Job 41:4 (MT; v. 12 in English versions):

NRSV: I will not keep silence concerning its limbs ...
ESV: I will not keep silence concerning his limbs ...
NASB: I will not keep silence concerning his limbs ...
YLT: I do not keep silent concerning his parts ...
BHS: כ= לֹא} {ק= לֹו}־אַחֲרִישׁ בַּדָּיו וּדְבַר־גְּבוּרֹות וְחִין עֶרְכֹּו׃}

The difference rests on whether to prefer the ketib לא (=not), negating the verb חָרַשׁ (=keep silent; "I will not keep silent concerning his boastings," or, the more literal and more plain: "I will not silence his boastings"); or the qere (here bracketed) לו (=to/for him; "For him I will silence his boastings").

NOTE: There are no less than forty (40) translations of this verse into English that appear to ignore the suggested Masoretic reading for the qere (here bracketed) לו (=to/for). In other words, many, if not all, of the most popular and most widely-read English translations of this passage appear to prefer the ketib לא (=not). One sole exception appears to be the International Children's Bible (?)!

Also, LXX Job is characteristically "free" and is not obviously helpful here.

Question: Should we prefer the ketiv, which appears universal among the most popular and most widely-read English translations of the Bible? Or should we prefer the qere, which is the suggested Masoretic reading of this verse based on Jewish oral tradition?

  • A footnote to this verse in the Oxford Jewish Study Bible says Meaning of Heb. uncertain.
    – user33515
    Mar 8, 2017 at 3:39

1 Answer 1


Job is tough to translate. According to the anchor yale bible Job, it should be translated as:

  Did I not silence his boasting, 
  By the powerful word Hayyin prepared?

With the following commentary:

KJ’s “I will not conceal his parts, nor his power, nor his comely proportion” is accepted in essence by most moderns. Moffatt’s bold venture, “No hunter would survive to boast and brag of his exploits and his fine arms,” is not hampered by rigid adherence to the text. JPS’s “Would I keep silence concerning his boastings, / Or his proud talk, or his fair array of words?” is the most exact rendering of the text. The word baddāyw here does not mean “his parts, members,” as in 18:13, but “his boasting,” as in 11:3; cf. Isa 16:6, 44:25 and 58:13 (conjecturally); Jer 48:30, 50:36. The use in Isa 44:25 shows clearly the association of the word with heathen incantations. In the Ugaritic texts the root is used both as a verb and as a noun with the meaning “sing,” “song.” The real impediment to understanding of the text is the word ḥyn in the second line which is regularly explained as an anomalous form of the noun ḥēn, “grace, favor.” The Masoretic vocalization of the word is passing strange. If the Masoretes had thought the word should be read ḥēn, why did they not so vocalize it? Tur-Sinai suggests that the word is to be related to the root hyn, as in Deut 1:41, “You made bold to go up,” and with Ar. hayyin, “light, lightheartedly contemptuous.” Tur-Sinai, it seems, came close to the truth. I suggest that the troublesome word ḥyn represents an accidental corruption of a name or epithet of the god Koshar who is sometimes called hyn in the Ugaritic myths. The vocalization of this name is uncertain, but Ugaritic orthographic practice favors hayyān or hayyīn. Scribal confusion of h and ḥ is not surprising since the two letters are sometimes difficult to distinguish. This versatile deity Koshar serves in the Ugaritic texts as artisan, enchanter, and general factotum.

Pope, M. H. (2008). Job: Introduction, translation, and notes (Vol. 15, p. 338). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

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