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Lockdown thoughts from Job 18

If you were to describe the place where wicked people go, how would you describe it? Bildad has a go — unfortunately, it’s not really what his friend Job needed to hear.

Previously:
1:1-5 | 1:6-12 | 1:13-22 | 2:1-6 | 2:7-13 | 3:1-10 | 3:11-26 | 4 | 5:1-7 | 5:8-27 | 6 | 7 | 8:1-7 | 8:8-22 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13:1-16 | 13:17-14:22 | 15 | 16 | 17 |

Translation:

18:1 Then Bildad the Shuhite answered, saying:

2 “Until when will you (pl.) hunt (lit: set a snare) for words?
Consider, and then we speak.
3 Why are we counted like cattle?
Why are we stupid in your eyes?

4 One who tears his soul in his anger – for your sake will the earth be forsaken?
And the rock removed from its place?

  • Verse 2 begins as Bildad accuses Job and any supporting his argument (the you is plural) of playing games with words (using the imagery of hunting as sport)
  • Verse 3 could be retranslated: “Are we as dumb as cows?”
  • Essentially, Bildad is accusing Job of challenging the foundations of the world by his protests of innocence.
  • Instead of disrupting the “place” (Hb: makom) of the earth, Bildad instead invites Job into the place where wicked men live (in his neat moral universe) – cue verses 5-21
  • Christopher Ash (Wisdom of the Cross, 201) has a good analogy, following the idea of “place”: “Bildad is the moral equivalent of the very house-proud person… Job, they think, is like a rude guest who comes in and wants to trash the place.”

5 “Moreover, the light of wicked men is put out;
And it does not shine, the fire of his flame.

6 The light darkens in his tent;
And his lamp above him is put out.

  • Firstly, Bildad preaches that wicked men have not even a hint of light when they die. It is put out, or extinguished (v5, v6)
  • Bildad, having heard Job wish to “make his bed in the darkness” (17:13), asserts only wicked people go there — “Job, you must be wicked.”

7 “His strong steps are restricted;
His counsel casts him down.

8 For he is cast into a net at his feet;
And he wanders over netting.

9 It seizes by the heel – a trap;
It grips him – a snare.
10 Hidden in the ground in his rope,
And his trap [is] upon the path.

  • In these verses the key idea is the trap (“net” in v8, “snare” in v9, “rope” in v10). The wicked one struts around strongly, but he is caught. He cannot escape.

11 “Terrors all around scare him,
And chase him at his feet.
12 His strength is famished;
And calamity ready for his stumbling.
13 It consumes layers (lit: limbs) of his skin;
It consumes his limbs – the firstborn of death.
14 He will be torn from the tent of his confidence;
And brought to the king of terrors.
15 It dwells in his tent, [they] that are not his(?);
Scattered upon his dwelling [is] sulphur.
16 From beneath, his roots dry up;
From above it withers, his branches.

  • Is this place Hell? We need to be careful not to import New Testament terminology anachronistically. But it’s certainly a description of a grim post-mortem reality for the wicked. Bildad is channelling Jonathan Edward’s “Sinners at the Hands of an Angry God” here.

17 “His memory perishes from the earth;
And he has no name in public (lit: upon the face of outside).
18 They will thrust him from light to darkness;
And from the world they will banish him.
19 There is no offspring for him and no posterity among his people;
No survivor in the places he sojourned.
20 Over his days, those of the west are appalled;
And those of the east are gripped [with] horror.
21 Surely this is the dwelling place of an unjust one,
And [those in] this place does not know God.

  • The point of Bildad’s lengthy description of these terrors is that he assumes Job’s feelings of despair is proof he belongs in this terrifying place.
  • But Bildad is wrong that Job deserves to go there – we are told repeatedly that he is “blameless and upright, fearing God and turning away from evil” (1:1). His neat and tidy logic is a bit housebound, and does not fit in the real world out there.
  • There is a danger too in our lives when we take theoretical truths and make them the lens that we judge another person’s attitudes and actions. Once I told a friend who was under a heavy weight of despair, “I think you’re suffering because you love money too much.” Needless to say, it didn’t go down well. It’s certainly true people can suffer from loving money too much. But it wasn’t right for me to use that logic and misapply it on a friend whose circumstances and heart attitudes weren’t fully known to me.

Lockdown thoughts from Job 16

Day 28 of lockdown (I think?). Some good stuff in this chapter as Job shoots back at Eliphaz’s accusations.

