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Job 19:26 reads:

And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.(ESV)

The ESV footnote on the word in says, “or without”.

The NET note:

This could mean “without my flesh,” i.e., separated from my flesh, or “from my flesh,” i.e., in or with my flesh. The former view is taken by those who think Job’s vindication will come in this life, and who find the idea of a resurrection unlikely to be in Job’s mind. The latter view is taken by those who interpret the preceding line as meaning death and the next verse underscoring that it will be his eye that will see.

This explains the basic interpretive implications of the choice but doesn't give me a good sense of how the decision should be made.

The Hebrew reads (BHS):

וְאַחַ֣ר ע֭וֹרִֽי נִקְּפוּ־זֹ֑את וּ֝מִבְּשָׂרִ֗י אֶֽחֱזֶ֥ה אֱלֽוֹהַּ׃

I suppose the decision rests on the meaning of the preposition מִן that is prefixed to בשר. The basic meaning is “from,” and several translations have simply left it at that (Darby, NABRE, NASB, RSV) but that's a bit awkward and unclear in English, and the question (as postulated by the ESV) of whether the sense is “in” or “without” remains.

How should we decide whether “in” or “without” is closer to the intended meaning?

5

The Idea in Brief

The margin notes of the Masoretic Text (Masorah Parva) as annotated in the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia provide amplified understanding of the text. That is, the Masoretic editors had understood that Job would see God both within his body (verse 26), and without his body (verse 27).

Discussion

The Masoretic Text has margin notes, which provide the reader guidance as to how to understand the text. These margin notes are the Masorah Parva, which at times have more amplified explanation in the Masorah Magna, which are the Masoretic foot notes and/or end notes at the end of the Biblical books.

The page (below) from the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia reflects notes made in the margins by the Masoretic editors. Please note the words highlighted in yellow with arrows pointing to the corresponding margin note.

Job Chapter 19

Before beginning an analysis of the words highlighted in yellow, please note the Hebrew word in the red box. We find that, according to the Bible software tool Interlinear Scripture Analyzer, the simple search discloses that there are 17 instances in the Hebrew Bible of some form of the word בָּשָׂר with the preposition מִן, which means out of or from. In more than half of these instances, the meaning is what is removed from flesh. For example, the woman Eve came "from the flesh" of Adam; another example would be the dietary laws concerning the consumption "from the flesh" of unclean animals or even clean animals sacrificed to God. Notwithstanding, there are several instances in which the meaning appears to be physical separation from the human body such as Isaiah 58:7, where physical separation is evident. Thus there is plausible ambiguity in Biblical Hebrew for which the reader must turn to the context for clarification.

To begin, both the first and second highlighted word in yellow is אֶחֱזֶה, which is the Qal Imperfect (Active) of חָזָה, which means to see, perceive, look, behold, prophesy, provide. Thus Job indicates that "he shall see." In the margin for both words is the Hebrew letter ד̇ (with a dot on top), which signifies four instances of the occurrence of this word. However, since there is no Masorah Magna to tell the reader where these verses are, we find that, according to the Bible software tool Interlinear Scripture Analyzer, the simple search discloses where these four verses are found. These four verses in the collective seem to indicate that seeing is made possible by the power of God.

The third highlighted text in yellow is וְעֵינַי, which the dual form of the Hebrew word עַיִן (eye) with the first person possessive pronoun suffix. The Masorah Parva in the margin indicates that there are two instances of this word in the Hebrew Bible (ב̇ with dot on top). However, since there is no Masorah Magna to tell the reader where these verses are, a simple search with the Interlinear Scripture Analyzer discloses the location of the two verses. These two verses in the collective seem to indicate that seeing is corporeal; that is, "seeing" occurs with the physiological eyes of the human body.

