Verse adaptation from Chapters 15 – 31
Scripture is embued with poetric verse and prose, history and prophecy, wisdom and instruction. Peter Damian Coyle has masterfully adapted the Book of Job to poetic verse and rhyme. Job is considered one of the earliest books of the Bible. The message of Job is as relevant today as it was for the ancient seekers of God many thousands of years past. – ed.
To this Eliphaz the Temanite arose giving Job retort:
“The wise do not barter with fools or swallow hot air.
But in your misery you fear not God in a vain resort.
You would that other men fall into your bitter snare.
In sin you plot slyly; your speech betrays your soul.
I will stand as a witness and I accuse Job of sinning.
Is Job the first man? Were hills flat as you did stroll
As a youth, hearing God’s voice from the beginning?
What is the source of wisdom which he won’t share?
Does he count himself wiser than all others on earth?
Explain what you have learnt from all your despair?
For I have harkened to learned men of great worth
Hearing not of this ‘wisdom’. Still you blame God?
You give too much credence to your own thought.
Do you hate God so that you revel in your fraud?
Is man righteous? What creation has Job wrought?
What hope is there for man to be without blame?
We drink injustice like water, eat sin like bread.
I refer to the wise: they all make the same claim
And for decades have seen no innocent man tread.
For the wicked do labour in torment all their lives
And the sinner lives long, for his days are in dread.
When he takes his rest, he fears cold steel knives:
He knows he will find only pain when he is dead.
He works not for food but fears his coming doom.
He has no peace, knowing he will be struck down.
Though his belly is large he is soon for the tomb.
The wicked man’s life is akin to a besieged town.
His wealth is hollow, his treasures have no worth.
He knows that in the siege death is soon coming
And he fears that he must depart from this earth
And his fears beat upon his brain like drumming.
Do not trust in things that perish or be led astray.
The wicked die soon enough and do wither away
Like barren plant or burnt tent they find the fray-
God’s wrath is ready for men who sin and betray.”
Still Job remained undaunted: “I knew this before.
You cannot ease my pain with such a trite platitude.
Why must you talk and drone on and on like a bore?
Are all men so very dependent upon my gratitude?
In past years I spoke solace and gave friends relief
Yet now I find none myself, even in this dire need
I cannot resist God and I am powerless in my grief,
And all my children are torn away with evil speed.
I am wasting away in my vile sickness and disease.
My sufferings will testify that I am much accused.
Nightly I am tortured with head between my knees:
For God sees fit to allow me to be painfully abused.
Once I dwelt in peace, now the darkness surrounds
Me. I once was whole but now I am sorely stricken.
Can you see my innards spill out over the grounds?
I lie in my bile while an odious gloom does thicken.
I am as helpless as the farmer is against the sword.
I am clothed in sackcloth, my strength turns to rust.
My eyes are red from my tears, being thus ignored.
All I see each day is death. Lord are you so unjust!?!
I know my hands are bloodless, my prayers are real
Yet I am still unanswered, my prayers seem so futile.
My hope is in the Lord before whom we shall kneel
And before whom all men shall one day stand trial.
Yet hear my friends mock my anguish and my pain!
And I have neither an intercessor nor any advocate.
After a few bitter years I shall quit this mortal plain:
And I know I shall not return from the shrouded gate.
My life is broken, my days are being extinguished,
Hoping only for the deep sleep to come in my grave.
See these mockers rebel and my hope is diminished
So now I must bridle all the acrid pride of the knave.
Will you, my dear friends, put up any surety for me?
I see you are closed off against any understanding,
And none of you deigns to answer my honest plea,
Not even ‘righteous men’ who are all so upstanding.
If a man spies upon his neighbours to gain reward
The sages say that his family will suffer as a result
And, being guilty, he is justly cast out and ignored.
Yet I find myself a byword for jeers and an insult.
Recently I see naught but tears, encased in shadow.
Where are the men roused by injustice to do malice?
The just men we all know will all prosper and grow.
But can this man truly be found amidst the callous?
Just men and woman avoid those who are unclean,
So God prospers them in all that they may attempt.
Yet in my days a wise counsellor I have never seen.
Days do pour on and on while I meet only contempt.
Night and day, I wait, yearning for Sheol’s embrace,
The dark is become my father, my family are worms.
