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59. Job 6:28-30, What Do You See When You Look At Me?

28 “But now, be pleased to look at me;
    for I will not lie to your face.
29 Turn, I pray, let no wrong be done.
    Turn now, my vindication is at stake.
30 Is there any wrong on my tongue?
    Cannot my taste discern calamity?


Though these three verses seem to constitute a mini-section, the thoughts and questions expressed here really continue into Job 7 as Job gradually turns from questioning his friends to questioning God. The transition from the 6:24-27 is marked by the first word of verse 28, atah, “but now/and now.”  In verse 24 Job asked his companions to “teach him.” Now he asks them to “look at him.” We go from focus on ideas (the idea of negligence) to a person (Job himself). It is almost as if I we can hear Job saying, ‘Look at me and make your case.’ Yet, even though he asks them to focus now on him, he will pose a question in verse 30 that was similar to the request in verse 24: “Is there injustice on my tongue?” (v 30) is similar to “Teach me how I have been negligent” (v 24). Yet verse 30 seems to change things a bit:  verse 24 asks them to show where Job has done wrong; here it asks them to show where he has spoken wrong. He is open to learning about whether his deeds or his words have been remiss. 


Verse 28 may be rendered, “But now, be pleased to face me. See if I lie to your face.” The second clause might also be translated, “I will surely not lie to your face.” Many readers of Job have pointed to the presence of im (“if”) both in verse 28 and verse 30 as indicating solemn oaths or affirmations. The full form might have been something like, “If I have done xxx, then let yyy happen to me.” So, the “if I lie to your face,” might be shorthand for “If I lie to your face, may xxx judgment come on me.”  

The emphasis in verses 28-29 is on faces (panah, v 28) and turning (shub, v 29). Job is asking his friends to “face” him, for he surely won’t lie to their “faces.” The word panah has already played a prominent role in Job in Chapters 1-2, where the Satan says that if God afflicts of Job, Job will curse God “to his face.”  Now Job wants his companions to tell him directly, to look at him when they are speaking, to tell him if there was injustice in his words. Job asks them to “be pleased” (yaal) to look at him. Though yaal only appears 19x in the Bible, we have already seen it in 6:9, where Job wants God to “be pleased” to crush him. God was not “pleased/willing” to crush Job immediately; one wonders if the friends would be “pleased/willing” to look at him.


The verb for lying is kazab (18x). Its meaning is almost always very clear: “God is not human, that he should lie” (kazab, Numbers 23:19). Or, in Psalm 89, “Once I have sworn in my holiness that I will not lie (kazab) to David” (Psalm 89:35). Interestingly, in Psalm 89:35 the grammatical construction is im (“oh that/if”), then the object of a preposition (“to David”) and then the verb “to lie” (kazab). The construction in Job 6:29 is very similar: the object of a preposition (“to your face) then im (“if/oh that”) and then the verb “to lie” (kazab). In both verses, we are in the same world of solemn oath-making. Job is solemnly affirming that he is not lying to them. He really does want someone to point out a fault he has unwittingly committed. Because of his extreme scrupulousness, he wants to take care of it. 


What will gradually dawn on Job, however, is that he has not committed some hidden fault, some species of negligence for which he can make appropriate sacrifice. As this reality dawns on him, his impatience turns to anger, then to grief and defiance.  Because his friends can’t provide an adequate explanation of how he has been negligent, he needs an explanation from the suspected source of his torment: God. Job will not abandon his quest for an answer. That is why he will gradually begin to look at his quest for an answer as the need to prepare a legal case, which he will not sign off on until the end of Job 31.  

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