From Feast upon the Word (http://feastupontheword.org). Copyright, Feast upon the Word.
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 Lexical notes
 Verse 6
- Repent. The Hebrew word nchm is translated here as "repent." However, the word is typically used in the Old Testament to refer to God repenting/relenting, not man (e.g. Gen 6:6-7; Ex 32:14; Judg 2:18; 1 Sam 15:11). The word nchm is also used to mean "comfort" (e.g. 2 Sam 10:2; 1 Chr 19:2; Isa 61:2; Jer 16:7; 31:15). Interestingly, in all other instances in Job, the word nchm seems to to fit the "comfort" meaning more naturally and is thus translated in the KJV (viz. 2:11; 7:13; 16:2; 21:34; 29:25; 42:11). David Wolfers argues that verse 6 should be translated, "Therefore do I despise, and am comforted for, all that are dust and ash" (p. 333, Deep Things Out of Darkness, ISBN 0802840825; cf. Scheindlin, 1999, ISBN 0393319008, "I retract. I even take comfort for dust and ashes"). On this view, the significance here is that Job finds comfort after God speaks, not from anything his friends have said. The LXX seems to take an approach more similar to the KJV, where one translation of the LXX text is "Therefore, I despise myself and I melt, and I consider myself dirt and ashes." According to William Morrow (Journal of Biblical Literature, v. 105 n. 2, June 1986, p. 213), "Apparently the LXX translator wanted to highlight Job's reconciliation with God by having Job echo what he earlier described as the divine opinion concerning him [in Job 30:19]." Morrow also notes that "It is conceviable here that Job 42:6 is seen as having adopted a posture of humiliation as part of his grief and suffering, a posture he now renounces and forswears in order to adopt an attitude of praise." Morrow's ultimate conclusion is that that verse is purposely vague: "no translation of this verse can succeed without forcing the text at some point or another. . . . Job 42:6 is a polysemous construction, which even its original readers would have heard differently, depending on their evaluation of the meaning of Yahweh's address to Job. . . . [T]he poet himself intended no explicit resolution to the tension that exists in the Yahweh speech(es) between the very fact of Yahweh's presence and the actual contents of the divine address. Rather, he created a situation that can be interpreted in several ways according to the theological inclinations of the reader. The vague and ambiguous language of 42:6 is a reflection of this intention."
 Verse 6
As noted in the commentary for verses 2-5, J. Gerald Janzen offers an alternate translation of this verse: "Therefore I recant and change my mind concerning dust and ashes." Janzen points out (on p. 255 of his commentary) that in "every other instance where the niphal (middle or reflexive) form of nhm, 'change the mind,' is followed by the preposition `al, translators uniformly render the expression 'to repent of, concerning' (e.g., Jer 18:8, 10)." In other words, besides adding "myself" to the verse, the KJV translators offer a poor or at least unconventional translation. The plain meaning of the Hebrew: Job repents (mourns his former character or position) concerning "dust and ashes."
This more literal translation opens a fascinating interpretive possibility: instead of being driven to repent in dust and ashes, Job's experiences have led him to a new understanding of dust and ashes. Janzen suggests that the Lord's treatment of Job have led him to better understand what it means to be a human being in the image of God. This can be seen by looking at how "dust and ashes" is used in Gen 18:27 and Job 30:19. In each of these verses, the phrase "dust and ashes" (which appears nowhere else in the Bible) refers to the beginning and ending of man, which is formed out of dust and ends as ashes. The phrase in these two texts quite clearly refers to the fallen nature of man: man, as dust and ashes (not in dust and ashes), stands before God as created and mortal. But even so, dust and ashes are the very image of God (if one follows Gen 1:26). Job seems, after all the Lord has dragged him through, to recognize an important lesson: man, though dust and ashes, is nonetheless something far more than just dust and ashes.
If this is indeed the lesson Job is taught by the Lord, then the whole of the Book of Job is transformed: Job's perfect piety at the beginning of the story is not good enough and must be overcome. Job's piety is based on a sort of false humility, a misunderstanding of man's place in the more eternal scheme of things. Job is, as it were, too passive, too receptive, too safe. The radical trial (meant in the literal sense: God tries and proves him) is meant to radicalize Job, to take him beyond the safety of piety and so to help him understand the radical implications of the covenant he has with God. This radicalization was already implicit in Job, and the trial is meant to bring it out. In other words, the Lord's chastisement of Job in chapters 38-41 was a test to see if Job would "maintain his ways" before God. When Job sees that he is justified in complaining to God in direct prayer, it changes his mind concerning his own mortal (dust and ashes) standing and relationship with the Lord. Only by remaining true throughout the book is Job justified by the Lord in the end, while his three friends are disapproved of. Perhaps, in the end, Goethe saw the meaning of this book far better than most recognize.
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