Job 24

 

Job continues his musing from the previous chapter.  I’ve found this chapter, perhaps more than any other in the book of Job so far, to be badly mistranslated and misinterpreted, with many variations in translation among the popular bibles.  The Hebrew is often abstruse.  I will present my remarks as we go along.

מַדּוּעַ מִשַּׁדַּי לֹא־נִצְפְּנוּ עִתִּים (וְיֹדְעֹו) [וְיֹדְעָיו] לֹא־חָזוּ יָמָיו׃   24:1

Job 24:1   Why are times not hidden from the Almighty,

                             that one may know his days are not seen?

We immediately encounter two problems in this first verse.  To start with, the second line of this couplet seems to have been misunderstood by every translator I’ve reviewed.  Although there are several variations, all the popular bibles have for this verse something similar to the following:  “Why have times not been hidden from the Mighty One, and those knowing Him have not seen His days.”  This translation makes the word in the parentheses an error (which it is not), it adds the words not and Him in the second line which are absent from the Hebrew, and it misinterprets the pronoun His as referring to God..  I’m quite certain that my translation is accurate to the word and letter of the verse.  No words are added, none is ignored, and every word is translated as precisely as possible.  Job is asking here (as preface to his answer in the following verses) why our times [on the earth] are not hidden from God, so that we may be comfortable that He doesn’t see our actions.  The popular translations make little sense.  Why should times be hidden from God and no person, even those who know Him, would know when would be His days [of judgment]?  Does what I’m saying seem clear?  For me, there is a disconnect between the two lines of the popular translation; or else they must be assumed to be two separate questions having nothing in common other than they each preface the answer that follows.  More than that:  What do the words those knowing Him mean?  This translation justifies the word in the brackets, which is plural.  I see that the word in the parentheses, which is singular, is proper and appropriate.

גְּבֻלוֹת יַשִּׂיגוּ עֵדֶר גָּזְלוּ וַיִּרְעוּ׃   24:2

Job 24:2   They would overrun boundaries;

                             they violently remove a flock so they could be shepherds.

This verse has almost as many translations as the number of popular bibles.  One of the more common translations (although there is no majority) is similar to the following:  “There are people who remove the landmarks. They violently take away flocks, and feed them.”  First of all, my translation of the second word as They would overrun is more accurate than people who remove.  Then the last word, which I translate as so they could be shepherds, can also be translated as and they feed, as in the quoted translation.  But why would robbers steal a flock so they could feed it?  My translation makes far more sense.  It says evil people steal a flock rather than work for it or buy it, so they could have a readymade occupation, even if ill gotten.

חֲמוֹר יְתוֹמִים יִנְהָגוּ יַחְבְּלוּ שׁוֹר אַלְמָנָה׃   24:3

Job 24:3   They would drive away the ass of orphans,

                             take the ox of a widow for a pledge,

יַטּוּ אֶבְיוֹנִים מִדָּרֶךְ יַחַד חֻבְּאוּ עֲנִיֵּי־אָרֶץ׃   24:4

Job 24:4   turn away the needy from the way.

                             The poor of the earth hide all together.

הֵן פְּרָאִים בַּמִּדְבָּר יָצְאוּ בְּפָעֳלָם מְשַׁחֲרֵי לַטָּרֶף עֲרָבָה לוֹ לֶחֶם לַנְּעָרִים׃   24:5

Job 24:5   Behold wild asses in the wilderness!

                             They will go forth in their work,

                    hunting for food.

                             Its desert is bread for the young.

The majority translation of this passage is something like “Like wild donkeys in the desert, the poor go about their labor of foraging food; the wasteland provides food for their children.”  This translation is the result of adding words to the verse and interpreting it inaccurately.  In my translation, this verse is about wild asses in the wilderness, not about the poor.  It is a statement about how wild animals search for food to feed themselves and their offspring.  It contrasts the dishonest behavior of the wicked with the honest and innocent activity of animals.  A major problem with the popular translation is that the word for Like is not in the Hebrew.  Adding it changes the thrust of the verse.  In essence, this verse creates a break from vss. 2 to 5, which describe the wicked, and the next three verses, which describe the overworked poor.  Incidentally, the pronoun its in the phrase its desert refers to the wilderness as its antecedent.

בַּשָּׂדֶה בְּלִילֹו (יַקְצִירוּ) [יִקְצֹורוּ] וְכֶרֶם רָשָׁע יְלַקֵּשׁוּ׃   24:6

Job 24:6   They will harvest its fodder in the field.

                             They will strip even the vineyard of a wicked one.

Now Job is referring to the hardworking underpaid poor, who are exploited by the wicked.  This verse is also understood to have an error, the word in the parentheses.  The claim is that the yad should be a vav as in the brackets.  I believe the word in the parentheses is not an error, but by saying so, I may again be showing my ignorance of the subtle intricacies of biblical Hebrew spelling.

עָרוֹם יָלִינוּ מִבְּלִי לְבוּשׁ וְאֵין כְּסוּת בַּקָּרָה׃   24:7

Job 24:7   They will pass the night bare without garment,

                             that there is no covering in the cold.

מִזֶּרֶם הָרִים יִרְטָבוּ וּמִבְּלִי מַחְסֶה חִבְּקוּ־צוּר׃   24:8

Job 24:8   They will be wet from the showers of the mountains,

                             and without shelter, they hug the rock.

יִגְזְלוּ מִשֹּׁד יָתוֹם וְעַל־עָנִי יַחְבֹּלוּ׃   24:9

Job 24:9   They would tear away one who is fatherless from the breast,

                             and hold a pledge by a poor one;

Now Job’s musing is back on the wicked.

