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JOB 13


Job Says His Friends' Proverbs Are Ashes Job Answers His Critics
Reply of Job
Job Is Sure He Will Be Vindicated        
  Job's Despondent Prayer   13:19-21

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. Job 12:1-14:22 is one long response of Job.


B. In Job 13:1-19 Job addresses the three comforters but in Job 13:20-28 he addresses God.


C. He has prepared his case and is ready to address God in court (cf. Job 13:18) but he still searches for an advocate at the heavenly court (cf. Job 13:19a) because he expects to lose.



 1"Behold, my eye has seen all this,
 My ear has heard and understood it.
 2What you know I also know;
 I am not inferior to you."

13:1-2 This is referring to Job 12:3,9. The three comforters are speaking common knowledge.

1. God is sovereign

2. God works in certain ways with humans (i.e., the two ways)


 3"But I would speak to the Almighty,
 And I desire to argue with God.
 4But you smear with lies;
 You are all worthless physicians.
 5O that you would be completely silent,
 And that it would become your wisdom!
 6Please hear my argument
 And listen to the contentions of my lips.
 7Will you speak what is unjust for God,
 And speak what is deceitful for Him?
 8Will you show partiality for Him?
 Will you contend for God?
 9Will it be well when He examines you?
 Or will you deceive Him as one deceives a man?
 10He will surely reprove you
 If you secretly show partiality.
 11Will not His majesty terrify you,
 And the dread of Him fall on you?
 12Your memorable sayings are proverbs of ashes,
 Your defenses are defenses of clay."

13:3-12 Job addresses his three comforters but he would rather speak to God (i.e., in the heavenly court, cf. Isa. 1:18).

13:3 "I would speak to the Almighty" This refers to the heavenly council. Job wants to present ("to," cf. Job 8:5; 15:25) his situation before the heavenly court.

This is Shaddai (BDB 994) with a preposition, not El-Shaddai of the Pentateuch.

▣ "the Almighty" See SPECIAL TOPIC: The Almighty.

▣ "argue" This verb (BDB 406, KB 410, Hiphil infinitive absolute) is used in a judicial sense (cf. Job 13:15; 19:5). Wow, what a strong phrase, "I desire to argue with God" (cf. Job 13:15)!

13:4 "But you. . ." Notice the two adversatives.

1. but I. . ., Job 13:3a (cf. Job 5:8)

2. but you. . ., Job 13:4a

Job characterizes his comforters

1. you smear lies (cf. Ps. 119:69)

2. they are worthless physicians


13:5 "O that you would be completely silent" Job requests (BDB 678, KB 733, Qal imperfect, used eleven times in Job) that his comforters be quiet (an infinitive absolute and an imperfect verb of the same root, BDB 361, KB 357).

Job wishes (i.e., jussive verb) they and their wisdom would be silent. This verse may be a well known proverb (cf. Job 13:12; AB, p. 94).

13:6 Job wants them to hear his legal argument (i.e., uses two imperatives). Notice Job 13:13 and 17.

13:7-9 In Job 13:7-9 all the lines begin with an interrogative. Notice how the NASB translates these with five "will you. . ." questions. Job claims (1) their speeches are not from God and that one day they will face Him (Job 13:9). This happens in Job 42:7! Job is vindicated. And (2) they are also bad arbitrators because they use falsehood to bolster God's case against Job (i.e., to gain God's favor).

I am amazed how many people rationalize their bad behavior by claiming to serve God! This is where Scripture (properly and contextually interpreted) plays such an important role.

13:8 Job accuses his friends of flattering God to gain His approval. The phrase, "lift the face" (cf. Job 32:21; 34:19) was an idiom for bribery or judicial favor.

I like what the UBS Handbook (p. 252) says about Job 13:8b, "In other words Job is asking his friends if God has hired them to be his defense lawyer in court."

13:10a This line also has an infinitive absolute and an imperfect verb of the same root. It was a way to show intensity.

13:12 "Your defenses are defenses of clay" The noun translated "defenses" (BDB 146, KB 170) basically means something raised (i.e., convex). It is used only here in the sense of defensive walls. In Job 15:26 the same root is used of useless shields in battle. It is possible (KB 146 II) to see the word as coming from an Arabic or Syrian root meaning "answer" or "reply." If so (NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 448), this fits the parallelism of Job 13:12 nicely. The three comforters' words are "useless" and "fragile."