The fourth highlighted word in yellow is כִלְיֹתַי, which the plural form of the Hebrew word כִּלְיָה (kidney) with the first person possessive pronoun suffix. The Masorah Parva in the margin indicates that there are three occurrences of this word (ג̇ with a dot on top = 3) in some shortened or other partial form (חסר = so-called defective scriptum). However, since there is no Masorah Magna to tell the reader where these verses are, a simple search with the Interlinear Scripture Analyzer discloses the location of eight verses in variant reading forms for this noun-suffix combination. The Masorah Parva in the margin does not say 8 (ח̇ with dot on top), but 3 (ג̇ with a dot on top). Comparing the verses with Job 19:27 discloses that three of the verses (to include Job 19:27) appear to refer to the seat of emotions as well as the literal, physiological kidneys. (Please see the three verses bracketed in green here.) These three verses in the collective seem to indicate that the kidneys are the seat of emotions, but that they are also literal, corporeal organs of the human body.

Finally, the fifth and final highlighted text in yellow is בְּחֵקִי, which the singular form of the Hebrew word חֵיק (bosom) with the first person possessive pronoun suffix and the prefix בְּ, which indicates location (where). The Masorah Parva in the margin indicates the ד̇ with dot on top, which indicates that there are four occurrences of this word in some shortened or other partial form (חסר = so-called defective scriptum). However, since there is no Masorah Magna to tell the reader where these verses are, a simple search with the Interlinear Scripture Analyzer discloses the location of four verses in variant reading forms for this noun-suffix/prefix combination in other variant spellings. These verses (to include Job 19:27) appear to refer to the bosom as the location of deep grief. These four verses in the collective seem to indicate that the bosom in context is grief-stricken in both the literal and emotional senses..

Based on the above discussion, the King James Version provides an accurate albeit archaic translation. In verse 26, the "hints" from the Masorah Parva suggest that in the distant future Job will see God with the eyes of his corporeal body.

Job 19:26-27 (KJV)
26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body,
yet in my flesh shall I see God:
27 Whom I shall see for myself,
and mine eyes shall behold,
and not another;
though my reins be consumed within me.

In this last clause (highlighted in bold), the verb "be consumed" is in the Qal perfect (no future aspect). Thus Job anticipates at the current time (immediate future) he shall see God notwithstanding his body is destroyed. In other words, in verse 27, the "hints" from the Masorah Parva suggest that Job anticipates seeing God without his body.

Conclusion

The Masoretic Text provides no narrative commentary for interpreting the Biblical texts. Instead, the Masoretic editors provided readers comparative verses through margin notes (and/or foot- and end-notes) where literal similarities occur in the Biblical texts; the reader then is left to use inductive analysis to interpret how these text-references "frame" the context at hand. The Masoretes limited these "hints" to literal comparisons and contrasts with other Biblical references based on their own understanding of the meaning of the Hebrew Bible. Through the use of modern day Bible software tools, the discussion above was able to use these Masoretic notes and propose through inductive analysis what the Masoretic editors appeared to convey by their notes.

The conclusion thus is that Job expected to see God with his physiological eyes one day. However, while absent from his body in the immediate but temporal sense, he would also see God after death (that is, before the resurrection of his physical body).

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  • 1
    "...suggest that Job anticipates seeing God without his body" Might we not just as well understand 'though' to mean he will be resurrected in spite of this state of bodily decomposition (e.g. 'my eyes shall behold') and so see the Lord nonetheless? – Sola Gratia Mar 30 '18 at 22:33
  • 1
    We know for sure that Job saw God in his flesh because it is recorded: blueletterbible.org/niv/job/42/5/s_478005 I think it is a story of a man who survives this dreaded disease: who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/leishmaniasis and comes out on top. It is the answer to the question "Why me?" and answer is "for the glory of God in ways you can't understand that involve spiritual conflict". Any resurrection hope Job had is downplayed or rejected in Job 14. The focus of the story is on his restoration and change of fortunes. – Ruminator Oct 15 '18 at 10:52

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