Saturday, April 11, 2009

Job 7:1-8

If I try and review chapters 1-6 at this time, I will never finish. I must plough on through the fields and see what things turn up - hopefully something better than all the Morning Glory I dug out of the new garden yesterday.

Is it not the press-gang for a mortal on earth
like the days of a mercenary, his days?
like a slave, he gasps for a shadow
like a mercenary, he waits for work

So there is to me a torrent of empty months
and nights of misery are set for me
when I lie down, I say
when shall I arise and the dusk be tossed
and I am sated with tossing till twilight

Clothed is my flesh, worms and clods of dust
my skin split and repugnant
my days swifter than a weaver's shuttle
and they are consumed in terminating hope

remember that but a breath is my life
my eye will not return back to see good
the eye of my seer will not look on me
your eyes will look to me and there is no me

Chapter 7 begins with הֲלֹא, one of 15 verses beginning with a negative interrogative, the first being the accuser's challenge to God (Job 1:10). At the risk of anticipating a conclusion that I have not substantiated from this text alone, it appears that the accuser's question is the wrong question (that's par for most of our questions that require an answer). It is not the hedge of reward and punishment or blessing and accident that is at issue, it is whether the character of God is trustworthy.

The book's answer is yes. But the book's support of traditional rationales for such a faith is no. The book allows for human demand to God's face with no holds barred. (I am not kidding.) And here in chapter 7, based on only one word and that a negative, we have the beginning of Job's explicit dialogue with God. There is a shift to first person that puts Job's prayer in front of us. It is not a religious prayer. It gives the lie to such piety. It is a blessing to God that God should hear our real cry, not what we imagine God would like to hear. How will we engage such a God? Where else can you find instruction for such engagement but from such a God?

צבא, host, army, service, etc, appears only in the first cycle, here and in chapters 10 and 14 - and only on Job's lips. This word is variously glossed - war, host, appointed-time (KJV), service (Tur Sinai and Clines), pressed service (JB). I chose press-gang so I can have the three gang up on him later.
אנוש, mortal, appears throughout the speeches of the men from chapter 4 to 37 and nowhere else. I am becoming inclined to see Job 3, the undoing of creation, as a special 'breaking the ice' chapter - balancing his monologue in chapter 29 and then subject to recreation by the speeches of chapters 38-41.
שכיר, hireling, mercenary, also framing in chapters 7, and 14, and possibly in Job 12:25 though differently pointed.
אִם, if - occurs frequently (91 times as a word) and often in bursts on Job's lips.
מאס, despise, refuse, loathe, reject, be repugnant etc - I already used refuse once. As with several other common words, I will be forced by context to choose a variety of glosses for this word and others. Some are parts of thread and frame so I will try to choose my variety carefully.
קלל, swift - no one can improve on the KJV here (Tur Sinai argues for an Aramaic smoke, but it is strained to me and a strain to read it since my Aramaic is to say the least, limited). Note this is the same word as cursed. Perhaps if we accept Tur Sinai we can say "my days are cursed like smoke".

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