Job 16:1-22

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Job responded to what had been said to him. His words are directed to all three men. (16:1)

Regarding the things Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar had said to him, Job told them, “I have heard many such things.” The words he had heard and which accused him of serious wrongdoing brought him no comfort. Therefore, he called all of them “comforters of trouble” (“comforters of bad” [LXX]) or worthless comforters. (16:2)

Job referred to the words of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar as “words of wind” or empty words that did not apply in his case. He asked rhetorically when their “windy words” would have an end. The Septuagint reads, “When then? Is there order in words of wind [windy words]?” The rhetorical question implied that the worthless words of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar served no beneficial purpose; they accomplished no good. (16:3)

The next rhetorical question was not found in the Septuagint available to Origen in the third century CE. He added it from the version of Theodotion and marked the addition accordingly. The added question reads much like the one in the extant Hebrew text, “Or what will disturb you, that you reply?” In this case, the pronoun for “you” is singular. Therefore, the question was directed to Eliphaz. It indicated that Job did not understand what had incited Eliphaz to respond to him in the way that he did. (16:3)

If Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar found themselves in the distressing circumstances that had come to be Job’s lot (literally, if their “soul” had been in place of his “soul”), he could speak as they did. He could “assemble words” against them (“jump at [them] with words” [LXX]) and mockingly shake his head at them. Their words had misrepresented Job and wrongly accused him of serious transgressions, and he could do the same if the situation were reversed. (16:4)

Job said that he would not do what the three men had done. If they were suffering as he was, he would “strengthen” them with the “words of [his] mouth,” providing comfort and encouragement. In the Septuagint, Job is quoted as saying, “But may there be strength in my mouth,” which could suggest that he desired his words to be meaningful. The “motion of [his] lips,” or the expressions that would pass his lips, would “cause darkness,” bringing relief as if concealing the pain from them as by darkness. According to the Septuagint, Job would not “spare” or restrain the “movement of the lips,” indicating that he would freely express himself and not hold back in speaking what he considered right under the circumstances. (16:5)

If Job spoke, his pain was not alleviated, and the pain remained even if he did not speak. In the concluding phrase, the Hebrew text contains the word mah, which can function as an interrogative (“what?”) but may also be used as a negative. This is reflected in the renderings of translations. “And though I forbear, what am I eased?” (Margolis) “And if I forbear, how much of it [the pain] leaves me?” (NRSV) “If I say nothing, is it [the pain] in any way reduced?” (NJB) “If I am silent, it [the pain] does not leave me.” (REB) The Septuagint rendering conveys the basic thought somewhat differently. “For if I speak, I will not pain the wound, but even if I shall be silent, how will I be wounded less?” This suggests that Job’s speaking would not increase pain from his affliction and his remaining silent would not lessen it. (16:6)

With seeming reference to God, Job said, “Indeed now, he has wearied me,” wearing him out with suffering. Then Job appears to have directed his words directly to God, “You have made all my company desolate.” This could mean that Job had been deprived of all who had formerly been part of his household — his children and his servants. According to the Septuagint rendering, God had reduced Job to a worn-out state, making him a “fool” (apparently in the eyes of those seeing him), a person in a condition of decay, and, therefore, an outcast. (16:7)

Apparently continuing to direct his words to the Almighty, Job is quoted as saying, “You have seized me.” The thought appears to be that God had taken hold of Job in order to afflict him. The divine seizure that Job perceived as having brought great suffering to him served as a witness against him, making it appear to others that he was an impious man. Then the Hebrew text concludes with the words, “My leanness [or lying (káchash)] has risen up against me, it testifies to my face.” This could mean that Job saw his affliction as an ever-present witness against him. The Hebrew word káchash, however, commonly denotes “lying.” In the Greek text of Theodotion, the word is rendered “lie.” If this is the meaning of the Hebrew, the thought could be that Job’s affliction proved to be a lying witness. (16:8; see the Notes section.)

It appears that Job referred to God as having “torn” him in “his wrath” and been hostile to him. Moreover, Job portrayed him as gnashing “his teeth” at him, apparently in expression of his anger. If the mention of Job’s adversary” applies to God, he is being represented as “sharpening his eyes” against him. This would indicate that the Most High was focused on Job with hostile intent. “God is my hateful enemy, glaring at me and attacking with his sharp teeth.” (CEV) A number of translations, however, represent the adversary as not referring to God but as being a collective singular that designates Job’s enemies. “My enemies look daggers at me.” (NJB; REB) “My enemies lord it over me.” (NAB) The Septuagint rendering could be understood to indicate that God had treated Job with wrath and cast him down, gnashing his teeth against him. It concludes with the phrase, “Arrows of his raiders have fallen upon me.” This suggests that God used marauders against Job, which would agree with the prologue that mentions marauders as seizing his animals and killing his servants. (1:14, 15, 17; 16:9)

Job spoke of those who were hostile to him as opening wide “their mouth,” showing their teeth or acting as persons intent on harming him. In expression of “reproach,” mockery, or scorn, they struck him on the cheek. Together, they amassed themselves (literally, “made full”) as a group against Job. According to the Septuagint, “they ran at [him] together.” (16:10; see the Notes for additional comments regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Job referred to God as giving him up to “lads” (‘awil [a collective singular in Hebrew]) and casting (form of ratáh in the Hebrew text) him into the “hands of the wicked.” In this case, many translators do not render ‘awil according to its usual meaning (“lads,” “boys,” or “young men”) but follow the reading of the Septuagint, which says the “unjust” (ádikos [a collective singular]). If the intended word is “lads,” this would indicate that youths who should have treated Job with respect mocked him or mistreated him. The Septuagint rendering is, “For the Lord gave me up into the hands of the unjust.” There is a question about the significance of the Hebrew word ratáh. A conjectural meaning is “wring out.” The commonly accepted view is that the Hebrew word should be read as yarát (“cast”), which agrees with the rendering of the Septuagint (“cast me to the impious ones”). In the “hands” or power of wicked or unjust persons, Job would have been subjected to hateful treatment and ridicule. (16:11)

