Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
1 Then began Job, and said:
2 Oh that my vexation were but weighed,
And they would put my suffering in the balance against it!
3 Then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea:
Therefore my words are rash.
4 The arrows of the Almighty are in me,
The burning poison whereof drinketh up my spirit;
The terrors of Eloah set themselves in array against me.
Vexation (כּעשׂ) is what Eliphaz has reproached him with (Job 5:2). Job wishes that his vexation were placed in one scale and his היּה (Keri הוּה) in the other, and weighed together (יחד). The noun היּה (הוּה), from הוה (היה), flare, hiare, signifies properly hiatus, then vorago, a yawning gulf, χάσμα, then some dreadful calamity (vid., Hupfeld on Psa 5:10). נשׂא, like נטל, Isa 11:15, to raise the balance, as pendere, to let it hang down; attollant instead of the passive. This is his desire; and if they but understood the matter, it would then be manifest (כּי־עתּה, as Job 3:13, which see), or: indeed then would it be manifest (כּי certainly in this inferential position has an affirmative signification: vid., Gen 26:22; Gen 29:32, and comp. Sa1 25:34; Sa2 2:27) that his suffering is heavier than the unmeasurable weight of the sand of the sea. יכבּד is neuter with reference to והיּתי. לעוּ, with the tone on the penult., which is not to be accounted for by the rhythm as in Psa 37:20; Psa 137:7, cannot be derived from לעה, but only from לוּע, not however in the signification to suck down, but from לוּע = לעה, Arab. lagiya or also lagâ, temere loqui, inania effutire, - a signification which suits excellently here.
(Note: ילע, Pro 20:25, which is doubly accented, and must be pronounced as oxytone, has also this meaning: the snare of a man who has thoughtlessly uttered what is holy (an interjectional clause = such an one has implicated himself), and after (having made) vows will harbour care (i.e., whether he will be able to fulfil them).)
His words are like those of one in delirium. עמּדי is to be explained according to Psa 38:3; חמתם, according to Psa 7:15. יערכוּני is short for עלי מלחמה יערכי, they make war against me, set themselves in battle array against me. Bttcher, without brachylogy: they cause me to arm myself, put one of necessity on the defensive, which does not suit the subject. The terrors of God strike down all defence. The wrath of God is irresistible. The sting of his suffering, however, is the wrath of God which his spirit drinks as a draught of poison (comp. Job 21:20), and consequently wrings from him, even from his deepest soul, the thought that God is become his enemy: therefore his is an endless suffering, and therefore is it that he speaks so despondingly.
5 Doth the wild ass bray at fresh grass?
Or loweth an ox over good fodder?
6 Is that which is tasteless eaten unsalted?
Or is there flavour in the white of an egg?
7 That which my soul refused to touch,
The same is as my loathsome food.
The meaning of the first two figures is: He would not complain, if there were really no cause for it; of the two others: It is not to be expected that he should smile at his suffering, and enjoy it as delicate food. על־בּלילו I have translated "over good fodder," for בּליל is mixed fodder of different kinds of grain, farrago. "Without salt" is virtually adjective to תּפל, insipid, tasteless. What is without salt one does not relish, and there is no flavour in the slime of the yolk of an egg, i.e., the white of an egg (Targ.),
(Note: Saadia compares b. Aboda zara, 40, a, where it is given as a mark of the purity of the eggs in the roe of fish: מבפנים וחלמון מב מבחוץ חלבון, when the white is outside and the yellow within.)
or in the slime of purslain (according to Chalmetho in the Peschito, Arab. ḥamqâ), fatua = purslain), which is less probable on account of ריר (slime, not: broth): there is no flavour so that it can be enjoyed. Thus is it with his sufferings. Those things which he before inwardly detested (dirt and dust of leprosy) are now sicut fastidiosa cibi mei, i.e., as loathsome food which he must eat. The first clause, Job 6:7, must be taken as an elliptic relative clause forming the subject: vid., Ges. 123, 3, c. Such disagreeable counsel is now like his unclean, disgusting diet. Eliphaz desires him to take them as agreeable. דּוי in כּדרי is taken by Ges. Ew., Hahn, Schlottm., Olsh. (165, b), as constr. from דּוי, sickness, filth; but דּוי, as plur. from דּוה, sick, unclean (especially of female menstruation, Isa 30:22), as Heiligst. among modern commentators explains it, is far more suitable. Hitz. (as anonym. reviewer of Ewald's Job in the liter. Centralblatt) translates: they (my sufferings) are the morsels of my food; but the explanation of המּה is not correct, nor is it necessary to go to the Arabic for an explanation of כּדרי. It is also unnecessary, with Bttcher, to read כּדוי (such is my food in accordance with my disease); Job does not here speak of his diet as an invalid.
