Job 23:1-17

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Job responded to the words of Eliphaz. His response primarily consisted of expressions about his desire to present his case before God and his perception regarding how God had treated him. (23:1)

Job’s words could be translated, “Also today my complaint [is] rebellion. My hand is heavy upon me on account of my groaning.” He had complained against what he perceived to be God’s unjust treatment of him. Apparently for this reason, he appears to have equated his complaint with rebellion. For Job’s hand to be heavy could mean that his power had been made heavy or had become weighted down so as to be drained because of his great suffering that gave rise to groaning. (23:2)

The Septuagint rendering differs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. It quotes Job as saying, “And I truly know that the refutation is out of my hand, and his hand has become heavy upon my groaning.” These words suggest that Job recognized that he could not argue successfully against God, and he believed that God’s hand or power had been directed against him, causing him to suffer and to intensify his groaning. Instead of following the extant Hebrew text that refers to “my hand,” numerous translators have chosen to follow the Septuagint reading that refers to “his hand” or God’s hand as being “heavy.” “Even today my thoughts are embittered, for God’s hand is heavy on me in my trouble.” (REB) “Even today my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning.” (NIV) “My lament is still rebellious; despite my groans, his hand is just as heavy.” (NJB) “Today I complain bitterly, because God has been cruel and made me suffer.” (CEV) (23:2)

Job desired to know where he might find God so that he could come to his “established place.” His reason for wanting to find God is set forth in the next verse. According to the Septuagint rendering, Job wondered who would know that he could find God and “arrive at an end” or come to a resolution about the distressing situation in which he found himself. (23:3)

If he could appear before God, Job would present his case before him and, as he is quoted as saying, “I would fill my mouth with arguments” or set forth reasons that he was in the right and that God should not have been treating him unjustly. The Septuagint indicates that Job wanted to express his “judgment” or judicial case before God and fill his mouth with proofs or arguments. (23:4)

Job desired to know the “words” God would use to make his reply to his arguments. He, in turn, would perceive or consider what was being said to him. (23:5)

Job raised the rhetorical question as to whether God would contend with him in the “greatness of [his] power,” acting toward him in an overbearing manner. In answer to his own question, he replied, No. Job was certain that God would give heed to him. According to the Septuagint, God would not threaten Job. (23:6)

“There,” at the location of God’s habitation, an “upright man” (as Job was) could argue his case. If he could do so, Job was confident that God, his “judge,” would “deliver” him “forever” or let him escape from what he perceived to be the judgment against him in the form of affliction. (23:7; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Job wanted to find God, but he could not. He expressed his failure with the words, “Look! I go to the front” (or the “east”), “and he is not there; and to the back” (or the “west”), “and I do not perceive him.” (23:8; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Job continued to comment on the impossibility of finding God. When he conducts his activity to Job’s “left” (or to the north), Job cannot behold him. God turns to the right (or to the south), and Job cannot see him. (23:9; see the Notes section.)

Whereas Job could not find him, God knew the “way” with him, or everything Job did and also at which location. Job invited God to try him, confidently adding, “and I will come forth like gold.” The Septuagint quotes Job as saying regarding God, “For he already knows my way, and he has judged [or tried] me like gold.” (23:10)

Countering the unfounded accusations of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, Job said that his “foot” had held fast to God’s “steps,” indicating that he had adhered closely to a divinely approved course of conduct. He had kept God’s way and not turned aside from it, consistently living an upright life. The Septuagint represents Job as saying that he would “go forth” with God’s “precepts,” observing them in all his actions. He had kept God’s ways and had resolved that he would “by no means turn aside.” (23:11; compare Psalm 17:5; see the Notes section.)

Job had not departed from the commandment of God’s lips or the expressions of his revealed will. The Septuagint represents him as saying, “From his precepts also, I will by no means depart.” The Hebrew text quoting Job’s words that follow may be translated literally, “From my enactment, I have hidden the words of his mouth.” Possibly “my enactment” could be understood to apply to the principle by which Job guided his life. His “hiding” the words of God’s “mouth” could signify that he treated them like precious treasure that one conceals from view. The Septuagint rendering has Job saying, “But in my bosom, I have hidden his [God’s] words,” treasuring them. (23:12; see the Notes section.)

