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300. Job 30:14-16, Not Done Yet
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.
16 And now my soul is poured out within me;
Days of affliction have seized me.
My more literal rendering of verse 14 is similar to the NASB:
“Like a great breach, they come; under a storm/destruction/desolation they roll along."
The first phrase most likely means, “As one might go through a gap/breach,” with the crucial word (perets, “breach,”19x) immediately drawing us back to the devastating picture in Job 16. In that passage, Job faced what one might call the “triple-breach,” where God is the subject of the verb and we have: “He has broken me down/breached my defenses (verb form parats), with breach (perets) upon breach (perets, 16:14).” The picture in Job 16 is much more devastating and precise than that of Job 30:14.
In Job 16, we have the memorable picture of Job being completely ripped apart by the invading armies of God. Here, in contrast, we have a “great breach” (rachab), but the mockers/enemies merely “come” through it (atah, 21x/4x Job). Then, when we are ready for a second clause that might make this “coming” more vivid, the author merely says, “under a storm/devastation (sho, 12x), they roll along (galal, 18x).” The noun sho has a fairly limited range of meaning (“devastation, ruin, waste,” perhaps “storm”) and can be used, especially in the Psalms (35:8 (twice), 17) in the context of enemy attacks, but it isn’t the most frequent or memorable biblical word for “attack.” Job had just used it a few verses ago (30:3) when he began his great descent into unclarity, but there it seemed to describe the “waste” or “desolation” of the dry places, the new residence of the mockers.
And the verb “to roll along” (galal, here in the hithpael), is usually used for rolling stones in front of caves (Joshua 10:18) or away from wells (Genesis 29:10). It can be used metaphorically in connection with circumcision, where God is said to “roll away” the reproach of the people (Joshua 5:9). An attractive metaphorical use of the term is its repeated appearance in the Psalms to “roll your concerns (i.e., commit your way) before the Lord” (Psalm 22:8; 37:5) or Proverbs (16:3). So, we are taken aback by Job’s use of the term to suggest something about devastation or a storm being “rolled away.” One translation has it, similar to the one I present above, “Under the devastating storm they roll along,” as if that makes any sense. The point is that Job 30:14 is a weak echo of Job 16:14. We are not really drawn into Job’s struggle or pain.
But he continues for one more verse before another atah (“and now,” v 16). Verse 15 brings us back to the brink of eloquence:
“Terrors are turned/arrayed upon me; they pursue my nedibah (hapax, probably “honor”) as the wind; my salvation passes as a cloud.”
The relatively rare word for “terrors” (ballahah, 10x) is, figuratively speaking, “owned” by Job (5x). BIldad spoke about these ballalah overwhelming the unjust person on every side (18:11); so powerful and pervasive are these terrors that the unjust person is said to be brought before the King of Terrors (ballalah, 18:14). Job, speaking over Zophar, mockingly agreed, “Terrors (ballalah) overtake (the unrighteous person) like waters” (27:20).
But something more profound may be happening here by Job’s use of the term ballalah. Job is strong and confident enough to say that the thing his opponents characterized as being an accompaniment of unrighteousness is what is happening to him. For the opponents, this is more “proof” of Job’s unrighteousness. For Job, however, it is as if he is saying, ‘Though those ballalah come upon me, which you believe are signs of unrighteousness, I know I am blameless.’ Job is strong enough here to use the vocabulary of his opponents, apply it to himself, and still claim innocence.
These terrors “turn” (haphak, 94x/12x Job). Though not as explicit as the verb arak (“to line up/be arrayed”), I think in this context that the “turning” of the terrors is best rendered as “terrors are arrayed” or “terrors are” upon me. Haphak also appears later in the chapter (30:21) where it is best translated “become.” The things that Bildad and Zophar felt were indications of unrighteousness are now upon Job.
Job uses the vivid verb radaph (“pursue/persecute,” 144x) to describe not just the impersonal nature of the terrors but the personal nature of the enemies’ continual assault. Radaph appears four times in Job; in each case it is on Job’s lips and it describes how the friends (13:25; 19:22, 28) are after Job. Here they pursue his nedibah like the wind. Though it is a hapax, and the corresponding verb nadab means “to move/incite/impel,” all translators render nedibah here as “honor” or “soul” or “dignity” or something like that. As it stands in the verse, nedibah is in parallel construction with yeshua (“salvation/prosperity”) at the end of the verse, and so Job’s “honor” is a reasonable way to render nedibah. In fact, the tightness of the parallelism between clauses two and three is also evident in that that they both employ meteorological terms (wind/clouds).
The last phrase (“my salvation/welfare/prosperity has passed away (abar) like a cloud”) is reminiscent of one of the more abject of Job’s verses: 17:11. There the same common verb verb for “passing away” was used, but in that verse his days have passed away and his plans are broken off. By comparing 16:14 with 30:14 and 17:11 with 30:15 we can see how these verses in Job 30 are powerful but lack the gut-wrenching power of the earlier texts. Yet, still the image of Job’s yeshua (77x, from yasha, to save; hence salvation or prosperity) passing away like the cloud is powerful. But, upon further reflection, we recall that Job’s prosperity didn’t gradually fade like a cloud might dissipate. It disappeared all at once.