8 Would that my request were fulfilled,
And that Eloah would grant my expectation,
9 That Eloah were willing and would crush me,
Let loose His hand and cut me off:
10 Then I should still have comfort -
(I should exult in unsparing pain) -
That I have not disowned the words of the Holy One.
His wish refers to the ending of his suffering by death. Hupfeld prefers to read ותאותי instead of ותקותי (Job 6:8); but death, which he desires, he even indeed expects. This is just the paradox, that not life, but death, is his expectation. "Cut me off," i.e., my soul or my life, my thread of life (Job 27:8; Isa 38:12). The optative יתּן מי (Ges. 136, 1) is followed by optative futt., partly of the so-called jussive form, as יאל, velit (Hiph. from ואל, velle), and יתּר, solvat (Hiph. from נתר). In the phrase יד התּיר, the stretching out of the hand is regarded as the loosening of what was hitherto bound. The conclusion begins with וּתהי, just like Job 13:5. But it is to be asked whether by consolation speedy death is to be understood, and the clause with כּי gives the ground of his claim for the granting of the wish, - or whether he means that just this: not having disowned the words of the Holy One (comp. Job 23:11., and אמרי־אל in the mouth of Balaam, the non-Israelitish prophet, Num 24:4, Num 24:16), would be his consolation in the midst of death. With Hupfeld we decide in favour of the latter, with Psa 119:50 in view: this consciousness of innocence is indeed throughout the whole book Job's shield and defence. If, however, נחמתי (with Kametz impurum) points towards כּי, quod, etc., the clause ואסלּדה is parenthetical. The cohortative is found thus parenthetical with a conjunctive sense also elsewhere (Psa 40:6; Psa 51:18). Accordingly: my comfort - I would exult, etc. - would be that I, etc. The meaning of סלד, tripudiare, is confirmed by the lxx ἡλλόμην, in connection with the Arabic ṣalada (of a galloping horse which stamps hard with its fore-feet), according to which the Targ. also translates ואבוּע (I will rejoice).
(Note: The primary meaning of סלד, according to the Arabic, is to be hard, then, to tread hard, firm, as in pulsanda tellus; whereas the poetry of the synagogue (Pijut) uses סלּד in the signification to supplicate, and סלד, litany (not: hymn, as Zunz gives it); and the Mishna-talmudic סלד signifies to singe, burn one's self, and to draw back affrighted.)
For יחמל לא, comp. Isa 30:14. (break in pieces unsparingly). יחמל לא certainly appears as though it must be referred to God (Ew., Hahn, Schlottm., and others), since חילה sounds feminine; but one can either pronounce חילה = חיל as Milel (Hitz.), or take יחמל לא adverbially, and not as an elliptical dependent clause (as Ges. 147, rem. 1), but as virtually an adjective: in pain unsparing.
11 What is my strength, that I should wait,
And my end, that I should be patient?
12 Is my strength like the strength of stones?
Or is my flesh brazen?
13 Or am I then not utterly helpless,
And continuance is driven from me?
The meaning of the question (Job 6:11); is: Is not my strength already so wasted away, and an unfortunate end so certain to me, that a long calm waiting is as impossible as it is useless? נפשׁ האריך, to draw out the soul, is to extend and distribute the intensity of the emotion, to be forbearing, to be patient. The question (Job 6:11) is followed by אם, usual in double questions: or is my strength stone, etc. האם, which is so differently explained by commentators, is after all to be explained best from Num. 17:28, the only other passage in which it occurs. Here it is the same as ה אם, and in Num. הלא אם: or is it not so: we shall perish quickly altogether? Thus we explain the passage before us. The interrogative ה is also sometimes used elsewhere for הלא, Job 20:4; Job 41:1 (Ges. 153, 3); the additional אם stands per inversionem in the second instead of the first place: nonne an = an nonne, annon: or is it not so: is not my help in me = or am I not utterly helpless? Ewald explains differently (356, a), according to which אם, from the formula of an oath, is equivalent to לא. The meaning is the same. Continuance, תּוּשׁיּה, i.e., power of endurance, reasonable prospect is driven away, frightened away from him, is lost for him.
14 To him who is consumed gentleness is due from his friend,
Otherwise he might forsake the fear of the Almighty.
