Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
JOB CHAPTER 29
V 1: "And Job ADDED, bearing his parable, and he said." After the conclusion of his sublime praise of Wisdom in the previous section, Job saw that none of his three companions had any answer to give him. Accordingly he continued speaking further, again with the use of MASHAL - the metaphors and parables with which the following poetic passages are replete.
Until this point in the book, we have largely seen Job only in his suffering and misery - a man crushed and broken physically (though not in his spirit). Even if we have had references to what Job was in his time of glory, they have been only fleeting and indirect. Despite his protestations of innocence and righteousness, we have seen little of the actual content of this righteousness. On the contrary, from the castigations of his companions, we may have come to wonder whether Job was not seriously flawed. In order for us to see who the real Job was in all his true righteousness and purity - he was compared in greatness to Abraham (see Rashi on Job 30:19 & Tanchuma Ki Teitzei 5) - he now gives us his own supremely eloquent and moving self-vindication in the present chapter and the two chapters that follow it, which in the Hebrew text are one continuous parshah (section).
V 2: "O that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me" - "If only I could be now as I was in earlier times" (Metzudas David).
V 3: "When His candle shone upon my head." In the simple sense, this verse refers to the time when Job was at the height of his greatness as a most respected sage, elder, leader and protector of his people, guiding them through darkness with the light of God's Torah. A well known Midrash explains the REMEZ (allusion) in the verse as being to the time when the embryo is in the womb and the soul - His "candle" - can see from one end of the universe to the other, prior to the moment of birth, when an angel comes and taps the baby on the mouth and makes him forget the entire Torah (Niddah 30b).
Vv 4ff: Job now begins to evoke the days of his youth, as a prophetic figure with whom God dwelled, making him a fountain of wise counsel and leadership.
Vv 7-10: When Job used to come out to the "gate of the city", the gathering place of the elders, young and old would show him the deepest respect and reverence. The leaders would remain silent, awaiting his words.
Vv 12-13: Job imitated his Creator in saving the poor, the orphans and the widows. "He used to steal a field from orphans, invest in it and improve it, and then return it to them. Wherever there was a widow that nobody wanted to marry, he would go and attach his name to her, saying he was her relative, and then people came wanting to marry her" (Bava Basra 16a).
V 14: "I put on righteousness and it clothed me." - "I pursued justice and it was to be found with me like a beautiful ornamental cloak and a turban" (Rashi).
V 16: ".and the cause which I knew not I searched out." Job was not one of those complacent judges who did not trouble to dig deeper to find the real truth. If something did not make sense to him, he made it his business to investigate and discover the truth.
V 17: Job was a fearless champion of the poor against those who oppressed them.
V 18: At the peak of his glory, Job could not imagine that it could all be taken from him.
V 19: "[I thought] my root would remain spread out to the waters and the dew would lie all night upon my branch" - "Job said, Because the doors of my house were always wide open for all, everyone else used to harvest dry ears of corn but I would harvest fat ones. Because I used to engage in Torah, which is compared to water, I merited to be blessed with dew" (Bereishis Rabbah 68).
Vv 21-23: Again Job describes the profound respect and deference that he was accorded.
V 24: If Job smiled at the people, they could not believe that he would act so informally with them because of his great importance in their eyes, and they were still afraid to come closer and act casually with him (see Rashi).
V 25: Job was not too proud to visit those in mourning. He had the majesty and graciousness of a king. This verse is the source of some laws relating to comforting mourners (Mo'ed Katan 28b).
V 1: "But now they that are younger than me laugh at me." In contrast to his one-time position of prestige and honor, Job now describes how he has become the laughing stock of low-down people. While ostensibly Job is talking about all the common people who now mock him in his pathetic state, the Midrash implies that he is actually complaining against his companions for abusively having claimed he was a villain. ".whose fathers I would have disdained to have set with the dogs of my flock" - "Job said to Eliphaz, Are you not the son of Esau. If your father had stood begging me to give him food with my dogs I would have disqualified him!" (Tanchuma).
V 2-8: Job describes the utter lowliness and worthlessness of the people who now mock him.
V 4: "They cut off mallows from upon some bush (SI'ACH) and their bread is the root of broom-plants" - "Anyone who abandons Torah wisdom and engages in idle conversation (SI'ACH) is fed with coals of the broom-plant" (Hagigah 12b). Those who mock at Job are ignoramuses.
V 9: "But now I have become their song." Job's enemies - such as wrong-doers whom he punished - now triumph over him. In the words of Ramban (on Job 30:1): "Job complains about people's mockery of him even more than over his illness and the loss of his children and possessions. He speaks emphatically and at length about his pain over his enemies' joy over his trouble. For this reason an ancient book of parables says that when they asked Job what was the worst of all his troubles, he replied that it was the joy of his enemies over the evil that struck him." Shame and humiliation can be the worst torment of all.
V 15: "Terrors are turned upon me, my DIGNITY (Heb. NEDIVASI, lit. 'my generous one') is pursued as by the wind" - "This refers to the soul" (Metzudas Tzion).
Vv 16ff: Job now again elaborates on the excruciating physical suffering caused by his illness.
V 18: "By the great force of my illness, my garb is changed." Job's clothes were filthy with sweat and the morbid discharges from the boils in which he was covered.
V 19: "He has cast me into the MUD, and I am become like dust and ashes" - Job had to sit in mud to try to cool the burning inflammation of his boils. "Rabbi Berachiah said, 'In my righteousness, I [Job] am compared to Abraham, who called himself 'dust and ashes' (Gen. 18:27), yet God has judged me like the villains of the generation of the dispersal, who rebelled against him with the building of the Tower of Babel, of whom it is written that 'the MUD was cement for them' (ibid. 11:3)" (Rashi; Tanchuma, Ki Teitzei 5).
Vv 20f: "I cry to You but You do not answer me." All Job's cry and complaint is addressed not to his companions but to God alone.
V 25ff: Again Job complains that he acted righteously and with profound sensitivity for those suffering, yet now he is sunk in affliction. Why do the righteous suffer???
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
© AZAMRA INSTITUTE 5767 - 2006-7 All rights reserved