Reshaʻim in Job 3:17 is almost universally understood to refer to the “wicked.” This is indeed the usual and therefore default meaning of rashaʻ. However, in context, the “wicked” is inapt for several reasons. Firstly, there is no other allusion to the issue of the righteous and the wicked in Job 3. Secondly, the “wicked” do not have anything to do with the trembling that is suggested by the term rogez “turmoil/agitation”that serves as the direct object of the phrase in v. 17a. Thirdly, an examination of the root רשעin a verbal form inJob 34:29 foils any expectations the reader might have of רשע meaning “wicked” in 3:17. In order to solve this problem, many modern commentators resort to emending reshaʻim to roʻashim. However, Greenstein, following Abraham Ibn Ezra, observes that in the book of Job the verb rashaʻ in the hiphʻil is the antonym of shaqat “to be still.” This leads to a very different and contextually apt sense for reshaʻimin Job 3:17. Readers are thereby compelled to reread Job 3:17, adjust their translation, and reinterpret the passage. Hence, an additional meaning for rashaʻshould be added to the biblical lexica.
In this paper, I will discuss the peculiar literary context in which rashaʻappears in Job 3:17 and examine the inner-biblical evidence relating to the significance of the word. Additionally, I will present the semantic development of rashaʻ“to act wickedly” as a derivation from rashaʻ“to be disquieted” or “agitated” based upon thetendency of certain Semitic words depicting movement to eventually acquire a pejorative meaning (e.g., Hebrew rwd and bgd based upon Arabic and Akkadian cognates, respectively). This presentation will end with practical suggestions concerning how properly understanding rashaʻin Job 3:17 relates to the conversation between Job and his friends about the fate of the wicked.