Previously: 1:1-5 | 1:6-12 | 1:13-22 | 2:1-6 | 2:7-13 | 3:1-10 | 3:11-26 | 4:1-21 | 5:1-7 | 5:8-27 | 6:1-30 | 7:1-21 | 8:1-7 | 8:8-22 | 9:1-35 | 10:1-22 | 11:1-20 | 12:1-25 | 13:1-16 | 13:17-14:22 | 15:1-35

Translation:

16:1 Then Job answered, saying:

2 “I have heard many things like these,
Comforters of trouble [are] all of you (pl.)!
3 Is it the end to blustery words?
Or what provokes you to that you answer?
4 I too am like you, let me speak:
if only it was your life instead of mine,
Let me wax lyrical over you with words;
And let me wag at you (pl.) with my head!
5 Let me strengthen you with my mouth, and the quivering of my lips will soothe [you].

  • Job utters his famous “miserable comforters” line to his friends (v2). They were meant to comfort him (2:11), but all they’ve succeeding in doing is to upset him.
  • In response to Eliphaz’s accusation that Job has “blustery knowledge” (15:2), Job turns the insult back and wonders when their “blustery words” will end (v3). From verses 2-5 it’s all addressed at his friends (you plural, or “ye” in Old English).
  • To “wag” his head at his friends (v4) is to express mocking and contempt (see Psalm 22:7, where all who see the sufferer “mocks” and “wag their heads” at him)
  • Job seeks leave to wax lyrical (literally to bind, but here it could mean beautifying speech) about his sorrows (v4), despite his quivering speech (v5), Watch out for the frequent pronoun changes (You/ye/Him/me), it gets a bit messy.

6 “[Yet] if I speak, my pain is not soothed,
And if I refrain, what from me goes away?
7 Surely now He/it has wearied me,
[God] You (sg.) have devastated all my assembly.
8 You (sg.) have seized me, it has become a witness,
My slanderer/leanness stands up at me,
And testifies to my face.”

  • Job turns to address God directly for a few verses, recounting the devastation upon his household (v7). Righteous Job does not let God off the hook for what He is sovereign over.
  • The word to “slanderer” in verse 8 usually means lie or deceit, but it’s translated as “weak” based on Psalm 109:25 (“My body has become weak”). Either Job is referring to his own frail body, or he is referring to some accuser – it’s hard to say.

9 His anger has torn [me] and he has hated me,
he has gnashed me with his teeth,
My adversary sharpens his eyes at me.
10 They (3p) have opened their mouths at me,
With reproach they have struck my cheek;
They pile up together over me.
11 God delivers (lit. shuts) me to unrighteous men,
And into the hands of wicked men He casts me.

  • Job abruptly switches from addressing God in the 1st person to the 3rd person. You can almost picture suffering Job in an ash heap, turning his speech to and fro, to sky and to ground, from face to face.
  • How comfortable are we with righteous Job (v17) saying “God hates me”? Either he’s crossed the Rubicon at this point and sinned, or he’s less impugning His character, more expressing his raw and painful feelings. In his suffering, it’s as if God hates him.

12 “I was at ease, then He has shattered me,
He has seized [me] at the neck,
dashed me [to pieces];
He stands me up as a target.
13 His archers surround me,
Pierces my kidneys without pity;
He pours (impf.) out my gall on the ground.
14 He breaks through, breach upon breach;
He runs against me like a warrior.
15 Sackcloth I have sewed upon my skin;
And I bury [it] in the dust, my strength (lit: horn).
16 My face has reddened from weeping;
Upon my eyelids [is] deep darkness.
17 Though no violence is in my hand;
And my prayer is pure.”

  • Oh, Job.

18 Earth, do not cover my blood;
Let there not be a place for my outcry.
19 Even now look in heaven – my witness;
And my advocate is on high.

20 My scorners are my friends;
To God my eyes pour out.
21 Oh that he would argue for man with God;
As a son of Adam [does] for his friend.

22 For the years of number will lie ahead; and the road I cannot return [from], I will walk.

  • Job doesn’t want his outcry to be dealt with amidst the brokenness of earth (v18), but in the court of heaven (19). The word advocate here (Heb: shahar) continues the legal language Job has been using up to this point.
  • I think translating v21 as the jussive rather than a simple imperfect is important here (“Oh that he would…” rather than “He will…”) — I think Job hopes for an advocate to represent his case before God, rather than has one definitively. We need to be careful not to “Christ”-alise Job’s hopes here beyond what he knows in his time and place.
  • Yet the wonder and hope of the Christian faith is that what Job longed for, an advocate on high like a son of man (lit: ben-Adam) to plead for his sins and sorrows before God, has come to us in Jesus Christ. In our Lord we have One who was called the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13-14), is exalted on High, yet not only argued for His friends but was glad to lay down His life for them (John 15:13).
  • If this Advocate is for us, then who can be against us? (Rom 8:32) With Christ, whatever falls upon us in number of years lie ahead (v22), we can walk the path of no return, safe and secure.

