Job 9:1-35

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Job responded to what Bildad had said. His response is introduced with the words, “And Job answered and said.” (9:1)

“Surely I know that [it is] so.” This may be an acknowledgment that Bildad and Eliphaz had made some valid comments, with the point of Job’s agreement being expressed in question form. “How can a man be righteous before God?” The thought appears to be that a person’s claim to be righteous or upright would not have any merit from God’s standpoint. What counted was God’s judgment. (9:2; 8:3)

No human could contend with God, either by entering into a controversy with him or by seeking to establish the rightness of one’s own case. Job is then quoted as saying, “He could [or would] not answer him once in a thousand.” If the reference is to one who could not answer God, the application would be to the one who would attempt to enter into a controversy with him. The words could also be understood to mean that God would not answer the person who thought to argue his case. Since the expression “once in a thousand” is not specific in its application, it could refer either to “once in a thousand [or very many] times” or to “once to a thousand [or a multitude of] questions. (9:3)

Translations vary in the significance their renderings convey. “Should one wish to contend with him, he could not answer him once in a thousand times.” (NAB) “Though one wished to dispute with him, he could not answer him one time out of a thousand.” (NIV) “Anyone trying to argue matters with him, could not give him one answer in a thousand.” (NJB) “If anyone does choose to argue with him, God will not answer one question in a thousand.” (REB) According to the Septuagint, God would “by no means” listen to anyone who wished to enter into judgment with him. This would be the case so that the individual could not gainsay one “word” or charge “out of a thousand.” There would be no way to win against God. (9:3; see the Notes section.)

Many translations are specific in identifying God as the one who is “wise in heart [thought or mind (LXX)] and mighty in strength.” No human could hope to win against God’s limitless wisdom and might. This is expressed in the rhetorical question, “Who has hardened himself against [or resisted] him” and succeeded (more literally, “come out whole” or “complete” [“endured before him” (LXX)])? (9:4; see the Notes section.)

The removal of mountains could refer to the changes effected by volcanic activity or massive landslides. Job would have perceived this as evidence of God’s matchless power. Regarding the removal of mountains, Job is quoted as saying that “they know not.” This aspect about not knowing in conjunction with the removal of mountains could denote that it takes place unexpectedly or without any prior warning. The overturning of mountains is attributed to God’s anger. (9:5; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

God is referred to as shaking the “earth” or land out of its place (that which is “under heaven from the foundations” [LXX]). This is an apparent description of seismic activity. The land is poetically depicted as resting on “pillars” that violently move back and forth when an earthquake occurs. (9:6)

God is represented as commanding the sun, and it “does not rise.” He also “puts a seal around the stars.” The thought appears to be that, when the sky is overcast, the sun is not visible and so does not rise for earth’s inhabitants. Likewise, the overcast sky hides the stars, making it appear as though a seal has been placed over them. (9:7)

The sky (literally, the “heavens”) or the celestial dome is depicted as a tent that God stretches out by himself, with no one else assisting him. He is portrayed as trampling upon the “heights of the sea.” This suggests that God is in full control of the turbulent sea as if he were walking on the waves. According to the Septuagint, “He walks on the sea as upon the ground.” (9:8)

God appears to be identified as the maker of constellations — ‘ash, kesíl, kimáh, and the “chambers of the south” (possibly an expression applying to stars or constellations in the southern sky). Lexicographers commonly link kesíl to Orion and kimáh to Pleiades. The Great Bear constellation has been suggested as one possible identification for ‘ash. In the Septuagint, the first three Hebrew designations are rendered Pleiades, evening star (Venus), and Arcturus (“bear watcher”). The Vulgate rendering is Arcturus, Orion, Hyades (a cluster of stars in the Taurus constellation). (9:9)

God does “great things” beyond the capacity of humans to “search out” or to comprehend and “marvelous things” that are beyond numbering. According to the Septuagint, he does “great and unsearchable things, both notable and extraordinary, for which there is no number.” (9:10)

It appears that Job considered it impossible to have a one-on-one interchange with God or to contend with him. Whenever he passed him by or passed over him, Job could not see God. He could not discern him or know it when he moved onward. God remained imperceptible to Job. (9:11)

“Look!” Job said, “He [God] snatches away,” and Job recognized that no one could hinder God from doing so; or, as the Septuagint expresses the thought, “Who will return” what God has taken away? In his own case, Job would have considered the loss of his possessions and his children to have been the result of divine action. Nevertheless, no one would challengingly say to God, “What are you doing?” (“What did you do?” [LXX]) (9:12)

With apparent reference to times when God chooses to express his wrath, Job said that he “will not turn back his anger.” There would be no way to escape from God’s wrath. Even the “helpers of Rahab bowed” or stooped “beneath him.” In this context, “Rahab” probably is a designation for a powerful monster or sea monster, and its helpers would then be associated monsters. These helpers appear to represent God’s enemies, and the words about the “helpers of Rahab” could be understood to indicate that God, in his wrath, would subject his powerful foes to humiliating defeat. According to the rendering of the Septuagint, the “monsters” or sea monsters “under heaven were bowed beneath him.” (9:13)

