.”

10 tn The LXX in the place of “breath” has “word” or “command,” probably to limit the anthropomorphism. The word is מִנִּשְׁמַת (minnishmat) comprising מִן (min) + נִשְׁמַת (nishmat, the construct of נְשָׁמָה [nÿshamah]): “from/at the breath of.” The “breath of God” occurs frequently in Scripture. In Gen 2:7 it imparts life; but here it destroys it. The figure probably does indicate a divine decree from God (e.g., “depart from me”) – so the LXX may have been simply interpreting.

11 sn The statement is saying that if some die by misfortune it is because divine retribution or anger has come upon them. This is not necessarily the case, as the NT declares (see Luke 13:1-5).

12 tn The word רוּחַ (ruakh) is now parallel to נְשָׁמָה (nÿshamah); both can mean “breath” or “wind.” To avoid using “breath” for both lines, “blast” has been employed here. The word is followed by אַפוֹ (’afo) which could be translated “his anger” or “his nostril.” If “nostril” is retained, then it is a very bold anthropomorphism to indicate the fuming wrath of God. It is close to the picture of the hot wind coming off the desert to scorch the plants (see Hos 13:15).

13 tn “There is” has been supplied to make a smoother translation out of the clauses.

14 sn Eliphaz takes up a new image here to make the point that the wicked are destroyed – the breaking up and scattering of a den of lions. There are several words for “lion” used in this section. D. J. A. Clines observes that it is probably impossible to distinguish them (Job [WBC], 109, 110, which records some bibliography of those who have tried to work on the etymologies and meanings). The first is אַרְיֵה (’aryeh) the generic term for “lion.” It is followed by שַׁחַל (shakhal) which, like כְּפִיר (kÿfir), is a “young lion.” Some have thought that the שַׁחַל (shakhal) is a lion-like animal, perhaps a panther or leopard. KBL takes it by metathesis from Arabic “young one.” The LXX for this verse has “the strength of the lion, and the voice of the lioness and the exulting cry of serpents are quenched.”

15 tn Heb “voice.”

16 tn The verb belongs to the subject “teeth” in this last colon; but it is used by zeugma (a figure of speech in which one word is made to refer to two or more other words, but has to be understood differently in the different contexts) of the three subjects (see H. H. Rowley, Job [NCBC], 46-47).

17 tn The word לַיִשׁ (layish) traditionally rendered “strong lion,” occurs only here and in Prov 30:30 and Isa 30:6. It has cognates in several of the Semitic languages, and so seems to indicate lion as king of the beasts.

18 tn The form of the verb is the Qal active participle; it stresses the characteristic action of the verb as if a standard universal truth.

19 tn The text literally has “sons of the lioness.”

20 tn The LXX of this verse offers special problems. It reads, “But if there had been any truth in your words, none of these evils would have fallen upon you; shall not my ear receive excellent [information] from him?” The major error involves a dittography from the word for “secret,” yielding “truth.”

21 tn The verb גָּנַב (ganav) means “to steal.” The Pual form in this verse is probably to be taken as a preterite since it requires a past tense translation: “it was stolen for me” meaning it was brought to me stealthily (see 2 Sam 19:3).

22 tn Heb “received.”

23 tn The word שֵׁמֶץ (shemets, “whisper”) is found only here and in Job 26:14. A cognate form שִׁמְצָה (shimtsah) is found in Exod 32:25 with the sense of “a whisper.” In postbiblical Hebrew the word comes to mean “a little.” The point is that Eliphaz caught just a bit, just a whisper of it, and will recount it to Job.

