Avraham ben Yaakov


Our present chapter contains the whole of Job's answer to Bildad HaShoohi in this second round of his exchanges with his three companions.

Ramban (on Job 19:2) comments: "In this answer Job does not innovate any new idea but complains at length about his pains and the evils that have come upon him. Again he protests that they have come upon him for no reason and that they are a perversion of justice. His intention is to negate the opinion of his companions that his suffering has been sent as a rebuke, and to weep and mourn over his soul in the way that people do when in pain. He takes his terrible illness as proof of his opinion that man is not under God's watchful providence. Job ends up by saying to his companions that they will be punished for not having wept with him over the harsh time that has struck him and for not having been shaken over the great evils he is suffering and the strange blows to which he is being subjected."

V 3: "These ten times you have put me to shame." - "Up until this point in the book Job has made five speeches and his companions have answered him reprovingly five times. They have shamed him not only in their answers but also in not accepting what he has had to say" (Metzudas David).

V 4: "And if indeed I have erred, my error remains with me" - "Even if I have made some unintentional error and done something wrong, it remains with me alone for you have never seen me commit any wrong. While it could be that I have done some wrong privately, what claim does that give you against me - for how could you know my hidden secrets?" (Metzudas David).

V 6: "Know therefore that God has overthrown me." The Hebrew word rendered in the English translations as "has overthrown me" - EEVTHANEE, is from the root LE-AVEITH, to twist, pervert or corrupt. "God has twisted my case, and the very net He has surrounded me with in order to trap me is a perversion of justice" (Metzudas David).

Vv 7-11: Job complains how God is persecuting him as if he is His enemy, as if EEYOV (Job) is His OIYEIV (="enemy").

V 12: "His troops come together. they are encamped around my tent" These are the troops of pains that Job is suffering (Metzudas David). The "troops" also seems to allude to his "companions", who came initially to comfort him but have been castigating him ever more strongly.

Vv 13-19: Here Job expresses how all those that used to be close to him and show him respect have become alienated from him because of the horrific nature of his suffering. Unfortunately the great majority of people do indeed back away from those going through very severe and extreme forms of suffering, especially when their bodies have become seriously misshapen and repulsive. While the reaction is very natural, it leaves the suffering person with a terrible sense of isolation and shame. [Franz Kafka's story of "Metamorphosis" in which the central character has turned into a huge beetle, much to the horror of his family, is a study in the psychology of repulsion.]

V 20: "My bone clings to my skin and my flesh, and I have been saved by the SKIN OF MY TEETH". Rashi explains that all Job's flesh was afflicted with boils and worms except for the gums of his teeth.

Vv 21ff: "Have pity on me, have pity on me, O my friends." Job's plaintive appeal cries out until today from the ancient text.

Vv 23ff: "O that my words were now written." It is from this verse that the Talmud (Bava Basra 15a) infers that Job lived in the time of Moses and that the latter wrote this book.

V 25: "But I know that my Redeemer lives." Rashi explains that this phrase harks back to v 22: "You, the companions, are persecuting me, but I know that my Redeemer lives and will exact retribution from you".

V 26: ".and from my flesh I see God." Like so many verses in the Hebrew text of Job, this verse is darshened to produce very important teachings, in particular the idea that man can attain perceptions of God through contemplation on the form and structure of his own physical body. At the same time, no verse ever departs from its PSHAT (the simple meaning of the text). Rashi notes that the Hebrew name of God in this verse is ELOAH, having the connotation of "Judgment" and punishment. Job is facing God's harsh judgments on his own flesh. Metzudas David explains this verse as part of Job's lament that he is going through terrible suffering despite the fact that he had attained such an apprehension of God that he saw and perceived Him more than he saw and perceived his own flesh.

V 29: Job concludes his answer to Bildad HaShoohi by warning his companions that their lack of willingness to understand the meaning of his suffering would elicit God's retribution.


Tzophar HaNaamathi, the third of the companions, now takes his turn to answer Job in this second cycle of speeches.

Ramban (on Job 20:2) comments that in this speech Tzophar teaches only about the calamity that awaits the wicked, which he greatly emphasizes. Ramban refers students back to his comment on Job 11:2 where he explained that the companions do not address Job's essential issue - why the righteous suffer - because this problem is not very evident to the wider world since whenever someone is destroyed it can always be said that he must have done something to make himself liable. The suffering of the righteous is only a question to one who knows within himself that he is genuinely righteous and guilty of no sin and that he does not deserve the evil that has come upon him. This is why from chapter 11 onwards the companions dwell only on the destruction of the wicked and the extirpation of their seed, because this is the problem that was most evident to them, as it was to the prophets, such as Jeremiah and Habakuk, who asked why the wicked prosper. And each time the companions emphasize the retribution exacted from the wicked in the end, Job goes back to protest his innocence, and argues further that there are many wicked people who die in tranquility (see Ramban loc. cit.)

V 3: "I have heard the censure which insults me." In his previous answer, Job had complained of how deeply his companions had insulted him. Tzophar now turns this back against him, asserting that on the contrary, it is Job who has insulted his companions.

Vv 4ff: Tzophar emphasizes that no matter how high the wicked may ascend, they are eventually be cast down and thrown away like excrement.

V 10: The descendants of the wicked man will have to conciliate the very poor people whom he oppressed: he will have to return everything he took unjustly.

Vv 12-13: The wicked person may secretly nurse his sinister plans, keeping them to himself so that nobody will be able to thwart them. But on the day of his destruction, "his food will be turned in his bowels" (v 14). He will have to vomit out all that he swallowed (v 15).

V 27: The very heavens will reveal the iniquity of the villain. "This is the portion of a wicked man from God" (v 29).



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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