Apparently because Job regarded himself to have become the object of divine wrath that even powerful monsters could not withstand, he realized that he could not possibly “answer” God or make a defense, choosing just the right “words” or arguments “with him.” The Septuagint rendering indicates that, if he listened to Job, God would judge his words. (9:14)

Recognizing that he could not win against God, Job said that he would not “answer” or contend with him despite being “righteous,” in the right, or innocent. “For [his] judgment” from God, he would have to plead for favor or mercy. According to the rendering of the Septuagint, God would not “listen” to Job even if he proved to be “righteous,” in the right, or innocent. (9:15; see the Notes section regarding the concluding phrase in the Septuagint.)

Job believed that, if he called out to him and he did respond, God would not listen (literally, “give ear”) to his “voice.” This probably means that Job thought that God, after responding to his call, would not listen to him when he would be presenting his case. (9:16)

In view of the calamity that had befallen him, Job came to think that God had no concern for him. Based on his perception, he felt that God continued to “crush” him or beat him down “with a storm” and to multiply his “wounds” or to increase his suffering “without cause.” Job simply could not understand why God could treat him in the manner that he did. (9:17; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Job never experienced any relief from his great suffering. Therefore, he felt that God would not let him get (literally, “return”) his “breath” (rúach). Although rúach can also mean “spirit” or “wind,” the context indicates that “breath” is the appropriate rendering here. There never was a brief respite for Job. God, as Job regarded his circumstances, continued to sate him or fill him “with bitter things.” (9:18)

The elliptical Hebrew wording could be understood to mean that, in a case before God, Job could not win. If strength is involved, God is mighty. If it is a matter of judgment or justice, Job asked as to who would “appoint,” or who would set the time for his case to be heard. According to the Septuagint rendering, God prevails by strength. “Who then can oppose his judgment?” (9:19)

With seeming reference to contending with God, Job felt that, even if he were “righteous,” in the right, or innocent, his own “mouth” would “condemn” him. Anything that he would say would only testify against him. Though he would be “complete,” blameless, or a man of integrity, God would pronounce him to be crooked. (9:20)

Regarding himself, Job said, “I [am] complete,” blameless, or a man of integrity. Nevertheless, he did not “know” or regard his “soul.” This could mean that, in his hopeless state, his existence as a person did not matter to him anymore. He loathed his life, which had become a life of misery. (9:21; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

In the Hebrew text, the first two words are ’acháth (“one”) and hi’ (a pronoun that may here be understood as the neuter “it”). The apparent thought being conveyed is that there is no difference. It is all one and the same. The Septuagint does not contain any corresponding words. (9:22)

Job perceived no difference in the way God dealt with humans. Therefore, he said, “He [God] destroys the “complete,” blameless, or innocent, and the “wicked.” (9:22; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

If a “scourge” or a calamity came, suddenly bringing death to many, Job did not believe that God exempted anyone but mocked at the trial or distress this brought upon the innocent ones. This mocking could be understood to mean that God was unconcerned that innocent persons had perished. (9:23; see the Notes section concerning the Septuagint rendering.)

Job did not see that upright persons had an advantage. As he observed, the “earth has been given into the hand” or power of the “wicked.” According to the Septuagint rendering, the upright are the ones who are delivered up into their hands or power. The covering of the faces of the judges of the earth refers to blinding them so that they render corrupt decisions. Job attributed this to God with the rhetorical question, “If not he, then who is it?” (9:24; see the Notes section.)

In his afflicted state, Job felt that his life would soon end. Therefore, he spoke of the passing of his “days” as being faster than a runner. His days fled away, without their seeing “good” or bringing any brightness into his life. (9:25; see the Notes section.)

From the standpoint of Job’s expectation that he would soon die, his days of misery went by like reed or papyrus boats on rivers, lakes, and seas. He likened the slipping away of his days to the rapid descent of an eagle, swooping down upon prey. (9:26; see the Notes section.)

Job thought about looking at his distressing situation differently. “If I say, I will forget my complaint, I will put off my face,” or change my countenance to end my sad expression, and be cheerful, he continued to be in distress (as evident from the words that follow). (9:27; see the Notes section.)

Job did not succeed in any attempts to view his afflicted state in a more positive way. He continued to be in fear of “all his suffering” or pains. Adding to his distress was his “knowing” or his firmly believing that God would not consider him innocent. (9:28; see the Notes section.)

Job wrongly concluded that God regarded him as guilty. This prompted him to raise the rhetorical question, “Why then do I labor in vain?” This may mean that he wondered why he should waste effort in trying to establish his innocence. In view of all he had to endure, he thought that nothing respecting himself mattered to God. (9:29; see the Notes section.)

