Old Testament Essays
On-line version ISSN 2312-3621Print version ISSN 1010-9919
Old testam. essays vol.31 n.3 Pretoria 2018http://dx.doi.lutz-heilmann.info/10.17159/2312-3621/2018/v31n3a16
The Problem of the Potsherd: Job 2:8 in a New Perspective
Ellen van Wolde
Radboud College, Netherlands
The famed verse in the prologue of the book of Job, which is frequently analyzed via "Job took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes, " is the object of research below. In this evaluation of Job 2:8, 3 components are broadly discussed; (1) The syntactic structure that shows that the topic of the activity of "taking" is the satan and also not Job; (2) The semantic evaluation of the events of the noun חרש, which demonstprices that this word does not designate "potsherd," but "pot"; and also (3) The semantic evaluation of the infinitive hitpael התגרד, which defines the satan"s goal in bringing Job a pot, namely to squeeze out his inflamed boils that cover him from head to toe.
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Keywords: Book of Job, translation, interpretation
"The adversary is in the details" is a popular adage in biblical studies. Without paying attention to details in language use, message, and culture, many elements of meaning in the Hebrew Holy bible would certainly have escaped our attention. The existing short article considers one such tiny information and through some impressive results.1It regards the famed verse in the prologue of the book of Job, viz. 2:8, commonly understood to reexisting Job"s behaviour, as is obvious in the adhering to translations: "Job took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes" (NAS translation); "Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes" (NRS); "He took a potsherd to scrape himself as he sat in ashes" (NJPS). Each of the components of this verse will certainly be analysed: the question who is the topic of the verb "taking," the noun that is typically construed to designate "potsherd," and the verb "to scrape." This likewise describes the structure of the present article: after a general description of the contents of the prologue of Job and also an explanation of its narratological and syntactic framework, I will ultimately zoom in on the syntactic structure and the semantic content of Job 2:8.
B GENERAL CONTENT OF THE PROLOGUE OF JOB
A story of devastating misfortune is told in the prologue of the book of Job and goes with various phases. From a legendary hocolony, affluent, and also God-fearing man, Job"s fortune suddenly changes. Within the bconnect of an eye this god-fearing guy who had actually every little thing has shed whatever.
Surprisingly, chapters 1 and also 2 market an explanation of why this taken place. It seems that Job"s misfortune, or the change from fortune to misfortune, was the consequence of a deal made in heaven. Thturbulent the description of a meeting by the divine council we discover out what lies behind Job"s misfortune from heaven"s perspective. In this meeting, Yhwh opens the conversation (in Job 1:8) by asking a fellow magnificent being, one of the sons of God dubbed the satan, the adhering to question: "Have you noticed my servant Job? Tright here is no one favor him on earth, a blameless and also upbest man that fears God and also shuns evil!" The satan replies (in Job 1:9), "Is it "for naught" (חנם) that Job has actually put his confidence in you? You have actually safeguarded him, all his life." In this feeling, the satan suggests that the principle of retribution, or "tit for tat," drives huguy behaviour, consisting of Job"s version behaviour. In other words, the satan claims that Job puts his faith in God only because God protects him and renders certain points go well for him. God takes the oppowebsite place. Sindicate put, God assumes that Job is pious at the exact same time as being wealthy, whereas the satan claims that Job is pious bereason he is well-off and also wants to remain affluent. Challenged by the satan, God locations his bet on Job. It is an important question for God: do people fear God unconditionally or do they put their belief in him in order to encertain they stay well off? God cannot test everyone, so he puts Job, the epitome of a pious man, to the test. The aim is to answer the complying with questions: is humanity"s loyalty to God pure, that is to say not thrust by self-interest? Are calamities the consequence of poor behaviour or led to by a absence of trust in God? Do humans that live a good life deserve happiness? Did Job deserve happiness? Is tright here any type of rationality behind the altercountry of fortune and misfortune on earth? To show the definition of these concerns, the narrator sets the exadjust between God and the satan in heaven. Here the conversation in between God and also the satan have the right to be more open and intense. However, only the readers understand around the wager. The character Job knows nothing of this heavenly experiment.
