After 41 chapters of suffering by Job, God finally restores him to his original condition. There are some difficulties with the short speech by Job. If we look at chapter 3 and compare it to God’s response in chapters 38-41, Job’s question goes unanswered. “Why am I suffering?”
Job did ask, “Where is God,” and God said, “I am here.” Job, apparently, decided that was answer enough. He said, I had heard You with my ears, But now I see You with my eyes. JSB The meaning is better expressed in this translation: Before, I knew you only by hearsay but now, having seen you with my own eyes, I retract what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes. NJB
Job’s eyes opened to God, an expression regarding his mind, not his eyes. We often say, “I see,” meaning, “I understand.”
Because I do not read ancient Hebrew (or Greek), I use an interlinear Bible which prints the Hebrew words with the most likely meaning in English below each word. That is a literal translation. Most of our translations are not literal because ancient Hebrew has so many grammar rules that are vastly different from English, we rewrite the direct meaning.
For an example of literal translation, the first line of Chapter 42 reads: Then answered Job Yahweh and said I know that all you can do and not is with hold you purpose who this hiding counsel without knowledge. Jay P. Green, Sr.
You can see the problem translators have, even assuming those are the best English words to use. What I, and most of us, should do is depend on translators to make the right decisions.
Because no single translation is 100% correct, I like to read as many as I can and pick the one that seems to best express the meaning. In doing that, I am also not 100% correct. Be sure to double check my work.
I have struggled with the first six verses of this chapter but believe Eugene Peterson’s effort gets at the most literal meaning in a 21st-century American context. He does more paraphrasing than other translations, but he seldom changes the meaning.
Job answered God:
“I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything.
Nothing and no one can upset your plans.
You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water,
ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’
I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me,
made small talk about wonders way over my head.
You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking.
Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’
I admit I once lived by rumors of you;
now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears!
I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise!
I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.” MSG
Notice especially the sentence, You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’ God wants us to listen to Him. Most people’s prayer time is spent talking, not listening. It is hard just to sit and wait for God to speak, especially if you are throwing ashes over your head.
I find myself throwing ashes a lot. It is mostly a matter of saying over and over, “Why did I do that? How could I have been so stupid? Etc.”
If we get nothing else from Job, we must never forget that God never left his side.
Read my earlier comments on this theme here.
Be righteous and do good.