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1 Then began Job, and said:
2 Even to-day my complaint still biddeth defiance,
My hand lieth heavy upon my groaning.
3 Oh that I knew where I might find Him,
That I might come even to His dwelling-place!
4 I would lay the cause before Him,
And fill my mouth with arguments:
5 I should like to know the words He would answer me,
And attend to what He would say to me.
Since מרי (for which the lxx reads ἐκ τοῦ χειρός μου , מידי ; Ew. מידו , from his hand) usually elsewhere signifies obstinacy, it appears that Job 23:2 ought to be explained: My complaint is always accounted as rebellion (against God); but by this rendering Job 23:2 requires some sort of expletive, in order to furnish a connected thought: although the hand which is upon me stifles my groaning (Hirz.); or, according to another rendering of the על : et pourtant mes gémissements n'égalent pas mes souffrances (Renan. Schlottm.). These interpretations are objectionable on account of the artificial restoration of the connection between the two members of the verse, which they require; they lead one to expect וידי (as a circumstantial clause: lxx, Cod. Vat. καὶ ἡ χεὶρ αὐτοῦ ). As the words stand, it is to be supposed that the definition of time, גּם־היּום (even to-day still, as Zechariah 9:12), belongs to both divisions of the verse. How, then, is מרי to be understood? If we compare Job 7:11; Job 10:1, where מר , which is combined with שׂיח , signifies amarum = amartiduo , it is natural to take מרי also in the signification amaritudo , acerbitas (Targ., Syr., Jer.); and this is also possible, since, as is evident from Exodus 23:21, comp. Zechariah 12:10, the verbal forms מרר and מרה run into one another, as they are really cognates.
(Note: מרר and מרה both spring from the root מר [ vid. supra, p. 396, note], with the primary signification stringere , to beat, rub, draw tight. Hence Arab. mârrâ , to touch lightly, smear upon (to go by, over, or through, to move by, etc.), but also stringere palatum , of an astringent taste, strong in taste, to be bitter, opp. Arab. ḥalâ , soft and mild in taste, to be sweet, as in another direction חלה , to be loose, weak, sick, both from the root Arab. ḥl in ḥalla , solvit, laxavit. From the signification to be tight come amarra , to stretch tight, istamarra , to stretch one's self tight, to draw one's self out in this state of tension - of things in time, to continue unbroken; mirreh , string, cord; מרה , to make and hold one's self tight against any one, i.e., to be obstinate: originally of the body, as Arab. mârrâ , tamârrâ , to strengthen themselves in the contest against one another; then of the mind, as Arab. mârâ , tamârâ , to struggle against anything, both outwardly by contradiction and disputing, and inwardly by doubt and unbelief. - Fl.)
But it is more satisfactory, and more in accordance with the relation of the two divisions of the verse, if we keep to the usual signification of מרי ; not, however, understanding it of obstinacy, revolt, rebellion (viz., in the sense of the friends), but, like moreh, 2 Kings 14:26) which describes the affliction as stiff-necked, obstinate), of stubbornness, defiance, continuance in opposition, and explain with Raschi: My complaint is still always defiance, i.e., still maintains itself in opposition, viz., against God, without yielding (Hahn, Olsh.: unsubmitting); or rather: against such exhortations to penitence as those which Eliphaz has just addressed to him. In reply to these, Job considers his complain to be well justified even to-day, i.e., even now (for it is not, with Ewald, to be imagined that, in the mind of the poet, the controversy extends over several days, - an idea which would only be indicated by this one word).
In Job 23:2 he continues the same thought under a different form of expression. My hand lies heavy on my groaning, i.e., I hold it immoveably fast (as Fleischer proposes to take the words); or better: I am driven to a continued utterance of it.
(Note: The idea might also be: My hand presses my groaning back (because it would be of no use to me); but Job 23:2 is against this, and the Arab. kamada , to restrain inward pain, anger, etc. by force (e.g., mât kemed , he died from suppressed rage or anxiety), has scarcely any etymological connection with כבד .)
