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Job 9:16-23

Context

9:16 If I summoned him, and he answered me, 1 

I would not believe 2 

that he would be listening to my voice –

9:17 he who 3  crushes 4  me with a tempest,

and multiplies my wounds for no reason. 5 

9:18 He does not allow 6  me to recover 7  my breath,

for he fills 8  me with bitterness.

9:19 If it is a matter of strength, 9 

most certainly 10  he is the strong one!

And if it is a matter of justice,

he will say, ‘Who will summon me?’ 11 

9:20 Although I am innocent, 12 

my mouth 13  would condemn me; 14 

although I am blameless,

it would declare me perverse. 15 

9:21 I am blameless. 16  I do not know myself. 17 

I despise my life.

Accusation of God’s Justice

9:22 “It is all one! 18  That is why I say, 19 

‘He destroys the blameless and the guilty.’

9:23 If a scourge brings sudden death, 20 

he mocks 21  at the despair 22  of the innocent. 23 

1 sn The idea of “answer” in this line is that of responding to the summons, i.e., appearing in court. This preterite and the perfect before it have the nuance of hypothetical perfects since they are in conditional clauses (GKC 330 §111.x). D. J. A. Clines (Job [WBC], 219) translates literally, “If I should call and he should answer.”

2 tn The Hiphil imperfect in the apodosis of this conditional sentence expresses what would (not) happen if God answered the summons.

3 tn The relative pronoun indicates that this next section is modifying God, the Judge. Job does not believe that God would respond or listen to him, because this is the one who is crushing him.

4 tn The verb יְשׁוּפֵנִי (yÿshufeni) is the same verb that is used in Gen 3:15 for the wounding of the serpent. The Targum to Job, the LXX, and the Vulgate all translate it “to crush; to pound,” or “to bruise.” The difficulty for many exegetes is that this is to be done “with a tempest.” The Syriac and Targum Job see a different vocalization and read “with a hair.” The text as it stands is understandable and so no change is needed. The fact that the word “tempest” is written with a different sibilant in other places in Job is not greatly significant in this consideration.

5 tn חִנָּם (khinnam) is adverbial, meaning “gratuitously, without a cause, for no reason, undeservedly.” See its use in 2:4.

6 tn The verb נָתַן (natan) essentially means “to give”; but followed by the infinitive (without the ל [lamed] here) it means “to permit; to allow.”

7 tn The Hiphil of the verb means “to bring back”; with the object “my breath,” it means “get my breath” or simply “breathe.” The infinitive is here functioning as the object of the verb (see GKC 350 §114.m).

8 sn The meaning of the word is “to satiate; to fill,” as in “drink to the full, be satisfied.” Job is satiated – in the negative sense – with bitterness. There is no room for more.

9 tn The MT has only “if of strength.”

10 tn “Most certainly” translates the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh).

11 tn The question could be taken as “who will summon me?” (see Jer 49:19 and 50:44). This does not make immediate sense. Some have simply changed the suffix to “who will summon him.” If the MT is retained, then supplying something like “he will say” could make the last clause fit the whole passage. Another option is to take it as “Who will reveal it to me?” – i.e., Job could be questioning his friends’ qualifications for being God’s emissaries to bring God’s charges against him (cf. KJV, NKJV; and see 10:2 where Job uses the same verb in the Hiphil to request that God reveal what his sin has been that has led to his suffering).

sn Job is saying that whether it is a trial of strength or an appeal to justice, he is unable to go against God.

12 tn The idea is the same as that expressed in v. 15, although here the imperfect verb is used and not the perfect. Once again with the concessive clause (“although I am right”) Job knows that in a legal dispute he would be confused and would end up arguing against himself.

13 tn Some commentators wish to change this to “his mouth,” meaning God’s response to Job’s complaints. But the MT is far more expressive, and “my mouth” fits the context in which Job is saying that even though he is innocent, if he spoke in a court setting in the presence of God he would be overwhelmed, confused, and no doubt condemn himself.

14 tn The verb has the declarative sense in the Hiphil, “to declare guilty [or wicked]” or “to condemn.”

15 tn The verb עָקַשׁ (’aqash) means “to be twisted; to be tortuous.” The Piel has a meaning “to bend; to twist” (Mic 3:9) and “to pervert” (Jer 59:8). The form here is classified as a Hiphil, with the softening of the vowel i (see GKC 147 §53.n). It would then also be a declarative use of the Hiphil.

16 tn Dhorme, in an effort to avoid tautology, makes this a question: “Am I blameless?” The next clause then has Job answering that he does not know. But through the last section Job has been proclaiming his innocence. The other way of interpreting these verses is to follow NIV and make all of them hypothetical (“If I were blameless, he would pronounce me guilty”) and then come to this verse with Job saying, “I am blameless.” The second clause of this verse does not fit either view very well. In vv. 20, 21, and 22 Job employs the same term for “blameless” (תָּם, tam) as in the prologue (1:1). God used it to describe Job in 1:8 and 2:3. Bildad used it in 8:20. These are the final occurrences in the book.

17 tn The meaning of the expression “I do not know myself” seems to be, “I do not care.” NIV translates it, “I have no concern for my life.”

sn Job believes he is blameless and not deserving of all this suffering; he will hold fast to that claim, even if the future is uncertain, especially if that future involved a confrontation with God.

18 tc The LXX omits the phrase “It is all one.” Modern scholars either omit it or transpose it for clarity.

sn The expression “it is one” means that God’s dealings with people is undiscriminating. The number “one” could also be taken to mean “the same” – “it is all the same.” The implication is that it does not matter if Job is good or evil, if he lives or dies. This is the conclusion of the preceding section.

19 tn The relationships of these clauses is in some question. Some think that the poet has inverted the first two, and so they should read, “That is why I have said: ‘It is all one.’” Others would take the third clause to be what was said.

20 tc The LXX contains a paraphrase: “for the worthless die, but the righteous are laughed to scorn.”

sn The point of these verses is to show – rather boldly – that God does not distinguish between the innocent and the guilty.

21 sn This bold anthropomorphism means that by his treatment of the despair of the innocent, God is in essence mocking them.

22 tn The term מַסַּת (massat), a hapax legomenon, was translated “trial” in the older versions; but it is not from נָסָה (nasah, “to tempt; to test; to try”), but from מָסַס (masas, “to flow”). It is used in the Niphal to speak of the heart “melting” in suffering. So the idea behind this image is that of despair. This is the view that most interpreters adopt; it requires no change of the text whatsoever.

23 sn Job uses this word to refute Eliphaz; cf. 4:7.



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