1 "But now they make sport of me, those who are younger than I, whose fathers I would have disdained to set with the dogs of my flock. 2 What could I gain from the strength of their hands? All their vigor is gone. 3 Through want and hard hunger they gnaw the dry and desolate ground, 4 they pick mallow and the leaves of bushes, and to warm themselves the roots of broom. 5 They are driven out from society; people shout after them as after a thief. 6 In the gullies of wadis they must live, in holes in the ground, and in the rocks. 7 Among the bushes they bray; under the nettles they huddle together. 8 A senseless, disreputable brood, they have been whipped out of the land."
A. Let's stop after the first two words: "But now." It is the same word in Hebrew as in 42:5, where Job contrasts his former hearing of God to his present seeing God. What is involved psychologically in this "but now"? When you tell your life's story, how many "but nows" are there in it? In what tone of voice and mind does Job, or do you, utter the "but now"? Are you wistful? matter of fact? angry? feeling betrayed? accepting of the myriad complexities and changes of life?
B. Let's stop after the next five words: "they make sport of me." The Hebrew verb is the same one as Job used two verses earlier (29:24) to describe his "smiling" on litigants that came to him for help. What is the difference between the two smiles? Show it in YOUR face--give me a Job 29:24 smile and then the Job 30:1 sardonic mock. Both of these facial gestures seem to connote some aspect of power. What is the relationship of smiles and power?
C. Let's finish the rest of v.1. What is it in the rest of Job's description in this verse that intensifies his sense of humiliation?
D. Vv.2-8 is a relentless attack on those who humiliate him. Sometimes the verbs are confusing, because there is a singular when you are expecting a plural, and vice versa, but the meaning should be generally clear. How does Job describe the life of the people who humiliate him?
E. Job's description of them is really quite amazing and detailed. Their animalistic "bray" in v.7 is reminiscent of the portrait of the wicked in 24:5ff. Read that passage and comment on similarities and differences. What other arresting phrases do you see here?
F. His culminating verse of this section talks about their being "disreputable"--literally "nameless," and "whipped" out of the land. Do you expect such venom from Job by now, or would you have thought it might have been tempered somewhat?
9 "And now they mock me in song; I am a byword to them. 10 They abhor me, they keep aloof from me; they do not hesitate to spit at the sight of me. 11 Because God has loosed my bowstring and humbled me, they have cast off restraint in my presence. 12 On my right hand the rabble rise up; they send me sprawling, and build roads for my ruin. 13 They break up my path, they promote my calamity; no one restrains them. 14 As through a wide breach they come; amid the crash they roll on. 15 Terrors are turned upon me; my honor is pursued as by the wind, and my prosperity has passed away like a cloud."
A. Job's regret is that he has become a "word" or "byword" for them--sort of like a swear word or a derogatory appellation. Ever experienced that yourself? Ever had anyone make up songs about you? What is it like to feel humiliated or shamed by others or by your situation? What can you do about it?
B. Note the growing "crescendo," as Professor Newsom calls it, of the kinds of mocking attack on Job--from words to taunting gestures to physical actions. Which "hurts" the most?
C. God's name only appears once in these first 15 verses. It is in v.11. How does God's action, or inaction, enable the cruel mockery of Job's enemies?
D. The words "they send me sprawling" are translated in a few different ways, but this is the most prevalent way. What picture does this give you?
E. The motif of attack against Job, as if he is a kind of walled city vulnerable to a concerted assault, also appears in ch.16 and ch.19. Why do you think Job keeps returning to this image?
F. Take each phrase of v.15 and repeat it slowly. "Terrors overwhelm me." What are the overwhelming terrors? "My dignity is driven away as by the wind." What does that say about human dignity? About Job's sense of the present? "My safety vanishes like a cloud." What does this say about Job?
G. If you felt that Job was overreacting (do you?), how would you handle the situation? Would you, like the friends, just give up and let Job continue to stew?