Job 19 – “Job’s Sixth Speech”

rock_hammerHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Job confronts his friends about their behavior, bemoans what God has done to him, and begs the friends to treat him fairly.

II. Photo
Job wants to be remembered: “O that my words were written down; would they were inscribed in a record, incised on a rock forever with iron stylus and lead!” (vv. 23-24)

III. Important Verses
vv. 2-3: How long will you grieve my spirit, And crush me with words? Time and again [lit. “these ten times”] you humiliate me, And are not ashamed to abuse me.
v. 6-7: Know that God has wronged me; He has thrown up siege works around me. I cry, “Violence!” but am not answered; I shout, but can get no justice.
vv. 8-10: He has barred my way; I cannot pass; He has laid darkness upon my path. He has stripped me of my glory, Removed the crown from my head. He tears down every part of me; I perish; He uproots my hope like a tree.
v. 17: My odor is repulsive to my wife; I am loathsome to my children.
vv. 21-22: Pity me, pity me! You are my friends; For the hand of God has struck me! Why do you pursue me like God, Maligning me insatiably?
vv. 23-24: O that my words were written down; Would they were inscribed in a record, Incised on a rock forever With iron stylus and lead!

IV. Outline
1. Introduction
2-7. Confronting the friends
8-20. Bitter complaint about what God has done
21-22. Implicit petition for the friends to NOT act like God
23-27. Futile wish for vindication
28-29. Warning to friends

V. Comment
Job’s sixth speech consists of addresses to the friends (vv. 2-7, 21-22, 28-29), and a complaint about God (vv. 8-20). The complaint is filled with vivid metaphors and similes, what Clines calls “a veritable kaleidoscope of images”.  This speech is different for two reasons: (1) Job doesn’t address God, and (2) he doesn’t express his desire to die. In terms of form, the speech shares many characteristics with lament genre, especially the description of enemies in vv. 6-13 and a depiction of despair in vv. 13-20.

Job begins his speech in vv. 2-3: “How long will you grieve my spirit, And crush me with words? Time and again [lit. ‘eser pe’amim “these ten times”] you humiliate me, And are not ashamed to abuse me.” As one might expect, Job begins his speech by mentioning the “words/speech/talk” of his predecessors. For similar verses For similar verses, see 4:2, 8:2, 9:2, 11:2–3, 15:2–3, 16:2–3, 18:2, 20:2, 21:2, 32:6–33:3, 34:2, 36:2, and 38:2. When Job says that he has been humiliated ‘eser pe‘amim “ten times” he is using a biblical idiom which means “many times.” For example, see Neh. 4:6: “When the Jews living near them would arrive, they would tell us ten times (‘eser pe‘amim) ‘… from all the places where … you shall come back to us….’” For more instances of “ten times,” see Num. 14:22 and the related Gen. 31:7 and Lev. 26:26.

V. 17 is one of the most discussed in the whole book. In v. 17 Job laments, “My odor is repulsive to my wife; I am loathsome to my children (benei vitni ).” The major problem is that Job’s children were killed in 1:18-19. There are at least four general approaches to explaining this discrepancy: (a) one can posit that Job had other children, (b) one can interpret the phrase benei vitni as a figure of speech, (c) one can give an alternate meaning of venei vitni, or (d) one can let the contradiction stand. Each approach will now be discussed.

The first two approaches are taken by Amos Hakham in the commentary Da‘at Mikra’ (Hebrew). He writes (p. 148, translation my own): “And, if you ask, ‘Didn’t all of Job’s children die?’ one can say that those who died were the children of the primary wife (gevirah). Yet, he had other children from concubines that he took from his maidservants that were mentioned in v. 15, and these children did not die. Alternatively, some say that Job was using a figure of speech often used by complainers.” While both of these answers (and the other ones suggested in fn. 21) are possible, it is important to note that there is no textual support for either (there is no mention of other children, and there is no parallel in which benei vitni is used as a figure of speech). Clines takes the third approach by reinterpreting the meaning of benei vitni. He writes (p. 453): “The best solution is clearly that the ‘sons of my womb’ are the sons born from the same womb as Job, ie, his uterine brothers… (elsewhere such are specified as ‘my brother[s], the son[s] of my mother’ [Gen 43:29; Judg 8:19]).” Yet, while he points to Gen. 43:29 and Judg. 8:19 for support, there is no instance in Tanakh where benei vitni actually means “brothers.” The fourth solution, hinted at in the Anchor Bible Dictionary (“Job, Book of” in Vol. III, pp. 858-868), is to let the contradiction stand. Indeed, there seem to be other differences between the prose “frame” and the poetic core of the book. For example, while the Tetragrammaton is used often in the prose sections, it is conspicuously absent in chaps. 3-37 where God is referred to as ’el, ’eloha, and shaddai. Also, while the Satan plays a leading role in chaps. 1-2 he isn’t mentioned again.

In vv. 21-22 Job asks his friends for sympathy: “Pity me, pity me! You are my friends; For the hand of God has struck me! Why do you pursue me like God, Maligning me insatiably?” Clines (p. 452-453) points out that “A strikingly new note is sounded here… [Job] has never before asked for their pity. Indeed, having berated them for their treachery (6:15), their callousness (6:27), their stupidity (12:2–3; 13:2), their worthlessness (13:4), their lies (13:7), their partisanship (13:7–9), their torture (16:2), and their attempts to destroy him (19:2), having done everything wrong if he had been trying to win friends and influence people, it is truly amazing that he should suddenly fall into a supplicative mood, and that for only two verses, to be followed shortly by as aggressive an address to the friends as we have heard (vv 28–29).”

In vv. 23-24 Job expresses what he feels to be a futile wish: “O that (mi yitein) my words were written down; Would they (mi yitein) were inscribed in a record, Incised on a rock forever With iron stylus and lead!” The idiom mi yitein (lit. “who would give”), which appears twelve times in the book (nine times more than in any other book), is what indicates Job’s pessimism. Another example of the phrase is Zophar’s statement in 11:5: “But would that (mi yitein) God might speak, And talk to you Himself.”

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Clines, Job 1-20 (Word Biblical Commentary)
Hakham, Job (Da‘at Mikra’)
Crenshaw, “Job, Book of” in Anchor Bible Dictionary Vol III. pp. 858-868
Photo taken from  http://www.cas.usf.edu/~cconnor/field_school/rock_hammer.jpg

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