Job 19

Job’s Reply to Bildad

Job is completely stunned by Bildad’s speech, and feels totally deserted by God and his friends. Yet from his despair a new hope emerges with a stronger faith. Even though he knows he will die in his innocence, he knows that God will vindicate him and that he will be conscious of the vindication. There are four parts to this reply: Job’s impatience with the speeches of his friends (2–6), God’s abandonment of Job and his attack (7–12), Job’s forsaken state and appeal to his friends (13–22), and Job’s confidence that he will be vindicated (23–29).
Then Job answered:

“How long will you torment me
Heb “torment my soul,” with “soul” representing the self or individual. The MT has a verb from יָגָה (yagah, “to afflict; to torment”). This is supported by the versions. But the LXX has “to tire” which is apparently from יָגַע (yaga’). The form in the MT is unusual because it preserves the final (original) yod in the Hiphil (see GKC 214 So this unusual form has been preserved, and is the correct reading. A modal nuance for the imperfect fits best here: “How long do you intend to do this?”

and crush
The MT has דָּכָא (dakha’), “to crush” in the Piel. The LXX, however, has a more general word which means “to destroy.”
me with your words?
The LXX adds to the verse: “only know that the Lord has dealt with me thus.”

These ten times
The number “ten” is a general expression to convey that this has been done often (see Gen 31:7; Num 14:22).
you have been reproaching me;
The Hiphil of the verb כָּלַם (kalam) means “outrage; insult; shame.” The verbs in this verse are prefixed conjugations, and may be interpreted as preterites if the reference is to the past time. But since the action is still going on, progressive imperfects work well.

you are not ashamed to attack me!
The second half of the verse uses two verbs, the one dependent on the other. It could be translated “you are not ashamed to attack me” (see GKC 385-86 #120.c), or “you attack me shamelessly.” The verb חָכַר (hakhar) poses some difficulties for both the ancient versions and the modern commentators. The verb seems to be cognate to Arabic hakara, “to oppress; to ill-treat.” This would mean that there has been a transformation of ח (khet) to ה (he). Three Hebrew mss actually have the ח (khet). This has been widely accepted; other suggestions are irrelevant.

But even if it were
Job has held to his innocence, so the only way that he could say “I have erred” (שָׁגִיתִי, shagiti) is in a hypothetical clause like this.
true that I have erred,
There is a long addition in the LXX: “in having spoken words which it is not right to speak, and my words err, and are unreasonable.”

my error
The word מְשׁוּגָה (meshugah) is a hapax legomenon. It is derived from שׁוּג (shug, “to wander; to err”) with root paralleling שָׁגַג (shagag) and שָׁגָה (shagah). What Job is saying is that even if it were true that he had erred, it did not injure them – it was solely his concern.
remains solely my concern!
If indeed
The introductory particles repeat אָמְנָם (’amnam, “indeed”) but now with אִם (’im, “if”). It could be interpreted to mean “is it not true,” or as here in another conditional clause.
you would exalt yourselves
The verb is the Hiphil of גָּדַל (gadal); it can mean “to make great” or as an internal causative “to make oneself great” or “to assume a lofty attitude, to be insolent.” There is no reason to assume another root here with the meaning of “quarrel” (as Gordis does).
above me
and plead my disgrace against me,
Job’s friends have been using his shame, his humiliation in all his sufferings, as proof against him in their case.

The imperative is used here to introduce a solemn affirmation. This verse proves that Job was in no way acknowledging sin in v. 4. Here Job is declaring that God has wronged him, and in so doing, perverted justice.
then that God has wronged me
The Piel of עָוַת (’avat) means “to warp justice” (see 8:3), or here, to do wrong to someone (see Ps 119:78). The statement is chosen to refute the question that Bildad asked in his first speech.

and encircled
The verb נָקַף (naqaf) means “to turn; to make a circle; to encircle.” It means that God has encircled or engulfed Job with his net.
me with his net.
The word מְצוּדוֹ (metsudo) is usually connected with צוּד (tsud, “to hunt”), and so is taken to mean “a net.” Gordis and Habel, however, interpret it to mean “siegeworks” thrown up around a city – but that would require changing the ד (dalet) to a ר (resh) (cf. NLT, “I am like a city under siege”). The LXX, though, has “bulwark.” Besides, the previous speech used several words for “net.”