 13"Be silent before me so that I may speak;
 Then let come on me what may.
 14Why should I take my flesh in my teeth
 And put my life in my hands?
 15Though He slay me,
 I will hope in Him.
 Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.
 16This also will be my salvation,
 For a godless man may not come before His presence.
 17Listen carefully to my speech,
 And let my declaration fill your ears.
 18Behold now, I have prepared my case;
 I know that I will be vindicated.
 19Who will contend with me?
 For then I would be silent and die."

13:13b "Then let come on me what may" The verb (BDB 716, KB 778, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense) means "pass over." Job wants to present his case before God, no matter the consequences (cf. Job. 13:14, 15,19b).


NJB"let him"
JPSOA"He may well"

The Hebrew starts out with הן (BDB 243), which is either

1. a demonstrative adverb

2. an interjection

3. a hypothetical particle

BDB lists several translation options, "behold," "if," "whether." Unfortunately context is the only guide. Those scholars who see a negative context have "if" or "behold," while those who see a positive context have "though." I agree with the last option (i.e., "Lo") but I want it to be the first option!

13:15b There are two ways to translate this verse.

1. "I will hope/wait in Him" – NASB, NRSV footnote, NKJV, Peshitta

2. "I have no other hope" – NJB, TEV, NRSV, JPSOA

The 2nd is the MT and the 1st is the Masoretic scholars' suggestion (Qere). They are exact opposites! Is this verse asserting Job's faith in God (i.e., Job 13:16,18) or that he has no hope in Him (i.e., Job. 13:14)?

The context supports option #2 (the MT text). Job is not afraid to die (he longs for death); however, he wants to be vindicated. He wants to address God directly in the heavenly court. His innocence is more important than anything!

John H Walton, NIV Application Commentary, p. 178, translates this verse as "Even though he may slay me, I will not wait (in silence)." This fits the larger context well.

The reason this discussion is so emotional is the fact that this verse is famous for expressing Israel's faith. The KJV is so powerful and encouraging (see Hard Sayings of the Bible, p. 258).

13:16 This verse asserts that the very fact that Job wants to appear before God and that God will allow this, proves he is innocent because no wicked person (lit. "godless," cf. BDB 338, used 8 times in Job) can appear before God (cf. Job 23:7).


13:17 "Listen carefully" This is an infinitive absolute and an imperative of the same root (BDB 1033, KB 1570), which would denote intensity.

▣ "declaration" This noun (BDB 296) occurs only here in the OT. It is an Aramaic form. The verb does occur several times in Job (cf. Job 15:17; 32:6,10,17; 36:2).

13:18 Job again asserts his innocence (cf. Job 9:21; 10:7; 12:4). Remember this is not a claim to sinlessness but the assertion that he has done nothing (Job 13:23) to deserve the terrible things that God has caused to happen to him.

▣ "prepared my case" This verb (BDB 789, KB 884, Qal perfect) basically means "to set something in order" (NIDOTTE, vol. 3, pp. 535, 536). Only in Job is it used of a well crafted legal argument. It may have a military connotation. Job was ready for the battle at the heavenly court (cf. Job 23:4; 32:14; 33:5; 37:19)!

The noun "case" (BDB 1048) is normally translated "judgment," but here "legal case" fits best.

▣ "I will be vindicated" This is parallel in meaning to "this also will be my salvation" of Job 13:16a. Job is innocent (cf. Job 9:15,20,21; 12:4).

13:19a This may refer to

1. the three friends, Job 13:8

2. God Himself

3. a prosecuting attorney (the place Satan plays in Job 1-2, of which Job does not know)

4. possibly the word denotes presenting a legal case, and if so, may be another reference to an advocate at the heavenly court who helps present Job's case


 20"Only two things do not do to me,
 Then I will not hide from Your face:
 21Remove Your hand from me,
 And let not the dread of You terrify me.
 22Then call, and I will answer;
 Or let me speak, then reply to me.
 23How many are my iniquities and sins?
 Make known to me my rebellion and my sin.
 24Why do You hide Your face
 And consider me Your enemy?
 25Will You cause a driven leaf to tremble?
 Or will You pursue the dry chaff?
 26For You write bitter things against me
 And make me to inherit the iniquities of my youth.
 27You put my feet in the stocks
 And watch all my paths;
 You set a limit for the soles of my feet,
 28While I am decaying like a rotten thing,
 Like a garment that is moth-eaten."

