(to return to Table of Contents, click here)
202. Job 19:27
27 Whom I myself shall behold,
And whom my eyes will see and not another.
My heart faints within me!
As we move to verse 27, we should pause for a moment to realize where we are. Job is finalizing his preparation for his case against God, a case that has been brewing for several chapters. The dramatic entrance of the Redeemer who stands up for him in verse 25 is the most significant development in his case. Once Job is confident of the Redeemer who stands for him, he shifts his field of vision to what we have seen in verse 26.
Verbs for “seeing” appear three times in verses 26-27. Job thus must have seen or be about to see something dramatic in these verses, something that leaves him overwhelmed and does nt permit him to express his thoughts clearly. It is not that he is no longer confident in his case; it is as if he has already won and is anticipating the glorious or overwhelming or mystifying or destabilizing vision of God.
But this vision, however clear it might have been in Job’s mind, is expressed in words that leave us confused. It will be “afterwards” (achar/acharon) that this will happen. We want to know more, but Job doesn’t tell us more, and our guesses show how desperate we are to figure this out. It will be after his “skin has been cut off/surrounded,” and we don’t know what that means, though it likely has to do with destroying the flesh—though he could have used about five ways to say that more simply. We don’t know if he is distinguishing between his skin and his flesh. We don’t know if the mibsariy in verse 26 is to be rendered “without my flesh” (i.e., it has been shucked off—and therefore is the same thing as the skin) or “from my flesh (i.e., with only my flesh remaining, making his flesh different from his skin). All we really know from verse 26 is that Job will “see” God.
That this is not insignificant is reinforced by the double appearance of “see” in verse 27, through with two different verbs (chazah, raah). And, ultimately, “seeing” is crucial in the resolution of the entire Book of Job (42:5, raah). So, Job will see God. I have interpreted the verbal confusion of verse 26, which will continue into verse 27, as driven by Job’s overwhelming anticipation of the vision of God. It is like an audience with royalty for a medieval peasant. Words would fail; the heart would be vanquished.
But now we are ready to read verse 27. Job will see God. . .
“Whom I will see, really I will, and my eyes will see and no longer (be) a stranger. My kidneys collapse within me.”
I have tried to emphasize in my translation two curious verbal features of the verse. First is the repeated reference to “me” in the first half. We have the emphatic first person pronoun (“I myself”), the first person singular of the verb “to see” (which means that the pronoun isn’t needed to express meaning) and the prepositional phrase “to me” which follows right after the verb. Four words, and three are about “me/I.” Then, we have a most pleasant alliteration at the end of the verse, which I have tried to capture in “kidneys collapse” (though most traditional translations have “My heart faints”).
Job wants us to understand that he himself will see God. It isn’t just the wild hope in verse 26, but is now a most sober, considered thought in verse 27. Job will, in fact, see God. He doesn’t seem afraid; he doesn’t intone the verse “no one shall see God and live.” He just knows, in the marrow of his being, that he will see God. We don’t know if this means he will be gloating over God as God admits defeat in the lawsuit, or that the lawsuit will melt away, incinerated in the divine heat, or that Job will just sit in contemplative amazement now that his case is actually being heard. In that case it might be like the experience that some attorneys have of arguing before the US Supreme Court for the first time. Even the setting is unsettling.
Job tells us almost nothing which we really want to know. All we know is that his case is ready for argument, that he is confident of victory because of the Redeemer who stands, and that he will see God (three times “see”).
But two other clauses in verse 27 catch our attention. First is the phrase translated by most as “and not another” or “my eyes shall behold, and not another.” In the way it is rendered in English, it either makes no sense or it might suggest that Job is confident he is looking at God and not at another entity. But the language is the language of “strangers," not of “another.” I emphasize the “stranger” (zur, 77x) because this is the fourth time in the chapter that zur appears, an exceedingly rare phenomenon in Scripture (elsewhere only Proverbs 5 has zur 4 times). Its three previous appearances in Job 19 expressed Job’s marginalization. Job’s intimate acquaintances were estranged from him (v 13); his servants considered him a stranger (v 15). Even his wife found his breath or his entire being strange/offensive (v 17). Now, finally, Job’s estrangement is lifted. Like the triumphant expression in Ephesians 2:19, where the people of God are declared “no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens of the saints and member’s of God’s household. . .” so Job will no longer be a stranger. His vision of God will remove his previous estrangement from all sources of meaning and pleasure in life.
It is because of this, his no longer being a stranger, as much as the prospect of seeing God, that his “kidneys collapse.” Hear the Hebrew: kalu kilyotay. The meaning is in the sound as well as the denotation of the words, but the sounds ring in our ears. Kalu kilyotay. His “kidneys collapse” in his “breast/chest/bosom” (cheq, 37x). It might have been too much to hope for another word beginning with "k" for “breast." Ch is the best the language can do.