Job’s Abandonment and Affliction

The particle is used here as in 9:11 (see GKC 497 #159.w).
I cry out,
The LXX has “I laugh at reproach.”
The same idea is expressed in Jer 20:8 and Hab 1:2. The cry is a cry for help, that he has been wronged, that there is no justice.

I receive no answer;
The Niphal is simply “I am not answered.” See Prov 21:13b.

I cry for help,
but there is no justice.
He has blocked
The verb גָּדַר (gadar) means “to wall up; to fence up; to block.” God has blocked Job’s way so that he cannot get through. See the note on 3:23. Cf. Lam 3:7.
my way so I cannot pass,
and has set darkness
Some commentators take the word to be חָשַׁךְ (hasak), related to an Arabic word for “thorn hedge.”
over my paths.
He has stripped me of my honor
and has taken the crown off my head.
The images here are fairly common in the Bible. God has stripped away Job’s honorable reputation. The crown is the metaphor for the esteem and dignity he once had. See 29:14; Isa 61:3; see Ps 8:5 [6].

10  He tears me down
The metaphors are changed now to a demolished building and an uprooted tree. The verb is נָתַץ (natats, “to demolish”). Since it is Job himself who is the object, the meaning cannot be “demolish” (as of a house so that an inhabitant has to leave), but more of the attack or the battering.
on every side until I perish;
The text has הָלַךְ (halakh, “to leave”). But in view of Job 14:20, “perish” or “depart” would be a better meaning here.

he uproots
The verb נָסַע (nasa’) means “to travel” generally, but specifically it means “to pull up the tent pegs and move.” The Hiphil here means “uproot.” It is used of a vine in Ps 80:9. The idea here does not contradict Job 14:7, for there the tree still had roots and so could grow.
my hope
The NEB has “my tent rope,” but that seems too contrived here. It is absurd to pull up a tent-rope like a tree.
like one uproots
Heb “like a tree.” The words “one uproots” are supplied in the translation for clarity.
a tree.
11  Thus
The verb is a nonpreterite vayyiqtol perhaps employed to indicate that the contents of v. 11 are a logical sequence to the actions described in v. 10.
his anger burns against me,
and he considers me among his enemies.
This second half of the verse is a little difficult. The Hebrew has “and he reckons me for him like his adversaries.” Most would change the last word to a singular in harmony with the versions, “as his adversary.” But some retain the MT pointing and try to explain it variously: Weiser suggests that the plural might have come from a cultic recitation of Yahweh’s deeds against his enemies; Fohrer thinks it refers to the primeval enemies; Gordis takes it as distributive, “as one of his foes.” If the plural is retained, this latter view makes the most sense.

12  His troops
Now the metaphor changes again. Since God thinks of Job as an enemy, he attacks with his troops, builds the siege ramp, and camps around him to besiege him. All the power and all the forces are at God’s disposal in his attack of Job.
advance together;
they throw up
Heb “they throw up their way against me.” The verb סָלַל (salal) means “to build a siege ramp” or “to throw up a ramp”; here the object is “their way.” The latter could be taken as an adverbial accusative, “as their way.” But as the object it fits just as well. Some delete the middle clause; the LXX has “Together his troops fell upon me, they beset my ways with an ambush.”
a siege ramp against me,
and they camp around my tent.

Job’s Forsaken State

13  “He has put my relatives
Heb “brothers.”
far from me;
my acquaintances only
The LXX apparently took אַךְ־זָרוּ (’akh, “even, only,” and zaru, “they turn away”) together as if it was the verb אַכְזָרוּ (’akhzaru, “they have become cruel,” as in 20:21). But the grammar in the line would be difficult with this. Moreover, the word is most likely from זוּר (zur, “to turn away”). See L. A. Snijders, “The Meaning of zar in the Old Testament,” OTS 10 (1964): 1-154 (especially p. 9).
turn away from me.
14  My kinsmen have failed me;
my friends
The Pual participle is used for those “known” to him, or with whom he is “familiar,” whereas קָרוֹב (qarov, “near”) is used for a relative.
have forgotten me.
Many commentators add the first part of v. 15 to this verse, because it is too loaded and this is too short. That gives the reading “My kinsmen and my familiar friends have disappeared, they have forgotten me (15) the guests I entertained.” There is not much support for this, nor is there much reason for it.