Lockdown thoughts from Job 12

Day 20. A week to go before we possibly move from Level 4. Just a translation from Job 12 today and some brief musings.

Previously: 1:1-5 | 1:6-12 | 1:13-22 | 2:1-6 | 2:7-13 | 3:1-10 | 3:11-26 | 4:1-21 | 5:1-7 | 5:8-27 | 6:1-30 | 7:1-21 | 8:1-7 | 8:8-22 | 9:1-35 | 10:1-22 | 11:1-20

Translation:

12:1 And Job answered, saying:

2 “Truly, that you [are] people,
And with you wisdom will die.
3 Furthermore I have a mind (heart) like you,
I am not fallen [behind] from you.
4 I am a joke (lit: laugh) to [my] friends, (I) who called to God and He answered me,
A just and blameless joke.

  • Job closes the first round of speeches with a lengthy reply to his friends (God is addressed as third person, e.g. verse 4).
  • Verse 2 is a sarcastic retort to his friends, though the rest seems to be genuine sorrow.
  • There’s a strange oddity in the Hebrew text where it literally reads “A laugh to his friends am I”. The scribes seem happy to have preserved this grammatical discrepancy, but probably “my friends” is what’s meant.
  • Verse 4 is striking – Job describes himself the same way that the narrator does (1:2). But He vents that his just and blameless character seem to be laughing fodder for his friends.

5 For destruction [there is] contempt
according to the thought of those at ease,
[it is] ready for those who slip [their] feet.
6 The tents of those who devastate are at ease
and secure are those who provoke God,
Who bring God into their hand.

  • Job’s friends have still not accounted for the fact that wicked people seem to prosper – they are at ease, and secure (v6).

7 But ask the beasts, and they would teach you;
And the birds of the heavens, and they would tell you.
8 Or bushes of the earth, and they will tell you,
And they will count to you – the fish of the sea.
9 Who does not know, among all these, that Yahweh’s hand made this?
10 In whose hand [is] the life of every living thing, and the breath of all humankind.
11 Does not the ear examine words, and the palate taste food (to it)?
12 With the aged [is] wisdom, and length of days understanding.
13 With Him are wisdom and might, to Him counsel and understanding.
14 Look, [if] He tears down then it does not rebuild,
[If] He shuts a man in then it does not open.
15 Look, [if] He holds back the waters then they dry out,
And [if] He sends them then they devastate the earth.

  • I’m noticing a fair amount of creation and flood allusions here. Perhaps Job’s ancestors passed down to him the events of Genesis 1-11 to make such explicit references to the days of creation (e.g. v7, v8), and even God shutting the door on Noah’s ark (v14, compare Genesis 7:16), and devastating the earth with waters (v15, compare Genesis 7-8).
  • Verse 9 is the first time that the name Yahweh is used again since the prologues. Perhaps when we behold creation, Job expresses no doubt that it is the covenant God who sustains and no other.

16 With him are might and prudence,
to him are [both] the errant and the misleading.
17 Leading counsellors away stripped,
judges he also makes into fools.
18 The bonds of kings He opens,
And binds a loincloth around their waists.
19 Leading priests away stripped,
He also overthrows the powerful.
20 He turns aside the speech of trusted ones,
and the discernment of elders he takes away.
21 He pours contempt upon the princes,
And the belt of the strong he loosens.
22 He uncovers the deep things from darkness,
And he brights to light deep shadows.
23 Making great the nations yet He destroys them,
He enlarges their boundaries and guides them.
24 He turns aside the heart/understanding of the people’s chiefs on earth,
He makes them wander in a formless waste without path,
25 They grope in darkness without light, and they wander like drunks.

  • Job reminds his friends that true wisdom belongs to God alone. These “three wise men” do not have a monopoly on knowing how the world works. This is a good reminder amidst competing ideologies and opinions in our world today (including about public health / economy debates).
  • Whatever wisdom we have is a gift, and shouldn’t we wielded to hurt others.

Lockdown thoughts from Job 10

It’s Day 19 of our nationwide lockdown. I’m grateful Jesus was not locked down! Job, in her suffering, has just explored the hope of legal justice from God (chapter 9) – but without hope, turns back to lament.

