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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Job 27

Verses 1-6

Still I Will Not Recant (27:1-6)

This is clearly Job; the words could have been spoken by no other. And this is Job at his most confident stand. Here he is Prometheus, holding on to his right, not hurling defiance at God but steadfastly maintaining the justice of his cause. The insistent challenges of the friends have now in the end served only to clarify and crystallize his own thoughts. There is a noticeable change from his former uncertainties. Where before he has betrayed elements of indecision and uncertainty, here there is only calm assurance, an absolute certainty.

The strength and confidence he feels are evident in the opening words which form the introductory formula to an oath. "As the Lord lives" is the common formula, although the form "As God lives" appears also (see 2 Samuel 2:27). Job swears by the very God to whom his complaint is addressed and who is himself the subject of that complaint. As long as Job lives (vs. 3), which will not be long, two things will remain unchanged : he will not lie and he will not deny the fundamental fact of his "integrity" (see chs. 1 and 2). In verse 6 he makes the strong statement that not only is his righteousness unblemished (see 9:21), but his conscience is also untroubled. Elihu later refers to this remarkable confidence of Job (compare Job 34:5 with Job 27:6; Job 27:2). And the Greek translation of the last line of verse 6 appears also in Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 4:4. However, a good deal of the difference between the Book of Job and the New Testament is to be seen in the contrast between these two passages. Where Job can say, "My heart does not reproach me," Paul declares, "I am not aware of anything against myself," and then adds out of his Christian faith, "but I am not thereby acquitted."

Verses 1-23

Job Speaks (27:1-23)

Although in the present form of the Book of Job chapters 27-31 are represented as belonging to the final speech of Job, it is evident from the content itself that there are some diflBculties associated with this view. First, there is the fact, already mentioned, that Zophar is not given a third and final speech. Second, 27:7-23 forms a unit which sounds strikingly like the position of the three friends and which is in part difficult to assign to Job. Third, chapter 28 is another unit, self-contained and complete in itself, a poem dealing with the impossibility of finding "Wisdom," again an idea somewhat out of context. Finally, there are two introductory statements in this entire section, one at Job 27:1 and the other at Job 29:1, both of which are unlike the common introduction "then Job answered" (see, for example, Job 16:1 and Job 19:1; see also Job 20:1).

Taken all together these difficulties point once more to some sort of dislocation of the original order of the book. Each one can be dealt with and resolved separately; but as a whole the problem is not easily solved.

Verses 7-23

The Godless Have No Hope (27:7-23)

Verses 7-10 clearly form a denial of any hope to the "godless." God will not give hope when such a man has been cut off, God will not hear his prayer even if he calls, and the unrighteous man himself finds none of the delightful solaces of faith.

Is this Job? If so, then he is strongly reiterating his own righteousness (see vs. 6) and reassuring himself that as poor as its rewards are, for him they are still better than the hopelessness of the wicked. Moreover, he may be affirming that although the wicked have, as he has constantly affirmed, the best in fife and death, they have no hope for life or vindication after death, a hope which he has reached (ch. 19) and which is his own personal resolution of his burning agony.

In this sense the words can be assigned to Job. And yet it is easy to see that they do not exactly sound like him and at best represent some modification of his former position. Consequently many interpreters see in these words another misplaced portion of one of the final speeches of the friends, possibly Zophar. The problem remains, however, for the thought is difficult to connect with anything the friends have said, and it is not clear why either of them should refer to his "enemy." No final solution can be reached.

This is also true of verses 11-12, which again appear to be Job’s words. They seem to be addressed to the friends and to anticipate some new or strong statement on the part of Job, a statement of what the friends have "seen" but apparently not understood. But what is this revelation? Is it the position set forth in verses 13-23? If so, it must be said that this is precisely the position of the friends, so much so that its phrasing as well as its thought can be paralleled in their other speeches. Some interpreters prefer to make these words introductory to chapter 28, where the connection is better.

To come to verses 13-23 is to reach the basic problem. Here, it is abundantly clear, is a strong, unrelieved statement of the unhappy fate of the wicked, his "portion" and his inheritance. And it turns out to be exactly what the friends have maintained all along! If the wicked man has children, they perish or starve (vss. 14-15; compare Job 5:4; Job 18:15; Job 18:17; Job 18:19); his possessions vanish (vss. 16-19; compare Job 15:29; Job 15:33; Job 20:18-22; Job 20:26; Job 20:28); he is the subject of unremitting terror (vss. 20-23; compare Job 15:20-24; Job 18:11-14; Job 20:23-27). The images are sharp and mainly clear. In verse 18 the Revised Standard Version’s "like a spider’s web" is a guess and incorporates an image which is used frequently in the Wisdom Literature (see Job 8:14-15); but the Hebrew "like the moth" is not impossible to understand and is paralleled in Job 4:19. Verse 22 makes "the east wind" the subject of the verb, although the margin is possible, paralleling 20:23-25.

Again the question must be asked: Is this Job? Or is it a misplaced fragment of a lost speech of Zophar? In favor of the latter it must be agreed that the imagery and the thought are clearly harmonious with Zophar’s manner and ideas. It is easy to see, moreover, that such a statement might have been assigned to Job by an overcautious editor who feared that the hero had gone too far in his denial that any moral principle operated in the world.

Can we say, on the other hand, that these words could have been Job’s in the original work? In so doing we would have to say as well that the author meant thereby to modify Job’s excesses. Such modification would seem to be so strong that it would virtually negate everything that has been said before.

One other line of reasoning is a possibility, namely, that Job here is represented as quoting the friends in a kind of deliberate parody. In favor of this it may be pointed out that once before he has cleariy done this, if Job 24:18-20 is the speech of Job. If this is the case, then verbal similarities to previous speeches of the friends would be expected; however, this is a hypothesis and does not completely solve the difficulties, for the words themselves do not indicate that they are a quotation, and the connection with what precedes and what follows is not smooth. Once again we are left with a difficulty which is insoluble on the basis of the evidence we now have. But it must be affirmed that this difficulty in no way detracts from either an understanding of the Book of Job or a full appreciation of its content.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Job 27". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/job-27.html.