15  My guests
The Hebrew גָּרֵי בֵיתִי (gare beti, “the guests of my house”) refers to those who sojourned in my house – not residents, but guests.
and my servant girls
The form of the verb is a feminine plural, which would seem to lend support to the proposed change of the lines (see last note to v. 14). But the form may be feminine primarily because of the immediate reference. On the other side, the suffix of “their eyes” is a masculine plural. So the evidence lies on both sides.
me a stranger;
I am a foreigner
This word נָכְרִי (nokhri) is the person from another race, from a strange land, the foreigner. The previous word, גֵּר (ger), is a more general word for someone who is staying in the land but is not a citizen, a sojourner.
in their eyes.
16  I summon
The verb קָרָא (qara’) followed by the ל (lamed) preposition means “to summon.” Contrast Ps 123:2.
my servant, but he does not respond,
even though I implore
Heb “plead for grace” or “plead for mercy” (ESV).
him with my own mouth.
17  My breath is repulsive
The Hebrew appears to have “my breath is strange to my wife.” This would be the meaning if the verb was from זוּר (zur, “to turn aside; to be a stranger”). But it should be connected to זִיר (zir), cognate to Assyrian zaru, “to feel repugnance toward.” Here it is used in the intransitive sense, “to be repulsive.” L. A. Snijders, following Driver, doubts the existence of this second root, and retains “strange” (“The Meaning of zar in the Old Testament,” OTS 10 [1964]: 1-154).
to my wife;
I am loathsome
The normal meaning here would be based on the root חָנַן (khanan, “to be gracious”). And so we have versions reading “although I entreated” or “my supplication.” But it seems more likely it is to be connected to another root meaning “to be offensive; to be loathsome.” For the discussion of the connection to the Arabic, see E. Dhorme, Job, 278.
to my brothers.
The text has “the sons of my belly [= body].” This would normally mean “my sons.” But they are all dead. And there is no suggestion that Job had other sons. The word “my belly” will have to be understood as “my womb,” i.e., the womb I came from. Instead of “brothers,” the sense could be “siblings” (both brothers and sisters; G. R. Driver and G. B. Gray, Job [ICC], 2:168).

18  Even youngsters have scorned me;
when I get up,
The use of the verb “rise” is probably fairly literal. When Job painfully tries to get up and walk, the little boys make fun of him.
they scoff at me.
The verb דִּבֵּר (dibber) followed by the preposition בּ (bet) indicates speaking against someone, namely, scoffing or railing against someone (see Ps 50:20; 78:19). Some commentators find another root with the meaning “to turn one’s back on; to turn aside from.” The argument is rendered weak philologically because it requires a definition “from” for the preposition bet. See among others I. Eitan, “Studies in Hebrew Roots,” JQR 14 (1923–24): 31-52 [especially 38–41].

19  All my closest friends
Heb “men of my confidence,” or “men of my council,” i.e., intimate friends, confidants.
detest me;
and those whom
The pronoun זֶה (zeh) functions here in the place of a nominative (see GKC 447 #138.h).
I love have turned against me.
T. Penar translates this “turn away from me” (“Job 19, 19 in the Light of Ben Sira 6, 11, ” Bib 48 [1967]: 293-95).

20  My bones stick to my skin and my flesh;
The meaning would be “I am nothing but skin and bones” in current English idiom. Both lines of this verse need attention. The first half seems to say, “My skin and my flesh sticks to my bones.” Some think that this is too long, and that the bones can stick to the skin, or the flesh, but not both. Dhorme proposes “in my skin my flesh has rotted away” (רָקַב, raqav). This involves several changes in the line, however. He then changes the second line to read “and I have gnawed my bone with my teeth” (transferring “bone” from the first half and omitting “skin”). There are numerous other renderings of this; some of the more notable are: “I escape, my bones in my teeth” (Merx); “my teeth fall out” (Duhm); “my teeth fall from my gums” (Pope); “my bones protrude in sharp points” (Kissane). A. B. Davidson retains “the skin of my teeth,” meaning “gums. This is about the last thing that Job has, or he would not be able to speak. For a detailed study of this verse, D. J. A. Clines devotes two full pages of textual notes (Job [WBC], 430-31). He concludes with “My bones hang from my skin and my flesh, I am left with only the skin of my teeth.”

I have escaped
Or “I am left.”
The word “alive” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
with only the skin of my teeth.
21  Have pity on me, my friends, have pity on me,
for the hand of God has struck me.
22  Why do you pursue me like God does?
Strahan comments, “The whole tragedy of the book is packed into these extraordinary words.”

