[b-hebrew] Job 2:4 Skin for Skin

Harold Holmyard hholmyard at ont.com
Tue Jan 24 08:47:24 EST 2006

Dear Jack,

>I have been trying to figure out for some time what the phrase *skin for skin* - ('WR B'R 'WR) means exactly - or even approximately.  It does not appear anywhere else in the Bible.  The nearest parallel I can find is of course *an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth* (Lev 24:20) but the wording is different ('YN THT 'YN).  Also the context is different.  In Lev 24:20 there is a balancing of injuries.  However in Job, there is no obvious (at least to me) balancing of lost or gained skin.  Ha-Shatan tell Yahweh to *strike his flesh and bone* some there is some theme of body parts but the phase is still opaque to me.
>Any thoughts?

A Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament compares "skin for 
skin" at Job 2:4, with the Bedouin expression used when bartering, "ra's 
bira's," "a head (of cattle) for a head." Hölscher and Tur-Sinai also 
suggest:  "one skin following another, like an onion." The lexical entry 
notes that one meaning of B(D is "4. surrounding in protection > for the 
benefit of, for: thus in proper names." Also B(D has the following 
meaning, and it is under this one that the lexicon places the phrase 
"skin for skin": "5. sbst. exchange value, price."

The phrase could imply that a person will give up his skin in order to 
save his skin (his life). We heard about the man who was willing to cut 
off his arm to free himself from a boulder that fell on him in the 
desert. There is nothing more valuable than one's life, and a person 
will give up anything he has to preserve it. I was thinking that Job 2:4 
could imply a person would give up another human life to save his own 
(another human being would be the most precious thing on earth one could 
give), but Satan may not imply that. There is no other person that Job 
was tempted to give up, and one person cannot really have another 
person, can he? (That may sound naive, but I mean in an ultimate sense.) 
And the context of Job 2:5 seems to be going in another direction.

The word )WLM in Job 2:5 is a strong adversative. This implies that 
Satan is about to give an idea in contrast with what precedes in verse 
4. He claims if God strikes Job's bone (self) and flesh that Job will 
give up his faith in God, turning against God with curses. The thread of 
logic seems to be that although a person will give up even his own skin 
to save his life, if God attacks a person's skin and life, taking away 
their value so to speak, then a person will no longer see the value in 
his life and will even curse the God who gave it. At least this is what 
the ensuing context of Job suggests the idea may be.

Harold Holmyard

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