Job 27 – “Job’s Tenth Speech – Part I”

clothes-stall-2Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Job defends his innocence and describes how wicked people are doomed to suffer.

II. Photo
Job describes what happens to the possessions of the wicked: “Should he lay up clothing like dirt — He may lay it up, but the righteous will wear it.” (vv. 16b, 17a)

III. Important Verses
vv. 13-15: This is the evil man’s portion from God, The lot that the ruthless receive from Shaddai: Should he have many sons — they are marked for the sword; His descendants will never have their fill of bread; Those who survive him will be buried in a plague, And their widows will not weep.
vv. 18-19: The house he built is like a bird’s nest, Like the booth a watchman makes. He lies down, a rich man, with his wealth intact; When he opens his eyes it is gone.

IV. Outline
1. Introduction
2-6. Assertion of innocence
7-23. The wicked are doomed

V. Comment
Job begins his tenth speech by asserting his innocence (vv. 2-6). Then, in an unexpected turn of events, he delivers a discourse about how the wicked are doomed (vv. 7-23). The major question is, “Why would Job, a man who believes that being wicked leads to prosperity (cf. ch. 24), deliver a speech which is appropriate for his friends to give (cf. 4:7-11, 8:3-19, 11:20, 15:17-35, etc.)?” Also, in the previous two cycles of dialogue, Zophar spoke after Eliphaz and Bildad. Yet, this is Job’s second speech in a row, and Zophar does not speak at all. Why? Let us now explore two approaches to these questions, one which we will call “traditional” and the other which we will call “critical”.

Hakham takes the traditional approach in answering these two questions. In regards to Zophar’s silence, he writes (p. 217, translation my own), “When it came the time for Zophar to speak, he was silent. Yet, the silence of Zophar and the friends was not a concession that Job was correct… [Rather, once Bildad had pointed out that nobody is perfect before God] there was no more need to debate Job, for his arguments were now rendered null and void. Therefore, the friends thought it best to be quiet.” Thus, according to Hakham, Zophar made a calculated decision to remain silent; speaking wouldn’t advance his cause. Also, Hakham attempts to explain why Job speaks about the impending doom of the wicked (p. 202): Job is describing the friends themselves. In other words, Job is cursing his friends for the way that they have treated him.

Clines opts for a more critical approach. He writes (p. 661): “The view that has been favored in this commentary is that, although the Masoretic text ascribes 27:7-23 to Job, these verses (with the exception of vv 11-12) in fact constitute the last speech of Zophar, which is otherwise entirely missing from the book… The other main element of Zophar’s third speech, as here reconstructed, is the strophe 24:18-24, which has been retrieved from Job’s eighth, and located after 27:17.” (In regards to 24:18-24, see the commentary to chapter 24.) This approach answers the two questions as follows: (a) Job does not completely change his outlook – this is not his speech , and (b) Zophar does have a speech, but it was lost in the transmission of the text. For interesting parallels between this speech and Zophar’s previous speeches, compare vv. 14-15 with 20:26, v. 20 with 20:28, and the nearly identical v. 13 and 20:29. Yet, it is important to point out Clines’ self-acknowledged speculation (pp. 628-629): “We can never be sure, of course, whether our modern rearrangements of the order of the text successfully restore the attributions of speeches in the original text in its final form, especially when the speeches of the three friends have so much in common; but it is necessary for the sake of the exegesis to make decisions, right or wrong, about who is speaking at any point.” (For more about Clines and other scholars rearrangement of the third cycle of speeches, see my comment to chaps. 24, 25, 26, and 28.)

Whether chapter 27 was originally Job’s words or not, v. 1 says the following: “Job again took up his theme (se’et meshalo) and said…” What exactly is a mashal? Fox writes (Proverbs 1-9, p. 54), “The word mashal is applied to a great range of utterances, from one-line adages to extended poems. ‘From evil comes forth evil’ (1 Sam 24:13) is [called] a mashal, but so is the allegory describing the great eagle (Ezek 17:1-10). It does not designate a single genre or category… The word has two distinct meanings: (a) A trope. A trope is a word, statement, or image displaced from its primary, surface meaning so as to represent something else, by virtue of an imputed similarity. (b) A saying that has currency among the people. This is its sense in Proverbs (1:1, 6; 10:1; 25:1; 26:7, 9).” Here the meaning seems to be a trope, much like the usage in the Balaam story (cf. Num. 23:7, 18; 24: 3, 15, 20, 21, 23). Note how in the Balaam story the word se’et appears before each occurrence of the word mashal.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Clines, Job 21-37 (Word Biblical Commentary)
Hakham, Job (Daat Mikra [Hebrew])
Fox, Proverbs 1-9 (Anchor Bible)
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