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Job 9:16-35

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 

9:24 If a land 24  has been given

into the hand of a wicked man, 25 

he covers 26  the faces of its judges; 27 

if it is not he, then who is it? 28 

Renewed Complaint

9:25 “My days 29  are swifter than a runner, 30 

they speed by without seeing happiness.

9:26 They glide by 31  like reed 32  boats,

like an eagle that swoops 33  down on its prey. 34 

9:27 If I say, 35  ‘I will 36  forget my complaint,

I will change my expression 37  and be cheerful,’ 38 

9:28 I dread 39  all my sufferings, 40 

for 41  I know that you do not hold me blameless. 42 

9:29 If I am guilty, 43 

why then 44  weary myself 45  in vain? 46 

9:30 If I wash myself with snow water, 47 

and make my hands clean with lye, 48 

9:31 then you plunge me into a slimy pit 49 

and my own clothes abhor me.

9:32 For he 50  is not a human being like I am,

that 51  I might answer him,

that we might come 52  together in judgment.

9:33 Nor is there an arbiter 53  between us,

who 54  might lay 55  his hand on us both, 56 

9:34 who 57  would take his 58  rod 59  away from me

so that his terror 60  would not make me afraid.

9:35 Then 61  would I speak and not fear him,

but it is not so with me. 62 

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.

24 tn Some would render this “earth,” meaning the whole earth, and having the verse be a general principle for all mankind. But Job may have in mind the more specific issue of individual land.

25 sn The details of the verse are not easy to explain, but the meaning of the whole verse seems to be about the miscarriage of justice in the courts and the failure of God to do anything about it.

26 tn The subject of the verb is God. The reasoning goes this way: it is the duty of judges to make sure that justice prevails, that restitution and restoration are carried through; but when the wicked gain control of the land of other people, and the judges are ineffective to stop it, then God must be veiling their eyes.

27 sn That these words are strong, if not wild, is undeniable. But Job is only taking the implications of his friends’ speeches to their logical conclusion – if God dispenses justice in the world, and there is no justice, then God is behind it all. The LXX omitted these words, perhaps out of reverence for God.

28 tn This seems to be a broken-off sentence (anacoluthon), and so is rather striking. The scribes transposed the words אֵפוֹא (’efo’) and הוּא (hu’) to make the smoother reading: “If it is not he, who then is it?”

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

30 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.

31 tn Heb “they flee.”

32 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).

33 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.

34 tn Heb “food.”

35 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.

36 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.

37 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.

38 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].”

39 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.

40 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).

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

42 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.

43 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.”

44 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).

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

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

47 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.

48 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.

49 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).

50 tn The personal pronoun that would be expected as the subject of a noun clause is sometimes omitted (see GKC 360 §116.s). Here it has been supplied.

51 tn The consecutive clause is here attached without the use of the ו (vav), but only by simple juxtaposition (see GKC 504-5 §166.a).

52 tn The sense of the verb “come” with “together in judgment” means “to confront one another in court.” See Ps 143:2.

53 tn The participle מוֹכִיחַ (mokhiakh) is the “arbiter” or “mediator.” The word comes from the verb יָכַח (yakhakh, “decide, judge”), which is concerned with legal and nonlegal disputes. The verbal forms can be used to describe the beginning of a dispute, the disputation in progress, or the settling of it (here, and in Isa 1:18).

sn The old translation of “daysman” came from a Latin expression describing the fixing of a day for arbitration.

54 tn The relative pronoun is understood in this clause.

55 tn The jussive in conditional sentences retains its voluntative sense: let something be so, and this must happen as a consequence (see GKC 323 §109.i).

56 sn The idiom of “lay his hand on the two of us” may come from a custom of a judge putting his hands on the two in order to show that he is taking them both under his jurisdiction. The expression can also be used for protection (see Ps 139:5). Job, however, has a problem in that the other party is God, who himself will be arbiter in judgment.

57 tn The verse probably continues the description from the last verse, and so a relative pronoun may be supplied here as well.

58 tn According to some, the reference of this suffix would be to God. The arbiter would remove the rod of God from Job. But others take it as a separate sentence with God removing his rod.

59 sn The “rod” is a symbol of the power of God to decree whatever judgments and afflictions fall upon people.

60 tn “His terror” is metonymical; it refers to the awesome majesty of God that overwhelms Job and causes him to be afraid.

61 tn There is no conjunction with this cohortative; but the implication from the context is that if God’s rod were withdrawn, if the terror were removed, then Job would speak up without fear.

62 tn The last half of the verse is rather cryptic: “but not so I with me.” NIV renders it “but as it now stands with me, I cannot.” This is very smooth and interpretive. Others transpose the two halves of the verse to read, “Since it is not so, I with myself // will commune and not fear him.” Job would be saying that since he cannot contend with God on equal terms, and since there is no arbiter, he will come on his own terms. English versions have handled this differently: “for I know I am not what I am thought to be” (NEB); “since this is not the case with me” (NAB); “I do not see myself like that at all” (JB).



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