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Job 5:7 as Eliphaz’s Response to Job’s “Malediction” (3:3–10)

From: Journal of Biblical Literature
Volume 133, Number 1, 2014
pp. 77-94 | 10.1353/jbl.2014.0011



This paper proposes a new interpretation of Job 5:7 (traditionally translated “For man is born to trouble, as sparks fly upward”), one that would eliminate the fatalistic aphorism viewed by many scholars as problematic in light of Eliphaz’s otherwise consistent defense of “practical” (as opposed to “speculative”) biblical wisdom traditions. The proposal offered here is that the infinitive in the second colon traditionally viewed as a reference to “flight” (͑wp I in the standard lexicons) could instead be interpreted as a reference to “gloom” (͑wp II). The verse would then serve not as a simile but rather as Eliphaz’s response to Job’s words in 3:3–10, in which he “curses” the day of his birth by invoking a variety of “darkening” agents.

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