Job 17

1My spirit is broken,
The verb חָבַל (khaval, “to act badly”) in the Piel means “to ruin.” The Pual translation with “my spirit” as the subject means “broken” in the sense of finished (not in the sense of humbled as in Ps 51).

my days have faded out,
The verb זָעַךְ (zaaq, equivalent of Aramaic דָעַק [daaq]) means “to be extinguished.” It only occurs here in the Hebrew.

the grave
The plural “graves” could be simply an intensification, a plural of extension (see GKC 397 #124.c), or a reference to the graveyard. Coverdale had: “I am harde at deathes dore.” The Hebrew expression simply reads “graves for me.” It probably means that graves await him.
awaits me.
2 Surely mockery
The noun is the abstract noun, “mockery.” It indicates that he is the object of derision. But many commentators either change the word to “mockers” (Tur-Sinai, NEB), or argue that the form in the text is a form of the participle (Gordis).
is with me;
E. Dhorme (Job, 243) interprets the preposition to mean “aimed at me.”

my eyes must dwell on their hostility.
The meaning of הַמְּרוֹתָם (hammerotam) is unclear, and the versions offer no help. If the MT is correct, it would probably be connected to מָרָה (marah, “to be rebellious”) and the derived form something like “hostility; provocation.” But some commentators suggest it should be related to מָרֹרוֹת (marorot, “bitter things”). Others have changed both the noun and the verb to obtain something like “My eye is weary of their contentiousness” (Holscher), or mine eyes are wearied by your stream of peevish complaints” (G. R. Driver, “Problems in the Hebrew text of Job,” VTSup 3 [1955]: 78). There is no alternative suggestion that is compelling.

3 Make then my pledge
The MT has two imperatives: “Lay down, pledge me, with me.” Most commentators think that the second imperative should be a noun, and take it to say, “Lay my pledge with/beside you.” A. B. Davidson (Job, 126) suggests that the first verb means “give a pledge,” and so the two similar verbs would be emphatic: “Give a pledge, be my surety.” Other than such a change (which would involve changing the vowels) one would have to interpret similarly by seeing the imperatives as a kind of hendiadys, with the main emphasis being on the second imperative, “make a pledge.”
with you.
Who else will put up security for me?
The idiom is “to strike the hand.” Here the wording is a little different, “Who is he that will strike himself into my hand?”

4 Because
This half-verse gives the reason for the next half-verse.
you have closed their
The pronoun their refers to Job’s friends. They have not pledged security for him because God has hidden or sealed off their understanding.
minds to understanding,
therefore you will not exalt them.
The object “them” is supplied. This is the simplest reading of the line, taking the verb is an active Polel. Some suggest that the subject is “their hand” and the verb is to be translated “is not raised.” This would carry through the thought of the last verse, but it is not necessary to the point.

5 If a man denounces his friends for personal gain,
Heb “for a portion.” This verse is rather obscure. The words are not that difficult, but the sense of them in this context is. Some take the idea to mean “he denounces his friends for a portion,” and others have a totally different idea of “he invites his friends to share with him.” The former fits the context better, indicating that Job’s friends speak out against him for some personal gain. The second half of the verse then promises that his children will suffer loss for this attempt at gain. The line is surely proverbial. A number of other interpretations can be found in the commentaries.

the eyes of his children will fail.
6 He has made me
The verb is the third person, and so God is likely the subject. The LXX has “you have made me.” So most commentators clarify the verb in some such way. However, without an expressed subject it can also be taken as a passive.
a byword
The word “byword” is related to the word translated “proverb” in the Bible (מָשָׁל, mashal). Job’s case is so well known that he is synonymous with afflictions and with abuse by people.
to people,
I am the one in whose face they spit.
The word תֹפֶת (tofet) is a hapax legomenon. The expression is “and a spitting in/to the face I have become,” i.e., “I have become one in whose face people spit.” Various suggestions have been made, including a link to Tophet, but they are weak. The verse as it exists in the MT is fine, and fits the context well.

7 My eyes have grown dim
See the usage of this verb in Gen 27:1 and Deut 34:7. Usually it is age that causes the failing eyesight, but here it is the grief.
with grief;
my whole frame
The word יְצֻרִים (yetsurim), here with a suffix, occurs only here in the Bible. The word is related to יָצַר (yatsar, “to form, fashion”). And so Targum Job has “my forms,” and the Vulgate “my members.” The Syriac uses “thoughts” to reflect יֵצֶר (yetser). Some have followed this to interpret, “all my thoughts have dissolved into shadows.” But the parallel with “eye” would suggest “form.” The plural “my forms, all of them” would refer to the whole body.
is but a shadow.
8 Upright men are appalled
This verb שָׁמַם (shamam, “appalled”) is the one found in Isa 52:14, translated there “astonished.”
at this;
the innocent man is troubled
The verb means “to rouse oneself to excitement.” It naturally means “to be agitated; to be stirred up.”
with the godless.
9 But the righteous man holds to his way,
and the one with clean hands grows stronger.
The last two words are the imperfect verb יֹסִיף (yosif) which means “he adds,” and the abstract noun “energy, strength.” This noun is not found elsewhere; its Piel verb occurs in Job 4:4 and 16:5. “he increases strength.”

