The Wicked In Ambush (Job 27:18-19) -- By: Aron Pinker

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 25:3 (NA 2015)
Article: The Wicked In Ambush (Job 27:18-19)
Author: Aron Pinker

The Wicked In Ambush (Job 27:18-19)

Aron Pinker

Silver Spring, MD

Verses 18-19 have been generally understood as referring to the wicked and his demise, or the sudden loss of his wealth. The objective of this study is to clarify the image that the author tried to convey. I suggest that this image is the wicked in ambush of the innocent, a situation often referred to in the Tanach. Job claims that the wicked would not succeed in his entrapment efforts.

Key Words: Job 27:18-19, wicked, ambush, hollow of tree, moth, spider


Verses 18-19, readingבָּנָה כָעָשׁ בֵּיתוֹ וּכְסֻכָּה עָשָׂה נֹצֵר עָשִׁיר יִשְׁכַּב וְלֹא יֵאָסֵף עֵינָיו פָּקַח וְאֵינֶנּוּ, have been generally understood as depicting metaphorically the ephemeral nature of the houses and wealth that the wicked possesses. For instance, Whybray says:

The houses that they build will be ‘like the moth’ (כָעָשׁ), ‘not nests’, a symbol of fragility (cf. 4.19) and will be no more solid than the temporary huts of those who guard the vineyards. Verse 19 expresses the matter with yet another image: the wicked will go to bed wealthy, but when they wake up in the morning their wealth will be gone.1

However, it is difficult to see the logic in these metaphors and identify the objects of comparison or reference. Obviously, the moth is not a house builder, and the parallelism of “moth” with “booth” is rather strange.2 The ducts that some moths bore into the trees, if considered their “houses,” are quite sturdy. But are the dwellings or the builders compared in v. 18? Why didn’t the author simply say בָּנָה כָעָשׁ בֵּיתוֹ עָשָׂה כְנֹצֵר סֻכָּתוֹ? And who is . referred to by וְאֵינֶנּוּ of v 19, the wicked, his house, or his wealth?

Tur-Sinai notes that:

Previous explanations of this sentence [v. 18] are unsatisfactory; it is not natural to compare the (futile) building of a house with the action of a moth—which eat...

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