Job Regrets His Birth1After this Job opened his mouth ▼
▼ The detailed introduction to the speech with “he opened his mouth” draws the readers attention to what was going to be said. As the introduction to the poetic speech that follows (3:3–26), vv. 1–2 continue the prose style of chapters 1–2. Each of the subsequent speeches is introduced by such a prose heading.and cursed ▼
▼ The verb “cursed” is the Piel preterite from the verb קָלַל (qalal); this means “to be light” in the Qal stem, but here “to treat lightly, with contempt, curse.” See in general H. C. Brichto, The Problem of “Curse” in the Hebrew Bible (JBLMS); and A. C. Thiselton, “The Supposed Power of Words in the Biblical Writings,” JTS 25 (1974): 283-99.the day he was born. ▼
▼ Heb “his day” (so KJV, ASV, NAB). The Syriac has “the day on which he was born.” The context makes it clear that Job meant the day of his birth. But some have tried to offer a different interpretation, such as his destiny or his predicament. For this reason the Syriac clarified the meaning for their readers in much the same way as the present translation does by rendering “his day” as “the day he was born.” On the Syriac translation of the book of Job, see Heidi M. Szpek, Translation Technique in the Peshitta to Job (SBLDS).2Job spoke up ▼
▼ The text has וַיַּעַן (vayya’an), literally, “and he answered.” The LXX simply has “saying” for the entire verse. The Syriac, Targum, and Greek A have what the MT has. “[Someone] answered and said” is phraseology characteristic of all the speeches in Job beginning with Satan in 1:9. Only in 40:1 is it employed when God is speaking. No other portion of the OT employs this phraseology as often or as consistently.and said:
3 “Let the day on which ▼
▼ The relative clause is carried by the preposition with the resumptive pronoun: “the day [which] I was born in it” meaning “the day on which I was born” (see GKC 486-88 #155.f, i).I was born ▼
▼ The verb is the Niphal imperfect. It may be interpreted in this dependent clause (1) as representing a future event from some point of time in the past – “the day on which I was born” or “would be born” (see GKC 316 #107.k). Or (2) it may simply serve as a preterite indicating action that is in the past.perish,
and the night that said, ▼
▼ The MT simply has “and the night – it said….” By simple juxtaposition with the parallel construction (“on which I was born”) the verb “it said” must be a relative clause explaining “the night.” Rather than supply “in which” and make the verb passive (which is possible since no specific subject is provided, but leaves open the question of who said it), it is preferable to take the verse as a personification. First Job cursed the day; now he cursed the night that spoke about what it witnessed. See A. Ehrman, “A Note on the Verb ‘amar,” JQR 55 (1964/65): 166-67.
‘A man ▼
▼ The word is גֶּבֶר (gever, “a man”). The word usually distinguishes a man as strong, distinct from children and women. Translations which render this as “boy” (to remove the apparent contradiction of an adult being “conceived” in the womb) miss this point.has been conceived!’ ▼
▼ The announcement at birth is to the fact that a male was conceived. The same parallelism between “brought forth/born” and “conceived” may be found in Ps 51:7 HT (51:5 ET). The motifs of the night of conception and the day of birth will be developed by Job. For the entire verse, which is more a wish or malediction than a curse, see S. H. Blank, “‘Perish the Day!’ A Misdirected Curse (Job 3:3),” Prophetic Thought, 61–63.
4 That day ▼
▼ The first two words should be treated as a casus pendens (see D. J. A. Clines, Job [WBC], 69), referred to as an extraposition in recent grammarians.– let it be darkness; ▼
▼ This expression by Job is the negation of the divine decree at creation – “Let there be light,” and that was the first day. Job wishes that his first day be darkness: “As for that day, let there be darkness.” Since only God has this prerogative, Job adds the wish that God on high would not regard that day.
let not God on high regard ▼ it,
nor let light shine ▼ on it!
