Avraham ben Yaakov
JOB CHAPTER 13
Chapters 13 and 14 are the continuation of Job's answer to Tzophar, which began at the start of chapter 12. Tzophar had been the third of Job's companions to address him, and his was the last of the first cycle of speeches. Having heard the arguments of all three of his companions, Job now addresses his answer to all three collectively.
In the opening section of his reply in the previous chapter, Job had denied Tzophar's view that he had attained little wisdom and that Tzophar and his companions were wiser, Now Job castigates the three of them for "flattering" God and finding justifications for His chastisements, as if Job was a great sinner when in fact he was not. Job refutes Tzophar's opinion that his suffering had come upon him because he was not as wise as he should have been on his level. Job argues that, being born in and through impurity, it is impossible for any man to be completely pure and it would not make sense that God would punish him because of this (Metzudas David on Job 14:22).
Chapter 13 v 1: "Lo, my eye has seen all this." Job protests that he is no less wise than his companions.
V 3: "Yet I would speak to the Almighty." Job wants to get to the real truth and not accept his companions' glib answers.
V 4: "But you are forgers of lies." Granted that the wicked suffer because of their sins, Job maintains that his companions' answers still fail to explain why the innocent suffer, and therefore their answers are lies.
V 7: "Will you speak wickedly for God.?" It is wickedness to condemn an innocent man in order to justify God (Metzudas David).
V 8: "Will you show Him partiality.?" If the companions show favor to God in this debate and satisfy themselves with easy answers in order not to impugn His honor, this is an affront to truth and justice.
V 13: "Hold your peace, let me alone, that I may speak and let come on me what will." With extraordinary boldness and courage, Job is determined to press his question without compromise.
V 15: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him; but I will maintain my own ways before Him." Job will prove himself innocent, no matter what he may have to endure to do so.
V 20: "Only do not do two things to me." The two things Job asks God not to do to him are enumerated in v 21: (1) Not to deal him any blow during their "debate" so as not to throw him into confusion. (2) Not to frighten him so that he will not shrivel into silence out of fear (cf. Metzudas David).
Vv 23f: Job returns to his fundamental challenge to God to make known to him what sin or transgression he has committed to deserve such suffering, because he is not aware of any (Metzudas David).
V 28: "And he is consumed like rottenness, like a garment eaten by moths" - "This body that you are persecuting will be consumed like rottenness: it does not befit Your glory to persecute me!" (Rashi).
Vv 1-3: "Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble. And do you open Your eyes on such a one and bring me into judgment with You?" Since man is so fragile and evanescent, Job questions why God watches over and judges a creature as lowly as this.
V 4: "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one!" Man comes from a putrid, impure drop - how is it possible for man to be pure? There is not a single man who is entirely pure: even the righteous are conceived in sin (cf. Psalms 51:7; Metzudas David, Ramban).
V 6: Again Job appeals to God to take away his suffering and let him live out the remainder of his short life in peace before he is ready to die.
V 7: "For a tree has hope." Even after a tree is cut down, the stump can still put forth new shoots and regenerate, but this is not so in the case of a man:
V 10: "But man dies and is laid low; yes, man perishes, and where is he?"
V 14: "If a man dies, shall he live again?" If man could to come back to life after death this might provide the basis for an answer to Job's question about the meaning and purpose of the suffering of the innocent. However, while reincarnation and the resurrection of the dead are articles of our faith, in this life we see no clear and indisputable proof of them, leaving us in our existential anguish about the futility of our lives.
V 19: Just as stones are worn away by water until nothing is left, so man's life is wasted away.
V 22: "Only when his flesh is on him does he feel pain, and while his soul is within him does he mourn." Since man is condemned to this life of pain and futility, Job pleads with God to let him alone. The Talmud interprets this verse very differently from the way it is rendered in English, learning that after a person's burial the soul hovers over the body, weeping and mourning and feeling the very bites of the maggots (Shabbos 152a-b).
May God have mercy upon us!
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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