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193. Job 19:8-12, God’s Attack on Job, Essay Two

10 “He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone;
And He has uprooted my hope like a tree.
11 “He has also kindled His anger against me
And considered me as His enemy.
12 “His troops come together,
And build up their way against me
And camp around my tent.

 

Job 19:10 begins with a verb. Literally it is, “Broken me down (nathats) has he all around, and I have walked (halak is verb); and he has uprooted my hope like a tree.” We are surprised to see the common and seemingly innocuous verb halak, “to walk,” to describe the result of Job’s being broken down, surprised until we realize that it is the same verb as used in 14:20 to describe the result of destroyed human hope. “You prevail over him (the human), and he walks. . .(verb is halak).”  It is a simple verb to express extreme forlornness and abandonment.  

 

The verb for breaking down (nathats, 42x) is the usual verb for tearing down the altars of foreign gods, including Baals and Asherim (e.g., Judges 6:32; II Kings 11:18), but one of its early appearances is in the chapter on leprosy in Leviticus 14. If leprosy infects the walls of a structure, one ultimately must tear down (nathats) the house (Leviticus 14:25). Yet it has a more sinister dimension in Psalm 52:5, where God’s judgment on the wicked is described.  

 

       “God will break you down (nathats is verb) forever; God will snatch you away and tear you                  down/uproot (natach) you from the land of the living.” 

 

The dual thoughts of tearing down and uprooting, two seemingly contrary motions, are also captured in Job 19:10. God has torn down Job all around; but then “my hope is uprooted like a tree.” The verb for “uproot” is nasa instead of the natach of Psalm 52:5. It is the normal verb for striking a tent and moving on. Its basic meaning is to “tear up the tent poles,” which one must do before setting out. So, God has thoroughly discombobulated Job—both by tearing him down, using language of tearing down idolatrous altars; and tearing him up, like the firmly rooted tree that is now yanked up as easily as one would yank up the tent pole.  


The thing that is uprooted for Job is his hope (tikvah). It is interesting that more than one-third of the Bible’s appearances of tikvah are in the Book of Job, and many times it appears on the lips of Job’s friends. Eliphaz speaks glowingly of the future hope for Job (4:6; 5:16); Zophar spoke as if there was still hope for Job (11:18, 20). But Job, the upright and blameless one, is the first to abandon hope (7:6, “(my days) come to an end without hope”). Whatever flimsy filament of hope remained for Job in chapter 19 has now been uprooted.

 

Verse 11 seems to echo Job 16 and Job 13 more than any other verse in Job 19.  


        “God has kindled his wrath upon me; God considers me an adversary.”

 

Job had already said that God considered him an enemy (13:24), even though the word for enemy there is oyeb, instead of the tsar of 19:11. So arresting was Job’s double mention of God considering him an enemy that Elihu picked up on the same phrase in 33:10 when reviewing Job’s case against God. The concept of kindling wrath (verb is charah; noun is aph) will be used four times in the opening verses of Job 32 to describe the seething anger of Elihu as he has been listening to the fruitless discussion of the friends (32:2 (twice), 3, 5).  God will use the phrase to describe the divine feelings against Job’s friends in 42:7; no mention is made of the divine anger at Job. Yet Job no doubt feels in 19:11 that the divine anger has been unleashed on him.  

 

The final image of this section of Job 19 also is one of divine attack on Job.  

 

         “His troops together come upon me—they stop up my way; and they encamp

         around my tent” (Job 19:12).  

 

The little word that begins the verse, yachad, is the common word for “together.” Its most famous Biblical appearance is in Psalm 133, where the Psalmist sings of the joy of brethren dwelling together (yachad) in harmony.  Another, and contrary, kind of “togetherness” is in view here. Troops mass themselves, in ordered formation, and then descend on Job. The verb describing their actions is salal (12x), which means “to build up/pile up/cast up.” Job uses it in this sense in 30:12; the verb appears four times to describe a positive movement of building in Isaiah 57:14; 62:10. But here the only thing that is built up against Job is “their way,” most probably the highway that will give them easiest access to tear Job apart.  

 

We can’t help but stop in our tracks when reading the final three words of verse 12. The troops of God, ready to tear Job apart, “camp (chanah) round about (sabib) Job’s tent (ohel).” Who can’t hear more than a slight echo of Psalm 34 here? “The angel of the Lord encamps (verb is chanah) all around (sabib) those who fear God and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7). Yep, camping. Yep, around. But in Job 19 the troops of God are amassed to destroy Job. In this and many other sections of Job, we see how the Psalms provide a vocabulary of twisted or perverse comfort for Job because the Psalms give Job words whose basic meaning he can reverse in his mind. Yet, much as we wonder about Job’s rather imaginative (some might even say "ruthless") treatment of several Psalms, we might also begin to wonder why God will say twice in Job 42 that Job has spoken “right” about God. . .