Job 20


וַיַּעַן צֹפַר הַנַּעֲמָתִי וַיֹּאמַר׃   20:1

Job 20:1   Then Zophar, the Naamathite, responded and he said,

לָכֵן שְׂעִפַּי יְשִׁיבוּנִי וּבַעֲבוּר חוּשִׁי בִי׃   20:2

Job 20:2   "Thus my opinions would be turned back on me,

                              and it is why my excitement is in me."

Zophar hears Job’s reproach, but as you can see in the next verse, he is not impressed.  His belief is solid.  Job must be evil.

מוּסַר כְּלִמָּתִי אֶשְׁמָע וְרוּחַ מִבִּינָתִי יַעֲנֵנִי׃   20:3

Job 20:3   "I would heed the correction of my reproach,

                              but because of my understanding the mind would answer me:

And the rest of this chapter is what Zophar’s mind tells him.  He obviously believes his understanding exceeds Job’s, so he continues to implicitly accuse Job of wickedness.  Job’s suffering only goes to prove Zophar’s point.  Unknown to Zophar and his companions, they are involved in a not uncommon fault in logical argumentation:   Zophar is convinced that those who are evil suffer.  Job is suffering, therefore he must be evil.  This justifies his avoidance of compassion for those who are unfortunate.

As I, and Job, see the world, everyone suffers in life.  Wicked and upright alike.  What Job may be missing is that this suffering is not punishment.  It is a fact of life.  It is part of our test from which we are supposed to learn and become wise, individually and collectively.  See my other web site for more on this.

הֲזֹאת יָדַעְתָּ מִנִּי־עַד מִנִּי שִׂים אָדָם עֲלֵי־אָרֶץ׃   20:4

Job 20:4   Do you know this?  From ancient time,

                              since Adam was set on the earth,

An unimportant aside:  Most bible translators insert the word not as in “Do you not know ....” in their translations.  Why is it unimportant?  Because the insertion adds nothing to the interpretation of the verse or the chapter.

כִּי רִנְנַת רְשָׁעִים מִקָּרוֹב וְשִׂמְחַת חָנֵף עֲדֵי־רָגַע׃   20:5

Job 20:5   that the exultation of the wicked is not long,

                              and the joy of the godless one is no more than a moment?"

אִם־יַעֲלֶה לַשָּׁמַיִם שִׂיאוֹ וְרֹאשׁוֹ לָעָב יַגִּיעַ׃   20:6

Job 20:6   "Though his loftiness might rise to the heavens,

                              and his head reach to cloud,

כְּגֶלֲלֹו לָנֶצַח יֹאבֵד רֹאָיו יֹאמְרוּ אַיֹּו׃   20:7

Job 20:7   like his own excrement he would vanish for ever.

                              Those having seen him would think, 'Where is he?'"

כַּחֲלוֹם יָעוּף וְלֹא יִמְצָאוּהוּ וְיֻדַּד כְּחֶזְיוֹן לָיְלָה׃   20:8

Job 20:8   "Like a dream, he would fly off,

                              and they would not find him.

                    He would depart even like a vision of the night."

עַיִן שְׁזָפַתּוּ וְלֹא תוֹסִיף וְלֹא־עוֹד תְּשׁוּרֶנּוּ מְקוֹמוֹ׃   20:9

Job 20:9   "The eye looked at him,

                              but would not do so again,

                    and never again would his place see him."

בָּנָיו יְרַצּוּ דַלִּים וְיָדָיו תָּשֵׁבְנָה אוֹנוֹ׃   20:10

Job 20:10   "His children would seek the favor of the poor,

                              as his hands return his gain."

עַצְמֹותָיו מָלְאוּ (עֲלוּמֹו) [עֲלוּמָיו] וְעִמֹּו עַל־עָפָר תִּשְׁכָּב׃   20:11

Job 20:11   "His bones are full of his youth,

                              but it shall lie with him in the dust."

Before I address the “error,” I want to point out what I think is an important clue this verse provides for us.  I believe it supports the idea that Job is relatively young, certainly younger than the friends.  If a wicked one’s bones are still filled with youth, and his youth lies with him in the dust, that means he would be dying before reaching old age.  So I’m guessing that Job may be in his forties at most, while the friends are quite a bit older.  That may be why they implicitly discount Job’s problems and monologues.  Inverse age discrimination!  For additional support for this idea, see Job 15:10.  Has everyone else missed these clues?  Job is usually depicted as an old man.

Now for the error in the parentheses.  As far as I am concerned, it is no error.  Someone long ago must have been asleep at the wheel.  The word in the parentheses is spelled as a singular noun, and translated as his youth.  The alleged correction makes the noun plural, his youths -- apparently a mistake.  Moreover, all bibles translate the word in the parentheses as singular (although they almost universally wreak havoc with the Hebrew of the verse).  Now why the correction?  Well, the word in the brackets appears in two other places in the bible, in Job 33:25 and Psal. 89:46.  And in both places its translation is singular, his youth, but the Hebrew word is plural.

