Job 10:8 II
Reading the Text Afresh
The last essay showed how there are two competing and defensible readings of Job 10:8. What this essays does is to adopt both readings, one at a time of course, to see how each gives a different flavor to our reading of Job. Some people believe that when in doubt, declare uncertainty and offer no interpretation. My approach is different; when in doubt, give both.
Reading: "And now you turn"
This reading has the advantage of yielding two balanced poetic clauses. A good translation of the verse would then be "Your hands fashioned and made me; and now you turn and destroy me." It invites us to think about the verb turn ("shub") in its larger theological significance.
Ever since God told Adam he would turn him to the dust (Gen. 3:19), mortality has been human fate. Job recognizes it when he says, "to dust I shall (re)turn (1:21)" When he speaks about descending to the realms of darkness, Job uses this word "turning" to darkness (10:21; 16:22). Job's friends were repulsed by his condition; Job urges them to "turn" and look at him, because he is convinced of his integrity (6:29).
Even more arresting is the relation of "shub" to God's activity. God has been angry since before the creation of the world, when God subdued the sea creatures. God simply won't "turn" back his anger (9:13). Job's hope is based on the fact that God will put him in Sheol for a while, until God's wrath has "turned" (14:13). Thus, when Job says in 10:8 that God has "turned" to destroy him, it fits into the context of the twists and turns of the divine anger. In this context, then, the restoration of Job, literally called Job's "turning" in Job 42:10, marks a textual as well as actual victory for Job. The word "shub," the fountainhead of so much misery, has now brought Job's redemption.
Reading: "Together round about" or "One all around"
If we follow the Masoretic text, the emphasis here is on the completeness and perfection of God's work in creating Job. The fashioning and making is done with exquisite artistry; the sinews are interwoven with bones; the skin and flesh form a beautiful outer garment (10:11). Wondrous is God's creative activity in so molding us. Medical science is still probing the unique mysteries of our creation. Thus, on this reading, which emphaiszes the ties of 10:8 to its immediate context, the contrast between God's careful shaping and God's merciless destruction of Job is stressed all the more. The theological question becomes all the more insistent: 'Isn't it absurd, God, for you to have expended such care, such meticulous concern in human creation, only to shatter and destroy us because of your whimsical anger?'
Both readings, then, add depth and power to the poetry. Take your pick. Pick both and have a really great day!
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long