Friday, March 20, 2009

Job 5:1-11

Call then
is there anyone to answer you?
and to which among the holy ones will you look?
for grief slays the obstinate
and envy kills the enticed
I myself have seen the obstinate angry
and he blasphemed his home suddenly(1)

his children are far from safety
and they are crushed in the gate
and there is no one to rescue
whose harvest famine eats
and their strength dearth takes(2)
and thirst longs for their wealth

for iniquity doesn't come from dust
nor from the ground does misery sprout
when a human is born to misery
the children of fire carry it high(3)

Nevertheless for me, I would seek to the One
and to God I would set up my case
who does great things and there is no finding out
his wonders without number
giving rain on the face of the earth
sending waters on the face of the streets
to set up the low on high
and the depressed to exalt to safety(4)

Notes: (1) he blasphemed יקוב correcting I blasphemed אקוב. (It makes more sense but it is equally negative if Eliphaz intends to identify Job with this folly.)
(2) I am more and more intrigued with Tur Sinai's verbal reconstructions - here is a particular example. The MT is וְאֶל־מִצִּנִּים but he moves the mem to read ואלם צנים and identifies the ואלם with strength (compare psalm 88:5).
(3) no sparks flying upward but I am sure my reading needs further attenuation. Children is a reasonable recurrence in the speech but who knows what it means. Tur Sinai has a rendition that reminds us of Harpies. (compare psalm 78:48)
when a man-child is born to (the sowers of) injustice
the Resheph birds carry it high up
(4) reading daleth for resh קדד for קדר (per TS) though it is no better sound-like fit with his usage of דכא it does appeal to me on first thought as a conceptual rhyme.

It is very difficult to read Eliphaz positively - with or without reconstruction of the text. The word linkages between his speech and Job's do not substantiate for me that Eliphaz might be quoting some piece of Job's first speech that was deleted by the redactors as redundant and repetitious (as TS maintains). Rather the shared words are simply picking up the keywords of one conversation and answering, or turning them to his own opinion.

I did a little study - not with my ear as I should nor with a database - for I have not loaded Job into a database at this time. I really should. But the words used in Eliphaz's speech in chapters 4 and 5 reflect no fewer than thirty of the words that Job used in chapter 3. At a rough cut, that's 20% of Job's words that are reflected in the response. Is that indicative that Eliphaz is listening? It may be that he knows also how to turn the screw with the recurrence of his own crushing words as he reflects on Job as naive.

But it is difficult for me to point these out since the colour coding would have to be absolute and would appear between posts, so for the moment, I will just try and be verbally consistent. In all this I search for frame and thread much as a reader of an email conversation might in order to observe whether the protagonists are speaking to or past each other. And in this case, in order to see if there is a word for us in our day. (I admit to having my doubts that I can articulate it - but that is my task.)

Twelve verses are enough for now. Questions occur to me this morning. What is the character of the protagonists - one at a time? This includes what the protagonists say of God. And ultimately what is written of God's character. What hangs together here? I cannot look for a consistent character - for no character has such a boring attribute. But can we look for a real character? (You can see I am inconsistent about consistency.)

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