15 My brothers are become false as a torrent,
As the bed of torrents which vanish away -
16 They were blackish from ice,
Snow is hidden in them -
17 In the time, when warmth cometh to them, they are destroyed.
It becometh hot, they are extinguished from their place.
Ewald supplies between Job 6:14 and Job 6:14 two lines which have professedly fallen out ("from a brother sympathy is due to the oppressed of God, in order he may not succumb to excessive grief"). Hitzig strongly characterizes this interpolation as a "pure swindle." There is really nothing wanting; but we need not even take חסד, with Hitz., in the signification reproach (like Pro 14:34): if reproach cometh to the sufferer from his friend, he forsaketh the fear of God. מס (from מסס, liquefieri) is one who is inwardly melted, the disheartened. Such an one should receive חסד from his friend, i.e., that he should restore him ἐν πνεύματι πραΰ́τητος (Gal 6:1). The waw (Job 6:14) is equivalent to alioqui with the future subjunctive (vid., Ges. 127, 5). Harshness might precipitate him into the abyss from which love will keep him back. So Schnurrer: Afflicto exhibenda est ab amico ipsius humanitas, alioqui hic reverentiam Dei exuit. Such harshness instead of charity meets him from his brothers, i.e., friends beloved as brothers. In vain he has looked to them for reviving consolation. Theirs is no comfort; it is like the dried-up water of a wady. נחל is a mountain or forest brook, which comes down from the height, and in spring is swollen by melting ice and the snow that thaws on the mountain-tops; χειμάῤῥους, i.e., a torrent swollen by winter water. The melting blocks of ice darken the water of such a wady, and the snow falling together is quickly hidden in its bosom (התעלּם). If they begin to be warmed (Pual זרב, cognate to צרב, Eze 21:3, aduri, and שׂרף, comburere), suddenly they are reduced to nothing (נצמת, exstingui); they vanish away בּחמּו, when it becomes hot. The suffix is, with Ew., Olsh., and others, to be taken as neuter; not with Hirz., to be referred to a suppressed את: when the season grows hot. job bewails the disappointment he has experienced, the "decline" of charity
(Note: Oetinger says that Job 6:15-20 describe those who get "consumption" when they are obliged to extend "the breasts of compassion" to their neighbour.)
still further, by keeping to the figure of the mountain torrent.
18 The paths of their course are turned about,
They go up in the waste and perish.
19 The travelling bands of Tma looked for them,
The caravans of Saba hoped for them;
20 They were disappointed on account of their trust,
They came thus far, and were red with shame.
As the text is pointed, ארחות, Job 6:18, are the paths of the torrents. Hitz., Ew., and Schlottm., however, correct ארחות, caravans, which Hahn even thinks may be understood without correction, since he translates: the caravans of their way are turned about (which is intended to mean: aside from the way that they are pursuing), march into the desert and perish (i.e., because the streams on which they reckoned are dried up). So, in reality, all modern commentators understand it; but is it likely that the poet would let the caravans perish in Job 6:18, and in Job 6:19. still live? With this explanation, Job 6:19. drag along tautologically, and the feebler figure follows the stronger. Therefore we explain as follows: the mountain streams, נחלים, flow off in shallow serpentine brooks, and the shallow waters completely evaporate by the heat of the sun. בתּהוּ עלה signifies to go up into nothing (comp. Isa 40:23), after the analogy of בעשׁן כּלה, to pass away in smoke. Thus e.g., also Mercier: in auras abeunt, in nihilum rediguntur. What next happens is related as a history, Job 6:19., hence the praett. Job compares his friends to the wady swollen by ice and snow water, and even to the travelling bands themselves languishing for water. He thirsts for friendly solace, but the seeming comfort which his friends utter is only as the scattered meandering waters in which the mountain brook leaks out. The sing. בּטח individualizes; it is unnecessary with Olsh. to read בּטחוּ.
21 For now ye are become nothing;
You see misfortune, and are affrighted.
22 Have I then said, Give unto me,
And give a present for me from your substance,
23 And deliver me from the enemy's hand,
And redeem me from the hand of the tyrant?