24 tn Here too the word is rare. The form שְׂעִפִּים (sÿippim, “disquietings”) occurs only here and in 20:2. The form שַׂרְעַפִּים (sarappim, “disquieting thoughts”), possibly related by dissimilation, occurs in Pss 94:19 and 139:23. There seems to be a connection with סְעִפִּים (sÿippim) in 1 Kgs 18:21 with the meaning “divided opinion”; this is related to the idea of סְעִפָּה (sÿippah, “bough”). H. H. Rowley (Job [NCBC], 47) concludes that the point is that like branches the thoughts lead off into different and bewildering places. E. Dhorme (Job, 50) links the word to an Arabic root (“to be passionately smitten”) for the idea of “intimate thoughts.” The idea here and in Ps 139 has more to do with anxious, troubling, disquieting thoughts, as in a nightmare.

25 tn Heb “visions” of the night.

26 tn The word תַּרְדֵּמָה (tardemah) is a “deep sleep.” It is used in the creation account when the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam; and it is used in the story of Jonah when the prophet was asleep during the storm. The LXX interprets it to mean “fear,” rendering the whole verse “but terror falls upon men with dread and a sound in the night.”

27 tn The two words פַּחַד (pakhad, “trembling”) and רְעָדָה (rÿadah, “terror”) strengthen each other as synonyms (see also Ps 55:6). The subject of the verb קָרָא (qara’, “befall, encounter”) is פַּחַד (pakhad, “trembling”); its compound subject has been placed at the end of the colon.

28 tn The subject of the Hiphil verb הִפְחִיד (hifkhid, “dread”) is פַּחַד (pakhad, “trembling”), which is why it is in the singular. The cognate verb intensifies and applies the meaning of the noun. BDB 808 s.v. פַּחַד Hiph translates it “fill my bones with dread.” In that sense “bones” would have to be a metonymy of subject representing the framework of the body, so that the meaning is that his whole being was filled with trembling.

29 tn The word רוּחַ (ruakh) can be “spirit” or “breath.” The implication here is that it was something that Eliphaz felt – what he saw follows in v. 16. The commentators are divided on whether this is an apparition, a spirit, or a breath. The word can be used in either the masculine or the feminine, and so the gender of the verb does not favor the meaning “spirit.” In fact, in Isa 21:1 the same verb חָלַף (khalaf, “pass on, through”) is used with the subject being a strong wind or hurricane “blowing across.” It may be that such a wind has caused Eliphaz’s hair to stand on end here. D. J. A. Clines (Job [WBC], 111) also concludes it means “wind,” noting that in Job a spirit or spirits would be called רְפָאִים (rÿfaim), אֶלֹהִים (’elohim) or אוֹב (’ov).

30 tn The verbs in this verse are imperfects. In the last verse the verbs were perfects when Eliphaz reported the fear that seized him. In this continuation of the report the description becomes vivid with the change in verbs, as if the experience were in progress.

31 tn The subject of this verb is also רוּחַ (ruakh, “spirit”), since it can assume either gender. The “hair of my flesh” is the complement and not the subject; therefore the Piel is to be retained and not changed to a Qal as some suggest (and compare with Ps 119:120).

32 tc The LXX has the first person of the verb: “I arose and perceived it not, I looked and there was no form before my eyes; but I only heard a breath and a voice.”

33 tn The imperfect verb is to be classified as potential imperfect. Eliphaz is unable to recognize the figure standing before him.

34 sn The colon reads “a silence and a voice I hear.” Some have rendered it “there is a silence, and then I hear.” The verb דָּמַם (damam) does mean “remain silent” (Job 29:21; 31:34) and then also “cease.” The noun דְּמָמָה (dÿmamah, “calm”) refers to the calm after the storm in Ps 107:29. Joined with the true object of the verb, “voice,” it probably means something like stillness or murmuring or whispering here. It is joined to “voice” with a conjunction, indicating that it is a hendiadys, “murmur and a voice” or a “murmuring voice.”

35 tn The imperfect verbs in this verse express obvious truths known at all times (GKC 315 §107.f).