אִם־תַּמְתִּיק בְּפִיו רָעָה יַכְחִידֶנָּה תַּחַת לְשׁוֹנוֹ׃   20:12

Job 20:12   "Though evil might be sweet in his mouth,

                              he might hide it beneath his tongue,

יַחְמֹל עָלֶיהָ וְלֹא יַעַזְבֶנָּה וְיִמְנָעֶנָּה בְּתוֹךְ חִכּוֹ׃   20:13

Job 20:13   have compassion on it, and not let it go,

                              and keep it in the middle of his palate,

לַחְמֹו בְּמֵעָיו נֶהְפָּךְ מְרֹורַת פְּתָנִים בְּקִרְבֹּו׃   20:14

Job 20:13   his food churns in his bowels,

                              the bitter gall of vipers within him."

חַיִל בָּלַע וַיְקִאֶנּוּ מִבִּטְנֹו יֹורִשֶׁנּוּ אֵל׃   20:15

Job 20:14   "He swallowed down wealth,

                              but he will vomit it up.

                      God will impoverish him from his belly."     

רֹאשׁ־פְּתָנִים יִינָק תַּהַרְגֵהוּ לְשׁוֹן אֶפְעֶה׃   20:16

Job 20:15   "He will suck the poison of vipers;

                              the tongue of the snake will slay him."

אַל־יֵרֶא בִפְלַגּוֹת נַהֲרֵי נַחֲלֵי דְּבַשׁ וְחֶמְאָה׃   20:17

Job 20:16   "He will not look upon the rivers,

                              the streams, the flows of honey and curd,

מֵשִׁיב יָגָע וְלֹא יִבְלָע כְּחֵיל תְּמוּרָתוֹ וְלֹא יַעֲלֹס׃   20:18

Job 20:17   returning gain that he would not swallow down

                              as the substance of his exchange,

                      and he would not rejoice."

כִּי־רִצַּץ עָזַב דַּלִּים בַּיִת גָּזַל וְלֹא יִבֶנֵהוּ׃   20:19

Job 20:18   "For he oppresses, forsakes, the poor;

                              he plunders a house and will not rebuild it."

כִּי לֹא־יָדַע שָׁלֵו בְּבִטְנוֹ בַּחֲמוּדוֹ לֹא יְמַלֵּט׃   20:20

Job 20:20   "For he does not know comfort in his belly.

                              Because of his desire, he cannot escape."

אֵין־שָׂרִיד לְאָכְלוֹ עַל־כֵּן לֹא־יָחִיל טוּבוֹ׃   20:21

Job 20:21   "There will be nothing left for his food;

                              so he cannot gain the benefits of his prosperity."

בִּמְלֹאות שִׂפְקוֹ יֵצֶר לוֹ כָּל־יַד עָמֵל תְּבוֹאֶנּוּ׃   20:22

Job 20:22   "In the abundance of his sufficiency, distress is his.

                              The hand of every sufferer must come against him."

יְהִי לְמַלֵּא בִטְנֹו יְשַׁלַּח־בֹּו חֲרֹון אַפֹּו וְיַמְטֵר עָלֵימֹו בִּלְחוּמֹו׃   20:23

Job 20:23   "He will be filling his belly.

                              He will send out to him the ferocity of His 'anger,'

                      and it will rain upon him into his flesh."

יִבְרַח מִנֵּשֶׁק בַּרְזֶל תַּחְלְפֵהוּ קֶשֶׁת נְחוּשָׁה׃   20:24

Job 20:24   "Let him flee from the iron weapon.

                              A brass bow will run him through."

שָׁלַף וַיֵּצֵא מִגֵּוָה וּבָרָק מִמְּרֹרָתוֹ יַהֲלֹךְ עָלָיו אֵמִים׃   20:25

Job 20:25   "He pulls and it comes out of the body,

                              and the sharp point, from his gall;

                       it must bring terrors upon him."

כָּל־חֹשֶׁךְ טָמוּן לִצְפּוּנָיו תְּאָכְלֵהוּ אֵשׁ לֹא־נֻפָּח יֵרַע שָׂרִיד בְּאָהֳלֹו׃   20:26

Job 20:26   "Every darkness is a hiding place for his treasures;

                              an unending fire shall consume him;

                      anyone left in his tent shall tremble."

יְגַלּוּ שָׁמַיִם עֲוֺנוֹ וְאֶרֶץ מִתְקוֹמָמָה לוֹ׃   20:27

Job 20:27   "Heaven shall uncover his depravity,

                              and the earth shall come reaching up for him."

יִגֶל יְבוּל בֵּיתוֹ נִגָּרוֹת בְּיוֹם אַפּוֹ׃   20:28

Job 20:28   "The gain of his house shall depart;

                              they will be vanishing at the time of His 'anger.'"

זֶה חֵלֶק־אָדָם רָשָׁע מֵאֱלֹהִים וְנַחֲלַת אִמְרוֹ מֵאֵל׃   20:29

Job 20:29   'Such is the portion of a wicked man from God,

                              and the inheritance promised him from God. "

A brilliant pseudo-intellectual monologue.  Unfortunately, it’s based on a false premise:  Only the wicked suffer.


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