Anticipation of Death

10 “But turn, all of you,
The form says “all of them.” Several editors would change it to “all of you,” but the lack of concord is not surprising; the vocative elsewhere uses the third person (see Mic 1:2; see also GKC 441 #135.r).
and come
The first verb, the jussive, means “to return”; the second verb, the imperative, means “to come.” The two could be taken as a hendiadys, the first verb becoming adverbial: “to come again.”
Instead of the exact correspondence between coordinate verbs, other combinations occur – here we have a jussive and an imperative (see GKC 386 #120.e).

I will not find a wise man among you.
11 My days have passed, my plans
This term usually means “plans; devices” in a bad sense, although it can be used of God’s plans (see e.g., Zech 8:15).
are shattered,
Although not in the Hebrew text, “even” is supplied in the translation, because this line is in apposition to the preceding.
the desires
This word has been linked to the root יָרַשׁ (yarash, “to inherit”) yielding a meaning “the possessions of my heart.” But it is actually to be connected to אָרַשׁ (’arash, “to desire”) cognate to the Akkadian eresu, “desire.” The LXX has “limbs,” which may come from an Aramaic word for “ropes.” An emendation based on the LXX would be risky.
of my heart.
12 These men
The verse simply has the plural, “they change.” But since this verse seems to be a description of his friends, a clarification of the referent in the translation is helpful.
The same verb שִׂים (sim, “set”) is used this way in Isa 5:20: “…who change darkness into light.”
night into day;
they say,
The rest of the verse makes better sense if it is interpreted as what his friends say.
‘The light is near
in the face of darkness.’
This expression is open to alternative translations: (1) It could mean that they say in the face of darkness, “Light is near.” (2) It could also mean “The light is near the darkness” or “The light is nearer than the darkness.”

13 If
The clause begins with אִם (’im) which here has more of the sense of “since.” E. Dhorme (Job, 253) takes a rather rare use of the word to get “Can I hope again” (see also GKC 475 #150.f for the caveat).
I hope for the grave to be my home,
if I spread out my bed in darkness,
14 If I cry
This is understood because the conditional clauses seem to run to the apodosis in v. 15.
to corruption,
The word שַׁחַת (shakhat) may be the word “corruption” from a root שָׁחַת (shakhat, “to destroy”) or a word “pit” from שׁוּחַ (shuakh, “to sink down”). The same problem surfaces in Ps 16:10, where it is parallel to “Sheol.” E. F. Sutcliffe, The Old Testament and the Future Life, 76ff., defends the meaning “corruption.” But many commentators here take it to mean “the grave” in harmony with “Sheol.” But in this verse “worms” would suggest “corruption” is better.
‘You are my father,’
and to the worm, ‘My Mother,’ or ‘My sister,’
15 where then
The adverb אֵפוֹ (’efo, “then”) plays an enclitic role here (see Job 4:7).
is my hope?
And my hope,
The repetition of “my hope” in the verse has thrown the versions off, and their translations have led commentators also to change the second one to something like “goodness,” on the assumption that a word cannot be repeated in the same verse. The word actually carries two different senses here. The first would be the basic meaning “hope,” but the second a metonymy of cause, namely, what hope produces, what will be seen.
who sees it?
16 Will
It is natural to assume that this verse continues the interrogative clause of the preceding verse.
The plural form of the verb probably refers to the two words, or the two senses of the word in the preceding verse. Hope and what it produces will perish with Job.
go down to the barred gates
The Hebrew word בַּדִּים (baddim) describes the “bars” or “bolts” of Sheol, referring (by synecdoche) to the “gates of Sheol.” The LXX has “with me to Sheol,” and many adopt that as “by my side.”
of death?
The conjunction אִם (’im) confirms the interrogative interpretation.
we descend
The translation follows the LXX and the Syriac versions with the change of vocalization in the MT. The MT has the noun “rest,” yielding, “will our rest be together in the dust?” The verb נָחַת (nakhat) in Aramaic means “to go down; to descend.” If that is the preferred reading – and it almost is universally accepted here – then it would be spelled נֵחַת (nekhat). In either case the point of the verse is clearly describing death and going to the grave.
together into the dust?”
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