In Job 6:21, the reading wavers between לו and לא, with the Keri לו; but לו, which is consequently the lectio recepta, gives no suitable meaning, only in a slight degree appropriate, as this: ye are become it, i.e., such a mountain brook; for הייתם is not to be translated, with Stickel and others, estis, but facti estis. The Targum, however, translates after the Chethib: ye are become as though ye had never been, i.e., nothingness. Now, since לא, Aramaic לה, can (as Dan 4:32 shows) be used as a substantive (a not = a null), and the thought: ye are become nothing, your friendship proves itself equal to null, suits the imagery just used, we decide in favour of the Chethib; then in the figure the בתּהוּ עלה corresponds most to this, and is also, therefore, not to be explained away. The lxx, Syr., Vulg., translate לי instead of לו: ye are become it (such deceitful brooks) to me. Ewald proposes to read לי הייתם עתה כן (comp. the explanation, Ges. 137, rem. 3), - a conjecture which puts aside all difficulty; but the sentence with לא commends itself as being bolder and more expressive. All the rest explains itself. It is remarkable that in Job 6:21 the reading תּירוּ is also found, instead of תּראוּ: ye dreaded misfortune, and ye were then affrighted. הבוּ is here, as an exception, properispomenon, according to Ges. 29, 3. כּח, as Pro 5:10; Lev 26:20, what one has obtained by putting forth one's strength, syn. חיל, outward strength.
24 Teach me, and I will be silent,
And cause me to understand wherein I have failed.
25 How forcible are words in accordance with truth!
But what doth reproof from you reprove?
26 Do you think to reprove words?
The words of one in despair belong to the wind.
27 Ye would even cast lots for the orphan,
And traffic about your friend.
נמרצוּ, Job 6:25, in the signification of נמלצוּ (Psa 119:103), would suit very well: how smooth, delicate, sweet, are, etc. (Hirz., Ew., Schlottm.); but this meaning does not suit Job 16:3. Hupfeld, by comparison with mar, bitter, translates: quantumvis acerba; but מה may signify quidquid, though not quantumvis. Hahn compares the Arabic verb to be sick, and translates: in what respect are right words bad; but physical disease and ethical badness are not such nearly related ideas. Ebrard: honest words are not taken amiss; but with an inadmissible application of Job 16:3. Von Gerl. is best: how strong or forcible are, etc. מרץ is taken as related to פּרץ, in the signification to penetrate; Hiph. to goad; Niph. to be furnished with the property of penetrating, - used here of penetrating speech; Kg1 2:8, of a curse inevitably carried out; Mic 2:10, of unsparing destruction. Words which keep the straight way to truth, go to the heart; on the contrary, what avails the reproving from you, i.e., which proceeds from you? הוכח, inf. absol. as Pro 25:27, and in but a few other passages as subject; מכּם, as Job 5:15, the sword going forth out of their mouth. In Job 6:26 the waw introduces a subordinate adverbial clause: while, however, the words of one in despair belong to the wind, that they may be carried away by it, not to the judgment which retains and analyzes them, without considering the mood of which they are the hasty expression. The futt. express the extent to which their want of feeling would go, if the circumstances for it only existed; they are subjunctive, as Job 3:13, Job 3:16. גּורל, the lot, is to be supplied to תּפּילוּ, as Sa1 14:42. The verb כּרה, however, does not here signify to dig, so that שׁחת, a pit, should be supplied (Heiligst.), still less: dig out earth, and cast it on any one (Ebrard); but has the signification of buying and selling with על of the object, exactly like Job 39:27.
28 And now be pleased to observe me keenly,
I will not indeed deceive you to your face.
29 Try it again, then: let there be no injustice;
Try it again, my righteousness still stands.
30 Is there wrong on my tongue?
Or shall not my palate discern iniquity?
He begs them to observe him more closely; בּ פּנה, as Ecc 2:11, to observe scrutinizingly. אם is the sign of negative asseveration (Ges. 155, 2, f). He will not indeed shamelessly give them the lie, viz., in respect to the greatness and inexplicableness of his suffering. The challenging שׁוּבוּ we do not translate: retrace your steps, but: begin afresh, to which both the following clauses are better suited. So Schlottm. and von Gerlach. Hahn retains the Chethib שׁובי, in the signification: my answer; but that is impossible: to answer is השׁיב, not שׁוּב. The עוד drawn to שׁובו by Rebia mugrasch is more suitably joined with צדקי־בה, in which בּהּ refers neutrally to the matter of which it treats. They are to try from the beginning to find that comfort which will meet the case. Their accusations are עולה; his complaints, on the contrary, are fully justified. He does not grant that the outburst of his feeling of pain (Job 3) is עולה: he has not so completely lost his power against temptation, that he would not restrain himself, if he should fall into הוּות. Thus wickedness, which completely contaminates feeling and utterance, is called (Psa 52:4).