The Word Made Fresh
1“But now those who are younger than I make fun of me, the very ones whose fathers I wouldn’t have wanted to guard my flocks with my sheep dogs. 2I have nothing to gain from them – they have nothing to offer. 3They are needy and hungry and scrape the dry barren dirt; 4they gather unwanted herbs and leaves from the brush, and broom sticks to warm themselves. 5They are social outsiders, and people shout at them as if they were thieves. 6They live in gullies of dry stream beds and in holes in the ground and among the rocks. 7They bray like donkeys under the brush and huddle under the branches. 8They are a stupid and disreputable crowd who have been driven out of the land.
9“But now they tease me with songs they make up. I’m just a byword to them. 10They hate me and stand away from me, and spit when they see me. 11They have no restraint around me because God has disarmed me, and I am humbled. 12On my right I am attacked by worthless people who send me sprawling and try to ruin me. 13They block my plans and try to destroy me, and no one comes to my defense. 14They come at me as if rolling in amidst the ruins through a wide breach. 15I am terrified. My dignity is gone, as if blown away by the wind. My wealth has disappeared like a cloud.
16“And now my life is diminished by these long days of suffering. 17At night my bones ache, and pain gives me no rest. 18God grabs my clothing violently, grabbing me by my collar, 19and throws me in the mud. There’s nothing left of me but dust and ashes.
20“I cry out to you, God, but you don’t answer. I try to stand, but you just stare at me. 21You’ve become cruel to me and persecute me with your strong hands. 22You toss me on the winds and leave me to be blown about by them; you throw me around in the storm. 23I know you will bring me down to the dead, the place you have appointed for all who live.
24“Surely no one turns their back on those in need when they cry out for help. 25Didn’t I weep for those who were going through hard times? Didn’t I grieve for the poor? 26But when I looked for relief only evil came; when I waited patiently for reprieve, I received nothing. 27My stomach is constantly churning and I am met only by days of suffering. 28I walk through days of gloom. I stand up in the assembly and beg for help. 29But I may as well be a wild dog or part of a flock of ostriches. 30My skin is blackened and flakes off, and my bones burn. 31My lyre plays mournfully and my lute only accompanies those who are weeping.”
1-8: It is a sad but true commentary on humankind that when one of us suffers others of us sometimes are glad to see it. That is perhaps the case especially when a wealthy or powerful person is in dire straits; those who have always been jealous of their status might celebrate. Job is making just such an observation, but his depiction of other folks in the community seems to me to be more than a little disdainful. The dismissed; the poor and hungry; the huddling, “disreputable crowd” (verse 8) – aren’t these the very folks Job was claiming to have championed in the last chapter? Perhaps he is bitter because the very people he had helped in the past are now mocking his plight.
9-15: Except for Job’s three friends, we have not been told that anyone else has responded to Job’s calamities (someone else will appear in chapter 32), but Job imagines that the “disreputable crowd” is singing mean-spirited songs about him and are even actively opposing him.
16-17: Job repeats the catalogue of his troubles.
19-23: It is not certain who the antagonist is in these verses – I have assumed that God is referred to in verses 19-23, but some commentators think the Satan is referred to in verses 19-20, and God in verses 21-23: the Satan “throws me into the mud,” (verse 19) but God has refused to answer his plea (verses 20-23).
24-31: Job does not understand how God can abandon him when he, Job, never abandoned the poor and needy. Again, the catalogue of woes is given.
The gist of chapter 30 seems to be that God created a perfect world, but we humans have made it very imperfect. God’s response is to allow us to live in that imperfection, and therefore innocent people often suffer while wicked people have an easy path.