Translation commentary on Job 1:11

But put forth thy hand now: Satan, who is a specialist in revealing the weakness of people’s claims to be devout, suggests to Yahweh how Yahweh can prove Job a pretender. Verse 11 begins with a conjunction which contrasts this verse with Satan’s previous remarks. Put forth thy hand is the first movement in touch all that he has. It contributes no information but only makes Satan’s suggestion more vivid. This part of the double metaphor is not translated by Good News Translation. Good News Translation renders the connective as “But now” and the suggestion as “suppose you take away everything he has.” The author employs the idiom touch, but the action is far more aggressive than the word “touch” suggests. There does not seem to be an attempt on the part of the author to use the word touch as understatement as suggested by k The Old Testament Translated by Ronald Knoxk* (Knox), who attempts to retain the Hebrew idiom by saying “One little touch of thy hand assailing all that wealth of his!” and New Jerusalem Bible “lay a finger on his possessions.” The meaning of touch is to be taken as in Good News Translation “take away everything he has.” If the translator prefers to retain both parts of the figure, it may be translated sometimes as “Reach out your hand and take away everything Job has” or “Reach out and destroy Job’s wealth.” Since the following statement is a consequence resulting from taking away Job’s possessions, it will be more natural in some languages to make the first statement a condition; for example, “If you reach out and take away everything Job has….”

And he will curse thee to thy face: and translates what is literally “if not.” In oaths “if” may be made negative, and the result becomes emphatically positive with the meaning of “certainly, without any doubt.” Good News Translation renders this certainty by creating a break in structure between the tentative dependent clause and the positive claim in the main clause, “suppose you take away everything he has—he will curse you….” Bible en français courant and Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch make the certainty clear through “and I wager you”; “wager” means to place a bet. Curse is again “bless” as in verse 5. In translation it is necessary to distinguish between a curse which means calling on a supernatural power to inflict injury on someone, and the act of saying evil words against someone. Here the latter sense is meant. In this sense curse may be rendered in some languages as “speak evil words against you” or “say that you are worthless.” Verse 11 may sometimes be rendered “If you reach out and take away all his wealth, he will speak evil words against you.” In some languages it will be more natural for the condition clause to follow the result clause.

To thy face refers to the fact that Job will curse Yahweh openly, not behind Yahweh’s back; so Bible en français courant, Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch. Variations of the same expression are found in 6.28; 21.31. In some languages this is rendered, for example, “on your head,” “in your eyes,” or “as if you were nothing.”

Quoted with permission from Reyburn, Wiliam. A Handbook on Job. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1992. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Job 3:9

This verse has three lines in Hebrew. The second and third intensify the picture through the use of figurative language. Let the stars of its dawn be dark: the word translated dawn may refer to morning twilight as in 7.4; Psalm 119.147, or to evening twilight as in 24.15; Proverbs 7.9. Since the pronominal reference has been to the night of Job’s conception, it is best to take it that way here. So the meaning is the dawn following the night of conception, and the stars are the planets Venus and Mercury, which can sometimes be seen as the brightest stars in the sky just before sunrise. Job wishes these stars had remained dark so that the day of his birth never would have come round. The translation of the stars of its dawn may be as specific as is customary when the language speaks of the stars that shine at dawn. If specific names are not used to designate these, it will be best to say, for example, “the stars that shine at dawn” or “… before the sun rises.”

Let it hope for light, but have none, nor see the eyelids of the morning: these two lines are parallel. The personified hope for light is paralleled by the more dramatic figure see the eyelids of the morning. The heightening effect may be translated in English as “Let the morning stars of the night I was conceived not shine, let that night hope to have light, but have none, and do not let the day dawn at all.” In some languages these wishes, which represent already-realized events, will need to be expressed differently to say something like “How I wish the morning star had not shone the night I was conceived.” The personalization of the night hoping may have to be restructured to say, for example, “Let the night become very long without any daylight coming,” “Let the night end without a sunrise,” or “Let the night go on and on without a dawn.” Eyelids of the morning suggests the streaks of light that glow on the eastern horizon as sunrise approaches. This will usually have to be changed into a different figure, or more commonly expressed as a nonfigure. Good News Translation has combined and shortened lines b and c and makes no attempt to show the poetic intensification. And Good News Translation has kept the poetic personalization but done away with the poetic imagery: “give the night no hope of dawn.”

