Friday, June 19, 2009

Job 32

The narrator takes a long time to introduce Elihu in contrast to the brevity we have become accustomed to. But Elihu takes a whole chapter (so far) - filled with meta-talk, before he gets to any point. You are allowed to laugh. It is a comedy after all. (But who gives himself as answer?) You can tell where the prose ends and the poetry begins.

So they rested - these three mortals from answering Job,
for he was justified in his eyes.
And it burned - the wrath of Elihu the son of Barkael the Buzite of the tribe of Ram
- at Job burned his wrath against his justifying himself over God.
And at his three friends burned his wrath
since they found no answer and they condemned Job.(1)
And Elihu tarried for Job in words
for as elders they were ahead of him by days
but Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of the three men and his wrath burned. And he answered - Elihu the son of Barkael the Buzite and he said:

I myself am of fewer days and you are aged
therefore I crept about and feared to declare my knowledge to you
I said, days should speak
and years make known wisdom
surely that spirit is in a mortal
and the breath of the Sufficient gives understanding

the grand are not being wise
nor the aged understanding judgment
therefore I will speak and you listen to me
I am declaring my knowledge - indeed I myself

lo I waited for your words
I gave ear to your understandings
while you searched out your speeches
you I understood
and behold there is for Job no referee(2) -
one answering to his words among you
lest you say 'we have found wisdom
the One will scatter him not a man'

and he has not ordered against me his speeches
so in your words I will not turn to him
they were broken - they did not answer further(3)
speeches remove themselves from them
and I waited for they did not speak
but stood and did not answer further

I will answer - indeed I myself my portion
I will declare my knowledge - indeed I myself
for I am full of speeches
I am constrained by the spirit of my belly
behold my belly is as wine without opening
ready to burst as fresh skins(4)

I will speak so I may breathe
I will open my lips and answer
let me not lift up the face of a man
or to a human let me not entitle(5)
for I do not know how to entitle
as soon my maker will lift me up

(1) Pope notes. According to Jewish tradition, this was read as 'they condemned God' and is one of the 18 "emendations of the scribes". No mention of this from Good or TS that I have noted.
(2) identical in form to 9:13 - Ticciati suggests that the role of referee is important shifting to none, to the possibility of the friends, or to Elihu, or Job himself, or even in God as Job encounters God through his radical self-searching.
(3) I wonder if the antecedent of the pronoun subject of this line is the ineffectiveness of the words rather than the friends.
(4) new wine will burst old skins - not fresh ones. TS has changed this to bellows of artisans rather than skins. His analysis is not clear to me and I cannot find the suggested words in any dictionary. Neither Pope nor Good mention this suggestion (and they both cite TS in other contexts).
(5) This odd word - 'given to flattering titles' or some such complex of words is used only here and Isaiah 44 and 45 where it is rendered 'surname'. Enigmatic - who gives a name or an entitlement? Who is lifted up? I am always struck by this word in Hebrew poetry. But that is my bias - being known a little as to what such a lifting up accomplishes.

No comments: