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JOB 16


Job Says Friends Are Sorry Comforters Job Reproaches His Pitiless Friends Reply of Job
Human Injustice and Divine Justice
Job Says God Shattered Him        

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's response to Eliphaz's second speech is recorded in Job 16-17.


B. The first strophe (Job 16:1-5) responds to Job's three comforters. He asserts that he would have been a better comforter (Job 16:4-5) in contrast to them.


C. In the second strophe (Job 16:6-17) Job directly accuses God of attacking him. This is hyperbolic, emotional imagery!


D. The third strophe (Job 16:18-22) has Job returning to his legal imagery. He wants to take God to trial before the heavenly council, for the unfair and undeserved treatment he has experienced. In this he seeks the help of a heavenly advocate (cf. Job 1619 and possibly 16:20; NJB).



 1Then Job answered,
 2"I have heard many such things;
 Sorry comforters are you all.
 3Is there no limit to windy words?
 Or what plagues you that you answer? 
 4I too could speak like you,
 If I were in your place.
 I could compose words against you
 And shake my head at you.
 5I could strengthen you with my mouth,
 And the solace of my lips could lessen your pain."

16:2b "Sorry" This (BDB 765) is a common term in Job for "trouble" (cf. Job 3:10; 5:6,7; 7:3; 11:16). It was used of the godless in Job 15:35.

Now Job asserts that his three comforters are "trouble" or "mischief" (cf. Job 4:8), not help.

16:3 "windy words" This is what Bildad accused Job of in Job 8:2 and Eliphaz accused him of in Job 15:1-6.

▣ "plagues" This is the only use of the Hiphil  (BDB 599, KB 637). The Niphal is used in Job 6:25 in the sense of "vex"; it does not fit the basic meaning of the root, which is "sick" or "sickness." Job is asking his comforters why they are so upset and angry.

16:4-5 These verses contain several cohortative forms which assert that if Job had been their comforter, he could have done a much better job.

The UBS Handbook, p. 308, suggests that the entire context is negative (i.e., sarcastic), "I could make great speeches criticizing you. . .I would mockingly shake my head at you" (see note below).

16:4 "shake my head at you" This (BDB 631) was a visible sign of mockery (cf. Ps. 22:7; 109:25; Isa. 37:22; Lam. 2:15; Zeph. 2:15; as a similar phrase using BDB 626 is found in Jer. 18:16; 48:27).

This negative meaning to the term seems to be in contrast Job 16:5, where the words are positive. Perhaps the two verses contrast the three comforters' approach (Job 16:4) and Job's hypothetical one (Job 16:5).

However, it is also possible that the synonym (BDB 626) has a positive meaning, as in Job 2:11; 42:11 (i.e., shake the head as a gesture of sympathy).

 6"If I speak, my pain is not lessened,
 And if I hold back, what has left me?
 7But now He has exhausted me;
 You have laid waste all my company.
 8You have shriveled me up,
 It has become a witness;
 And my leanness rises up against me,
 It testifies to my face.
 9His anger has torn me and hunted me down,
 He has gnashed at me with His teeth;
 My adversary glares at me.
 10They have gaped at me with their mouth,
 They have slapped me on the cheek with contempt;
 They have massed themselves against me.
 11God hands me over to ruffians
 And tosses me into the hands of the wicked.
 12I was at ease, but He shattered me,
 And He has grasped me by the neck and shaken me to pieces;
 He has also set me up as His target. 
 13His arrows surround me.
 Without mercy He splits my kidneys open;
 He pours out my gall on the ground.
 14He breaks through me with breach after breach;
 He runs at me like a warrior.
 15I have sewed sackcloth over my skin
 And thrust my horn in the dust. 
 16My face is flushed from weeping,
 And deep darkness is on my eyelids,
 17Although there is no violence in my hands,
 And my prayer is pure.