Will you never be satiated with my flesh?
The idiom of eating the pieces of someone means “slander” in Aramaic (see Dan 3:8), Arabic and Akkadian.

Job’s Assurance of Vindication

23  “O that
The optative is again expressed with the interrogative clause “Who will give that they be written?” Job wishes that his words be preserved long after his death.
my words were written down,
O that they were written on a scroll,
While the sense of this line is clear, there is a small problem and a plausible solution. The last word is indeed סֶפֶר (sefer, “book”), usually understood here to mean “scroll.” But the verb that follows it in the verse is יֻחָקוּ (yukhaqu), from חָקַק (khaqaq, “to engrave; to carve”). While the meaning is clearly that Job wants his words to be retained, the idea of engraving in a book, although not impossible, is unusual. And so many have suggested that the Akkadian word siparru, “copper; brass,” is what is meant here (see Isa 30:8; Judg 5:14). The consonants are the same, and the vowel pattern is close to the original vowel pattern of this segholate noun. Writing on copper or bronze sheets has been attested from the 12th to the 2nd centuries, notably in the copper scroll, which would allow the translation “scroll” in our text (for more bibliography see D. J. A. Clines, Job [WBC], 432). But H. S. Gehman notes that in Phoenician our word can mean “inscription” (“SEÝFER, an inscription, in the book of Job,” JBL 63 [1944]: 303-7), making the proposed substitution unnecessary.

24  that with an iron chisel and with lead
There is some question concerning the use of the lead. It surely cannot be a second description of the tool, for a lead tool would be of no use in chiseling words into a rock. It was Rashi’s idea, followed by Dillmann and Duhm, that lead was run into the cut-out letters. The suggestion that they wrote on lead tablets does not seem to fit the verse (cf. NIV). See further A. Baker, “The Strange Case of Job’s Chisel,” CBQ 31 (1969): 370-79.

they were engraved in a rock forever!
25  As for me, I know that my Redeemer
Or “my Vindicator.” The word is the active participle from גָּאַל (gaal, “to redeem, protect, vindicate”). The word is well-known in the OT because of its identification as the kinsman-redeemer (see the Book of Ruth). This is the near kinsman who will pay off one’s debts, defend the family, avenge a killing, marry the widow of the deceased. The word “redeemer” evokes the wrong connotation for people familiar with the NT alone; a translation of “Vindicator” would capture the idea more. The concept might include the description of the mediator already introduced in Job 16:19, but surely here Job is thinking of God as his vindicator. The interesting point to be stressed here is that Job has said clearly that he sees no vindication in this life, that he is going to die. But he knows he will be vindicated, and even though he will die, his vindicator lives. The dilemma remains though: his distress lay in God’s hiding his face from him, and his vindication lay only in beholding God in peace.
and that as the last
The word אַחֲרוּן (’akharon, “last”) has triggered a good number of interpretations. Here it is an adjectival form and not adverbial; it is an epithet of the vindicator. Some commentators, followed by the RSV, change the form to make it adverbial, and translate it “at last.” T. H. Gaster translates it “even if he were the last person to exist” (“Short notes,” VT 4 [1954]: 78).

he will stand upon the earth.
The Hebrew has “and he will rise/stand upon [the] dust.” The verb קוּם (qum) is properly “to rise; to arise,” and certainly also can mean “to stand.” Both English ideas are found in the verb. The concept here is that of God rising up to mete out justice. And so to avoid confusion with the idea of resurrection (which although implicit in these words which are pregnant with theological ideas yet to be revealed, is not explicitly stated or intended in this context) the translation “stand” has been used. The Vulgate had “I will rise,” which introduced the idea of Job’s resurrection. The word “dust” is used as in 41:33. The word “dust” is associated with death and the grave, the very earthly particles. Job assumes that God will descend from heaven to bring justice to the world. The use of the word also hints that this will take place after Job has died and returned to dust. Again, the words of Job come to mean far more than he probably understood.