The following scene is set on earth and also mirrors how Job reacts once blow after blow strikes. Although deeply miserable and unable to understand also what is happening to him, he does not blame God. Instead he says: "Naked I came from my mother"s womb, and naked I shall rerotate. Yahweh has actually given and Yahweh has taken away; blessed be the name of Yahweh" (Job 1:21). The amazing point of this response is that Job does not consider misfortune as mere negative luck or as somepoint inexplicable that taken place by accident, yet he features whatever, either great or negative, to God. Job accepts that this is exactly how the civilization works: God is sovepower and also human beings have to accept the method points go.
But then, brand-new tragedies strike Job. This time his body is impacted and his skin peels amethod till his body is raw, and yet still he utters no reproach. Suddenly Job"s wife transforms up. Where did she come from? She was not stated prior to.2The narrator told us around Job"s sons and also daughters however never stated a wife, and also when he lost his offspring there was no recommendation to her either. In his deepest misery Job claims that he is all alone in the world ("naked I came, naked I will certainly go") without cite of a wife - reportedly she does not count. Yet, currently Mrs Job enters the picture and difficulties her husband: "Do you still save your integrity? Say good-bye to God (אלהים) and also die" (Job 2:9). Embedded in her words are inquiries such as: "How deserve to you store on being loyal to God once all this misfortune befalls you? Why are you being targeted? You, my dear husband also, do not deserve this. You live an upideal life, I can testify to it." Job"s wife is urged by the principle of origin as the steering principle of faith: you area your trust in God since he is the one who made you, supports you, possibly, even punishes you once you deserve it. Tright here shows up to be balance in this God-produced universe. But disaster and misery prove that such a balance does not exist, so you might too provide up your loyalty to God. Yet, Job dismisses his wife"s words as foolish: "Should we accept excellent from the hands of the deity, however should we not accept evil?" (Job 2:10). Still, her words have an impact. By confronting Job via his very own death and stating to him the choice between blessing God or saying good-bye to God, she pressures him to respond. His wife introduces the concept of fatality, and this instils doubt in Job and he starts to ask himself concerns. He also starts to reason from a humale suggest of check out instead of instantly adopting the perspective of God. His wife"s taunts cause Job to change from an assured believer before right into someone that asks concerns. The responses of an ardent believer before would certainly not have gave product for such a dramatic story. The book of Job is made human and also lifelike via the doubt and also soul of a man who has to face his trust in God in the light of the suffering, misery, and also undeserved and disastrous poor luck that has befallen him.
Therefore the opening chapters of the book of Job check out the theme of opportunity with narrative.3 What seems to be an inexplicable change of fortune on earth is defined as the consequence of a wager in heaven. The bet turns out to be a type of empirical research. God"s hypothesis is that world serve him "for naught." His is a frame of non-origin. The counterhypothesis, formulated by the satan, is that people serve God in order to secure a far better life for themselves. His framework is one of causality. The test is percreated on God"s model servant on earth, Job. By alternating between scenes on earth and scenes in heaven, the reader is able to view the topic from two perspectives via the characters in the 2 domains, i.e., God and the satan in heaven, and Job and also his wife on earth. By placing the 4 characters in a sort of matrix, the narrator reveals his preferences. The narrative strategy of Job 1-2 is to convince readers to share both God"s and Job"s point of view and also agree through them that it is sufficient to accept that everything (good luck and also negative luck) is offered or taken away by God. The narrator concludes that the satan and womales (not just Job"s wife) lutz-heilmann.infoanize a suggest of see that is seductive but incorrect. However, by presenting these opposing personalities, readers are challenged to take into consideration questions such as: Are the principles of causality and retribution beneficial in understanding the events of fortune and misfortune in someone"s life? Are patterns of regularity, logic, and moral balance sufficient to explain the unsupposed interruptions in someone"s life or not?