Where is my hope? Where can I find a restful place?
I cannot much longer endure these miserable terms.
Tell me, can hope stretch this far down into the dust?”
But Bildad then interrupted Job: “Cease your prattle!
Job, show us sense and then it all may be discussed.
But I discern that you regard us three as witless cattle.
Would you abandon all the earth in your deep woe?
Will you see all rocks to be moved from their spot?
See, the wicked man’s fire darkens without a glow
And see, his own bright lamp is fading into naught.
Sinners they stumble blind into their own schemes
And they stray sightless into clutch of steel mesh.
He or she lies caught and snared by their dreams,
Beset by horrors which peel and claw at his flesh.
Far from home, surrounded, assailed on all sides,
Death reaches up, claims him, seizing all he owns.
Sulphur blazes up their house with much besides;
His line is ended and his heart is turned to stones.
Sinners are exiled from cities, shunning the light,
Their name is scorched out, all scorn his memory.
In eastern lands they cast wicked men out of sight
And leave godless men die in their hollow misery.”
So Job took heart to reply: “Torments engulf me!
Can all my humiliation at now least be complete?
Foolishly you all judge me and rush in to decree,
If I have sinned, it is my burden to bear in defeat.
You all mock and abuse me to bolster your repute,
But you are deceived, for it is to God alone I wail.
I can see that my sufferings will soon be absolute
And no justice proceeds from behind thickest veil.
For sinners do besmirch me and break my crown,
They bring about my ruin and crush all my hopes.
My enemies rage about, trying to bring me down
And their armies encompass me from high slopes.
Now I am surrounded on all sides and left destitute,
Without any servants or a family, a stranger to all.
Shunned by my wife and stranded in a misery acute
And many youths despise me and mock at my fall.
I am forsaken, despised and left only with my skin,
All my friends have no mercy for me in this plight.
At least God may have witnessed the unknown sin
But you all seek for my flesh for your own delight.
Write this down, etch it iron and carve it in stone!
For I know that my Redeemer lives and He is just,
And at the end of all earthly things He will atone.
He will tread on this very earth and stand on dust!
In my heart I know that even in my critical plight,
I believe I will soon see the very face of our God
The higher mysteries will come into my very sight
And I will see He who is not blemished or flawed.
If you will say, “How do we find Him or His word?”
Then you fear the coming wrath that must find you.
God will visit you with His justice and sharp sword
And His true power will be revealed for you to view.”
Then Zophar the Naamathite cut in and announced:
“I am much unsettled by this deep and grave insult
And I perceive that we three have been denounced.
Since ancient times the wise have observed a result:
The wicked man’s glory is as fleeting as the wind,
The godless’ sinner’s joy melts like shallow wax.
Their pride’s stench leaves the angels chagrined,
And like his feces, life will suffer a swift climax.
These evil men are much sought, but never found,
Fliting, fading like wispy dreams to be forgotten.
His wealth vanishes without even a single sound,
And their youth lingers not, quickly turning rotten.
Though sin is sweet to taste and is widely cherished,
Soon it changes to snake’s poison inside a man’s gut.
He hoards up goods but he finds that it has perished.
God tears it all away and leaves sinners stuck in a rut.
Soon he cannot enjoy the field, nor honey or cream,
His work he finds bitter, for he has cheated the poor,
Seizing houses which he doesn’t own in foul scheme
And he stays sour while he seeks after false grandeur.
Evil men find nothing they can master or consume,
His wealth failing under the weight of their distress.
So God’s anger burns bright in the gathering gloom
Bringing fiery justice down upon the sinners excess.
Knaves flee the sword but are pierced by the spear,
Mere anarchy is loosed as fire burns ups his treasure.
The Lord exposes iniquities and the earth is severe,
His sins are laid bare, no longer finding any pleasure.
Thus the wicked are judged and they receive reward.”
Still Job gave a firm retort: “Listen to me as I speak
This foul mockery of my plight is grossly untoward.
Yet I will forebear, for it is God’s justice that I seek.
That alone is my frustration and my sober concern-
God decides my fate and yet He keeps me in pain.
The wicked man abounds but he will never learn
God eventually brings justice down upon the vain.
They seem to prosper, their cows continue to calve.
