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Job's Life Seems Futile Job: My Suffering Is Comfortless Reply of Job


READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. This chapter forms a literary unit with chapter 6 (i.e., Job's first response to Eliphaz). However, Job 7 is addressed to God, while Job 6 is addressed to Eliphaz.


B. It seems that Job 7:5 is a description of Job's disease, which may be elephantitis.


C. Notice the number of times Job addressed God, accusing Him of acting against him in some way.

1. Job 7:3, both lines

2. Job 7:8b

3. Job 7:12b

4. Job 7:14a

5. Job 7:16a

6. Job 7:18

7. Job 7:19

8. Job 7:20c

9. Job 7:21a,c

Job's main fear and burden is that his God has not only rejected him but purposely attacked him.


 1"Is not man forced to labor on earth,
 And are not his days like the days of a hired man?
 2As a slave who pants for the shade,
 And as a hired man who eagerly waits for his wages,
 3So am I allotted months of vanity,
 And nights of trouble are appointed me.
 4When I lie down I say,
 ‘When shall I arise?'
 But the night continues,
 And I am continually tossing until dawn.
 5My flesh is clothed with worms and a crust of dirt,
 My skin hardens and runs.
 6My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle,
 And come to an end without hope."

7:1 "man" In the first strophe (i.e., Job 7:1-6) Job characterizes himself and mankind as

1. a man – BDB 60, "enosh," cf. Job 7:17

2. a slave – BDB 713, cf. Job 7:2

3. a hired man (lit. "hireling") – BDB 969, cf. Job 7:2; 14:6

Job has no control over his life or circumstances.

▣ "forced to labor on earth" This phrase could have two orientations.

1. the Hebrew view of life affected by Genesis 3

2. Job's view of life as hard (cf. Job 5:7; 10:17; 14:1)

Labor is not a bad thing. Adam labored in the Garden of Eden before the Fall (i.e., Gen. 2:15). But here, the connotation is forced labor, endless labor, hard labor.

The Rotherhams' Emphasized Bible takes the first noun (BDB 838, KB 994), not as "serve," but as "warfare," which is one meaning of the root, צבא. AB (p. 57) asserts that it refers to military conscription (i.e., forced service). In Isa. 7:20 and Jer. 46:21 "hireling" (Job 7:1b,2b, BDB 969) refers to mercenaries (additional warfare image).

7:3 "allotted. . .appointed" The first verb (BDB 635, KB 686, Hophal perfect) denotes the tribal allotments by God in the book of Joshua. It was used of giving one his inheritance. Job's inheritance was months of vanity (i.e., "nothingness," BDB 996).

The second verb (BDB 584, KB 599, Piel perfect) is the verb also used to describe God's activity in the book of Jonah (cf. Jon. 1:17; 4:6,7,8).

Job feels that everything that has happened in his life is from God.

1. the blessings

2. now the problems

See Contextual Insights, C.

7:4 "tossing" This root (BDB 622) is found only here in the OT. It may be related to the verb "to flee," "to wander," "to flutter." It obviously refers to the restlessness of mind and body in sleepless nights. The "why" of Job's life is as painful as the physical problems.

7:5 "crust of dirt" The NASB's "crust" (BDB 159) occurs only here. NET Bible (p. 775, #19) assumes it comes from "clod." The REB and NJB translate it as "scabs."

7:6a The author uses the imagery of a weaver's loom (cf. Jdgs. 16:14) to describe how quickly Job's life is passing by (i.e., little time left, cf. Job 9:25). On one hand Job seeks death but on another he grieves that his life is passing away so quickly. This verse surely reflects his discouragement and depression.

7:6b What a sad, discouraging phrase (cf. Job 14:19; 17:15; 19:10). Job vacillates between

1. hope – Job 13:15; 19:25-27

2. no hope

It is possible to see the Hebrew root (BDB 876) as "cord" or "thread" (cf. Jos. 2:18,21), which is a better parallel to Job 7:6a (see JPSOA footnote, p. 1514).