Quoted with permission from Reyburn, Wiliam. A Handbook on Job. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1992. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Job 4:18

Verse 18 makes the argument of verse 17 still stronger by not allowing even angels to be without error. The two lines are again parallel, the first being negative and the second positive. Even translates the Hebrew particle often rendered in Revised Standard Version as “behold.” In the present context the meaning is “if” or “even.” Servants refers not to earthly servants but to those like the angels and perhaps the beings who serve God in heaven. Good News Translation, Biblia Dios Habla Hoy, and some others have described the servants as “heavenly.” Angels is the regular term used in the Old Testament for these heavenly creatures. In Psalm 34.7 “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him.” Angels are God’s heavenly messengers known for caring for, protecting, and guarding his people in Exodus 23.20 and Joshua 5.13-15. As is common in parallel lines, angels in line b is a more specific term than servants used in line a. In charges with error the Hebrew word translated error is found only here in the Old Testament. Some scholars change the vowels of this word to get “folly,” the thing Job refused to charge God with in 1.21 (see discussion there on “wrong”). Others suggest changes which give “deception” or even “praise.” Most translations are similar to Revised Standard Version, or Good News Translation “find fault.” Revised Standard Version begins verse 18 as a concessive clause, Even in his servants, which signals a degree of surprise in what follows. Good News Translation does the same but places “even” in line b. In some languages it may be necessary to make the two lines of verse 18 into two “if” clauses; for example, “If God does not trust…” and “if God finds fault….”

Quoted with permission from Reyburn, Wiliam. A Handbook on Job. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1992. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Job 6:5 - 6:6

Job sets out now to match Eliphaz’s proverbs (5.2-7) with two of his own. These are stated as rhetorical questions, meaning emphatic denials. The two lines are parallel but without increasing the emphasis. Wild ass bray and grass in line a is matched in line b by the domestic ox low and fodder. What do these rhetorical questions refer to? According to Habel, verse 5 is linked back to verses 2-3. Then the interpretation is that the ass and ox, which refer to Job, do not complain when there is fodder to eat, and so Job would not complain if God were not causing him all this trouble. On the other hand, the hungry animals may still refer to Job, but the fodder may be taken as the comfort that is not forthcoming from his friends. A somewhat parallel picture is found in Psalm 69.21-22. The point of the second view is that, if Job had received proper food (true words of comfort), he would not now be in such anguish.

Does the wild ass bray when he has grass: the wild ass is portrayed fully in 39.5-8. The despair of this wild creature when it lacks food is seen in Jeremiah 14.6. Grass translates the term for wild pasture grass used also in Genesis 1.11 for “vegetation” in general. Ox low over his fodder: the Hebrew term translated ox is defined by Holladay as “fully grown male bovine, whether castrated or not.” The word is also used sometimes of cattle in general. Good News Translation says “cow,” Biblia Dios Habla Hoy “bull,” and New English Bible, like Revised Standard Version, “ox.” This range of renderings covers all possibilities, and translators are free to take their choice. In contrast with grass which the wild animals find growing on the hillsides, fodder is more specifically food for domestic animals, and the word is found only here and in Isaiah 30.24.

In some languages other animals will have to be substituted for wild ass and ox, but the translator should attempt to maintain the contrast between the wild animal that eats grass in line a and the domestic animal that eats food supplied by its owner in line b. If it is not possible to contrast actual species of animals, we may often shift to a generic usage; for example, “Does a wild animal cry when it can find something to eat, or a tame animal when its owner gives it something to eat?” Rhetorical questions must often be answered “Certainly not!” Or negative statements may be used instead of rhetorical questions. Those finding a positive statement more natural will find a good model in Good News Translation. Good News Translation does not attempt to make the distinction between wild and domestic animals.

In Revised Standard Version and other translations, Job continues with still another rhetorical question. In order to vary the style, Good News Translation, which avoided the question form in the previous verse, now translates with a question. Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt: this figure may refer to the words of Eliphaz, which were arguments without consolation or comfort. Line a asks rhetorically if anything that is in itself tasteless can be eaten without adding salt to give it flavor. The answer is an emphatic “No.”

Any taste in the slime of the purslane?: the first line of this pair is straightforward in its literal meaning. However, this line is more of a problem. Slime translates a word found only here and in 1 Samuel 21.13, where Revised Standard Version renders it “spittle.” Purslane is a pod-bearing plant that secretes a runny, sticky sap. The name of this plant has also been associated by some interpreters with the “mallow” (New English Bible) and the milkweed. A rabbinical interpretation, “slime of the yolk,” preferred by many scholars, is the basis for “white of the egg” used by Good News Translation and others. Biblia Dios Habla Hoy avoids identifying any form of substance and says “What pleasure is there in a flavorless thing?” Because of the uncertainty in this line, translators are advised to follow Good News Translation, or if people do not eat eggs, Biblia Dios Habla Hoy offers an adequate model.