עָרוֹם הִלְּכוּ בְּלִי לְבוּשׁ וּרְעֵבִים נָשְׂאוּ עֹמֶר׃   24:10

Job 24:10   they go away naked without clothing,

                             and being hungry, carry a sheaf.

Back to the poor again.

בֵּין־שׁוּרֹתָם יַצְהִירוּ יְקָבִים דָּרְכוּ וַיִּצְמָאוּ׃   24:11

Job 24:11   Among their ranks they make oil;

                             they tread the winepresses, yet they are thirsty.

מֵעִיר מְתִים יִנְאָקוּ וְנֶפֶשׁ־חֲלָלִים תְּשַׁוֵּעַ וֶאֱלוֹהַּ לֹא־יָשִׂים תִּפְלָה׃   24:12

Job 24:12   Men from the city may groan,

                             and the soul of the wounded may cry out,

                      but God would not appoint to be improper.

הֵמָּה הָיוּ בְּמֹרְדֵי־אוֹר לֹא־הִכִּירוּ דְרָכָיו וְלֹא יָשְׁבוּ בִּנְתִיבֹתָיו׃   24:13

Job 24:13   They are with those against the light.

                             They do not recognize His ways,

                      and will not remain on His pathways.

And back to the wicked once more.

לָאוֹר יָקוּם רוֹצֵחַ יִקְטָל־עָנִי וְאֶבְיוֹן וּבַלַּיְלָה יְהִי כַגַּנָּב׃   24:14

Job 24:14   Toward the light a murderer would rise,

                             he would slay one poor and needy,

                       then in the night would be like a thief.

I suspect that the phrase toward the light means just before the dawn.

וְעֵין נֹאֵף שָׁמְרָה נֶשֶׁף לֵאמֹר לֹא־תְשׁוּרֵנִי עָיִן וְסֵתֶר פָּנִים יָשִׂים׃   24:15

Job 24:15   And the eye of the adulterer waits for twilight,

                             saying, ‘No eye will observe me,’

                      yet he will make a hidden face.

חָתַר בַּחֹשֶׁךְ בָּתִּים יוֹמָם חִתְּמוּ־לָמוֹ לֹא־יָדְעוּ אוֹר׃   24:16

Job 24:16   He invades houses in the night;

                             by day they seal oneself up;

                       they do not know light.

כִּי יַחְדָּו בֹּקֶר לָמוֹ צַלְמָוֶת כִּי־יַכִּיר בַּלְהוֹת צַלְמָוֶת׃   24:17

Job 24:17   For all alike morning light is the shadow of death to one,

                             because he would know the terrors of the shadow of death.

קַל־הוּא עַל־פְּנֵי־מַיִם תְּקֻלַּל חֶלְקָתָם בָּאָרֶץ לֹא־יִפְנֶה דֶּרֶךְ כְּרָמִים׃   24:18

Job 24:18   One is swift over the surface of the waters.

                             Their portion on the earth must be cursed.

                      One would not turn toward the way of vineyards.

Now here’s a really difficult passage.  If this refers to the wicked, it probably is not Job’s thought.  As far as we know so far, he would not agree that the portion of the wicked is cursed.  He has said that the wicked are treated no differently than the upright.  So whose musing is this?  Is Job echoing the words of the friends?  That seems to be what most sages and scholars believe.  And I believe it is so.  In fact, Job continues with this echo for the next few verses until v. 24.  By the way, in many bibles, the words You say are added at the beginning of their translations of this verse.

צִיָּה גַם־חֹם יִגְזְלוּ מֵימֵי־שֶׁלֶג שְׁאוֹל חָטָאוּ׃   24:19

Job 24:19   Drought, also heat, will rob the water of the snow;

                             sheol, of those who sin.

יִשְׁכָּחֵהוּ רֶחֶם מְתָקוֹ רִמָּה עוֹד לֹא־יִזָּכֵר וַתִּשָּׁבֵר כָּעֵץ עַוְלָה׃   24:20

Job 24:20   Womb will forget him,

                             worm feeds sweetly of him,

                       he will not be remembered again.

                             So injustice would be quenched like a tree.

רֹעֶה עֲקָרָה לֹא תֵלֵד וְאַלְמָנָה לֹא יְיֵטִיב׃   24:21

Job 24:21   He is equivalent to the sterile woman,

                             she cannot bear,

                      and the widow,

                             he cannot rejoice.

וּמָשַׁךְ אַבִּירִים בְּכֹחוֹ יָקוּם וְלֹא־יַאֲמִין בַּחַיִּין׃   24:22

Job 24:22   Yet he may cheer the mighty with his strength.

                             He might rise, but he cannot trust in life.

יִתֶּן־לוֹ לָבֶטַח וְיִשָּׁעֵן וְעֵינֵיהוּ עַל־דַּרְכֵיהֶם׃   24:23

Job 24:23   He may be permitted to be safe and quiet,

                             but His ‘eyes’ will be upon their ways.

רֹומּוּ מְּעַט וְאֵינֶנּוּ וְהֻמְּכוּ כַּכֹּל יִקָּפְצוּן וּכְרֹאשׁ שִׁבֹּלֶת יִמָּלוּ׃   24:24

Job 24:24   They are exalted for a short time,

                             then they are no more,

                       as they are brought low.

                             Like everyone, they will be shut up in death,

                       and cut off like the top of an ear of corn.

וְאִם־לֹא אֵפֹו מִי יַכְזִיבֵנִי וְיָשֵׂם לְאַל מִלָּתִי׃   24:25

Job 24:25   So surely, who will prove me a liar now

                             and make my speech for nothing?

If Job was echoing the words of the friends until the verse before this one, who is talking now?  I think Job was musing all along and now finishes his thoughts.  I suspect this question is in his mind, not on his lips.  He  seems to be asking himself which of the friends will now respond.

 

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