C THE NARRATOLOGICAL COMPOSITIONS OF THE PROLOGUE
The section over resumes the content of Job 1-2, the "what" of the story. The syntactic and also narratological evaluation regards the "how" of the story, that is, the means in which the story is told, and encounters inquiries such as: How is the message syntactically lutz-heilmann.infoanised? In what method does the narrator presents the events? How are the protagonists characterised? How are their speeches represented? Whose perspective is shared? These and comparable questions will be soon questioned.4
Syntactically, chapters 1 -2 are plainly structured. The opening scene in Job 1:1-3 offers a characterisation of the protagonist. In short brushes Job is sketched by area and name and also characterised as blameless and also god-fearing. That is to say, this verse does not describe his actions but qualifies his place and properties.5 Also, the verbal clause in v. 2 does not expush his action of beacquiring youngsters as a tempdental process, yet quite the colplace ויולדו לו describes the result of this procedure and the Niphal verb expresses the resultative state: "to him were born salso sons and also 3 daughters." Job"s riches is subsequently shown in two lines, both marked by "Π"Ί v. 3a and also 3b: he has large livestock and huge family members, and is wealthier than everyone in the East. This general qualification is clearly the work-related of the narrator that presents this image from the outside as the advent of what is to follow.
This narrator explains in v. 4 the actions of Job"s sons as repetitive actions, correctly analyzed in the NJPS as "it was the custom of his sons to lutz-heilmann.infoanize feasts," only to present Job"s impeccable reaction in v. 5, "eincredibly time once a round of feast was over, Job brings sacrifices on behalf of his sons in situation they had sinned." And the narrator finishes his summary, including his own comments "this is what Job constantly supplied to execute." Thus, vv. 4-5 still belengthy to the introductory section of the prologue, for in these verses the narrator characterises and also qualifies Job and also his way of living. This alters in v. 6. After the brief qualification of the protagonist in vv. 1-5 follows a collection of episodes marked by "Π"Ί (1:6-12, 1:13-22, 2:1-6, 2:7-10), just the last section (2:11-13), in which the arrival of Job"s friends is presented, is not marked by the area opener ויהי. In each episode, the syntactic structure is fairly simple: after the opening ויהי היום "at some point it occurred that ..." (in v. 1:6, 1:13, and also 2:1) complies with a series of actions expressed in wayyiqtol creates that mainly describe events of coming and going.
The initially section (vv. 6-12) opens with the sons of God ויבאו "came" and the satan ויבוא "came also" and concludes with "the satan went away" (v. 12b). Set in in between these movements is the exchange in between Yhwh and also the satan in vv. 7-12a, all marked by the verbs ויאמר "he said" and also ויען "he answered."
The second section (vv. 13-22) opens up through the arrival of the messenger ( בא "came") in v. 14 against the background of the feasting of Job"s sons ("it happened on a day that while the sons of Job were dining and feasting, a messenger concerned Job and said"). This pattern of the arrival of a messenger is three times repeated in v. 16, 17, and 18 (three times וזה בא, "this one came"). Aacquire, positioned in between these spatial activities are the directly reported speeches of the messengers, all noted by the verbs ויאמר "he shelp." However before, at the end of this section, in v. 20, the narrator sketches Job"s reaction in short verbal claoffers, through verbs of action expressed by wayyiqtol forms: "Job occurred, tore his robe, reduced off his hair, threw himself on the ground, and also venerated," and by straight reporting his words (ויאמר "he said"). Even more striking is the fact that the narrator explicitly adds his own watch on the case: "for all that, Job did not sin nor did he actors reproach on God." In this method, the narrator emphasizes Job"s reaction on the events and also his very own positive review of Job"s behaviour.
