Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Job 33

This chapter has a variety of approaches from my sources. None of them is quite where I think it might go. The drawing of connections with the earlier speeches will be complex - and I won't be very specific. Most authors find Elihu heavy handed - Good calls him insufferably arrogant and other names. He claims that Elihu quotes Job with a 'tissue of skewed allusions'. What a curious thing then that the author / redactor has put in front of us? A serious poem about unfairness with a buffoon as a prelude to the speeches of יְהוָה. I hope not to have to bear that reading. But we must press on.

And nevertheless hear please Job my speech
and to all my words give ear
behold please I open my mouth
my tongue has spoken in my taste
the uprightness of my heart are my words
and knowledge my lips purified will give speech

the spirit of God has made me
and the breath of the Sufficient has given me life
if you have power to turn me
order before my face - present yourself(1)

Lo - I myself as your mouth to the One(2)
from clay I am pinched - even I myself
behold my horror will not terrify you
and my open palm upon you will not be too heavy

Indeed you were saying in my ears
and the voice of speeches I hear
"clean I myself am without transgression
faultless am I my very self
and there is no iniquity to me
lo alienations against me he finds
and he counts me as his enemy
he puts my feet in the stocks
he watches all my paths"

lo this - you are not just - I answer you
for greater is God than a mortal
for what purpose against him do you contend
for all his speakings he does not answer
for in one the One speaks
and in two he does not look at her(3)

in a dream, a night vision
when a trance falls on mortals
while slumbering on a couch
then he reveals to mortal ear
and their mentoring he seals
to turn away the human from its work
and esteem from the warrior conceal
he spares his being from the pit
and his life from being passed through into death(4)

and he is reproved in being marred on his couch
and the contention of his bones is perennial
so his life abhors bread
and his being a desire to eat
consumed is his flesh from sight
protruding are his bones that were not seen
his being approaches the pit
and his life to those who have died(5)

if there is for him a messenger
interpreting, one among a thousand
to tell a human his uprightness
and he makes supplication for him saying
ransom him from his descent to the pit
I have found a price

his flesh will be fresher than a lad's
he will return to the days of his youth
he will make supplication to God and he will accept him
and he will see his face with a shout of joy
for he will return to a mortal his righteousness

he looks on mortals and he will say
I have sinned and the upright I twisted
and it was not made like to me(6)
he ransomed my being from passing over to the pit
and my life in the light will see

Lo all these things the One works
time and time again(7) with a warrior
to return his being from the pit
to be enlightened in the light of the living

attend Job hear me
keep silence and I myself will speak
if you have a speech, turn it to me
speak for I desire to justify you
if there is no you, listen to me
keep silence and I will teach you wisdom

(1) I realize that turn should be read as answer and my English is awkward. Of course with answer, I lose the aural connection with other uses of turn and return, and I gain aural connection with the narrator's term. Smoothing the English can wait a second reading. Note in this verse the first usage of a word that is only in the frame story - present yourself. I find this striking and suggestive. As I noted in chapter 1, who are the children of God - even who accuse - but us? Here Elihu - He is my God - presents himself as if he were in the place of God - exactly as a mediator would.
(2) I read this verbless sentence as Elihu putting himself forth as Job had wished - as referee. This is following the KJV interpretation.
(3) Most translations read this as meaning 'though no one may see it'. Should the feminine pronoun be ignored? Should the human be understood as the subject? Is there some implied discontinuity between God's speaking and God's self-observation? It is an odd stich. Elihu here almost agrees with Job's complaint.
(4) TS has a good explanation of this odd word בשלח derived from to send essentially a synonym for Sheol - but unique here and in 36:12. Good uses 'cross the channel' in both cases. I cannot bring myself to make the reading too easy in English - it certainly is not in Hebrew.
(5) or to those who put to death = the destroyers. I have no idea what this refers to. Good says he would translate it as I have if he were given to emendation. (But as far as I can see, one only has to change a vowel or two - that's hardly emendation.)
(6) it was not requited to me - I did not get what I deserved. This I can attest to.
(7) two times and three - but time and time again was a favorite expression of my mother's - so let her be mentioned in this late period of my life.

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