Job 7 – “Job’s Second Speech – Part II”

insomniaHebrew-English Text

I. Summary
In chapter 7 Job laments his wretched state, describes his longing for death, and demands that God leave him alone. All he wants is to die.

II. Photo
In v. 4 Job complains about his insomnia, “When I lie down, I think, ‘When shall I rise?’ Night drags on, And I am sated with tossings till morning twilight.”

III. Important Verses
v. 11: On my part, I will not speak with restraint; I will give voice to the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
vv. 13-14: When I think, “My bed will comfort me, My couch will share my sorrow,” You frighten me with dreams, And terrify me with visions!
v. 16: I am sick of it. I shall not live forever; Let me be, for my days are a breath.
vv. 20-21: If I have sinned, what have I done to You, Watcher of men? Why make of me Your target, And a burden to myself? Why do You not pardon my transgression And forgive my iniquity? For soon I shall lie down in the dust; When You seek me, I shall be gone.

IV. Outline

1-10. Reflection
    1-2. Man longs to die
    3-6. Job’s personal agony
    7-10. Job’s personal fate
11-15. Complaint
16-21. Petition to be left alone

V. Comment
In chapter 7 Job delivers a reflective speech (vv. 1-10) and a complains to God about his situation (vv. 11-21). He laments his wretched state, describes his longing for death, and demands that God leave him alone. In terms of literary structure, there is a strong use of metaphor (see vv. 2, 6, 7, 9), and v. 17 might be a parody of Ps. 8:5-6 (see below).

In vv. 3-5 Job describes his miserable state. One aspect of his misery is insomnia: “When I lie down, I think, ‘When shall I rise?’ Night drags on, And I am sated with tossings till morning twilight” (v. 4). Later in the chapter (vv. 13-14) Job accuses God for causing this pain, “When I think, ‘My bed will comfort me, My couch will share my sorrow,’ You frighten me with dreams, And terrify me with visions.” Job also describes his disease in lurid detail (v. 5), “My flesh is covered with maggots and clods of earth; My skin is broken and festering.” It is interesting to note that in all his speeches Job only describes his physical pain; he never mentions the distress of losing his children (but his friends do, cf. 8:4).

In v. 12 we find the book’s second reference to mythical sea creatures (cf. 3:8). Job asks God, “Am I the sea or the Dragon, That You have set a watch over me?” Indeed, God appears to be at odds with the sea creatures in other places of Tanakh as well: Ps. 74:13-14 says, “it was You who drove back the sea with Your might, who smashed the heads of the monsters in the waters; it was You who crushed the heads of Leviathan, who left him as food for the denizens of the desert,” and Ps. 89:10-11 says, “You rule the swelling of the sea; when its waves surge, You still them. You crushed Rahab; he was like a corpse; with Your powerful arm You scattered Your enemies.” While some feel that these verses are speaking of powerful creatures such as the crocodile and the hippopotamus, chapters such as Job 40-41 seem to be describing more mythical beings. Scholars now believe that there was a common ancient Near Eastern conception of God fighting the Sea and it’s creatures. For instance, Day writes in the Anchor Bible Dictionary (“Dragon and Sea, God’s Conflict With,” Vol. II, pp. 228-31), “the background of this mythological imagery was previously believed to be Babylonian, but since the discovery of the Ugaritic texts it has become apparent that the more immediate source of the biblical allusions is Canaanite mythology.” With this background in mind, Job is probably asking God, “am I some sort of enemy of yours, like the sea creatures with which you are at odds?” In other words, “let me be!” (v. 16).

There are two aspects of Job’s speech that seem to be at odds with the book of Psalms. The first is the content of Job’s petition: while many psalms ask God to remember the forsaken ones (e.g. 69:18, “do not hide Your face from Your servant, for I am in distress; answer me quickly”), Job asks God to turn away and let him die, “I am sick of it. I shall not live forever; Let me be, for my days are a breath” (v. 16). The second aspect is v. 17, “What is man, that You make much of him, That You fix Your attention upon him?” This verse, which belittles man, might be a parody of Ps. 8:5-6 which praises man, “what is man that You have been mindful of him, mortal man that You have taken note of him, that You have made him little less than divine, and adorned him with glory and majesty.”

In vv. 20-21 Job mentions sin for the first time, “f I have sinned, what have I done to You, Watcher of men? Why make of me Your target, And a burden to myself? Why do You not pardon my transgression And forgive my iniquity? For soon I shall lie down in the dust; When You seek me, I shall be gone.” Clines writes (p. 194), “It may appear that Job, in the very last verse of his speech, makes a fundamental admission of guilt when he asks, “Why do you not pardon my sin?” Yet if Job considers himself a sinner in need of divine forgiveness, we may well wonder why he has not sought such forgiveness from the very beginning of his suffering rather than proclaim his desire for death and protest God’s assaults on him. Indeed, the supposition that Job acknowledges that he is guilty makes nonsense of the whole course of the book hitherto. It must rather be that Job means by “my sin”: my sin as you (God) reckon it. Job is suffering; and unless God’s dealings with human beings are quite arbitrary—a possibility that Job will only later seriously entertain (cf 9:22)—God must have something against Job to make him suffer as he does.” Thus, while Job has not come to a state of blasphemy, he has also not confessed any guilt.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)
Clines, Proverbs 1-20 (Word Biblical Commentary)
Murphy, Wisdom Literature (FOTL)
Anchor Bible Dictionary, “Dragon and Sea, God’s Conflict With,” Vol. II, pp. 228-31
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