The Word Made Fresh
1“A man is born of a woman and has a short life filled with troubles. 2He springs up like a flower and then withers and disappears like a shadow. 3Are you staring at such a man? Are you dragging me into judgment before you? 4No one can bring something pure from what is impure. 5Since their days are numbered and since you know how many months they have, and since you have set up boundaries they cannot pass, 6then look away from them and leave them alone so they can at least enjoy their time, even if only as common laborers.
7“There is hope for a tree. If a tree is cut down it will sprout again and send out shoots continually. 8Even if its roots grow old and its stump dies, 9give it some water and it will bud and send out branches like a new plant. 10But we mortals die and are buried, and then where are we? 11Just as lakes and rivers dry up, 12human beings lie down and never rise again. As long as the heavens exist, we will not awake and be brought back to life.
13“I wish you would hide me in the grave and keep me there until your anger has passed. Assign a time for me, and then remember me. 14When people die, will they ever live again? I would wait however long it is necessary until I am released. 15You would call me, and I would answer. You would long for what you have made. 16Then you would keep track of my doings, and not bother to remember my sin. 17My sins would be tied up in a sack and you would ignore them.
18“But even the mountains eventually fall and crumble. Boulders are moved from their place. 19The waters wear away the rocks and floods wash the soil away and that is how you destroy their hope. 20You always have the power to prevail against them and they will disappear. You damage them and send them away. 21If their children are honored they never know about it, and if they are dishonored it isn’t noticed. 22They only feel their own agony and mourn only for themselves.”
1-6: Still speaking directly to God, Job makes his case. A person, he says, comes into being in much the same way as a wildflower, and like the wildflower lives for a short time and then dies. Why should God single out one of them for judgment? If a person is found to be unclean or unworthy, what can that person possibly do about it? Why can’t you, God, just look away and let us enjoy our little lives?
7-17: Trees, he says, can sprout again after they have been cut down, but not people. People die. They don’t come back. Why can’t you treat us like trees? Let us hide in the grave for a while until your anger abates, and then let us sprout again. If you would let me do that, then whenever your anger is done you could call and I would answer, my sins would be covered up and everything would be just fine.
18-22: But no, that isn’t the way you want to run things, God. We are left to suffer just as surely as a mountain gradually erodes away.
Job, of course, is in deep depression, and cannot see beyond his condition. There is an irony here in that when Job is in despair, he thinks God will not hear him, but still, he cannot refrain from calling on God! In an odd sort of way that is faith. You can’t be mad at God unless you believe in God. To Job’s credit his faith is obvious even in the midst of denial.