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JOB 17


Job Says He Has Become a Byword Job Prays for Relief Job's Reply

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 expresses his feelings about his current condition (Job 17:1-2,6-7,11).


B. He describes his three comforters in Job 17:2a,4,5,10,12.


C. Job still calls out to God even though he questions His care (Job 17:3-4,15-16). The main questions are

1. God, will You be my pledge and guarantor?

2. Where is my hope? (Job 17:15, cf. 7:6)


D. Remember, Job 16 and 17 form a literary unit.



 1"My spirit is broken, my days are extinguished,
 The grave is ready for me.
 2Surely mockers are with me,
 And my eye gazes on their provocation."

17:1-2 Job expresses his feelings in several poetic lines in Job 17:1-11.

1. my spirit is broken, Job 17:1a

2. my days are extinguished, Job. 17:1a

3. the grave is ready for me, Job 17:1b

4. mockers are with me, Job 17:2a

5. his eyes gaze (lit. lodges) on their provocation, Job 17:2b

6. he is a byword of the people, Job 17:6a

7. he is one on whom people spit, Job 17:6b

8. his eyes have grown dim from grief, Job 17:7a

9. all his members are as a shadow, Job 17:7b

10. his days are past, Job 17:11a

11. his plans are torn, Job 17:11a

12. the wishes of his heart are torn, Job 17:11b


17:1 "spirit" This is ruah (BDB 924). See SPECIAL TOPIC: SPIRIT IN THE BIBLE.

▣ "broken" There are many meanings connected to this root. The verb (BDB 287 II, KB 285, Pual perfect) normally means, "act corruptly," but in the Pual it can mean "broken" (cf. Isa. 10:27).

JPSOA"run out"
NJB"grave-diggers assemble for me"

The MT has זעך (BDB 276, KB 276, Niphal perfect). This is the only use of the Niphal stem of this root in the OT. Most usages of the root are in Qal.

Some emend it to דעך (BDB 200), which also means "go out" or "be extinguished" (cf. Job 18:5,6).

The NJB makes two emendations to this line of poetry, but UBS Text Project supports the MT (B rating, meaning some doubt).

▣ "the grave" The MT has the plural, which is where NJB gets "grave diggers." Job is expecting to die (cf. Job 17:13-16).

17:2 "mockers" This refers to Job's comforters.

▣ "their provocation" The verbal is a Hiphil infinitive construct (BDB 598, KB 632). Job accuses his comforters of being "disobedient to God," "rebellious toward God."

▣ "dwells" This verb (BDB 533, KB 529, Qal jussive) means "to lodge with," "pass the night with." The other English translations, excluding the NKJV and NRSV, translate it idiomatically. The comments and accusations of Job's comforters (cf. Job 16:2a) are ever before him. They haunt his mind and heart, but he thinks their words are an attack on God, as well as himself!

 3"Lay down, now, a pledge for me with Yourself;
 Who is there that will be my guarantor?
 4For You have kept their heart from understanding,
 Therefore You will not exalt them.
 5He who informs against friends for a share of the spoil,
 The eyes of his children also will languish.

17:3-4 Job addresses God in prayer (i.e., two Qal imperatives). He is

1. asking God to be his assurance (pledge, guarantor)

2. he is still seeking the aid of a heavenly advocate (cf. Job 16:19; 19:25-27)

3. AB (p. 120) suggests a revocalization that turns this into Job's offer to make a pledge to God hoping He will offer His pledge back



NASB"be my guarantor"
NKJV"will shake hands with me"
NRSV"will give surety for me"
NJB"cares to slap his hand on mine"
JPSOA"will give his hand on my behalf"
REB"will pledge himself for me"

The MT has "who will strike himself into my hand" (BDB 1075, KB 1785, Niphal imperfect). This physical gesture denoted the ratification of a pledge (cf. Pro. 6:1; 17:18; in a negative sense in Pro. 11:15; 22:26).

17:4 The sovereignty of God, which has often been affirmed by the three friends, is used to assure the divine judgment of the friends.

1. God has "hidden" (BDB 860, KB 1049, Qal perfect) their hearts/minds/ from understanding (cf. Job 12:20)

2. God will not exalt them (nor their children, Job 17:5b) because they attacked a friend for personal gain, Job 17:5 (cf. Job 13:7-11)

The last line of Job 17:4 can be a prayer for God to

1. not let the three friends be exalted (cf. Exod. 15:1; Ps. 37:34; Pro. 4:8)

2. not let the three friends triumph (BDB 926, KB 1202, Polel imperfect, cf. Ps. 41:11)

3. this verb stem is used of raising children (cf. Isa. 1:2; 23:4) and children are mentioned in Job 17:5b. If so, this would be an idiom for their descendants to be cut off (i.e., no posterity).


17:5 "for a share" This noun (BDB 324 I) means "portion." It can refer

1. positively – Job 31:2

2. negatively – Job 27:13

Here it refers to the three friends attacking Job to promote their sense of acceptance with God (cf. Job 13:8,10).