13:20-28 In this strophe Job addresses God. He makes two requests related to how God treats him. If God grants these requests Job will face God openly. If not, who can but try to hide from the Majestic Judge?

13:20b "Then I will not hide from Your face" This verb (BDB 711, KB 771, Niphal imperfect) can be translated as a passive or a reflexive. The context demands not that Job is threatening God that he will hide from Him, but that he wants to meet God. The issue is God's hiding His face from Job!

13:20-21 "Only two things do not do to me" The verb (BDB 793, KB 889) is a Qal jussive (prayer request).

1. remove Your hand from me (Hiphil imperative), cf. Job 9:34

2. do not let Your dread terrify me (Piel imperfect used in a jussive sense), cf. Job 3:5; 9:34; 13:11,21; 15:24; 18:11

There are two valid ways to view these requests.

1. They both deal with the personal faith relationship Job has with God. This was priority to him (even more than healing or restoration of property). This interpretation is confirmed by Job 13:22 (two imperatives dealing with the communication between Job and God). The "hiding of Your face," in Job 13:24a was ultimate terror!

2. Job is asking God to act in a fair manner in the trial and not to overpower him (cf. Job 9:34, NET Bible, p. 792).


13:22 This is a court setting. This refers to judicial dialogue (cf. Job 9:16). Job is offering to speak first or let God speak first in the trial. God will respond to Job in Job 40:1-5.

13:23 Job asks God to make known (Hiphil imperative) his sins (i.e., Job wants God to present His case against him). What has he done to deserve what has happened to him (cf. Job 7:20; 35:6)? In Job 13:26 he wonders about "the sins of youth" (cf. Ps. 25:7). In Jewish life a young person is not responsible to the law until Bar Mitzvah at age 13, after he has studied the Law of Moses and committed himself to it (cf. Ps. 71:17). Job is not Jewish but the same ANE traditions apply.

Notice the three words for human rebellion used in Job 13:23.

1. iniquities (BDB 730)

2. sins (BDB 308, twice)

3. rebellion (BDB 833)

Hebrew has many terms for sin which shows the significance of the concept in Hebrew thought. For a good brief summary see Robert B. Girdlestone, Synonyms of the OT, pp. 76-86.

It is interesting to note that these three words also occur together in Exod. 34:7; Lev. 16:21; Ps. 32:5; Isa. 59:12; Ezek. 21:24; Dan. 9:24. They form a summary of all human disobedience to God.

13:24-28 Job describes in figurative imagery what God has done to him.

1. God hid His face

2. God considered him an enemy

3. God caused him to fear like a driving leaf

4. he felt like dry chaff before a strong wind

5. God wrote bitter things against him

6. God put his feet in stocks

7. God watched all his paths (i.e., life)

8. God set a limit on his movements

9. he felt like a ruined garment


13:24 "enemy" This is Qal active participle (BDB 33, KB 38, Job 33:10) spelled אויב. The name "Job" is spelled איוב. There may be a purposeful sound play. The meaning of Job's name is uncertain.

13:26 "write" The Bible mentions two books that represent God's memory. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TWO BOOKS OF GOD of God. However, here it seems to refer to a legal bill of indictment.

13:27 The imagery of Job 13:27 is uncertain, possibly

1. a prisoner

2. a slave

But it refers to the limiting or monitoring of a person's movements (cf. Job 14:16; 31:4; 34:21; Ps. 139:2-3).

13:28 This sentence starts with a pronoun (BDB 214) that can mean "he" or "it" (#6, BDB 216). Therefore, it could refer to

1. Job

2. the bitter words written by God (i.e., a legal indictment)

The NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 1194, #2, suggests a textual emendation of "rotten thing" (BDB 955) to "wineskin," from an Aramaic root found in Sir. 43:20

It is possible Job 13:28 was meant to introduce Job 14. If so, "he" refers to "man" (Adam) in Job 14:1.


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. To what is Job claiming to have knowledge of?

2. How does Job 13:3 summarize Job's desire?

3. Explain Job 13:7 and 8 in your own words.

4. Is Job 13:15 related to 13:14 or 13:16,18? Notice the different ways to translate it, why?

5. What two things does Job ask of God in Job 13:20-22?

6. How are "the sins of youth" related to the modern rite of passage called Bar Mitzvah?


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