Nature


In a previous post I had mentioned the use of the natural world as a source of inspiration for the writer of the Book of Job.  I’d like to continue that theme by sharing this fabulous passage, taken from Chapter 6.  Here the long-suffering Job likens his friends betrayal to a wadi that goes dry in the summer.

My brothers betrayed like a wadi,                                                                                     like the channel of brooks that run dry.

They are dark from the ice,                                                                                                 snow heaped on them.

When they warm, they are gone,                                                                                        in the heat they melt from their place.

The paths that they go on are winding,                                                                             they mount in the void and are lost.

The caravans of Tema looked out,                                                                                        the convoys of Sheba awaited.

Disappointed in what they had trusted,                                                                            they reached it and their hopes were dashed.  (Job 6:15-20)

A wadi is a dry creek bed in the desert where ephermal runoff streams are generated in response to infrequent rainfall events.  These sporadic pulses of rainwater can support vegetation in the desert environment that sustain the camels and goats of the pastoral nomads.  The mention of snow and ice here could suggest a northerly location perhaps where Israel’s boarder fringes the high mountains of Lebanon.

Those wanting a more in-depth technical study on wadis and their hydrology, including sustainable management for water resource purposes might like to consult this book on the topic.

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I have recently been reading through the book of Job using the new translation of Robert Alter that I received for Christmas.  The writer of Job obviously had a keen eye and deep appreciation of nature as is evident in much of the language used throughout the book.  Here is a classic example in Chapter 4, where we have an obvious allusion to farming — plough-plant-reap — wrapped up in a standard moral teaching:

As I have seen, those who plow mischief,                                                                        those who plant wretchedness, reap it. (Job 4:8)

We then move to the animal kingdom, where the lion is used as another line of evidence in the case for the traditional system of retribution:

The lion’s roar, the maned beast’s  sound –                                                                     and the young lions’ teeth are smashed.

The king of beasts dies with no prey,                                                                               the whelps of the lion are scattered.  (Job 4:10-11)

Apparently there are five different words in Hebrew for lion and the writer of Job demonstrates his impressive lexical wealth by using all five within two sentences creating a headache for the translators!

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