Part 36: Chapter 7, Verses 7 - 16
7. Remember that my life is a breath: my eye shall no more see good.
eye of him who sees me shall see me no more: while your eyes are upon me, I
9. As the cloud is consumed and vanishes away: so he who goes down
to the grave shall come up no more.
10. He shall return no more to his
house, nor shall his place know him anymore.
11. As for me, I will express
myself in the bitterness of my soul!
12. Am I the sea, or a sea-giant that
You put me under guard?
13 If I say, 'My bed will console me; my couch will
ease my pain,'
14. You shatter me with dreams, and terrify me with visions.
15. My soul would prefer strangulation, death over [survival of] my bones.
16. I am disgusted; I shall not live forever, leave me alone, for my days
are as nothing!
Elifaz claims that Iyov's suffering is an act of Divine kindness because
worldly afflictions will stave off the greater tragedy of death. Clearly
it is better to suffer in this world than to lose out on a portion of
Iyov continues his refutation of Elifaz's theories. "Life is [but] a
breath... my eye shall no more...." For Iyov the future is blank. He
denies the possibility of resurrection and life after death. [See
commentary on verses 9-10] Iyov maintains that if life is given for us to
fulfill our personal self perfection (with no chance of a post- death
experience) then it is better to die than to continue living in a state of
The debilitating force of his suffering precludes any possibility of
continued self perfection. "The eye of him who sees me shall see me no
more..." Death holds out greater promise [than life] in that it would spare
him the humiliation of ["...while your eyes are upon me..."] facing the
pitiful looks of well-meaning individuals [like Elifaz] who see me in
languishing decline ["I am gone"]. Furthermore, Iyov claims that it would
be better to punish him by bringing upon him an early death [before his
preordained time] rather that interrupting his productive years with
crippling suffering that obviates the possibility of meaningful life.
The human soul will separate and vanish after death just as the clouds
vanish with the wind. The body will decay in the earth, never to return to
its original state. Instead, it is broken down to its elementary parts and
integrated into the organisms of other living creatures [ "He (the soul)
shall return no more to his house (the body), nor shall his place know him
Iyov's denial of physical life after death does not seem to be supported by
the misfortune of his condition. Nor does he give any philosophical proofs
or support for his belief. It seems that Iyov has fallen into the erroneous
thought pattern only too common amongst us mortals. We often project our
insecurities in ways that are not entirely relevant.
Iyov is in pain, his faith in a just G-d is weakened. The thought of life
after death, hence a G-d who punishes and rewards, is incongruous with
Iyov's perception of his own condition. He is 'forced' to conclude that
there is no life after death because to accept that would mean that Iyov
will need to suffer more and that G-d [the Judge] is demonstrating
disapproval of Iyov's past conduct. The thought of further suffering and
the awareness that he has not lived up to G-d's expectations are too
uncomfortable for Iyov to retain.
Iyov now turns to G-d with bitter rhetoric. Why should I [Iyov] remain
silent since it accomplishes nothing. Rather, I will speak the bitterness
of my soul for I have nothing to lose since my life is already hopeless.
G-d, why have you stifled my speech with the pain of my suffering like you
blocked the raging effects of the pounding seas with the sandy beaches? Am
I a destructive force like the giant sea creatures; that you must use
anguish to muzzle my mouth? Until now I have kept quiet because I hoped
that the comfort of bed rest would soothe my aching soul and body. You have
afflicted me with such intensity that I my bed gave me no comfort. I
thought that my friends would sit with me [ "my couch will ease...] and
solace me with words of relief and support.
But none of this has happened. My bed gives my no comfort in the day time
and the night is filled with horrific dreams of the future suffering
awaiting me. I would rather die a painful death like strangulation than
remain inside of my broken body. In the past my greatest desire was to live
forever. The thought of death was repulsive to me. Now all of that has
changed. My loathing of death has turned into my greatest desire. G-d, take
away my life; it has lost all of its value.
Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi Y. Schwartz and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Rosh Hayeshiva (Dean) of
Orchos Chaim Yeshiva in Jerusalem.