Previously: 1:1-5 | 1:6-12 | 1:13-22 | 2:1-6 | 2:7-13 | 3:1-10 | 3:11-26 | 4:1-21 | 5:1-7 | 5:8-27 | 6:1-30 | 7:1-21 | 8:1-7 | 8:8-22 | 9:1-35 |


Translation:

1 “I loathe my life
Let me abandon to myself my complaint,
Let me speak in bitterness of my soul.

2 saying to God: ‘Do not condemn me,
Let me know for what you are contending with me.’

3 Is it good for you that you oppress,
To despise the labour of your hands,
while you are radiant over schemes of wicked people?

4 Do you have eyes of flesh?
Or do you see as a man sees?
5 Are your days as a days of a humankind?
Or your years like the days of a man?
6 Since you search for my iniquity,
And for my sin you seek?
7 Upon your knowledge that I am not wicked,
And there is no one who delivers out of your hand?


  • Job’s agony makes him blurt out to his friends: “I loathe my life” (v1). Amidst God’s continued silence yet ongoing contending (v2), he turns from his thoughts of litigation back to lament.
  • Job fires off three sharp questions from vv3-5. How does it benefit God to oppress Him? Is God subject to human vision? Is God subject to human time? He’s wrestling with being in relationship with God yet not understanding what He’s trying to achieve.
  • Verse 7 is important – Job thinks that God knows too that he’s innocent, yet he struggles to work out why he is present in his suffering, yet seemingly absent in his care.

8 Your hand shaped me and made me,
together all around, yet you destroy me.
9 Remember that like clay you have made me, and to dust I will return.
10 Did you not, like milk, pour me out?
And like cheese curdle me?
11 Skin and flesh you clothed me,
And with bones and sinews you have woven me.
12 Life and lovingkindness you gave to me (lit: you made with me),
And your supervision guarded (lit: watched) my breath.


  • These verses echo Genesis – Job is personally fashioned and shaped by God, yet he can’t work out why his Maker would want to destroy him (verse 8). This is the same word that God uses in the prologue to describe how he’s “destroyed [Job] for no reason” (2:3)
  • If God is committed to care for his creation, why won’t he now keep doing that? Job appeals to His character and lovingkindness (v12; chesed)
  • The command “Remember” (v9) is key – Job asks God to remember him. In the midst of his lamenting (see also chapter 7 and 14), Job does not let go of his relationship with God.

13 Yet these you have hidden in your heart,
I know that this is with you.
14 If I sin then you watch over me,
And from my iniquity you would not acquit me.
15 If I am wicked, woe to me! And (if) I am innocent, I would not lift my head,
Full of shame, and see my affliction.
16 And if it was lifted up, like a lion you would hunt me,
Then you would return, show power at me.
17 You renew (impf.) your witnesses in front of me
and increase your anger with me,
Fresh troops (lit. changes and a host) are against (lit. with) me.


  • These verses expand on the charge of verse 8: “and now you destroy me”. It’s dark and sombre.
  • In verse 12, the word “watch” (shamar) describes how God cares for Him. Two verses later, the same word describes how God is overbearingly watching him to miss the mark and sin.
  • Job is caught between what we knows about God (caring for His created ones) and what he feels right now (oppressed and corrected) – it’s as if he’s being hunted by poachers (v16), or attacked by another wave of soldiers (v17).

18 So why from the womb did you bring me out?
I could have died, and no eye see me.
19 Just as though I had not been,
Carried from the womb to the grave.
20 Are not few my days? Then refrain;
And leave me alone (lit: set from me) and cause me a little cheer.
21 Before I depart, and not return,
to the land of darkness and deep shadow,
22 the land of gloom, as thick darkness,
deep shadow without order,
and lights as thick darkness.

  • Here are some final words of despair from Job. Much like chapter 3, he laments his birth. The main difference now is that here, he is brave enough to ask directly: “Why did you bring me out?” (v18, whereas previously he only lamented, “Why have I been born?”).
  • There’s a cluster of six different words for darkness in verse 21-22. Job feels darkness, thick darkness, shadow and gloom.
  • Yet he doesn’t give up – he laments sorrowfully, but still appeals to God rather than abandon faith in Him. He’s in relationship despite his unimaginable grief.
  • In the same way, Jesus crying out at the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” still recognises he is in relationship despite unimaginable grief. Thank God for that.

Lockdown thoughts from Job 9

Day 17 of our lockdown (I think; starting to lose count!)