By this interpretation ydy retains its most natural meaning, manus mea, and the connection of the two members of the verse without any particle is best explained. On the other hand, all modern expositors, who do not, as Olsh., at once correct ידי into ידו , explain the suffix as objective: the hand, i.e., the destiny to which I have to submit, weighs upon my sighing, irresistibly forcing it out from me. Then Job 23:2 is related to Job 23:2 as a confirmation; and if, therefore, a particle is to be supplied, it is כּי (Olsh.) and no other. Thus, even the Targ. renders it machatiy, plaga mea. Job's affliction is frequently traced back to the hand of God, Job 19:21, comp. Job 1:11; Job 2:5; Job 13:21; and on the suffix used objectively (pass.) we may compare Job 23:14, חקּי ; Job 20:29, אמרו ; and especially Job 34:6, חצּי . The interpretation: the hand upon me is heavy above my sighing, i.e., heavier than it (Ramban, Rosenm., Ges., Schlottm., Renan), also accords with the connection. על can indeed be used in this comparative meaning, Exodus 16:5; Ecclesiastes 1:16; but כבדה יד על is an established phrase, and commonly used of the burden of the hand upon any one, Psalms 32:4 (comp. Job 33:7, in the division in which Elihu is introduced; and the connection with אל , 1 Samuel 5:6, and שׁם , 1 Samuel 5:11); and this usage of the language renders the comparative rendering very improbable. But it is also improbable that “my hand” is = the hand that is upon me, since it cannot be shown that יד was directly used in the sense of plaga ; even the Arabic, among the many turns of meaning which it gives to Arab. yd , does not support this, and least of all would an Arab conceive of Arab. ydâ passively, plaga quam patior . Explain, therefore: his complain now, as before, offers resistance to the exhortation of the friends, which is not able to lessen it, his (Job's) hand presses upon his lamentation so that it is forced to break forth, but - without its justification being recognised by men. This thought urges him on to the wish that he might be able to pour forth his complain directly before God. מי־יתּן is at one time followed by an accusative (Job 14:4; Job 29:2; Job 31:31, Job 31:35, to which belongs also the construction with the inf., Job 11:5), at another by the fut., with or without Waw (as here, Job 23:3, Job 6:8; Job 13:5; Job 14:13; Job 19:23), and at another by the perf., with or without Waw (as here, Job 23:3: utinam noverim , and Deuteronomy 5:26). And ידעתּי is, as in Job 32:22, joined with the fut.: scirem ( noverim) et invenirem instead of possim invenire eum ( למצאו ), Ges. §142, 3, c. If he but knew how to reach Him (God), could attain to His throne; תּכוּנה (everywhere from כּוּן , not from תּכן ) signifies the setting up, i.e., arrangement (Ezekiel 43:11) or establishment (Nahum 2:10) of a dwelling, and the thing itself which is set out and established, here of the place where God's throne is established. Having attained to this, he would lay his cause ( instuere causam , as Job 13:18, comp. Job 33:5) before Him, and fill his mouth with arguments to prove that he has right on his side ( תּוכחות , as Psalms 38:15, of the grounds of defence, or proof that he is in the right and his opponent in the wrong). In Job 23:5 we may translate: I would, or: I should like (to learn); in the Hebrew, as in cognoscerem , both are expressed; the substance of Job 23:5 makes the optative rendering more natural. He would like to know the words with which He would meet him,
(Note: אדעה is generally accented with Dechî, מלים with Munach, according to which Dachselt interprets: scirem, quae eloquia responderet mihi Deus , but this is incorrect. The old editions have correctly אדעה Munach, מלים Munach (taking the place of Dechî, because the Athnach -word which follows has not two syllables before the tone-syllable; vid., Psalter, ii. 104, §4).)
