Day thirteen. Nearly halfway through our nationwide lockdown! I’m enjoying the pace but do let me know if it’s too much of a drag. Job is continuing his reply to Eliphaz.
1 Is there not hard service for humanity on earth?
And [are] their days like a hired one?
2 Like a slave longing for shadow [of nightfall],
like a hired hand waits for his wages.
3 Thus I have been made to inherit months of emptiness,
and nights of misery are appointed to me.
4 If I lie down and say: “when will I arise?” yet the night stretches on.
And I am full of tossing until dawn.
5 My flesh is clothed of worms and lumps of dirt,
my skin hardens then flows [from my sores]
6 My days are cursed/as light as a [weaver’s] shuttle,
and finish without hope/thread.
7 Remember that my life is like a breath,
my eye will not return to see good.
8 It will behold me no more – the eye that sees me,
Your eyes [are] upon me, but I [will] no longer be.
- Job continues to lament his sufferings. He compares his life to days of slave labour (vv1-2), and nights full of misery (v3-4).
- We’re reminded of what Yahweh afflicted Job with in verse 5 – he is clothed with sores that attract worms, dirt, that harden and then break out with pus (see Job 2:7).
- There’s some achingly beautiful Hebrew wordplay in verse 6. Job could be saying that his days are “as fleeting as a weaver’s shuttle, and ends for lack of thread” (here’s a video of it zipping along). Or it could read that Job’s days are “as cursed as a shuttle, and ends for lack of hope”. The verb root for to be fleeting and to be cursed is the same (both קלל / qll pointed differently), and the noun תִּקְוָה means “cord, thread, end, hope. What does suffering feel like to Job? Like being caught in the warp and weft of a tapestry of sorrow, shuttling back and forth in vain, hoping for the thread to end.
9 As a cloud breaks up and disappears [lit: completes and goes],
thus the one who goes down to Sheol does not come up.
10 He no longer returns to his house,
and his place does not recognise him.
11 Furthermore, I myself will not refrain my mouth,
I will (or, Let me) speak in anguish of my spirit.
I will (or, Let me) lament in the bitterness of my soul.
12 Am I the sea, or a sea monster,
that you (sg) set a guard over me?
13 For I say, “my bed will comfort me,
my couch will ease my complaint.”
14 Then you dismay me with dreams,
and from visions you terrify me.
15 So my soul would choose strangling;
death from my bones.
16 I reject [my life], I would not live forever,
Refrain from me, for my days are “hevel”.
- Job closes his reply to Eliphaz by insisting he be allowed to keep anguishing and lamenting (v11) – it could also be translated “Let me speak… let me lament.”
- Job accuses Eliphaz of treating him like a sea monster to be guarded and caged (v12). Ironically, when God finally replies in the closing chapters he will parade monsters before Job to remind him that He rules over creation.
- Remember Eliphaz’s righteous-sounding vision in chapter 4? They’re scary and terrifying to Job. Don’t pull that out again, please.
- Job basically says in verse 16: “Leave me alone, Eliphaz”, because his days are hevel. I leave it untranslated because it’s the same slippery word the Teacher uses in Ecclesiastes 1:2, and should bring to mind all the various translation possibilities. Are Job’s days now meaningless? Vapour? Vanity? Fleeting? Bubbles? Suffering has a way of making us question the purpose of life, doesn’t it?
17 What is man,
that you grow him,
and that you set upon him your heart,
18 and visit him [in] mornings, in moments test him?
19 How long will you not gaze [away] from me,
[or] leave me alone to swallow my spit?
20 [Say] I have sinned; what would I do to you, watcher of humankind?
Why have you set your mark on me?
[Why am] I a burden to [you]?
21 And why do you not pardon my transgression,
or pass over my iniquity?
For now on the earth I will lie down;
You will seek me, but I will not be.
- There’s echoes of Psalm 8 in the “What is man” questions that close chapter 7. From the description of what the 2nd person does (grows him, sets his heart upon him, watches humankind), I think Job is now addressing Yahweh.
- Here is Job’s first halting attempts at questioning God. We will see this grow and expand in his later speeches as he gets bolder and starts to litigate God and appeal for His justice. But for now, Job asks a couple of dark questions, then resigns himself to lying in the ground again.
- Verse 21 ends in a similar way to verse 8. Want to know what suffering feels like? It feels like people / God looking for you, but you’re not there.
I decided to respond a bit differently today. Here’s a prayer of lament:
Life seems so hard now in lockdown.“Lament for thread” by WHC, 7.4.20
The days come and go
come and go
come and go
and I can’t see the end.
I’m waiting for the thread to finish.
How long Lord?
And life outside my bubble seems bleak,
full of fears and anxiety and hopelessness.
How long will You let all this pain and sorrow continue?
When will You fix all this brokenness?
And people are dying Lord.
Thousands and thousands, finishing their days without hope.
Their life’s thread cut off by coronavirus, by cancer, by suicide.
Please have mercy on them.
And on the unreached.
And on my family.
And my friends.
As brother Jesus lamented in the Garden of Gethsemane
As He felt forsaken and crushed to pardon our sins
Father help me lament with my Saviour.
Give me fresh eyes to see how Christ
is the scarlet thread of hope
I can follow in my failures
trust in my trials
and go to.
Pass over my sins
let me rest