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Avraham ben Yaakov
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JOB CHAPTER 7

Chapter 7 continues Job's reply to Eliphaz, which started at the beginning of Chapter 6. At the end of Chapter 6 Job had protested his innocence of any sin that could be accounted as the cause of his suffering, asking his companions to examine carefully and see that he had committed no wrong. Now in Chapter 7 Job counters Eliphaz' argument that if he would only submit to his suffering and accept its purgative power, God would in the end "settle" with him, protect him from trouble and evil and show him goodness.

Vv 1-2: "Is there not a limit to man's service on earth." Man's life has an end: he is like a hired laborer whose contract is for a limited period and who longs for it to come to an end. Job is unable to wait for the good end promised by Eliphaz because his suffering is so great that his only hope is to die.

In vv 3-4 Job depicts the terrible suffering caused by his illness. His pain keeps him awake all night hoping for relief in the morning, and when the relief does not come he tosses and turns on his bed all day hoping for relief in the evening.

In v 5 Job depicts the horrible effects of the boils with which he is afflicted, which are full of maggots, while his skin is cracked and disintegrating.

Vv 6-10: Job feels that his life is "slipping through his fingers" at a rate faster than that of the weaver's shuttle, and there is therefore no hope of a better future.

Vv 7-9: "My eye shall no more see good. As a cloud is consumed and vanishes away, so he who goes down to the grave shall come up no more." From here the Rabbis learned that Job denied in the resurrection of the dead (Rashi & Metzudas David ad loc.; Bava Basra 16a). If death is but a sleep (Job 3:12) and there is no afterlife, what hope is there of a better future for Job if his life in this world is slipping away consumed by his suffering?

V 11: "I ALSO shall not restrain my mouth." Job is saying that if God will not leave him alone and refrain from hurting him, he too will not restrain himself from crying out over His way of dealing with him. If he complains, it is because of the terrible bitterness of his soul.

V 12: "Am I a sea or a sea monster that You set a watch against me?" The sea is limited by the shore, and the sea monster cannot move beyond the depths of the sea. Similarly Job feels God has set a watch against him from which he cannot escape, because of the Satan, who has been charged to ensure that despite his suffering the soul will not go out of him, so that there is no refuge for him in death (see Rashi).

Vv 13-16: Job is sick of this life of suffering, in which he finds no relief or comfort but only anguish. He would much prefer to die.

Vv 17-18: Job now challenges Eliphaz' argument that everything is under God's Providence, asking how it could be fitting that God would constantly watch over man and pay attention to his deeds when man is so lowly and despicable.

V 18: "That You should remember him every morning and try him at every moment." From this verse the Rabbis learned that man is judged every day and at every moment (Rosh HaShanah 16a).

V 19 is the desperate cry of the suffering invalid: How long before You will leave me alone? You do not even give me a moment to swallow!

Vv 20-21: Job now asks how it could affect or harm God even if he had sinned. If God knew from the very outset of Job's creation that this is how it would be, why did He create him simply in order to take vengeance from him like the target of an arrow? Why can He not simply take away his sin since his life will soon be over?

CHAPTER 8

The second of Job's three companions, Bildad HaShoohi, now makes his contribution to the first cycle of arguments and counterarguments, answering Job by asking how it could be possible that God would corrupt justice (v 3).

V 4: If Job's children died, this must have been because of their sinful life of constant banqueting (Metzudas David).

Vv 5-7: If, as Job claims, he is innocent, then God will surely "settle" with him in the end so that although he is suffering now, he will enjoy relief later on.

Vv 8-10: Bildad adduces the wisdom handed down from the earliest generations based on their experience and investigations.

Vv 11ff: Bildad explains this received wisdom through the metaphor of the reed grass and rushes, which expresses the evanescence of the success of the wicked. As long as the reeds and rushes have an abundant supply of water they flourish, but as soon as the water disappears they dry up and wither. Similarly the wicked flourish as long as the hour "laughs" at them, but as soon as their measure is complete, the success in which they trusted turns out to be as flimsy as a spider's web.

There is a difference in the way vv 16-19 are explained by Rashi and Ramban on the one hand as opposed to the way they are explained by Metzudas David on the other.

Rashi and Ramban explain vv 16-19 as a continuation of the metaphor of the reed grass and rushes. No matter how extensively their roots may spread, as soon as they are consumed they disappear for ever and it is as if they had never been in the place where they grew.

However according to Metzudas David's interpretation, vv 16-19 contain a second metaphor expressing how the righteous endure and are regenerated, as opposed to the wicked who were compared to the reed grass that quickly dries up and disappears. Thus Metzudas David interprets v 16 as referring to a mighty tree that remains moist even when it stands in the sun, and its branches spread over the whole garden where it is planted. Its extensive roots reach down to deep deposits of water. Metzudas David explains vv 17-18 as saying that such a tree is so strong that even if it is transplanted so that it is as if it never existed in its first place, even so, it has the power to regenerate itself and grow even better in the new place to which it is transplanted. According to Metzudas David, the metaphor comes to teach that even the trouble that strikes the righteous, who are compared to a mighty tree with extensive roots, is actually for their benefit because since the tree is intrinsically strong. Even when it is transplanted elsewhere, it still has the power to grow and flourish. Likewise even when the Tzaddikim are "transplanted" into a life of suffering, it can still be turned to their advantage even though we cannot know how this is so because of the limitations of human understanding.

Vv 20: Bildad's inference from this received wisdom of the early generations is that if Job is truly pure and innocent, God will not reject him and eventually the tables will be turned on his adversaries.

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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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