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298. Job 30:12, Continuing in the Literary Darkness
Job continues his confusing words in verse 12, where the first two clauses are pretty opaque, while the third clause is clear. The NASB has:
12 “On the right hand their brood arises;
They thrust aside my feet and build up against me their ways of destruction.
My more literal reading of 30:12 is:
“Upon my right hand a pirchach (singular, hapax) stands up (plural); they push away my feet; and
they cast up against me paths of calamity.”
Ok, the mockers/opponents must definitely have returned from the dry or desert places, even though the pictures of them sticking their heads out from between bushes and popping out of holes in the dry waste places has a strange appeal. Now they are in Job’s vicinity and keep doing nasty things to him, though what they do in this verse is hard to discern. The first question is whether the hapax pirchach is the subject or object of the verb “stand up.” It would seem that it has to be the object, since it is singular in form and the verb is plural, but no one translates it that way.
So, if we look at it as the subject of “they stand up/arise”, we have to come up with a plausible meaning. The word is probably is derived from the verb parach (36x), a verb that first appears in Genesis 40:10, where it is translated “to bud” or “to blossom." It then describes leprosy or boils “breaking out” (Leviticus 13:12: Exodus 9:9, 10). We have a rather limited field of meaning for parach. So, what might the noun form, pirchach, mean? It must refer to some living thing that has “blossomed.” That kind of reasoning lies behind everyone’s translation of it as “mob” or “brood” or “tribe” or “outcasts” or “rabble.” All of these words are conjectures based primarily on the context—Job’s attacking the mockers. There are other ways to express the concept much more simply; he actually could have said, “Mockers rise up against me,” but I suppose that would be too easy. Job may be toying with us again, as he seems to do throughout the book.
So, we have something arising upon Job’s right. We naturally would think that then there would be others rising on his left. Readers tend to “finish” sentences for authors, and readers have to go very slowly if their expectations aren’t met. In fact, if readers’ expectations about flow of words aren’t met for very long periods, then they put down the book and find something else to do. Returning to the text: the next thing that “they” do, whether they are a brood or tribe or whatever these mockers are is, literally, “they send out my feet.” The common verb shalach (more than 800 appearances) is the basic verb for “sending” in Biblical Hebrew. So what could it possibly mean to “send” my feet? Clines believes it is like sending out feet to trip Job. Others render it consistently with this as “send me sprawling.” Others, though have it as “thrust aside” or “push away” my feet.
We don’t know how to translate shalach here because we have no idea what Job is saying. Are these pirchah lying in wait for Job to push him/trip him so that he falls? All kinds of worthless pictures fill our minds as we imagine how this might happen. Maybe they would have transplanted some of the bushes in between which their heads popped up in the deserts so that they can pop up from between them here and surprise Job, then trip him. I can just imagine them standing over Job, gloating, shaking their fingers, and saying, ‘Never trust people who pop up from between bushes.’ This is a completely useless way to spend a morning, imagining these scenarios. Or, if it isn’t pushing him to the ground, maybe it just means to “thrust aside” his feet. But we assume that the rest of Job’s body is attached to his feet, and that thus this is shorthand for some kind of rejection that Job faces. But is it physical? If so, where do they push his feet? Delightful obscurity surrounds us.
Well, now that we are back in our familiar territory of confusion, let’s continue. Finally this nameless/shapeless ‘brood’ or ‘tribe’ or whoever (we think it is still the mockers or their heirs) salal ways/paths of destruction. Salal only appears 12x in the Bible, and carries with it the general sense of piling up (Jeremiah 50:26) or building up (Jeremiah 18:15) or exalting (Proverbs 4:8). Several of its appearances are with words like “way” or “highway,” and those are probably the closest parallels to its usage in 30:12. Thus, a reasonable translation is that they “build up ways of destruction,”—i.e., it is sort of like they are in the construction business and their business is to construct these highways of terror. We don’t know what that means, but it suggests the further subverting of Job’s ways. Clines has them building up siege ramps against Job, as if they are planning an assault against him. He provides good grounds for this suggestion, since the same verb is used in that way in Job 19:12. Thus, this verse may be struggling to say that the mockers/enemies/brood/whoever make Job the target of their attack. Job 19:12 said it much better and clearer.
One wonders sometimes whether some of the confusion in Job is simply because the author is obliquely referring to other texts. There is only one other Biblical passage that puts shalach and salal in close proximity—Exodus 4:9, “And yet you exalt yourself (salal) against my people in that you will not send them out (shalach).” The author of this passage in Job has reversed the order of the verbs from Exodus 4:9. Maybe he is just engaged in mental escape, linking the thought weakly to Job 19:12, and putting together two verbs that only exist together in Exodus 4:9. No meaning necessarily. . .