Their children frolic and wake ecstasy with the lyre:
What on earth is there that such a man cannot have?
Yet they do disdain God, virtue they do not require.
Sinners serve not God nor will they plead to Him,
Though by the Lord their effort and strain thrives.
The corrupt man’s counsel is grotesque and grim,
And calamity finds them at the end of their lives.
For sinners are discarded like wheat amid the gale,
The Lord will visit His swift justice on their child.
The Lord alone can restore true peace without fail
And evil men they drink and do die unreconciled.
Sinners care not when the good man passes away.
Could men instruct God and judge Him in truth?
One man may die at his peak, another in dismay
In death they are all equal, without life or youth.
You all scheme against me and declare me evil.
Yet did you ponder upon the wanderer’s advice?
He can tell you of mighty tremors and upheaval-
Reprisal may elude a man in spite of his avarice.
Which man accuses liars and brutes to their face?
And who seeks after the justice they had deserved?
After death their tomb is left as an honoured place
And he finds quiet in the tomb which he reserved.
Why is all your consolation to me so self-serving?
Should I despair of any hope and embrace futility?
You attempt to deceive me in your sly observing,
And you spite me as you accuse me of an iniquity?!”
To this Eliphaz the Temanite gave him quick reply:
“What are we to the Lord? Can we bring Him gain?
Can the Lord enjoy your obedience from on high?
Does your virtue help the Lord? Are you so vain?
Will you reckon with your sin? Are you blameless?
Job, you robbed your neighbour for your own use.
You leave the poor destitute: are you shameless?
Is there no pauper to whom Job dare not traduce?
Job, you ask why you must suffer in your torment?
Do you dread the darkness and the nearing torrent?
The Lord looms over the Heavens, still you lament,
Stating that God has harrowed you without warrant?!?
God is veiled by cloud and He treads across the sky.
If you walk the forlorn paths or seek in dark caves,
You would know He sees all things, seated on high.
You hold to the sinner’s path, leading men to graves.
The Lord gave men an expanse of worldly treasures,
And they took it for their own reward and blessing.
Wise men do scorn the pursuit of passing pleasures,
And the innocent man mocks such indolent messing.
Job, you should listen to me, repent and honour God,
And value His teachings, act in justice and reject sin.
Should you prize humility and admit you are flawed,
The Lord will be your treasure and prosper your kin.
Your prayers He will answer and attend your need,
He will bless your life and guide you on your path.
Others will fail and suffer but you would succeed,
God spares the meek and humble from His wrath.”
Unto this Job answered: “I have a petition to make-
The Lord has not relented and turns away His face
Which is blank and pitiless as the sun. For my sake.
I yearn that He would answer and end my disgrace.
I would plead my case unto God and seek His grace
I wish that I could approach God’s heavenly throne.
To come into God’s courts and see Him face to face
But the paths that lead to the place remain unknown.
God would not ignore me if I had found His dwelling
God would give a true answer to what I did request
For the Lord listens to the upright make a true telling
So this judgement would cease and I would find rest.
For the virtuous man he finds favour free from fear
Yet I cannot find God by north, south, east or west
I cannot find Him! But I would eagerly draw near
As I am being hammered into gold in this grim test.
I have sought after God in many an earnest petition,
I have valued God’s law, I swear I do not dissemble.
God is as He wills, He brings everything to fruition
So men are awed and before the Lord we all tremble.
God alone is unchanging and cannot be long defied
He has similar plans for others which He will enact.
So my heart grows weak and I cannot, will not hide
For before the Lord what mortal could stand intact?
Yet even amid smoky darkness, I am not overcome.
Though I am deprived of a fair hearing and my trial
I seek the Lord in vain, condemned next to the scum
As together we tread upon this long and weary mile.
The guilty man will crave after the orphan’s wares
They steal from the widow and waylay the destitute,
They drive away all the poor from their hidden lairs,
So the hapless wander the deserts in suffering acute.
These spectacles are so common amongst the venal:
Men huddle naked as the wind blisters and ravages,
Shuddering among rocks, soaked by rains so penal,
Witnessing a blood-dimmed tide loosed by savages.
Naked as the unborn child and starving in the wild,
The poor work the vineyard but they groan in truth.
Yet God is deaf to the cries of the poor and defiled
While thugs storm about with sharp claw and tooth.