The third section (vv. 2:1-10) repeats the pattern of 1:13-22. A new beginning point is marked by "it taken place one day" (2:1), adhered to by the arrival of the sons of God and the satan and also by the satan"s departure in v. 7, which creates the spatial structure of the dialogue between Yhwh and also the satan. The narration of the blows inflicted by the satan on Job is complied with by a straight reported dialogue in between Job"s wife (noted by ותאמר) and his answer (ויאמר).
The narrator"s concluding comment in 2:10b is worth noticing. Aacquire, the narrator expresses his evaluation: "for all that Job did not sin via his lips." Though still positive, the explicit acinsurance claim of 1:22 appears to be toned down.
The last section in 2:11-13 introduces Job"s 3 friends and attributes as bridge in between the prologue and the chapters containing the dialogues between Job and his friends.
This syntactic and narratological analysis shows that three times the narrator proactively intervenes in the story, in v. 1:5, 1:22 and 2:10. The narrator"s comments share 3 features: (1) "all days," "in all that," and "in all that" stress and anxiety the duration and also constant behaviour of Job; (2) the notion of sin חטא and its negation-in 1:5 it is implicit in "for this reason," referring to the previously (supposed) sins of his sons, and in 1:22 and 2:10 the negation of sinful behaviour is from Job"s side; and (3) the concept of curse or blasphemy, aget denied in relation to Job"s sons and also himself, in which the offered terms ברך , תפלה, and בשפתיו expush disrespectful speech acts directed in the direction of the deity. These 3 attributes "always," "not sin," and "not curse" summarize Job"s impeccable behaviour from the narrator"s suggest of check out. Job"s behaviour is blamemuch less, as was currently expressed in the advent in 1:1 and in Yhwh"s straight reported speech in vv. 1:8 and also 2:3. By presenting Yhwh"s views in terms comparable to his own terms, the narrator makes his evaluation unesqualified for the reader. The implication is that the reader has to conclude that Job himself is not to blame for what is happening to him.
In brief, both the triple qualification of Job as blameless and also God-fearing by narrator and also Yhwh and also the narrator"s own triple positive comments are the rhetorical strategy by which the reader is guided to share the narrator"s perspective and also positive review of Job.
D THE SYNTACTIC STRUCTURE OF 2:7-8
After the second dialogue in 2:1-6 the satan leaves from the visibility of Yhwh. The following claprovides explain the succeeding events as follows:
השטן מאת פני יהוהI וצאI 2.7a
ויך את־איוב בשחין רע מכף רגלו עד קדקדוI 2.7b
ויקח־לו חרש להתגרד בוI 2.8a
והוא ישב בתוך־האפרI 2.8b
The narrator presents a collection of actions in three verbal claprovides (vv. 7a, 7b, 8a) marked by a wayyiqtol verb form in the 3rd person masculine singular and also in one compound nominal sentence (v.8b), through a fronted personal pronoun and also a participle in third perboy masculine singular. In the first clausage, v. 7a, the satan is said to leave from the presence of Yhwh. In v. 7b, no new subject is discussed, and the activity perdeveloped is still that of the satan: he inflicts sores on Job. The next clausage, v. 8b, shows up to proceed the series of actions, because no brand-new topic is introduced. This is further shown by the truth that the preposition לו describes the recipient Job, who was likewise the recipient of the blows reported in v. 8a. In translation: the satan left Yhwh, he inflicted sores on Job, and also he brought him something. Remarkably, many translations think about Job to be the agent-topic of the activity in v. 8a, although no indication whatsoever is offered by the message. The King James Version is the only exception, bereason it takes properly the satan as agent-topic of the verb לקח. From a syntactic suggest of watch, the difference between, on the one hand, the 3 wayyiqto/-clauses in vv. 7a, 7b, and 8a via the satan as agent subject, and, on the various other hand also, the compound nominal sentence in v. 8b with Job as experiencer-topic, is clear. By placing the individual pronoun הואin front place, the brand-new subject is clearly marked and the predicate in the participial clause defines the state of that subject: "and/while he - he was sitting among the ashes."
