Job 37

 

This is the most difficult section of Elihu’s unnecessarily long speech.  All translators with whom I am familiar take considerable liberties with the Hebrew in order to make better sense of many of these verses.  Because I stick to a literal translation, some verses may seem to make little sense, and I will try my best to clarify meaning where I can.  The chapter is concerned with the glory and majesty of God, but it concentrates on storms that are attributed to God’s direction.

אַף־לְזֹאת יֶחֱרַד לִבִּי וְיִתַּר מִמְּקוֹמוֹ׃   37:1

Job 37:1   Indeed, because of this, my heart would tremble,

                             that it could leap from its place.

It’s uncertain as to what the preposition this refers to.  It may be the last few verses of the previous chapter or the verses following this one.  In either case, though, Elihu is referring to a storm.

שִׁמְעוּ שָׁמוֹעַ בְּרֹגֶז קֹלוֹ וְהֶגֶה מִפִּיו יֵצֵא׃   37:2

Job 37:2   Listen closely to the raging of His 'voice,'

                             as the rumbling from His 'mouth' comes forth.

תַּחַת־כָּל־הַשָּׁמַיִם יִשְׁרֵהוּ וְאוֹרוֹ עַל־כַּנְפוֹת הָאָרֶץ׃   37:3

Job 37:3   He makes it spread under the whole skies,

                             and His lightning, over the ends of the earth.

אַחֲרָיו יִשְׁאַג־קוֹל יַרְעֵם בְּקוֹל גְּאוֹנוֹ וְלֹא יְעַקְּבֵם כִּי־יִשָּׁמַע קוֹלוֹ׃   37:4

Job 37:4   A noise would roar after it;

                             He can thunder with the sound of His majesty,

                    and He will not restrain them so that His 'voice' can be heard.

It’s interesting that Elihu makes the observation that the thunder comes after the lightning.  He attributes both of them to God’s majestic ordering of clouds and rain.

יַרְעֵם אֵל בְּקוֹלוֹ נִפְלָאוֹת עֹשֶׂה גְדֹלוֹת וְלֹא נֵדָע׃   37:5

Job 37:5   God can thunder extraordinary sounds with His 'voice,'

                             producing such great things that we cannot comprehend.

כִּי לַשֶּׁלַג יֹאמַר הֱוֵא אָרֶץ וְגֶשֶׁם מָטָר וְגֶשֶׁם מִטְרֹות עֻזֹּו׃   37:6

Job 37:6   For to the snow He can say, 'Be of the earth!'

                             And the rain, 'Rain!'

                    And the rain would be rains of His might.

As to the first statement that I translate as “Be of the earth,” all the bibles I have access to have something like either “Fall on the earth” or “Be on the earth.”  The first adds the words Fall on and the second adds the word on.  I believe my translation is quite understandable and needs no additional explanation.  The only advantage of the alternatives is that the two statements by God become more similar in form to each other.

בְּיַד־כָּל־אָדָם יַחְתּוֹם לָדַעַת כָּל־אַנְשֵׁי מַעֲשֵׂהוּ׃   37:7

Job 37:7   He might affix a seal on the hand of every human,

                             to know all the persons of His making.

Now this verse is sadly mistreated.  The fourth Hebrew word, which I translate as He might affix a seal, is universally translated as something like either He seals up or He stops men’s [work].  These translations appear to be based on the assumption that Elihu is referring to the winter or when the rains are heavy, thus when little farming is done.  Then the words that represent the second line are mistranslated by everyone.  Although my translation seems awkward:  Why would God have to affix a seal to know all his human creations, it does make a hidden sense, which I will address below.  All other translators that I’m aware of say something like in order that humans would know Him.  Then the entire translation of this verse becomes He stops up the hand of every human in order that all persons would know Him.  Although this translation makes some sense given the underlying assumption, it doesn’t follow the Hebrew very well and it contains a logical fallacy:  As to the latter of these, humans cannot know Him, which is something Elihu himself admits.  Then it doesn’t follow the Hebrew because the verb translated as to know is singular, and the only singular noun in the verse that can be the antecedent of this verb to know is He; it can’t be all persons, which is plural.  So what does my translation mean?  First of all, this is a conjectural thought by Elihu which relates to his attention to God’s mighty power.  During a great and terrible storm, which much of this monologue seems to be about (see the next verse also), while God certainly knows everyone, He could show His majestic mercy by identifying all humans with a mark, so they don’t have to hide like the animals.  Do you think this is an adequate exposition of this verse?  I hope so.