5 Let darkness and the deepest
▼ The translation of צַלְמָוֶת (tsalmavet, “shadow of death”) has been traditionally understood to indicate a dark, death shadow (supported in the LXX), but many scholars think it may not represent the best etymological analysis of the word. The word may be connected to an Arabic word which means “to be dark,” and an Akkadian word meaning “black.” It would then have to be repointed throughout its uses to צַלְמוּת (tsalmut) forming an abstract ending. It would then simply mean “darkness” rather than “shadow of death.” Or the word can be understood as an idiomatic expression meaning “gloom” that is deeper than חֹשֶׁךְ (khoshekh; see HALOT 1029 s.v. צַלְמָוֶת). Since “darkness” has already been used in the line, the two together could possibly form a nominal hendiadys: “Let the deepest darkness….” There is a significant amount of literature on this; one may begin with W. L. Michel, “SLMWT, ‘Deep Darkness’ or ‘Shadow of Death’?” BR 29 (1984): 5-20.claim it; ▼
let a cloud settle on it;
let whatever blackens the day ▼
▼ The expression “the blackness of the day” (כִּמְרִירֵי יוֹם, kimrire yom) probably means everything that makes the day black, such as supernatural events like eclipses. Job wishes that all ominous darknesses would terrify that day. It comes from the word כָּמַר (kamar, “to be black”), related to Akkadian kamaru (“to overshadow, darken”). The versions seem to have ignored the first letter and connected the word to מָרַר (marar, “be bitter”).terrify it!
6 That night – let darkness seize ▼
▼ The verb is simply לָקַח (laqakh, “to take”). Here it conveys a strong sense of seizing something and not letting it go.it;
let it not be included ▼
▼ The pointing of the verb is meant to connect it with the root חָדָה (khadah, “rejoice”). But the letters in the text were correctly understood by the versions to be from יָחַד (yakhad, “to be combined, added”). See G. Rendsburg, “Double Polysemy in Genesis 49:6 and Job 3:6, ” CBQ 44 (1982): 48-51.among the days of the year;
let it not enter among the number of the months! ▼
▼ The choice of this word for “moons,” יְרָחִים (yerakhim) instead of חֳדָשִׁים (khodashim) is due to the fact that “month” here is not a reference for which an exact calendar date is essential (in which case חֹדֶשׁ [khodesh] would have been preferred). See J. Segal, “‘yrh’ in the Gezer ‘Calendar,’” JSS 7 (1962): 220, n. 4. Twelve times in the OT יֶרַח (yerakh) means “month” (Exod 2:2; Deut 21:13; 33:14; 1 Kgs 6:37, 38; 8:2; 2 Kgs 15:13; Zech 11:8; Job 3:6; 7:3; 29:2; 39:2).
7 Indeed, ▼
▼ The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, “behold”) in this sentence focuses the reader’s attention on the statement to follow.let that night be barren; ▼
let no shout of joy ▼
▼ The word is from רָנַן (ranan, “to give a ringing cry” or “shout of joy”). The sound is loud and shrill.penetrate ▼
▼ The verb is simply בּוֹא (bo’, “to enter”). The NIV translates interpretively “be heard in it.” A shout of joy, such as at a birth, that “enters” a day is certainly heard on that day.it!
8 Let those who curse the day ▼
▼ Not everyone is satisfied with the reading of the MT. Gordis thought “day” should be “sea,” and “cursers” should be “rousers” (changing ’alef to ’ayin; cf. NRSV). This is an unnecessary change, for there is no textual problem in the line (D. J. A. Clines, Job [WBC], 71). Others have taken the reading “sea” as a personification and accepted the rest of the text, gaining the sense of “those whose magic binds even the sea monster of the deep” (e.g., NEB).▼
▼ Those who curse the day are probably the professional enchanters and magicians who were thought to cast spells on days and overwhelm them with darkness and misfortune. The myths explained eclipses as the dragon throwing its folds around the sun and the moon, thus engulfing or swallowing the day and the night. This interpretation matches the parallelism better than the interpretation that says these are merely professional mourners.curse it ▼ –
those who are prepared to rouse ▼
▼ The verbal adjective עָתִיד (’atid) means “ready, prepared.” Here it has a substantival use similar to that of participles. It is followed by the Polel infinitive construct עֹרֵר (’orer). The infinitive without the preposition serves as the object of the preceding verbal adjective (GKC 350 #114.m).Leviathan. ▼
9 Let its morning stars ▼
▼ Heb “the stars of its dawn.” The word נֶשֶׁף (neshef) can mean “twilight” or “dawn.” In this context the morning stars are in mind. Job wishes that the morning stars – that should announce the day – go out.be darkened;
let it wait ▼
▼ The verb “wait, hope” has the idea of eager expectation and preparation. It is used elsewhere of waiting on the Lord with anticipation.for daylight but find none, ▼
▼ The absolute state אַיִן (’ayin, “there is none”) is here used as a verbal predicate (see GKC 480 #152.k). The concise expression literally says “and none.”