The Hebrew phrase that literally may be translated, “and he in one,” could mean that God has one purpose. The answer to the rhetorical question (“and who can turn him?”) would be that no one can turn him from carrying out his objective. “And his soul desires, and he will do [it].” Nothing will stop him from doing what “his soul” or he himself desires. In view of the measure of obscurity involving the initial phrase, translators have variously rendered the verse. “But once he has made up his mind, who can change it? Whatever he plans, that he carries out.” (NJB) “But he stands alone, and who can oppose him? He does whatever he pleases.” (NIV) “He is one; who can dissuade Him? Whatever He desires, He does.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “When he decides, who can turn him from his purpose? What he desires, he does.” (REB) “But he had decided, and who can say him nay? What he desires, that he does.” (NAB) “But he alone is God, and who can oppose him? God does as he pleases.” (CEV) The Septuagint rendering is, “But if he also has judged thus, who is the one to contradict him? For what he has desired, he also has done.” (23:13)

Job recognized that God would “complete” what he had decreed or appointed for him (literally, “my enactment” or “my decree”). The concluding phrase (“and many such things with him”) could mean many like things that God had previously determined to be his dealings with Job. Translators have variously rendered the phrase referring to “many such things.” “No doubt, then, but he will carry out my sentence, like so many other decrees that he has made.” (NJB) “His mind is full of plans like these.” (REB) “And many such things may yet be in his mind.” (NAB) “And many such plans he still has in store.” (NIV) There are no corresponding words for this verse in the Septuagint. After the words in verse 13, it continues with those in verse 15. (23:14)

On account of what he perceived God to have appointed for him, Job was disquieted or terrified “before his face” or in his presence. When he considered what might be in store for him, Job was in “dread of him.” (23:15; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Believing that God had afflicted him, Job said that “God [the Lord (LXX)] has made my heart weak,” soft (LXX), timid, or fearful. In his “heart” or inmost self, Job feared what he might still have to face. He added, “And the Almighty has disquieted” or troubled (“hurried” or put great pressure on [LXX]) “me.” Job found himself in a state of constant fear and anxiety. (23:16)

Job spoke of not having been “annihilated by darkness.” This could mean that his state of suffering was one of great darkness. Yet that darkness had not brought an end to his life. The Septuagint expresses a different thought. Job is quoted as saying, “For I did not know that darkness would come upon me.” That “darkness” came upon him in the form of unexpected calamities and great personal suffering. The concluding phrase of the Hebrew text may be translated, “And from my face, he covers thick darkness.” (“But before my face, gloom covered.” [LXX]) The thought could be that God concealed the thick darkness or gloom from Job’s face, not providing him with any indication that his possessions, children, and health would be ripped away from him suddenly. (23:17)


In verse 7, the wording of the Septuagint differs considerably from that of the extant Hebrew text. “For truth and reproof [are] from him” (God), “and may he bring my judgment to an end.” With the desired end of what he considered to be a judgment from God, Job would cease to suffer.

The Septuagint rendering of verse 8 departs significantly from the wording of the extant Hebrew text. “For I will go to the first things, and I am no more. But what do I know about the last things?” Based on the preceding context, the “first things” could relate to Job’s presentation of his case and the setting forth of his arguments. Job would do so until he was no more or until he no longer lived. As to the “last things” or the developments that would follow, Job had no knowledge.

Origen, in the third century CE, marked the words of verse 9 as having been added from the version of Theodotion. He could not find them in the Septuagint available to him. The wording of the Greek version of Theodotion is similar to that of the extant Hebrew text. When God did something “on the left,” Job did not grasp it. Should God encircle him “on the right,” Job would not “see” it.

In verse 11 and 12, the expression “by no means” preserves the emphatic sense of the two Greek words for “not.”

In the Septuagint, the words of verse 15 directly follow those of verse 13 and so relate to the reality that God will do exactly what he desires. Job is quoted as saying, “Therefore, I am hastening because of [epí] him. But being admonished, I gave heed to him,” acting on the admonition. In the context, other meanings for the Greek preposition epí could be “to” or “about.” Job’s “hastening” could relate to his hurrying to do what he could to plead with God no longer to want to afflict him. This “hastening” could also denote that Job was zealous about God. After the words of the Septuagint, there is an addition from the version of Theodotion. Origen marked this addition accordingly. It reads somewhat like verse 15 in the extant Hebrew text, “Over this, from his face” (or from his presence), I would be troubled. I shall consider and shall be terrified of him.”

The obscurity of the Hebrew text in verse 17 has given rise to a variety of interpretive renderings. “Yes, would that I had vanished in darkness, and that thick gloom were before me to conceal me.” (NAB) “Yet I am not reduced to silence by the darkness or by the mystery which hides him.” (REB) “Yet I am not cut off by the darkness; He has concealed the thick gloom from me.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Yet I am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face.” (NIV) “The darkness having failed to destroy me, I am plunged back into obscurity by him!” (NJB) “God has covered me with darkness, but I refuse to be silent.” (CEV)