Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Job 24

Job continues his speech. The subject changes with the first verse of this chapter. Its meaning on first attempt is difficult to hear. Literally -

for what purpose from the Sufficient are times not hidden?
do those knowing him not discern his days?

Tur Sinai suggests that מִשַּׁדַּי לֹא is really one word (just drop the space) from the Syriac meaning hypocrite. That certainly solves one immediate problem. Rather than dropping the 'not' and imaging God as blind to the days of the hypocrite, (which would agree with some of what Job has already implied), we attach the 'not' to the Sufficient and ask why is the hypocrite ('the Sufficient-not' by what is almost a letter game) blind to the times (of punishment)?

Well all this is religiously possible - but is it true? And forget the addition of the words 'of punishment' because the vengeance of God is revealed in time in the death of Jesus. This is an annihilation deeply to be sought (I should be glad of another death), a partaking of (something stronger than) the Hawking radiation around that black hole in time.

for what purpose are times not hidden from the Sufficient?
do those knowing him not discern his days?
for what purpose are times hidden from the not-sufficient i.e. the hypocrite?
do those knowing him not discern his days?

(whose days?)

I must still struggle with it - but not necessarily make it make sense in my religious or meaning framework. Times are hidden. Reality is hidden. Perhaps in 'not knowing', God makes possible our 'knowing' - even as those who are not sufficient.

Update: hidden - must be changed to treasured - to note the usage of צפן everywhere else in the poem and to reserve the hide metaphor for another word - it actually works better here too.

for what purpose from the Sufficient are times not treasured?
do those knowing him not discern his days?

They take hold of landmarks
they despoil flocks while they are grazing
the orphan's donkey they drive away
they pledge the ox of the widow
they stretch out the poor from the way
as one the needy of earth withdraw themselves

lo wild asses in the wilderness go out to their work seeking their prey
the plain is to him food - and to his lads
in the field his corn they reap
and the vineyard of the wicked they gather

the naked they make lodge without clothing
so there is no covering in the cold
from the rain of the mountains they are moist
and without refuge they embrace the rock

they despoil the orphan from the breast
and the needy they pledge
the naked are made to go about without clothing
and from the famished they lift the sheaf

within their walls they press oil(1)
they tread the wine-press and go thirsty
from the city males groan
and the being of the wounded shouts out
but God does not set them as fickle

they - they are those who rebel against light
they do not recognize his ways
and they do not sit in his tracks
with the light rises a slayer of needy and poor
and in the night there is a thief
and an eye of adultery watches for twilight saying
"no eye will look on me" and covering faces he sets out

they burgle in the darkness into houses
that in the day they had sealed for themselves
they do not know light
for morning is as one to them as obscurity
for he recognizes the destruction of obscurity
swift is he on the surface of the waters(2)
slandered is their portion in the land
he is not present to the way of the vineyards

"drought indeed heat despoils the snow water
Sheol his sin"
forget him will the womb
suck sweetly the worm
time will not remember
and injustice will be maimed like a tree

he grazes on the barren that does not give birth
and the widow he does no good
he drags the mighty in his strength
he rises and is not faithful with their lives
it is given to him to trust and he is supported
but his eyes are on their ways
they are high for a little
but he is gone and they are humiliated
as are all they will be shut up
as the head of the grain they will be cut off

and if not now who will set me up as a liar
and who will set as nothing my speech?(3)

(1) the image is opaque - TS suggests with much elaboration a parallel to the following cola as: they pass the noonday between deceptive palm-trees - following the Vulgate. It is too much to take note of at the moment and will have to remain enigmatic.
(2) perhaps referring to the greased swimmer of chapter 15 - I think I read in TS that he is too slippery to escape from the sea and come to the dry land of the vineyards. (Tongue in cheek?) The word קלל is multiply glossed: swift (as in email), or curse or slander. It is what job does to 'his day' in chapter 3:1 at the double beginning of his first speech. It is what God moves Job to say of himself in chapter 40:4 and it is used four times in the middle of the book: twice in this verse (swift and slander where both meanings fit taken one at a time) and twice as a metaphor for speed - re the swifter than a weaver's shuttle (7:6) and swifter than a blog post (9:25). Maybe I should have rendered chapter 3:1 as "and Job opened his mouth and swift-kicked his day!" But here is the warning - do not be in a hurry. The best time to post an email or a blog post is God's time!
(3) to make something of his speech as a diatribe against the lack of punishment for the wicked, all one needs is a single set of quotes. Note that being maimed like a tree means evil will easily regrow. What shall we read between the lines here about God?

Update: a little colouring - there are clusters of repeated words but no obvious recurrence structures here as we find more frequently in the psalms. Note also the repetition of fickle - my gloss three months ago for the last verse about Job 1 where Job does not ascribe fickleness to God.

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