In amount, the satan is the agent-subject of the actions defined in vv. 7a, 7b, and 8a, and also this Hebrew text should be analyzed as "the satan went ameans from Yhwh, inflicted Job with sores ... and also took him a pot/sherd." In vv. 7a-8a the satan is the agent-subject, that is, the satan is the syntactic subject via the semantic function of agent, whereas in v. 7b Job is the grammatical object with the semantic role of patient (marked by the nota accusativi איובאת־), and in v. 8a, Job is the instraight object and takes the semantic duty of recipient (noted by the preplace ib). Only in v. 8b is Job the experiencer-subject (the syntactic subject with the semantic duty of experiencer). This readjust in topic position is plainly marked by the individual pronoun הוא in fronted position in v. 8b, while the participle "sitting" expresses simultaneity. So, while Job was sitting among the ashes, the satan carried him a חרש.
E A SEMANTIC ANALYSIS OF JOB 2:8: THE PROBLEM OF THE POTSHERD
Verse 2:8a is an intriguing clause: "the satan took x to him in order to y in it." The verb לקח is rather straightforward and also designates "take." The noun חרש is even more hard. It occurs 17 times in the Hebrew Bible: 7 times in collocation through "כלי (כלי־חרש) "vessel of earthenware," and also in these instances it denotes an earthen vessel in which one puts food, water, blood, wine, or a document for safe keeping etc. Without "כלי it is used 10 times: it is made of soil (Isa 45:9), extended via silverjob-related (Prov 26:23), cramelted (Jer 19:1), drained to the bottom (Ezek 23:34). Once it is used in a simile, once the youngsters of Zion are compared to valuable pots (Lam 4:2). Finally, in the description of Leviathan in Job 41:22 the colplace חדודי חרש occurs, and its meaning is unclear. Although in all these useras of חרש the term plainly denotes a container of earthenware, the same term is commonly construed in Job 2:8 to designate a "potsherd." The idea of "potsherd" contains the notion of a item of broken earthenware. A pot or vessel is a container, whereas a potsherd is not a container anymore. In biblical scholarship,6 the explanation of חרש as a potsherd is based upon (1) referrals to Isa 30:13-14 and also Job 41:22, in which חרש is defined as denoting a "potsherd,"7(2) the verb התגרד is taken to designate "to scratch" and because one cannot scrape with a pot it need to be a potsherd, and (3) the conmessage of Job 2: why would the satan do something favourable for Job, why would he aid him by giving him a pot? These aspects will be better questioned.8
In Isa 30:13-149 the word חרש is supplied in metaphorical conmessage in which sin is compared to a break in the wall that will reason it to collapse and also the collapsing wall is compared to the breaking of a potter"s jar, "so that tright here will certainly not be uncovered in its pieces a חרש to take10 fire from the hearth11 or scoop12 water from a cistern.13" Can one scoop water from a cistern via a potsherd? Or take fire from a hearth via a damaged piece of pottery? It appears the majority of unlikely. The reason why commentators select to translate it with a potsherd lies in the fact that they attach it with the explained actions of wrecking or crashing in v.14a, assuming that this would cause earthenware broken into pieces. However, v. 14b does not attach the חרש to the previously described actions in v. 14a yet to the infinitive: one cannot find a חרש as an instrument to take water through from a cistern, and also this might never before have been executed through a sherd. So, the typical interpretation of pot or vessel for חרש stands as much as reason in Isa 30:14, also.
