Who is talking in Job 5?


(Mervin Bitikofer) #1

Job 5 is an interesting chapter, and I don’t know why I never noticed this before, but the heading or “caption” given it by NRSV Bibles is: “Job is Corrected by God.”

Yes – I know that such captions are not at all part of any original autograph or part of the inspired writings; any more than the chapter divisions are. So I don’t worry about them or consider them overmuch.

But… to not give them much weight is not the same as not noticing them at all. And in this case (don’t know why this didn’t happen the many other times I’ve read Job) - in this case the heading threw me, causing me to read the chapter as if it was in God’s voice (like we really do unambiguously have at the end of Job.) That made for very interesting chapter reading; like verse 6: “For hardship does not spring from the soil, nor does trouble spout from the ground. Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.”

That is … until I finish the chapter and notice that this seems to still be Eliphaz finishing his first speech that he (according to not only chapter heading, but according to the text itself) began in chapter 4. Nothing in the text indicates (to me) that God is interjecting early here, and everything in the text including the bulk of what chapter 5 says lines up squarely as if it is one of Job’s “comforters” speaking and not God. And that puts a very different spin on the words delivered, given what God has to say about Job’s friends at the end of the book.

So then I thought … is this chapter 5 heading a misprint in my particular NRSV copy? But online I see that the heading stands. I note that NASB just put in the noncommittal heading “God is Just”, while NIV and KJV are not so cheeky about it and say nothing at all, leaving the text to speak for itself.

I have heard that NRSV is supposed to be one of the more carefully crafted translations by scholars. Did that care not extend to any headings they inserted? Or are passage headings carelessly thrown in by some even later yet committee after the scholars finished their work? Am I missing something here? Thoughts?


(Jon Garvey) #2

Just checked out three commentaries, Merv, and nobody mentions a change of speaker - which would be odd anyway, given where we are in the structure of the book. Neither does the content seem to sound like God, but like one of the “friends” giving a pat answer about repenting and getting right with God.

Certainly v8 looks odd coming from God: “But as for me, I would seek God…” (NASB), as does v27. And the original RSV carries the quotation marks over from ch4. Sounds like editorial brainstorm to me!


(Mervin Bitikofer) #3

That’s what I thought as well. It seems like a no-brainer that this is not God speaking here; despite the fact that a few of the verses in isolation can be confused with what would be found in the Psalms.

It’s no biggie, of course, if headings are off. But I had never noticed one to be so blatantly misleading till now.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #4

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