וַתָּבֹא חַיָּה בְמוֹ־אָרֶב וּבִמְעוֹנֹתֶיהָ תִשְׁכֹּן׃   37:8

Job 37:8   And beast goes into den,

                             and would abide in its refuge.

מִן־הַחֶדֶר תָּבוֹא סוּפָה וּמִמְּזָרִים קָרָה׃   37:9

Job 37:9   From the chamber would come the storm,

                             colder than pitchforks.

The expression colder than pitchforks is a strange one.  No one else has this translation.  They offer a variety of translations dependent on the assumption that the storm comes out of the south.  But would a storm from the south be so cold, even a winter storm?  I doubt it.  The only suggestion I have is that this expression is a long-forgotten idiom.  Maybe when a pitchfork is left out in a cold storm, it becomes very cold itself.

מִנִּשְׁמַת־אֵל יִתֶּן־קָרַח וְרֹחַב מַיִם בְּמוּצָק׃   37:10

Job 37:10   From the 'breath' of God frost would be produced,

                             and any expanse of waters becomes constrained.

אַף־בְּרִי יַטְרִיחַ עָב יָפִיץ עֲנַן אוֹרוֹ׃   37:11

Job 37:11   Indeed, He would burden thick cloud with moisture,

                             would disperse the cloud of His lightning.

וְהוּא מְסִבֹּות מִתְהַפֵּךְ (בְּתַחְבּוּלָתֹו) [בְּתַחְבּוּלֹתָיו] לְפָעֳלָם כֹּל אֲשֶׁר יְצַוֵּם עַל־פְּנֵי תֵבֵל אָרְצָה׃   37:12

Job 37:12   And it would be turning every way of the surrounding places

                             according to His direction,

                       they doing all that He might command them over

                             the surface of the world, His land,

The word in the parentheses is thought to be misspelled.  The “correction” in the brackets adds a yad, which makes the term obviously plural, whereas the word in the parentheses is apparently singular.  I see nothing wrong with its being singular.  I translate the word in the parentheses as His direction.  Others follow the correction and translate the term in the brackets as His directions.  As far as I am concerned, either alternative would be correct.  So I believe the error indication is unnecessary.

אִם־לְשֵׁבֶט אִם־לְאַרְצוֹ אִם־לְחֶסֶד יַמְצִאֵהוּ׃   37:13

Job 37:13   whether He might make it come for rest,

                             or for His earth, or for mercy.

Does this verse makes sense?  It says God makes a storm so that human farmers, travelers, etc., can rest, or for the benefit of the earth, or to be merciful.  What does a storm have to do with being merciful?  The answer is not clear to me other than it may refer to relief from a drought.

הַאֲזִינָה זֹּאת אִיּוֹב עֲמֹד וְהִתְבּוֹנֵן נִפְלְאוֹת אֵל׃   37:14

Job 37:14   Hear this, Job!  Remain still

                             and diligently consider the wonders of God.

הֲתֵדַע בְּשׂוּם־אֱלוֹהַּ עֲלֵיהֶם וְהוֹפִיעַ אוֹר עֲנָנוֹ׃   37:15

Job 37:15   Can you understand God being Director over them,

                             that He sends out the lightning of His cloud?

