Job’s Reply to Eliphaz#sn Job answers Eliphaz, but not until he introduces new ideas for his own case with God. His speech unfolds in three parts: Job’s longing to meet God (23:2-7), the inaccessibility and power of God (23:8-17), the indifference of God (24:1-25).
1 Then Job answered:
2 “Even today my complaint is still bitter;#tc The MT reads here מְרִי (mÿri, “rebellious”). The word is related to the verb מָרָה (marah, “to revolt”). Many commentators follow the Vulgate, Targum Job, and the Syriac to read מַר (mar, “bitter”). The LXX offers no help here.
his#tc The MT (followed by the Vulgate and Targum) has “my hand is heavy on my groaning.” This would mean “my stroke is heavier than my groaning” (an improbable view from Targum Job). A better suggestion is that the meaning would be that Job tries to suppress his groans but the hand with which he suppresses them is too heavy (H. H. Rowley, Job [NCBC], 159). Budde, E. Dhorme, J. E. Hartley, and F. I. Andersen all maintain the MT as the more difficult reading. F. I. Andersen (Job [TOTC], 208) indicates that the ִי(i) suffix could be an example of an unusual third masculine singular. Both the LXX and the Syriac versions have “his hand,” and many modern commentators follow this, along with the present translation. In this case the referent of “his” would be God, whose hand is heavy upon Job in spite of Job’s groaning. hand is heavy despite#tn The preposition can take this meaning; it could be also translated simply “upon.” R. Gordis (Job, 260) reads the preposition “more than,” saying that Job had been defiant (he takes that view) but God’s hand had been far worse. my groaning.
3 O that I knew#tn The optative here is again expressed with the verbal clause, “who will give [that] I knew….” where I might find him,#tn The form in Hebrew is וְאֶמְצָאֵהוּ (vÿ’emtsa’ehu), simply “and I will find him.” But in the optative clause this verb is subordinated to the preceding verb: “O that I knew where [and] I might find him.” It is not unusual to have the perfect verb followed by the imperfect in such coordinate clauses (see GKC 386 §120.e). This could also be translated making the second verb a complementary infinitive: “knew how to find him.”sn H. H. Rowley (Job [NCBC], 159) quotes Strahan without reference: “It is the chief distinction between Job and his friends that he desires to meet God and they do not.”
that I could come#tn This verb also depends on מִי־יִתֵּן (mi-yitten, “who will give”) of the first part, forming an additional clause in the wish formula. to his place of residence!#tn Or “his place of judgment.” The word is from כּוּן (kun, “to prepare; to arrange”) in the Polel and the Hiphil conjugations. The noun refers to a prepared place, a throne, a seat, or a sanctuary. A. B. Davidson (Job, 169) and others take the word to mean “judgment seat” or “tribunal” in this context.
4 I would lay out my case#tn The word מִשְׁפָּט (mishpat) is normally “judgment; decision.” But in these contexts it refers to the legal case that Job will bring before God. With the verb עָרַךְ (’arakh, “to set in order; to lay out”) the whole image of drawing up a lawsuit is complete. before him
and fill my mouth with arguments.
5 I would know with what words#tn Heb “the words he would answer me.” he would answer me,
and understand what he would say to me.
6 Would he contend#tn The verb is now רִיב (riv) and not יָכַח (yakhakh, “contend”); רִיב (riv) means “to quarrel; to dispute; to contend,” often in a legal context. Here it is still part of Job’s questioning about this hypothetical meeting – would God contend with all his power? with me with great power?
No, he would only pay attention to me.#tn The verbal clause יָשִׂם בִּי (yasim bi) has been translated “he would pay [attention] to me.” Job is saying that God will not need all his power – he will just have pay attention to Job’s complaint. Job does not need the display of power – he just wants a hearing.
7 There#tn The adverb “there” has the sense of “then” – there in the future. an upright person
could present his case#tn The form of the verb is the Niphal נוֹכָח (nokkakh, “argue, present a case”). E. Dhorme (Job, 346) is troubled by this verbal form and so changes it and other things in the line to say, “he would observe the upright man who argues with him.” The Niphal is used for “engaging discussion,” “arguing a case,” and “settling a dispute.” before him,
and I would be delivered forever from my judge.
The Inaccessibility and Power of God
8 “If I go to the east, he is not there,
and to the west, yet I do not perceive him.
