Thursday, April 23, 2009

Job 11 - the faces of Job

Then answered Zophar the Naamathite and he said

Will many words not be answered
as if man with lips will be justified?
Your deceptions make males speechless
and you deride without humiliation
and you say - my take is "clean"
and "pure" am I in your eyes
nevertheless let it be given that God will speak
and open his lips against you
and tell you secret wisdom
that they are double success
so know that for you God removes(1) your iniquity

The finding of God do you determine
as if consummately you determine the Sufficient?
High as heaven, what will you do?
Deep(1) as Sheol, what do you know?
Longer than earth of measure
broader than sea
If he passes or shuts
or gathers, who can turn him?
for this one knows an empty male
and he sees iniquity, will he not understand?
and a hollow man will be heartened
when a wild ass's foal is born a human

If for you, you establish your heart
and stretch out to him your open palms
if the iniquity in your hands you put far away
and do not let injustice dwell in your tent
for then you will lift up your face without blemish
and you will be poured firm and will not fear
For you, you will forget misery
as waters pass on you will remember
and at noon transience will rise and fly away
as morning you will become

And you trust for there is hope
and you dig to trust and you lie down(2)
You will recline and no one will make you quake
and many will soften your face(3)
but the eyes of the wicked will be consumed
and flight perishes from them
their hope is to lose their lives(4)

(1) my impression is that there are a number of individual words accumulating through the conversation that will recur in God's speeches - in this case 'wisdom' and 'remove' balance the removal of wisdom for the Ostrich.
(2) reflects two words of chapter 3 (dig, lie down). This being Zophar's first response, and that God responds to chapter 3 also, I think it important to find concordant words. You see my point on concordance has nothing to do with absolute meaning but with structural usage and character development - these folks are really trying to listen (Isaiah 50:4) so let's not write them off completely - otherwise why would Hashem ask Job to make sacrifice for them?
(3) these last three verses have tired and challenged me - the justification for the traditional translation goes against the grain. Why faces or presence? Why seek your favour for a word that means 'make you sick'. It sounds like grasping at straws or rendering what the translator thinks ought to be there. פנים occurs 67 times in Job, this verb חלה occurs once. I imagine the faces of Job as reflected in the substantial lament in this poem - they are softened when they are read by us in our own time and place. (Even if Zophar ultimately has the shoe on the wrong foot.)
(4) מַפַּח־נָפֶשׁ - these two words in a different form but similarly related recur in Job 31:39

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