nor let it see the first rays ▼
▼ The expression is literally “the eyelids of the morning.” This means the very first rays of dawn (see also Job 41:18). There is some debate whether it refers to “eyelids” or “eyelashes” or “eyeballs.” If the latter, it would signify the flashing eyes of a person. See for the Ugaritic background H. L. Ginsberg, The Legend of King Keret (BASORSup), 39; see also J. M. Steadman, “‘Eyelids of Morn’: A Biblical Convention,” HTR 56 (1963): 159-67.of dawn,
10 because it ▼
▼ The subject is still “that night.” Here, at the end of this first section, Job finally expresses the crime of that night – it did not hinder his birth.did not shut the doors ▼ of my mother’s womb on me, ▼
nor did it hide trouble ▼
▼ The word עָמָל (’amal) means “work, heavy labor, agonizing labor, struggle” with the idea of fatigue and pain.from my eyes!
Job Wishes He Had Died at Birth▼
▼ Job follows his initial cry with a series of rhetorical questions. His argument runs along these lines: since he was born (v. 10), the next chance he had of escaping this life of misery would have been to be still born (vv. 11–12, 16). In vv. 13–19 Job considers death as falling into a peaceful sleep in a place where there is no trouble. The high frequency of rhetorical questions in series is a characteristic of the Book of Job that sets it off from all other portions of the OT. The effect is primarily dramatic, creating a tension that requires resolution. See W. Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry, 340–41.11 “Why did I not ▼
▼ The negative only occurs with the first clause, but it extends its influence to the parallel second clause (GKC 483 #152.z).die ▼
▼ The two verbs in this verse are both prefix conjugations; they are clearly referring to the past and should be classified as preterites. E. Dhorme (Job, 32) notes that the verb “I came out” is in the perfect to mark its priority in time in relation to the other verbs.at birth, ▼
▼ The translation “at birth” is very smooth, but catches the meaning and avoids the tautology in the verse. The line literally reads “from the womb.” The second half of the verse has the verb “I came out/forth” which does double duty for both parallel lines. The second half uses “belly” for the womb.
and why did I not expire
▼ The two halves of the verse use the prepositional phrases (“from the womb” and “from the belly I went out”) in the temporal sense of “on emerging from the womb.”I came out of the womb?
12 Why did the knees welcome me, ▼
▼ The verb קִדְּמוּנִי (qiddemuni) is the Piel from קָדַם (qadam), meaning “to come before; to meet; to prevent.” Here it has the idea of going to meet or welcome someone. In spite of various attempts to connect the idea to the father or to adoption rites, it probably simply means the mother’s knees that welcome the child for nursing. See R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 42.▼
▼ The sufferer is looking back over all the possible chances of death, including when he was brought forth, placed on the knees or lap, and breastfed.
and why were there ▼
▼ There is no verb in the second half of the verse. The idea simply has, “and why breasts that I might suck?”two breasts ▼
▼ The commentaries mention the parallel construction in the writings of Ashurbanipal: “You were weak, Ashurbanipal, you who sat on the knees of the goddess, queen of Nineveh; of the four teats that were placed near to your mouth, you sucked two and you hid your face in the others” (M. Streck, Assurbanipal [VAB], 348).
that I might nurse at them? ▼
▼ Heb “that I might suckle.” The verb is the Qal imperfect of יָנַק (yanaq, “suckle”). Here the clause is subordinated to the preceding question and so function as a final imperfect.
