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47. Job 5:17-27, Better Days are Ahead

 

17 “How happy is the one whom God reproves;

    therefore do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.

18 For he wounds, but he binds up;

    he strikes, but his hands heal.

19 He will deliver you from six troubles;

    in seven no harm shall touch you.

20 In famine he will redeem you from death,

    and in war from the power of the sword.

21 You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue,

    and shall not fear destruction when it comes.

22 At destruction and famine you shall laugh,

    and shall not fear the wild animals of the earth.

23 For you shall be in league with the stones of the field,

    and the wild animals shall be at peace with you.

24 You shall know that your tent is safe,

    you shall inspect your fold and miss nothing.

25 You shall know that your descendants will be many,

    and your offspring like the grass of the earth.

26 You shall come to your grave in ripe old age,

    as a shock of grain comes up to the threshing floor in its 
   season.                 

27 See, we have searched this out; it is true.

    Hear, and know it for yourself.”

 

Eliphaz concludes his speech with eleven verses that brim with optimism. It is a remarkably hopeful statement. But it isn’t just a pollyanna-ish statement based on nothing. Eliphaz concludes his speech with the definitive-sounding, “See, we have searched it out” (chaqar) and “it is true” (literally, “thus it is”, v 27). The verb for “searching” is one used in a legal context to describe thorough investigation of a crime scene (Deuteronomy 13:14) and is also used for the way that God examines human hearts (Psalm 139:1, 23; Jerermiah 17:10). It captures the thoroughness and diligence of the one doing the search. Eliphaz will give words of hope in this passage, but, according to him, these words of hope are tested and true. Job, therefore, ought to listen to him.  

 

Eliphaz returns to clear parallelism in this passage. Verse 17 sets the tone: “Lo, blessed/happy is the man whom God corrects; do not despise the discipline of the Lord.” The parallel ideas are “correction” (yakach) and “chastening/discipline” (musar). Neither of these, Eliphaz says, should Job “despise/reject” (maas).  Yakach (59x; a disproportionate 17x in Job) is a wide-ranging verb in Hebrew that can be translated “prove, reprove, correct, plead with, argue.” Job often uses the verb to describe what he will do with his case—to argue it (13:3; 23:7). It appears a stunning 4x in Job 13 when Job is in the process of putting together his legal case against God. But it also can mean the result of the arguing, i.e., one is “reproved” or “corrected.” In II Samuel 7:14, for example, God talks about how he will “correct” (yakach) the one on the throne if he commits iniquity. Its most fascinating usage is in Job 9:33, where Job laments that there is no umpire or, in the noble KJV language, “daysman,” to lay hands on both parties—God and Job— to calm things down. That “umpire” is “one correcting/judging” (yakach in participle form). In Job 5:17, it’s meaning is similar to its parallel word in the second part of the verse: musar.  

 

Musar (50x) is derived from the verb yasar (43x), a verb which comes from the area of instruction or discipline or, in quaint but still meaningful Victorian language, chastening.  More important for our purposes, the word musar is deeply embedded in Israel’s wisdom literature, appearing 30x in Proverbs. Proverbs is the quintessential book that argues for the centrality of discipline, correction and instruction in life. The word appears more times in the first eight verses of Proverbs (4x) than any other word. Proverbs is about “wisdom and instruction” (chakam/musar); one is to “receive instruction in wise behavior” (musar; sakal—another word for prudence).  Fools despise “wisdom and instruction” (chakam/musar), but the hearer is to give heed to the father’s “instruction” (musar).  

Eliphaz urges Job not to “despise” (maas) this correction or instruction.  The same idea is expressed in Proverbs 3:11, “My son, do not reject/despise (maas) the instruction (musar) of the Lord, nor detest/loath/abhor (the rather rare quts) his correction (towkechah, the noun form of yakach).” Though Eliphaz had taken some considerable detours from the tradition of Biblical wisdom in his previous words, he now safely returns to the fold.