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194. Job 19:13-22, So Repulsive! An Introduction

 

This section may further be divided as follows:

 

19:13-15, Repulsive to Those Far and Near

19:16-20, Repulsive to Those Low and High

19:21-22, Have Pity on Me, a Repulsive Person

 

13 “He has removed my brothers far from me,

   And my acquaintances are completely estranged from me.

14 My relatives have failed,

   And my intimate friends have forgotten me.

15 Those who live in my house and my maids consider me a stranger.

   I am a foreigner in their sight.

16 I call to my servant, but he does not answer;

   I have to implore him with my mouth.

17 My breath is offensive to my wife,

   And I am loathsome to my own brothers.

18 Even young children despise me;

   I rise up and they speak against me.

19 All my associates abhor me,

   And those I love have turned against me.

20 My bone clings to my skin and my flesh,

   And I have escaped onlyby the skin of my teeth.

21 Pity me, pity me, O you my friends,

   For the hand of God has struck me.

22 Why do you persecute me as God does,

   And are not satisfied with my flesh?


This remarkable section takes us far beyond anything we have yet seen in Job. We have already seen many instances of Job’s finding fault with his friends or with God, but what is unusual here is the extent to which Job feels his suffering has distanced himself from every important human relationship. If Eliphaz is noteworthy for coming up with five terms for “lion” in 4:10-11 and Bildad one-upped him by six terms for “net/trap” in 18:8-10, Job has outdone both here by his giving us about nine or ten words for various human relationships, all of which have come crashing down around Job. Yet, just as we don’t know the differences between various kinds of traps in 18:8-10, so it isn’t clear whether his “acquaintances” of verse 13 are different from his “familiar friends” of verse 14 or his “associates” of verse 19 or who, in fact, they all are. We also don’t know how we are to understand certain terms, such as the “children of my beten” in verse 17, where beten normally means “womb” or “belly.” Notwithstanding our inability often to identify exactly to whom Job is pointing here, we have the overwhelming sense that we are looking at a person who feels bereft of all intimate or meaningful human contact. Yet, rather than permitting this experience to plunge him deeper into a Job 17-like funk or the wistful longing of Job 14, Job uses the last ounce of his energy in Job 19 to forge a new path of faith (19:23-27), one that has echoed through the corridors of time and still grips us today.  But before we can get there, we need  to explore Job's isolation from all human comforts.