JOB'S PRESENT DISTRESS --
THE SECOND MEMBER OF THE TRILOGY: JOB'S SUFFERINGS
In this chapter, Job's period of suffering and distress is vividly contrasted with the glory and honor of the days of his exaltation. "This chapter is perhaps the most pathetic of all Job's poems of grief and a fitting finish to all the earlier ones."F1
"The repetition of `But now ... and now ... and now' in Job 30:1,9,16 effectively accents the themes in which Job contrasts the bleak, turbulent present with the peaceful past. The king of counselors has become the byword of fools (Job 30:1-15). The friendly favor of God has `turned into cruelty."F2
This beautiful paragraph just quoted from Meredith G. Kline concludes with a sentence which we must reject, because God is not cruel, unmerciful, unfeeling or, in any manner whatever, disinterested in the trials and struggles of men. In the epilogue (Job 42) the Bible flatly declares that Job spoke the truth about God; and the interpreters, including many others besides Kline, are wrong in attributing sentiments and even sayings to Job that contradict the universal description of God, throughout every page of the Bible, as even Jonah stated it, "I knew that thou art a gracious God, merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, and repentest thee of the evil" (Jonah 4:2). We shall cite other scholarly opinions in this chapter which are erroneous in this vital particular.
THE KING OF COUNSELORS NOW THE BYWORD OF FOOLS
But now they that are younger than I have me in derision,
Whose fathers I disdained to set with the dogs of my flock.
Yea, the strength of their hands, whereto should it profit me?
Men in whom ripe ageF3 is perished.
They are gaunt with want and famine;
They gnaw the dry ground, in the gloom of wasteness and desolation.
They pluck salt-wort by the bushes;
And the roots of the broom are their food.
They are driven forth from the midst of men;
They cry after them as after a thief;
So that they dwell in frightful valleys,
In holes of the earth and of the rocks.
Under the bushes they bray;
Under the nettles they are gathered together.
They are children of fools, yea, children of base men;
They were scourged out of the land.
And now I am become their song,
Yea, I am a byword unto them."
This section describes the rejected refuse of humanity, the malcontents, the idle, the indolent, the off-scouring of the social order, which some would call the scum of the earth, the point being that even the bottom of the totem pole in their culture considered Job as inferior to themselves; and they derided and mocked him in songs and verbal taunts.
Job has been criticized by some for his low-evaluation of these people; but, in fairness, it should be observed that the evaluation here was not Job's; it was the evaluation and judgment of the whole society in which he lived.
Watson summarized these verses as follows: "These people were gaunt with hunger and vice, herded in the wilderness where alone they were allowed to exist, eating salt-wort and broom-roots for food. The appearance of one of them prompted cries of `thieves and robbers.' They lived in caves, and among the rocks; like wild asses they brayed in the scrub and gathered among the nettles. Base men, children of fools, having dishonored humanity, they had been whipped out of the land. Even these abhorred Job, mocking him in song and byword, even spitting in his face."F4
Blair pointed out that, "These people refused to work, and were too proud to beg."F5 This left them the option of stealing and/or scrounging for whatever they might find in the wilderness. In neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament, can there be found any acceptance of people who will not work. In the Decalogue, the word from heaven is, "Six days shalt thou labor." And in the New Testament, the Divine Commandment stands: "He that will not work, don't let him eat"! (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
But now they that are younger than I have me in derision, Whose fathers I disdained to set with the dogs of my flock. Yea, the strength of their hands, whereto should it profit me? Men in whom ripe age is perished. They are gaunt with want and famine; They gnaw the dry ground, in the gloom of wasteness and desolation. They pluck salt-wort by the bushes; And the roots of the broom are their food. They are driven forth from the midst [of men]; They cry after them as after a thief; So that they dwell in frightful valleys, In holes of the earth and of the rocks. Among the bushes they bray; Under the nettles they are gathered together. [They are] children of fools, yea, children of base men; They were scourged out of the land. And now I am become their song, Yea, I am a byword unto them.
