Job 6 – “Job’s Second Speech – Part I”

arrowheads2Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary
In chapter 6 Job begins his second speech. He asserts that he has the right to complain, longs for death, and accuses his companions of being fair-weather friends.

II. Photo
For the first time in the book, Job blames God for his suffering, “For the arrows of the Almighty are in me; My spirit absorbs their poison; God’s terrors are arrayed against me!” (v. 4)
III. Important Verses
vv. 2-3: If my anguish were weighed, My full calamity laid on the scales, It would be heavier than the sand of the sea; That is why I spoke recklessly.
v. 4: For the arrows of the Almighty are in me; My spirit absorbs their poison; God’s terrors are arrayed against me.
vv. 11-12: What strength have I, that I should endure? How long have I to live, that I should be patient? Is my strength the strength of rock? Is my flesh bronze?
v. 14: A friend owes loyalty to one who fails, Though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty (translation open to question)
vv. 29-30: Relent! Let there not be injustice; Relent! I am still in the right. Is injustice on my tongue? Can my palate not discern evil?

IV. Outline

1. Introduction
2-13. Monologue
    2-7. Justification of complaint
    8-10. Longing for death
    11-13. Diminishing strength
14-30. Address to friends
    14. Description of loyal friends
    15-20. Disappointment in the actual friends
    21-23. Rationale: Job didn’t ask to be saved
    24-28. Derision of friends
    29-30. Assertion of being in the right

V. Comment
After listening to Eliphaz accuse him of sinning, Job begins his second speech of the book. He justifies his right to complain (vv. 2-13), accuses his friends of deserting him (vv. 14-30), will turn to God in the next chapter. In terms of literary form, Job’s speech contains many metaphors (vv. 2-3, 4, 5, 6, and 15-20). It also contains wisdom sayings similar to those found in the book of Proverbs (vv. 5, 6, 14).

Job begins his speech defiantly, “If my anguish were weighed, My full calamity laid on the scales, It would be heavier than the sand of the sea; That is why I spoke recklessly.” (vv. 2-3) This is understandably more assertive than Eliphaz’s opening, “If one ventures a word with you, will it be too much? But who can hold back his words?” (4:2) While Job analogizes his pain to the weight of sand, it is interesting that sand is most often used in Tanach to describe a large number, e.g. Gen. 22:17, “I will bestow My blessing upon you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands on the seashore; and your descendants shall seize the gates of their foes.” Also see Gen. 32:13, Josh 11:4, 1 Kgs 5:9, and Jer 15:8.

In v. 4 Job laments, “For the arrows of the Almighty are in me; My spirit absorbs their poison; God’s terrors are arrayed against me!” Clines writes (p. 170), “For the first time, Job explicitly names God as the ultimate (and immediate) cause of his suffering. Of course, he knows nothing of the events that have taken place in heaven that make his complaint only all the better founded. He simply knows that what happens to him does not arise from any guilt of his own, and since he presumably agrees with Eliphaz that trouble is not selfgenerating (5:6–7), there is only one direction in which he can look for the origin of his suffering.” While there is no other place in Tanach which speaks of  “poisoned” arrows, many other verses speak of God’s arrows being shot at humankind. For instance, Deut. 32:23 says, “I will sweep misfortunes on them, Use up My arrows on them,” and Ps. 64:8 says, “God shall shoot them with arrows; they shall be struck down suddenly.” Also see Job 7:20, 16:12-13, Ps. 38:3, Lam. 2:4, and Ezek. 5:16. [Also see ABD “Resheph” (V, 678-679) regarding the ANE arrow-shooting deity.]

In v. 14 Job describes the ideal friend, “A friend owes loyalty to one who fails, Though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.” While there are many ways to translate v. 14, one thing is clear: Job expects his friends to realize that he is right. Since they disagree with him (they think that his suffering must be an indication of sin), Job accuses them of being fair-weather friends: he says “My comrades are fickle, like a wadi, Like a bed on which streams once ran,” (v. 15) and “So you are as nothing: At the sight of misfortune, you take fright” (v. 21). It is interesting that the book of Psalms has many descriptions of friends who have become enemies. For instance, Ps. 55:13-15 says, “It is not an enemy who reviles me — I could bear that; it is not my foe who vaunts himself against me — I could hide from him; but it is you, my equal, my companion, my friend; sweet was our fellowship; we walked together in God’s house.” Similarly, Ps. 41:10 says, “My ally in whom I trusted, even he who shares my bread, has been utterly false to me.” Each of these psalms could easily apply to Job’s situation.

Clines makes an excellent point about the way in which Job treats his friends (p. 176-177), “What Job means by ‘loyalty’ is plainly different from what the friends mean by it. He is looking for unqualified acceptance that takes his side whether he is in the right or the wrong. They offer sympathy and support, but only from what seems to them a realistic point of view; it is absurd, they would argue, to take the stance ‘my friend right or wrong’ when the evidence (Job’s suffering) proves that—to some extent at least—Job is in the wrong. Are they to disregard the evidence of their eyes and their learning, and prop Job up in what they believe to be a falsely self-righteous position? Eliphaz has done his utmost to emphasize Job’s essential goodness, but he had to point out as delicately as he knew how that even the righteous are not perfect. Could any more be expected of a ‘loyal’ friend?” Yet, the fact that the reader knows that Job is innocent makes it easier to understand his unreasonable demand. It is hard not to agree with his closing words (vv. 29-30), “Relent! Let there not be injustice; Relent! I am still in the right. Is injustice on my tongue? Can my palate not discern evil?”

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Clines, Proverbs 1-20 (Word Biblical Commentary)
Murphy, Wisdom Literature (FOTL)
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