Avraham ben Yaakov
JOB CHAPTER 17
Our present chapter completes Job's answer to Eliphaz' second speech, which began in Chapter 16. Job continues to bemoan his lot, the pain of which is exacerbated by what he perceives as the mockery of his companions.
V 3: "Give now a pledge.." Job turns from his companions to address the Creator directly (Rashi), appealing to Him to give him a guarantee that he will be able to pursue his disputation to the very end and arrive at the truth.
V 4: Job complains that his companions' hearts are closed to true wisdom and that God's glory will not be enhanced through their arguments (Rashi).
V 5: His companions have used slippery talk in their debates with him and they will be punished as a result, because their children will languish (Rashi).
V 6: "He has made me also a byword of the nations and I shall be a horror to every face." Job has indeed become the proverbial archetype of human suffering. By simply switching around the order of the middle two Hebrew letters of Job's name, EEYOV turns into OIYEIV, "an enemy" - as if God has turned him into His enemy and is persecuting him.
V 8: "Upright men are astonished at this, and the innocent stirs himself up against the godless." Job asserts that if truly righteous people were to hear the mockery of his companions, they would be shocked.
V 9: "Yet the righteous will hold on his way, and he that has clean hands will grow stronger." Eliphaz had accused Job of undermining people's fear of God through implying that there is no reward for righteousness and no retribution for sin (Job 15:4). Now Job retorts that the opposite is true. "The righteous man will not abandon his pathway thinking that it is futile to serve God, because he knows that he will receive goodness - the delights of the soul. One whose hands are clean of robbery and exploitation will become even more resolute in his path when he sees how easily worldly acquisitions and success can be totally lost. This will make him despise them and place his hope only in the attainment of success in his spiritual endeavors, keeping well away from engaging in the oppression of his fellow man" (Metzudas David).
V 10: Job is certain that eventually his friends will come to realize that the truth is with him.
Vv 11ff: Again Job complains how all his hopes in life have been dashed, and how his companions' mockery turns his nights into day - because the pain it causes him drives away his sleep - while the light of day is short because of his troubles, which are dark as night (Rashi on v 12).
Vv 13-16: Contrary to his companions' promises that if he will repent, God will give him a good end, Job complains that his only hope is to die in order to find relief from his pain. "And where, then, is my hope?"
Bildad HaShoohi, the second of the three companions in order of seniority, now gives his answer to Job in this second cycle of their speeches. Metzudas David (on Job 18:21) summarizes Bildad's argument as follows: "He answers Job by saying that he cannot agree to his claim that God does not watch over the world providentially, despite Job's cries that he is suffering despite having committed no crime such as to deserve it. Bildad brings proof from the way the fall of the wicked comes about through their very own counsels and stratagems to the point that their name is forgotten. This does not happen in the case of the righteous. As to the evil that has come upon Job, it is likely that it has come to him because he fell short in the service of God and attained less wisdom than was befitting to a man of such abundant understanding as he had. In this respect he was equivalent to a sinner."
V 2: The commentators differ as to whether Bildad is addressing Job, telling him to stop interrupting the companions but to hear them out in order to understand what they are saying (Rashi) or addressing his companions, asking why they put an end to their words in order to give Job the opportunity to answer each one in turn, since there is nothing to what he is saying and it is worthless to hear him out (Ramban).
V 3: Bildad asks rhetorically why Job looks on his companions as if they are on the level of animals, without wisdom?
V 4: Bildad castigates Job for tearing himself to shreds through his rage and anger over his suffering. "Shall the earth be abandoned because of you or shall the Rock be removed from His place?" - "Just because you are crying out that you are righteous and that you are suffering for no crime, why should we therefore conclude that the earth has been abandoned to the rule of the heavenly order of stars and planets and that the Creator has withdrawn from the world and does not watch over it providentially?" (Metzudas David).
Vv 5ff: In returning again to the theme of the inevitable downfall of the wicked, Bildad once again implies that Job is guilty of some sin even though he will not admit it. "Indeed, the light of the wicked shall be put out." The apparent success of the wicked (="light") will be put out and turn into darkness.
Vv 8ff: "For he is cast into a net by his own feet." The very counsels and stratagems employed by the wicked contain hidden traps that bring about their downfall.
Vv 13-14: The children of the wicked shall be consumed by "the firstborn of death" - this is the angel of death (Rashi). "He shall be cut off from the tent of his security" - this is the sinner's wife (Metzudas David). "And shall be brought to the king of terrors" - this is the king of the demons (Metzudas David).
Vv 16-21: In the end, the wicked face total extirpation of themselves and their seed for ever.
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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