and would give heed to what He would say to him. But will He condescend? will He have anything to do with the matter? -
The question arises here, whether the שׁם which follows is to be understood locally (Arab. ṯamma ) or temporally (Arab. ṯumma ); it is evident from Job 35:12; Psalms 14:5; Psalms 66:6; Hosea 2:17; Zephaniah 1:14, that it may be used temporally; in many passages, e.g., Ps. 36:13, the two significations run into one another, so that they cannot be distinguished. We here decide in favour of the temporal signification, against Rosenm., Schlottm., and Hahn; for if שׁם be understood locally, a “then” must be supplied, and it may therefore be concluded that this שׁם is the expression for it. We assume at the same time that נוכח is correctly pointed as part. with Kametz; accordingly it is to be explained: then, if He would thus pay attention to me, an upright man would be contending with Him, i.e., then it would be satisfactorily proved that an upright man may contend with Him. In Job 23:7, פּלּט , like מלּט , Job 20:20 (comp. פּתּח , to have open, to stand open), is intensive of Kal: I should for ever escape my judge, i.e., come off most completely free from unmerited punishment. Thus it ought to be if God could be found, but He cannot be found. The הן , which according to the sense may be translated by “yet” (comp. Job 21:16), introduces this antithetical relation: Yet I go towards the east ( הן with Mahpach, קדם with Munach), and He is not there; and towards the west ( אחור , comp. אחרנים , occidentales , Job 18:20), and perceive Him not (expressed as in Job 9:11; בּין ל elsewhere: to attend to anything, Job 14:21; Deuteronomy 32:29; Psalms 73:17; here, as there, to perceive anything, so that לו is equivalent to אתו ). In Job 23:9 the left ( שׂמאול , Arab. shemâl , or even without the substantival termination, on which comp. Jesurun, pp. 222-227, sham , shâm ) is undoubtedly an appellation of the north, and the right ( ימין , Arab. jem̌̂n ) an appellation of the south; both words are locatives which outwardly are undefined. And if the usual signification of עשׂה and עטף are retained, it is to be explained thus: northwards or in the north, if He should be active - I behold not; if He veil himself southwards or in the south - I see not. This explanation is also satisfactory so far as Job 23:9 is concerned, so that it is unnecessary to understand בּעשׂתו other than in Job 28:26, and with Blumenfeld to translate according to the phrase עשׂה דרכּו , Judges 17:8: if He makes His way northwards; or even with Umbr. to call in the assistance of the Arab. gšâ (to cover), which neither here nor Job 9:9; Job 15:27, is admissible, since even then שׂמאול בעשׂתו cannot signify: if He hath concealed himself on the left hand (in the north). Ewald's combination of עשׂה with עטה , in the assumed signification “to incline to” of the latter, is to be passed over as useless. On the other hand, much can be said in favour of Ewald's translation of Job 23:9: "if He turn to the right hand - I see Him not;” for (1) the Arab. gṭf , by virtue of the radical notion,
(Note: The Arab. verb ‛ṭf signifies trans. to turn, or lay, anything round, so that it is laid or drawn over something else and covers it; hence Arab. ‛ṭâf , a garment that is cast round one, Arab. ta‛aṭṭafa with Arab. b of a garment: to cast it or wrap it about one. Intrans. to turn aside, depart from, of deviating from a given direction, deflectere , declinare ; also, to turn in a totally opposite direction, to turn one's self round and to go back. - Fl.)
which is also traceable in the Heb. עטף , signifies both trans. and intrans. to turn up, bend aside; (2) Saadia translates: “and if He turns southwards ( ‛atafa gunûban );” (3) Schultens correctly observes: עטף significatione operiendi commodum non efficit sensum, nam quid mirum is quem occultantem se non conspiciamus . We therefore give the preference to this Arabic rendering of יעטף . If יעטף , in the sense of obvelat se, does not call to mind the חדרי תּמן , penetralia austri , Job 9:9 (comp. Arab. chidr , velamen, adytum ), neither will בעשׂתו point to the north as the limit of the divine dominion. Such conceptions of the extreme north and south are nowhere found among the Arabs as among the Arian races (vid., Isaiah 14:13);
(Note: In contrast to the extreme north, the abode of the gods, the habitation of life, the extreme south is among the Arians the abode of the prince of death and of demons, Jama (vid., p. 421) with his attendants, and therefore the habitation of death.)
and, moreover, the conception of the north as the abode of God cannot be shown to be biblical, either from Job 37:22; Ezekiel 1:4, or still less from Psalms 48:3. With regard to the syntax, יעטף is a hypothetical fut., as Job 20:24; Job 22:27. The use of the fut. apoc. אחז , like אט , Job 23:11, without a voluntative or aoristic signification, is poetic. Towards all quarters of the heavens he turns, i.e., with his eyes and the longing of his whole nature, if he may by any means find God. But He evades him, does not reveal Himself in any place whatever.