Previously: 1:1-5 | 1:6-12 | 1:13-22 | 2:1-6 | 2:7-13 | 3:1-10 | 3:11-26 | 4:1-21 | 5:1-7 | 5:8-27 | 6:1-30 | 7:1-21 | 8:1-7 | 8:8-22

Translation:

1 And Job answered, saying:

2 “Surely I know that it is so.
But how can humankind be in the right before God?
3 If someone would wish to contend with Him,
he could not answer Him once from a thousand.
4 Wise of heart and mighty of strength!
Who has hardened against Him and gained peace?
5 The One who moves mountains yet they do not know,
who overturns them in His anger.
6 The One who shakes the earth from its place, so its pillars shudder.
7 The One who commands the sun and it does not rise,
And encloses the stars.
8 Stretching out the heavens to Himself,
And treading upon the waves of the sea.
9 He makes Ash, K’sil, Kimah (the Bear, Orion and Pleiades),

and chambers of the southern [sky].
10 He does great things beyond searching,
Marvellous things beyond number.


  • The word “contend” in verse 3 could also mean “contest a lawsuit”. The first stirrings of Job wanting to make a case to God starts with him denying that it’s possible, based on God’s immense strength and wisdom (v4).
  • Job rehearses God’s amazing attributes and abilities. What strikes me afresh is how much these descriptions also resonate with what we now know about God’s Son, Jesus: the one who treads upon the waves of the sea (v8, Mark 4), who was present as agent of Creation (Col 1:15-17), and accomplished marvellous things beyond number.

11 “Look, he passes over me but I cannot see,
He goes by, but I cannot fathom him.
12 Look, he snatches, who can turn him back?
Who will say to him, “What are you doing?”
13 God will not turn back his anger,
Under him bowed those who helped Rahab.
14 Indeed how can I answer him?
Let me choose my words with him.
15 Though I am in the right, I cannot answer [Him],
To my accuser I shall plead for mercy.
16 If I summoned him and He answered me,
I would not believe that he was hearing my voice.
17 [He] who with a storm bruises me,
and multiplies my wounds for no reason.
18 He does not let me catch my breath,
But fills me with bitterness.
19 If for strength, behold [Him] the mighty!
If for justice, who can summon Him?”

  • Job is saying in verse 11 that — like the mountains that have quaked, God has passed by and shaken his life asunder. But the reasons for it remain elusive to him (and will remain so).
  • From verse 14, Job begins to talk about mounting a case against God, to “take him to court” as it were. Notice the range of “justice”-related words (bolded).
  • The word for “for no reason” (hinnam) appears here again in verse 17. The main question of the book of Job is whether he loves God hinnam (for no reason), or for the benefits He gives him (1:9). Ironically, here Job says he has been afflicted in the same way.

20 “Though I am in the right, my mouth condemns me;
I am blameless, yet he would declare me twisted.
21 I am blameless, [yet] I know not myself;
I despise my life.
22 It is all the same, so I say:
blameless or wicked, he destroys.
23 When disaster brings death suddenly,
Regarding the calamity of the innocent, he mocks it.
24 The earth is given into the hand of the wicked;
The faces of its judges He covers,
if not – then – who – he?”

  • Job is blameless (said twice, literally: “Blameless I am”). But he feels resigned to the fact that it doesn’t make a difference to the suffering God has brought upon him.
  • For Job to “despise” his life is similar to what he expressed in chapter 3. In the epilogue, Job will similarly “despise” (himself) and repent in sackcloth and ashes (42:6).
  • The last phrase in v24 is so broken up in Hebrew, it’s as if Job couldn’t bear to say it.

25 My days are swifter than a runner,
They flee; they see no good.
26 They go along with ships of reed,
Like an eagle swooping over food.
27 If I say: “Let me forget my complaint,
Let me put off my sad face and be cheerful,”
28 I would become (pf.) afraid of all my sorrow;
I know that you would not hold me innocent.
29 I would be condemned.
Why then in this “hevel” do I work?
30 If I wash myself with snow, and cleanse my hands with lye,
31 Then in a pit you will plunge me,
And my clothes abhor (pf.) me.
32 For He is not a man, as me, [that] I might answer him,
[that] we come together in judgement.
33 There is no arbiter between us,
to lay his hand upon us both.
34 Let him turn away his rod from me,
And let not his dread terrify me.
35 Then would I speak to and not fear him,
But it is not so with me.

  • Oh Job. He goes back to pondering his mortality (v25-29). He describes his life as flashing past before his eyes – this time not like a weaver’s shuttle (see 7:6) but like a runner.
  • Job concludes that there is no arbiter (or mediator) between him and Yahweh (verse 33), and laments his inability to seek justice. He will return to this theme in future chapters. And we know that, this side of the cross, we have in Jesus the Suffering Servant who is “one mediator between God and man”. Thank God for Easter.