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Job 4:21 Are not the cords of their tent pulled up, so that they die without wisdom?

What does cords of their tent here refer to? What does this text mean?

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The meaning of Job 4:21 becomes apparent when looked at in context. Eliphaz is dreaming (4:13) and hears a voice saying, "Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his maker?" The voice then argues that such an idea is absurd.

(4:13-21*): In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men, Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up: It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image was before mine eyes, there was silence, and I heard a voice, saying, Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his maker? Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly: How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth? They are destroyed from morning to evening: they perish for ever without any regarding it. Doth not their excellency which is in them go away? They die, even without wisdom.

We are so puny alongside God, that our houses are crushed more easily than the moth. We perish forever, our pride and wealth (excellency) vanish, and we die without ever knowing wisdom.

This passage is reflected in chapters 38ff, when God accuses Job of arrogantly believing himself to be better than God, and reminds Job of how puny he is.


(*) The original text for verse 21a is obscure and can have two very different translations into English: some versions say, "The pegs of their tent are plucked up" (which would be consistent with the earlier reference to foundations of the houses) but others say, "Doth not their excellency which is in them go away?"

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  • I made an edit. Feel free to revert it if it doesn't match your intentions. I just thought it was easier to track with the changes I made. – Mr. Bultitude Jan 18 '15 at 1:27
  • @Mr.Bultitude Thank you - that's fine with me. I was quoting the KJV verbatim, and when I do so, I usually try not to change the text. – Dick Harfield Jan 18 '15 at 1:51
  • Could you elaborate on the translation difficulties? – Dan Jan 21 '15 at 16:07
  • The Hebrew word yether can mean (among other things) residue, cord or excellency. See biblehub.com/parallel/job/4-21.htm : KJV + Young's Literal use 'excellency', NIV uses 'cords', Int Standard uses 'wealth' See concordance at - biblehub.com/hebrew/3499.htm – Dick Harfield Jan 21 '15 at 22:16

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