 7"Remember that my life is but breath;
 My eye will not again see good.
 8The eye of him who sees me will behold me no longer;
 Your eyes will be on me, but I will not be.
 9When a cloud vanishes, it is gone,
 So he who goes down to Sheol does not come up.
 10He will not return again to his house,
 Nor will his place know him anymore."

7:7-10 This strophe notes the transitoriness of human life (cf. Job 4:19; 7:16; 10:9; 14:1-2; Ps. 90:5-6; 103:14-15; Isa. 40:6-8). Job is calling on God to remember (BDB 269, KB 269, Qal imperative) the fragileness and fleetingness of human life. Job 7:9 is in contrast to Job 19:25-27. Job is quoting his own theology but hoping for a greater understanding.

7:8b "but I will not be" This seems to express non-being (cf. Job 7:21). However, Hebrew thought affirmed a conscious but silent existence in Sheol (cf. Job 7:9b, see Special Topic: Sheol).

7:9-10 These verses speak of the finality of death (cf. Job 10:21; 14:10,13; 16:22). This truth makes Job 14:14-15 all the more shocking and prophetic. Job felt there was something more than the grave (cf. Job 19:25-29, which for him was an advocate at the heavenly council). God created humans for fellowship and He will want that fellowship (cf. Job 14:15b). This is what the shock of Job 7:17 is all about! This thought fits the shocking conclusion of Job 7:21d (cf. 7:8).

ANE literature calls death "the land of no return" (cf. Job 7:10a).

 11"Therefore I will not restrain my mouth;
 I will speak in the anguish of my spirit,
 I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
 12Am I the sea, or the sea monster,
 That You set a guard over me?
 13If I say, ‘My bed will comfort me,
 My couch will ease my complaint,'
 14Then You frighten me with dreams
 And terrify me by visions;
 15So that my soul would choose suffocation,
 Death rather than my pains.
 16I waste away; I will not live forever.
 Leave me alone, for my days are but a breath.
 17What is man that You magnify him,
 And that You are concerned about him,
 18That You examine him every morning
 And try him every moment?
 19Will You never turn Your gaze away from me,
 Nor let me alone until I swallow my spittle?
 20Have I sinned? What have I done to You,
 O watcher of men?
 Why have You set me as Your target,
 So that I am a burden to myself?
 21Why then do You not pardon my transgression
 And take away my iniquity?
 For now I will lie down in the dust;
 And You will seek me, but I will not be."

7:11-21 This strophe expresses Job's feeling (Job 7:11, two cohortatives) of God's actions toward him.

1. Job 7:12 – the sea and the sea monster (cf. Job 3:8; Ps. 74:13-14) were, in ANE mythology, God's enemies who He subdued

2. Job 7:14 – God sent fearful dreams and visions (caused him to wish for death, Job 7:15-16)

3. Job 7:17 – reflects Ps. 8:4 and 144:3, but in a negative sense

4. Job 7:18 – God examines him for judgment every morning (cf. Ps. 73:14), every moment

5. Job 7:19 – God will not turn His gaze away, even for a moment (cf. Job 7:16, "leave me alone," Qal imperative; also note Job 14:6)

6. Job 7:20 – God has set him as a target (cf. Job 6:4)

7. Job 7:21 – God will not pardon his sin (i.e., undefined, cf. Job 7:20a), cf. Job 9:28; 10:14


7:11 "my spirit. . .my soul" These refer to Job's life using imagery from Gen. 2:7.

1. spirit – ruah (BDB 924, cf. Job 7:7a, see SPECIAL TOPIC: BREATH, WIND, SPIRIT)

2. soul – nephesh (BDB 659, see notes online at Gen. 35:18)


7:12b This line may refer to "muzzling" (AB, p. 60, which quotes Dahood's translation of Ps. 68:22b as a parallel) and, therefore, would relate to Job's speaking freely in Job 7:11. But the NET Bible (p. 776) asserts that this suggestion is untenable (Journal of Biblical Literature, #80, pp. 270-271). If so, the imagery is still the ANE creation imagery (see Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, pp. 562-565,578-580).

