17:1 "My spirit is broken, my days are extinct, the grave is ready for me."
17:7 "My eye has grown dim from grief, and all my members are like a shadow."
17:11 "My days are past, my plans are broken off, the desires of my heart."
A. What is the effect of the rhythmic grouping of two or three clauses in these verses?
B. Most of the Hebrew verbs that lie behind these English words are richly suggestive. For example, "broken" in 17:1 is, literally, "destroyed." The best way to understand such a word would be in connection with other passages, such as 16:7, that give other words describing Job's condition. What is the sense that you get from 17:1? In 16:22 he has talked about living "a few more years." Does 17:1 mean then that he is talking about a physical or psychological death, or both?
C. The Hebrew word behind "extinct" carries the notion of a light being extinguished. It is as if Job is about ready to "blow out his candle." The image of light disappearing is also captured in 17:7, where his eyes are "dim" with grief. In 16:16 he says that "deep darkness" is on his eyelids. How does grief affect your sense of vision? What do you see differently? What don't you see anymore? You can distort the appearance of the world through your tears. Ever done that?
D. 17:11 is one of the most hopeless verses in Job. The verb translated "broken off," is the same Hebrew verb used in Judges 16:9. There it refers to Samson snapping the cords with which Delilah bound him. With that in mind, what does that say about how Job envisions what has happened to him? It seems like his language is much stronger than ours when we say, "My plans won't work out." How much stronger?
Job and Other People
17:2 "Surely there are mockers around me, and my eye dwells on their provocation."
17:4 "Since you have closed their minds to understanding, therefore you will not let them triumph."
17:8-9 "The upright are appalled at this, and the innocent stir themselves up against the godless. Yet the righteous hold to their way, and they that have clean hands grown stronger and stronger."
A. Two kinds of people are envisioned here--the friends who mock and "the upright." I think the language is confusing, but it seems that the friends and the upright are the same. God has closed their minds. But they are also appalled by Job's condition. They seemingly look at Job and go on their way, possibly strengthened some way in their faith. But even though they were appalled, they go on their way. So the reactions Job gets are mockery and ultimate indifference. Why does Job talk so much about people and their reactions to him when all he really wants is vindication from God? What role do people play for you in your distress?
B. How do you explain it when people don't understand you in your distress?
17:6 "He has made me a byword of the peoples, and I am one before whom people spit."
Compare this picture of Job's humiliation to that in 12:4. Look also at 30:9-11. What constitutes Job's humiliation? The KJV made an interesting mistake in translating here. The Hebrew word for "spitting" is "tophet," which the KJV translated as "tabret," which is a small timbrel or drum. It translates the last half of the verse, "And aforetime I was as a tabret." You sure you don't want to learn Hebrew? What is the significance of spitting in a person's direction in a Middle Eastern culture? in Western cultures?
Sheol as the Option
13 "If I look for Sheol as my house, if I spread my couch in darkness, 14 if I say to the Pit, 'You are my father,' and to the worm, 'My mother,' or 'My sister,' 15 where then is my hope? Who will see my hope? 16 Will it go down to the bars of Sheol? Shall we descend together into the dust?"
A. Job again imagines the world of Sheol. How does his picture of life in Sheol differ from that in ch. 3? ch. 14?
B. What happens to Job's hope this time around? Why do you think it is differently expressed than in previous references to Sheol?
C. Where is Job, mentally and physically, at the end of this speech?
Grief washes over Job again in this chapter. In some ways he has progressed no further than his line in 7:7-- "Remember that my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good." In other ways, he has been able to articulate a hope for a "witness" in heaven. He has prepared (or is preparing) his "case." But this hope is all so insubstantial in the face of his mental and physical lassitude. Even though he seems awash in grief in this chapter, however, he will be gathering his forces as he continues to speak, until he makes his one final (and longest) speech in his defense in 29-31. Job's grief, though real, is thus preparing him for further statement of his "case."