13 For now ▼
▼ The word עַתָּה (’attah, “now”) may have a logical nuance here, almost with the idea of “if that had been the case…” (IBHS 667–68 #39.3.4f). However, the temporal “now” is retained in translation since the imperfect verb following two perfects “suggests what Job’s present state would be if he had had the quiet of a still birth” (J. E. Hartley, Job [NICOT], 95, n. 23). Cf. GKC 313 #106.p.I would be lying down
▼ The copula on the verb indicates a sequence for the imperfect: “and then I would….” In the second half of the verse it is paralleled by “then.”would be quiet, ▼
▼ The text uses a combination of the perfect (lie down/sleep) and imperfect (quiet/rest). The particle עַתָּה (’attah, “now”) gives to the perfect verb its conditional nuance. It presents actions in the past that are not actually accomplished but seen as possible (GKC 313 #106.p).
I would be asleep and then at peace ▼
▼ The last part uses the impersonal verb “it would be at rest for me.”
14 with kings and counselors of the earth
who built for themselves places now desolate, ▼
▼ The difficult term חֳרָבוֹת (khoravot) is translated “desolate [places]”. The LXX confused the word and translated it “who gloried in their swords.” One would expect a word for monuments, or tombs (T. K. Cheyne emended it to “everlasting tombs” [“More Critical Gleanings in Job,” ExpTim 10 (1898/99): 380-83]). But this difficult word is of uncertain etymology and therefore cannot simply be made to mean “royal tombs.” The verb means “be desolate, solitary.” In Isa 48:21 there is the clear sense of a desert. That is the meaning of Assyrian huribtu. It may be that like the pyramids of Egypt these tombs would have been built in the desert regions. Or it may describe how they rebuilt ruins for themselves. He would be saying then that instead of lying here in pain and shame if he had died he would be with the great ones of the earth. Otherwise, the word could be interpreted as a metonymy of effect, indicating that the once glorious tomb now is desolate. But this does not fit the context – the verse is talking about the state of the great ones after their death.
15 or with princes who possessed gold, ▼
▼ The expression simply has “or with princes gold to them.” The noun is defined by the noun clause serving as a relative clause (GKC 486 #155.e).
who filled their palaces ▼
▼ Heb “filled their houses.” There is no reason here to take “houses” to mean tombs; the “houses” refer to the places the princes lived (i.e., palaces). The reference is not to the practice of burying treasures with the dead. It is simply saying that if Job had died he would have been with the rich and famous in death.with silver.
16 Or why ▼ was ▼
▼ The verb is again the prefix conjugation, but the narrative requires a past tense, or preterite.I not buried ▼
▼ Heb “hidden.” The LXX paraphrases: “an untimely birth, proceeding from his mother’s womb.”
like a stillborn infant, ▼
▼ The noun נֵפֶל (nefel, “miscarriage”) is the abortive thing that falls (hence the verb) from the womb before the time is ripe (Ps 58:9). The idiom using the verb “to fall” from the womb means to come into the world (Isa 26:18). The epithet טָמוּן (tamun, “hidden”) is appropriate to the verse. The child comes in vain, and disappears into the darkness – it is hidden forever.
like infants ▼
▼ The word עֹלְלִים (’olelim) normally refers to “nurslings.” Here it must refer to infants in general since it refers to a stillborn child.who have never seen the light? ▼
▼ The relative clause does not have the relative pronoun; the simple juxtaposition of words indicates that it is modifying the infants.
17 There ▼
▼ The reference seems to be death, or Sheol, the place where the infant who is stillborn is either buried (the grave) or resides (the place of departed spirits) and thus does not see the light of the sun.the wicked ▼
▼ The wicked are the ungodly, those who are not members of the covenant (normally) and in this context especially those who oppress and torment other people.cease ▼
▼ The parallelism uses the perfect verb in the first parallel part, and the imperfect opposite it in the second. Since the verse projects to the grave or Sheol (“there”) where the action is perceived as still continuing or just taking place, both receive an English present tense translation (GKC 312 #106.l).from turmoil, ▼
▼ Here the noun רֹגז (rogez) refers to the agitation of living as opposed to the peaceful rest of dying. The associated verb רָגַז (ragaz) means “to be agitated, excited.” The expression indicates that they cease from troubling, meaning all the agitation of their own lives.
and there the weary ▼
▼ The word יָגִיעַ (yagia’) means “exhausted, wearied”; it is clarified as a physical exhaustion by the genitive of specification (“with regard to their strength”).are at rest.