In line a that which is tasteless is matched in line b by the tastelessness of slime of the purslane. Line b follows the regular pattern in being more specific than line a. The way in which line b goes beyond line a can be rendered in English, for example, “Food without salt is tasteless, and there is even less taste in the white of an egg” or “Saltless food is tasteless, but not as tasteless as the white of an egg.”

Quoted with permission from Reyburn, Wiliam. A Handbook on Job. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1992. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Job 7:13 - 7:14

In these verses Job continues his complaint against God. Verse 13 is dependent on verse 14 to complete its thought, and may be taken as in Revised Standard Version or as a conditional sentence “If I say….” My bed will comfort me: Job in his anguish hopes he will find comfort and relief when he goes to bed to sleep. My couch is parallel to My bed in the previous line but is without heightened poetic effect. Will ease my complaint matches comfort me. Job’s complaint is not just for his physical illness but for the deeper anguish he is unable to escape. In some languages it will not be possible to find a pair of words with similar meaning such as bed and couch. It is possible in many cases to avoid one or even both nouns and employ verb phrases; for example, “When I lie down to sleep” and “When I go to bed.”

Verse 14 completes the thought of verse 13. The two lines of this verse are parallel, saying something very similar. Their purpose is to emphasize Job’s complaint against God, who will not even leave him alone in peace while he sleeps. Then thou dost scare me with dreams: then refers to the time when Job is in bed and sleeping. Eliphaz received his revelations in a vision of the night. For Job such visions are a further source of torment. Terrify me with visions is not intended to represent a different reaction nor a different experience. The two lines say very much the same thing. However, the verb translated terrify is in the Hebrew intensive form, which heightens the poetic feeling in line b. In some languages it may be necessary to say, for example, “You give me bad dreams that scare me” or “You make me have bad dreams and they scare me.” There is no attempt to distinguish visions from dreams in the parallel lines. The focus is rather on Job’s reaction to these nighttime experiences.

Quoted with permission from Reyburn, Wiliam. A Handbook on Job. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1992. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Job 9:7

Who commands the sun, and it does not rise: the author shifts from speaking of the earth in verse 6 to speaking of the heavens. The agent of the verb continues to be God. The command not to rise is given to the sun, which is here not the usual term for sun, but rather a poetic term. In some languages it may be necessary to shift to direct address; for example, “God says to the sun, ‘Do not rise,’ and to the stars, ‘Do not shine.’ ” Who seals up the stars: the action of sealing up the stars would be to cover them and not allow them to shine. So Job describes God as one who keeps the heavens in darkness, and this is similar to their condition in 3.4-9, when he called on God to “let that day (of his conception) be darkness.”

Quoted with permission from Reyburn, Wiliam. A Handbook on Job. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1992. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Job 10:7

Although thou knowest that I am not guilty: verse 7 opens with a concessive clause, which translates the Hebrew “in spite of your knowledge.” Job has insisted all along upon his innocence, and believes that God knows the truth of Job’s innocence but is acting otherwise. Good News Translation has avoided the use of the concessive clause and makes an equally valid independent statement, “You know that I am not guilty.” This line may also be expressed “even though you know I am innocent…” or “even though you know I have done no wrong….”

And there is none to deliver out of thy hand: some scholars see a break in sense between lines a and b and therefore propose changing either the first or the second to give the two halves a closer relationship. However, it is not necessary to establish a close parallelism between the lines. It is best to leave them as they stand in the Hebrew text. To be delivered out of thy hand means to be “rescued, saved, spared” from whatever God may care to do to him: “There is nobody who can save me from you, God”; “No one can help me escape from you”; or “There is no one to rescue me.”

Quoted with permission from Reyburn, Wiliam. A Handbook on Job. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1992. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Job 12:2

No doubt you are the people: No doubt translates a word meaning “truly,” which, when followed as it is by the Hebrew conjunction ki, has the meaning “It is true that, doubtless, certainly.” The word translated people has no article in the Hebrew, as it normally would have to give the Revised Standard Version meaning. However, in poetry articles are not always found as they are in prose, and so the Revised Standard Version meaning can still be obtained. Many different changes to the text have been proposed by scholars, but none are convincing. Job is saying in a sarcastic way “You are the important people, the ones who count, the people everyone listens to.” Good News Translation “the voice of the people” means “You are the ones who speak for the people.” In some languages this expression is rendered, for example, “You are the mouths of the village,” “Out of your mouths the people speak,” or “Your tongues speak for everyone.”

And wisdom will die with you: this line is not parallel with the first line but is a separate thought in the form of a relative clause describing the people in that line. “you are the people with whom wisdom will die out” or “after you die there will be no more wise people alive.”

Quoted with permission from Reyburn, Wiliam. A Handbook on Job. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1992. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .