Job 14:1-22

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Commenting on the brevity of human life, Job said that “few” are the “days” or short is the life of a “man,” an earthling, or a “mortal” (LXX), and those days or that time is full of disquietude or trouble (“wrath” [LXX]). (14:1)

An earthling or mortal comes forth like a flower at birth and eventually ages, withering like a blossom and dying. The Septuagint refers to a mortal as dropping off (probably meaning dying) like a “flower that has blossomed.” With his life being short, he “flees like a shadow,” disappearing quickly, and ceases to exist. (14:2)

God is represented as opening his eyes upon a mere mortal (such as Job was) and who would soon no longer exist. According to the Hebrew text, Job perceived that this attention led to the severe judgment that had been rendered against him and had resulted in the loss of his possessions, the death of his children, and the continuance of his own physical affliction. This is indicated by the words directed to God, “and me you bring into judgment with you.” The Septuagint rendering is less specific in the application to Job. It reads, “Have you not also taken account of this one [the mortal born of a woman] and made him to enter before you into judgment?” (14:3)

Job recognized that no human could be flawlessly clean or pure. This is evident from the question, “Who can [bring] a clean [one or thing] out of an unclean [one or thing]?” (“For who will be clean from defilement?” [LXX]) Job’s answer to the rhetorical question was, “Not one.” The implication is that, on account of his flawed condition from birth, Job felt that he should have been shown mercy and not have been harshly judged as deserving to be punished so severely as he had been for all past transgressions since the time of his youth. (14:4)

When it comes to the length of life, Job concluded that, if a mortal’s “days are determined,” God is the one who does so. Regarding the Almighty, Job is quoted as saying about a mortal’s life, The “number of his months [is] with you. His bounds you have appointed, and he cannot go beyond [them].” This suggests that Job believed that a human’s life cannot be any longer than the divinely predetermined limit. The implication appears to be that, since God already controls the length of a mortal’s life, he should treat the individual mercifully and not punish him more severely than his transgressions as a flawed human merit. (14:5; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Although expressed in the third person singular, the request for God to “look away from him” appears to be one that Job made for himself. He wanted to have rest from his distress to get some enjoyment from “his day” or “life” (LXX) like a hireling does. A hired man looked forward to the end of the day when he would receive his wages and be able to rest from his toiling. (14:6)

Verses 7 through 12 refer to the outcome for a felled tree and for a man who dies. “For a tree,” there is “hope” of new life. When cut down, the part of the tree remaining in the ground may show signs of life (“it will sprout [again] [LXX]), and its “shoot” or branch (a collective singular in Hebrew) “will not cease.” It will continue to grow. (14:7)

The “root” of a felled tree may “grow old in the earth” or soil, and the remaining stump may die or decay in the ground (“in a rock” or in rocky ground [LXX]). (14:8)

At the “scent of water,” or when the roots can absorb moisture, the remaining part of the felled tree will sprout and, in time, produce branches like a young plant. (14:9)

In the case of a man, the observable circumstances differ from those of a felled tree. He “dies,” is prostrate (or is unable to rise from the sleep of death), and expires. The question (“Where is he?”) is left unanswered. Unlike the portion of a felled tree that remains in the soil and can sprout again, there is no sign of any life for a dead man who is buried in the ground. (14:10)

“Waters from a sea” or lake vanish, doing so during periods of severe, prolonged drought. “A river narrows and dries up.” There is no mention in this verse of the possibility of a change in these developments when abundant precipitation returns. Therefore, the drying up of a lake and a river may be understood to illustrate what happens to humans at death. They disappear from the earthly scene like water from a lake or river. (14:11)

At death, man lies down and does not rise again. The dead cannot stand up and begin a new life. “Until the heavens [are] no more,” dead humans will not get up on their own. A dead man will not be “roused out of his sleep” in death. (14:12; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Job’s words suggest that any hope that the dead would live again depended on the Almighty. He asked God to hide him “in Sheol,” Hades (LXX), or the realm of the dead, concealing him until the turning back of divine wrath so that he might be spared from continual suffering. Job wanted God to appoint a set time for him and to remember him. Such remembering would only be meaningful if it meant being brought back from Sheol or the realm of the dead. (14:13)

Job raised the question about whether a man who died would live again. In that case, he would “wait” or endure “all the days of [his] service [tsavá’ ]” until his “release” were to come. The Hebrew word here rendered “service” commonly relates to an army or “warfare” and here appears to designate the fight Job had in his afflicted state. He would be willing to put up with it, provided that it would end and that he would have the opportunity for a new life. In Hebrew, the word here translated “release” (chalipháh) basically means “change” and so may be understood to designate the change in the condition of Job or a release from the affliction he had been battling. The Septuagint rendering could be understood to indicate that, if a man were to die and then live again upon having finished the “days of his life,” Job would “wait” or endure until he would again be born or re-created. (14:14)

With apparent reference to the end of the time he would be hidden in Sheol, Job spoke of God as calling him, and he would then answer. As the “work of his hands,” the Almighty would long for Job. This appears to be the reason for directing his call to him. The rendering of the Septuagint differs somewhat in the significance it conveys. After referring to him as responding to God’s calling, Job is quoted as saying to him, “But do not reject the works of your hands.” (14:15)

If the words apply to the time when Job was suffering, they may be rendered as saying to God, “For now you number my steps,” which could mean that God observed Job’s every move and dealt with him accordingly. Then, at the time he would be calling Job because of longing for him as the “work of his hands,” this would change. The Almighty “would not keep watch” on Job’s sin. This significance is expressed in the New Jerusalem Bible. “Whereas now you count every step I take, you would then stop spying on my sin.” It is also possible to link the words of the entire verse to a positive change in Job’s condition. “For then you would not [missing in the Hebrew text but the “not” is added from the Syriac] number my steps, you would not keep watch over my sin.” (NRSV) “You would take care of me, but not count my sins.” (CEV) Another meaning for the words would be to apply them to Job while he continued to be afflicted. “Whereas now you count my every step, watching all my errant course.” (REB) This is the basic meaning conveyed in the Septuagint. “You have counted my pursuits” or practices, “and not one of my sins will pass by you.” (14:16)

Sealing up Job’s “transgression in a bag” and covering over (gluing over) his iniquity could mean preserving the record of his wrongdoing for a future day of reckoning or could signify completely putting the record of sin out of sight and forgetting about it. The significance depends on whether the previous verse is applied to Job’s state of suffering or to the time after God calls him as a man for whom he has a longing. The Septuagint relates the words to the period of Job’s affliction. “You, however, have sealed up my lawless deeds in a bag and marked down if I unwittingly transgressed anything.” (14:17)

A “mountain” may fall. Volcanic or seismic activity can cause huge portions of mountains to collapse and “fade away” or disappear. Avalanches, melting snows, freezing and thawing, heavy rains, and swollen, rapidly moving streams can destabilize mountain slopes and hillsides, causing extensive rock slides. A massive rock or boulder can be dislodged “from its place.” Features of the natural world that may appear immovable cannot withstand the power that God can bring to bear against them. This may be the implied message here and in the verse that follows. (14:18; see the Notes section.)

Water continually passing over stones can wear them smooth. Heavy rains and melting snows cause streams to flood. In this way, the “outpouring” of water “washes away” or erodes the “soil of the earth.” Job appears to have thought of God as destroying the “hope of man,” the mortal, in a similar progressive manner when permitting him no respite from calamities or suffering. (14:19; see the Notes section.)

Job referred to God as prevailing against a man, against a mere mortal, forever (to the point where he cannot recover), and man “passes on” or dies. The change or disfigurement of a man’s countenance could relate to the effect of the aging process or to what happens upon his death, and sending him away appears to mean sending him away to the realm of the dead. In the Septuagint, God is portrayed as pushing a man to the end, or thrusting him to his finish, causing him to be gone (to cease to exist in the realm of the living). The text of the Septuagint does not refer to the face or countenance of a man, but says of God that he set his face against the mortal “and sent him away.” (14:20)

In the realm of the dead, a man does not come to know if his sons have been honored nor does he perceive if they have been “brought low” or been disgraced. The Septuagint rendering suggests that the dead man ceases to know anything about the future size of his family. He does not know whether his sons have “become many” (whether there has been a significant increase in the number of his descendants), nor is he aware if his sons have “become few” or experienced a decrease in the number of offspring. (14:21)

The concluding verse could either relate to a man while he is enduring affliction or to the time after he has died. Only in his own “flesh” or body does the afflicted man feel pain, and only “his soul” or he himself mourns over the calamities that have personally affected him. If the reference is to a man after he has died, the words may indicate how his situation appears to the living. Maggots may be feeding on his flesh or dead body, which is in the process of decomposing. (Compare Job 24:20.) The corpse itself could be described as taking on a sad appearance. Covered with maggots, the flesh of the corpse appears as if it is subjected to pain, and the decomposing of the corpse makes the deceased (the dead “soul”) look as if it is in a state of mourning. There is also a possibility that the man’s “flesh” (as a collective singular) could apply to the relatives of the deceased who would experience pain on account of the loss of a loved one, and the “soul” (as a collective singular) could denote “slaves” (bought souls) who would mourn the death of a kindly master. It is unlikely, however, that this thought would be expressed in such an obscure manner. (14:22)


In verse 5, the Septuagint expresses the basic thought of the Hebrew text in a different way. “And if his [a mortal’s] life on the earth [be] but one day, and his months are counted to him by you, you have set a time, and by no means shall he go beyond [it].” The certainty about not exceeding the predetermined length of life (regardless of how short it might be) is conveyed in the Greek text by two words for “not” and is here rendered “by no means.”

The Septuagint, in verse 12, indicates that a person, lying down in death, would not rise again “until heaven by no means [remains] sewn together.” In the Greek text, two words for “not” express the emphatic sense and it is here rendered “by no means.” Heaven, the sky, or the celestial dome appears to be alluded to as being stretched out like a tent. Accordingly, for heaven not to be sewn together suggests that the celestial dome would tear apart like a tent may rip apart at the seams.

Origen (in the third century CE) did not find the last phrase of verse 12 (“and they will not be awakened out of their sleep”) in any manuscript of the Septuagint available to him. He supplied it from the translation of Theodotion and marked the addition accordingly.