Job had been “at ease” or in a state of peace, security, or well-being, but that changed. He attributed what happened to him to God, saying that he “shattered” (“effaced” [LXX]) him or reduced him to a state of ruin. God seized him “by the neck” (“by the hair” [LXX]) and pulverized him (“pulled out” his hair). Job felt that he was being attacked, referring to God as having set him up as a target. (16:12)

Job likened his distressing situation to a military attack, with God’s archers surrounding him and aiming their arrows at him. The Septuagint represents Job as saying that warriors surrounded him with spears or lances, thrusting them into his kidneys without sparing. In the extant Hebrew text, God is the one referred to as splitting open Job’s kidneys and not sparing or not showing any compassion. Job compared his wounding to having his gallbladder poured out on the ground. (16:13)

Job described God’s action toward him as an attack against a city, with his breaking through the fortifications, “breach after breach.” The Septuagint has Job referring to warriors casting him down, “fall upon fall.” Whereas the extant Hebrew text represents God as running against Job like a mighty man or warrior, the Septuagint indicates that warriors were running strongly at him. (16:14)

Sackcloth, a coarse cloth made from goats’ hair, was commonly worn in times of great distress or mourning. Job stitched together sackcloth, covering his bare skin (probably only his loins) with it. His thrusting his “horn” in the dust could denote his giving up his strength as if reducing it to the level of the ground. The Septuagint reads, “My strength was extinguished on the earth.” (16:15)

Weeping had reddened Job’s face. According to the Septuagint, his “belly” became “aflame from weeping.” A “shadow” (LXX) or “death’s shadow” on Job’s eyelids may refer to the blackness around his eyes that had resulted from his affliction. (16:16)

Job could not understand why he had been submitted to great suffering. Regarding himself, he said, There was “no violence [nothing unjust (LXX)] in my hands, and my prayer [was] pure.” He had not been guilty of acts of oppression or violence, and his prayers were sincere. (16:17)

Job appealed for the “earth,” land, or ground not to cover his blood (“blood of my flesh” [LXX]), with the apparent reason being that it could then continue to cry out for vindication. He also wanted there to be “no place” for his “cry.” This could mean that his outcry for a just judgment would not be given a place of rest and, therefore, would not cease to be heard. (16:18)

The “witness” Job had “in the heavens” is not identified. The reference to God in the next verse provides a possible basis for considering God to be his witness, the One whom he also called “my witness [fellow knower or corroborator (LXX)] in the heights.” Job did not doubt that he had lived an upright life and, therefore, believed that God also knew this and could testify to it. The Contemporary English Version rendering identifies God as the witness. “Even now, God in heaven is both my witness and my protector.” Another view is to regard the witness as a heavenly advocate. This is an interpretation reflected in the rendering of the New International Version for verses 19 and 20. “Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God.” (16:19)

Job’s companions, particularly Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, were scorning him, viewing him and censuring him as a man guilty of serious wrongdoing and deserving of the calamities and suffering that had befallen him. With his companions having failed him, Job turned to the One who could vindicate him. To God, he “poured out” he eye, probably meaning that he gave way to tears when making his intense plea for vindication. The Septuagint makes no mention of companions but reads, “May my supplication come to the Lord, and may my eye weep [literally, drip] before him.” (16:20)

The significance of the words about deciding regarding a “man with God” and an “earthling” or man “with his fellow” depends on whether God is considered to be the witness mentioned in verse 21 or whether it is a heavenly advocate or possibly even Job’s outcry that is personified and in the presence of God as a defender. Translations vary in their interpretive renderings. “On behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.” (NIV) “If only there were one to arbitrate between man and God, as between a man and his neighbour!” (REB) “Before God my eyes drop tears, that he may do justice for a mortal in his presence and decide between a man and his neighbor.” (NAB) “God is the one I beg to show that I am right, just as a friend should.” (CEV) “Let my anguish [reflected in the tears Job shed and in his outcry] plead the cause of a man at grips with God, just as a man might defend his fellow.” (NJB) (16:21; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Job felt that his vindication needed to come soon, for he believed that it would not be long before he would die. The Hebrew text refers to a “number” of “years” as coming. In the Septuagint, the text reads, “But numbered years have come,” suggesting that they had ended. Job thought that he would be going the “way” from which he would not return. He would be heading for the realm of the dead. (16:22)

Notes

In the third century CE, Origen did not find the words of verse 8 in the Septuagint available to him. He marked them as having added them from the version of Theodotion. The added words differ somewhat from the extant Hebrew text. “And you took hold of me; for a testimony it became. And my lie rose within me. It was answered back to my face.” The “lie” could refer to the false testimony that had resulted through the suffering that befell Job, and this “lie” was hurled at his face or at him.

In verse 10, the initial phrases of the Septuagint differ from those in the extant Hebrew text. There is no mention of the “mouth” and the “teeth.” Job is quoted as saying that “he [God] assailed me with the darts of [his] eyes.” This may be understood to mean that God focused on Job with a hostile purpose. The striking on Job’s “cheek” with “something sharp” may refer to suffering that was afflicted on him.

The Septuagint rendering for verse 21 is, “But may it be proof to a man before the Lord.” In this context, the reference may be to Job’s desire to have the proof of his innocence presented before God. Origen, in the third century CE, did not find corresponding words for the additional phrase of the extant Hebrew text in the Septuagint available to him. He marked them as having been added from the version of Theodotion (“and [to] a son of man for his fellow”).