At night the sinner cares not for judgement or law,
And he commits the oldest sins in the newest ways.
But death’s shadow dawns and exposes sin’s flaw
While phantoms creep silently in dreaded malaise.
Sinners doomed to die, rotting in the deeps, cursed,
Are cut off from true good, are soon to be forgotten.
The unjust are broken and all their sins are reversed:
They preyed on man like wolves on the misbegotten.
The Lord reckons with kings who dread His disgust
No one can hide from God who discovers all deeds.
Some men may ascend high, soon reduced unto dust
And sinners wait to be uprooted like the vile weeds.”
At that Bildad stood and paced to and fro for a while.
Eventually, he sat back down and made an argument.
“Dominion is the Creators for He makes earth fertile.
God’s light reaches to the heaven’s bright firmament.
Can you make a right account before the Godhead?
Every man born is fallen to sin and is sadly cussed.
Before the Lord the stars and moon shake in dread.
Will mortal men summon God and claim to be just?”
But Job was furious and without restraint he arose,
Voice bitter in scorn and eyes brimming in malice.
“Such wisdom! You are virtuous from the shadows,
Saving all mankind from destruction by the callous.
You walked glory’s paths, served the lesser kings!
Where is your wisdom? Do you realize your word?
We know departed spirits tremble in sunken springs,
For even Abaddon’s Gate must open for our Lord.
He moulds northern lights and puts all into motion,
He enfolds waters upon clouds as they bask bright.
He scolds the wicked, joins the horizons and ocean,
He upholds the truth, binding dread dark with light.
Earth’s pillars shake, the deeps stir at God’s orders.
By God’s hand is accuser of the brethren is exiled.
He breathes life into earth and sets celestial borders
The serpent He conquered, the lost God reconciled.
We see only a glimpse of God’s power and might,
Dimly as through the veil, in the dying of the light.
His thunder shatters, God has such piercing insight,
For He knows honest men, but evil He does indict.
Yet and yet, He still withholds my justice and truth,
And I still wallow in sorrows until my last nightfall.
I spoke none harm nor thought harm from my youth,
But this agony cannot win, I will see it beg and crawl.
All unrepentant men are humbled by God’s wrath,
Where could men shelter from the triumph of God?
All alone, a man confronts the horrors of his path,
And only at the end is he both humbled and awed.
You all can testify to this truth, a well-known fact
That ruthless men and women all go to the sword.
Their descendants will starve and are all attacked
For in the city a widow’s shriek is blithely ignored.
Sinners pile up coin, owning robes beyond number
But virtuous men scorn him and detain all his gold,
His palace and wealth will vanish amid his slumber.
His is abandoned to affliction and death in the cold.
We know where silver dwells and can find iron ore,
We know much of copper and of gold’s refinement,
Iron is from the ground and copper we have in store,
Still miners dig down, desiring further consignment.
The lonely miner tunnels far into the distant deeps,
Hacking and hammering away at the earthy blacks.
The soil gives food but below fiery chamber sleeps
Where rocks host jewels and golden hides in cracks.
The eagle misses all of this, the lurking lion is naive
But a man’s eyes are guided by fires as he explores
The mountain’s depths, he is not so easy to deceive
For he ploughs deep, no hidden treasure he ignores.
A miner blocks rivers and reveals what is concealed
But where on earth can wisdom’s pearl be sought?
From what crevice will understanding be revealed?
Priceless, it is lost in the land of the living, forgot.
The vast oceans or sundering seas cannot find it.
It has no price to man and neither can it be bought.
Not for all the gold of Ophir’s will wisdom submit:
It is the pearl beyond price, above riches is it sought.
Can you tell me from where does wisdom come?
The living cannot see it, not the birds nor beasts.
Many do hear rumour of it but they are all dumb-
It is not found by either soldiers, kings or priests.
But God alone has known wisdom since its birth
He sees its paths, knowing where it spends its days
For God’s eyes see even to the ends of the earth:
Nothing in earth or heaven is not within His gaze.
God weighed the wind, cleaving water from land
Storing up rain and gave to lightening its course,
He would established wisdom by His own hand
Since then only He has been its keeper and source.
God spoke to all of mankind and gave good advice:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom
And those who turn from evil will find paradise
And will one day be at rest in God’s Kingdom.”
