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188. Job 19:1-6, Repeated Humiliation at the Hands of Friends

A serviceable outline for this chapter is:

 

19:1-6, Repeated Humiliation at the Hands of Friends

19:7-12, How God is Responsible for Job’s Misery

19:13-22, Job the Repulsive

     13-15, Repulsive to Those Far and Near

     16-20, Repulsive to Low and High

     21-22, Have Pity on Me, the Repulsive Person

19:23-29, I Know That My Redeemer Lives!

 

1 Then Job responded,

2 “How long will you torment me

   And crush me with words?

3 These ten times you have insulted me;

   You are not ashamed to wrong me.

4 Even if I have truly erred,

   My error lodges with me.

5 If indeed you vaunt yourselves against me

   And prove my disgrace to me,

6 Know then that God has wronged me

   And has closed His net around me.       

 

Though the sentiment in these verses is similar to that expressed by Job to his friends at the beginning of Job 12, 13 and 16, these verses have their own vocabulary of crushing, breaking and perverting. The Hebrew is much more vehement and even violent than the prettified modern English translations. The purpose of this exposition is to bring out the raw strength of Job’s words.

 

Verse 2 may be rendered, 

 

       “How long will you torment (yagah is verb) my soul and utterly smash (daka is verb) me to                    pieces with words?” 

 

The opening phrase is ad-an (“How long?”) which we have seen at the beginning of both of Bildad’s speeches (8:2; 18:2). Here it functions as an antiphonal response to Bildad, directing attention away from Bildad’s ideas and to Job’s.“How long will you. . .?” is the tone of Bildad’s words. Job responds, neatly, “How long will YOU. . .?” We now have forgotten Bildad’s words.

 

The two verbs of verse 2 are somewhat rare, but the latter (daka) has already appeared several times in Job. “Torment,” the first, is the 8x-appearing verb yagah, five of whose appearances are in Lamentations. This point of connection between Job and Lamentations may not be adventitious; as Job 19 unfolds we will find some of the strongest Job-Lamentations language echoes in the Book of Job. Something about the plangent and vehement emotions of Lamentations, purportedly written in the wake of the Temple’s destruction in 587 BCE, may have deeply affected Job’s mood. He carries about in his soul the national disaster in miniature.

 

The other verb (daka, 18x), usually translated “to bruise” or “to crush,” has already been at the heart of Eliphaz’s theory of punishment, laid out in 4:19; 5:4. Disobedient people are “crushed” in the gate (5:4). Job picked up on the term in 6:9 to describe his desire for oblivion—that God would “crush” (daka) him. Now the crushing relates to words. Job is equating the relentless attacks of the friends to this kind of crushing. It is noteworthy that one of the most famous passage in the Hebrew Scriptures (Isaiah 53) uses this word twice; the Servant of God was “crushed” for sins (daka, 53:5); it was the will of God to “crush” him (daka, 53:10). Job’s word in 19:2 needs to be understood in this context.

 

Terminology of shame and reproach now supplement that of torment and crushing.  Verse 3:  

 

       “Ten times have you humiliated me; you are not ashamed that you have attacked me."   

 

The translation of the last phrase is uncertain; there is a hapax hakar that no one is sure how to translate; it is possibly “to wrong” or “to attack” or “to detract from.” Seow just translates it adverbially, “You grieve me shamelessly.” Clines has, similarly, “You shamelessly attack me.” Who knows? But the tone of the whole and meaning of the first part is clear. Job is exploring the contrast between his feeling of shame and the absence of that feeling among his friends. The reference to “ten times” is almost humorous. Jacob used the same phrase in Genesis 31:7, 41 in his disgust with Laban in order to emphasize Laban’s fickleness (“ten times have you changed my wages”). The “almost” humor in Job’s use of it arises because the friends have only given five speeches so far—that would make two humiliations per speech if we are doing the math right. But it no doubt means that Job has been overwhelmed by a repeated feeling of shame, courtesy of the friends’ interpretation of his suffering.

 

Shame is expressed here through common verbs (kalam,38x, and bush, more than 100x). Even though we use the word “shame” a great deal in our culture, we ought to have some synonyms in our mind, which translate many passages where kalam or bush appear: “disgrace, humiliate, reproach, confound, dishonor.” One of the more vivid usages of both kalam and bush in the same sentence is in Isaiah 41:11, “Behold those who were angry at you shall be ashamed (bush is verb) and disgraced (kalam is verb); they shall become as nothing and those who strive against you (rib is verb) will perish.”