16:6-17 In verse 6 Job asserts that his silence has done no good, so he will speak of how he truly feels (i.e., attacked by God). Notice the personal pronouns in these verses! Job believes that God is sovereign and causes all things (i.e., Isa. 45:7; Amos 3:6). There are no secondary causes! Remember this is hyperbolic poetic imagery!

1. God exhausted him, Job 16:7a

2. God laid waste all his "company" (i.e., his family, TEV), Job 16:7b

3. God shriveled him (i.e., physical disease), Job 16:8a

4. God's anger tore him (i.e., like a wild animal, cf. Job 10:16), Job 16:9a

5. God's anger bore a grudge against him Job 16:9a, cf. Job 30:21

6. God gnashed His teeth at him (i.e., to grind teeth in rage), Job 16:9b

7. God glared at him (i.e, to give someone the evil look of a curse), Job 16:9c

8. God hands him over to suffering and the and the wicked, Job 16:11

9. God shattered him, Job 16:12a

10. God grasped him by the neck and shook him to pieces, Job 16:12b

11. God made Job His target, Job 16:12c, cf Job 7:20

12. God surrounded him with His arrows, Job 16:13a, cf. Job 6:4

13. God split his kidneys open (i.e., the seat of one's emotional and mental life), Job 16:13b

14. God poured out Job's gall on the ground (i.e., parallel to #13, related to one's inner life), Job 16:13c

15. God attacks Job like a city breached again and again, Job 16:14a

16. God attacks Job like a warrior, Job 16:14b

The thrust of this litany of violent attacks may be

1. Eliphaz had accused Job of attacking God (cf. Job 15:25-26)

2. Job asserts it is God who has attacked him though he has not retaliated (Job 16:17)


16:7 "company" This word has been defined in several ways.

1. his family (i.e., children and servants) who were killed in Job 1 and 2

2. his acquaintances who turned to scoffers, Job 16:20, cf. Job 19:13-22

3. just part of the hyperbolic imagery of Job 16:6-17

This word (BDB 417) is emended by AB (p. 116) to the word for "calamity/woe," but this is followed by no English translation. The MT makes sense though exactly where to divide the lines of poetry remains uncertain.

16:8a "shriveled me up" This verb (BDB 888, KB 1108, Qal imperfect with waw) occurs only twice in the OT (cf. Job 22:16) and is from an Aramaic root, "to seize" (cf. TEV). The NASB gets "shriveled" from the parallel in Job 16:8c, "leanness" (BDB 471, cf. Ps. 109:24).

Job's emaciated body was a witness (i.e., "the two ways") that Job had sinner and not repented.

16:8b The Jerome Biblical Commentary, p. 521, says this line of poetry is "corrupt" and the author emends it to "and utters calumnies to my face" (NJB, "accusing me face to face").

It is always uncertain whether to emend the MT or not because of

1. a use of rare words

2. a use of poetic license

3. our lack of knowledge of ancient Hebrew

4. assumptions about Hebrew parallelism

5. limited examples of Semitic cognates


16:9c-10 Job 16:9c has the singular "My adversary" or "My enemy," which in the context of Job 9, refers to God. However, Job 16:10 has plurals and describes

1. Job's enemies (possibly those of Job 16:20) who saw him suffering or

2. his three comforters

Since Elihu was apparently present during the speeches, there may have been others present.

Job 16:11 describes God as handing Job over to "ruffians" (BDB 732) and to "the wicked" (BDB 957). These may be the ones addressed in Job 16:10.

As Job calls God "my enemy" (BDB 865), he feels God has made him "an enemy" (Job 19:11; a synonym, BDB 33, is used in Job 13:24). What a change of relationship this is from Job 1-2!

16:10b "slapped me on the cheek with contempt" This was an ANE gesture of reproach (cf. 1 Kgs. 22:24; Lam. 3:30; Mic. 5:1 and a similar gesture in Isa. 50:6.


