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A Spirit of Deception in Job 4:15? Interpretive Indeterminacy and Eliphaz's Vision

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image of Biblical Interpretation

The text of Eliphaz's vision in Job 4:12-21 is written in highly ambiguous Hebrew whose meaning(s) must be constructed by the reading subject, in conversation with intertexts whose relevance to Job 4:12-21 is determined by the reading subject. This suggests that a single meaning forJob 4:12-21 is impossible, and the search for such a meaning futile: meaning(s) can only be created by the reading subject. Consequently, this article attempts to read Job 4:12-21 creatively in both inner- and extra-Joban contexts, teasing out the possibilities permitted by the ambiguitiesof the text. The ambiguous Hebrew permits reading Job 4:1221 in connection with accounts of the divine assembly, raising the question of the identity of the of 4:15. This possible 'spirit of deception' may be deceiving the participants in the Joban drama into pursuing the ambiguitiesof 4:17 to their logical implication in the context of Job, that Job is more righteous than YHWH. In addition to the subtleties of Job 4-5, which question the validity of Eliphaz's epistemology at the most basic level, the character YHWH in 42:7 implicitly supports this identification of the in order to prevent the reader from taking such possibilities, suggested by the ambiguities of 4:17, seriously, and in so doing questioning YHWH's justice and integrity. The ambiguities that permit the adoption of this set of interpretive options, of course, constitute the very factorthat denies the possibility of establishing the validity of this reading to anyone other than this reading subject.


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