36 tn The word for man here is first אֱנוֹשׁ (’enosh), stressing man in all his frailty, his mortality. This is paralleled with גֶּבֶר (gever), a word that would stress more of the strength or might of man. The verse is not making a great contrast between the two, but it is rhetorical question merely stating that no human being of any kind is righteous or pure before God the Creator. See H. Kosmala, “The Term geber in the OT and in the Scrolls,” VTSup 17 (1969): 159-69; and E. Jacob, Theology of the Old Testament, 156-57.

37 tn The imperfect verb in this interrogative sentence could also be interpreted with a potential nuance: “Can a man be righteous?”

38 tn The classification of מִן (min) as a comparative in this verse (NIV, “more righteous than God”; cf. also KJV, ASV, NCV) does not seem the most probable. The idea of someone being more righteous than God is too strong to be reasonable. Job will not do that – but he will imply that God is unjust. In addition, Eliphaz had this vision before hearing of Job’s trouble and so is not addressing the idea that Job is making himself more righteous than God. He is stating that no man is righteous before God. Verses 18-21 will show that no one can claim righteousness before God. In 9:2 and 25:4 the preposition “with” is used. See also Jer 51:5 where the preposition should be rendered “before” [the Holy One].

39 sn In Job 15:14 and 25:4 the verb יִזְכֶּה (yizkeh, from זָכָה [zakhah, “be clean”]) is paralleled with יִצְדַּק (yitsdaq, from צָדֵק [tsadeq, “be righteous”).

40 tn The double question here merely repeats the same question with different words (see GKC 475 §150.h). The second member could just as well have been connected with ו (vav).

41 tn The particle הֵן (hen) introduces a conditional clause here, although the older translations used “behold.” The clause forms the foundation for the point made in the next verse, an argument by analogy – if this be true, then how much more/less the other.

42 tn Heb “he”; the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

43 tn The verb יַאֲמִין (yaamin), a Hiphil imperfect from אָמַן (’aman) followed by the preposition בּ (bet), means “trust in.”

44 sn The servants here must be angels in view of the parallelism. The Targum to Job interpreted them to be the prophets. In the book we have already read about the “sons of God” who take their stand as servants before the Lord (1:6; 2:1). And Ps 104:4 identifies the angels as servants (using שָׁרַת, sharat).

45 tn The verb שִׂים (sim, “set”) with the preposition בּ (bet) has the sense of “impute” or “attribute something to someone.”

46 tn The word תָּהֳלָה (toholah) is a hapax legomenon, and so has created some confusion in the various translations. It seems to mean “error; folly.” The word is translated “perverseness” in the LXX; but Symmachus connects it with the word for “madness.” “Some commentators have repointed the word to תְּהִלָּה (tÿhillah, “praise”) making the line read: “he finds no [cause for] praise in his angels.” Others suggest תִּפְלָה (tiflah, “offensiveness, silliness”) a bigger change; this matches the idiom in Job 24:12. But if the etymology of the word is הָלַל (halal, “to be mad”) then that change is not necessary. The feminine noun “madness” still leaves the meaning of the line a little uncertain: “[if] he does not impute madness to his angels.” The point of the verse is that God finds flaws in his angels and does not put his trust in them.

47 sn Those who live in houses of clay are human beings, for the human body was made of clay (Job 10:9; 33:6; and Isa 64:7). In 2 Cor 4:7 the body is an “earthen vessel” – a clay pot. The verse continues the analogy: houses have foundations, and the house of clay is founded on dust, and will return to dust (Gen 3:19; Ps 103:14). The reasoning is that if God finds defects in angels, he will surely find them in humans who are inferior to the angels because they are but dust. In fact, they are easily crushed like the moth.

48 tn The imperfect verb is in the plural, suggesting “they crush.” But since there is no subject expressed, the verb may be given an impersonal subject, or more simply, treated as a passive (see GKC 460 §144.g).

