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Last year I put the book of Job into poetic verse, referenced from selected translations as I am not an Hebrew scholar. I have never been content with the last verse as there appears to be a translation problem well above my own competence in regard to Job ‘abhorring’, Job 42:6.

Therefore I despise [myself] and I have repented . . . . [Green’s Interlinear]

Wherefore I abhor [myself] and repent . . . . [JND]

Wherefore I abhor [myself] and repent . . . [KJV]

Therefore do I loathe [it] and I have repented . . . [Young’s Literal]

Young tells me the word is maas and it means ‘despise, reject, loathe’. Strong gives it as ma’ac and its inflection, here, as ‘em-’as. BDB gives the primary meaning as ‘reject’.

But my main problem is that I feel uncomfortable with an interpolation in brackets ‘[myself]’. It seems strange to have to put that in. My question is, Why is the pronoun not in the original if the verb does indeed indicate a reflexive self-loathing ?


My own verses, therefore - for the time being (partially following Young) are :

Hear, I beseech thee and I’ll speak.

I’ll ask - cause me to know.

By hearing of the ear I heard

of thee, but mine eye, now -

doth see thee, wherefore I do loathe

and now I do repent.

Wherefore, in dust and ashes, I

am fully penitent.

[The italics indicate a poetical addition, necessary for prosody.]

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The NET Bible has a side note on this verse that says:

Or "despise what I said." There is no object on the verb; Job could be despising himself or the things he said (see L. J. Kuyper, "Repentance of Job," VT 9 [1959]: 91-94).

Something similar also says Alison Lo in Job 28 as Rhetoric (p. 32):

It is admitted that the meaning of 42:6 is uncertain and ambiguous. The controversy is caused by the absence of an object for the verb מָאַס (repudiate). Pope argues that מָאַס without an object does not necessarily mean "despise myself." Comparing 7:16 where מָאַס has no object in the Hebrew, he notes that the object need not be expressed when it is clear in the context.

However, that some translations add "myself" may have an explanation. Following with Alison Lo:

He thinks the context shows that what Job despises is the things he has said. Rowley rightly comments: "Whether Job is despising himself for the things he has said or recanting the things he has said does not need to be decided, since the one would involve the other." It is likely indeed that in Job's final speech he admits that he was wrong, and that he has uttered what he did not understand (42:3b). He did accuse the friends exactly of this (e.g. 13:4-5; 26:2-4, 14; 27:5, 12). But exactly in what way was Job wrong? Gutierrez rightly points out that after the divine encounter, Job realises that his views of God are rigidly bound in the box of retributive principle, and that he has falsely made certain inferences from the doctrine of retribution that he has shared with the friends. Thus he abandons his dejected outlook, and at the same time admits that in a certain respect he was wrong.

Patrick's interpretation of 42:6b also sheds new light on the understanding of Job's second confession. If the verb נחם in 42:6b is taken as a Niphal it is normally translated as "to repent," but if it is taken as a Piel it is translated as "find consolation in." The former rendering "to repent" seems to fit better in this context. According to Patrick, when the root an is used with the preposition עַל, it means "to change one's mind" or "to reverse a decision" (cf. Exod 32:12, 14; Jer 18:8, 10; Amos 7:3, 6). "Dust and ashes," which is treated as the object, is an image of groaning and lamentation. Therefore "I repent of (change my mind about) dust and ashes" (וְנִחַ֑מְתִּי עַל־עָפָ֥ר וָאֵֽפֶר) in 42:6b means that Job rejects his position of lamentation among the dust and ashes.

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