Book of Job Ch. 11-17



Gordis, Robert.  The Book of God and Man: A Study of Job.  (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1965).

——————-    The Book of Job: Commentary, New Translation, and Special Studies.  (Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, 1978).

Janzen, J. Gerald.  Job.  Part of the Interpretation bible commentary series edited by James L. Mays.  (John Knox Press, Atlanta, 1985).

Wilson, Gerald H.   Job.  Part of the Understanding the Bible Commentary Series, General Editors W. Ward Gasque, Robert Hubbard Jr., and Robert Johnston.   (Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 2007).


Notes for Chapter 11 Zophar’s first speech

Janzen p. 97: “Zophar charges Job with forgetting the difference between the limited wisdom accessible to humans and the infinite depth and hiddenness of divine wisdom.  Then, forgetting that he himself is limited by that difference, he proceeds to tell Job what God would say if God were to speak: It would have to do with Job’s exceeding guilt.  Having accused Job of empty-headed stupidity, Zophar concludes with the attempt to lure him to repentance by portraying its outcome as a reversal of Job’s fortunes.”

Remember that we have the benefit of the introduction in which we know that Job IS a righteous and good man –  no one else in the story does.  If our reading of Job does nothing else for us, perhaps we can all remember in the future to give people the benefit of the doubt more often!  The limited life experience of this youngest friend combined with his certainty about the truth of what he has been taught lead him to assert without any qualifiers that Job must indeed be a great sinner.

Zophar is likely the youngest of the three friends and therefore goes last.  His own impatience perhaps makes him speak with stronger words and more vehemence than would have been otherwise.  He does, however, advance the argument a bit – God’s wisdom is so, so vast and so, so beyond us that we will never “get it”.  This is a good point, even the point that Job will reach in the final chapters with one key difference –  Job would concede the wisdom of God being inscrutable to humans but Job wants to be declared innocent as well.   His experience tells him that suffering in this world (such as his) is NOT divine justice.   What happens with US when our experience of the world / issues conflicts with our inherited wisdom?


Genesis 16:11, 12

11  Then the LORD’s angel said to her:

“You are now pregnant and shall bear a son;

you shall name him Ishmael,

For the LORD has heeded your affliction.


12   He shall be a wild ass of a man,

his hand against everyone,

and everyone’s hand against him;

Alongside all his kindred

shall he encamp.”


Gordis suggests that it is part of the genius of the Bible that there are subtle references to stories and the tradition woven together everywhere.  Not that “X = Y” simply, but as background, color and texture.

The only good ass is a tamed ass – an untamed, wild one represents chaos / sin, a world without God even (creation story).

In Job 6:5 Job had compared himself to an ass:

6:4  For the arrows of the Almighty are in me,

and my spirit drinks in their poison;

the terrors of God are arrayed against me.

5  Does the wild donkey bray when it has grass?

Does the ox low over its fodder?


Our NAB translation of 11:12 is “Will empty man then gain understanding, and the wild jackass be made docile?”   Gordis translates the same as : “But a stupid man will get understanding, as soon as a wild ass’s colt is born a man.”   Gordis’ translation then gives the sense that it is hopeless for Job to suddenly get the wisdom of the tradition.


Notes for Job chapters 12, 13, 14  – Job’s response to Zophar

Chapter 12 begins with sarcasm from Job towards the “wisdom” of his friends

Remember the taunting during the crucifixion of Jesus? Matthew 27:43: “He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him.”

Gordis p. 139 points out that In 12:16 a merism : the misled and the misleaders are his – i.e.  everyone!

Janzen p. 103 points out: “With the exception of verse 22, every line in verses 14-25 reverses what conventional wisdom would claim to be a manifestation or revelation of the benign wisdom of God in human affairs.”

(Chapter 13)

v. 13:12 “Your reminders are ashy maxims, your fabrications are mounds of clay.”

v. 13:14 to carry my life in my teeth – Gordis p. 143 suggests is an idiom / slang.  Does not occur more than once elsewhere.  Meaning is deduced –  “why should I put my life in danger?’

v. 13:15 “Slay me though he might, I will wait for him; I will defend my conduct before him.”


(Chapter 14)

v. 14:6 “Look away from him and let him be, while, like a hireling, he completes his day.”

14:14 Gordis “The idea of life after death penetrated Judaism during the Second Temple period.  Unlike Koheleth, who dismisses this doctrine with a shrug of the Shoulders (Ecc. 3:17-22), Job’s warmer and more emotional nature passionately wishes he could accept this comforting idea, but sadly he finds that he cannot believe it.”

Ecc. 3:;17-22

I said in my heart, both the just and the wicked God will judge, since a time is set for every affair and for every work.  I said in my heart: As for human beings, it is God’s way of testing them and of showing that they are in themselves like beasts.  For the lot of mortals and the lot of beasts is the same lot: The one dies as well as the other. Both have the same life breath. Human beings have no advantage over beasts, but all is vanity. Both go to the same place; both were made from the dust, and to the dust they both return. Who knows if the life breath of mortals goes upward and the life breath of beasts goes earthward?  And I saw that there is nothing better for mortals than to rejoice in their work; for this is their lot. Who will let them see what is to come after them?


Notes for Chapter 15: Second speech of Eliphaz

The concluding chapters will return to the themes presented at the beginning here – v. 8 “Are you privy to the counsels of God …?”

Janzen p. 119: “The fact is that Job’s words both disavow and confirm what Eliphaz accuses him of doing; they do this by deconstructing religion at one level to reestablish it at another.  In discounting the words of his friends while claiming to have penetrated to the real truth of things (e.g. at 12:22), Job indeed limits wisdom to himself (15:8).  Thereby he subverts the fear of God as conventionally understood and practiced.”

If the holiest among us don’t know God – how can wicked folks like you know?  The wicked are punished.

Gordis p. 155: “He reminds Job again that all men are imperfect and therefore have no cause to complain about their suffering.  Eliphaz pictures in detail the destiny of the wicked man: his prosperity is temporary, and his life is doomed to end in exile and suffering.  However, a new note is added here.  Eliphaz emphasizes that even while the sinner is ostensibly at peace he lives in constant trepidation, never knowing when the sword of doom will descend upon him.  Thus, in effect, he is being punished during the time of his prosperity.  The ultimate punishment of the wicked is the annihilation of his offspring.”

Notes for Chapters 16 and 17 – Job’s reply to Eliphaz

16:18 “O earth, cover not my blood, nor let my outcry come to rest!”    echoes Genesis Cain and Abel story.  The God of justice avenges blood unjustly shed.

17:1  “My spirit is broken, my lamp of life extinguished; my burial is at hand.”

Gordis p. 169: “What Job wishes is not the Friends’ sympathy for his plight, but their identification with his cause, their sharing his indignation at the injustice perpetrated against him.”   There is a duty for those who witness a crime to report it, to support the victim.

Gordis p. 169: “In calling upon the earth not to hide his blood, Job is speaking not only out of bitterness at his undeserved misery, but also out of faith in the god of righteousness, a faith as passionate as his protest against the God of might.”

Gordis p. 525 : “The just man will be deeply troubled by the injustice in the world (17:8a), but he will not surrender to injustice.  On the contrary, he will actively seek to combat it (17:8b).  He will hold fast to the practice of righteousness (17:9a) and, in fact, intensify his efforts to live the good life (17:9b).  For Job, as for biblical religion generally, the ideal saint isnot he who resigns himself to unjust suffering, but he who actively battles against it.”     Be just, even if there is no reward.  In fact, be just without regard to reward at all.



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