The כּי which now follows does not give the reason of Job's earnest search after God, but the reason of His not being found by him. He does not allow Himself to be seen anywhere; He conceals Himself from him, lest He should be compelled to acknowledge the right of the sufferer, and to withdraw His chastening hand from him.
10 For He knoweth the way that is with me:
If He should prove me, I should come forth as gold.
11 My foot held firm to His steps;
His way I kept, and turned not aside.
12 The command of His lips - I departed not from it;
More than my own determination I kept the words of His mouth.
13 Yet He remaineth by one thing, and who can turn Him?
And He accomplisheth what His soul desireth.
That which is not merely outwardly, but inwardly with ( אם ) any one, is that which he thinks and knows (his consciousness), Job 9:35; Job 15:9, or his willing and acting, Job 10:13; Job 27:11: he is conscious of it, he intends to do it; here, Job 23:10, עם is intended in the former sense, in Job 23:14 in the latter. The “way with me” is that which his conscience ( συνείδησις ) approves ( συμμαρτυρεῖ ); comp. Psychol. S. 134. This is known to God, so that he who is now set down as a criminal would come forth as tried gold, in the event of God allowing him to appear before Him, and subjecting him to judicial trial. בּחנני is the praet. hypotheticum so often mentioned, which is based upon the paratactic character of the Hebrew style, as Genesis 44:22; Ruth 2:9; Zechariah 13:6; Ges. §155, 4, a. His foot has held firmly
(Note: On אחז , Carey correctly observes, and it explains the form of the expression: The oriental foot has a power of grasp and tenacity, because not shackled with shoes from early childhood, of which we can form but little idea.)
to the steps of God ( אשׁוּר , together with אשּׁוּר , Job 31:7, from אשׁר Piel, to go on), so that he was always close behind Him as his predecessor ( אחז( ro synon. תּמך , Psalms 17:5; Proverbs 5:5). He guarded, i.e., observed His way, and turned not aside ( אט fut. apoc. Hiph. in the intransitive sense of deflectere , as e.g., Psalms 125:5).
In Job 23:12, מצות שׂפתיו precedes as cas. absolutus (as respects the command of His lips); and what is said in this respect follows with Waw apod. (= Arab. f) without the retrospective pronoun ממּנּה (which is omitted for poetic brevity). On this prominence of a separate notion after the manner of an antecedent. The Hiph. המישׁ , like הטּה , Job 23:11, and הלּיז , Proverbs 4:21, is not causative, but simply active in signification. In Job 23:12 the question arises, whether צפן מן is one expression, as in Job 17:4, in the sense of “hiding from another,” or whether מן is comparative. In the former sense Hirz. explains: I removed the divine will from the possible ascendancy of my own. But since צפן is familiar to the poet in the sense of preserving and laying by ( צפוּנים( y , treasures, Job 20:26), it is more natural to explain, according to Psalms 119:11: I kept the words (commands) of Thy mouth, i.e., esteemed them high and precious, more than my statute, i.e., more than what my own will prescribed for me.
(Note: Wetzstein arranges the significations of צפן as follows: - 1. (Beduin) intr. fut. i, to contain one's self, to keep still (hence in Hebr. to lie in wait), to be rapt in thought; conjug. II. c. acc. pers. to make any one thoughtful, irresolute. 2. (Hebr.) trans. fut. o, to keep anything to one's self, to hold back, to keep to one's self; Niph. to be held back, i.e., either concealed or reserved for future use. Thus we see how, on the one hand, צפן is related to טמן , e.g., Job 20:26 (Arab. itmaanna , to be still); and, on the other, can interchange with צפה in the signification designare (comp. Job 15:22 with Job 15:20; Job 21:19), and to spy, lie in wait (comp. Psalms 10:8; Psalms 56:7; Proverbs 1:11, Proverbs 1:18, with Psalms 37:32).)
