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304. Job 30:22-23, Job’s Riding on the Wind and Hopeless End

22 “You lift me up to the wind and cause me to ride;
And You dissolve me in a storm.
23 For I know that You will bring me to death
And to the house of meeting for all living.

 

The first clause of verse 22 reads:

 

    “You lift me up (nasa) to the wind (ruach) and make me ride (rakab) upon it.”  

 

Verse 22 uses familiar language and imagery of lifting up and riding upon the wind. God is the one who rides on the wind in the Bible. For example, Psalm 18:10 tells us that God “rode (rakab) upon a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind (ruach).” But here Job does so. But before he rides he is “lifted up” (nasa). So many things are “lifted up” (nasa) in the Bible, from one’s eyes (Genesis 13:14; 18:2) to a voice (Genesis 21:16) to a person (Genesis 21:18). When sin is forgiven, it frequently is said to be “lifted up” (nasa). Here, in Job 30:22, however, we have God lifting Job up and making him ride on the wind.

 

The unusual picture of Job’s riding on the wind is reminiscent of two verses in Psalms, the first of which (104:3) is where God is described as laying the beams of the divine chamber on the waters and then, “making the clouds as his chariot (rakub, from the same word as the “ride” in Job 30:22), who walks on the wings of the wind” (ruach, same word as in Job 30:22).  

 

But rather than a dramatic walk on the winds, enjoyed by the God who created and sustains the world, Job’s lifting up to ride the wind will be the prelude to his death. Or, in the language of another Psalm (102:10), 

 

    “Because of your indignation and your wrath—you have lifted me up (nasa, same verb as in

    Job 30:22) and thrown me away (the common shalak).”

 

Clines tries to capture the sinister flavor of Job’s riding on the winds in 30:22 by translating nasa as “snatch.” God hasn’t merely “lifted” Job up but has “snatched him up.” Rather than dashing Job immediately to the ground, we have the interesting, and difficult to translate, phrase, 

 

    “You dissolve (mug) my substance (teshua/tushiyyah).”

 

The biblical tradition itself didn’t know what to make of the last word. Clines says that it is far more reasonable to take the word (which differs in the Qere (spoken) and Kethib (written) of the text) as derived from teshuah, which would mean a “shouting” or “noise,” presumably the noise of a storm. Thus he renders it, “You dissolve me with a downpour.” But the older translations do two things with the noun. Some say, following the BDB, that it is derived from shavah and means “substance,” while others say that it is derived from tushiyyah, which means “sound wisdom” or “success.” The last word, tushiyyah appears 11x in the Bible, but five of the them are from Job; thus it would be reasonable to see the last word here also as tushiyyah. The translation then would be, “You dissolve my wisdom/success.” It is a clear and perhaps correct thought, though the word remains a mystery.


More interesting from this part of verse 22 is the verb mug (17x), which usually carries with it the notion of melting away (Isaiah 14:31; Ezekiel 21:15) or making fainthearted (Jeremiah 49:23) or softening (Psalm 65:10) something. The drama of the verb mug is captured by the Psalmist: God utters the divine voice, and the earth melts (mug, Psalm 46:5). Rather than being rapt by the picture of God’s dramatic melting of the earth, incinerating it in the furnace of the divine power, Job is now a victim of that same activity of God. Readers of the Psalms cheer God on as one after another of the divine enemies “melts” before God; Job, on the other hand, is on the receiving end of that melting activity. God “melts” him, though we don’t know whether what is melted is his success or his substance. How the dramatic language of the Psalms is turned on its head by Job!

 

Verse 23 then brings us to the logical conclusion of all of this:

 

    “For I know that you will make me return to death—the house appointed for all living beings.”

 

Earlier in Job we saw the force of the verb “I know” (the common yada), when Job said, “I know that my redeemer lives” (19:25) or when he confidently asserted, regarding his legal case, “I know that I shall be vindicated” (13:18). Here we have yet another thing that Job (thinks he) knows. God will “make him return” (the causative of the common verb shub) to death. Unlike Job 18:14, where Bildad confidently asserted that the unjust person will be marched off to the “king of terrors,” here Death isn’t given a more specific name. It is just “death,” or perhaps “Death.”   

 

Rather, though, then ending the verse with that chilling statement, Job further defines that location as “the house appointed for all living beings.” An irony, of course, runs through the phrase because Job speaks of “death” as the place of every “living” thing. It is also called, unusually, the “house appointed,”where the latter word (moed) most often appears in the Hebrew Bible as the second word in the phrase ohel moed, the “tent of meeting.” Thus, some have tended to see Job’s language here as a play on that sacred institution of the Hebrew people. God will lead Job to an underground “tend of meeting,” though called the “house of meeting.” It is where all the living beings go but, in fact, they are all dead.