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190. Job 19:5-6

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.

 

But verse 4 wasn’t the major point Job was trying to make. It was only a point made in passing. Another reason for not taking the initial clause in verse 4 as “If I have sinned,” is that verse 5 begins with the actual word “if” (im) and then uses the same second word as verse 4, omnam, “truly.” So, verses 5-6 are the real conditional statement:  

 

      “If in fact you are making yourself big against me (the verb form of adjective for “big” or “great”)         and holding my reproach (i.e., my suffering) against me, know for a fact that God is the one who         has perverted me/made me crooked and has circled the net around me.”  

 

Now we are back to vintage Job. Perhaps the best way of getting at the meaning of these two verses is to “massage” the translation with synonyms. Meaning will then appear. The opening phrase might be, “If you lord it over me” or “If you are trying to get the better of me,” which is a neat description of what has happened so far. 

 

Then, the second clause is, literally, “reprove (yakach, already the 12th time the verb has been used in Job) my reproach” (cherpah,73x but only elsewhere in Job in 16:10). We have already seen how yakach can describe any part of the legal process, from arguing a case to the final rebuke at the end; in this instance Job is saying that the friends have already reached a conclusion by holding Job’s “reproach” or “disgrace” against him. We are a bit surprised by the word cherpah; we might have expected something from the worlds of humiliation or shame, though we have just seen those words in verse 3. Cherphah abounds in the Psalms (20x), and one notable passage puts all three concepts of reproach, shame and humiliation, which Job has explored here, in one verse (Psalm 69:19).  So verse 5 is clear: “If you exalt yourselves/make yourself big/lord it over me/get the better of me by pointing out my disgrace (suffering). . .”

 

Then, “Know then that God has wronged me/made me crooked/perverted my path” (v 6). The crucial verb is the 11x-appearing avath,“to make crooked” or “defraud” (Lamentations 3:36) or “cheat” (Amos 8:5). Job will say in no uncertain terms that God is the one responsible for his loathsome condition, for his disgrace and humiliation. Though avath is rather rare in the Bible, four of its appearances are in Job, and Job’s use of it here may be in response to Bildad’s double use of it in 8:3. Twice at the beginning of his first speech had Bildad asked in high dudgeon whether God perverted (avath) judgment/justice (using both mishpat and tsedeq). Job would be giving his resounding answer here. “Yes!” Elihu, trying to repair the damage Job has done to God’s reputation, will use the verb again in 34:12 to assure us that God will not pervert justice. Interestingly, Elihu begins his sentence in 34:12 with the identical phrase Job has used in 19:4 to admit his sin. . .  ”Also truly (aph-omnam). . .” Both sides are swearing with great solemnity that God either does or doesn’t pervert justice. There really is no meeting of the minds.


The second half of verse 6 expresses a parallel thought to the first half, but we can perhaps detect some slight humor in it. Job says, “God has surrounded me (naqaph, 19x) with a net (matsud, 25x).” The humor comes in that Job will pick up on the concept of net, which Bildad explored with six different words in 18:8-10 to describe the fate of the wicked, but Job will use yet another wordfor “net.” Granted, matsud is generally rendered “fortification” or “stronghold” (e.g., I Samuel 22:5; 24:22; II Samuel 5:7, 9, etc), but it can be used on occasion for “net” (Psalm 66:11; Ezekiel 12:13). The verb for “surround” is not the typical sabab; here Job will use the rarer, but still visual naqaph, the same verb used to describe the surrounding of Jericho by the Israelite troops (Joshua 6:3, 11). By the time Job’s opening words of chapter 19 are completed, then, he has deflected the friend’s allegation that his suffering is because of his sin, has admitted to his own private faults, but has squarely placed responsibility for his suffering in God’s hands. God has perverted his path.  Perhaps that word “pervert” (avath) is also chosen because it is the antonym of “make straight,” which is what the Book of Proverbs says God will do to our paths (3:11-12; 4:26)—straighten them out. As far as Job is concerned, God perverts; God does not straighten things out.