Job believed that any measures he might undertake to cleanse himself would be of no avail. If he were to wash himself with snow, making himself clean with water from melted snow, and cleanse his hands with lye (cleanse himself with “clean hands” [LXX]), God (as the next verse indicates) would not treat him as being clean. (9:30)

Job felt that God would nullify his efforts to cleanse himself. He would plunge him into a “pit” or, according to the Septuagint, into “dirt.” Job would then be so filthy that his “garments” would abhor him. (9:31)

Job recognized that God was not a man or a mortal like he was, ruling out the possibility of his answering him or contending with him. Their agreeing to come together for “judgment” was not an option. (9:32)

If he were to make his case before God, Job believed that he would be at a disadvantage. Therefore, his desire was to have someone who would function as an “arbitrator” (yakhách [“mediator” [LXX]) between them, one who could “lay his hand on both” of them. The expression “lay his hand on both” may be understood to mean exercise authority over both of them for the purpose of rendering an impartial decision. According to the Septuagint, Job’s desire was to have their mediator present, one who could reprove and would hear the case between God and him. (9:33; see the Notes section regarding yakhách.)

Job wanted God to remove the “rod” (representative of the affliction to which he continued to be submitted) from upon him and not to let the fear of him “terrify” (“distract” or “distress” [LXX]) him. His desire was to be liberated from everything that served to restrain him from expressing himself freely. (9:34)

With the “rod” removed and his being freed from terrifying fear, Job would be able to speak to God without fear. He is then quoted as saying, “For not so am I in myself.” This could mean that Job did not then feel that he could speak without being afraid or that it was not customary for him to be in fear when speaking. The Septuagint rendering could be understood to mean that Job was not conscious either of guilt or of having been in fear when expressing himself. (9:35)


In verse 3, the Septuagint has two words for “not.” The emphatic sense thus expressed can be preserved with a rendering such as “by no means.”

Numerous translations are specific in applying the words of verse 4 to God. “God is wise in heart and mighty in strength; who has withstood him and remained unscathed?” (NAB) “God is wise and powerful who could possibly oppose him and win?” (CEV) “He is wise, he is all-powerful; who has stood up to him and remained unscathed?” (REB) The opening phrase has also been understood to apply to any person who could be considered wise and mighty. “Among the wisest and the hardiest, who then can successfully defy him?” (NJB)

According to the opening words of verse 5 in the Septuagint, God is the one who “ages mountains.” Possibly this could be understood to relate to the vegetation and trees that grow on the mountains. Vegetation dries up, and trees lose their leaves, are uprooted, and may be struck by lightning. These and other developments could be poetically referred to as aging.

In verse 15, the ancient Septuagint did not contain the concluding phrase, “I will plead [for] his judgment.” Origen (who produced his Hexapla in the third century CE) marked the words of this phrase as not found in the Septuagint text available to him. He added them from the version of Theodotion (a translator of the Hebrew text or a reviser of the Greek text based on the Hebrew text).

The opening phrase of verse 17 in the Septuagint may be rendered as a question. “Will he not destroy me with darkness?” This could signify that the calamity that had befallen Job plunged him into a state of darkness without any hope, and this state of darkness would terminate in his complete ruin.

In verse 21, the Septuagint conveys a meaning that differs from the extant Hebrew text. It quotes Job as saying, “For even if I behaved impiously, the soul does not know [it].” This could mean that Job himself was not aware of his having conducted himself in a godless manner. He thereafter said that he did know his life was being taken away.

The Septuagint rendering of verse 22 departs significantly from the extant Hebrew text. “Therefore, I [Job] said, Wrath destroys the great and the mighty.” The reference could be to God’s anger.

In verse 23, the Septuagint makes no application to God. It seems to indicate that worthless ones or morally corrupt individuals seem to fare well at death, whereas upright persons become the object of derision.

Verse 24 was missing in the Septuagint text available to Origen (see the note on verse 15), and he supplied the words from the version of Theodotion and marked the addition accordingly.

The last phrase of verse 25 in the Septuagint is elliptical. It reads, “They fled away and did not see.” The needed words to be added must be supplied from the Hebrew text. The days of Job fled away and did not see good.

Verse 26 of the Septuagint contains the rhetorical question as to whether ships leave a trace of their way or if a flying eagle does so when seeking prey.

In verse 27, the Septuagint indicates that, if Job were to say that he would forget about speaking or refrain from doing so, he would “groan.” His “face” or countenance would be “bowed down” in a state of distress and dejection.

According to verse 28 in the Septuagint, Job would shake in all his “members” or body parts. This was because he knew that God would not let him be innocent.

The Septuagint rendering of verse 29 suggests that, in Job’s view, God had found him to be impious. Therefore, he raised the question, “Why have I not died?”

In verse 33, the Hebrew word for “arbitrator” is the participial form of yakhách, which verb commonly means “reprove” or “rebuke.” In this context, the participle appears to relate to one having the authority to administer a reproof and, therefore, one who can arbitrate a dispute.