18 There ▼
▼ “There” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied from the context.the prisoners ▼
▼ The LXX omits the verb and translates the noun not as prisoners but as “old men” or “men of old time.”relax ▼
▼ The verb שַׁאֲנָנוּ (sha’ananu) is the Pilpel of שָׁאַן (sha’an) which means “to rest.” It refers to the normal rest or refreshment of individuals; here it is contrasted with the harsh treatment normally put on prisoners.together; ▼
▼ See further J. C. de Moor, “Lexical Remarks Concerning yahad and yahdaw,” VT 7 (1957): 350-55.
they do not hear the voice of the oppressor. ▼
19 Small and great are ▼
▼ The versions have taken the pronoun in the sense of the verb “to be.” Others give it the sense of “the same thing,” rendering the verse as “small and great, there is no difference there.” GKC 437 #135.a, n. 1, follows this idea with a meaning of “the same.”there,
and the slave is free ▼
▼ The LXX renders this as “unafraid,” although the negative has disappeared in some mss to give the reading “and the servant that feared his master.” See I. Mendelsohn, “The Canaanite Term for ‘Free Proletarian’,” BASOR 83 (1941): 36-39; idem, “New Light on hupsu,” BASOR 139 (1955): 9-11.from his master. ▼
▼ The plural “masters” could be taken here as a plural of majesty rather than as referring to numerous masters.
Longing for Death▼
▼ Since he has survived birth, Job wonders why he could not have died a premature death. He wonders why God gives light and life to those who are in misery. His own condition throws gloom over life, and so he poses the question first generally, for many would prefer death to misery (20–22); then he comes to the individual, himself, who would prefer death (23). He closes his initial complaint with some depictions of his suffering that afflicts him and gives him no rest (24–26).20 “Why does God ▼
▼ Heb “he”; the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity.give ▼
▼ The verb is the simple imperfect, expressing the progressive imperfect nuance. But there is no formal subject to the verb, prompting some translations to make it passive in view of the indefinite subject (so, e.g., NAB, NIV, NRSV). Such a passive could be taken as a so-called “divine passive” by which God is the implied agent. Job clearly means God here, but he stops short of naming him (see also the note on “God” earlier in this verse).▼ light to one who is in misery, ▼
and life to those ▼
▼ The second colon now refers to people in general because of the plural construct מָרֵי נָפֶשׁ (mare nafesh, “those bitter of soul/life”). One may recall the use of מָרָה (marah, “bitter”) by Naomi to describe her pained experience as a poor widow in Ruth 1:20, or the use of the word to describe the bitter oppression inflicted on Israel by the Egyptians (Exod 1:14). Those who are “bitter of soul” are those whose life is overwhelmed with painful experiences and suffering.whose soul is bitter,
21 to ▼
▼ The verse simply begins with the participle in apposition to the expressions in the previous verse describing those who are bitter. The preposition is added from the context.those who wait ▼ for death that ▼
▼ The verse simply has the form אֵין (’en, “there is not”) with a pronominal suffix and a conjunction – “and there is not it” or “and it is not.” The LXX and the Vulgate add a verb to explain this form: “and obtain it not.”does not come,
and search for it ▼
▼ The parallel verb is now a preterite with a vav (ו) consecutive; it therefore has the nuance of a characteristic perfect or gnomic perfect – the English present tense.▼
▼ The verb חָפַר (khafar) means “to dig; to excavate.” It may have the accusative of the thing that is being sought (Exod 7:24); but here it is followed by a comparative min (מִן). The verse therefore describes the sufferers who excavate or dig the ground to find death, more than others who seek for treasure.
more than for hidden treasures,
22 who rejoice ▼ even to jubilation, ▼
▼ The Syriac has “and gather themselves together,” possibly reading גִּיל (gil, “rejoicing”) as גַּל (gal, “heap”). Some have tried to emend the text to make the word mean “heap” or “mound,” as in a funerary mound. While one could argue for a heap of stones as a funerary mound, the passage has already spoken of digging a grave, which would be quite different. And while such a change would make a neater parallelism in the verse, there is no reason to force such; the idea of “jubilation” fits the tenor of the whole verse easily enough and there is no reason to change it. A similar expression is found in Hos 9:1, which says, “rejoice not, O Israel, with jubilation.” Here the idea then is that these sufferers would rejoice “to the point of jubilation” at death.
and are exultant ▼
▼ This sentence also parallels an imperfect verb with the substantival participle of the first colon. It is translated as an English present tense.when ▼
▼ The particle could be “when” or “because” in this verse.they find the grave? ▼
▼ The expression “when they find a grave” means when they finally die. The verse describes the relief and rest that the sufferer will obtain when the long-awaited death is reached.