Would that I could return to the days that are past
When God was my guardian and He kept my ways.
When I was a young God was my helper steadfast,
My family secure, the earth bountiful in those days.
I was honoured at the gate: boys gave me deference,
Old men stood up in welcome as others were silent
As I approached. I was blest and given preference,
I comforted and protected the poor from the violent.
Clothed in virtue like heavens embroidered cloth-
To the blind, the lame and needy I did give relief
As I arrested sinners, making them face due wroth.
I thought I may die in my tent, old and free of grief.
By the oasis, like a tree planted by the living water
I would be renewed with a youthful vigour and zeal.
My advice would be valued, safe from the slaughter
Being honoured by all men, answering their appeal.
I thought I was to live like a king among his host
Presiding and directing, bestowing honour to all,
Or like a sage giving counsel to those need it most
Giving justice and aid to the great and to the small.
Yet I am sorely subject to their mockery and scorn.
These youths of base birth! See their fury and haste-
They crave after glory and they sound the war-horn
And turn green places to arid deserts full of waste.
They are exiles and regarded as liars and thieves
They are imbeciles, living in caves and in heather.
Nameless and shamed, see what disdain achieves.
They curse my humbled name, banding together.
They have no respect for me now I am brought low
The rabble rages at my right, seeking to ensnare me.
I am a besieged town with many keen to overthrow
Seeking to breach my walls and fell me like a tree.
They loose terrors on me, slaughtering my dignity.
My life ebbs away while I lie in a desolate decay:
I am struck and beset by those ripe with malignity
Who condemn me to cinder, bringing more dismay.
In the dark night of the soul I call out to my Lord,
But He is silent to my plea and deaf to my appeal.
I endure this torrent of misery, I am utterly ignored.
My soul is scathed yet still must I pray and kneel.
God, You have my death in hand, like all who live.
Man aids not the damned for is any good achieved?
I wept for the poor yet the Lord comes not to forgive
I sought light but found dark, my hope was deceived.
I burn inside with no rest, pain is now my daily meal.
The sun is scorching to my eyes, I am left in a thresh.
My only friends is the jackal for I am unable to heal,
Pocked with scabs, weeping pus, fever irks my flesh.
In better days I made a covenant not to stare in lust
At any woman, for God hates any lewd behaviour.
I know the wicked perish, for the Lord truly is just,
He knows my thoughts and steps: He is my saviour.
If I have stumbled into sins or rushed in like the fool
God judge me true, remembering my virtue and troth.
If I have strayed, let others steal my crops and wool
If I have strayed I am content to suffer God’s wroth.
If I have desired another woman’s beauty and sinned,
Let my wife serve my neighbour and take him to bed.
I would be shamed, suitably punished and chagrined,
As Abaddon’s purging fire brings justice and dread.
Had I wrought injustice upon my servant and my kin,
I would have met rebuke for abusing God’s creation.
Had I trampled the destitute it would have been a sin-
God would call me to account, cast me to damnation.
For years I have cared for the orphan as my own son,
Treated widows like my mother, giving her my cloak.
God knows that my generosity has not been outdone
And giving the downtrodden aid to lessen their yoke.
I dwell in dread of the vengeance of God, the Lord.
I know that if my heart turns to greed I am doomed,
I will not trust gold to rescue me from fire or sword,
For if I threatened God I would be utterly consumed.
I have not worshipped the moon or sun in splendour
To God alone is my first thought, and honour given.
Did I ever rejoice at the fall or death of an offender?
Despite provocation I have not into sin been driven.
Who here accuses me of theft of either wine or food?
Who counted those sat at my table eating my bread?
It was not some petty penance to impress or delude
Nor did I worry that the throng would want me dead.
Have I no advocate? I would even swear to my cause.
Who accuses me? I am innocent of the transgression,
I can prove it by man’s judgements or by God’s laws
But where is a court that will grant me one session?
The soil never reproached me, I was ever its friend
And I never abused labourers or gave a false turn.
If I lie let thorns be reaped at the harvests dividend
And may weed and canker fill my own produce urn.”
See previous chapters from The Book of Job – Adapted Verses by Peter Damien Coyle
Top image credit: Job Trusting God Despite Afflictions, illustration from © GoodSalt.com. Used with permission.