(Job 30:7). Rawlinson interpreted this to mean that, The speech of those people sounded to Job more like the braying of asses than articulate speech.F6 For reasons which are by no means clear to this writer, Driver and Peake gave the meaning here as, They bray like donkeys under the influence of lust, and copulate with no better bed than a patch of nettles.F7 Pope insisted that, There is no sexual connotation here, as Peake suggested.F8 This writer is familiar with the behavior of donkeys; and their braying is closely related to hunger, not sex. Rowley was also aware of this connection between hunger and the braying of donkeys.F9
And now I am become their song; yea, I am a byword unto them
(Job 30:9). This verse belongs both to the preceding verses and to those afterward. Job continues his lament over his changed condition; but, whereas in the preceding verses he has concentrated on the character of his tormentors, here he begins to dwell upon the effect of their torments upon him.F10
The eloquent words of Kline catch the spirit of these verses perfectly: "Even the juveniles of this rabble (Job 30:1) regard Job as the fitting butt of their derisive ditties (Job 30:9). No show of contempt is too mean for them (Job 30:10), as with unbridled spite (Job 30:11b) they devise torments (Job 30:12ff) against this ruined bourgeois, now a helpless outcast upon their dunghill domain."F11
THE EFFECT OF THEIR TORMENTS UPON JOB
They abhor me, they stand aloof from me,
They spare not to spit in my face.
For he hath loosed his cord and afflicted me;
And they have cast off the bridle before me.
Upon my right hand rise the rabble;
They thrust aside my feet,
And they cast up against me their ways of destruction.
They mar my path,
They set forward my calamity,
Even men that have no helper.
As through a wide breach they come:
In the midst of the ruin, they roll themselves upon me.
Terrors are turned upon me;
They chase mine honor as the wind;
And my welfare is passed away as a cloud."
They abhor me, they stand aloof from me, And spare not to spit in my face. For he hath loosed his cord, and afflicted me; And they have cast off the bridle before me. Upon my right hand rise the rabble; They thrust aside my feet, And they cast up against me their ways of destruction. They mar my path, They set forward my calamity, [Even] men that have no helper. As through a wide breach they come: In the midst of the ruin they roll themselves [upon me]. Terrors are turned upon me; They chase mine honor as the wind; And my welfare is passed away as a cloud.
(Job 30:11). The word he in this line is suspicious. It is not God who has been the subject of affirmations in (he previous verses, but evil men; and we find strong reasons for agreement with Driver who strongly questioned this rendition. The text here is so uncertain and ambiguous that it is impossible to determine with confidence whether these verses refer to: (1) God's treatment of Job, or (2) to the treatment of Job by evil men.F12 Judging from the context, it appears to this writer that the word he here should be rendered they instead; because the following clause, according to the rules of Hebrew parallelism demand the plural, not the singular. Certainly the RSV is wrong in ramming the word God into this passage. The name of the deity is not in the text. Based upon this valid rule of interpretation, Rowley,F13 Budde, Ball, and PopeF14 properly render the line thus: They (Job's tormentors) have loosed his cord.F15 The word `cord' here is either a bowstring or a tent cord.
Rawlinson, Peake and others make the passage say that "God has loosed Job's bowstring, and grievously afflicted him"'F16 The text does not say this; and if Job said it, it is not true; therefore, we reject the interpretation that makes Job the author of a falsehood. Satan, not God, was Job's tormentor throughout; and only in the sense of God's allowing it to happen may it honestly be said that God afflicted Job. We resist with all our strength the efforts of so many scholars to interpret the scriptures in such a manner as to put falsehoods in the mouth of the hero of this book. The Almighty himself declared that "Job has spoken that which is right concerning me (God)" (Job 42:7). That affirmation from God Himself cannot be harmonized with allegations that Job accused God of cruelty, affliction, and other crimes against Job.