JPSOA"an evil man"
LXX"the unjust"

The MT (BDB 732) has "young boy," found in Job 19:18 and 21:11. Most English translations change it to "one who acts unjustly" (BDB 732).

1. young boy – עויל

2. to act unjustly – עול

NASB is trying to retain the essence of #1 in "ruffians."

16:12 "I was at ease" This must refer to Job's life before Job 1-2.


NASB"without mercy
NKJV, TEV"does not pity"
JPSOA"shows no mercy"
LXX"without sparing"

The MT hast the verb "spare" (BDB 328, KB 328, Qal imperfect, negated, cf. Job 27:22). It is also used in Job 6:10 and 20:13. This verb is mostly used of human compassion but in Lamentations (i.e., Lam. 2:17,21; 3:43) it is used of YHWH. In this text Job feels that God has no pity on him and continues to attack. His life is a wreck!

16:15-17 God violently and repeatedly attacked Job but he claims he remained innocent and prayerful. The unexpressed question is "Why!"

16:15 This is unique imagery. The sewing of sackcloth is not mentioned elsewhere (possibly Ps. 69:11). It was worn as a sign of mourning (see SPECIAL TOPIC: GRIEVING RITES).

The "horn in the dust" imagery refers to a person's life in a time of distress or defeat.

16:17 "pure" This adjective (BDB 269) is used to express Job's righteousness in Job 8:6 and 33:9. Job continues to claim he is innocent (i.e., Job 6:10; 9:21; 10:7; 12:4; 13:18; 16:17; 33:9).

 18"O earth, do not cover my blood,
 And let there be no resting place for my cry.
 19Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven,
 And my advocate is on high.
 20My friends are my scoffers;
 My eye weeps to God.
 21O that a man might plead with God
 As a man with his neighbor!
 22For when a few years are past, 
 I shall go the way of no return."

16:18-22 This is legal imagery.

1. the earth is personified as a witness (like to Cain's murder in Gen. 4:10) that should not be silent (cf. Isa. 26:21; Ezek. 24:7-8)

2. Job still longs for an advocate at the heavenly court to plead his case (cf. Job 5:1; 9:33; 19:25-27; 33:23)

3. because of the mention of false witnesses in Job 16:20, some commentators see the "advocate" in Job 16:19 as the witness of Job's godly life

4. Job still wants his day in court (Job 16:21b) before his death (16:22). He is not looking for vindication in the afterlife but in this life.


16:19 Because Job 16:18-22 forms one strophe, it is possible for the advocate of 16:19 to refer to "heaven and earth" (cf. Deut. 32:1; Isa. 1:2), which may be the eternal witness that Job is referring to. However, other texts in Job (i.e., Job 5:1; 9:33; 19:25-27; 33:23) point toward an angelic mediator at the heavenly court. This mediator would be the counterpoint of the heavenly adversary in Job 1-2.


NASB"My friends are my scoffers"
NJB"Interpreter of my thoughts"
NET Bible"My intercessor is my friend"
JPSOA"O my advocate, my fellows"

The verb scorn me" (BDB 539, KB 529, Hiphil active participle) has several usages.

1. to scorn, Ps. 119:51

2. to mediate, Job 33:23

3. to interpret, Gen. 42:23

4. in 2 Chr. 32:31 the root is translated

a. envoys

b. ambassadors

Therefore, the verse could refer to the "advocate on high" of Job 16:19b. The verb in 16:21, "plead," has legal connotations.

16:22 "the way of no return" Death (Sheol) was called "the land of no return" in the ANE (cf. Job 7:9; 10:21).


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. Is Job 16:4-5 an extension of 16:1-3 or a contrast?

2. Explain the change from "God" (cf. Job 16:6-7, 11-17, and 16:10) to "they."

3. Does Job reassert his innocence in Job 16:17?

4. How is Job 16:18 related to Gen. 4:10?

5. Who is the heavenly advocate of Job 16:19?


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