The meaning is substantially the same; the lxx, which translates ἐν δὲ κόλπῳ μου ( בּחקי ), which Olsh. considers to be “perhaps correct,” destroys the significance of the confession. Hirz. rightly refers to the “law in the members,” Romans 7:23: חקּי is the expression Job uses for the law of the sinful nature which strives against the law of God, the wilful impulse of selfishness and evil passion, the law which the apostle describes as ἕτερος νόμος , in distinction from the νόμος τοῦ Θεοῦ ( Psychol. S. 379). Job's conscience can give him this testimony, but He, the God who so studiously avoids him, remains in one mind, viz., to treat him as a criminal; and who can turn Him from His purpose? (the same question as Job 9:12; Job 11:10); His soul wills it ( stat pro ratione voluntas ), and He accomplishes it. Most expositors explain permanet in uno in this sense; the Beth is the usual ב with verbs of entering upon and persisting in anything. Others, however, take the ב as Beth essentiae : He remains one and the same, viz., in His conduct towards me (Umbr., Vaih.), or: He is one, is alone, viz., in absolute majesty (Targ. Jer.; Schult., Ew., Hlgst., Schlottm.), which is admissible, since this Beth occurs not only in the complements of a sentence (Psalms 39:7, like a shadow; Isaiah 48:10, after the manner of silver; Psalms 55:19, in great number; Psalms 35:2, as my help), but also with the predicate of a simple sentence, be it verbal (Job 24:13; Proverbs 3:26) or substantival (Exodus 18:4; Psalms 118:7). The same construction is found also in Arabic, where, however, it is more frequent in simple negative clauses than in affirmative (vid., Psalter, i. 272). The assertion: He is one (as in the primary monotheistic confession, Deuteronomy 6:4), is, however, an expression for the absoluteness of God, which is not suited to this connection; and if הוא באחד is intended to be understood of the unchangeable uniformity of His purpose concerning Job, the explanation: versatur (perstat) in uno , Arab. hua fi wâhidin , is not only equally, but more natural, and we therefore prefer it.
Here again God appears to Job to be his enemy. His confidence towards God is again overrun by all kinds of evil, suspicious thoughts. He seems to him to be a God of absolute caprice, who punishes where there is no ground for punishment. There is indeed a phrase of the abiding fact which he considers superior to God and himself, both being conceived of as contending parties; and this phase God avoids, He will not hear it. Into this vortex of thoughts, as terrible as they are puerile, Job is hurried forward by the persuasion that his affliction is a decree of divine justice. The friends have greatly confirmed him in this persuasion; so that his consciousness of innocence, and the idea of God as inflicting punishment, are become widely opposite extremes, between which his faith is hardly able to maintain itself. It is not his affliction in itself, but this persuasion, which precipitates him into such a depth of conflict, as the following strophe shows.
14 For He accomplisheth that which is appointed for me,
And much of a like kind is with Him.
15 Therefore I am troubled at His presence;
If I consider it, I am afraid of Him.
16 And God hath caused my heart to be dejected,
And the Almighty hath put me to confusion;
17 For I have not been destroyed before darkness,
And before my countenance, which thick darkness covereth.