The NASB Study Bible (p. 709) and The Jerome Bible Commentary (p. 521) both think it is a proverb that Job quoted "to counter the false accusations of his friends."

  6"But He has made me a byword of the people,
 And I am one at whom men spit.
 7My eye has also grown dim because of grief,
 And all my members are as a shadow.
 8The upright will be appalled at this,
 And the innocent will stir up himself against the godless.
 9Nevertheless the righteous will hold to his way,
 And he who has clean hands will grow stronger and stronger.
 10But come again all of you now,
 For I do not find a wise man among you.
 11My days are past, my plans are torn apart,
 Even the wishes of my heart.
 12They make night into day, saying,
 ‘The light is near,' in the presence of darkness.
 13If I look for Sheol as my home,
 I make my bed in the darkness;
 14If I call to the pit, ‘You are my father';
 To the worm, ‘my mother and my sister';
 15Where now is my hope?
 And who regards my hope?
 16Will it go down with me to Sheol?
 Shall we together go down into the dust?"

17:6 The sovereign God not only acted toward the three friends but also toward Job. There is some doubt who this verse refers to.

1. the singular of Job 17:5a

2. God


▣ "a byword" The noun (BDB 605) usually means "a proverb" or "a parable," but here it is parallel with "one at whom men spit," so it must have a negative connotation (cf. Num. 12:14; Deut. 25:9; Job 30:10; Isa. 50:6). Apparently Job was being used as an example of how "the two ways" worked! This was very painful for a righteous man (cf. Job. 17:8-9).

17:7b This is an ambiguous line of poetry. It could relate to Job 16:8, where Job describes his body as "shriveled up."

However, the word "shadow" (BDB 853) can have the connotation of death. This imagery is surely referred to in Job 17:12-16.

1. the presence of darkness (BDB 365)

2. Sheol (BDB 982, see Special Topic: Sheol)

3. in the darkness (BDB 365, cf. Job 3:4,5; 10:21; 15:22,23)

4. the pit (BDB 1001)

5. to the worm (cf. Job 7:5; 21:26)

6. go down with me to Sheol

7. go down into the dust (BDB 779)

Job is contemplating the imminence of his own death.

TEV"arms and legs"
NJB, REB"limbs"
(Targums)"all shapes"
NET Bible"frame"

The MT has יצרים (BDB 428), which is found only here in the OT. BDB gives two options.

1. "members" or "limbs"

2. "forms" or "shapes"


17:8-9 These verses use several phrases/words to describe faithful followers, of which Job considers himself to be, but the three friends now do not.

1. the upright (BDB 449)

2. the innocent (BDB 667)

3. the righteous (BDB 843)

4. he who has clean hands (BDB 373 construct 388)

It is possible to view Job 17:8-9 as a sarcastic reference as to how the three comforters view themselves.

It is also possible that it is a general statement that righteous people would be appalled at the unfounded accusations and innuendoes of the three friends against Job.

17:10 Job encourages his attackers to try again (lit. "come on again," Qal imperfect and Qal imperative), but he is sure there is no wise man (BDB 314) among them!

Job characterizes their words in Job 17:12. They promise Job good things/times if he would acknowledge his sin and repent, but they only taunt a good, innocent, blameless man!

17:11 "plans" The noun (BDB 273) is usually used of the plans of evil people. Only here does it denote a godly plan. It is paralleled to "the wishes of my heart."

17:12 The "they" refers to the three comforters. Their accusations have exacerbated Job's pain, doubt, and confusion.


NASB"will it go down with me to Sheol"
NKJV"will they go down to the gates of Sheol"
NRSV"will it go down to the bars of Sheol"
JPSOA"will it descend to Sheol"
REB"I cannot take them with me down to Sheol"

The MT has "the bars of Sheol will they do down together?" There are several questions.

1. The UBS Text Project (p. 43) suggests that the first phrase, "the bars of Sheol" should be "with me (into) Sheol" ("C" rating), which is a revocalization. This change is supported by Targums.

2. The other question is to what or whom does "it" refer?

a. in the MT it is plural and may refer to the three comforters of Job 17:12

b. the imagery of "father" and "mother" of Job 17:14

c. the "hope" of Job 17:15

3. The last word of the last line of poetry in Job 17:16 in the MT is "rest" (BDB 629, cf. Eccl. 6:5), but a revocalization makes it "descend," which fits the parallelism better. The UBS Text Project (p. 44) gives "descend" a C rating (considerable doubt).


▣ "into the dust" This (BDB 779) is an idiom for death (cf. Job 7:21; 20:11; 21:26; Ps. 22:15,29; 30:9; Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2).


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. Explain Job 17:3 in your own words.

2. To whom does Job 17:4 refer?

3. How does Job 17:5 apply to Job's three comforters?

4. How does Job 17:8-9 fit into the literary flow of the chapter?

5. Who is the "they" of Job 17:12?

6. To what does "hope" in Job 17:15 refer?

7. What/who does "it" of Job 17:16 refer?


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