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26. Job 3:6-7, Moving to the Night
Having dispatched with the day, and with its desired transformation into various forms of darkness, he turns to the night. We might translate 3:6 as, “That night, let darkness (ophel) seize/take it. Let it not be one of the days of the year. Let it not come into the number of the months.” Matching the rhythm of 3:4 are three four-word phrases of verse 6. There is some debate over the meaning of yachad in the second phrase—it is either rendered, “let it not rejoice (from the verb chadah) among the days of the year” or, with slightly different pointing of the Hebrew vowels, “let it not be one (from yachad, to be united) of the days of the year.” I chose the “numbering” approach in order to keep a parallelism in the verse, though the concept of rejoicing is explored in verse 7. So, if we were to maintain a parallel structure of verse 6, yachad ought to implicate the concept of number; if we wanted to look at verses 6-7 as having a chiastic structure, then “rejoice” might fit the meaning of yachad better.
More interesting is the opening clause, where Job wants “darkness” to seize that night. You would think that darkness is already characteristic of a night, but here the desire is for ophel, the fourth term for “darkness,” to “seize” or “take” the night. Ophel is a rare term, only appearing 9x in the Bible, though six of these nine are in Job. Job is the master of darkness. Though Job explores the depths of darkness here, his most profound reflection on it is in 10:20-22:
20 Are not the days of my life few?
Let me alone, that I may find a little comfort
21 before I go, never to return,
to the land of gloom and deep darkness (choshek, tsalmaveth)
22 the land of gloom and chaos, (ephah, ophel)
where light is like darkness.” (ophel).
Never before or since in the Bible (with the possible exception of Psalm 88) has the thought of darkness provided so much comfort.
We are so taken by the way that Job wants darkness to pummel and envelop his day that we almost ignore a common little verb that closes both verses 6 and 7, bo. It means “to come” and it appears in the Qal imperfect (continuous present/future) in both verses. Thus, he doesn’t want “his day” to be numbered in the days of the year nor “ever come” into the numbers of the months. In verse 7, he doesn’t want any rejoicing to “continually come” into it. Let’s silence the sound of rejoicing; let’s not count the months anymore. That is the sense of Job. Because darkness will envelop the earth, there will be no marking of the passage of time. Darkness, ophel, will be the friend enabling that to happen.
He continues on the theme of night by using nine words in verse 7, though they are divided into two clauses rather than like the three clauses containing nine words in verse 5. “Let that day be galmud; let no rejoicing come into it anymore.” I deliberately avoided translating galmud, usually rendered as “desolate” or “solitary” or “barren” or “destitute,” because I think the meaning is more in the sound than in any possible definition of the term. Verse 5 began with a desire for “redemption” through the word gaal; Job now ends his words on the night with galmud. He has already said enough about wanting the night to disappear; he needs to clarify no more concepts about the night. Just let it be galmud. It’s all darkness anyway.
His final thought is that there be no “rejoicing” in it. Though the noun for rejoicing or ringing cry (renanah) only appears 4x in the Bible, its corresponding verb, ranan (54x) is one of the panoply of Hebrew terms for “sing for joy.” ‘Let me have none of that,’ Job says. Darkness, desolation, deep darkness, galmud—those will be his reality.