9 In the north#sn The text has “the left hand,” the Semitic idiom for directions. One faces the rising sun, and so left is north, right is south. when he is at work,#tc The form בַּעֲשֹׂתוֹ (ba’asoto) would be the temporal clause using the infinitive construct with a pronoun (subject genitive). This would be “when he works.” Several follow the Syriac with “I seek him.” The LXX has “[when] he turns.” R. Gordis (Job, 261) notes that there is no need to emend the text; he shows a link to the Arabic cognate ghasa, “to cover.” To him this is a perfect parallel to יַעְטֹף (ya’tof, “covers himself”).
I do not see him;#tn The verb is the apocopated form of the imperfect. The object is supplied.
when he turns#tn The MT has “he turns,” but the Syriac and Vulgate have “I turn.” to the south,
I see no trace of him.
10 But he knows the pathway that I take;#tn The expression דֶּרֶךְ עִמָּדִי (derekh ’immadi) means “the way with me,” i.e., “the way that I take.” The Syriac has “my way and my standing.” Several commentators prefer “the way of my standing,” meaning where to look for me. J. Reider offers “the way of my life” (“Some notes to the text of the scriptures,” HUCA 3 : 115). Whatever the precise wording, Job knows that God can always find him.
if he tested me, I would come forth like gold.#tn There is a perfect verb followed by an imperfect in this clause with the protasis and apodosis relationship (see GKC 493 §159.b).
11 My feet#tn Heb “my foot.” have followed#tn Heb “held fast.” his steps closely;
I have kept to his way and have not turned aside.#tn The last clause, “and I have not turned aside,” functions adverbially in the sentence. The form אָט (’at) is a pausal form of אַתֶּה (’atteh), the Hiphil of נָטָה (natah, “stretch out”).
12 I have not departed from the commands of his lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my allotted portion.#tc The form in the MT (מֵחֻקִּי, mekhuqqi) means “more than my portion” or “more than my law.” An expanded meaning results in “more than my necessary food” (see Ps 119:11; cf. KJV, NASB, ESV). HALOT 346 s.v. חֹק 1 indicates that חֹק (khoq) has the meaning of “portion” and is here a reference to “what is appointed for me.” The LXX and the Latin versions, along with many commentators, have בְּחֵקִי (bÿkheqi, “in my bosom”).
13 But he is unchangeable,#tc The MT has “But he [is] in one.” Many add the word “mind” to capture the point that God is resolute and unchanging. Some commentators find this too difficult, and so change the text from בְאֶחָד (bÿ’ekhad, here “unchangeable”) to בָחָר (bakhar, “he has chosen”). The wording in the text is idiomatic and should be retained. R. Gordis (Job, 262) translates it “he is one, i.e., unchangeable, fixed, determined.” The preposition בּ (bet) is a bet essentiae – “and he [is] as one,” or “he is one” (see GKC 379 §119.i). and who can change#tn Heb “cause him to return.” him?
Whatever he#tn Or “his soul.” has desired, he does.
14 For he fulfills his decree against me,#tn The text has “my decree,” which means “the decree [plan] for/against me.” The suffix is objective, equivalent to a dative of disadvantage. The Syriac and the Vulgate actually have “his decree.” R. Gordis (Job, 262) suggests taking it in the same sense as in Job 14:5: “my limit.”.
and many such things are his plans.#tn Heb “and many such [things] are with him.”sn The text is saying that many similar situations are under God’s rule of the world – his plans are infinite.
15 That is why I am terrified in his presence;
when I consider, I am afraid because of him.
16 Indeed, God has made my heart faint;#tn The verb הֵרַךְ (kherakh) means “to be tender”; in the Piel it would have the meaning “to soften.” The word is used in parallel constructions with the verbs for “fear.” The implication is that God has made Job fearful.
the Almighty has terrified me.
17 Yet I have not been silent because of the darkness,
because of the thick darkness
that covered my face.#tn This is a very difficult verse. The Hebrew text literally says: “for I have not been destroyed because of darkness, and because of my face [which] gloom has covered.” Most commentators omit the negative adverb, which gives the meaning that Job is enveloped in darkness and reduced to terror. The verb נִצְמַתִּי (nitsmatti) means “I have been silent” (as in Arabic and Aramaic), and so obviously the negative must be retained – he has not been silent.