Job Finishes (10:13-22) I
Bill Long 1/23/05
I have decided that 10:13-14 are "overlapping" verses, verses that both complete the thought of the previous lines and initiate Job's next intellectual foray. What I would like to do here and in the next mini-essay, however, is to focus on the last five verses of the chapter (18-22) with several preliminary remarks or questions about 10:13-17. This essay will only concern 10:13-17. As always, I am most concerned to try to understand Job's mental condition as it is reflected in his words.
"13 Yet these things you hid in your heart; I know that this was your purpose. 14 If I sin, you watch me, and do not acquit me of my iniquity. 15 If I am wicked, woe to me! If I am righteous, I cannot lift up my head, for I am filled with disgrace and look upon my affliction. 16 Bold as a lion you hunt me; you repeat your exploits against me. 17 You renew your witnesses against me, and increase your vexation toward me; you bring fresh troops against me."
Questions/Comments about Job 10:13-17
A. Job's negativity, which we have run into since ch. 3, reaches a high point here, if that isn't a contradiction in terms. One explanation may be that he is sick, and illness often affects our mind and our words. But what is your reaction to Job's negative assessment of all things--the friends, God, his situation, life in general? Does it get you down, too? Does it make you more or less sympathetic with Job? Are you bored with him? Ready for more "upbeat" literature now? Or do you want to be brought further into his reality and understand the intricate paths of his mind? Job is utterly relentless in his pursuit of images or words that capture the feelings of darkness and irreversible loss. What are some of those words in this passage? Most people don't like negativity in others. We even say that negativity tends to hurt the person who is being negative. Do you agree that this is true? Or, is negativity just like a kind of foul fluid in us that has to be revealed in order to be expelled from within?
B. Job talks about the "secret" things of God in 10:13--"Yet these things you hid in your heart..." Though some commentators want this "hiding" to refer to the words of vv. 8-12, so that the reading would be that Job's careful forming by God was an example of God's "secret" work, I think the verse makes equally good sense if it is linked to what follows. This reading would then be that a secret thing of God was that he was storing up punishment for Job. The latter interpretation paints God as a rather sinister "gotcha" type of God, who only gives benefits in order to take them away. Note that when Zophar attacks Job unmercifully in ch. 11 he scores Job directly on this point--"Can you find out the deep things of God (11:7)?" he asks. Do you sympathize with Job in this characterization of God? Or might you be inclined to side with Zophar in his implicit criticism of Job when he raises this question?
C. The phrase "to lift up my head" in v. 15 shows Job's abject condition. Ps. 3 provides a richer context for understanding it: "But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory and the one who lifts up my head (3:3)." God gives protection and comfort by lifting up the servant's head. Job, however, will say, "If I am righteous, I cannot lift up my head (10:15)." Job has been so beaten down that even if he is convinced of his utter righteousness, it means nothing. He will still be subject to deep humiliation.
D. God is portrayed as a lion in v. 16. "Bold as a lion you hunt me; you repeat your exploits against me." What is suggested by that picture of God? "Lion" is a "plastic" symbol, which may suggest a terrifying beast or a strong supporter (Christ as "Lion of the Tribe of Judah"). Which is it here? The word translated "exploits" contains the same root as the word translated "marvelous things" or "wonderful things." Job will use that word in 42:3 as part of his confession to God that he didn't understand the "marvelous" things that were happening to him. But is there a tone of cynicism here when he uses the word? Or, if not cynicism, what is Job's "tone?"
E. The last line of v. 17 is untranslatable. Or, to put it so we can try to understand it, the first "six words" (2 lines in English) read, "You renew your witnesses ("hostility"--Clines) against me; and increase your vexation ("wrath"--Clines) toward me." Then, the Hebrew says, literally, "Changes and a troop are with me" or "exchanges--and hard service are with me." Huh? Rather than trying to show my ingenuity by coming up with a "sense" of the verse that will make sense, I think it might be good to leave the last phrase of v. 17 in its uncertainty. The picture created by the words, then, might be that Job is figuratively, if not literally, hyperventilating and can't really speak clearly. The pain has overtaken his mind, and all he can do is pant and mutter and speak confusing syllables. Despair is complete if a most eloquent person, which Job certainly is, is reduced to these incoherent ramblings. Thus, rather than seeing these late three Hebrew words as a textual corruption or an opportunity for creative emendation or "rational" derivation of meaning, let's leave it in its confused state. That is certainly where Job is now. Your opinion?
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long