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128. Job 13, Introduction

 

Even though I will make several subdivisions along the way, we might profitably divide this chapter as follows:

 

13:1-12, Attacking the Friends

13:13-19, I Will Speak, Come What May

13:20-28, Rules of Engagement 

 

Job 13:1-3, Job Establishes Both Continuity and a New Direction

 

Job 13 continues Job’s speech begun in 12:1. The thoughts, and even some of the words, of the first few verses of Job 13, are taken from previous chapters. Lest we think, however, that what we have here will simply be a repetition of what has come before, we ought to know that Job makes a dramatic move in 13:3, repeated and augmented later in the chapter (13:18). Job will not only want to speak directly with God in 13:3, but he will assemble what he feels is an air-tight case to present when he has the opportunity to approach God. We might further subdivide 13:1-12 into 13:1-3 and 4-12. The first repeats and extends the words of chapter 12; the second further distances himself from the friends.

 

1 “Look, my eye has seen all this,

    my ear has heard and understood it.

2 What you know, I also know;

    I am not inferior to you.

3 But I would speak to the Almighty,

    and I desire to argue my case with God.

 

The first two verses combine elements of the beginning of Job’s speeches in Chapters 9 and 12. Literally, 13:1 says, “Lo, all of this my eye has seen; my hear has heard and understood it.” We hear an echo of 9:2, “Truly I know that this is so.”Job’s first words in both chapters are calculated to locate himself theologically with, and not opposed to, his friends. Then, Job says, in 13:2,

 

    “As to your knowledge, I also myself know (these things); I have not fallen off (naphal) from you.”

 

The first phrase is emphatic; Job is literally saying “What you know I know, yes also I.” The last phrase repeats his words in 12:3, the meaning of which is that Job is not inferior at all to his friends (perhaps a polite way of saying that he considers himself superior in understanding). In 12:3 Job talked about having “heart” (leb); here his knowledge (verb is yada) is emphasized. It amounts to the same thing. By skillfully bringing in phrases or ideas from the earlier chapters, the author is trying to show that when Job suggests his revolutionary ideas in this and following chapters, he is doing so as part of one sustained argument. What is also noteworthy from verse 2 is the presence of the two emphatic pronouns, referring to Job, for “I.” Job will make this chapter about his knowledge and his not being inferior to them.

 

Now that the connection with the past words is established, Job gets to his point in 13:3. Note that it begins again with ulam, the strong adversative we saw in 12:7 and will see in the next verse. Then it continues with yet a third emphatic first person pronoun in seven words, “I myself shall speak. . .” Such emphasis shows that Job is bringing the full focus of his argument on himself and his words. The first part of 13:3 is normally translated, “But I would speak to the Almighty. . .” yet the verb is in the Hebrew imperfect (i.e., the future) tense—i.e., “I shall speak.” Wimpy translations such as “I prefer” or “I would speak” or “I wish to speak” to the Almighty really obscure the fact that this is a defiant and not an entreating or obsequious statement. “I will speak with the Almighty!” is the tone of it.  

 

Perhaps aware of how forthright such a statement might sound, Job retreats only slightly in the second half to say: “But (again using the adversative ulam) I desire strongly to/will take pleasure in reason/ing with God.” Two words in the second section or clause of 13:3 require our attention:  chaphets and yakach. The former, appearing 75x, is a verb expressing great delight or strong preference. We meet it twice in the law of the yabam, or Levirate marriage, in Deuteronomy 25:7, 8 when the surviving brother “desires not” to take his brother’s widow as his wife. The verb can capture God’s desire to slay someone who has sinned against God (I Samuel 2:25). It is the verb King Saul used to express one inclination of his tortured psyche—his great delight if David would become his son-in-law (I Samuel 18:22). Then, most memorably, both because of its being in a messianic Psalm and because of Georg Friedrich Handel, the Psalmist has people saying in mockery, “Let him deliver him, since he delights greatly (chaphets) in him (Psalm 22:8). So, chaphets in Job 13:3 can be read consistently with the “I will speak” of the first clause. Job has an overwhelming desire to, and he will, speak with God.


The verb capturing his speaking to God in the second part of 13:3 is yanach, a wide-ranging, 59x-appearing, verb that can cover the entire waterfront of a judicial process from reasoning to proving something to the result of decision (correction or rebuke). It sometimes can be used simply as “appoint” (e.g., Genesis 24:44), but it most frequently refers to or finds its home in a judicial process. Job uses the verb in the both ways: to “reason with/discuss” something, which is part of the legal process (with the noun form of yanachtowkechah, also meaning “reasoning” in verse 6), but also, in 13:10, to describe “rebuke” or “correction.” Though yanach in verse 3 points to the “reasoning” process of a lawsuit or judicial argument, the most frequent usage of yanach in the Bible outside of Job is in the sense of “rebuking” or “correcting” (i.e., the end of the process). It is a broader verb than rib, to bring a complaint against someone, though that verb also shows up in our passage (13:8). Both verbs bring us into the world of legal process.

 

Nearly one-third of the appearances of yanach are in Job (17x).  Most helpful for understanding its meaning in 13:3 is its appearance in 9:33. The mokiach in that passage (mokiach is the noun form derived from the verb yanach) was the umpire or daysman, the one who would lay hands on both parties, Job and God, and permit Job to speak. In that case the mokiach had multiple roles, but they included the assurance that the reasoning process would have integrity—i.e., that each party would be able to speak his mind in security. In 13:3 Job expresses his need/strong desire to speak with God, to “reason” (yanach) with God. This one declaration affects the entire direction of the  subsequent argument. Though the friends will come in for lots of mention as time goes on, we really get the impression that what is central from now on for Job are the words he will use when approaching God. Job continues speaking with the friends, but his desired conversation partner from now on will be God.

 

The point is worth pondering for a moment. Both Job’s confidence and earnestness rise when he realizes that his friends will not “solve” his situation, and that the only one who has the possibility of bringing interpretive (and healing) satisfaction is God. Job has learned from and will continue to profit from the words of his friends—mostly because they give him suggestive words or phrases for mounting his own case—but from now on, Job will increasingly turn to God for an interpretation of or healing from his great distress.  

 

Note how the friends’ voices begin to “fade” after Job says he will approach God. Eliphaz’s first speech had 48 verses; his second (Job 15) has 35 verses; his third (Job 22) has 30 verses. Bildad suffers a similar curtailment. While he had 22 verses in Job 8 and 21 in Job 18, he gets a meager 6 verses in Job 25. Zophar is even worse. He has 20 verses in Job 11 and 29 in Job 20, but he isn’t recorded as even having a third speech. The length of speeches is one indication that the interest of the book has changed after Job expresses his strong desire, and that he will, speak with God. Job will want to “reason” it out (yanach); he hopes the result will not be a rebuke (yanach) from God.