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192. Job 19:8-12, God’s Attack on Job, Essay One

 

Job begins by describing the divine attack in 19:8, 

 

            “God has hedged up (gadar) my path (orach), so I cannot pass (abar).

            He has set darkness (the familiar choshek) upon my path (nathib).  

 

Job’s reference to God’s “fencing up/hedging up his path” (v 8) is reminiscent of the Satan’s remark to God in 1:10 that God has “placed a fence around” (suk) Job. But in Chapter 1 it is a fence of protection; here the fence is a confining one. The verb for “fence up” (gadar, 10x) is twice used in the Bible for “masons” (e.g., II Kings 12:12), but it normally is used as here—to erect a barrier. 

 

Job’s words and thought are almost identical to those of Lamentations 3:7, 9:

 

            “He has walled me in (gadar) so that I cannot get out" (yatsa; Lamentations 3:7);

             "He has blocked (gadar) my ways (derek)  with stones; my paths (nathib)

                he has made crooked/perverse” (Lamentations 3:9, verb is avah, functionally identical

                to avath in Job 19:6).  

 

We note that Job here seems to “skip” Lamentations 3:8, but we have already shown how the two verbs of that verse were captured in the previous verse, Job 19:7. In addition, when Job moves to his next thought in 19:9, he begins with the idea of his glory (kabod) being stripped from him. The author of Lamentations uses the same root (k-b-d), this time translated as “to become heavy” to describe the effect of being “walled in” in 3:7 (i.e., “God has made my chains heavy”).

 

Job’s two words for “path” are the common orach (59x/11x in Job) and nathib (26x/7x in Job). These words frequently appear in the wisdom tradition; Lamentations 3 uses yet another word for path, derek. Bildad had just mentioned how a trap is set on the path (nathib) of the unrighteous person (18:10); for one of the few times in the Book of Job, Job would concur with the friend: his paths (nathib) are made crooked.

 

We recall Job’s characterization of God as a warrior in Job 16. Now he returns to that theme in 19:9 by saying that “He has stripped (pashat) my glory from me and removed the crown (atarah) from my head.” In this one verse Job captures the sense of reversal and humiliation that he eloquently lays out in Job 29-31. The scene in 19:9 is particularly poignant because, as Job will tell us later, he had taken such care in putting on the garments of righteousness and justice. Hear his later words in 29:14:

 

            “I put on (labash) righteousness (tsedeq); I clothed myself with it. My justice

            (mishpat) was like a robe and a diadem/turban (the rare tsaniph).  

 

Now his garments are being stripped from him. We have seen verbs for tearing off/stripping already in Job (qara; taraph), but here the verb for stripping off is pashat (43x).  Normally pashat is used in the context of making a raid on an enemy, and it points to the grisly reality of stripping enemy dead bodies of their clothing and weapons. For example, it means to “strip the slain in battle” in II Samuel 23:10; I Chronicles 10:8, 9. When the Philistines defeated the Israelites and came to strip (pashat) the dead, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa (I Samuel 31:8). They “cut off his head and stripped (pashat) his armor” (I Samuel 31:9). We have seen pashat (43x) once previously in Job (1:17), but there it is used in the sense of “making a raid.”  

 

Thus, rather than seeing the action in 19:9 as gently removing Job’s clothes, we need to see it as if God has already stripped a (nearly dead) Job of his garments. Job is like the warrior lying dead in his equipment. God strips Job. Well, at least God can perhaps recoup the value of the high-priced fabric Job is wearing. And then, God also removed the crown (atarah, 23x) from Job’s head (rosh is noun), as his regal position is exchanged for a seat in the dust.  When the author of Lamentations wants to express the full power of national reversal, he says, “The crown (atarah) has fallen from our head (rosh is noun; Lam 3:16).” We might even hear the slightest echo of the Book of Proverbs in the use of atarah here, “The crown (atarah) of the wise is their riches. . .” (Proverbs 14:24); now we know why it is appropriate to say that his crown has been stripped off.  

 

Thus, even though the attack language of Job 19 differs from that of Job 16, we see a similar thought world. God is the warrior who unleashes a merciless attack on the defenseless Job. Here he is stripped, of clothing, glory, riches, crown—and he is just lying there exposed, naked and perhaps nearly dead in the field. At least God could sell the clothing and the crown on the after-market and get some value from the divine investment.