Rescuing Verses . . . “He will slay me, I have no hope” (Job 13:15)

“He will slay me; I will have no hope. Yet my ways I will defend to His face.”

In the summer of 1976 which I spent translating Hebrew, I was working on the second reading of Job (a most difficult book to translate!), and I came across this verse. I had always heard it translated “Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him.”

The problem is what words in the text do we translate. If we translate what is actually written, we have ‎(לֹא)  “I will have no hope” or perhaps better, “I have no hope.” If we translate the other word that is there (actually in the margin), we have “I will have hope.” Clue: for hundreds of years, following the KJV, translations have rendered the verse: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” This is popular, and if you want to sell Bibles, don’t change favorite verses. It seems to me that the Hebrew is clear that we should translate it as I have in the heading above.

So what is Job’s point? All through Job’s book he is challenging God to meet with him and explain why he is being so sorely chastised. He cannot understand it. He does not deserve it. The Bible is full of verses that present the idea that we suffer because we deserve it and are delivered because of our righteousness. But in Job we see the righteous suffering, and does that not make life hopeless? Who can have hope when he is chastised even when doing righteousness? How does Job’s suffering help us if even the righteous suffer?

When I was about four years old, my grandmother put me on a bus to go see my Aunt Blanch across town. She was waiting for me at the bus stop, and as soon as we got to her house, I said, “Ok, it is time for a devotion.” I took my Bible and told the story of Job chapters one and two. I could not read and had the Bible upside down. But these two chapters, for some reason (Read my little book, Why Is God Always Late?) were my favorite chapters where we read that “while he was yet speaking” another catastrophe happened to Job as his children were killed and his possessions taken. Why did this happen? Job’s “friends” said he deserved it, for God only judged someone who had sinned. Thus, Job must have sinned. And while it is true that we do often suffer because of our personal sins—it is not always. Enter Job. Here we see extreme suffering, for apparently no reason. Job then laments:

“He will slay me; I will have no hope. Yet my ways I will defend to His face.”

God never chastised Job for being honest with the LORD. This is a statement of despair, which we all have from time to time. Many times in my earthly sojourn I’ve run back to Job, and though Job did not sin at first, he did later:

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6)

So why did Job suffer? Who began the contest between Job and Satan? It was the LORD! He challenged Satan to consider that His servant Job who loved Him unconditionally, and Satan challenged Him to take away his possessions and his children and then he would curse God. The LORD gave Satan limited authority to test Job for apparently no reason. Job never knew what the context was all about, and then in despair, Job says:

“He will slay me; I will have no hope. Yet my ways I will defend to His face.”

Have you ever felt that way? Surely you have, and it is not wrong to complain to God, who already knows. But Job demonstrates that God Almighty was in control from beginning to end, which gives us great hope:

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13 NKJ). AMEN.Ω