23 Why is light given ▼
▼ This first part of the verse, “Why is light given,” is supplied from the context. In the Hebrew text the verse simply begins with “to a man….” It is also in apposition to the construction in v. 20. But after so many qualifying clauses and phrases, a restatement of the subject (light, from v. 20) is required.to a man ▼
▼ After speaking of people in general (in the plural in vv. 21 and 22), Job returns to himself specifically (in the singular, using the same word גֶּבֶר [gever, “a man”] that he employed of himself in v. 3). He is the man whose way is hidden. The clear path of his former life has been broken off, or as the next clause says, hedged in so that he is confined to a life of suffering. The statement includes the spiritual perplexities that this involves. It is like saying that God is leading him in darkness and he can no longer see where he is going.
whose way is hidden, ▼
▼ The LXX translated “to a man whose way is hidden” with the vague paraphrase “death is rest to [such] a man.” The translators apparently combined the reference to “the grave” in the previous verse with “hidden”
and whom God has hedged in? ▼
▼ The verb is the Hiphil of סָכַךְ (sakhakh,“to hedge in”). The key parallel passage is Job 19:8, which says, “He has blocked [גָּדַר, gadar] my way so I cannot pass, and has set darkness over my paths.” To be hedged in is an implied metaphor, indicating that the pathway is concealed and enclosed. There is an irony in Job’s choice of words in light of Satan’s accusation in 1:10. It is heightened further when the same verb is employed by God in 38:8 (see F. I. Andersen, Job [TOTC], 109).
24 For my sighing comes in place of ▼ my food, ▼
and my groanings ▼ flow forth like water. ▼
▼ This second colon is paraphrased in the LXX to say, “I weep being beset with terror.” The idea of “pouring forth water” while groaning can be represented by “I weep.” The word “fear, terror” anticipates the next verse.
25 For the very thing I dreaded ▼
▼ The construction uses the cognate accusative with the verb: “the fear I feared,” or “the dread thing I dreaded” (פַחַד פָּחַדְתִּי, pakhad pakhadti). The verb פָּחַד (pakhad) has the sense of “dread” and the noun the meaning “thing dreaded.” The structure of the sentence with the perfect verb followed by the preterite indicates that the first action preceded the second – he feared something but then it happened. Some commentaries suggest reading this as a conditional clause followed by the present tense translation: “If I fear a thing it happens to me” (see A. B. Davidson, Job, 24). The reason for this change is that it is hard for some to think that in his prime Job had such fears. He did have a pure trust and confidence in the Lord (16:19, 29:18ff). But on the other hand, he did make sacrifices for his sons because he thought they might sin. There is evidence to suggest that he was aware that calamity could strike, and this is not necessarily incompatible with trust.has happened ▼
▼ The verb אָתָה (’atah) is Aramaic and is equivalent to the Hebrew verb בּוֹא (bo’, “come, happen”).to me,
and what I feared has come upon me. ▼
▼ The final verb is יָבֹא (yavo’, “has come”). It appears to be an imperfect, but since it is parallel to the preterite of the first colon it should be given that nuance here. Of course, if the other view of the verse is taken, then this would simply be translated as “comes,” and the preceding preterite also given an English present tense translation.
26 I have no ease, ▼
▼ The LXX “peace” bases its rendering on שָׁלַם (shalam) and not שָׁלָה (shalah), which retains the original vav (ו). The verb means “to be quiet, to be at ease.”I have no quietness;
I cannot rest; ▼ turmoil has come upon me.” ▼
▼ The last clause simply has “and trouble came.” Job is essentially saying that since the trouble has come upon him there is not a moment of rest and relief.
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