In Job 40:25-41:26 Yhwh paints an outstanding image of Leviathan, of which the last part consists of in v. 22a the nominal clause: "Under him are חרשחדודי." The term חדוד is a hapax /egomenon in the Hebrew Holy bible. Also v. 22b, "he (= Leviathan) spreads out חרוץ over the mud," remains unclear, because the noun חרוץ is, again, a difficult term to understand also. According to the dictionaries it means "gold," "threshing sledge," "canal, ditch," while the cognate noun חריץ denotes "pickaxe" or "channel." David Clines discusses all aspects of v. 22ab extensively, via the proposals and emendations made in previous scholarship showing the many type of unpredictabilities of this verse.14 It appears that whether חרש in Job 41:22 designates precisely either "pot" or "potsherd" is unparticular and thus it is unadvantageous for including context to our existing discussion.
In amount, the noun חרש designates in all attestations in the Hebrew Bible "pot" or "vessel," while its meaning in Job 41:22 is unclear. The factor why exegetes and translators of the book of Job opt for the exceptional definition of potsherd in Job 2:8 is its combicountry through the verb התגרד, which is taken as a Hitpael of גרד, "scratch, scrape." And considering that one cannot scratch via a pot, it have to denote a potsherd.
The meaning of the verb התגרד (Hitpael of גרד) is unspecific bereason it is a hapax legomenon. The Hitpael itself might expush a reflexive or a middle voice, referring to an activity in which the subject is the agent and the patient at the exact same time, or is as a subject impacted by the activity. Hence, Job is the subject-agent and at the same time affected or involved. The just other attestation of the Hebrew verb גרד; (Hiphil of גרד) is in the Temple Scroll (11Q19) 49:12, "And on the day when they lug out the deceased from it, they shall clean the house of all tarnishing via oil and also wine and moisture of water. Its floor and also its walls and also its doors they shall scrape off and also its door locks and also its doorarticles and also its thresholds and also its lintels they shall wash down with water ... ."15 In this text, the door, the wall, and also the floor are the indirect objects or beneficiaries of the Hiphil verb, whereas the dirt, the impure matter that is to be removed, is missing as a direct object. Apparently, "one scrapes off" and not "one scrapes
The term שחין dedetailed "inflammations," "sores," or "ulcers," and also is offered 13 times in the HB to refer to pestilence as among the plagues (Exod 9:9,10, 11
In brief, the Hitpael התגרד in combicountry via the preposition בו "in it" leads to the following translation of Job 2:8: "he (= the satan) took a pot to him (= Job) to scrape of pus into it (= the pot)."
F WHY WOULD THE SATAN HELP JOB?
The last staying question is why the satan, that, because of a heavenly test, took whatever away from Job and also that inflicted Job through inflammable sores, would certainly now aid Job and also market him something positive? The reason why the narrator contains this occasion in his story is not to throw a positive light on the satan"s behaviour. On the contrary, the rhetorical strategy is to expush how destructive these inflammations are. When you need a pot to collect the squeezed-out secretion from the inflamed ulcers, demonstprices just how seriously bad Job"s problem is. An entire pot filled with pus! Thus, it confirms the summary of v. 7: "he inflicted a major inflammation on Job from the sole of his foot to the crvery own of his head"" By presenting the pot as the container of scraped-off pus, this narrator worsens the horror, making the reader shudder in abhorrence. They flinch amethod and also feel deeply sorry for him.
In this analysis of Job 2:8, three components are generally discussed: (1) The syntactic structure that reflects that the subject of the action of "taking" is the satan and also not Job; (2) The semantic evaluation of the occurrences of the noun חרש, which demonstprices that this word does not designate "potsherd," but "pot"; and (3) The semantic expedition of the infinitive hitpael התגרד, which defines why the satan would carry Job a pot, namely to scrape of the pus from his inflamed sores that covered him from head to toe.
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This outcomes in the following translation of Job 2:7-8:
7 And the satan went out from the existence of YHWH and also inflicted major inflammations on Job from the sole of his foot to the peak of his head
8 and also he lugged him a pot to scrape pus into it, while he (Job) sat among the ashes.
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Ellen van Wolde, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Faculteit der Filosofie, Theologie en Religiewetenschappen, Postbus 9103, 6500 HD Nijmegen, e.vanwolde