Using our nationwide lockdown to lock down some rusty Hebrew.
A rough translation and thoughts on the way. Some of it will be familiar to friends who have journeyed through Kirk Patston’s classes. Lord willing we’ll make some progress over the next four weeks.
1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz – Job [was] his name.
Now this man was blameless
and God fearing
and one who shunned evil.
- The narrator emphasises that Job is blameless – literally, tām (תָּ֧ם) means something like “whole”. This is an account of a righteous sufferer.
- Uz is outside of God’s promised land (possibly Edom). So Job’s story isn’t just for physical descendants of Abraham, but for anyone who experiences suffering.
- Interesting that God invites readers to reflect on suffering not by way of proverbs or epistles, but by presenting a story. To become wise, we must walk with someone as they suffer. In this case, Job.
1:2 And it was born to him seven sons and three daughters.
1:3 And his possessions was:
seven thousand sheep
and three thousand camels
and five hundred yokes of oxen
and five hundred donkeys
and many, many servants (sing.; perhaps “a large workforce”)
And this man was greater than all the sons of the east.
- This guy is rich – like the CEO of Air New Zealand, for example.
- Yet we don’t have to be millionaires to be able to relate to Job; compared to the rest of the world, most of us live in the top 95% of the socioeconomic spectrum.
4 Now his sons would come,
and they would hold a banquet – each house, each man [in] his day,
and they would send out and call for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.
When the days of feasting completed its circuit, then Job sent [for them]
and he set them apart
and he would rise in the morning
and raised up an offering for all of them.
For Job said: “Perhaps my sons sinned
and ‘blessed’ God in their heart.”
Thus Job would do habitually (lit: all the days.)
- The Hebrew in verse 5 literally says: “Perhaps my sons sinned and barakhed God in their heart.” The word barakh (ברך) has a wide semantic range (to bless, to greet/farewell), but it does not mean curse.
- Perhaps the scribe didn’t want to write “curse God” on the page.
- Perhaps the author is using barakh euphemistically.
- In any case, this word will riddle us in the upcoming verses: what does it mean to ‘bless’ God when we suffer?
My own reflections:
- This is an account of a righteous sufferer, but every story of suffering poses unanswered riddles.
- Life is not always as black and white as Proverbs. It is hard, uncertain and full of perplexing questions like “How will I keep afloat today? Why did all this happen today? Is being in lockdown or whatever God has given me a blessing or a curse?”
- Job acts as a mediator for his children’s sin – his actions foreshadow a future Advocate who makes an offering for those he calls his own.
- So there is no riddle with Jesus: He is the only one who is truly blameless, and made a perfect offering (his own blood) to atone for our sins.
- I love Andrew Peterson’s line in the chorus of “Is He Worthy” – Is anyone worthy? Is anyone whole? Jesus is that whole person that we need as our Advocate and Friend today.