7:15a "suffocation" This noun (BDB 338) occurs only here but the verb form is used in 2 Sam. 17:23 and Nah. 2:12.

It is possible that the word translated by NASB as "soul" (nephesh, BDB 659, KB 711) has the basic meaning, "windpipe opened for breathing," if so (KB 712), then "throat" would fit "suffocation/strangling" better.

The Tyndale OT Commentaries, Job (p. 137) suggest that behind several of the terms in this section is Canaanite mythological imagery; possibly the feminine goddess of death used strangling (note feminine verb) or the god of death, Mot. The Anchor Bible Commentaries (AB) of Psalms and Job also make these lexical connections from Ugarit.

7:15b The MT has "death rather than my bones." The NASB and NJB support the emendation, "rather than my bones," מעצמותי (which the UBS Text Project [p. 13] gives an "A" rating [very high probability]) to "rather than my pain/suffering," מעצבותי (AB, p. 61).

7:17 "man" This is the Hebrew word enosh, which implies frail mankind (cf. Job 4:17; 7:1; Ps. 9:20; 103:15), from the root anash (BDB 60 I), "to be weak" or "to be sick." The NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 454, lists several places where enosh is used in Job and its apparent connotation.

1. Job 7:1 – hardships in life

2. Job 14:19 – hopelessness

3. Job 28:13 – lack of understanding

4. Job 25:6 – man described as "maggot" and "worm"

5. Job 33:12 – man is far less than God (cf. Job 4:17)

Here it seems to denote humankind as the special object of God's love and attention (cf. Psalms 8; 144).

7:19 What irony that Job, who seeks God's presence and fellowship, asks Him to stop looking at him (cf. Job 14:6). Here is the dilemma of fallen humanity. We desire fellowship with the God who created us in His image/likeness (cf. Gen. 1:26-27) for fellowship (cf. Gen. 3:8) but our sin causes us to shrink back from/fear Him.

7:20a This is the question Job cannot answer. He feels himself innocent! He does not understand why "the two ways" has failed!

Some translators begin Job 7:20 with an "if" (NRSV, NJB, JPSOA, REB, LXX, Peshitta); others make it a question (NASB, NKJV, TEV, NAB). From the Hebrew text either is possible; neither is certain.

▣ "O watcher of men" This title for God is found only here but it does denote

1. God's presence on the earth

2. God's watchfulness on His special creation, mankind

3. God's sovereign knowledge of human actions and motives (i.e., weighs the heart)


▣ "target" This Hebrew root (BDB 803) is found only here in the OT. BDB suggests a connection with the Hiphil perfect of Isa. 53:6c (BDB 803, KB 910).

JPSOA"to myself"
LXX"to you"

The MT (originally had "to you," but the Masoretic scholars changed it) has "to myself" (BDB 752). The UBS Text Project (p. 14) suggests "to you" and gives a "B" rating (some doubt).

7:21a,b These two lines affirm that Job recognizes he is not sinless, but Job 7:20a asks God to identify the "sin" for which he has received such overwhelming judgment (cf. Job 1-2). Remember, "blameless" is not the same as "sinless."

7:21c "I will lie down in the dust" This is an allusion to the grave (cf. Job 3:13; 17:16; 20:11; 21:25; Ps. 22:15,29; 30:9; Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2; as is Sheol, cf. Job 7:9b). Mankind is made of "dust" (cf. Gen. 2:7) and will return to "dust" (cf. Gen. 3:19).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. List the things Job accuses God of doing to him.

2. What kind of disease does Job 7:5 describe?

3. If Job 7:8 is addressed to God, then what does the last phrase mean? (cf. Job. 7:21)

4. How is Job 7:18 related to Psalm 8? Do they both expect positive answers?

5. Does Job 7:20 show that Job admits he has sinned?


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