49 tn The prepositional compound לִפְנֵי (lifne) normally has the sense of “before,” but it has been used already in 3:24 in the sense of “like.” That is the most natural meaning of this line. Otherwise, the interpretation must offer some explanation of a comparison between how quickly a moth and a human can be crushed. There are suggestions for different readings here; see for example G. R. Driver, “Linguistic and Textual Problems: Jeremiah,” JQR 28 (1937/38): 97-129 for a change to “bird’s nest”; and J. A. Rimbach, “‘Crushed before the Moth’ (Job 4:19),” JBL 100 (1981): 244-46, for a change of the verb to “they are pure before their Maker.” However, these are unnecessary emendations.

50 tn The form יֻכַּתּוּ (yukkatu) is the Hophal imperfect of the root כָּתַת (katat, “to be pounded, pulverized, reduced to ashes” [Jer 46:5; Mic 1:7]). It follows the Aramaic formation (see GKC 182 §67.y). This line appears to form a parallelism with “they are crushed like a moth,” the third unit of the last verse; but it has its own parallel idea in this verse. See D. J. A. Clines, “Verb Modality and the Interpretation of Job 4:20, 21,” VT 30 (1980): 354-57.

51 tn Or “from morning to evening.” The expression “from morning to evening” is probably not a merism, but rather describes the time between the morning and the evening, as in Isa 38:12: “from day to night you make an end of me.”

52 sn The second colon expresses the consequence of this day-long reducing to ashes – they perish forever! (see 20:7 and 14:20).

53 tn This rendering is based on the interpretation that מִבְּלִי מֵשִׂים (mibbÿli mesim) uses the Hiphil participle of שִׂים (sim, “set”) with an understood object “heart” to gain the idiom of “taking to heart, considering, regarding it” – hence, “without anyone regarding it.” Some commentators have attempted to resolve the difficulty by emending the text, a procedure that has no more support than positing the ellipses. One suggested emendation does have the LXX in its favor, namely, a reading of מֹשִׁיעַ (moshia’, “one who saves”) in place of מֵשִׂים (mesim, “one who sets”). This would lead to “without one who saves they perish forever” (E. Dhorme, Job, 55).

54 tn The word יֶתֶר (yeter, here with the suffix, יִתְרָם [yitram]) can mean “what remains” or “rope.” Of the variety of translations, the most frequently used idea seems to be “their rope,” meaning their tent cord. This would indicate that their life was compared to a tent – perfectly reasonable in a passage that has already used the image “houses of clay.” The difficulty is that the verb נָסַע (nasa’) means more properly “to tear up; to uproot.” and not “to cut off.” A similar idea is found in Isa 38:12, but there the image is explicitly that of cutting the life off from the loom. Some have posited that the original must have said their tent peg was pulled up” as in Isa 33:20 (A. B. Davidson, Job, 34; cf. NAB). But perhaps the idea of “what remains” would be easier to defend here. Besides, it is used in 22:20. The wealth of an individual is what has been acquired and usually is left over when he dies. Here it would mean that the superfluous wealth would be snatched away. The preposition בּ (bet) would carry the meaning “from” with this verb.

55 tc The text of the LXX does not seem to be connected to the Hebrew of v. 21a. It reads something like “for he blows on them and they are withered” (see Isa 40:24b). The Targum to Job has “Is it not by their lack of righteousness that they have been deprived of all support?”

tn On the interpretation of the preposition in this construction, see N. Sarna, “The Interchange of the Preposition bet and min in Biblical Hebrew,” JBL 78 (1959): 310-16.

56 sn They die. This clear verb interprets all the images in these verses – they die. When the house of clay collapses, or when their excess perishes – their life is over.

57 tn Heb “and without wisdom.” The word “attaining” is supplied in the translation as a clarification.

sn The expression without attaining wisdom is parallel to the previous without anyone regarding it. Both verses describe how easily humans perish: there is no concern for it, nor any sense to it. Humans die without attaining wisdom which can solve the mystery of human life.



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