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299. Job 30:13-15, Job’s Calamity Continues
13 “They break up my path,
They profit from my destruction;
No one restrains them.
14 As through a wide breach they come,
Amid the tempest they roll on.
15 Terrors are turned against me;
They pursue my honor as the wind,
And my prosperity has passed away like a cloud.
Job continues with the thought of paths or ways (the word is orach in 30:12) that are being besieged in verse 13. But now the ways are called natib (26x total, 6x in Proverbs/7x in Job), the typical wisdom tradition word for “path.” Now the opponents nathas his path, which all take to mean “tear down” or “break down” Job’s path. The hapax nathas was no doubt chosen in verse 13 to give a pleasant euphony to this unpleasant situation (nathas natib). Nathas is obviously related to/derived from the more common verb for tearing down, nathats (42x). Job 4:10 also has a related verb, another hapax, natha, where teeth of young lion are broken out, ripped up, etc.
One supposes it doesn’t make much difference whether paths are stopped up or ripped up or broken down or torn up; the concept in verse 13 is that Job’s ways/paths are being destroyed or besieged by these persistent mockers. But just as slight clarity is coming into our ken, darkness descends once again. The next phrase is most likely “they gain profit (yaal 23x) to/for my calamity/destruction (havvah, 15x).” I think the meaning must be that they gain profit from Job’s calamity; it would be nice if the text actually said that. . . But what it means is actually anyone’s guess. How can they gain profit from Job’s calamity? Do they steal what is left of his? Do they get some of his business? If they are mockers, why would anyone want to do business with them, unless there is a sizable “anti-Job” faction in the town which eagerly wants to do business with these mockers? Perhaps recognizing that going down this translation road, though it is probably the best translation, leads us nowhere, Clines has simply rendered the clause “they succeed in bringing me down.”
We have Job mumbling at his best in verse 13, and we still have one clause to go: “And no helper for him.” Seems straightforward enough, even though it isn’t clear why Job would be talking about a helper for “him” when Job’s own condition is at issue. Trying to save the text and bring meaning, some versions translate this last phrase as “against whom there is no helper,” suggesting that the siege against Job is so powerful that he is overwhelmed. Other versions render the last clause as referring to these bad guys, “even men that have no helper,” as if Job is pointing out their pathetic character. But, as we see, the meaning of the verse changes completely based on how one takes a preposition. Since so little is at stake here, I will just chalk it up to Job’s deliberate strategy of obfuscation, a strategy employed so that even very smart interpreters will feel some of the pain that is Job’s ever-present companion. Job will give us enough clarity so that we all confess that his book is one of the great classics of world literature, but he will quickly close that door in order completely to take away our confidence in interpreting much of his work.
Verses 12-13 emphasized the paths (orach) of destruction or Job’s path (netib) that was being broken up. Now in verse 14 the image changes to one of siege, perhaps picking up on the siege-like terminology of the verb salal in verse 11. Though Job is re-entering the arena of somewhat lucid speech here, and covering similar ground to Job 16 and 19, the images here don’t have the power of those in previous chapters. There are just too many problematic phrases that make us pause and wonder what he is saying. We sometimes are even tempted to join in as a member of the chorus of mockers.