Sunday, March 8, 2009

Job 1

We might as well start at the beginning. I will have four sources for the moment: Jerusalem Bible, Biblia Hebraica Leningradensia, my online cheat sheets, and Tur Sinai's (TS) commentary. At some point I will seek out some other comments. I do not share TS opinions on some aspects of the argument. But in language and culture, I will have to defer to him unless I find good reason.

A man there was in the land of Uz
Job his name
and he was, the man, this very one,
complete and upright
and he fears God and turns away from evil

And there were born to him seven sons and three daughters
and these were his acquisitions
seven thousand sheep and three thousand camels
and five hundred pair of oxen
and five hundred she-donkeys
and servants - a very great service
and so it was the man, this very one
who was great among all the children of antiquity

I want you to note the story line. Every English translation I have smooths it out. There is surely a deliberate repetition of 'haish hahu'. Perhaps we would render it 'this very man' - but repeating whatever exact phrase we used to set the scene. If I never find any more repetition in Job, then I will take this back. This is a setup for a tale of extraordinary trouble. The question is: is God good? The children of antiquity (or of the East) enjoyed this kind of problem - just as we do today.

And his sons used to give house parties
each man on his day
and they sent and called for their three sisters
to eat and drink with them
And after the striking off of party days,(1)
Job would send and sanctify them
rising early in the morning to offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all(2)
for Job said
Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursblessed God in their hearts(3)
Thus did Job all his days

(1)Party. The children were rich. Party seems to have a usage that might slip into disregard for the poor. There is some repetition here in the use of days at the beginning and end of this short story section. (If you are not laughing by the end of this chapter, there is something wrong with your ear.)
(2) per the requirements for sacrifices per child and on the final day of the feast (TS p 7-8)
(3)Cursed is ברך literally blessed - [perhaps] a scribal substitution - this is repeated for every instance of 'cursed' in the opening story. [I think I prefer not substituting in the translation. It raises too many good questions.]


And there was the day when the children of God (4) בְּנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים
came and presented themselves before יְהוָה
and among them the accuser also came
And יְהוָה said to the accuser
Where are you coming from?
And the accuser answered יְהוָה saying
roving on the earth and walking about it
and יְהוָה said to the accuser
have you set out in your heart concerning my servant Job?
For there is none like him in the earth
complete and upright
fearing God and turning away from evil
And the accuser answered יְהוָה saying
Is it for nothing that Job fears God?
Have you not put a hedge about him and about his house
and about all that he has on every side?
For all the work of his hands you have blessed
and his acquisitions are bursting out in the earth
Nevertheless stretch out your hand and touch all that he has
will he not in your face cursebless you?

Be prepared for the touch of God's hand in this book and that the accuser carries that touch. Surely this is both playful and deadly serious theology. So our Insurance companies - even if they deserve it themselves, can speak - even write in policy - concerning such 'acts of God' with Biblical warrant.

and יְהוָה said to the accuser
behold, all that he has is in your hand
But on himself do not stretch out your hand
So the accuser came forth from the presence of יְהוָה

Do I have to continue? Isn't it obvious what is about to happen? I would write it in Hebrew and even if you didn't speak a word of it you could figure it out. (I am not sure why the definite article with 'day' is missed in other translations.) The structural recurrence clues are really obvious - a story teller is at work. Note too how the words of destruction are echoed by Job in act and word.

וַיְהִי הַיֹּום וּבָנָיו וּבְנֹתָיו
אֹֽכְלִים וְשֹׁתִים יַיִן
בְּבֵית אֲחִיהֶם הַבְּכֹֽור

And it happened the day
his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine
in the house of their firstborn brother
and a messenger came to Job saying
The oxen were plowing and the asses grazing at their hand
and the Sabeans fell on them and took them away
and they struck the lads with the edge of the sword
and there escaped but I
only I to tell you

While this one was yet speaking
this other one came to him saying
The fire of God fell from heaven
and burned up the sheep and the lads and consumed them
and there escaped but I
only I to tell you

While this one was yet speaking
this other one came to him saying
The Chaldeans set out three bands
and stripped the camels and took them away
and they struck the lads with the edge of the sword
and there escaped but I
only I to tell you

even as this one was yet speaking
this other one came to him saying
your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine
in the house of their firstborn brother
and behold
a great wind came from the region of the wilderness
and touched the four corners of the house
and it fell on the lads and killed them
and there escaped but I
only I to tell you


Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head
and fell to earth and prostrated himself and said
Naked I came forth from the belly of my mother
and naked I will return there
יְהוָה gave and יְהוָה has taken away
let the name of יְהוָה be blessed
In all this
Job did not sin nor give fickleness to God
Now I think it is time for a glass of wine.
(4) - the beni ha-elohim perhaps should be the children or sons of the mighty or of the gods
it differs from the phrase in chapter 38 where the children of elohim without the definite article sing for joy at creation
(For other Job related posts, click here.)

3 comments:

Peter M. Lopez said...

Very interesting. This is great. I look forward to reading the rest of your translation.

Bob MacDonald said...

Peter - thank you for the encouragement. I look forward to a deeper discovery of this book. I hope you will challenge me (if you have time) to search out my words.

Bob MacDonald said...

Michael Cheney in Dust, Wind, and Agony gives what I think is a cogent argument for leaving the gloss 'bless' for all occurrences of BRK. E.g. What if my children have sinned and would bless God in their hearts?

Leaving in the Bless in 'Bless God and die' raises a question for the reader without having to have a foot note as 'explanation'.