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288. Job 29:25


Verse 25, the final verse of the chapter, continues the confusion.  Literally, it says,


    “I chose their way and I sat as head and I dwelled as a king with his troops, as one who comforts

    those who mourn.”


The images seem to come not simply from left field but from well into foul territory. Is the verb “choose” (bachar, 152x, almost always “choose”) now taking on an unfamiliar meaning, as Clines suggest, such as “decided?” The meaning would then be that Job, as judge has “decided their case” when it literally says he has “chosen their way.” That is a problem because nowhere else in Scripture does one choose a path for another person. The Scriptures are quite clear that responsibility for one’s path is one’s own, subject to guidance one receives from trusted sources. 

Then, we have the problem of what a head (rosh) is, though it probably is to be seen here in a political context and may be the same as the “king” which follows. The “king” appears unexpectedly because Job has previously never connected himself with royalty, much less the experience of kings who go out with the troops in battle. But the importance of the point is not necessarily that the king is with the troops in battle, but in this case Job is like a king who comforts those troops who seem to be mourning in battle.

But the image doesn’t really work. It seems that it would have been much more effective had Job said that he comforted the afflicted or something like that, but he chooses the venue of military encounter to introduce concepts of comforting. We may understand the role of a king with the troops as encouraging to battle or assessing troop strength or developing strategy, but not as frequently do we read that soldiers spend their time mourning or that the king spends much time comforting the mourning troops. If we wanted to “go with” this image, we have to ask ourselves why people are mourning and how the comfort supposedly delivered by a king in the heat of death-threatening battle somehow relates to Job’s rendering judgment. Perhaps we are meant to read this verse as indicating the strength of Job’s comfort and people’s need for it. It would be as timely and as needed as regal comfort in the middle of battle. Perhaps, in the end, we should just read this analogy as trying to tell us of Job’s efforts to comfort litigants who came before him.

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