Job – Chapter 19

By the Skin of His Teeth

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Job answers Bildad. “Will you knock it off already? You guys keep kicking me while I’m down. Aren’t you ashamed to treat me like this? If I did sin, I would know about it, not you. You three are insults added to all my injuries, trying to prove me guilty of some wrongdoing. But you’re mistaken. G-d has merely stacked the deck so that I look wrong. I keep complaining about the injustice of this, but He doesn’t answer me. He has me ‘in check,’ so that I cannot move. He has removed all my honor and authority; in short, He has broken me, treating me like an enemy. He dispatches His forces against me and they cut me off. This has separated me from friends like you, who now stand against me. Everyone I know treats me like a stranger – even my household servants don’t answer me! My wife and grandchildren are distant.”

“I am emaciated to the point where I’m nothing but skin and bones; I have only escaped death by the skin of my teeth.You should have pity on me because of the way G-d has treated me! Don’t join Him in persecuting me! Haven’t I suffered enough? I wish my words would be written down in a book for posterity! I know that G-d is eternal and He will ultimately judge you for accusing me! Everyone can see my visible wounds, but I can also sense my internal injuries. Ask yourselves what is to be gained by ganging up on me. You should be worried about the judgment you will face for doing so!”

The phrase “skin of one’s teeth” actually comes from this chapter (verse 20). Rashi explains the expression to mean that all of Job’s flesh was afflicted except for his gums. Other commentators likewise interpret the expression to refer to the gums. In common usage, however, we use it more in the sense of the enamel of the tooth, i.e., that one escaped by a slim margin, although such does not appear to be the intent of the verse.

Also, Job got his wish – his words WERE recorded in a Book for posterity!

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