Job 14:10-12

14:10 But man dies and is powerless;

he expires – and where is he?

14:11 As water disappears from the sea,

or a river drains away and dries up,

14:12 so man lies down and does not rise;

until the heavens are no more,

they will not awake

nor arise from their sleep.

tn There are two words for “man” in this verse. The first (גֶּבֶר, gever) can indicate a “strong” or “mature man” or “mighty man,” the hero; and the second (אָדָם, ’adam) simply designates the person as mortal.

tn The word חָלַשׁ (khalash) in Aramaic and Syriac means “to be weak” (interestingly, the Syriac OT translated חָלַשׁ [khalash] with “fade away” here). The derived noun “the weak” would be in direct contrast to “the mighty man.” In the transitive sense the verb means “to weaken; to defeat” (Exod 17:13); here it may have the sense of “be lifeless, unconscious, inanimate” (cf. E. Dhorme, Job, 199). Many commentators emend the text to יַחֲלֹף (yakhalof, “passes on; passes away”). A. Guillaume tries to argue that the form is a variant of the other, the letters שׁ (shin) and פ (pe) being interchangeable (“The Use of halas in Exod 17:13, Isa 14:12, and Job 14:10,” JTS 14 [1963]: 91-92). G. R. Driver connected it to Arabic halasa, “carry off suddenly” (“The Resurrection of Marine and Terrestrial Creatures,” JSS 7 [1962]: 12-22). But the basic idea of “be weak, powerless” is satisfactory in the text. H. H. Rowley (Job [NCBC], 105) says, “Where words are so carefully chosen, it is gratuitous to substitute less expressive words as some editors do.”

tn This break to a question adds a startling touch to the whole verse. The obvious meaning is that he is gone. The LXX weakens it: “and is no more.”

tn The comparative clause may be signaled simply by the context, especially when facts of a moral nature are compared with the physical world (see GKC 499 §161.a).

tn The Hebrew word יָם (yam) can mean “sea” or “lake.”

tc The Hebrew construction is “until not,” which is unusual if not impossible; it is found in only one other type of context. In its six other occurrences (Num 21:35; Deut 3:3; Josh 8:22; 10:33; 11:8; 2 Kgs 10:11) the context refers to the absence of survivors. Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, Syriac, and Vulgate all have “till the heavens wear out.” Most would emend the text just slightly from עַד־בִּלְתִּי (’ad-bilti, “are no more”) to עַד בְּלוֹת (’ad bÿlot, “until the wearing out of,” see Ps 102:26 [27]; Isa 51:6). Gray rejects emendation here, finding the unusual form of the MT in its favor. Orlinsky (p. 57) finds a cognate Arabic word meaning “will not awake” and translates it “so long as the heavens are not rent asunder” (H. M. Orlinsky, “The Hebrew and Greek Texts of Job 14:12,” JQR 28 [1937/38]: 57-68). He then deletes the last line of the verse as a later gloss.

tn The verb is plural because the subject, אִישׁ (’ish), is viewed as a collective: “mankind.” The verb means “to wake up; to awake”; another root, קוּץ (quts, “to split open”) cognate to Arabic qada and Akkadian kasu, was put forward by H. M. Orlinsky (“The Hebrew and Greek Texts of Job 14:12,” JQR 28 [1937-38]: 57-68) and G. R. Driver (“Problems in the Hebrew Text of Job,” VTSup 3 [1955]: 72-93).