Admittedly, a number of verses in this chapter are very difficult to interpret, as Van Selms explained. "A number of statements in this chapter present difficult linguistic problems ... The reader will have to trust that we have done our level best faithfully to reproduce the Hebrew text as it has been handed down to us."F17 In difficult places, the decision that various scholars make is influenced by their a priori judgments, and in some instances even bias against such things, for example, as predictive prophecy, etc. It appears in Job, that some have made an incorrect judgment to the effect that Job continually accused God of executing injustice upon him, something that Job did not do. As we have repeatedly warned: In passages where it seems Job is falsely accusing God of tormenting him, Job is, in no sense, blaming God, but speaking as does a bereaved mourner who says, "The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord!"
Upon my right hand rise the rabble
(Job 30:12). These verses (Job 30:12-14) are a metaphor of Job's troubles, which appear as a host besieging a city (Job 30:12), making escape impossible (Job 30:13), and finally pouring in to overwhelm him when the walls have been breached (Job 30:14).F18 This is one of many beautiful metaphors found in the words of Job.
The psychology of those people who so severely attacked and afflicted Job was noted by Blair. "Not only did they make a jest of Job, they made a prey of him also, and poured their wrath upon him. They blamed him for their own horrible state of existence. Though he was innocent, they gave no regard to him. They had to blame someone; so they chose to blame Job."F19
Mine honor (nobility). and my welfare
(Job 30:15). Driver interpreted this as a reference to: Job's princely dignity and reputation, and to his wealth and to all of the esteem related to it.F20
FURTHER DIMENSIONS OF JOB'S MOURNFUL CONDITION
And now my soul is poured out within me;
Days of affliction have taken hold upon me.
In the night season my bones are pierced in me.
And the pains that gnaw me take no rest.
By great force is my garment disfigured;
It bindeth me about as the collar of my coat.
He hath cast me into the mire,
And I am become like dust and ashes.
I cry unto thee, and thou dost not answer me.
I stand up, and thou gazest at me.
Thou art turned to be cruel to me;
With the might of thy hand thou persecutest me.
Thou liftest me up to the wind, thou causest me to ride upon it.
For I know that thou wilt bring me to death,
And to the house appointed for all living.
Howbeit, doth not one stretch out his hand in his fall?
Or in his calamity therefore cry for help?"
"Beginning with this paragraph and on to the end of the chapter Job turns to the familiar burden of his complaint, his actual misery."F21
And now my soul is poured out within me; Days of affliction have taken hold upon me. In the night season my bones are pierced in me, And the [pains] that gnaw me take no rest. By [God's] great force is my garment disfigured; It bindeth me about as the collar of my coat. He hath cast me into the mire, And I am become like dust and ashes. I cry unto thee, and thou dost not answer me: I stand up, and thou gazest at me. Thou art turned to be cruel to me; With the might of thy hand thou persecutest me. Thou liftest me up to the wind, thou causest me to ride [upon it]; And thou dissolvest me in the storm. For I know that thou wilt bring me to death, And to the house appointed for all living. Howbeit doth not one stretch out the hand in his fall? Or in his calamity therefore cry for help?
(Job 30:18). One does not need to be a scholar to know that this is a false rendition. Does it take the great power of Almighty God to disfigure such a trifling thing as a garment worn by a human being? Job's ill-fitting garment seems a trivial effect of the mighty power of God.F22 Other translations suggested by scholars are also subject to uncertainty and question. Perhaps it is best to view the passage, as stated by Driver, to be, Hopelessly obscure or corrupt.F23
He hath cast me into the mire
(Job 30:19). As this reads, we have a false charge against God, and therefore we do not accept this as the proper translation of the text. God never casts anyone into the mire. Perhaps Rowley is correct who wrote that, The Hebrew reads. `He (or it) has cast me into the mire, and there is no indication that the subject is any different from that of Job 30:18.'F24 And what disfigured Job's garment? It was his disease, not God; and we think that it was that same disease that had cast Job into the mire.
