Thursday, June 25, 2009

Job 35

In the earlier posts, I sometimes suggested a companion psalm for a chapter. In Elihu's speeches and arguments, I find proleptic echos of the gospels of the New Testament. Odd, isn't it? And Elihu's 'bombast' can be seen as insistence and invitation to hear - as in Proverbs 8 when wisdom speaks.

You may be skeptical - you should be. I am an infant even compared to the brassy Elihu. And my English seems to be getting more and more stilted. But - his arguments (so far) are new and were not put forward by the three friends nor even hinted at by Job - though in some of his more tender moments, he prepares the ground. For example, with respect to the beasts and birds, they say "learn from them", and Elihu says that "God teaches through them". There may be a comparative in this verse, but in this case it does not matter as much as the change in the source of the learning.

Here too you will find direct instruction to writhe as if in birth. Of course one could chose a gloss that would smooth over the puzzle. Also here (the last verses) as in 33:14 and 34:24 there is a suggestion that God voluntarily limits omniscience so that the created order may stand in his presence. Here the poet anticipates (or knows and uses) Psalm 32 - much as Paul does in Romans.

Hear again the old and the new in this speech. Note the possible second allusion to Abraham in verse 2. (The first is in the prior chapter as noted here.)

And Elihu answered and said

do you count this of judgment?
do you speak of my justice more than that of the One?(1)
for you said "what profit is to you
what benefit from my sin?"(2)
I will return you a speech(3)
and your friends with you

attend to the heavens and see
and sight the skies - they are higher than you
if you sin what do you do in him
and multiply transgression what do you make of him
if you are just what do you give to him
or what from your hand does he take?
of a man like you your wickedness?
and of a child of a human your righteousness?

from much oppressions they call for help(4)
they cry from the arm of the many
and he does not say
where is God my maker
who gives psalms in the night
who teaches from the beasts of earth
and from birds of the heavens makes us wise?

there they call and no one answers
in the face of the pride of evildoers
surely emptiness the One will not hear
nor the Sufficient look at her
indeed for you say you will not look(5)

adjudication is before his face so writhe of him(6)
but now - for there is no visitation in his anger
and he does not know in great confusion(7)

so Job vainly parts his mouth
in a lack of knowledge he spouts speeches(8)

(1) אָמַרְתָּ צִדְקִי מֵאֵל - Must I think now use a comparative. I can't stick with my first reading. Perhaps though Elihu does have credit for a new argument - a righteousness hidden in the struggle of faithfulness - and Job will achieve it in this parable. (This is not a 'historical' story - but a constructed poem and tale - including the speeches to come - there is no 'red-letter' edition. Job is an epic on the theology of creation as the human sees it and such as is recapitulated in the life of each person.)
(2) TS corrects to 'my appeasing (you)'.
(3) Good has "I will refute your words" but the others "I will answer you" etc. Most leave out the awkward repetition of מִלִּין in their English.
(4) Staples considers this a serious discontinuity. TS (and Pope cites him) thinks that Elihu is quoting Job's point of view. I don't see the need for this. Elihu brands Job as an unwitting oppressor. Hence God's silence (so far).
(5) Job cannot blame God for silence when he also refuses to look.
(6) writhe (7 times) can refer to birth - or to the dance at the time of birth. Good emends to "the case is before you and you're dancing around it." Pope - "the case is before him - wait for him." Wait is common but Good says "Efforts to make the word mean 'wait' are not morphologically persuasive". The KJV's 'trust' is even more off the page. While it may be good advice, it is not translation. That's not what the text has in its letters of fire.
(7) Pope - "he does not mark transgression well" (nice job with a strange verse - also implying a certain lack of interest of God in some 'sins' as other speakers in the poem have implied with their rhetorical questions). TS has "his wrath.. is not extinguished, it waxeth strongly." This requires a few emendations.
For TS the subject of the "that there is not" (orange below) is missing and "in the main sentence 'his wrath' (green) can be understood either as the subject of visit (blue) or as the object with the subject of the verb to be conjectured".
וְעַתָּה כִּי-אַיִן פָּקַד אַפּוֹ
וְלֹא-יָדַע בַּפַּשׁ מְאֹד
The word in red is a hapax usually amended to בפשע "in transgression".
(8) 'parts' and 'spouts' are both found only once in Job - hence I do not use 'opens' and 'multiplies'. Elihu is laughing - hence my somewhat derisive choice of words. Elihu is laughing because he knows there is no answer to his arguments and that he is introducing the crowning touch of the poem - the speeches of יְהוָה.

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