Now it is the will of God, the absolute, which has all at once turned against him, the innocent (Job 23:13); for what He has decreed against him ( חקּי ) He also brings to a complete fulfilment ( השׁלים , as e.g., Isaiah 44:26); and the same troubles as those which he already suffers, God has still more abundantly decreed for him, in order to torture him gradually, but surely, to death. Job intends Job 23:14 in reference to himself, not as a general assertion: it is, in general, God's way of acting. Hahn's objection to the other explanation, that Job's affliction, according to his own previous assertions, has already attained its highest degree, does not refute it; for Job certainly has a term of life before him, though it be but short, in which the wondrously inventive (Job 10:16) hostility of God can heap up ever new troubles for him. On the other hand, the interpretation of the expression in a general sense is opposed by the form of the expression itself, which is not that God delights to do this, but that He purposes ( עמּו ) to do it. It is a conclusion from the present concerning the future, such as Job is able to make with reference to himself; while he, moreover, abides by the reality in respect to the mysterious distribution of the fortunes of men. Therefore, because he is a mark for the enmity of God, without having merited it, he is confounded before His countenance, which is so angrily turned upon him (comp. פנים , Psalms 21:10; Lamentations 4:16); if he considers it (according to the sense fut. hypothet., as Job 23:9), he trembles before Him, who recompenses faithful attachment by such torturing pain. The following connection with ל and the mention of God twice at the beginning of the affirmations, is intended to mean: (I tremble before Him), and He it is who has made me faint-hearted ( הרך Hiph. from the Kal, Deuteronomy 20:3, and freq., to be tender, soft, disconcerted), and has troubled me; which is then supported in Job 23:17.
His suffering which draws him on to ruin he perceives, but it is not the proper ground of his inward destruction; it is not the encircling darkness of affliction, not the mysterious form of his suffering which disconcerts him, but God's hostile conduct towards him, His angry countenance as he seems to see it, and which he is nevertheless unable to explain. Thus also Ew., Hirz., Vaih., Hlgst., and Schlottm. explain the passage. The only other explanation worthy of mention is that which finds in Job 23:17 the thought already expressed in Job 3:10: For I was not then destroyed, in order that I might experience such mysterious suffering; and interpretation with which most of the old expositors were satisfied, and which has been revived by Rosenm., Stick., and Hahn. We translate: for I have not been destroyed before darkness (in order to be taken away from it before it came upon me), and He has not hidden darkness before my face; or as an exclamation: that I have not been destroyed! which is to be equivalent to: Had I but been ... ! Apart from this rendering of the quod non = utinam , which cannot be supported, (1) It is doubly hazardous thus to carry the לא forward to the second line in connection with verbs of different persons. (2) The darkness in Job 23:17 appears (at least according to the usual interpret. caliginem ) as that which is being covered, whereas it is naturally that which covers something else; wherefore Blumenfeld explains: and darkness has not hidden, viz., such pain as I must now endure, from my face. (3) The whole thought which is thus gained is without point, and meaningless, in this connection. On the other hand, the antithesis between מפּניו and מפּני ממּנוּ and מפּני־חשׁך , is at once obvious; and this antithesis, which forces itself upon the attention, also furnishes the thought which might be expected from the context. It is unnecessary to take נצמת in a different signification from Job 6:17; in Arabic ṣmt signifies conticescere ; the idea of the root, however, is in general a constraining depriving of free movement. חשׁך is intended as in the question of Eliphaz, Job 22:11: “Or seest thou not the darkness?” to which it perhaps refers. It is impossible, with Schlottm., to translate Job 23:17: and before that darkness covers my face; מן is never other than a praep., not a conjunction with power over a whole clause. It must be translated: et a facie mea quam obtegit caligo . As the absolute פנים , Job 9:27, signifies the appearance of the countenance under pain, so here by it Job means his countenance distorted by pain, his deformed appearance, which, as the attributive clause affirms, is thoroughly darkened by suffering (comp. Job 30:30). But it is not this darkness which stares him in the face, and threatens to swallow him up (comp. מפני־חשׁך , Job 17:12); not this his miserable form, which the extremest darkness covers (on אפל , vid., Job 10:22), that destroys his inmost nature; but the thought that God stands forth in hostility against him, which makes his affliction so terrific, and doubly so in connection with the inalienable consciousness of his innocence. From the incomprehensible punishment which, without reason, is passing over him, he now again comes to speak of the incomprehensible connivance of God, which permits the godlessness of the world to go on unpunished.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Job 23". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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