Job 17

The Word Made Fresh

1“My hope is shattered. My days are done. I’m tagged for the grave. 2People treat me with contempt and I can see them make fun of me.

3“You be my defender yourself, God! Who else will vouch for me? 4You are the one who has kept them from understanding, but don’t let them triumph! 5The children of those who denounce their friends will never have understanding.

6“God has made me an example for people, and I am someone they spit at. 7My eyes fail me because of my suffering and my arms and legs are shadows. 8Good people don’t understand this, and those who are innocent are upset by godless people. 9But if they stay on the right path and keep their hands clean, they will grow stronger. 10But if all of you gather around, I won’t be able to find a reasonable person among you.

11“My days are gone. All of my plans, my heart’s desires, are gone, 12but they help turn night into day and I try to believe that light is near even when everything is dark. 13If I accept death as my fate, if I lay down on my bed in the darkness, 14and if I embrace the grave as my father and the worms as my mother and my sisters, 15what do I have to hope for? Can anyone see any hope for me? 16Will my hope go to the grave with me, and all of us go down together into the dust?”


1-2: Job is certain that the grave awaits, and it pains him that on the brink of death he has to listen to the judgments of his friends.

3-5: Legal language pervades the entire book. Job laments that none of them will vouch for him, that is, post a bond and give him at least a temporary reprieve from his punishment. Verses 4 and 5 are obscure; Job seems to be addressing God and saying that God has kept them from empathizing with him, and that their lack of compassion will be passed on to their children.

6-7: God, says Job, has caused his suffering, and made him lose respect in the community. Good people won’t understand this, but among his friends he can’t find a defender.

11-16: His future has been removed; his hope is gone. There is nothing left but death and the grave.


This chapter is a difficult one to translate accurately, and a literal translation is almost impossible to make sense of. The gist of it is simply that Job is losing hope and is casting about for understanding. His friends would be more helpful if they tried to comfort him instead of arguing with him. The most helpful thing to do when you are at the side of a suffering friend is to listen and try to be reassuring.