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66. Job 7:11-16, Nothing to Lose!

 

11 “Therefore I will not restrain my mouth;

    I will speak in the anguish of my spirit;

    I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.

12 Am I the Sea, or the Dragon,

    that you set a guard over me?

13 When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me,

    my couch will ease my complaint,’

14 then you scare me with dreams

    and terrify me with visions,

15 so that I would choose strangling

    and death rather than this body.

16 I loathe my life; I would not live forever.

    Let me alone, for my days are a breath.

 

Job finally musters the courage to address God directly. We aren’t brought into his mental process, and perhaps interior conflict, as he decides to approach God. Later we will see the terror that stalked him in approaching God both because of God’s inaccessibility and God’s ability to take Job’s words and turn them to Job’s disadvantage. But here all we have is a seemingly bold speaker who realizes that since he is on the way to death, he has nothing to lose if he vents his emotions to God. His speech for the rest of the chapter (vv 11-21) begins in mockery, journeys into incomprehension, and then ends with his desire to be left alone. 

 

The tone of 7:11-21 is psychologically perceptive. Job has just unloaded on his friends in Job 6. This obviously took something out of him emotionally, and in 7:1-10 he retreats into himself, longing for death that is all but certain. But Job isn't a man who simply stays in the depths of inner despair. He is too much of a fighter to nurse his wounds endlessly. He has the profound sense of having been unjustly treated, and this sense will eventually mature into a full-fledged legal case against God. In his current condition, however, he really has nothing to lose. What more, really, can God do to him? 7:11-21 is his first opportunity where he expresses some of his deep-seated feelings against God.

 

We immediately pick up on the tonal contrast with verses 1-10 in verse 11, “Therefore, I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit. I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” Job adds two more words to his vocabulary of distress. We have already seen rogez, evel, and amal on his lips; now in verse 11 we get tsar (“anguish”) and mar (“bitterness”). The growing vocabulary of loss seemingly mirrors the growing vocabulary of purity that the narrator, Job himself and Job’s companions use to describe Job or what Job seems to claim about himself.Thus, the more we pick up new words for purity or uprightness or blamelessness, the more we get new words for anguish and bitterness. You wonder if the two ideas are related. 

 

Job won’t “withhold” or “restrain” his mouth. The two leading verbs to describe a sense of constriction/restriction in the Bible are chasak (used here in 7:11; 27x in Bible and 7x in Job) and atsar (46x; 3x in Job). The most memorable appearances of chasak are in Genesis 22:12, 16, where God commends Abraham for not “withholding” (chasak) his son from God. Job himself uses the word again in 30:10, in the sad passage where he talks about people who now, because of his humiliation, don’t “withhold” themselves from spitting at him. Job won’t hold himself back anymore. But now his target will be God.  

 

The pleasant rhyme of tsar/mar cannot conceal the unpleasant reality they represent. Several words with the m-r root, all referring to bitterness, appear in the Bible, but mar appears 41x, 4x in Job. He had already talked about life for the “bitter of soul” in 3:20. Now he complains about his own bitterness. Later he will speak about the Almighty, who has “embittered” (marar) his soul (27:2). Three times the word merorah (bitter/venomous) appears, once in Job’s mouth (13:26) and twice in Zophar’s most angry speech (20:14, 25). Job uses almost identical terminology to 7:11 in 10:1, “I will speak in the bitterness (mar) of my soul.” If we look at bitterness as “disappointment at being treated unfairly” or “resentment,” we see its appropriateness here. He suffers great anguish; he complains resentfully. The word tsar isn’t a favorite one of Job (8x out of the 111 appearances in the Bible). When Job uses it elsewhere, he uses it to refer to his “enemy” (16:9; 19:11).  

 

The verb for “complain” (siach) only appears 21x, but only means “complain” in a few instances.  Normally it may be rendered “meditate” or “speak.” At first one might wonder if there is any connection between the the concepts of meditation and complaint, but the idea of meditation in the Hebrew Bible is also captured by the verb hagah (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1), which carries with it the notion of muttering, or moaning, as well as meditating. Thus, we see meditation not as a noiseless process but one of “muttering” the subject of the meditation, either a law or a prayer.  Siach thus is a kind of “muttering” that can be expressed either in what we might call meditation or complaint. The word appears10x in Psalm 119, where the Psalmist “meditates” on the wonders of the laws of God (e.g., 119:27, 48).  Job’ will not be “meditating” in the anguish of his spirit; he will utter a complaint.