26  And after my skin has been destroyed,
This verse on the whole has some serious interpretation problems that have allowed commentators to go in several directions. The verbal clause is “they strike off this,” which is then to be taken as a passive in view of the fact that there is no expressed subject. Some have thought that Job was referring to this life, and that after his disease had done its worst he would see his vindication (see T. J. Meek, “Job 19:25–27, ” VT 6 [1956]: 100-103; E. F. Sutcliffe, “Further notes on Job, textual and exegetical,” Bib 31 [1950]: 377; and others). But Job has been clear – he does not expect to live and see his vindication in this life. There are a host of other interpretations that differ greatly from the sense expressed in the MT. Duhm, for example, has “and another shall arise as my witness.” E. Dhorme (Job, 284–85) argues that the vindication comes after death; he emends the verb to get a translation: “and that, behind my skin, I shall stand up.” He explains this to mean that it will be Job in person who will be present at the ultimate drama. But the interpretation is forced, and really unnecessary.

yet in my flesh
The Hebrew phrase is “and from my flesh.” This could mean “without my flesh,” i.e., separated from my flesh, or “from my flesh,” i.e., in or with my flesh. The former view is taken by those who think Job’s vindication will come in this life, and who find the idea of a resurrection unlikely to be in Job’s mind. The latter view is taken by those who interpret the preceding line as meaning death and the next verse underscoring that it will be his eye that will see. This would indicate that Job’s faith rises to an unparalleled level at this point.
I will see God,
H. H. Rowley (Job [NCBC], 140) says, “The text of this verse is so difficult, and any convincing reconstruction is so unlikely, that it seems best not to attempt it.” His words have gone unheeded, even by himself, and rightly so. There seem to be two general interpretations, the details of some words notwithstanding. An honest assessment of the evidence would have to provide both interpretations, albeit still arguing for one. Here Job says he will see God. This at the least means that he will witness his vindication, which it seems clear from the other complaints of Job will occur after his death (it is his blood that must be vindicated). But in what way, exactly, Job will see God is not clarified. In this verse the verb that is used is often used of prophetic visions; but in the next verse the plain word for seeing – with his eye – is used. The fulfillment will be more precise than Job may have understood. Rowley does conclude: “Though there is no full grasping of a belief in a worthwhile Afterlife with God, this passage is a notable landmark in the program toward such a belief.” The difficulty is that Job expects to die – he would like to be vindicated in this life, but is resolved that he will die. (1) Some commentators think that vv. 25 and 26 follow the wish for vindication now; (2) others (traditionally) see it as in the next life. Some of the other interpretations that take a different line are less impressive, such as Kissane’s, “did I but see God…were I to behold God”; or L. Waterman’s translation in the English present, making it a mystic vision in which Job already sees that God is his vindicator (“Note on Job 19:23–27: Job’s Triumph of Faith,” JBL 69 [1950]: 379-80).

27  whom I will see for myself,
The emphasis is on “I” and “for myself.” No other will be seeing this vindication, but Job himself will see it. Of that he is confident. Some take לִי (li, “for myself”) to mean favorable to me, or on my side (see A. B. Davidson, Job, 143). But Job is expecting (not just wishing for) a face-to-face encounter in the vindication.

and whom my own eyes will behold,
and not another.
Hitzig offered another interpretation that is somewhat forced. The “other” (זָר, zar) or “stranger” would refer to Job. He would see God, not as an enemy, but in peace.

My heart
Heb “kidneys,” a poetic expression for the seat of emotions.
grows faint within me.
Heb “fail/grow faint in my breast.” Job is saying that he has expended all his energy with his longing for vindication.

28  If you say, ‘How we will pursue him,
since the root of the trouble is found in him!’
The MT reads “in me.” If that is retained, then the question would be in the first colon, and the reasoning of the second colon would be Job’s. But over 100 mss have “in him,” and so this reading is accepted by most editors. The verse is a little difficult, but it seems to form a warning by Job that God’s appearance which will vindicate Job will bring judgment on those who persecute him and charge him falsely.

29  Fear the sword yourselves,
for wrath
The word “wrath” probably refers to divine wrath for the wicked. Many commentators change this word to read “they,” or more precisely, “these things.”
brings the punishment
The word is “iniquities”; but here as elsewhere it should receive the classification of the punishment for iniquity (a category of meaning that developed from a metonymy of effect).
by the sword,
so that you may know
that there is judgment.”
The last word is problematic because of the textual variants in the Hebrew. In place of שַׁדִּין (shaddin, “judgment”) some have proposed שַׁדַּי (shadday, “Almighty”) and read it “that you may know the Almighty” (Ewald, Wright). Some have read it יֵשׁ דַּיָּן (yesh dayyan, “there is a judge,” Gray, Fohrer). Others defend the traditional view, arguing that the שׁ (shin) is the abbreviated relative particle on the word דִּין (din, “judgment”).

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