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104. Job 10:10-12 God’s Care in Making Job

 

10 Did you not pour me out like milk

    and curdle me like cheese?

11 You clothed me with skin and flesh,

    and knit me together with bones and sinews.

12 You have granted me life and steadfast love,

    and your care has preserved my spirit.

 

But Job isn’t just interested in bemoaning his eventual fate of returning to the dust, even though he has given us a deft reference to Genesis 3:19; he wants to draw out the ridiculousness of his torment by describing in intimate detail the care God took in creating him. Whereas Job 10:10 is a thought fully unique to Job, verse 11 contains echoes of Psalm 139:13-16. First, we have the uniquely Joban thought: “Haven’t you poured me out like milk, and curdled me as cheese?” The verb for “pour out” is nathak (21x), and it can refer to money being emptied out of a purse (II Kings 22:9) or wrath being poured out (Jeremia 7:20; II Chronicles 12:7). But here the image is sexually suggestive, as if God “poured out” a whitish sort of substance in creating Job. Then, this substance became “congealed” (qapha’, 4x) or “curdled” like cheese (gebinah, a hapax that we think means “cheese”). Who can’t see in this a loving and imaginative way to describe the fertilization of an egg in pregnancy? Is Job just referring to the human process of conception, or does he want to press the issue further and suggest that God, the author of life, was as it were ejaculating a divine fluid in making him?  

 

After this wonderfully suggestive image, Job then returns to the mental world of the Psalms, especially Psalm 139, in Job 10:11, “You have clothed me with skin and flesh; and with bones and sinews you have covered/knit me.” “Bones" (etsem) is a common word; “sinews” (gid) is rare. The verb translated “cover”or "knit" is sakak (24x); it usually is so rendered, but also occupies the field of “spurring on” (Isaiah 9:11; 19:2).  These two words play a prominent role in the Psalmist’s description of God’s loving creative care: “For you have made my inner parts; you knit me (sakak) together in my mother’s womb” (139:13); “My bones (etsem) were not hidden from you” (139:15).  Psalm 139 picks up further on a weaving image in 139:16, where the Psalmist is “curiously woven together (raqam) in the deepest part of the earth.” The Psalmist, using language that Job would have approved, says “wonderful (niphlaim; see this word in Job 5:9; 9:10 ) are your works” (from verb asah; 139:14).  

 

But Job might also be directing a gentle barb at Bildad in 10:11 when he says that God “clothed” (labash) him with flesh and skin. Bildad had just talked about people who hate Job being clothed (labash) with shame; Job now uses labash in a positive way.  

 

The result of this divine creative effort for Job is that God has made “life and favor” for Job (10:12).  For the third time in five verses the verb asah (“make”) appears. God’s making Job was an act of mercy/favor (chesed).  God’s watchful care has preserved (shamar) Job’s spirit.  What, we think, could be better?