הֲתֵדַע עַל־מִפְלְשֵׂי־עָב מִפְלְאוֹת תְּמִים דֵּעִים׃   37:16

Job 37:16   Can you know about the manipulations of a cloud,

                             the wondrous works of He of perfect knowledge?

אֲשֶׁר־בְּגָדֶיךָ חַמִּים בְּהַשְׁקִט אֶרֶץ מִדָּרוֹם׃   37:17

Job 37:17   That your garments are warm

                             because of the tranquility of the land from the south?

This verse is another instance of questionable Hebrew and its uncertain translation.  Bibles offer a variety of translations, all having some disconnect from the Hebrew.  For one thing, their translation of the last Hebrew word is south wind.  Now this word appears no where else in the Hebrew bible, so its meaning may be somewhat uncertain.  But there’s no reason to assume this meaning.  The accepted translation in my dictionaries is south, not south wind.  For another thing, the expression your garments are warm is difficult to understand.  Are the garments themselves warm (the typical assumption) or do the garments keep the wearer warm?  Are the garments warm because of there is no cold storm from the south?  Or is there a warm wind from the south that heats the garments?  There is no obvious answer to these questions.  And Elihu’s words provide no hints.  Incidentally, the word in question, ~ArD', which appears no where else, may be a clue to the dating of this book.  Most scholars accept the belief that this book was compiled (or at least started) before the time of Abraham.  The belief may be based on the fact that the word for south (of Israel) in the rest of the bible is not ~ArD, but bg<n<.  However, another possibility is that since Job is living in a foreign country to the east of Israel, the author may have used an adopted word.

תַּרְקִיעַ עִמּוֹ לִשְׁחָקִים חֲזָקִים כִּרְאִי מוּצָק׃   37:18

Job 37:18   Can you make a spreading place with Him for the clouds,

                             mighty as a molten mirror?

הֹודִיעֵנוּ מַה־נֹּאמַר לֹו לֹא־נַעֲרֹךְ מִפְּנֵי־חֹשֶׁךְ׃   37:19

Job 37:19   Declare to us what we can say to Him.

                             We cannot put in order, because of obscurity.

הַיְסֻפַּר־לֹו כִּי אֲדַבֵּר אִם־אָמַר אִישׁ כִּי יְבֻלָּע׃   37:20

Job 37:20   Could it be told to Him when I would speak,

                             or does one wonder if he will be swallowed up?

וְעַתָּה לֹא רָאוּ אוֹר בָּהִיר הוּא בַּשְּׁחָקִים וְרוּחַ עָבְרָה וַתְּטַהֲרֵם׃   37:21

Job 37:21   Now then, they do not see the light -- brilliant it is

                             -- because of the clouds, then a wind passes through

                       and cleanses them away.

This verse may be a metaphor.  The light may represent knowledge and wisdom, the clouds, Job’s blindness, and the cleansing wind, Elihu’s words.

מִצָּפוֹן זָהָב יֶאֱתֶה עַל־אֱלוֹהַּ נוֹרָא הוֹד׃   37:22

Job 37:22   Out of the north the golden color must come,

                             because of God a fearsome splendor.

שַׁדַּי לֹא־מְצָאנֻהוּ שַׂגִּיא־כֹחַ וּמִשְׁפָּט וְרֹב־צְדָקָה לֹא יְעַנֶּה׃   37:23

Job 37:23   The Almighty, we do not find Him;

                             He is loftiest of might,

                       so justice and abundance of righteousness He will not mishandle.

לָכֵן יְרֵאוּהוּ אֲנָשִׁים לֹא־יִרְאֶה כָּל־חַכְמֵי־לֵב׃   37:24

Job 37:24   Therefore people fear Him,

                             He need not consider any of the wise of heart.

The second part of this verse is interpreted to be a scornful and facetious reference to Job.  Elihu may be implying that God has not listened to Job or answered him, because he is far from wise of heart.

I thank God that we are now finished with Elihu, who has said little with far too many words.

 

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