1 "Job again took up his discourse and said: 2 'Oh, that I were as in the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me; 3 when his lamp shone over my head, and by his light I walked through darkness; 4 when I was in my prime, when the friendship of God was upon my tent; 5 when the Almighty was still with me, when my children were around me; 6 when my steps were washed with milk, and the rock poured out for me streams of oil!"
A. In v.2 we hear Job longing for the past. Job is a "longer" or a "yearner." Two other passages where we see the intensity of his longing are 19:23-24 and 14:13. Read those passages and speak about what it is like to be a person who yearns for things in life. For what do you long? For what have you given up longing? How does Job say v.2?
B. He thinks of the time when God "watched" over me (v.2). That word "watch" and its cognates is freighted with dual meaning in Job. For exmple, other (negative) uses of the verb or noun form derived from it are in 10:12, 14; 7:12 ("set a guard") and 13:27. With all the negative uses of "watch" in Job, do you see 29:2 as fully positive or lightly coated with some negative imagery?
C. Job's "prime" (v.4) is literally his "autumn days." When we think of autumn, we think of time of decline, but in the culture Job knew, the autumn was the time of the new year (Jewish New Year, for example, always falls in the early autumn or late summer). So, Job may be speaking more of his young days than his 'prime' days. Make any difference in interpretation?
D. This is the first mention Job makes explicitly of his children. Why does it take him so long to do this? Why don't you think that Job mentions the specifics of his loss throughout his speeches of lament or grief, or during his angry denunciations of God?
E. What is the picture suggested to you by v.6? The word translated "milk" has the same Hebrew letters (most Hebrew words are formed off a three letter root, with different vowels being signified by marks under and above the letters) as the Hebrew words for "anger." Do you think that there is any double meaning here, or that readers (or hearers) might have heard double meanings?
F. Does v.5 mean that Job doesn't think that God is with him now?
7 When I went out to the gate of the city, when I took my seat in the square, 8 the young men saw me and withdrew, and the aged rose up and stood; 9 the nobles refrained from talking, and laid their hands on their mouths; 10 the voices of princes were hushed, and their tongues stuck to the roof of their mouths.
A. What kind of activity is Job describing here?
B. Job is talking about his past activity. Since he has been described as the "greatest" man in the East (1:3), why don't you think he talks here about the things that made him great--his wealth and possessions (1:2-3)?
C. The word "seat" is derived from the same word as the verb describing Job's sitting on the ash heap in 2:8. Compare and contrast Job's two "seats" in life.
D. How would you characterize people's reaction to Job?
E. Professor Good has some helpful comments on the words in this section (In Turns of Tempest, 298-299). He suggests that the words emphasize respect but also terror. How does that insight give a different "take" to this passage?
F. Why would the young go and hide from Job? Why would others put their hands on their mouth?
G. The phrase "put the hand on the mouth" is used also in 21:5. How is it used there?
H. Why would people hide or shut up when Job was around previously?
I. Sometimes people who are in the "dumps" tend to exaggerate their past or at least view it through rose colored glasses. Do you suppose Job does that or do you think that there is substantial truth to his memories (see also Eliphaz's characterization of Job's past in Job 4)?