Thursday, March 19, 2009

Job 4:12 the vision in the night

And into me a word stole
and my ear took fright from it
in the tempest of thought from night visions
when a trance falls on mortals
dread met me and trembling
and my many bones were in dread
and a wind passed before me
storm shivered my flesh
it stood and I recognized no sight
or likeness before my eyes
there was calm and I heard a voice

a mortal than God more just?
even than his maker a warrior more pure?
why! he puts no faith in his servants
and with his messengers he notes folly
as for those that dwell in clay houses
with dust for foundation
who are crushed in the face of their maker
from morning to evening they are hammered
without note in perpetuity they perish
is it not pulled out? their very own uniqueness
they die - and without wisdom

Note: uniqueness - I am fishing for a word. Is this the 'theological' remnant (discussed by TS p 88)? Does that word itself suggest the continuity that a human projects on his biologically based 'hope' or reality?

How does one judge the experience of another? And to whom should we attribute this experience in this case? Is Eliphaz citing his own dream, or is he quoting (as TS suggests) what Job has told him - but which we have not seen in Job's response? If Eliphaz is quoting Job's unstated vision to refute it, he can be read with some sarcasm. That puts him immediately out of character with respect to the 7 days silence. Reading the vision alone reminds me of Psalms 14 and 53 - that God is of no account. Who cares that so many die without wisdom? This interpretation would make the vision a condemnation of the dreamer. It is hardly comforting. I have to say that it does not appeal to me to see this as a quotation of Job's unstated speech.

There are words here that are unique and it is therefore hard to confirm what they mean by their usage in other contexts. שמץ 'took fright' occurs twice in the Bible in Job 4:12 and Job 26:14 where tradition has 'little'. TS considers it is from a word meaning fear. The next problem is the word בִּשְׂעִפִּים considered an alternative spelling of סעפה but in any case rare. The similarity to סער (tempest) makes a translation related to storm attractive because it forms speculatively an envelope with chapter 38, the speech of God from out of the 'whirlwind' סער in contrast to that word here which comes surreptitiously in the visions of the night.

I have some problems with concordant translations of recurring words - I feel that the recurrence of פחד may support the view (of TS) that this is a restating of a vision that Job had spoken of, but it does not translate well to repeat 'fear'. And רוח which I have just rendered as snort (that has to be a unique gloss for it) recurs here as wind. Wind and שער as storm (not hair) is consistent with the fearfulness of the vision. (But not all visions are fearful, I hasten to add. Here is where our discernment is required and difficult to state.)

For other Job related posts, click here.

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