I cry unto thee, and thou dost not answer me. thou art turned to be cruel to me ... thou persecutest me ... and thou dissolvest me in the storm ... I know that thou wilt bring me to death
(Job 30:20-23). The general opinion of scholars on these verses is that Job is here accusing God of doing all these terrible things to him; but we find it impossible to harmonize such opinions with God's words in Job 42, My servant Job has spoken of me the thing that is right (Job 42:7-8). The reader knows that it was Satan, not God, who dealt so severely with Job. And, if our translation in these verses is correct (and we remain skeptical about that), then we must read Job's words as references to what God was allowing to happen, and not as references to what God was doing against Job.
"Verse 24 is unintelligible."F25 But some liberal scholars cannot overlook a chance like that to `emend' the text and make it say something that fits their theories. For example, Pope wrote concerning this unintelligible verse, "Taken in its hostile sense, by implication, Job accuses God of assaulting him while he is helpless and imploring help."F26 This cannot possibly be correct, because God twice declared that Job had spoken the truth concerning God. God never assaulted any human being while he was praying, or at any other time.
JOB SPEAKS OF THE EVIL THAT CAME UPON HIM, NOT AS SOMETHING GOD DID TO HIM, BUT AS SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED.
If Job had been full of animosity toward God, as so many of the writers seem to believe, these final verses of the chapter would have been the proper place to say it; but there's not the slightest hint in these final verses that God was the cause of Job's suffering.
Did not I weep for him that was in trouble?
Was not my soul grieved for the needy?
When I looked for good, then evil came;
And when I waited for light, there came darkness.
My heart is troubled, and resteth not;
Days of affliction are come upon me.
I go mourning without the sun:
I stand up in the assembly, and cry for help.
I am a brother to jackals,
And a companion to ostriches.
My skin is black, and falleth from me,
And my bones are burned with heat.
Therefore is my harp turned to mourning,
And my pipe into the voice of them that weep."
Note this paragraph. Job loves God, and trusts him, attends the assemblies, stands up and cries for help; and there's not a word in it that may be construed as any kind of a false charge or allegations against God. How then can we explain the comment on this very paragraph? which construes it as Job's charge that, "I was merciful; but you (God) are merciless."F27
In the light of all that the Holy Scriptures teach regarding the God of heaven who is merciful, slow to anger, abundant in lovingkindness, etc., and along with that truth the statement of God at the close of this book that Job had always spoken the truth concerning God, we find it difficult indeed to accept some of the translations which seem to contradict this, especially when anywhere from one or two to six or eight verses in such passages are admittedly corrupt.
Footnotes for Job 30
1: Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Vol. 13, p. 234.
2: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 481.
3: Alternate reading from the margin is vigor.
4: The Expositor's Bible, Vol. 14, p. 325.
5: Blair, p. 256.
6: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 7d, p. 485.
7: International Critical Commentary, Job, p. 253.
8: The Anchor Bible (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1982), Job, p. 194.
9: New Century Bible Commentary, Job, p. 192.
10: Layman's Bible Commentary, Vol. 8, p. 124.
11: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 481.
12: International Critical Commentary, Job, p. 254.
13: New Century Bible Commentary, op. cit., p. 193
14: The Anchor Bible (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1982), op. cit., p. 195.
15: New Century Bible Commentary, op. cit., p. 193.
16: The Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., p. 485.
17: Van Selms, p. 108.
18: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 437.
19: Blair, p. 259.
20: International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 257.
21: Layman's Bible Commentary, op. cit., p. 124.
22: International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 257.
24: New Century Bible Commentary, p. 196.
25: International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 259.
26: The Anchor Bible (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1982), Job, p. 196.
27: Van Selms, p. 109.